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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

May 21, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Mad Men Monday: Merry Christmas, Don and Joan

Well, that felt like a Christmas present in May, didn’t it? How many of us have been waiting for a scene in which Don and Joan, the two mysterious glamour-pusses of SCDP, sit in a warmly lit bar, with sentimental holiday music swirling around them, and drunkenly flirt with each other? I didn’t know I was waiting for that exact scene, but clearly I was; I rewatched the show on its second broadcast two hours later, just to see that scene again. Like “The Suitcase,” last season’s marvelous episode that showed us the relationship of Don and Peggy, this scene was all about chemistry — and about friendship. Don and Joan clearly adore each other — watch how Christina Hendricks gazes at him, even when he’s not looking — and understand each other, and their interaction at the car dealership was an interesting mirror of Don’s husband-and-wife ad pitches with Megan. (Loved Joan’s smooth, perfectly honest answer to how many children they have: ” Altogether four.”) Horrified that her imperfect personal life has invaded her perfect world at the office (where she’s always, always in control), Joan needed to feel admired again; Don, always at ease in a bar next to a beautiful woman, knew just what to say. (And what to send — and write — the next day.) What do you think might have happened if she’d said yes to that dance? And did those flowers signal just friendship, or a spark of something more? Unlike Harry (more on that in a minute), Joan is all about self-control — she knows how disastrous an affair with Don could be. (Remember Allison?) But I wonder if Matthew Weiner’s playing with us, or if this twosome is going to play out a little more. I know what I’m hoping — and I know that I saw more actorly chemistry between Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks than in an entire season between Hamm and Jessica Pare. “Good night, sweetheart.”
Whether it was afterglow from the Joan interlude (in which he quoted a line from a blast-from-the-past, Bobbi), the thrill of driving “the most beautiful car ever made,” or just residue energy from yet another fight with Megan, Don seemed unusually revved up at the meeting; determined, for the first time this season, to roll up his sleeves and win an account through long hours and hard work. (Jaguar = Joan. Maybe? Both redheads.) And standing nearby, miserably clenching his teeth, was Lane, who seems intent on digging his own grave at SCDP. Pursued by the British taxman to the tune of 8,000 pounds, Lane convinced a (surprisingly shady-looking) banker to advance the company’s line of credit, then snuck into Joan’s office and wrote himself a check. (Enough to buy, we now know, a speedy Jag, with plenty of change.) Surely it’ll be discovered soon? An interesting twist, though it seemed to come out of nowhere. I hope this isn’t a speedy way for Jared Harris to exit the show; he brings a needed astringency.
Speaking of blasts from the pasts, who else hooted when Paul Kinsey returned as a Hare Krishna in a tattered yellow turtleneck? (And who else was convinced, for much of the show, that Lakmi was played by the same actress who played Midge? She wasn’t, though.) Interesting subplot for Harry, who behaved like a weasel (“So this is completely allowed”?) before behaving like, surprisingly, a real friend. Harry’s mostly been a punch line this season, so it was nice to see him emerge with a story, even though it felt self-contained; I doubt we’ll see Kinsey again.
Overall, a very enjoyable episode, full of things getting thrown (spaghetti, model airplanes, Pete’s ego), fantasy couplings (you know who I mean), weird office sex (ditto), surprise revelations (did we already know that Roger knew about Joan’s baby? Or did that happen offscreen?) and, in the end, some surprisingly positive energy. In the words of Joan’s chosen song at the bar (which gave this episode its title), may their New Year’s dreams come true.
And what did you think?
MM_JA_510_1121_0481.jpg
Don and Joan, picture-perfect. “The only sin she’s committed is being familiar.” (Photo by Jordin Althaus; courtesy of AMC)

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