Thoughts on tonight’s Mad Men

Mad Men, 3x06 “Waldorf Stories” (wri. Brett Johnson and Matthew Weiner, dir. Scott Hornbacher)

  • When the ‘Previously on Mad Men' comes on and there's a clip from the epic Don & Peggy scene in “Shut the Door Have a Seat”, you know it's going to be the best episode. Because Don/Peggy interactions are the absolute best and I will not hear otherwise.
  • Holy fuck, the return of Duck!
  • "It’s an idiom. Did you know that?" LOOK AT THESE TWO BFFS ON JOB INTERVIEWS.
  • Oh, I see your little Emmy commentary, Weiner.
  • "Why am I talking about silent movies?" Because you know it gives me hot pants?
  • Don/Roger bromance strikes back!
  • John Slattery in mink. Did I write this episode?
  • OH MY GOD the return of Joan and Roger. Fuck me, this is the perfect episode already!
  • Joan’s ’50s hairdo. Good gracious me.
  • "Have you been yelled at by Don yet?" Peggy misses you, Salvatore Romano.
  • Chow-goo-gah
  • Judas Priest! Pete Campbell: Head of Creative Blasphemy at SCDP
  • "Don’t talk to me right now."
  • Nooo, Duck :( Herman, you are a mess without Peggy!
  • UNDER THE TABLE HAND-HOLDING. BE STILL, MY HEART.
  • Harry Crane, have my babies. You and your Peyton Place spoilers!!
  • Alcohol ruins everything. And now I’m imagining Peggy Olson as Carrie Nation and suddenly the whole world makes me sense.
  • Misters Olson and Rizzo—eeek…!
  • Ms. Blakenship’s wig OMG
  • Pete loves Dickens, apparently. BUT MORE PETE/KEN HATE SCENES IN THE FUTURE.
  • Jared Harris’ voice is so soothing.
  • "Award or no award, you’re still Don Draper." -"Whatever that means." YOU’RE SLIPPING, DICK. KEEP IT TOGETHER.
  • "You’re lazy. And you have no ideas. Let’s go." I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PEGGY OLSON FOR PRESIDENT OF EVERYTHING. Elisabeth Moss, you are fabulous and beautiful. LET’S GET LIBERATED, INDEED.
  • "You’ve crossed the border from lubricated to morose." What a great line.
  • Roger Sterling speaking French. WHAT IS LIFE. A callback to his time in Paris before the War. I love you, continuity!
  • Peggy: +1 Rizzo: -5,000,000
  • "Oh. Okay." Don Draper does not appreciate your blowjob, Cake Mix Jingle Lady.
  • WOW. The second time-lapse shot of Don on the show and even sneakier that they’ve shifted from Friday night to Sunday morning—and switched lady friends right under our noses! Well played, Mad Men. That’s how you do visual storytelling.
  • Holy shit, identity crisis, much?
  • Alcohol is truly, truly terrible. You’re pathetic, Don. Listen to Peggy. She’s the only good thing you have right now.
  • "One…little…thing." PEGGY OLSON, LIGHT OF MY LIFE.
  • Pete and Ken are dressed exactly the same only with Pete in blue and Ken in brownish yellow. Janie Bryant, I see you and your thematic mirroring.
  • Perfect ending song choice—like Peggy’s theme song.

Well overall, despite Peggy’s ongoing fierceness this season, this wasn’t a spectacular episode. For one thing, Scott Hornbacher’s direction seemed less self-assured than in his debut in 3x09’s “Wee Small Hours”. Something about it seemed very clunky, without the usual style and verve of the series; flashbacks were abrupt and staging often awkward. Strange.

A lot of issues came home to roost and transitional episodes are always a challenge. We’re nearly halfway through the season and nothing’s really been established except that Don’s headed for a downfall in a big way, Peggy’s ascending quickly (and hitting the glass ceiling even quicker) and Roger seems to be writing a memoir (riding David Ogilvy’s coattails). We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop on Dr. Rapist’s imminent and glorious death in Vietnam (fingers crossed), whether Don will ever step up and be a father (or get with Lady Therapist—who cares?) or any revelation about what kind of company Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce really is. At the end of last season Don said he wanted to get out and build something—what, Don? Four walls and an open bar? Get. It. Together.

The plotline tonight was pulling in all directions, but the main theme was mentorship and legacy. Obviously, Roger wants to be acknowledged for shepherding his prize pig, Don, to a now-consecrated victory (a Clio!), an award Don pretends not to care about. And then there’s Peggy who seems to have done much of the legwork for GloCoat, yearning for a seat the table (literally—that seat’s filled by Joan, but more on that later). Unlike last season’s finale, Don doesn’t seem to care that Peggy’s the only one doing any real work; right now she’s got the biggest dick in the office and isn’t afraid to swing. Was his moving appeal for Peggy in “Shut the Door Have a Seat” (“I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”) all an act, a bullshit pitch meeting? That’s seeming more and more likely. And that makes me hate Don. Do I have to say it again? Get it together, guy.

After a few seasons of simmering resentment between Roger and Don, everything seems to be copacetic now that Sterling’s inching towards grande dame retirement (with Lucky Strike safe in his back pocket). Is Don really so insecure that he can only relax with Roger tamed? Sadly, yes. Don hired the weakest possible candidate, Danny, a tiny little product of nepotism and no ideas, only after he “accidentally” lifted the worst tagline in advertising history to woo Life cereal. This from the man who made Peggy a copywriter in season one. Fuck, Don! GET IT TOGETHER.

Re: Joan, another fierce lady relegated to (literally) holding the mens’ hands to get them through the evening. Even though I loved the Roger/Joan flashback, at the Clio’s it seemed she was there (as she always is) for moral support only; she’s the SCDP glue. When Don kisses her, it’s not romantic, but it’s not affectionate on his part either. I get the impression she was there just because Don needed someone to kiss before skipping up to the podium in his haste to thank no one (Betty sure as hell ain’t gonna do it). I like Joanie and have always respected her HBIC-but-subservient period-appropriate proto-feminism, but lately, she’s being treated more like window dressing. And Joan Holloway is never not essential.

It’s a hard sell to get us to root for Don in flashback considering what a decline he’s in currently. (Even though I love the way Jon Hamm plays young, not-yet-Don Draper/Dick Whitman—the way his face opens up and the spring in his step—perfection.) I do love that they’ve been expanding Slattery’s screentime and deepening Roger’s character this season, though. And of course, Peggy’s always been the voice of the audience for the show and her disdain for Don’s behavior mirrors the audience’s—I just hope something’s being done about it. Peggy can’t “save” Don (as evidenced by the curt, no nonsense scene in Don’s apartment), he has to take care of this himself. Let’s hope “Waldorf Stories” is the Don’s career and personal nadir; I need to see some ascension, dammit.