Tag Archive for Mad Men Season 5

Mad Men Recap: “Dark Shadows” (Season 5, Episode 9) (5/14/12)

This week marks the return of Betty Francis, the wounded whale. Betty, struggling to lose weight, bookended last night’s episode with her strategic consumption. Weiner continued to poke at the plight of the Jews in 1966, and Don’s secret, shameful past is bubbling to the surface without any disturbing effects. There are only four episodes left to go in season five. Pete Campbell’s dissatisfaction is snowballing while Don burns Ginsberg with the flames of hell. Manipulation is the name of the game.

Mad Men Henry Betty S05E09

Bits of happiness, divvied at strict intervals. Photo credit Jordin Althaus

Pete Campbell boards the elevator with the partners and smugly claims to have been the subject of an hour-long interview with his “new best friend Victor, of the New York Times.” Oh, don’t bother calling, they only seem interested in me, he says, with smarminess radiating from his pores. In retaliation, Cooper, always playing the peacemaker, sends Roger on a discreet mission: pitch Manischewitz to “normal people,” as opposed to the Jews. Naturally, Roger turns to the only two Jews he knows to arrange such a thing: he bribes Ginsberg and Jane.

During a portfolio update, Don notes shrewdly to Joan that most of the good work at SCDP recently has been Ginsberg’s. When Don Draper identifies a threat, you’re gonna want to back out of his way. Peggy and Stan know this, but Ginsberg hasn’t a clue – yet. Don snoops through Ginsberg’s folder (amusingly labeled “Shit I Gotta Do”), chuckling at the work he’s done thus far for Snowball soda. Then Don gets to work; these scenes are brilliant – Hamm consistently makes it look like the ideas are just floating up from the abyss. He pitches his idea – the devil, forked tail and horns, backed by the very flames of hell, sips a Snowball soda – to Creative. But the company wants to appeal to children, so a snowball striking an authority figure in the face is going to get the laughs, says Ginsberg. Peggy and Stan like Ginsberg’s take and Don tells them to go ahead with it. Ginsberg makes a few cocky comments: “It’s impressive you could not write for so long and then come back with that!” he says. “I’m glad I could impress you,” Don says, unamused. Peggy and Stan monitor the proceedings warily, waiting for Don to lay the smackdown.

Showdown. Photo credit Jordin Althaus

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Mad Men Recap: “At the Codfish Ball” (Season 5, Episode 7) (5/2/12)

Sunday’s Mad Men was a bit of a doozie, and I’m late to the ball due to a crazy weekend. So here we go.

The women of Mad Men are what make the show worthwhile for me – and this was a very lady-centered episode. Particularly, the focus was on mothers and daughters, on seeking mama’s approval while struggling against the parameters your parents set for you. Sally, Megan, and Peggy are having mommy issues – which, knowing their respective mothers, is not a surprise.

Remember what phones used to look like? Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

The episode opens on a grungy dorm hallway, in which two kids play some semblance of lacrosse as a toweled boy sidles past. Who should come to pick up the hall phone, but Glen, Betty’s former nemesis and Sally’s “former” friend? He asks Sally if she’s bought the new “Spoonful album,” and she says, “It’s all over the radio,” which tells us this song has hit the top 40 (the airwaves are now firmly entrenched in that scary rock’n’roll of the 60s). Sally has stretched the phone cord across the hallway, and Pauline immediately trips over it. As “Bluto” rolls around on the floor moaning about her ankle, Sally bosses Bobby into getting her water and keeping her calm. She later tells everyone Pauline tripped over one of Gene’s toys – a lie designed, even years later, to keep Betty from knowing what was really happening with Glen. Of course, since Pauline broke her ankle, Bobby and Sally yet again migrate to Manhattan to Don and Megan’s apartment.

(Speaking of Betty, her obvious absence in this episode could be considered either a major flaw, or a very purposeful move from the writers – she’s no mother to Sally.)

Mad Men S05E07 Marie Calvet

Marie Calvet: Unhappiness personified. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Megan’s parents Emile (Ronald Guttman) and Marie (Julia Ormond, in a gorgeous casting move) are in for a visit, bringing with them their myriad problems. One of the first things we hear from Emile is a tossed slur: “Have a drink,” he tells his wife, “become nice again.” Since Sally doesn’t like fish, Megan, ever the dutiful wife and nanny (though I wouldn’t go so far as to say “mother”) produces spaghetti for dinner. Marie remarks with a sad smile, “I used to make spaghetti for Megan.” Then the pretty, sexy, sad Frenchwoman imbibes enough to stagger away from the table and pass out with a lit cigarette. Removing the butt tenderly from her mother’s fingers, Megan finds herself blessed with a brilliant idea. Read more

Mad Men Recap: “Far Away Places” (Season 5, Episode 6) (4/23/12)

In last night’s surreal episode of Mad Men, everybody was taking trips, with or without their loved ones. There’s trouble in paradise with Peggy and Abe, and Peggy’s dancing ever closer to the edge of her patience with being a lady in a man’s world. Roger and Jane take a trip together and come back apart. Don and Megan, whose relationship appears so idyllic, particularly to the likes of “miserable” Roger, do effectively the same thing. Oh, and Ginsberg may be from Mars.

Mad Men S05E06 Roger and Jane

The odd couple. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Some of us (ahem) have been waiting with bated breath for the drug culture to make its surreptitious entrance to SCDP. Well, this was it. Peggy and Abe get into a giant fight because, as he says, she wants to take him to work, stick him in a drawer, and take him out whenever she gets bored. This, unfortunately, isn’t far from the truth. Abe throws a serious jab when he yells, “I’m your boyfriend, not a focus group!” Women’s work-life balance is still a contentious topic in feminist circles, and Abe’s dissatisfaction with Peggy is not unfounded (though nor is it fair). Unfortunately, she takes her anger to the only place she knows well: the office.

After Don takes Megan away on an impromptu trip to a Howard Johnson’s (much to Megan’s chagrin, as you’ll see below), Peggy’s short a team member and sans boss for her second presentation to Heinz – which she botched horribly the last time. When the Heinz gents rebuff her again, she goes on the warpath, trying a Don tack and telling Heinz what they want. This, of course, results in a number of comments meant to put her straight back in her place. “Women usually want to please,” says Stan, disappointed. “Little girl, you’re lucky I don’t…” cries the Heinz rep. Peggy, furious and impotent, fights back tears even as she gulps a shot of Canadian Mist.

Peggy, who’d turned down Abe’s invitation to the movies earlier in the day, goes to the theater by herself. She smokes a joint with a stranger, and when he tries to slide his hand up her skirt, she takes him in her own hands, so to speak. Feeling powerless in a world full of powerful men, she uses the stranger to get her mojo back. It’s not quite as depressing as Betty’s tryst in the restaurant bathroom, but it’s not exactly a happy moment, either. Read more

Mad Men Recap: “Signal 30” (Season 5, Episode 5) (4/16/12)

Pete Campbell is a horrible, smug, insecure creature whose very existence makes everyone at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce just a little bit less civil. A good bit of viewers probably rolled their eyes last night when it became clear this was a Pete episode. It’s a credit to Matthew Weiner and the writing team that even though we find him deplorable, we can’t…stop…watching. Watch Pete fail to fix a faucet! Watch Pete flounder with a prostitute! Watch Pete get the crap kicked out of him! Watch Pete make bitchface over and over and over! It’s alternately satisfying and cringeworthy. In last night’s episode he truly was a punching bag (in every sense).

Lane’s wife Rebecca drags him out to a pub to watch England win the World Cup (“Cup of what?” Roger asks later, reminding us that soccer – or football, depending – is a fairly new trend in American sports). Against his will, Lane strikes up a friendship with Rebecca’s friend Edwin, who works for Jaguar and is looking for new ad representation in New York. Pete, who snipes cruelly at Lane the very moment it seems Lane might pull ahead with Jaguar, sends Roger in to coach the Brit on wooing a client. It’s just like a date, Roger says. Dish out flattery within reason, ply with lots of booze, and maintain control while letting him talk about himself. Lane, who is decidedly not an ad man, can’t close the deal with Edwin, so sends the rest of the partners to finish it off. So to speak.

Edwin asks Don, Roger, and Pete to show him a good time – and they do, in the form of a brothel (“I grew up in a place like this,” Don says to the madam. “Only it wasn’t so nice and we called it a whorehouse.”) Roger disappears into a room with a hooker, and Pete quickly follows suit. Pete’s pick of the evening writhes around on the satin sheets, briefly playing the Virgin and the Mother and finally settling on the fawning subject – which is, of course, exactly what Pete wants.

Mad Men S05E05 Rebecca Lane

Incredulous. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

Throughout the episode, Pete tackles a driver education course, which gives him access to teenagers. Shudder. After he flirts with a pretty young girl, offering to take her on a VIP trip to the Botanical Gardens, he gets upstaged by a handsome boy with enviably muscled triceps – who’s actually nicknamed “Handsome.” Life’s just not fair, huh?

Perhaps the overriding motif of this episode is the constant, mind-numbing dripping of a leaky faucet. Pete, lying awake in the middle of the night, is baffled as to how Trudy doesn’t hear the drip. drip. drip. So he fixes it. But Pete’s “fixes” for things never actually seem to work out. Read more

Mad Men Recap: “Mystery Date” (Season 5, Episode 4) (4/10/12)

Well, this week’s Mad Men kicked everything into a higher, more sinister gear, didn’t it? We had hallucinations (I think), ghosts of indiscretions past, the Richard Speck nurse murders, bribery, morbidity, and a relationship disaster. Compared to this season’s mostly mellow reintroduction to our characters, this episode was a slap in the face.

Mad Men S05E04 Don Draper

Any new copywriter who gets this look from Don ought to be shaking in his boots. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

In the opening minutes, we know a few things: that Don is extremely ill – he’s sweaty, red-faced, and hacking like an old man – and that Don and Megan’s relationship is going to continue to surprise us. Despite his horrid cough and apparent fever, Don boards the elevator and stumbles around at work all day in a haze. In that morning elevator, Megan meets Don’s former flame Andrea (Madchen Amick, whom you’ll recognize – and I assume this was purposeful – from Twin Peaks). Megan, nonplussed, starts a dialogue the two of them have evidently had before. Don, of course, doesn’t understand that his prior indiscretions, when thrown in his new wife’s face, are equally embarrassing for Megan. While talking through her feelings on the subject in the SCDP kitchen, she mentions Alison and Faye Miller and “who knows how many more.” Once again, we’re struck by the fact that secretive, damaged Don has opened himself to Megan, that it could be she knows him almost as well as Peggy does or Anna did – and maybe better. He tells her, “I’m going to be with you until I die.” It’s hard to imagine the old Don ever uttering those words, let alone meaning them. But it appears he does mean them.

We are hovering in miserable, sweltering midsummer in New York City, 1966. On July 14 of that year, Richard Speck brutally raped and murdered eight student nurses in Chicago. The whole country was morbidly obsessed with the case – and no one in this episode can back away from the murders. This episode features the return of Joyce (!), Peggy’s photographer friend and the only lesbian we’ve yet met on the series. Joyce brings crime scene photos to the art department. Stan, Peggy, and Megan leer at the photos, magnifying them under a glass. It’s human nature, of course; rubbernecking, curiosity, an obsession with the ghastly. “One survived,” Peggy says gleefully, “because she hid under the bed.” Michael, in an odd, probably important outburst, storms out of the room. “You’re all sickos!” he cries.

What’s odd, then, is that Michael ducks under Don at a pitch to a shoe company later, describing in detail the scene of a hunted woman. Terrified, hobbling in one heel down a dark alley away from a masked pursuer, this woman is Cinderella, and the hunter is Prince Charming, replete with apologies and a glass heel. “She wants to be caught,” Ginsberg says lovingly; his vivid imagination isn’t immune to the morbid, either. The kid is kind of a genius, we’ll give him that. Unfortunately, Don’s not willing to do anything for him except threaten (rather impotently, for Don) to throw him in front of a taxi. No one manipulates Don and gets away with it – except Michael Ginsberg, apparently. Read more