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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira:

August 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Monday morning “Mad Men”

Before we jump into last night’s very rich episode (nicely directed by actor John Slattery, who plays Roger — take a bow, John!), help me out here: Have we seen Don’s new secretary before? She’s an older woman, called, I think, “Miss Blankenship,” and normally I wouldn’t dwell on this but this show has a way of bringing people back — wasn’t the doctor Joan saw last week the same one she sent Peggy to way back in Season 1? Was Miss Blankenship at the old Sterling Cooper? Anyway, she’s kind of a kick.
Speaking of bringing things back . . . all of us who have been waiting a long time for Pete and Peggy to lock eyes again were satisfied last night: Pete learned that he would finally become a father, and only Peggy also knows that it isn’t the first time. (For those new to the show: P & P had a brief relationship in the first season, around the time of Pete’s marriage, resulting in Peggy’s pregnancy and subsequent stay in a psychiatric hospital. The baby, as we learned in the one electric conversation P & P had about the matter, was adopted; Pete was not told until long afterwards. They have, apparently, never mentioned it again.) In last night’s episode, titled “The Rejected,” Peggy learned the news, and while she declined to sign a baby card, she did bravely march over to Pete’s office to tell him that she’s happy for him. He gazed at her for a while. Later, she went off to lunch with some hip new friends, as Pete schmoozed with a bunch of suits (in true Pete fashion, he’s seized the opportunity of the baby to further milk his father-in-law for more business) — but they couldn’t stop staring at each other, through the divide of a glass door, and much more. “It will shock you how much this never happened,” said Don to Peggy, way back when he visited her in the psychiatric hospital (did he know about the baby? or was he just referring to the hospitalization?), and she took that advice to heart — perhaps, until now, when she seems to remember all too clearly that it did happen, and it did matter.
And Don’s words were echoed by poor Allison, who may have left the show for good, smashing some office tchotchke on her way out the door. (Notice, again, how Joan is the only person who immediately, and accurately, understood the situation. Shades of her goodbye to Roger, perhaps?) “This actually happened,” she tells him tearfully of their one-night affair, which Don is determined to sweep under the rug. She tells him she’s leaving, hoping he’ll beg her to stay — and instead he tells her to write her own letter of reference and he’ll sign it. Later, stumbling home drunk, Don starts to type a letter of apology to Allison, but can’t finish it. Something in him wants to be kinder, wants to connect ( the way he does with Anna) but he can’t; he’s caught in that long, slow fall shown in the credits. It’s been hard this season watching Don so miserable (and treating people so miserably), when Season 3 ended on such an up note; surely Matthew Weiner has a plan to turn things around for him, or maybe he still has further to fall. (In the words of Freddy Rumsted: “How the hell did this get so sad so fast?”)
In an episode set primarily (and refreshingly) at the office, a highlight was the “conference call” to Lee Garner Jr. of Lucky Strikes, as Don and Roger try to pacify their top client (Roger: “The jockey smokes the cigarette.”). Also loved Faye leading the secretaries in a focus-group/therapy session, and Peggy standing on her desk, trying to spy on Don through the glass partition. And what do we make of Ken’s return? The actor (Aaron Staten) is in the opening credits, so we’ll be seeing more of him — but in what context?
Funny, seeing Betty in the upcoming scenes from next week — I’d almost forgotten about her. You?

Goodbye, Allison — and well done, Alexa Alemanni. (Photo courtesy AMC.)



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