By: Daniel Reynolds
Heading into its sixth season, the Same Page welcomes you each week to the Mad Men Monday Recap. A show as deep as this one needs a little diverse commentary so jump in and enjoy the irreverent breakdown of each episode.
What’s Happening on Madison Avenue?
It is worth taking a minute to discuss what happened in each episode, right? If you’re looking for some straight talk on what we just saw on Mad Men, read this section (and then read the other sections because, why not).
As if sensing the barbarians at the gates (the barbarians being us, FYI), Mad Men took some decisive action this week, eschewing the rolling tides of history to do what it does best: lay on some plot, thick and juicy, and revel in the resulting change.
To get started, it turns out that some of the SCDP braintrust (Bert, Joan and Pete, Not Harry) are planning to take the company public to provide a huge payout for the partners and elevate the total value of the company. It is an exciting starting point for the episode, setting the stakes high with a financial windfall at the ready for the taking. It’s so exciting that even Bert believes he would like a drink (naturally, he likes esoteric beverages that Pete does not have. Bert, everybody!).
But money isn’t everything and if it had not already been clear, the emotional tenor of the show is still set by Don. So far this season we’ve been getting a lot of pensive Don, lustful Don and, um, drunk Don. Here we get punchy Don, dreaming up operations, throwing guys overboard, making rash decisions and caring little about money. This is when the Mad Men engine seems to rev with energy. We may not like Don for all of the things he does (and his inconsiderate treatment of Joan falls heavily in this category) but we sure as hell want to watch him roar around the office, New York City and perhaps a state or two (helloooo Detroit!).
Meanwhile, I still do not want to talk about what is happening with Peggy. Last week, thanks to some delectable acting from Elizabeth Moss, the Peggy/Abe relationship seemed stronger than ever. But we knew! We knew that Teddy was an awkward pause away from making a move. I will acknowledge that Peggy’s envisioning of the life contrasts between Abe and Teddy was a cute trick, but that’s it.
Of course, we can’t talk about change without recalling Roger’s transformation and rediscovery of purpose. This week, Roger slid through the background of the episode, charming Daisy the stewardess, frustrating Marie the mother-in-law, and working overtime to finagle a chance to wow Chevy. His triumphant (and timely!) emergence in the SCDP offices was a minor delight. We’ll have to believe he has forgotten about the heart attack, the aimless doubts, the fear of death. Sure, he’ll cry about his mother (sort of), but he can still close, dammit.
Then there is poor dumb Pete. He who wants it all. He wants things to go back the way they were (I guess cheating on your wife is only fun if you still have a wife), but he also wants to push the company into the next strata. You have to feel a bit for Pete, he is really good at his job. Actually, he is probably too good at it. This week was a classic Pete demonstration: he is working hard to crack Trudy, talking his way back into her good graces, but then, of course, he finds a way to talk himself back out of them. Important lesson: You can’t throw your father-in-law under a bus (or a 200 lb prostitute) like that and expect a happy outcome.
Ah, but we do get a happy outcome, right? That old adage ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ probably applies. Teddy and Don realize the only way they can make it is by teaming up. There’s Don again, at the vanguard, damn the rest (I’m sure Pete and Joan will love having to share the stage with even more people now). And shocked Peggy, who despite changing the most claims she wants everything the same, is left to type up her new reality. I suppose Don can remind her that the future is something she hasn’t even thought of yet.
The Symbolism Rankings
Enjoy, with minimal comment, the weekly rankings for whatever symbolism Matthew Weiner has heavily stacked into each Mad Men episode. A show set in the world of advertising is only as good as its symbolism, right?
2) The Future
3) 200 pound prostitute
Back in the Day
Remember the 1960s? Mad Men really values its sense of place. To that end, here’s where we make mention of whatever anachronistic or historical element popped up this week.
This is probably a bit of a stretch but, boy, Roger sure makes it look like fun to be hanging out in an airport. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen Roger in this setting more often. He seems like a natural fit to be a) seducing stewardesses (more 60s anachronisms) and b) using the space as a means to sneak in on some potential clients. Still, though, there’s got to be a better way to get yourself business meetings. Is this how the CGC guys keep getting clients?
So maybe it was just the obvious rich guy lounge Roger was hanging out in, but the airport definitely seems far more quaint compared to today’s standards. To wit, Roger gets:
– nice cocktails in a stylish den;
– a flight to Detroit, no questions asked, after he’d just been milling around;
– the attention of Daisy, the stewardess; and
– said stewardess to lose his competitors luggage.
You want to try any of those things now for fun? Go ahead.
This Week in Ken! (Cosgrove. Accounts.)
As the most likeable guy in the entire series, Ken Cosgrove deserves his chance to shine. Here’s where we discuss what everyone’s favourite earnest moonlighting sci-fi writer was doing or not doing on the last episode.
How many times, give or take two dozen, do you think Ken(!) has had to answer questions from Pete that began with “In this terrible hypothetical situation…”? I’m going to go ahead and set the over/under at 250.
We get to see deep into the window of the Cosgrove soul tonight. Despite all of the political unrest, the disquiet around the office, and the recent MLK assassination and subsequent race riots (where, as we covered last week, one assumes Ken was racing around the city to lend a hand), Ken is at peace. He is solid and secure in his belief that in the ultimate game of brinkmanship, no one wants mutually assured destruction. In fact, it’s why he never worries about the bomb. I think I’d like to be friends with Ken.
Was he correct in giving this advice to Pete? Obviously not. But then, Pete totally lacks the zen perspective of one, Ken(!).
Know Your Role
Since so much of Mad Men is predicated on minute character interactions, here’s where we discuss the top conflicts that happen in each week’s episode and decide on a winner.
I was all set to pencil in the final Don vs. Herb showdown as our lead conflict on last night’s episode. Oooooh, I think we all wanted Don to finally let the passive-aggressive schtick veer into just straight up aggressive. I mean, sure, Don will stand aside (but not without a modest fight) and allow Herb’s debasement of Joan, and he’ll let Herb make his meathead suggestions. He’ll even subject his wife (and her mother-in-law!) to an evening of prattle from Herb’s wife a.k.a the apple in the pig’s mouth (such great bon mots, Julia!). But, but, but, Herb criticized Don’s work. And that’s where he draws the line.
Hold on, that’s not even the real fight, though!
With the fallout stench of Herb gradually receding from the office, the real brawl gets underway. Learning that Don has set off the Herb-Jaguar fiasco, Pete goes nuclear (after falling down some stairs). As has been playing out for years now, Pete doesn’t like the cavalier attitude that Don randomly decides to put forth. He had to put Roger in his (glib) place a while back, as you’ll recall, for similar reasons. Anyway, the two of them get to shouting. But wait, there’s more! The real conflict is the devastating one-two punch delivered by one of Don’s longtime allies: Joan.
She’s right, you know. Pete wants to keep Herb around for the business, the public offering, the money coming his way. Don wants to get rid of Herb because he decidedly does not like his whole, let’s call it, essence (and the fact that disgusting, utterly clueless Herb was deigning to tell Don how to do his job. Jesus, even I’m getting mad about it). But, Joan, she just wanted her sacrifice to mean something; to be part of the ‘we’. Always two steps forward, three steps back.
Between the drinking, the social commentary and the drinking, sometimes the people of SCDP and Madison Avenue actually do some work on advertisements. Here is where we sit in the seat of the client, trying to figure out what the hell these ad guys are talking about.
Next Episode Predictions
This is where we watch the totally opaque preview for next week’s episode and make wild guesses as to what will happen next.
We see Don walk furiously down the hall. Roger calls after him saying “Let me explain!” A quick shot of Pete processing some information. Harry reminds Stan to close the door. Peggy sits at the table across from Abe, she looks confused. Bert remarks “we can do better than that.” Harry opens the door to let Stan out. Peggy slugs a drink and starts talking, saying, “Listen, we need to talk.” Don furrows his brow.
None of this actually happened. There was no Next Week promo. I hate you Matthew Weiner.