Mad Men Episode 8: Crash

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Sunday’s episode of Mad Men was maybe one of the most polarizing episodes in the history of the series. You could compare it to Roger’s LSD trip but you’d have to give it a shot of speed in its left butt cheek for it to even come close. There was also a very prominent (almost overdone) theme of motherhood throughout the episode. From Don’s recurring daydreams of being mothered by a prostitute, to the burglar making Sally eggs, there was an obvious undertone that the writers were trying to get through to the viewers. Phil Abraham, who directed this episode, clearly wanted the viewer to feel that they were experiencing the effects of the drugs with the characters, rather than watching from afar the way Peggy was. I found this episode to be confusing and oddly obvious at the same time. Where Mad Men would typically take a more subtle approach, this episode was very “in your face” with its hidden meanings.

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In the start of the episode we are dropped in a speeding, out of control car being driven by Ken. He’s with a group of strange men who are clearly drunk and completely out of control. They are forcing Ken to drive recklessly and are covering his eyes as he begs them to stop. As one of the men screams “Go faster, I wanna shoot that sign” the car spirals out of control. Nothing is explained, and the scene ends in a very old hollywood style crash. We later learn that the group of executives worked for Chevy and the whole point of the joyride was for Ken to present them with the 7th idea they’ve come up with for their campaign. The executives ended up not liking the concept, and sent Ken back with the bad news. Not many people in the office seem to care that he was almost killed, and he even gets scolded for not completing the task. The overall mood of everyone in the office is exhaust. They’ve all hit the same brick wall when it comes to ideas for Chevy.

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We also learn in the beginning of the episode that Frank Gleason has died of cancer. This is obviously very hard for Ted to deal with. Frank was the person Ted was able to vent to about Don, and really played the role of confidant in Ted’s life. He takes the weekend off from work to attend the funeral.

It’s made clear very early on that Don is anything but over his relationship with Sylvia. In his first appearance in the episode he’s seen standing outside the door to her apartment, listening to her debate over dinner options with her husband. This is definitely not the first time he’s done this, which we can tell by the pile of cigarette butts left behind as he walks away. He can’t seem to grasp the fact that not only is he not getting Sylvia back, but he is also not getting his way in this situation, which is something Mr. Draper is simply not used too. The idea of being with her seems to be more powerful for Don than the actual relationship itself, which makes us wonder what exactly is behind the attachment. What makes her any different from the other woman he’s slept with? What about her drives him to be so obsessive? As the episode progresses we learn that it has much to do with the time he spent living in the now infamous brothel he was raised in.

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A quarter of the way through the episode we learn that a doctor is visiting the office and giving “energy serum” shots to anyone willing. The executives are seen going into the office, and exiting with their pants undone. We later learn that the serum is nothing more than a pure form of speed, being injected into their butts. Those effected by the serum begin to hallucinate and lose track of very large chunks of time. The one good thing about the shot is that it gives an immediate burst of creativity, which seems like the end all be all for a group of executives on their 7th attempt at the same campaign. The only problem is that the ideas are completely unfocused and literally make no sense. Don is typically on to something good when he begins a grand speech that calls for silence. In this case he sounds more like a crazy person with a mega phone than anything

Don spends 3 days zipping around the office, having no idea that so much times has passed. He’s completely covered in sweat, his hair is a greasy mess and his shirt becomes more and more wrinkled as the days progress. Peggy is one of the few people in the office who has decided to not take the shot. She is, however, the only drunk one. Which is ironic seeing as how Peggy typically doesn’t like to drink while working. As drunk as she is, her mind is still a thousand times more clear than anyone around her. They’ve all gone from bags under their eyes exhausted to Willy Wonka insane in the span of a weekend.

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During Don’s 3 day stint in la-la land, he is having reoccurring daydreams and hallucinations  of his days as a pre-pubescent boy living in the brothel. The combination of the serum and his break up with Sylvia has stirred something up inside of him that he spends the entire weekend trying to figure out. His emotional junk drawer is fully opened and things are spilling out all over the place without his control. He’s having flashbacks of a particular woman who lived in the house named Aimee. While suffering from a chest cold, she nursed him back to health and even invited him to sleep in her bed. Ironically, she was also responsible for taking his virginity. This season has been jam-packed with whore house flashbacks, but this particular one is by far the most telling. The only woman to every play any sort of motherly role in Don’s life, even if it was for just a few days, was also responsible for molesting him. This gives us a tiny bit of insight Into Don’s strange relationship with sex.

In Don’s delusional mind, he’s convinced himself that he is on the verge of a groundbreaking discovery for Chevy. In reality he sounds like a cattle auctioneer speaking in tongues. It takes him 3 drug induced days to realize that he is actually on track to discovering something about himself. Something that he has been repressing since childhood. It has nothing to do with Chevy and everything to do with Aimee, the hooker who stole his virginity. He is completely fixated on an old soup campaign from more than 10 years ago, telling everyone that it holds the key to Chevy. When he finally discovers the ad in the storage room he realizes that the woman in the picture looks almost identical to his last image of Aimee. She wears the same scarf around her head, and she is serving children at a kitchen table. Through all his years of sleeping around, cheating on his wives and forcing women to crawl towards him like dogs, all he’s ever wanted was for a woman to take care of him the way a mother would. The way Aimee did when he was sick. Don’s physical adaptation of a “mother” is a woman who fed him soup and raped him as a pre-teen. The irony in the fact that Don drew Aimee into this ad more than 10 years ago without even knowing it is what ties us to this character. His complexities make it hard for us to stay mad at him.

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While Don and his colleagues are trapped in Pee Wee’s Playhouse, his children are at his apartment alone, as usual. These children are basically raising themselves. Megan is a great step mom, but her acting career is her main priority at this point in her life. Betty is cold and lacks the emotionally capability to give her children what they want, and not just what they need. Don has never been secretive about the fact that his children are his last priority. Though he’s realized in recent episodes that he needs to play a bigger role in raising them, it will take some time before we see any results. And their stepfather is too busy being mayor to be there for them as much as they may need. In the middle of the night an older black woman named Ida breaks into Don’s apartment while the children are there alone. She is able to convince Sally and Bobby that she is their long-lost grandmother and that she was invited by Don to pay them a visit. Don’s own children know so little about him that they actually believe that a strange black woman could possibly be their grandmother. The mothering theme is revisited when Ida demands Sally to get comfortable so that she can make her a plate of scrambled eggs. Sally goes back and forth on whether or not she can trust the strange woman. She allows her to make the eggs, and even chats with her for a bit in the kitchen, but then immediately calls the police when Ida turns her back. Sally is wise (sometimes a little too wise) beyond her years because she’s  been forced to grow up much faster than she maybe should have. You watch her go from 40-year-old woman to 14-year-old girl in a single conversation.

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After a long weekend of talking really fast and forgetting what day it is, Don finally returns home. He is greeted by both his wife and ex-wife, children, stepfather to his children and a group of police men as well. This is the first time we’ve ever seen them all in the same room together. They are all standing in the living room, waiting for him to arrive. Megan is apologizing profusely for selfishly leaving the kids alone, and Betty is berating them both for not being there. Betty seems especially excited to be in the position to throw digs at Megan. She even makes a comment about Megan being too busy on the “casting couch” to be at home with the children. Betty has never been one to turn down an opportunity to release some pent-up aggression. While all of this is going on Don is staring at them blankly, seemingly unmoved by the news of a thief making a late night snack for his children. The amount of sweat on his forehead has reached an all time high and his shirt looks like an old dish rag. His body has reached its peak level of exhaustion, and plummets to the ground. An appropriate scene, especially with the episode being titles “crash”. There is a scene of Don sitting on the edge of his bed as he often does near the closing of an episode. Megan reaches around him and wraps her arms around his chest. What could be a perfect opportunity for Megan to console Don the way he would like for her to, she does the complete oposite. She apologises to him again for the burgaler insicent and acts like a wife. The seperation between Don and Megan is that he’s looking for a woman to feed him a bottle and swattle him in a blanket. Unfortunatly, Megan is simply not that person.

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The executives and creatives return to work the next morning like a group of frat men waking up after a crazy party. Their 3 days of working on Chevy presents itself as nothing more than a few pieces of paper with chicken scratch all over them. Ted is shocked by the state the office is in, and how little work was accomplished. There is also a very awkward scene of Sylvia and Don riding together in the elevator. It features about 25 seconds of complete silence and uncomfortable glances up at the ceiling. Sylvia asks Don how he’s been and he responds with “busy”. It’s clear in that moment that Don is officially over Sylvia. He’s worked out whatever issue he had within himself causing him to not let go of her, and his focus has returned to work. Don also calls Sally to let her know that he is feeling okay after fainting. He lets her know that it was his fault the door was left open, and that she is not to blame.

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This episode ends with a song by The Mama’s And The Papa’s called Words Of Love. The lyrics of the song relate to Don and Sylvia’s relationship, in that simply saying the right thing to the woman you love won’t win her heart. When talking about the Chevy campaign Don tells Peggy that the amber of his voice is just as important as the ad itself. In the case of Sylvia, that is not the case…

“Words of love, so soft and tender, won’t win a girl’s heart anymore. If you love her then you must send her somewhere where she’s never been before. Worn out phrases and longing gazes won’t get you where you want to go. Words of love, soft and tender, Won’t win her…”

Photos courtesy AMC.com

Mad Men Episode 7: Plans

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This episode of Mad Men focuses on the after effects of these two companies deciding to merge as one. What seemed like a great idea the night before in a dimly lit bar over infinite rounds of dark liquor is now presenting itself as a big mistake. Not a single person from either side was consulted or warned about this life changing decision. When it comes down to it, these two groups still see each other as extreme rivals, which makes it hard to coexist. Their like two large groups of self-centered, bratty children being forced to share toys. The office is now crammed and overrun with a general sense of confusion. The secretaries are cross communicating and finding it difficult to keep up with the chaotic decisions of the executives. Don is now realizing that the idea of the merger was one thing, the reality of it is another. There was an obvious “first day of school” theme in this episode. Joan even stood at the top of the stairs handing out desk assignments like a school teacher. It gave you the feeling of coming back after a long break or summer vacation.

Matthew Weiner is introducing us to a much different version of Don Draper than we are used to. The once charming ad executive has gone from hero to Grinch in a span of 7 episodes. He’s jealous, egotistical, and stomps around like a suit and tie version of early man. The comparison made by Pete last week of Don being like Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine still holds up. We’ve seen Don at very low points in his life (let us not forget the year he decided to rent himself a bachelor pad), but we’ve always rooted for him to succeed. Where we would once wait for Don to save the day, we now wait for him to ruin it. There is so little to like about Don this season that it will be interesting to see how the writers turn it around.

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We were first introduced to Ted as nothing more than a rival to Don. Our loyalty, at the time, would obviously lie with our hero. It’s now come to our realization that Ted is made to be the yin to Don’s yang. They are completely opposite in how they approach almost every aspect of life. Ted is surprised by what it feels like to be around Don Draper. Ted is charismatic, cool, and sees the creatives as his equals. He plays word association games to come up with ideas and, and he even says the word “groovy”.  Don is stiff, cold, and completely closed off to basically everyone he comes in contact with. Ted shows up prepared, on time and sober to meetings. Don shows up 40 minutes late and gets angry when his colleagues don’t patiently wait for him. Ted is having a hard time understanding the complexity of Don’s power over everyone around him. Because of the merger, Don is loosing his ability to control every outcome of happens in the office. He’s realizing that he can no longer act the way he has in the past and get away with it. Having Ted around makes him seem less important to everyone else. The episode opens with the first meeting of the new company. While planning a trip to visit executives Ted reveals that he owns a plane, and would be more than happy to fly the group himself. This is the last punch Don’s gigantic ego can take before it gets knocked out. Finding out that Ted owns a plane makes Don feel as if he has officially lost the pissing contest. In the battle for dominance, owning a plane trumps all. In a jealous fit of rage Don basically resorts to giving Ted a roofie. He gets him too drunk in hopes to embarrass him in front of everyone in the office. A move more suited for a character like Betty, in her days of slapping women across the face at grocery stores. Don has never presented himself as a jealous person because he is so used to coming out on top in all situations. During their plane ride Don is forced to surrender himself over to Ted. He’s clearly afraid, and so wrapped up in his ego that he pretends to read a book in the tiny, two-seater as it shakes uncontrollably.

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Peggy is probably the most aware of the rivalry between Don and Ted, and the level it’s reached. She is coming into this knowing the ins and outs of both men, especially Don. She’s seen Don in some of his most vulnerable moments, and most egotistical. She also has an emotional attachment to Ted, and has grown to really care about him as a person. She sees Ted as someone good, who appreciates the hard work of the people around him. She’s been creatively free as a bird since she left SCDP. All of the characters in this show sort of view the world selfishly, and Peggy is no different. She feels like the company merging was a way for Don to be able to work with her again. She expresses resentment towards him for never contacting her after they parted ways. There is a great shot of Peggy standing in front of Dawn’s desk while watching the phone ring. She looks up at Don and asks “Do you want me to get that?” An obvious reference to how their relationship used to be.

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The most interesting relationship in this episode would be the one between Don and Sylvia. Don’s loss of power in the place he typically feels the most powerful has manifested itself into a chapter of 50 Shades of Grey. Sylvia reaches out to Don and tells him “I need you, and nothing else will do” It sparks something in him that makes him realize he does, in fact, still control one thing in his life. It started off as a playful retreat from reality for the both of them. Just as Don is feeling less-than at work, Sylvia is going through some of the same feeling at home. She initially enjoys the game Don is forcing her to play. He makes her crawl, tells her what to wear, and locks her in a hotel room for hours with nothing to do or think about but him. He even takes her book from her, the only form of entertainment she has. He buys her a bright red dress and makes her spend most of her day getting dressed, only to return back and take it all off for his enjoyment. She realizes towards the end that staying trapped in a fantasy for too long can be dangerous, and abruptly tells him that it may be time to end things. Not just the 50 Shades of Grey hotel experience, but the entire relationship. The fascinating thing about Sylvia is that she knows just how damaged Don is without him having to tell her. She has a strong grasp on what this relationship is, an escape. It means much more to him than it does to her. She gets what she needs out of him, then separates herself physically and emotionally. The difference this time is that the detachment will be permanent. In Don’s mind this would be considered his last and final defeat. Don’s relationship with Sylvia is symbolic of the entire episode, in that it’s often the person who appears powerless that possess the most power in the end. Don has been feeling like the shot caller in this relationship from the beginning, and he’s now realizing it was never the case.

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Joan has been having her own quiet struggle with power since the beginning of the season. The merging of the companies has left her feeling like huge decisions are being made all around her and without her input. The feeling of being the “glorified secretary” is still eating away at her. The most frustrating thing about it is that she is still expected to clean up the messes these men make, and without any thanks. While in her office Joan is suddenly crippled by an extremely sharp pain in her stomach. She tries to manage it herself, seeing as how she feels very alone in the office already. Bob Benson finds her, and is surprisingly the one to help her through it. He sneaks her out of the office, and even takes her to the hospital. Bob has a tendency to feel like a pest, and in this situation he came off as genuine and compassionate. He also whispers to her “I’ll bug you all the way out, no one will notice” which shows that he is fully aware of how he comes off.

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Pete and Don’s lives constantly seem to mirror one another. They are both suffering from a feeling of being completely powerless, both and home and at work. The difference is that this is Pete’s everyday life for the most part. If he isn’t falling down the stairs or being kicked out of his home, he’s showing up to meetings and being the only one without a chair. Pete’s mother is suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s, and the more time he spends tending to her, the less time he has to focus on work. Pete thinks that the merge of the companies is going to result in him being pushed out completely. He already fights tooth and nail to come off as an equal to Don Draper everyday, he now has to compete with a man who flies a plane.

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In the final scene of the episode Don returns to his normal life and his sometimes wife. Megan is trying to fill Don in on the events of her day. She tells him that she would like to take another trip to Hawaii, probably because it was the last time she and Don really communicated. Don is completely disconnected from the conversation, and is totally looking through her with vacant eyes as she speaks. Her voice slowly becomes more silenced until she is completely mute. Don is realizing that he and Megan are nothing more than roommates who go to dinner and occasionally sleep together. Later, Don walks into the bedroom and catches Megan watching a news report on the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Don sits on the bed facing the opposite direction and stares off with a look of sadness.

The episode ends with a song called “Reach Out Of The Darkness” playing over the news report that Megan is watching about the assassination. The song references people stepping into the unknown and connecting with people they once saw as enemies, which is obviously very important to the theme of the episode.

Friend and Lover – Reach Out Of The Darkness:

I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together. I thinks it’s so wonderful and how that people are finally getting together. Reach out in the darkness. I knew a man that I did not care for. And then one day this man gave me a call. We sat and talked about things on our mind. And now this man he is a friend of mine. Don’t be afraid of love.

Mad Men Episode 6: Impulsive Behavior

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This episode of Mad Men should’ve been titled “chaos” because that’s precisely what it was. A mash-up of impulsive and chaotic decisions, with no consent as to how they’ll affect the people around you. The past few episodes have focused heavily on character reflection and long gazes into the mirror, and episode 6 was the complete opposite. Caution was thrown to the wind for all characters involved. If you had a camera panning over the top of SCDP it would look like a human boggle tournament.

This episode really hammers the concept of Don being the new anti-hero. People seem to view him as a sort of grim reaper or ruiner of good things. We as the viewers obviously see Don Draper as the heart, soul, and double whiskey of this series. We are viewing this world through his eyes. We are also lucky enough to have seen sides of him that he often hides from the rest of the world. Every character in this series sees him in a different light, and no two people view him the exact same. In this episode Megan compares him to Superman, while Peter calls him to Tarzan. Both similar yet very different characters. We’ve seen Don cry in the hallway of his condo with Megan just on the other side of the door, completely unaware. We’ve seen flashbacks of his childhood, growing up in a whorehouse and having to leave his brother behind. We were even there to watch him be forced to steal the identity of the man he still lives as today. That being said, we’ve also seen Don do some pretty horrifying things, which is why the character of Don Draper is so complex. The viewer is forced to struggle with the idea of whether or not we are meant to love Don Draper or loath him, which is why the writers of this show do such an amazing job.

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Cooper of SCDP has decided that it may be time for their small agency to finally go public. He, Joan and Peter are the only ones privy to this information. This would basically result in the partners getting shares, and everyone involved becoming insanely rich. Pete sees this as an opportunity to not only become wealthy, but to finally mend his broken family.To cover the years of lying and cheating with loads and loads of money. For Joan this is just justification that becoming a parter was a good idea, and that sleeping with Herb was not for nothing. That after 15 years of being a powerless secretary, it’s all finally paying off (literally). Their only hurdle would be Don, seeing as how he’s stationed himself as the decision maker of the company. Even with all the resentments they have towards him, they are still constantly searching for his approval. Pete assures Joan that Don is already rich, and that for him it won’t matter

Without knowing any of this, Don agrees to a last-minute dinner with Herb Rennet of Jaguar, and his hilariously flighty wife. With the way the show has portrayed him as a difficult and almost revolting character, it makes sense that his wife would be so clueless. The dinner is filled with awkward moments of gulping down a gigantic, umbrella filled pina colada and telling stories about puppies. Megan’s mom telling Megan in front of the woman’s face that she’d rather shatter the Champaign bottle and stab herself with it than listen to anymore of her stories. Don impulsively decides to cut business ties with Herb because he finds him to be too difficult. It’s ironic that his partners are in the office debating  whether or not its okay to accept millions of dollars and potentially upset Don, while he makes life changing decisions for them across town without any concern. Loosing Herb as a client will be devastating for the company, and will guarantee them no longer being able to go public.

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Roger is giving us the old school, womanizing, manipulative Roger of the past. He’s hooking up with a young, blonde airline attendant named Daisy and getting everything he can out of her for the short time she’ll be welcome in his bed. He got her to participate in bamboozling a possible Chevy executive, and ended up convincing him to partner with SCDP. One of my favorite scenes of the episode showed Roger ordering a double whiskey for the client and water with an onion for himself. He is succesful in brainwashing the executive into thinking they’ve met by chance and pics up Chevy as a new client. They are now responsible for coming up with the concept for Chevy’s newest campaign. He has inadvertently saved the company without even knowing it.

Don is greeted with pitchforks and burning torches during his arrival to work the next day. Pete and particularly Joan are extremely upset with Don’s decision to cut ties with Jaguar. This will, without question sever any chance they had at going public. The theme of Don being the anti-hero is revisited strongly in this scene. Every character in the show has some sort of bitterness towards Don. His wife, ex-wife, children, business partners and co-workers see him as a sort of plague. He’s become known as someone who ruins things when he gets to be a part of them. For these characters, Don’s arrival into a room means something bad is going to happen. One of the last people genuinely looking out for Don was Joan. Since the beginning, she’s been there to support him, and she’s one of the few people to still be on his side. She mentioned last week that she feels like nothing more than a glorified secretary, and this just reaffirms that. Joan slept with Herb against her will, not just for her own benefit but for the profit of the company. It now seems like everything she did was for nothing. It’s the idea that Joan could put up with Herb, but Don couldn’t that really upsets her.

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Pete on the other hand has always been the anti-Don, but for different reasons. Don is everything Pete has always wanted to be. He does his best to impersonate him, but fails miserably. Nothing ever seems to work out in Pete’s favor, and he’s often left with egg on his face. From his failed business ventures to even him falling down the stairs in front of Don and the entire office, he’s constantly being emasculated. He also struggles with commanding any type of authority. Even while screaming at Don to his face, he still does not phase him. Don, of course takes credit for what Roger has done. Making it seem as though he always knew it would turn out this way.

Following all of the day’s drama, Don and Ted find themselves in the same bar in Detroit looking to drink away their memory of the day. They have a surprisingly enjoyable conversation regarding business. Ted realizes that instead of having routinely awkward run ins with one another while chasing after the same accounts, it would make more sense for them to partner up. They are both small agencies, and companies find it risky to work with them. If they work together they have a better chance at gaining clients. They make this decision without discussing it with any of their clients or partners.

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Peggy and Ted finally address their obvious sexual tension and end up kissing in Ted’s office. She is clearly getting something from her relationship with Ted that she does not get with Abe. It’s left Peggy confused and fantasizing about Ted being in her bed.Just as she is starting to become more comfortable with the idea of being herself at work, she gets pulled right back where she started. She walks in to Ted’s office and finds him sitting with the her personal satan, Don Draper. Don is probably the last person she would expect to be sitting there. She is greeted with the news that they will be working together, and she looks as though she’s seen 3 millions ghosts. Yet another example of Don being seen as the anti-hero of the episode. Things are now terrible because he has arrived. It’s been an uphill battle for Peggy since flying to nest of SCDP, and for her this is a definite set back. The last place she wants to be is under the thumb of Don Draper. How do you think their relationship will pan out this time around, now that Peggy has had a taste of power?

photos courtesy of AMC.com

Mad Men Episode 4: Hunger Games

Episode 4 of Mad Men is heavily focused on the idea of cheating, lying, and how these characters work persona’s effect them in their personal lives.

ImageThis episode revolves around a private business meeting taking place between Don, Pete and one of the Ketchup executives in Pete’s now “bachelor pad” apartment. The men are in the middle of discussing the idea of working together. The project would have to stay between them, considering Don’s relationship to Raymond of Heinz Beans. It’s ironic that the men are sitting together in Pete’s single apartment discussing the idea of being unfaithful. They decide on the code name “Project X”, and allow only Stan in on the double dealing.

The men later meet with the executives to pitch their idea. Don’s campaign is simple and Imagefeatures pictures of food items that go hand in hand with ketchup. The viewer is meant to wonder “what’s missing” from the ad. Don seems extremely confident in the pitch, that is until he walks outside the door. While leaving they run into Peggy and her team from CGC. They have an intensely awkward stand off in the hallway, only feet away from each other. In one of the most profound scenes in the history of Mad Men, Don listens as Peggy outshines him on the other side of the door. This is a monumental moment in the series, in that it’s Don’s first time witnessing Peggy as the Don doppelganger he created. He gets a first hand look at her pitching an idea as him. he listens as she steals the account straight from under him, just as she’s watched him do to so many people at SCDP. Her campaign is very minimalist. You would think Don had slipped her a script from underneath the door as she states, “I always say If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation,”. She then flaunts the campaigns slogan: “Heinz. The Only Ketchup.”.

ImageIt’s made very clear that Harry, just like many of the others, is fighting for his throne at SCDP. He’s been sitting back and watching his peers inch past him in the race towards power, year after year. The idea of Joan being more authoritative than him is unacceptable. He sees her as a bogus partner, and feels that she dosen’t have to work very hard to get to where she’s going. He sees himself as an essential figure in the success of his colleagues, with little to no acknowledgement. He has his heart set on getting to the top of SCDP, and from the looks of it will tear down anyone who gets in his way.

ImageSpeaking of Joan, it’s refreshing to finally get a little more than a few seconds of her this season. Joan’s story line mirrors Harry’s in the sense that she’s fighting for more than just a title at work. You get the idea that Joan lacks any sort of real power in her life. Though she’s come a very long way, she’s still restrained by the way her colleagues perceive her. Her mother makes just about every decision regarding her baby for her, and is essentially running her household. And at work she’s still seen as the loyal secretary who sleeps around, only now she has a different title. Joan’s friend comes into town and reminds her of the power she has, and the power in her grasp. All she has to do is reach for it.

In an interesting turn of events, we get a little insight into the mind of Dawn, the AfricanImage American secretary at SCDP. She too is struggling to find her voice at work, and not for the same reasons as the others. She walks on eggshells, hoping to stay just below the radar and not rustle any feathers. It’s eye opening to see that she is fighting to reach the level of respected secretary that Joan is trying so hard to run away from. Being the only black girl at work in the early 60’s puts her about 100 steps behind everyone else in the fight towards equality. The one thing she does have in common with Joan is that she has a friend trying to show her the power she possesses, if only she would use it.

ImageMegan is fighting desperately to appear as the wife she thinks Don wants her to be. She’s been trying all season to communicate with him effectively, but it dosen’t seem to be working. She wants to be open with him, the only problem is that she’s dating the most closed off man to ever exist. Don has never been fully supportive of her acting career in the first place, so she finds it difficult to talk to him about it. He is completely comfortable in his role as hypocrite, and he always has been. He’s aloud to lie and cheat in real life, as long as it stays between he and the person involved. Megan on the other hand deserves punishment for acting in a fake kissing scene that lasts for less than 15 seconds. Don can sometimes be the kind of guy that will watch you sail up stream with no intention on extending a helping hand. He will, however, expect you to save him in return.

ImageJust minutes after Don leaves Megan in tears for screaming at her about the kissing scene, he’s knocking on Sylvia’s door. He kisses her on the bed, in a very similar way to the kissing scene between Megan and her costar. The only difference is that this is not acting, and he is emotionally engaged with this woman. He notices a silver cross around Sylvia’s neck, and asks her to remove it. Don’s conscience decides to show itself in the most interesting of times. Sylvia looks at Don in a way that you would look at someone you pity, and tells him that she prays for him to find peace every night. Not realizing that if Don were to actually find peace, he most likely wouldn’t be in her bed.

Photos courtesy AMC.com

Mad Men Episode 3: Rule Breaking

Episode 3 of Mad Men deals heavily with marriage, infidelity, and the consequence of broken agreements made between two people in a relationship. It’s interesting to see that even in the 60’s the idea of a “modern family” was always there, just not talked about or given a name.

ImageIt’s painfully obvious that Don and Sylvia’s relationship is heading towards disasterville, while going 90 miles an hour with burning tires and cut breaks. The original set of rules that were mapped out when they decided they were going to occasionally sleep together are constantly changing. The only thing they can agree on is that they will continue having sex as often as they can. Sylvia is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the situation they’ve gotten themselves in. She’s having a hard time sitting across from the spouses at dinner while they stare at them with egg dripping down their faces. Don is also slowly but surly realizing that these two women are becoming a little too close for his liking. They are definitely playing with fire. Megan confides in Sylvia that she’s recently had a miscarriage, and Sylvia’s immediate reaction is jealously. Her only concern is that Don is still sleeping with Megan, and that she’s starting to get emotionally attached.

ImageWe are also granted another piece to the puzzle that is Don Draper’s childhood. We’ve always known that Don was raised by a prostitute, but we’ve never been given the opportunity to connect it with how he treats the women in his current life. He was brought up believing that women were nothing more than sexual objects, and that being a man grants you the power to have them as you please. This speaks volumes for who Don is at his core. It’s unclear if we’ll ever truly know who Don Draper is at the root of all this, but it does give us a better idea.

ImagePete Campbell is going through a similar set of “rule breaking” issues with his wife, Trudy. Though the ball park is the same, you get the sense that his reasons for cheating are much different than Don’s. Pete comes off as a highly insecure guy, constantly looking to fill the voids in his life. He’s driven by his need to appear powerful, and he’s drawn to women that fawn over him. Pete is so visibly jealous of Don, if only he would realize that it’s just as much an act for Don as it is anyone else. Trudy eventually finds that Pete has been sleeping with Brenda, and she confronts him about his decision to break her well thought out plan. She fills him in on the fact that she’s always known of his infidelity. She allows him to rent the apartment in the city so that it can be kept away from her home. Now that Pete has broken their given rules, a new set must be created, and on Trudy’s terms. You get the idea that Trudy is fully aware of how insecure her husband is. She does what’s necessary in order to make him feel like a man. She also won’t hesitate to tug at his leash whens she sees him getting ready to lift his leg on the wall.

ImagePeggy is still dressed head to toe in her disguise as her idol, Don Draper. Her employees live in constant fear of her, and will look for any excuse not to have to walk into her office. She’s cold, ball busting, and unapologetic when it comes to her work. Her creatives stand in front of her desk to pitch ideas in a police lineup formation. She tells them to sit down and stand up twice in the same sentence. And she constantly teases them with the idea of things like lunch, and fresh air. You can tell that it’s starting to have an effect on her. At her core, Peggy is a warm person with a big heart and it’s being clouded by her commitment to perfection in the workplace. Peggy’s only genuine relationship is with Stan. Stan is able to pull something out of Peggy that not even her boyfriend can. She lowers her walls when she speaks to him, and is able to have genuine conversation, not revolving around work. This could be because she and Stan were able to form a well rounded, fully functional friendship.

ImageEverything going on in this episode is centered around SCDP’s relationships with Jaguar. Herb stops by the office with the request that they spend more money on local advertising than national. During a meeting with the higher-ups Don purposely tanks, without filling Herb in on his plan. He then sits down with the executives of Heinz Ketchup in hopes to add them to the company client list. The meeting dosen’t go as planned, and this can officially be marked as the first time we see Don make such an obvious negotiation error at work.

In the last few minutes of the episode we get another flashback of Don watching sexual acts through the peepholes of the brothel he was raised in. Studying women as they negotiate what will happen with their bodies to sleazy men in suits. As Don goes to enter his apartment he stops, drops his head and slowly lowers to the floor.

ImageAs the episode ends, a song by Louis Prima plays called “Just A Gigolo“. The lyrics of the song really relate to what Don is going through. Especially in relation to his new found obsession with death, and the way he treats the women who love him.

Just a gigolo everywhere I go people know the part I’m playing. Paid for every dance selling each romance every night some heart betraying. There will come a day youth will pass away then what will they say about me. When the end comes I know they’ll say just a gigolo as life goes on without me

photos courtesy AMC.com

Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: Reflection

ImageThe season 6 premiere of AMC’s Mad Men was heavily focused on character perception. The way the world perceives the characters, and how if effects the way they see themselves. The episode starts off with a POV shot of a person getting resuscitated after what seems to be a heart attack, with megan screaming in the background. We are then transported into some sort of 60’s paradise, talk about sensory overload. Don and Megan are spread out on the beach, and Don is reading a passage from the novel “The Inferno” to himself. “Midway from my life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road. And woke to find myself alone in a dark wood”. This is the episode’s first stop on Don’s strange road to self discovery. The audience is left wondering if someone is having a before death daydream, or if this is all actually taking place. Megan is laid out on the beach like a 60’s Bond girl. The beach staff comes over to refresh her blue cocktail that she charges to their room. It was only minutes ago that we saw a person near death, so this all seems too good to be true. Later that night, they end up at a Hawaiian feast with the owner of the resort. It’s apparent that he is the reason Don and Megan are on this trip in the first place. During this scene, it is brought to our attention that Megan has become quite a successful actress. She gets recognized on the beach by a woman who watches the television show she’s on. Unbeknownst to Megan, Don hasn’t spoken a single word the entire day. He seems to be in a strange place mentally, just sort of taking everything in. Ten minutes into the episode Don finally mumbles his first sentence. A drunk vacationer at the hotel bar recognizes Don as an Army vet because of his lighter. He introduces himself as P.F.C. Dinkins. He fills Don in on the fact that he’s getting married the next day, and that he too serves. He asks Don to be a part of his wedding. Megan wakes to find Don giving away the bride on the beach, and takes a picture.

We are then given a bit of insight as to who the mystery man was having the heart attack in the beginning of the episode. In a flashback scene we learn that is was Don and Megan’s doorman, Jonesy. Without realizing it, this event sparked something in Don Draper that will show itself towards the end of the episode. Don and Megan are also introduced to a man living in their building named Dr. Rosen. Luckily, he was there to save the doorman’s life.

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We find Betty, Sally, and the evil step-grandmother from the West, Pauline at the nutcracker. We are also introduced to Sally’s new friend, Sandy. They are shown passing a bag of candy to each other. Against her will, Betty passes it along without any indulgence. In many ways, Betty is much stronger now than she was last year. She has settled nicely into full blown adulthood , and her days of emotional whipped cream binges are long gone. After the show, we see Betty in the middle of getting a ticket from a police officer for “reckless driving”. In typical Pauline fashion, she rips the cop apart and then scolds him for doing his job. The funny thing about Pauline is that she knows how miserable she makes everyone around her, and she rolls in it like a pig in mud. She complains about the night being ruined and how there’s no way it could get any more dark than it already has. Sandy follows that statement by making a joke about her mother being dead. That can be noted as the first unintentionally inappropriate joke in the Francis household, with more to come.

They return home to Henry and the boys in the family room. Sally, eager to rat her mother out, tells Henry immediately about the ticket. I find Sally’s bratty teen phase to be fairly amusing. She too has grown a great deal. No longer is she the girl that runs to her pillow crying. She now slams the door in your face and gives you the “one second” finger while using the phone. We finally get a little more information about this Sandy character, who uses her mother’s death as a mood lightener. She is a 15 year old violinist who, according to Sally has been accepted to Juilliard for the Fall semester. Pauline coins her as a “prodigy”, and Betty begs her to stand up and play for the family. Betty tells her that it makes her “feel so much” when she plays. That statement ends up holding more power than Betty had intended. Much like the drunk man in the bar scene with Don, Sandy acts as a reflecting mechanism for Betty. She forces her to deal with some issues she represses, or maybe dosen’t even know she has. Somehow this girl turns Betty’s emotions from simmer to a full on roaring boil. There’s something to be said about the fact that Betty bonds on such an emotional level with Sally’s young friends.Image

Betty and Henry have a discussion in bed about Sandy’s performance earlier that night. Her infatuation with Sandy is beginning to show itself, this time in a negative way. She goes through a full spectrum of feelings when it comes to Sandy, the first being jealousy. She interrogates Henry about the look on his face while watching her play her violin, and how comparable is was to Bobby’s. In other words, she’s alleging that he wants to have sex with her. She scalds him, saying she’s only a year older than Sally. This statement is followed by her making a painfully awkward joke about him going in the next room and raping Sandy. Betty even describes in full detail how he could stick a rag in her mouth and nobody would know. She goes on to tell ask him if it would bother her if she watched. To say that she’s jealous of this girl would be the biggest understatement ever made. She goes downstairs and finds Sandy sitting in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette in the dark. She all of a sudden seems different than she did in the living room. It’s as if she feels so naturally comfortable around Betty that she feels she can drop the good girl act. She’s giving off the vibe of a girl you would find smoking in a high school bathroom. A little less Sandy, and a little more Rizzo. Betty feels comfortable enough with her to share that she lost her mother too, in a way that makes you think she’s been wanted to say it to her since they met. Sandy fill Betty in on what’s really going on behind the “child prodigy” exterior. She spills the beans on the fact that she didn’t actually get into Juilliard. In response, Betty let’s her know that it will be okay. And that many girls don’t get into the most well respected school in New York, but turn out to be just fine. Her response rattles Betty the way Don was rattled by the drunk man at the bar. She makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be the girl who goes to college, drops out and gets married twice. Or the girl who gives up on her dreams to be a wife and tie her husbands ties. Without knowing it, Sandy is telling Betty that she would rather die than have her life mimic the way Betty’s has turned out. She does, however mention that she is infatuated by Betty’s modeling career, and her life in the Village as a 20 something. Betty makes it clear that it was a different time then, and that the life of a model is nothing to work towards. Betty tries to convince her of how talented she is musically.

ImageWe are next introduced to the new and improved Peggy Olson of season 6. As always, her only focus is her work. She is trying her best at playing the roll of Don Draper in her daily life. She has literally become every part of Don that used to frustrate her. The new Peggy is the old Don that would force her to storm away from his office everyday, shaking her head.

She gets a call from her co-creative, Burt Peterson in the middle of the night to discuss their ad for Koss Headphones. Apparently the advertisement is deemed unusable because of its relation to the war. A comedian on Johnny Carson made a joke about the soldiers in Vietnam cutting off the ears of the Japanese and wearing them as jewelry. With the slogan for Kross headphones being “lend me your ear”, Peggy is in deep trouble. She is told that she needs to meet with the executives and change it immediately before the next ad runs. Peggy has spent the last 5 years of her life reflecting, so this episode does not involve that for her as much as it does her counterparts. It’s more about growth for her, and settling in to her new roll as evil boss lady. Peggy has a meeting with a Kross executive, and she convinces him that she and her team will be able to pull something together to replace the ad. When he exits the room, she lets go a sigh of relief. It’s tough pretending to be an emotionless man all day long. Peggy’s employees don’t like her very much, and understandably so. They haven’t gotten to watch her grow like her former coworkers at SCDP. Never once have they seen her apply lipstick behind a double sided mirror.

The introduction of Roger Sterling is expected, yet feels completely strange at the same time. He’s laying in a psychiatrist’s chair, complaining about how blondes fade to brunettes. His doctor makes it a point to not laugh at any of his jokes. He recognizes that it’s his defense mechanism, and that in order to get to any real emotion from him he’ll have to Imagebreak him of it. Beneath all the sarcastic quips is a man looking for a reason to live besides women, work and vodka. While in his office, Roger receives news from his secretary that his mother has passed away. Like clockwork he makes a sarcastic remark, and then pours himself a drink. ironically, he’s the one calming her down. Telling her that it will all be okay, and that she was 91 years old. As if it makes it any easier to loose your mother by repeating her age. This is our first hint of reflection on Rogers part.

I’ve stated in the past that the most bonding experiences in Mad Men happen in the elevators, it must be the music. Don is slowly but surly becoming very close to the Doctor that saved the doorman’s life early in the episode. He invites the Doctor to come by his office later to give him a free camera from a company he does advertisements for.

Upon Don’s return to the office, we get re-introduced to the creatives of SCDP. They’ve thrown another woman into the mix, which seems intentional. As if recreating the male to female ratio will result in the same success they’ve seen in the past. Don walks in on the office’s Christmas photo shoot. He’s shocked to find the photographer has rearranged his office completely. Don steps into his office and stares out the window in a way that makes you feel that he isn’t all there. His body is back to work from vacation, his mind is somewhere entirely different.

The photographers make their way in Don’s office to take his Christmas photo. They tell him to “be natural” and “do what he would do”. He does just that by lighting a cigarette. He then realizes that he still has the lighter belonging to the man he met at the bar in Hawaii, P.F.C. Dinkins. The lighter reads “In life we often have to do things that just are not our bag”. Again, forces Don to reflect on his own life. Somehow a drunken stranger at a tiki bar in Hawaii is resonating with him in his office in New York City.Image

Don shows up to the Funeral for Roger’s mother drunk. He walks in on a conversation between the men of SCDP about whether or not their mothers are still living. These guys are like a group of social misfits. Not meant to be their true selves around anyone other than each other. Ken goes around the group, asking each one if their mothers are dead or alive. I couldn’t think of a better conversation at the funeral of a friends dead mother. When Don is asked the question of whether or not his mother is alive he slowly backs away and watches from afar. A friend of Rogers mother interrupts him and demands she read her speech first. Roger takes his displaced anger out on his ex-wife’s new husband. we can all see that it’s only a matter of time before he explodes.

The woman explains in her speech that she and her friends would beg his mother to not cling to him as much as she did. And that she did it because she loved him so much. All this talk of mothers and death ends up being a little too much for Don to bear. He pukes in a corner in front of the entire funeral. It appears to the crowd that he’s vomiting because of alcohol, which is not entirely the case. Pete and Ken carry him home, and when he arrives he is met by the doorman who sparked this path of self discovery. He drunkenly asks him what he saw when he died. The man makes it clear that he dosen’t want to talk about it, but Don continues.

Betty returns from the grocery store to find her daughter eating alone in the kitchen. When Betty mentions Sandy, Sally informs her that she’s left early for Juilliard. This alarms Betty, giviin the fact that she’s the only one who knows her secret about not getting in. She feels it’s her responsibility to find her. She ends up at what looks like the set of the Thriller video. I was just waiting for Michael Jackson to put his arm around Betty and look tawards the camera with yellow eyes. She meets a group of homeless teenagers, and one of them informs her that Sandy ran off to California. Sandy sold him her violin to pay for her trip. ImageShe gets into a minor altercation with one of the boys, and he insults her on a very personal lever. Calling her a bottle blonde, and telling her that the only thing she cares about is money. This, again, forces Betty to reflect on herself. She feels even more unaware of who she is. The one thing Betty is sure of this season is that she’s comfortable telling a bratty kid that he’s rude and has bad manors, as she clinches her pocketbook and wishes for him to catch a disease. This kid obviously has no idea how good she can be with a shotgun.

Things finally come to a head for each characture towards the end of the episode. With all this reflecting going on, someone is bound to finally see something.

It’s time for Don to pitch his idea to the owners and executives of the Hawaiian resort. He seems very sure that they’ll love his idea.The entire episode is set up to lead us to this moment. Don’s illustration shows a man’s clothing laying on the beach, and his footprints walkng towards the ocean. Underneath it reads; “Hawaii. The jumping off point”. The executives take a look at the advertisement and immediately get the idea that the man in the ad has killed himself. Without knowing it Don has created a campaign revolving around a man in a suit committing suicide. He realizes that he’s been obsessing over death for the past few weeks because of what happened with his doorman, and Roger’s mother dying was his final straw.

Roger recieves a briefcase from his secratary when he arrives to work. She informs him that the boy he hired to shine his shoes has died as well. The family sent his brifcase to Roger because he was the only person to call and ask about him. Roger slowly walks into his office, shuts the door, sits down and cries. He is crying for the first time since his mothers death. This is what it took for Roger to finally break down.

Peggy finally comes up with a solution for the headphone debacle. After watching her boyfriend bob his head while trying them out, she remembers some B-roll of the original actor doing the same thing. She decides to ditch the music and just show the actor bobbing his head and singing silently. After the excitement of coming up with a final concept, she is reminded by a coworker that it’s New Years Eve. She has her employees working in the middle of the night on a holiday, and dosen’t even remember. This is Peggy’s first realization that she is becoming a female replica of Don Draper

ImageBetty shows up in her kitchen with a look more shocking than her fat suit last year. She’s died her hair completely jet black, and her family hates it. She’s clearly doing this to regain some sort of control over her image. The fact that the homeless stranger was able to read her on such a personal level without knowing anything about her had to scare her.

Don and Megan throw a New Years Eve fondu party with the neighbors, the doctor and his wife included. megan forces Don to bring out the slideshow of photos from Hawaii, and he looks at them as if he wasn’t there. The doctor gets a call that he must get to the hospital. and leave the party early. Just before he straps on his skis to glide down the empty street, he leaves Don by telling him “people will do anything to leave you with their anxiety”. This is followed by Don knocking on the doctors door and being led in by his wife. It’s made clear that they’ve been sleeping with eachother for quite some time now. When she asks him what his resolution will be for the year, he repsonds by telling her he wants to stop cheating on his wife.Image

Photos Courtesy of AMC.com

Big Brother Update: Bye Bye Jo Jo

ImageAs stated by Britney, tonight’s episode of BB is what this show is all about. The house has completely turned in power. The people who felt totally comfortable last week are literally shaking in their boots.

It is now a proven fact that Shane is nothing less than an absolute beast. He won the POV to take himself off the block last week, and tonight he won the HOH! If all it takes for Shane to go far in this game is to be stabbed in the back, than he’ll go far! Shane had a ton of animosity against Janelle last week, and now that he’s in power, I think she should be very afraid.

That’s not even the most exciting thing going on right now. We learned tonight that the coaches will more than likely be voted into the game. It’s up too America, and I don’t see them voting for them not too. Even if they do, CBS will more than likely take it upon themselves to put them in anyway, Florida recount style. This is the best thing that could possibly happen for someone like Dan. He only has one player in the game, and it would make sense for her to go up on the block.