Friday, October 24, 2014
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'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper is a hero

SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING AND WATCH THE LATEST EPISODE OF MAD MEN BECAUSE LAST NIGHT WAS CRAZY AND YOU'RE IN TROUBLE IF YOU'RE NOT CAUGHT UP.

'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper is a hero

Don and Megan Draper from Mad Men.
Don and Megan Draper from Mad Men.

SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING AND WATCH THE LATEST EPISODE OF MAD MEN BECAUSE LAST NIGHT WAS CRAZY AND YOU'RE IN TROUBLE IF YOU'RE NOT CAUGHT UP.

Bob Benson hit on Pete Campbell. Peggy propositioned Stan Rizzo. Don Draper got caught in the act. Last night's Mad Men was an incredible combination of everything we love about Sterling Cooper and all of the other letters that were dropped from the agency's name.

It, essentially, starts off with Betty laying into Sally over her plans to take part in the model U.N. and stay in a "Midtown hotel with all those boys." Sally responds by, ahem, positing that she could just stay with Don and Megan. Betty lashes back with a sarcastic, "Your father is a hero!" because, foreshadowing.

Don Draper enters his apartment and sees his wife on the couch with a young, long-haired man in bell bottoms. The '70s: just around the corner. We learn that the young man is Mitchell, the son of Arnold and Sylvia Rosen. He's confided in Megan that he returned his draft card in protest and has been designated 1A. He could be called any day and he's thinking about fleeing to Canada and was seeking Megan's help because, clearly, a moderately famous soap opera actress is probably a high-ranking member of the Canadian Illuminati. After Mitchell leaves, Megan and Don discuss the possibility of helping Mitchell. Don doesn't want toget involved, but commented on the notion of dodging with, "He can't spend the rest of his life on the run." Don is DEFINITELY going to end up in the ninth circle of hell.

Dr. Rosen comes down to apologize for his son burdening the Drapers with the draft issue. Don and Dr. Rosen head to a bar to talk out the Mitchell situation and serve up a quintessential Mad Men scene. They gloss over Mitchell's options while vaguely discussing their pasts and debating the merits of the war and serving their country. Instead of offering actual insight or advice, Don deflects most of the conversation with poetic quips and observations about 19-year-old soldiers being unaware of other people's mortality. It's moments like these that make Don Draper so appealing in spite of his debauchery and infidelity. We'll later learn that he's still very much in love with Dr. Rosen's wife. But, that doesn't prevent him from sharing a drink with the man and commiserating over his hardships. Sure, Don's actions are self-serving (to some extent), but his concern for Dr. Rosen's predicament are very real. His desire to be with Sylvia and his interest in Dr. Rosen's gruesome heartache are not mutually exclusive. He's selfish, but not sinister.

Meanwhile, up in the club, just broke up, and Peggy's doin' her own little thing. Just a few weeks after stabbing her boyfriend and getting dumped in the back of an ambulance, homegirl's got a wandering eye as she spent a "business" dinner flirting with Pete Campbell and Teddy Chaough, as if there wasn't already enough competition at Sterling Cooper. Then, when she traps a rat in the crappy apartment left over from her stint playing house with Abe, she rings up her work-husband, Rizzo, and tries to ply him with the promise of sexual favors. Hilariously, though, Rizzo's already post-coital with another lady and, again, Peggy's left alone in a bloody, rat-infested apartment.

Peggy probably won't be alone for long, though, as the Chaough household feels more and more like la casa de Draper circa Season 1 with each passing episode. His inferiority complex has him so obsessed with escaping Don Draper's shadow that he's been absent at home and tense at the office. Speaking of tense at the office, Chaough's little tantrum was wonderful. And, the fact that it was all over juice made the ordeal sound that much more infantile. They're a bunch of man-children arguing over who has better juice. (For the record, Capri Sun and Yoo-Hoo probably go for the most on the lunch table black market.)

As the folks at Sterling Cooper struggle to get their juices in order, Pete Campbell is dealing with his own mini crisis because his mother's at-home caregiver was shoplifting the pootie. This storyline gave us two of the greatest moments in recent Mad Men history, though. For as endearing as Campbell may have been in this episode, it was still tremendous to watch his mother chastise, "You were a sad, little boy and you're a sad, little man." Nothing beats someone putting Pete in his place. Then, there was the knee-touch heard round the world when Bob Benson made a pass at Campbell.

As Pete Campbell dodges sexual advances from Mad Men's Greatest Mystery: Bob Benson, Don is hard at work trying to help his neighbor/mistress' son dodge the draft. He "takes the temperature" of some of the Chevy folks and that does NOT sit well with Teddy Chaough. Chaough stormed into Draper's office and chews him out. Eventually, they broker a deal in which Chaough will help Mitchell avoid Vietnam thanks to a contact in the Air National Guard. In exchange, he asks that Don lower his weapons and give in on Ocean Spray, which is incredibly ironic because Don's basically the only Sterling Cooper employee that hasn't seemed to notice that there's a civil war going on at the agency.

Teddy Chaough's, "Don't be an a**hole, Don," should be Mad Men's new tagline.

So, Don gets on the horn to deliver the good news to Dr. Rosen, but ends up speaking with Sylvia, the only woman to dump him in the show's five and a half seasons. He plays it cool, but clearly still has feelings for her. Much like with his little escapade in room 503, Don realizes that, having saved Sylvia's son from certain death in Vietnam, he's got an upper hand in their ongoing power struggle.

Sally Draper manages to con the doorman into giving her the set of master keys and sneaks into the Rosens' apartment to steal back a sleepover-game-turned-love-note that her friend delivered for Mitchell. She walks into the apartment and (BOOM!) her father and Sylvia were full-on in the middle of it on the bed. She storms out and Don chases her. When he can't catch up with her, he ends up drinking at a bar alone because he's Don Draper and that's what Don Draper does.

The final scene was like something out of a Tennessee Williams play. A drunken Don stumbles into his apartment, struggling to fit his key into the door, only to be greeted by his wife, his daughter, and his daughter's friend sitting in the dining room with dinner spread out across the table. Megan tries to turn it into a Norman Rockwell moment, insisting that her husband sit down and eat dinner. Don's trying to play it cool, making eye contact with Sally who's clearly bothered by what she saw earlier.

Then, there's a knock at the door and Arnold and Mitchell Rosen pop in to thank Don for saving him from the draft. Mitchell shakes Don's hand and Dr. Rosen offers an "I owe ya." Megan kisses him and calls him the sweetest man. Much like the scene with Dr. Rosen ealier, Don is able to navigate the duality of the moment. He accepts the praise from his wife and Dr. Rosen while stricken with panic and guilt that Sally caught him in the act. His regret and his self-satisfaction are not mutually exclusive.

Sally can hardly contain herself and screams at her father. She says he makes her sick. After locking herself in her room, she listens as Don speaks to her from the other side of the door. He explains that he was just "comforting" Mrs. Rosen. But, Sally's too grown up to buy it. This is the girl that walked in on Megan's mother, ahem, pleasuring Roger Sterling. This is the girl that signed up for diplomacy club because it's just another excuse to make out. She knows all too well that her father is not a hero.

Notes

  • Megan = Not Dead (yet?)
  • Exactly zero appearances from Joan this week. Not cool, Matthew Weiner. Not cool at all.
  • "See? Not all surprises are bad." - Roger Sterling. This stood out to me in terms of the whole Mad Men is talking about itself thing. Same goes for Culter's, "I warned you about the memos, Ted. The more you send, the less they get read." Felt like a nod to all of the red herrings Weiner and company have been scattering throughout Season 6.
  • Can we talk about Pete Campbell's hair? Because I feel like we need to talk about Pete Campbell's hair.
  • "Imagine if every time Ginger Rogers jumped in the air, Fred Astaire punched her in the face." Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Chaough.
  • We've finally found something better than Mad Men: Mad Men with Mets jokes.

ARNOLD: I've been meaning to knock on your door, anyway. You know, catch a game or something. I get baseball tickets. Mostly the Mets.

DON: Well, then I'm glad you didn't.

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