Mad Men Episode 11: Complicated Relationships

On Sunday’s episode of Mad Men, “Favors,” our favorite characters seemed to confront some of their old — or impossible — relationships. Most notable was Sally Draper, who was shocked and outraged by what she saw when she walked into Sylvia Rosen’s apartment. You pickin’ up where I’m puttin’ down? Don was doing more than just “hanging out” at the Rosens’ apartment.

Last night we were burdened with Sally’s realization that her dad is not the sterling knight she always thought (or hoped) he was. When Sally broke into the Rosens’ apartment to retrieve a personal note her friend forged to the cute neighbor boy (signed with Sally’s name!), Sally caught a glimpse of Don “comforting” Mrs. Sylvia Rosen.

Sally was disgusted, but maybe anyone watching the show can agree? When Don came home drunk, who couldn’t help but empathize with Sally? Don stumbles to his gorgeous and attentive wife with dinner on the table. Dr. Arnold Rosen even brought his son Mitchell by the Draper residence to give Don a handshake for the big favor he did (Mitchell was going to go to prison for a “protest” against the war gone awry, but, Don, with help from Ted, prevented it).

Sally witnessed her not-so-valiant-anymore father cheat on Megan with Sylvia Rosen, and see that his only “punishment” is a smiling Megan Draper and a handshake from Arnold and his son.

That is way complicated for Sally, but as viewers, we’ve seen this nonsense since season 1. Never have we experienced anything like this, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised; Sally has had her adulthood brought on in the most blunt ways throughout the series, so maybe we should have anticipated something like this. The tension between Sally and her father can only worsen — I wonder if she’ll even be making her way to the city for more visits.

Sadly, I think this is the first time we’ve seen Don care at all about Sally this season.

It seems like he is so hell-bent on forgetting his old life with Betty that he’s set his children aside. Bobby and Jean are hardly mentioned. Sally always adored her father, but, to Don, she’s just an obligation and a chore.

As for Sylvia, I must say I’m not so excited about her being around again – she is just way too boring. Who knows what the complex, brilliant Don Draper sees in the bland, depressing housewife. All I can hope for is that this relationship doesn’t last much longer — maybe the infinite curve ball of season 6 will redirect their love (not just sex) affair.

Also on the hunt is our slightly less mysterious Bob Benson who has finally had some light shed on his character. (He’s gay?) And he made a (not subtle) pass at Pete Campbell, who has spent all season trying to help his dementia-stricken mom, only to find that the newest in-home nurse, recommended by Bob, has been sleeping with her the entire time.

I almost want to root for Bob since he’s just so damn sweet — So far, we’ve seen him bail out 3 characters including Joan, Cutler, and Pete. He is a caring guy, but he really has no chance with Pete.

Peggy finds herself literally hunting a rat in her apartment – is it weird that she still lives there after everything that went down? In the end she gets a cat, but I hope this isn’t the beginning of a catlady-ship.

Who else caught that producer Matt Weiner accidentally (lol its never an accident) put some sexual tension between Pete and Peggy and reminded us of their child (who was put up for adoption somewhere between seasons 1 and 2). We know that Pete and Peggy developed a solid friendship and comfort in each other, but it’s about time that we get to see them actually joking and laughing together. Poor Ted Chaough, who joined them for dinner, was totally left out.

This post was originally written for SWAY the Blog

Sway Predicts: Bad News for Joanie

With only 3 episodes left in season 6 of Mad Men, who can help but wonder what will become of our female protagonists? Last week’s episode left Joan in a very unusual place in her career that she hasn’t seen lately, and I don’t think she should expect a call from AVON tonight in “Favors.”

Last week’s episode focused on Joan Harris, a partner who is treated like an executive assistant at best. She’s rarely much more than a background character, but we all know her presence to be quite strong and her personality to be exceptionally resilient. She attempted to get a client independently — which suggests some ignorance to the business structure — and she was to be reprimanded, until Peggy swooped in to her rescue.

Now, who isn’t rooting for Joan in the long run?

She works so hard, after all. But, I have a feeling this week won’t prove favorable. She was quite charming and well-dressed, but failed to drop any witty lines to draw in the AVON representative. I don’t see a good phone call in her future, but I doubt the agency will fire her. She’ll likely stay exactly where she is on the ladder for now.

As for the other characters?

Don’t forget that Ted and Peggy still have some heat between them. Keep your eyes open for any developments there.

This post was originally written for SWAY the Blog

Mad Men Recap: Not Ready Yet

On Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men “The Tale of Two Cities,” Don and Roger head to the west coast to pitch to a few clients; and Joan tries to hold down the fort back at the newly named Sterling Cooper and Partners.

Don Draper and Roger Sterling find themselves on the west coast for a very unprepared pitch to a number of clients, carnation milk included. This week highlighted the totally different encountera Don and Roger dealt with on the West coast compared to back home in New York City. In California, we are introduced to the entire stereotype of 1969 – hippies, drugs, and free spirits. Yet, what transpires there is not nearly as bad as what’s happened back at home base…

Joan accidentally came in contact with a prospective client with large billings: AVON cosmetics. She thought she was on her way to a date, but instead got wrapped up in a client pitch. This season has been particularly harsh for Joan, as she is the number one victim to the glass ceiling. She is treated like a secretary despite being a partner at the agency — and is starting to reveal some jealousy towards Peggy, showing that she is certainly not content with her job description right now.

Pete Campbell tried to make his usual swoop in on the client, but Joan was highly resistant. She didn’t want to see her “big break” taken away from her – and can you blame her? This is the only opportunity she’s had to move on from her mundane work as a head secretary/babysitter/coffee maker (seriously, her job lacks excitement or importance).

In the end, Peggy’s not so amused by a management-free client lunch, and is far more supportive of having Pete there to really hone in on the agency details. It seemed like Joan was mistaken to have reled on Peggy at this client meeting.

Back on the West Coast, Don overdid it on the drugs in free spirited Cali livin’ and almost drowned… after having a hallucination about a pregnant Megan Draper leading him around. Does this foreshadow to something? Megan was pregnant earlier in the season and her miscarriage really upset her. Still, this would be the wrong time for those two to have a kid.

One of the more important things to take away from this episode is the level of unpreparedness everyone seemed to have. Joan went on a blind date only to find out it was a potential client, Don had no pitch or notes on any of the clients he saw in California and Peggy was taken to a lunch with a client without any real structure or guidance from an account manager.

Perhaps the “officialness” of the newly named Sterling Cooper and Partners hasn’t sunken in yet…

This post was originally written for SWAY the Blog

Mad Men Recap: The Enemy

On Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Better Half,” SCDP/CGC remains nameless with almost no management; Peggy is stuck at a crossroads; and we get some insight into Don’s newest affair.

It’s about time we get to see more Betty Draper! Gosh, I never thought I’d say I miss her until now, but was anyone else not so surprised by the Betty & Don reunion? I’ve been waiting for them to hook-up since they divorced. Mad Men buffs hated her by the end of season 3 – she was the enemy of the Draper family – but she’s changed a lot since then, mostly for the better. Can’t say the same about Don though.

The one-night-stand gave us even more insight into Don’s twisted sexual needs. Don’s little moment with Betty was a heartbreaker; it just looks like they weren’t ready to end it when they did. No surprise there, since sex isn’t intimate for Don.

Considering that he lost his virginity to a prostitute in a brothel, as we learned in episode 8, maybe it makes sense that sex isn’t intrinsically attached to anything meaningful. Props go to Betty who woke up, put on a fresh face, and met up with her husband proudly and uninhibited by steamy sex with her ex; A seriously sharp move from her and I can’t help but start to love her character again!

Speaking of sharp:

Peggy’s finally showing how scared she is of where she lives. She didn’t want to live there, but her beau, Abe, was quite keen on being a “pioneer” in a poor neighborhood. He was stabbed when he exited the subway one night and, naturally, Peggy freaked out.

A few nights later, she was awoken by loud and rowdy neighbors, went to investigate, and with a turn just a little too sharp, she dug a knife into Abe’s torso. He dumped her in the ambulance because he apparently despises everything she does. He calls her “the enemy.” It isn’t too upsetting at all because he hasn’t been so supportive to her or her needs — or the fact that maybe some of the things she does with her career are important, too.

Who does Peggy have to turn to? I’d think Joan, but she instead heads straight to Ted’s office. They shared an intimate kiss earlier in the season, and he truly held onto it. Ted declared his love for her earlier in the episode and there was just something in her eyes that suggested she was on the same page. Peggy goes to him, probably hoping to get a hug or some encouragement, but he simply brushes her off like a dust mite-sized employee, all love somehow forgotten in only a day or so.

Other minor deets worth noting: Joan and Bob Benson – who called it? Because they are clearly warming up to each other. Meanwhile, Roger Sterling is realizing he’s not the best dad and his daughter helps him see that he’s certainly not a good grandfather (Read: He took his 4 year old grandson to Planet of the Apes). Naturally, Joan won’t let him be a part of their son’s life.

Meanwhile, Pete Campbell is struggling to hold his life together, yet none of his problems seem so important in the grand scheme of things. Get it together Pete.

This post was originally written for SWAY the Blog

Mad Men Recap: Amphetamines

On Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men “The Crash,” things fall apart for the creative team at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce/Cutler Gleason and Chaough; Jim Cutler calls upon a doctor to boost the team’s focus on the Chevy account; and Don Draper has flashbacks of his sordid past.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have been anything but speechless after last night’s Mad Men. The chaotic nature of episode 8, appropriately named “The Crash,” has changed everything the viewers know about Don, but changed nothing at the ad agency.

Over three days, the creative team at the yet-to-be-named Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce/Cutler Gleason and Chaough mash-up completely collapsed. We still know nothing about Jim Cutler, the mysterious executive sporting thick-rimmed glasses, who, as far as we know, had the same job as Roger Sterling when he was at CGC. Cutler, however, was the key to all things unstable in this episode after he had a “doctor” come by to administer a shot of “vitamins” that offers 24-72 hours of absolute focus.

Amphetamines. Duh.

Peggy and Ginsberg chose to not engage in the mystery amphetamine shot, and the show offers a disorderly collection of shots that take us from Peggy’s innocent and healthy attitude in life to Don’s spiraling high — time-loss included. Each scene is short, with hardly a few lines of dialogue. Somehow the episode toggles between day and night almost seamlessly, and in the middle of it we realize we’re just as lost as the incredibly drugged-up staff at the agency.

As viewers, we know the goal of the amphetamines was to induce focus so the agency could create a campaign for Chevy (the factor that merged the agencies in the first place), and we are already greeted with the harsh reality that the agency might not be cut out to write for Chevy. Every idea so far has been turned down and almost everyone at the agency is burdened by the rejection.

Unfortunately, the creative team accomplishes nothing but “gibberish,” as Ted Chaough calls it,(one of the ads even misspelled “Chevy”). So, at the end of the three days, it’s fair to say the agency has accomplished nothing creative.

Our mysterious Don Draper has continued to unfold before us. The initial teaser for the season, labeled “episode 0,” by AMC, promised the audience more details about Don’s past throughout this season. Thankfully, Matthew Weiner, the producer of Mad Men, has kept his word. Steadily, starting with episode 1, we’ve gotten short flashbacks to Don’s early adolescence when he moved into a brothel.

Don’s amphetamine buzz carried us through a number of stages, from incredibly hyped to extraordinarily self-righteous, but the majority of time-lapses were filled with elaborate flashbacks of Don overcoming a chest cold in the brothel, eventually losing his virginity to a prostitute. Not consensually.

The episode ends on a terrifying note when Sally Draper, Don’s daughter, is left to babysit her brothers Jean and Bobby. While reading Rosemary’s Baby (great choice, Sally!), a mysterious women lets herself into the Draper apartment and starts rifling around, asking questions and fudging answers to make herself seem familiar.

Considering the elaborate flashbacks Don has had of his time living in a home of so many women, the viewer is temporarily tricked into her game as well. Within minutes it’s clear that the woman is no friend, but poor Sally can’t do anything to end it. At the end of it, she realizes that she knows nothing about her dad. Honestly, does anyone?

Don, who spent the majority of his 3 days blacking out and creating too many awful plans (not at all chevy-related) at once, mainly trying to get Sylvia Rosen back into his life – returns home to an intervention-like welcoming. He finds out about the woman breaking in — and he collapses. Just one more scene adding to the episode’s name, “the Crash.”

Eventually, Don essentially resigns himself on the Chevy campaign, assuming his role of a creative director who strictly manages the creative team without being directly involved in the brainstorming, Ted Chaough is not pleased, and Don simply replies

“Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whore house.”

This post was originally written for SWAY the blog

Mad Men: A Series in Review

Season 6 of Mad Men picked up on a pretty weird note, especially with the ominous reminder of Lane Pryce’s suicide forever left in the agency’s name, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Oh, and without Peggy, we almost feel like a huge chunk of the show is just missing.

The season 6 premiere of Mad Men opened with Don and Meghan in Hawaii, letting the viewer believe — for almost a minute — that maybe he’s actually treating himself to some relaxation. But, no, he is in fact there on business reviewing a hotel getaway. Meghan’s made it big as an actress! Well, she’s a maid in a soap opera, but people ask for her autograph, so she’s doing pretty well.

The only problem with Meghan’s new success is what it’s done to her marriage. Much like what we saw with Betty Draper (now Betty Francis), as soon as the attention is off Don, the mistresses start to pile up.

This time we have Sylvia Rosen, the wife of a doctor Don recently befriended. She’s essentially just a body on the screen with no real personality.

Back at the agency, Don seems to be fraying at the edges and greedily scratching around for bigger clients, starting with episode 4. Heinz beans has been consistent business for SCDP even though they don’t propose large billings to the company. They were pretty clear about one thing though; SCDP should have nothing to do with Heinz Ketchup.

Stan from SCDP’s creative team leaked it to Peggy, who is now copy chief at Cutler Gleason and Chaough. This particular episode is the beginning of a visible rivalry between the two companies. Don and Pete pursue Heinz Ketchup while Ted Chaough pressures Peggy to make a pitch. Both agencies go for the gold and miss (a larger ad agency took the prize), but one scene tells us everything.

When the guys at SCDP leave the hotel room where they just pitched a perfectly decent campaign, they cross paths with the creative of CGC. Don stays behind to listen to what Peggy’s come up with, and she steals Don’s quote,

“If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”

The tension on both sides of the door is left only to the viewer, but Don’s reaction suggests that he’s surprised — maybe even intimidated — by what she’s saying.

The crew is against each other again in episode 6 when both parties find themselves out in Detroit to pitch to Chevy, a company Don has dreamed about for a long time (recall: he wasn’t as interested in Jaguar back when they started that campaign. Chevy was in his eyes even then).

It’s late, and Don finds himself drinking his usual Old Fashioned when Ted joins him at the bar with only negative things to say about what will become of their brilliant campaigns. Each knowing they’re brilliant but a part of an ad agency too small to be taken seriously, they start to brainstorm a quick solution.

And then they merged.

And won Chevy.

Now everything has changed. Episode 7 was a déjà vu moment for those who recall the British buyout of Sterling Cooper back in season 2. The only thing the show should do differently is make the merger last, but the teaser for episode 8 suggests that is just not going to happen. Nevertheless, SCDP and CGC have yet to form a name, but they’ve already started bickering. The mutual jealousy between Ted and Don is growing rapidly.

In the mean time, Joan’s status is forever unchanged even as the rest of her co-workers seem to be doing so well. Pete’s marriage crumbled after his wife found out he’d been having an affair with the blonde next door (quite reminiscent of Betty and Don in season 2 and 3!). Peggy’s unhappy to be under the control of Don who doesn’t see her successes.

And Sylvia Rosen; the affair that added nothing to the season? She actually ended it herself, but only after Don basically made her his sex slave. What’s going on, Don?

This post was originally written for SWAY The Blog