Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mad Men recap - A Day's Work

It's Valentine's Day on Mad Men and there's secretaries and flowers everywhere.

This episode was full of hilarious scenes that echo a sitcom-like feel but also had a few tender moments that surprised me. The conference call was almost slap-stick funny, and Pete in Ted's office bemoaning his ladder-climbing impotence while Ted didn't even look up from his work was classic. I think my favourite line would be Stan to Peggy regarding 12 long stem red roses: "I didn't think your cats could afford it." There was a lot of Coffeemate floating around too. Which always grosses me out.

Out of the several themes explored in this episode I really enjoyed the secretary/boss relationships and how they contrasted the selfish, egocentric attitudes of the bosses to those of the maligned secretaries who have to navigate the office while maintaining their own self respect. Dear Dawn has it rough with the ever-more-nasty Lou. He is turning out to be a complete ogre as he is first completely unhelpful and awful to teenage Sally who came to the office just looking for her dad. He then unjustly reams out Dawn in front of Joan because he didn't want to have to deal with Sally or share Dawn with Don(so many Don/Dawns), even though Dawn was out using her lunch break to shop for his wife's Valentine's perfume. Dawn standing up for herself was one of those great Mad Men scenes where small triumphs in the office world are so satisfying.

Peggy meanwhile is having an awful Valentine's. She makes the misstep of assuming roses sitting on her secretary Shirley's desk were for her - and from Ted Chaough no less. She's at first flattered, then miffed, then spends the rest of the day obsessed/mooning about the disaster that is her love life. But Peggy then takes it out on Shirley making an uncomfortable situation for them both even more painful, accusing Shirley of somehow rubbing the flowers in her face, flaunting her engagement ring. In other words, trodding upon Shirley in a completely unprofessional manner just like Lou because she's so wrapped up in herself she's oblivious to another person. Peggy shows a painful pang of regret after losing it on Shirley; it's had to be tough to remember her own days of being a secretary, humbly serving Don and realize that she used to be in that same powerless position. To think of how sorry we were feeling for Peggy last episode, now here we're disappointed in her even though we know she's terribly lonely.

In the middle of the secretary drama is Joan, feeling the brunt of the miffed, immature egos of Lou and Peggy demanding removal of their hardworking Girl Fridays. Joan has dealt with this office-cum-preschool behaviour for so many years she is unsurprised but still revolted. She's trying to seamlessly address everyone's preferences even unto the point of Bert Cooper complaining about Dawn's presence at the front desk, his racism expressed bluntly in full buffoonery. Jim, who seems the only man who's caught on to the idea that Joan performs two jobs, offers her an accounts office upstairs and suggests she gives the tedious job of personnel managing to someone else. Well played Jim. Joan has been waiting for someone to finally see her hard work and will be more likely to help Jim out if/when his cunning Machiavellian plans ever play out. Joan moving upstairs brings about the other happy ending of Dawn inheriting Joan's captaincy of the secretaries and her own office. Yay Dawn!

Let's talk secretary costuming for a moment: Shirley's floral mini-dress and black patent boots outfit was amazing. I can't believe that was work appropriate in 1969, but she looked smokin'. Shirley is obviously very into trend and fashion. Her makeup is also a treat as it's pretty splashy for the office, it shows again the era of the burgeoning 70's where disco glam was everyday cool even at work. Joan is a redhead who looks stunning in red, her beautiful suit with sheer sleeves was another feat for Janie Bryant. Dawn dresses for practicality, and clearly isn't a fashion plate, but I found her big collar entertaining. The other secretaries in the office are all put in printed suits which are always interesting.

Pete played a comical counterpoint to all this, he's a bit rudderless this season as he is out in LA, (and only yelling at his secretary as he asks her about "the contraption"). He feels defeated and unappreciated by the New York office even though he's snagged a big account of car dealerships. His ego isn't being fed the way it has in the past which he lived and worked for his whole life on the east coast. He's still looking for the job and it's perks to give him satisfaction and personal worth. Of course, Ted Chaough thinks this is ridiculous and that's why he doesn't even look up from his desk during Pete's tirade, that or he hears it ten times a day. Pete keeps getting knocked around yet refuses to let go of what the world is trying to sell: that you can only find happiness in money, status, and power. He's got it all, even though he can't really move up in LA. He just seems to refuse to develop even a sliver of introspection as is seen in how he creepily tries to get his blonde realtor girlfriend to drop her open house for his hotel room.

Sally is back in this episode and I'm happy to see her. I've always enjoyed Sally, even through her bratty stages. (I want to grow up to be Kiernan Shipka.) You can say a lot about Sally, but growing up with her parents she has a keen nose for the truth and can't be fooled easily. In this episode she is forced to seek help from Don and he has to drive her back to her school. The painful car ride and conversation is difficult to watch, Sally's been dealing with Don's indiscretions for a while now and you can read on her face how it's been eating her up inside. Don at first attempts to lie again, loop around the truth, then challenges Sally's own behaviour which no longer has any pull with her. Her insight into how embarrassing his lies are clearly strike a cord with Don. Their dinner finally breaks the ice, and shows how Sally can identify the truth when she hears it and how she accepts the truth for what it is. Don also says how he wishes Sally didn't have to go to a funeral, another version of shielding Sally from the truth albeit less deceitfully. Don trying to dine and dash was a glimpse at how he can almost be a good parent when he wants to be. The heartwarming ending of Sally saying "I love you" to Don as she leaves was one of the best scenes this show has ever had. A beautiful glimpse of the real love Don has been fruitlessly searching for his entire life, and how tragically he has been missing it in the life of his children.

Bullet points:

  • Roger and Jim- Jim's buttering up Roger, but I doubt Roger is buying it.
  • Roger and Joan - He bought her flowers for Valentine's day from their son! Sweet! Hope for future??
  • Don - Watching tv all day trying to find inspiration while sharing his dark apartment with roaches. De-pressing. He's gotta get his groove back.
  • I need more Stan and Ginsberg!
  • Anyone got a crochet pattern for Sally's hat? Because I'm going to make it!
  • Does anyone miss Betty?

What did you think of this week's episode? I'd hate to think of you as an adversary.

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  1. Another great recap! I dont necessarily miss Betty, but would like to see more of that side of the plot. I like the family/relationships side to come out when it starts getting to office-centered. If you find a pattern for the hat, I will order one from you!

  2. I'm always shocked by how short the dresses got! Looking at pictures of my mom from that era, I always have to pick my jaw up off of the floor! I agree with you about more Stan and Ginsburg and even Betty if only to see what she's wearing these days. I'm loving your recaps, Christy, and thank you (!!!!!) for telling me about the episodes being online!

  3. Excellent recap! I feel like I watched the whole thing myself. Remind me who Betty is, now?

    Oh Pete, he'll just never get it, he's such a child. And yet I feel such pity for him.

    Don has so much potential. I'd like to see the series finale play out with his lies finally catching up to him, maybe in a huge court case for stolen identity, and a Flannery O'Connor-esque moment of revelation and redemption.

    I don't know if I can condone Roger and Joan together. He strikes me as a sex pervert and she's a little bit too fast and loose. I used to love Peggy when she was an underdog, but I feel like Don dragged her into his world of lies and manipulation. Have you ever noticed that the only way any woman is safe around Don Draper is if she is not a sex interest? That is very telling!


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