From unexpected visitors to camera obscuras to “fender benders,” starting in media res and not letting up until someone’s soul was signed away (for three years) last night was another great episode of Mad Men. And August and Marco want to talk with you, from their fainting couches, of course, about “Seven Twenty Three” and…
August Bravo: A thousand reasons why I’m so great. Confessions of a Mad Man!
Marco Sparks: You’ll have to excuse August here, ladies and gentlemen. He’s been staring at the sun. That, and he’s both an Ogilvy fan and a Duck Phillips fan.
August: What a great beginning. Where did he wake up? Who cares. All that matters is that Don knows how to clean up.
Marco: Everything about that beginning was so great, from how short each little intro was to the way it effortlessly let us flashback into the main thrust of the story. But there was just something hypnotically perfect about the way Peggy’s arm falls down to the bed, right?
In fact, and it’s fitting that this episode airs (and this is by no means a defense of the man or his crimes, just his films) right as Polanski’s getting arrested, but this episode’s beginning captured a certain sense of dread that’s been missing from the cinema, I feel, since Polanski’s early days (especially in a movie like The Tenant), and is all too rarely ever attempted on television.
August: “Maybe I’m not on time because I was with my family reading the bible.” The greatest quote of the season? I don’t know, but I think so.
Marco: I think you’re right. “I’m Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana has faded in my memory, and Don talking to Connie was perfect. I like how Don’s primary mode of respect/getting long with the previous generation involves smart ass remarks. The Draper charm!
August: I’ve never laughed out loud during a scene, not until Don said that to Hilton. I loved that Hilton took the desk and assumed the power in the office, something he proably felt Don took from him in their meeting last week. And what’s with the clapping after Connie leaves? The guys know who he is, but don’t know what’s going on.
Marco: They just know he’s Don Fucking Draper and if Conrad Hilton is stopping by to wish him a good morning and tell him about his weird urges and desires and have him pass some kind of bizarre moral test, well, then they better give him a standing ovation. Whatever happened in that office, you just know it was good. As for what’s going on…
August: I’m not sure Don knows either, especially when it comes to Connie. Why the sudden rush to him? What makes his eye wander?
Marco: Good question. Is it the curse of powerful men with unsatisfiable appetites? Or is it a comment about the Hiltons in general?
August: Uh oh. Contract time for Don. Something he’s not too fond of. Especially talking about it with his family. And why would he? It’s none of their business.
Marco: He’s managed to avoid it before but now they’re closing in on him. But for Roger here, do you think that he called Betty at home out of a dastardly sense of business or was he just trying to stick it to Don in their ongoing hostilities this year? Or both?
August: Definitely business. I don’t think he’s got something against Don. I think he thinks he’s still this young guy, compared to him, who’s going to learn the ropes of the business one of these days.
Marco: I’d say that Roger is certainly hurt and confused by Don’s dislike of him. I don’t think Roger is capable of understanding what it could be that’s caused the rift between them, and these aren’t the most “cards on the table” of men. I love this exchange:
Roger: “I watched the sun rise this morning.”
Don: “How was it?”
August: I like the recurring return to Betty on the couch. Something happened to everyone in this episode, that’s the point of the beginning and the flashbacks, but it was very clearly something else for her. What’s she thinking about?
Marco: Fucking that guy from the Governor’s office.
August: Yeah, her exchange with him just reeked of an extramarital affair in the making from the get go.
Marco: He doesn’t care about her fucking water tank, but he will stop her from staring into the sun. Like an idiot.
August: Yeah, that really won her over. She wanted him like I want to watch new episodes of Heroes.
Marco: I don’t know what that means.
August: But she won’t get with him, I don’t think. At least not yet. But, seriously, who the fuck is that guy?
Marco: Some Republican asshole who goes around caressing pregnant women’s stomachs at parties and happened to squeeze himself in at a time when her father was dead and her husband was a little too honest about how self centered she is. Just remember: “It’s not adorable to pretend like you’re not adorable.”
August: Something’s definitely always on her mind these days. It makes her a much more interesting character this season. Finally speaking up and expression her opinions.
Marco: Especially when Don explains his thining on the contract situation with her. “They can’t have me,” so of course that makes them want him more. Which is exactly how he’s always treated her.
August: She’s very un-lady-like this season. But in a good way.
Marco: But I think the fainting couch almost screams too loudly as a metaphor at he end of the couch, not just for the wandering eye/mind/spirit of the clearly upset and confused Betty – remember, the fainting sofa, a perfect thing for Betty, was introduced to her by her potential new suitor – but for what she’s bringing into the Draper family home, and what she thinks of it. “That’s your hearth, darling,” the interior decorator tells her. “That’s the soul of your home.” And rather than have it filled with love, Betty’s going to put a tacky couch there, so she can faint and not deal with the world.
But, then again, Betty’s potential suitor is only slightly less interesting than Sally’s teacher, who has locked her sights on Don, and has accepted that relationship with Don is just going to happen. Because, like Peggy pointed out before, he’s got more and is obviously bored.
August: Don’s verbal bitch slap to Peggy was so awesome, so eye opening.
Marco: “You were my secretary.”
August: “You’re good. Get better. Close the door.”
Marco: And the most devastating, in Don’s rage, of telling her that she’s brought him nothing that he couldn’t live without.
August: It does get annoying to see Peggy keep asking and asking for things. Just because you can move up quick doesn’t mean you should keep moving up the ladder that fast.
Marco: I will admit that while Peggy is clearly talented, her rise is unprecedent, obviously, and possibly undeserved. She’s probably very unprepared for a lot of what she’s inherited. But then again, this is advertising, and that’s the nature of that particular game.
And this is why she’ll always be tied to Pete, because in a lot of ways, they are the same. Where she’s good, he’s devious and insidious. When he’s vulnerable and heartfelt, she’s clumsy or scheming. Their individual failings nicely fit the other’s virtues. And so I think it’s interesting that Pete essentially asked for the gig with Hilton earlier the same as Don assumed Peggy was doing when she caught him when he was upset from dealing with the contract stuff.
August: And then there’s Duck…
You are Don’s girl, aren’t you?
Marco: Uncle Herman!
August: Duck should maybe keep his fantasies to himself. Who just wants to see Peggy everyday?
Marco: I can’t believe that line worked.
August: It’s all about the teeth line.
Marco: Duck is a hungry man. And he was going to give her a go around like she’d never gotten before. Suck it, Pete. Though, comparitively, Duck is very much a man, if a failed one, compared to Pete. And it seems like Peggy really gets amorous and vulnerable to the physical desires afer Don chews her out.
And then it starts all over again and we come back to the end.
August: And the end is the beginning. Don was mugged by a couple of “young lovers.”
Marco: To me, that felt very similar to the California storyline from season 2. Don likes to flirt with crossing the boundaries, both his own and society’s. Especially when his freedom and the persona he’s worked so hard on are threatened.
And don’t forget Archie Whitman, telling Don in a hallucination (on reds!), that he’s a grower of bullshit.
August: And Peggy slept with Duck. And he apparently rocked her world. And Betty… well, who knows what’s really going on in Betty’s mind?
Marco: She’s looking for a little something she can have control over. Something all the characters in this episode seem to have lost a little grasp on. Certainly within themselves.
You mentioned the loss of the sitting behind the desk, hence the power in the room, which makes me glad that Cooper was there at the end, the real fatherly figure to Don. The man who can call Conrad Hilton “eccentric” completely without irony in his tone. The man who can say, “Would you say I knw something about you, Don?”
August: “After all, when it comes down to it, who’s really signing this contract anyway?”
Marco: Good question.