Return to Tomorrowland.

Mad Men finally returns tomorrow!

About fucking time, right? Bring on the cure for the common television show.

All I know about tomorrow’s episode is that it’s two hours long and supposedly called “A Little Kiss.” Other than that, I’ve maintained a blissful sense of being unaware… What will year will the show be in when it returns? Will Don have finally married his secretary, or even still be married to her? What will be up with Peggy, and Pete, and the rest of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Will Joan’s husband have been killed in Vietnam yet? And, sigh, what will be the state of Betty Draper?

Those, of course, are just a few of the burning questions. And oh, how they burn.

I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, not yet anyway. And I guess you could say that I’m ready to be hit over the head here.

Until then though, this is talking about some previous Mad Men episodes and other Mad Men Mania:

Tomorrowland.”

The intoxicating weirdness of Jon Hamm.

Christmas Comes But Once A Year.”

Public Relations.”

The timeless wisdom of Marshall McLuhan.

Shut The Door. Have A Seat.”

The Dream Of The Fisherman’s Wife and the art fetish of Burt Cooper.

The Grown-Ups.”

The Gypsy And The Hobo.”

The Color Blue.”

Wee Small Hours.”

…and many, many more.

Anyway, we’ll definitely be watching tomorrow. And we assume you will too. See you in the future.

I Got You Babe.

There’s no such thing as fresh starts because lives are always going on, or is there? Or are they? I don’t know, but I do know that you can always go home again, as long as your ex-wife hasn’t sold it, because it’s where the heart is (and perhaps where the head is not). That and maybe more as we talk about last night’s “Tomorrowland,” the season finale of Mad Men

August Bravo: No matter what we thought, well, maybe a little, or what we thought the writers might have thought, this episode, and season for that matter, was about Don Draper, or as some know him, Dick. Lives, businesses, relationships, friendships, and all those other ships we thought were sinking, didn’t. Like Marco told me earlier, this finale wasn’t as upbeat as last season’s. It showed slim promise and some possibilities, but didn’t leave you thinking, “What the fuck is going to happen next?”

Marco: Well, I’d definitely say it leaves you wondering what happens next, but more so than usual, I think you can guess what’s going to happen next and you’re worried that it may not be so great for the characters. Don, especially.

August: Don’s somewhat “redemption” was almost completely omitted from this episode making everyone believe that crises was averted or that it may play a role in his probably inevitable divorce with Megan. Is it Megan?

Marco: “Megan… out there?” as Roger puts it so perfectly. As Joan says, Don’s grinning like an idiot, as if he’s the first schmuck on Madison Avenue/in professional New York/the world to marry his secretary, but having Roger be surprised adds a very special symmetry, especially since Don’s pulling a Roger there, and it’s kind of weird.

Can you imagine the Don Draper version of Sterling’s Gold?

August: The somewhat reference that the rest of the cast ACTUALLY exists was finding out, which we thought we knew, but thought it might be too obvious, but I guess wasn’t, was that…

…Joan is in fact still pregnant.

Marco: I love that Mad Men is such a unique show that amongst it’s many other wonderful qualities, still has it’s own rhythms and ways of going about the rules of storytelling, counter to other popular ideas about narrative. There is a certain pattern you can expect from each season, we’ve finally learned, isn’t there?

It’s usually: The season starts with some intriguing signs of where the characters have landed since the previous season. Intriguing ideas and/or questions are brought up. Should they actually answer those questions, it’ll be in a relatively vague though still meaningful way. That question, which literally started off this season was: Who the fuck is Don Draper? We’ve gotten a multi-faceted answer to that, certainly.

From there, certain problems and dramatic conflicts will arise around mid-season. They’ll seem massive – Oh no, the government is about to discover that Don Draper is a liar and a deserter! – but will fizzle quickly, leaving you curious as to their placement at all. Certain things will pop up, which will make you suspect where the story is going – did Joan actually not get that abortion? – but you’ll think, “No, that’s far too obvious. They won’t go there.” They will, friends. Then, whatever the endgame of the season is, it won’t appear until the last two or three episodes and it will be an all consuming fire.

August: Except for Megan. That carrot was dangled in front of us and we’ve just been waiting for Don to take bite after bite after bite.

Marco: True. It’s funny how we believe certain things from this show. When Dr. Faye said to Don that he’s the kind of guy that would be married again within the year, I think we all believed that.

Though, of course, I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we hoped that it would be Dr. Faye that we hoped Don would end up with, or that she’d be the kind of partner he’d strive to find happiness with. The fact that she’s a feminist and someone who has pushed Don to accept himself, and possibly integrate his two personas as it were, didn’t hurt. She’s helped his business, helped his mind, and helped his soul, as it were, yet there’s certain things she couldn’t provide Don that seemed to really make him look elsewhere.

August: She couldn’t be a caregiver to his children while he was off doing whatever he wanted to. She’s the anti-Betty.

Marco: That and she couldn’t worship him the way Megan seemingly can. Plus, I think that as much as Don wants to be able to stop hiding and stop running from the spectre of Dick Whitman, a part of him enjoys the lies that come with the running and hiding. Don Draper is the greatest product he’s ever advertised, and with Megan, he can find a fresh start at that.

August: But Henry Francis says there are no fresh starts!

Marco: I can’t believe that Henry Francis has lingered this whole season.

Sadly, we’ve really dropped the ball this season, August and I, because there’s so much we could say about this episode, so much that needs to be said, but it all ties into this past season and that’s a dialogue that I’m incredibly sad that we haven’t had here at Counterforce. On behalf of us and directed at the three people who actually reads these Mad Men posts from us, I apologize. I had some shit going on and August didn’t have cable. And refused to buy the episodes on itunes. And couldn’t figure out megavideo.

from here.

August: You just knew where it was all going once Stephanie handed Don that engagement ring from the real Don Draper.

Marco: Oh, seriously. Chekhov might as well have come out to California with Don and the kids and fired that ring out of a gun right at Megan.

It’s funny that I posted this picture from Videogum the other day…

…and sadly it came so true, in a lot of ways, since we’re speaking of Megan and Dr. Faye and Sally and… Well, have we mentioned Sally yet? Cause if we haven’t, we should be talking about Sally this season, right?

August: We haven’t mentioned her yet.

from here.

Marco: Sally! I believe I kept mentioning in our conversations about the show last year how much I liked Sally’s character, how interesting I thought her storylines were, and I feel like that’s only been compounded on more wonderfully this season. Bobby’s still kind of useless, but I’m glad that Sally has really stepped forward and is becoming a real person, even at such a young age, though, again, it’ll be interesting to watch her grow into herself and who she’s going to be while still being the child of Don and Betty Draper.

Anyway, so that once picture: Sally telling Dr. Faye that she’s fired. Ha ha, funny. But kind of eerily prescient in a way, considering that episode, “The Beautiful Girls,” when I know that a lot of people read that one scene there, Benjamin Light included, as Sally kind of picking Megan out of the rest of the “beautiful girls” that surround her father. And maybe Don picked up on that.

I mean, we knew Don wanted to fuck Megan. That notion was exploding louder than bombs for a handful of episodes before it happened, but this picture from Videogum

…is kind of funny for how very accurate it had become.

August: I can’t write too much about this episode because in my head I’m still processing how to feel about it all. The bit I particularly enjoyed the most was Don telling Peggy that Megan(??) looked up to her, and had the same sort of spark, and Peggy being completely jealous. Maybe Peggy will be wife number 3 (or is it number 4??) Her childlike jealousy really made this episode. To see Don slowly turning into Roger (maaaaybe), or to see the evolution of Betty, and I guess Peggy’s, unhappiness/jealousy, or maybe Megan’s (yes, it is Megan) slow transition into the life of being Mrs. Draper/Whitman will be the most interesting thing to watch next season.

Marco: I don’t trust Megan. Well, no, that’s not true. But she’s very manipulative. And Jessica Paré is, I think, very good at playing that so subtly. Megan’s incredibly smart, but dumb and silly in all those ways that a 25 year old would seem or should see to a 40 year old man who should know better – though Don has two addictions in his life: women and the sauce - but it’s not hard to see the way she’s worked the situation with Don to her advantage.

That’s not particularly insidious because all stabs at romance are some form of manipulation, if you think about it, no matter how well intentioned and wholesome they seem. But she’s told Don exactly what he needs or wants to hear, especially that she doesn’t care about his past, just who he is now. For a man who’s finally started to accept that he has all his life ahead of him, what he really wants to do is live in the now. Especially with a girl like Megan, who seems to adore him, but I think will be much better at getting what she wants or deserves than Betty was.

Maybe this really will be “happily ever after” for Don, but I doubt it. But really, it’s not the happily ever after I would’ve picked for this character. I suspect that he’s traded in one “lost weekend” phase for perhaps another? But let’s face it, Don’s not a guy who will get a classical happily ever after, is he? He’s too prone to a life of solemn remorse.

That said, I would disagree with your take on Peggy. Jealousy? Maybe. But I think that was a very, very small part of that look she gave Don. I think if we could’ve heard her thoughts or seen them in a comic book word bubble floating over her head, they would’ve read as: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? HER?! HUH? WHAT?

But Peggy’s defined her life by Don to a lot of degrees. She has, in her own small way, just saved the agency by finally signing some new business, no matter how small, and here’s Don, her mentor, running around like an idiot. And his comment to Peggy about how Megan reminds him a lot of her is the ultimate slap in the face for a great many reasons. For a season that contained the show’s best episode, “The Suitcase,” in which Don and Peggy finally bond in kind of a real way, it was kind of hard to watch their interaction this year end like this.

But, that scene with Joan and Peggy immediately after was perfect. A Joan/Peggy show? I’d watch that. I hope that next season shows those two really claiming some of the power around SCDP (or will it just be SDP?) that they more than rightfully deserve.

August: I think this season had a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. Overwhelmingly ups. Like I said, the storyline I’m most interested in for the next year is the stuff with Don and Megan, should Don and Megan really work out. They didn’t leave us with a lot of answers this season, but we maybe that’s because we were all asking too many questions.

Marco: I think you’re right about that. The status quo’s been changed, some things and people are gone, and some are still with us, just amplified. We think we’re ready for what tomorrow will bring, but we have no idea. Just like Don there, we’re laying awake in the dark with a near stranger sleeping beside us as stare out at the night.

Powers and responsibilities/Up, up, and away we go.

Two announcements made in the last 48 hours after quite a bit of speculation online:

1. Zach Snyder will unfortunately be directing the next iteration of Superman, this one produced by Christopher Nolan and written by David Goyer and Nolan’s brother, Jonathan.

2. Natural blonde Emma Stone has been cast as love interest Gwen Stacy in the next Spiderman movie, to be directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, recently of Never Let Me Go and The Social Network.

Some thoughts on these two prospects:

1. Zack Snyder? That’s fucking ridiculous.

2. Wait, didn’t we all think that Emma Stone was going to be playing Mary Jane Watson (who, if you know your true Spiderman lore, plays Peter Parker/Spiderman’s love interest and eventual wife after the death of Gwen Stacy), right?

1. The original short list of directors that Christopher Nolan was considering for this project included Darren Aronofsky (the presumed front runner who everyone seemed to assume would bring Natalie Portman along as Lois Lane), Duncan Jones, who directed Moon, Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield and Let Me In, Tony Scott, and Jonathan Liebesman, who’s doing a movie called Battle: Los Angeles that’s getting a lot of buzz but no one has seen yet . That’s not to forget that names like Robert Zemeckis (who is directing a new live action time travel movie, thankfully) were being thrown in as well.

Look at that list and tell me that if you had to rank those directors that you wouldn’t put Snyder dead last. Hell, I don’t think the guy would even win in a game of FMK.

2. Alternately, the list of young female actors that Emma Stone was possibly competing against for the primary and secondary female leads in the new Spiderman movie included: Dianna Agron from Glee, Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim and the upcoming unnecessary prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Imogen Poots from 28 Weeks Later, Emma Roberts, Teresa Palmer (who had been cast in George Miller’s Justice League movie that didn’t happen), Lilly Collins, Ophelia Lovibond, Dominique McElligot, and Mia Wasikowska, who was last seen in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland.

Presumably Mary Jane is still in this movie, but just in the background, not taking center stage until a second or third movie?

1. Supposedly the choice of helmer for this project was Christopher Nolan’s, which, of course, would then have to be approved by the studio. But, based on the very realistic take that Nolan has always adopted in his previous films, can you really believe that Zack Snyder was his top choice? I call studio bullshit.

And if that’s the case, then it’s a shame. Warner Bros,  you’re not MGM, you know. You can afford to make some good decisions. I mean, shit, did you guys even see Watchmen? And can you actually look at the teaser trailer for Sucker Punch and say that you actually want to go see that? I’d hate to unfairly malign frat boys and date rapists in the same lumping, but let me put it this way: I wouldn’t want to be rubbing elbows with those kind of people at the theater on the opening night of a movie like Sucker Punch.

2. A lot of this ranting might really just equate to a thinly veiled reason to post pictures of Emma Stone. Sorry.

1. The minor story details that are leaking out of this Superman project are that it’ll include General Zod in some form, which is… whatever, and that it’ll ask and supposedly the answer of “Why Superman?” with young Clark Kent traveling around trying to decide if he should put on a pair of red and blue tights with a cape and go about doing super heroics to restore the status quo. Great. On a related note, who the fuck is still watching Smallville?

2. I’m not really sorry.

1. Now I’m reading that Snyder was not the studio’s first choice for the big chair – OF COURSE – but that Goyer’s script was a bit of a rushed mess, which isn’t all that surprising, and they wanted a director that would turn the project around quickly (most likely because of the stringent deadline imposed on them by that lawsuit recently), not spend time making the project a beast of quality and beauty like Aronofsky might.

A brief history lesson: Along with Terry Gilliam and about a thousand other people, Aronofsky was briefly (in Hollywood development hell terms) in charge of a Watchmen adaptation. I think this is a golden lesson for what happens when you let a guy like Aronofksy fall off a movie like Watchmen: you get a piece of shit director like Snyder instead.

2. I should say something else here rather than just posting copious pictures of Emma Stone, right?

I’ve got to say that while it was fun but not great, I was glad to see Sam Raimi go back to his roots with Drag Me To Hell after he finished with that first Spiderman trilogy. If, for nothing else, he needed a creative win, but it also pointed out, I think, that back in the 90s, directors like him and Peter Jackson really level jumped far too much past their station of talent with the Spiderman movies and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

If you give a bunch of low budget silly horror guys far too much money and responsibility and power, they’re obviously prone to a disgusting amount of melodrama, wacky musical numbers/”dance” sequences, and excessive slow motion shots.

1. I’m also seeing that now they’re offering Wolverine 2 to Arnofosky. This is not much of a consolation prize. I’m sorry, Darren Aronofsky, but the winner in this is not you. Nor us.

I’m terrified of who they’ll try to cast as Superman now. I didn’t necessarily love Brandon Routh, who will definitely not be coming back for the new film, but he was hardly the worst thing about Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. The worst thing was clearly the plot. And I’m think I’m paranoid about this because in the past the studio has seriously tried to cast Nic Cage, Ashton Kutcher, Brendan Fraser, and some dude from Mutant X as the last son of Krypton.

This especially all troubles me because A) given the chance, this will be fucked up, and B) we all know who desperately should be cast as Clark Kent/Superman:

Ladies and gentlemen: Jon Hamm.

2. I could really go either way on Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker but it just occurred to me: how great would Jon Hamm be in a Spiderman movie? Right?

3. For all the trouble that these super hero movies and their assorted bullshit can be, can Joss Whedon’s The Avengers come out already?

4. Side bar: Finally got around to seeing Kick-Ass the other day. That movie is fresh, raw bullshit. And was so incredibly boring. I could really see Chloe Moretz become a kind of adolescent Milla Jovovich-type action heroine (but better, of course), but I’m just sad that the road to that hard to start through a movie like this. Not that I was excited about X-Men: First Class before, but I’m somehow less excited now. If possible.

Though those pictures of January Jones as Emma Frost/The White Queen are giggle-inducing.

1. Keep thinking about that Jon Hamm brilliance. Why? Because it’s perfect. Jon Hamm could play Clark Kent and Don Draper could play Superman. Benjamin Light even pointed out it in because, well, do you remember that episode of Mad Men a few weeks ago where Don’s secret identity is about to be found out by the government and he’s having a massive panic attack? He comes into his place with Dr. Faye and tears open his shirt, buttons flying everywhere, and a lot of were thinking, “SUPERMAN!” But now we’ve got Zack Snyder and I can’t help but think that I just got INCEPTED.

But with the dream casting of Jon Hamm one would hope to not cast some 20 year old actress as Lois Lane, I would think.

2. I was re-watching scenes from (500) Days Of Summer and again have to mention how technically impressive that movie is. Marc Webb’s work in that film kind of reminds me of Fincher, to a small degree, who’s probably one of our most impressive working directors as far as the technical aspect goes. Makes me kind of wonder what he’ll do with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo other than just cash in on a hit a la Ron Howard and The Da Vinci Code. That said, I imagine that Fincher could produce a better film version of the Stieg Larsson book than the original Swedish version in his sleep.

You know how it’s upsetting to us when there’s a fine foreign movie that gets an American remake to dumb it down for the audiences on our shores? Well, I’ll go ahead and say what you should all be really thinking: The original Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not that great. As a film, it’s actually kind of ridiculously poor. Noomi Rapace is fine in the movie, but the rest of the movie is very poorly constructed (not to mention that the book itself is hardly what I’d call “cinematic”). This isn’t a case similar to Let The Right One In and Let Me In.

1. I’m glad that they’re at least making an animated feature of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman, which is the quintessentially greatest Superman story ever. Oddly enough, Lois Lane in that is voiced by Mad Men‘s own Joan Hollway, Christine Hendricks.

2. Emma Stone.

5. Stringer Bell! Apparently Idris Elba has a deal with Marvel’s film people, which could mean either a Luke Cage movie or a rebooted Blade film or both. “Sweet Christmas!” That’s wild. And it looks like he’ll be joining Nic Cage for a Ghost Rider sequel. That’s… less wild.

from here.

1. Zack Snyder, I think I hate you. Is your version of Superman going to look like a cartoon?

2. If I only had two words to use here in conclusion, I’d say simply: Emma Stone. Like you didn’t see that coming. If I had three words…

A man from a town with no name.

Right off the bat, let’s lift a shadow off this evening: The only people for us are the mad ones and there’s nothing nearly eloquent enough to explain our excitement about the return of Mad Men tonight (and the return of us gabbing about each new episode afterward) with the fourth season premiere, “Public Relations,” but August is going to start us off with…

August Bravo: One of those guys is going to leave New York with a VD.

Is it me or shouldn’t this episode have been titled “Don Fucking Draper,” right?

from here.

Marco Sparks: Seriously. That would have been a great title for the season premiere of the show for rich people and rich minds alike.

August: Seriously. This episodes taps into the psyche of Don and who he is now. Maybe who he always was.

Marco: I feel like every single season we’re told that there’s a larger question hanging over that particular year or story arc, and there is no resolution, not clearly. There’s milestones. There’s totems on that timeline. There’s road blocks and rest stops, but that probing question only gets more complicated, more faceted…

But it’s nice that no matter how despicable some of Don’s actions can be, he’s still one of our better role models for men on television. Right? Well… no, probably not. There’s obviously a very masculine energy to him, a complicated creature of intrigue and overflowing with a talent that can’t be denied and a certain enviable confidence. But it’s a weird time for men now, not unlike the 60s in some regards, and it’s hard to find good male role models in this day and age…

from here.

…I mean, right?

Though it’s interesting to watch the new era of Don Draper. The single Don, a man living a sadder life perhaps? It’s like watching an actor without a real role. Don’s always a little more in his zone when he’s lying to a woman effectively and it’s got to be hard for him when the possible new girl in his life sees through a little of the old tricks of his. But, Don being Don, and knowing the ways of the world like he does, and being in advertising after all, he relies on kindly women from the oldest profession who can give him what he wants, a literal expression of what has happened to him thus far: A good slapping around.

August: No need for the hooker to take off her brassiere, she already knows what Don wants.

Marco: Even if perhaps Don himself doesn’t.

August: I’m not sure a lot of people could have imagined Don throwing himself down to this level. But I don’t think it’s like that.

Marco: I’m sure the events of his life sure haven’t helped. The confusion at work as they build a new company. The constant struggle to move out of the darkened corners of invisible anonymity in the creative department to becoming the poster boy, the handsome cipher, the face of the company.

It’s 1964 at this point, it’s Thanksgiving, and Don isn’t finding himself a whole lot to be thankful for. This new found freedom isn’t necessarily good for him, it sure as hell isn’t glamorous in any way, and divorced guys are seemingly considered basically damaged goods. And I think a lot of people came up with a lot of reasons for why Don like or wants or needs a bit of the rough stuff in his sex life, specifically being slapped, but the very first thing I got out of it was a reminder of Betty slapping him back in the season finale last year.

August: Life is just slapping him around at this point. I think it’s about what he said earlier. Every day he works is an investment for the company. He has no time to pick up women and seduce them into copious amounts of sex, to play that particular game that he plays so well. He has work to do.

Marco: Cause in every single way, Don is the star of this show.

I love the use of “John And Marsha” by Stan Freeberg, one of the kings of early satire, and the song is both a lovely inside joke when it comes to the world of advertising and a nice joke on soap operas. And it only becomes so much more meta when you consider that that’s really what Mad Men is.

August: Johnnnnnn.

Marco: Marshaaaaaaa.

August: In the metamorphosis from Sterling Cooper to Sterling Cooper Draper Price I’m glad they’ve updated from their shanty of an office in a hotel room to an actual floor, which unfortunately enough for Harry Crane doesn’t have more than one story, with their name on the door. Sorry Pete, guess they did end up having a lobby. But still no table…

Marco: I think we’re all holding our breath in anticipation of more Joan. And the possibility of Joan and Don… you know. That’s the difference, in just some regards, between a show like Mad Men and True BloodTrue Blood is all soft core fan service (at some point everyone on that show will have fucked everyone else on that show for our amusement) and Mad Men is cerebral teasing all the way. It’s about dangling and snatching away at the last moment.

I especially think that’s true in light of this episode of Mad Men, which is all about not being able to close certain deals and not wanting to close others. You gotta love Don’s orchestrated “fuck off” to the prudes manufacturing sex in swim wear and thinking they’re better than they are.

August: I enjoyed the ruse Peggy and Pete conjured in order to garner press for the ham company. Didn’t go as planned, but that’s life I guess.

Marco: “It was going great… until it wasn’t.” Is this the beginning of real publicity stunts as prominent and regular tools for advertising?

August: It’s hard out there for the boys and girls in America. Especially in the 60′s. 1964, if I’m not mistaken?

Marco: It certainly is.

August: Sad to see no one from the old Sterling Cooper in the episode, but I’m sure we will in due time.

Marco: Like your beloved Ken Cosgrove.

August: Ken had cool hair. Terrific few parts of the episode? Don and Roger bickering back and forth about the one-legged reporter and his inability to write a real story. Maybe they should talk to a whole reporter next time? Ha-ha. Roger sure as shit was the comedy relief in this episode as a lot of things/people were so morose.

Now back to Don, who has always been the main character of the show, I guess the protagonist, if you will, who really made this episode what it was. I think he feels this is temporary, this won’t last with Betty…

Marco: Henry Francis just feels like he’s about to get hit by a car or walk off the top of a skyscraper any moment now, doesn’t he? His patheticness almost makes Betty look even more cruel and horrid. It leaves where she ends up because of her frustrations from the past few years even more unchecked. Just as the kids are scared of their mother, I can’t imagine Francis not growing bored of her and then where will Matthew Weiner deliver her( and us)?

from here.

August: Will Don get back with her? Will he want to? The man with no key to his own house. I love his ability to take the jabs by his attorney and Roger in this episode. Usually so defensive, I think he’s just too shot down. Or just doesn’t give a shit anymore.

Marco: I’d be hurt if Benjie Light doesn’t have a few words to share with us about Betty, but I like where they’re taking the kids here, story-wise and post-divorce, the way they’re building on what we’ve seen so far concerning Sally and Bobby Draper. Sally, of course, is going to rebel and be repulsed by the way her little life is going so far and Bobby is going to grow up to be fucking creepy. If they ever do an episode flashing forward to where all the characters ended up, I want to see Bobby Draper, with his new striving to be liked by everyone now, as a politician.

And since they cast Matt Long as Peggy’s little partner, I’m wondering just out of curiosity since I never actually watched Jack And Bobby (and I don’t believe that anyone else did either)(though I think John Slattery was on there too), but didn’t Bobby end up being the one who grew up to become President?

August: No need for Don to try to defend his failing marriage, he’s got other things to worry about. Like mentioning jai alai…

Marco: Fucking jai alai.

August: …in his news story. Maybe that interview with the Wall Street Journal will make it all better?

Marco: Or so much worse. Is this the beginning of Don getting so much bigger in his own mind? Don Draper as Dirk Diggler?

August: His bitterness towards Henry and Betty was no surprise, after all, they’re living in his own house, rent free.

Marco: I hope that Betty becomes the new Don in that house.

from here.

Especially since Henry’s idea of recapturing the magic between involves them fucking in the car, seemingly echoing back to when they had to sneak around? Only one episode in and I already feel like these characters feel like they can’t handle the a-changin’ times around them and they’re flirting with the soft seduction of the past and all of it’s elements, the moments when they felt happier or more dangerous.

August: I couldn’t tell you where this episode may take us, as far as the new season is concerned. I’m just hoping I get to see more of Pryce.

Marco: And Joan. And maybe more Trudy/Alison Brie? And maybe we can slowly grasp our way towards something resembling that eternally elusive question that this show constantly is hanging over us…

August: Who is Don Draper?

Why, yes, you should receive a Victory Medal for beating the clap.

I mean, why wouldn’t you?

Here at Counterforce, we have three simple rules for dealing with all life:

1. Jai Alai is fucking stupid.

2. Funny, sad, tragic, or fitting, death is always weird, no matter where you go or who the hell you are.

and

3. No sailors. No way.

That said, ruminate on last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Arrangements.” Normally August Bravo would be here to join me, but, well, he didn’t heed Peggy’s mom’s warning and moved to Manhattan. And he got raped.

Somewhere out there in the ether there’s a t-shirt waiting to be dreamt up: I Moved To Manhattan, Got Raped, And All I Got Was This Lousy Fucking T-Shirt. Oh, And A New TV. I’d wear it, but only to classy parties.

Last week I mentioned that Sally Draper was becoming one of my favorite characters and this week, if you didn’t agree with me, let’s face it, that shit was all over your face. Little Kiernan Shipka acted her way nicely (and, yes, adorably) out of the damp paper bag that was the Grandpa Gene storyline (which I respect so much more now, because Gene Hofstadt was a real grandfather, crazy warts and all), and did so marvelously. And she fits so perfectly into the scheme of the show that it hurts.

Oh, and interestingly enough, for a show that’s all about the multi-faceted horridness of 1960s masculinity, I have to say that Bobby Draper, you’re just not cutting it. You’re just there, kid, taking up space, and taking dead men’s helmets. If you’re not careful, you might go upstairs one day, and like the little sister on Family Matters, just never come back down again…

Families are tough, man. And this was an amazing episode about seeking out familial approval, and how you’re never going to get it. Not really. You may always get their love, but they’ll never really understand you. Not in the way you need to be understood.

And the same for the previous generation. You’ll ache to see out their approval, but it’s not coming. And right now, it really feels like that’s what so much of this show is about, at least this year: Looking to the people older than you for understanding and approval and guidance. And finding nothing. Only more confusion.

It’s not their fault. The older generation of America at this time didn’t know how to love. Maybe they still don’t. But back then they didn’t know how to get past the horrors they’d seen within and without and to connect with another human being.

And saddest of all, they haven’t realized that the world changed around them when they weren’t looking and now they’re hopeless to catch up. They don’t even know they’ve been left behind, much like Roger in last week’s episode.

Though it doesn’t say much in credit of the younger generation when they have nicknames like Ho Ho and think that jai alai is the future. And in color! On all three networks!

Poor Betty Draper. As much as I want to root for her, she keeps falling into the category of the precious sad victim. And as much as I want to feel bad for her, I can’t. This woman is terrified of intimacy, of anything outside a perfect world that hasn’t existed in a long, long time, and even when it did, it may have only been in the revisionist history of her pretty little head. In fact, Betty and Ho Ho have a lot in common in that their parents meant the best for them, but know that their kids are unprepared for the world.

Betty Draper = Worst Mother Of The Year, 1963.

Instead, the Mad Men housewife I do actually feel real remorse for is, of course, Sal’s poor wife, Kitty. Her husband’s a commercial director now, ripping off the finest for ad work, but with a little luck, Kitty’s realized something powerful there about the man she loves. And hopefully it’s not that everyone just wants photographs.

She doesn’t need a lot, Sal. But she does need… tending.

And the saddest part of all? On this show, they’re easily the most functioning couple. The truth may be kept at arm’s length, but there is a closeness there. And more importantly, there’s a mutual respect in their bedroom.

I love that Don Draper operates by a certain set of rules that he holds dear. They may not be the same as society’s, not the surface of what society says anyway, but they’re his rules. He’s a man of few words, and they’re sharp, cutting, to the point when they have to be. Surgical strikes, dripping with wit (particularly the line about the guy going off to direct a feature in Hollywood).  And he has no problem taking money from that guy, Horace, for his stupid jai alai campaign, but he’s going to seek out the approval of his elders, and he’s going to at least warn the guy that he’s a moron.

Question for you: Pete’s line about his father and money: “This is his kind of investment.” Is he just playing the account man, trying to line up the sweet deal, or is this his subtle acknowledge of his father’s own financial failures?

Warning sign #1, Ho Ho: If you have to pitch your idea to the ad men, your idea’s crap. If it’s good, they’re just going to sell it right back to you to get your cash.

I think Pepsi certainly learned their lesson there with the Patio commercial. But like Don says there, even a failure can mean reaching a new plateau. Or, to use the parlance of today’s television lingo, reaching a new “game changer.”

“Game changer” is the buzzword/phrase, I hope, that killed “jumping the shark.” All TV jumped the shark five or six years ago, and now we’re all praying for game changers.

Speaking of Patio, you had to adore Peggy’s satisfied grin as she walked out of that meeting. She was right. Maybe she wasn’t right for the her own reasons, but still, she was on the winning side, no matter what was in or out of her toolbox.

And I think I love Peggy’s new roommate. So much so that I want them to have their own spin off. And it shall be called I Love To Have… Fun!

And Joan, Joan, Joan. The Tex Avery girl brought to life. We saw a little bit of it last season when dealing with Harry Crane and the television scripts, but Joan is clearly meant for more than just being a secretary and house mother figure to a bunch of confused young ladies with” stupid looks on their faces.” Her spicing up of Peggy’s ad was perfect. No more stage directions from an Ibsen play here! Just look at the catch it nabbed Peggy. Just don’t forget, Peggy: A door should only be closed for one thing. You know what we’re talking about.

I have to say it again: Poor Sally Draper. Her path, at least through the rest of this season and, one presumes, next season as well, is going to be an interesting one. Her mother can’t acknowledge her sadness because she’s too busy trying to ignore her own. Her father is doing the best he can but he doesn’t know who he is. And she’s growing up without that guidance or nurturing in a confusing and confused world, raised by people unprepared for the social forces about to knock them down. The pope is dead and monks are lighting themselves on fire.

Before long, she’ll stop mixing Tom Collins for her parents and just making them for herself.

Life under British rule.

As much as we’ve been waiting for Mad Men to return, you kind of get the feeling after last night’s season 3 premiere, “Out Of Town,” that Mad Men‘s been waiting for us too. August Bravo and Marco Sparks are here to bask in the luminous afterglow…

August Bravo: Not too much much to say about this episode. It seemed so much like a filler episode, really. It’s interesting they would shoot an episode like this to start off the season. It’s too smart of a show to just make his the premiere. I feel Matthew Weiner has a hidden agenda with how this episode is supposed to make the viewers feel.

Marco Sparks: Starting with the bare feet. I’d both agree and disagree with you there, agreeing in the sense that I think last night’s episode wasn’t an explosion right out of the gates, and that the new season will probably take a few episodes to really spread it’s wings and get of the ground, but this is also a show that has proved itself able to have a major storyline soar within just a few episodes.

But I’d have to disagree in that I found last night’s episode incredibly satisfying, especially it’s perfect beginning…

Don Draper, resolving to be a better husband, up in the middle of the night making some warm milk for his pregnant wife, and his sleep deprived mind begins to wander to his own origins, hypothesizing not just how he came into the world, but how he got his original name from the eponymous male body part. How fitting.

Especially when you add in the great throwaway line about the eldest Draper daughter almost immediately afterward.

Augusto: One of the things I really liked was the way Draper found out about Salvatore, the art department guy, was gay. What a nice way for that to finally come out of the closet.

Marco: Yeah, how nice, and how tragic. Sal’s a character you just like, who always feels classy even when he’s being petty, and so in a way you were rooting for him in that scene, I think, and yet, not at all surprised at how tragically cut short it was.

Plus, the way Don flirts with the bohemians and the intellectual rich vagabonds in the past seasons, you get the sense that he’s probably much more forward thinking than some of his comrades, more so than even Kinsey, who’s just for show, so while he may hold this over Sal later (though I don’t know why he’d need to), he’s not disgusted by it. Plus, you know that Don can respect a man’s secrets.

August: Also, maybe something picked up by me was Don’s inner struggle with himself. Like he wants to be a better husband and father. Weird to say as you still him participate in his usual hobby of extramarital affairs. But the expression on his face seemed to change, to show more depth, than other episodes.

Marco: Not much of a struggle though. Don definitely wanted to fix his relationship with Betty at the end of last season, but perhaps tha didn’t mean he wanted to cut out the cheating. Maybe just get better at the cheating? Maybe only stop cheating within the state of New York? Or maybe cut out the cheating except for the opportunities hat just so perfect drop right into his lap like candy. Or, like stewardesses.

Billy and Sam, accountants/g-men.

As much as I loved the stuff in California last year, I think that “Billy and Sam” and the stewardesses was one of my favorite sequences ever in this show. Also, whie “It’s my birthday” would be a great (or should be) a great line for sex, I suspect that it actually was Dick Whitman’s birthday, if not “Don Draper’s.” I keep waiting for you to tell me that you love Pete Campbell, August.

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, 1820, by Hokusai.

August: Great appearance by the English guy, Pryce, as the new CFO. He was great in Benjamin Button. Probably one of my favorite characters in it, in fact. I liked the way the Brits played Pete and Ken Cosgrove off of each other, making each think that they were going to be the accounts executive.

Marco: Yeah, that guy, Jared Harris, is good, and his voice was the best thing about Fringe last year. If I remember he casting announcement, he’ll probably be around for a while and could very well bloom into Don’s nemesis this season. Plus, I’m digging the inclusion of the Brits in general this season, and laughing at the limey version of Pete Campbell, Mr. Hooker/Moneypenny.

August: What is your impression of that guy, Moneypenny/Hooker, Pryce’s right hand man? Sweet talking all the ladies and stuff. What a weird thing to put in the episode unless it actually means something down the road. I don’t know. I feel like everything in that show happens for a reason.

Marco: I think it was to set up Pryce’s debasement of him, relegating to be one of the secretaries, “one of the girls.” Plus, an office full of cute girls and you’re a tosser like Hooker, yeah, you’re probably going to try to hit on anything that moves in a skirt, you know? Plus, who knows, maybe he’ll end up as Sal’s new love interest. He is British after all.

I get the impression that you’re a big Ken Cosgrove fan.

August: Cosgrove is such an awesome character. Probablythe most interesting to me because he’s neither married nor dating anyone. He just goes out and does what he does.

Marco: In case anyone’s curious, August Bravo is the Ken Cosgrove of Counterforce.

August: Yes.

Marco: So, August, accurate or not, what do you think of the name “London Fog?”

August: I don’t know if I like/dislike it. For the show it’s a little mysterious. But I guess the entire show is built on the mystery of others. It’s the 60s, after all. People’s public lives aren’t out there in the open.

Marco: Not yet, though I think you see a little of the beginning of that last year with Marilyn’s death. And presumably with Kennedy’s death this year. The mystery of a person can be so much more real (and interesting) than the person themselves.

August: What interests me quite a bit is the idea that Don has for the London Fog ad, with it’s subtle extra meaning concerning Sal aside, with the coat being open. Very fitting for the product.

Marco: I’m actively forcing myself not to bitch too much about Pete Campbell here. In fact, I don’t need to. He’s the opposite of Don in so many ways, or at least the opposite side of the same coin as Don. He’s really just there to be the asshole and he’s perfect at it.

August: This episode doesn’t sum up too much for me, nor does it need to be summed up too much. It’s Mad Men. They don’t need to do shit, but be excellent. They just do.

Marco: All in all, and I know that August won’t really agree with me here, but this was an exciting return to form. Or maybe just the fact that the show is back and is still of such high quality is what’s so exciting. Everyone likes Don Draper, but he’s a bastard, obviously. But’s magnificent at it. You’re almost rooting for him, much the same way that if we’re all honest with ourselves, we liked Bill Clinton and that he secretly has carte blanche with us. I just hope the opening moments of the episode do indeed deliver us more about the Don Draper/Dick Whitman enigma.

“Help yourself. Not the stoli.”

And no that the show is beloved by viewers and the media alike, I hope it stays this consistent level of great and deep, and doesn’t drift off into epic levels of mediocre bullshit like Battlestar Galactica did where people were afraid of calling it what it was for fear of not looking smart.

But hey, just like Don Draper himself, this show could keep going places and ending up where it’s already been and I’d be okay with that.