Mad Men – “Christmas Comes but Once a Year”

Don Draper does the limbo in this episode, as we start to find out how low he can go.

Mad Men is usually thematically very deep, but in yesterday’s episode, the themes seemed spelled out for us. As we settle into what really is the beginning of the 60s as we remember them classically, there is a lot of unrest and a lot of change. The old-fashioned way of doing things isn’t working anymore, and it’s the perfect setting to establish the new SCDP, which is a company that’s trying to look forward rather than back as they were in the old building.

Here, we see old-fashioned brought up in plenty of ways that didn’t include Don’s favorite cocktail. Freddy Rumsen is back (yay!) with a $2 million account under his arm. But despite being 16 months sober, he’s still as much of a chauvinistic pig as ever. When talking creative for this new account (a facial cream product called Ponds Cold Cream), him and Peggy get into a disagreement, and his old-fashioned ways and views (if you don’t use the Cream, you’re never gonna get married and die alone) bring the conflict to a head. You can see here that the smallness of the company has really helped out Peggy a lot. She’s not as afraid to take the heat from Don, and here she calls out Freddy for what he is – sexist. She basically tells him that these old-fashioned ideas have no place in the business anymore.

Of course, Freddy has always been helpful to Peggy; he was the one who brought to light her copy potential and helped mentor her though some of the beginnings of her copy career. Here, he lends Peggy an ear and a word on her personal life. Peggy’s not sure if her new beau Mark is the one, and hasn’t slept with him yet; in fact, she’s lying to him about her virginity (This has to be one of the greatest lies ever, right? SHE HAD A BABY and now is saying that she’s never even had sex. Awesome). Of course, Mark does like her and respects her decision, calling her “old-fashioned”, even if all he really wants to do is have sex with here “like they do in Sweden.” Of course, he should know that Peggy is anything but old-fashioned. She’s a career women, not a homemaker, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

But Peggy is so afraid of being alone that she does, in effect, whore herself out to keep him happy. It’s not something she wants to do; she’s seen the effects of sex quite literally. But the holidays make people do crazy things. She tells Freddy that she doesn’t want to be alone on New Years’ Eve, and it’s obvious she’s sleeping with Mark to fill some void in her life, even if it be a temperary one. She throws herself so far into her work (her bed was covered with her work, she told Mark) that what she has at home need not be permanent, but hopefully a placeholder. Of course, this never in the end makes her happy. Does this sound familiar?

Of course it does. Enter Don Draper, sliding further and further down in life. I think his seduction techniques may not necessarily be old-fashioned, but rather, the fact that he’s now single weighs at him and immediately changes the game. He’s looked at by the ladies as a potential suitor now rather than one-night stand. Both the nurse in the apartment down the hall (Phoebe) and the marketing and research lady (Faye) decline his advances. There’s also a different air to Don’s mystique. While he is the public face of the company, after the Christmas Party, Joey (the new guy and Peggy’s partner) comments that Don is “pathetic” at word that he was so drunk he forgot his apartment keys in his office. This kind of talk about Don Draper was something you’d never hear at Sterling Cooper, yet at SCDP, it’s not even given a double-take.

Don’s secretary Allison brings his keys to his apartment for him so he can get into bed. This is a strange scene. Don and Allison’s relationship has been nothing but professional thus far, and Allison has become perhaps the best secretary Don ever had (save Joan). She gets his moods now, knows how to react, and Don trusts her enough to let her read that Santa letter. As Don collapses on the couch, you can see what he’s about to do, and you hope that Allison is strong enough to deny his advances like we’ve three other women already do this season. Unfortunately, Allison looks like she’s in heaven, and Don totally ravages her. She leaves that night, and they agree as she leaves that this was just a stand, and everything will be fine.

The next day at work, Don keeps his end of the deal – to a point where it’s obviously uncomfortable. You can imagine both of the parties involved had too much to drink (Don especially so), so there perhaps should be a direct, sober confrontation of what had happened the night before. Instead, Don completely ignores it. As he told Peggy back when she was in the ward, “This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” That’s how he plays it to Allison. And then, to make manners worse, he gives her her Christmas bonus ($100) and coldly tells her that there’s nothing else. It’s prostitution again, folks! Don Draper, the user and abuser.

I haven’t even brought up Glen yet, but what a great way for him to reenter the scene. He’s manipulative and scary. At first, I thought he was going to destroy the house because no one (RE: Sally) answered the phone, and Sally’s room would get a brunt of the damage. Instead, the phone call was a way to make sure no one was home, and he ravages everywhere but Sally’s room to make here feel more comfortable in a house where she’s not at ease. Creepy, scary, weird stuff. And it looks as if Sally has taken to this boy as a potential beau.

The only thing that concerns me that Kiernan Shipka, the actress who plays Sally, is 11 in real life. Sally can’t be much older that that show-age. I know that this is going to eventually show Sally dealing with growing up in the 60’s and the Sexual Revolution and all that. She’s 11 though, and I’m not sure I like where this storyline is going. Glen obviously has a crush on Sally, and he’s creepy enough that he probably knows all sorts of lewd and sexual acts. I’m curious to see how far Weiner will push that storyline this season with an 11-year actress being the one that takes the brunt of that. Hopefully not that far this season. *shudders*

That’s all folks! Looking forward to next week.

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About aarongernes

Well, I like TV and movies and I love sports. So expect a lot about that.
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