Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mad Men 3.7: Brutal Edges

A brutally honest episode 3.7 of Mad Men tonight, that starts with Peggy out cold with a man in bed, Don beaten unconscious on some hotel room floor, and centers around Don's unwillingness to sign a three-year contract with Sterling Cooper.

In the flashbacks which mostly roll out the story, Conrad Hilton wants Don and Sterling Cooper to do the ad work for three big Hilton hotels in the New York area. Don thinks Connie's happy to do this on handshake, but as Cooper puts it, apparently Hilton's lawyers are not, and neither are the execs at Sterling Cooper. They all want the security of a contract with Don - which he, clearly, does not.

The reason, as Don explains to Betty in a tongue-lashing in which he also says that she understands nothing about his work, is that without a contract, Don holds all the cards. Sterling Cooper has to try harder to please him, since he can walk at any time.

But tonight's episode is less about what Don really wants, and more about his ugly side, which is once again revealed. Peggy gets a tongue lashing, too, when she tries to learn what is going on with the Hilton account - with an eye towards being part of it - by coming in to Don's office to talk him on a pretext. Don not only tells her he resents the pretext - perhaps fair enough - but then proceeds to tell her he can't think of one thing she's done for the company since she was exalted from her secretarial post that he "couldn't live without".

Peggy is more shaken by Don's verbal brutality than Betty - Betty's a little more used it - and this is likely what drives Peggy to Duck's hotel room, to personally decline his offer to hire her away from Sterling Cooper. But she doesn't decline his passionate offer to spend the night with him, and Duck indeed is the man in bed with Peggy the next morning. I've got to say that Duck is a much better character this year than last, and I was glad to see the two together. After they wake up, Duck tells her he really likes the morning, and that's enough for another roll...

As for Don, he winds up in a hotel room that same night, too, with not so fine results. He has driven away from home after the argument with Betty, picks up a couple on the road, and accepts the Phenobarbital and alcohol they offer him. Once again, when Don's personally under pressure, he gets self-destructive (in contrast to when he's needed by others, which brings his better instincts). He's beaten and passed out. At least the couple don't steal his car.

Next morning, Peggy and Don arrive at the office the same time, neither of course having a clue as to what happened the night before to the other. Peggy is likely not aware that Don being cruel to her was the impetus, but if we think her being with Duck is good for her, then Don's words to her had an unintended positive result.

And what about Don's contract? Cooper in effect blackmails Don, by reminding Don that Cooper knows Don is not really Don, and Don signs his - Don's - name to the contract.

Those Mad Men - or, least the Mad Man who is "Don Draper" - live and work in a rough world indeed, which nothing, not even booze and women, can really take the edge off...

8-min podcast review of Mad Men

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

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