… And we’re back. After a season previously filled with head-scratching moments, Sunday’s “Christmas Waltz” allowed us to breathe easy once again. Don actually wants to work for the first time all year. Megan will be respected, gosh darn-it, and she will stop at nothing to receive said respect. Joan is back and better than ever, a little bruised and a little angry. And maybe even most importantly, Paul Kinsey lives! The serendipity in having Mr. Hannah (Pete Campbell) visit the area last weekend (resulting in Ms. Pomeroy hating the two of us forever and ever), only for both him and I to wonder aloud where the Kins-inator has gone and what he’s been up to is so thick, you could cut it with a Flobee. Both of us can breathe easy knowing that we now finally have answers to all the questions we discussed: He’s broke and has a weird haircut.
More pressing, though is an idea Tyler passed along via email on Wednesday. After recapping the episode with the normal people he typically chats with each week — which are all judges, mind you — he came away with the following: It’s inevitable that Lane Pryce offs himself before the season’s end. Interesting. Do we think it would be possible for such a like-able fellow to do such a thing? Remember — he’s never seemed particularly happy with the way his life has gone, from his marriage, all the way down to his career. Things are beginning to fall. Will he crumble?
Time will tell. Either way, the most important development of the episode landed in the question of if the previously rumored Joan/Don romance will finally come to fruition at some point this season. I’ll be honest — I’ve never enjoyed seeing them with other people nearly as much as I enjoyed seeing them with one another this week. Don and Betty? Blah. Don and Megan? Ugh. Joan and Roger? Meh. Joan and Captain Harris? Yuck. The dialogue between the two was — and will hopefully continue to be — unparalleled. Both have the swagger, ego and intelligence to produce a particularly witty romance, if nothing else. Here’s hoping more of those types of scenes are in the show’s future. And here’s hoping Kinsey’s return will pave the way for Sal to pop his head in once again.
As for now, though, enough about me. Let’s see what our board of experts had to say …
Adam Campbell (Blog) – Roger Sterling
It’s unfortunate that it took ten episodes to see Roger and Joan finally have a grown up discussion about baby Kevin. Of course, any serious moment involving Roger has to be accompanied by some obnoxious act, and this week it was his drunken remembrance of December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Roger has spent the series reliving his wartime glory much to the chagrin (the Honda debacle) or indifference of his coworkers. This week was mostly in the latter category, as none of the partners cared too much that Roger spent the morning “on battleship row” instead of attending a meeting. However, Joan never suffered his childishness gladly, and when she hears the drunken and disheveled Roger (comically clad in an undersize Hawaiian shirt) loudly slurring on to a secretary about the strategic failure of the Japs, she’s quick to defuse him in her usual acerbic style.
Roger, with his tail tucked between his legs, follows Joan into her office, where the conversation turns to baby Kevin. Joan is quite miffed that Roger insists on sending her money to support the baby, a plan that he wants to carry out through Kevin’s college years. Joan is adamantly opposed to any long term involvement of Roger in the baby’s life, a move to protect Kevin (and probably herself) from shame and scandal. Despite Joan’s threat that Roger “won’t even be a family friend” if he isn’t careful, Roger again cites his “experience” from a few weeks ago, assuring her that his intentions aren’t about honor, but the fact that “we created a human life. We made a baaaby” ( If only Roger would’ve ended those sentences with “man”, he would’ve sounded like Tommy Chong). Joan is unfazed by this latest example of post-LSD Roger’s inanity-as-profundity shtick, responding with a curt “And now it’s some other lucky girl’s turn” before showing him out.
However, with Dr. Captain Rapist Harris deciding to file for divorce, Joan might need to avail herself of Roger’s largess. But while Roger might have assured Joan that Jane wasn’t going to take everything, he’s severely underestimated situations in the past and might not have as much money as he assumed. And then there’s the potential of a tryst between Don and Joan on the horizon. Roger’s quote upon delivering “Aly Khan’s” flowers to Joan (“How many times have I left you alone with a card from another man?”) might be foreshadowing his knowledge of an affair between Don and Joan. Of course, Don isn’t just any other man, and it would make for compelling drama to see how Roger would respond to his archrival’s romantic overtures toward the only woman he’s ever truly loved.
“I like being bad. And then going home and being good.”
Some bad habits are hard to break but, with effort, we are able to overcome them. But some bad habits are so intoxicating that they just go into hibernation, waiting to emerge at an inappropriate time. Alcoholics are alcoholics for life, even if they stop drinking. Once someone is addicted to nicotine, they will always want a cigarette, even if they choose not to smoke. For Don Draper, these bad habits are minor annoyances — not even worthy of pondering the damage they are doing to his body on a daily basis. For Draper, the elaborate dance of seducing women is his most addicting bad habit and one that he has managed to force into hibernation for the sake of his new marriage. But his recent dalliance with Joan is a reminder of the thrill of the hunt. Repeat: The thrill of the hunt. Because Draper knows the conquest is never quite as sweet as the chase.
Talking to beautiful women in bars is something Don has completely mastered. Watching an avant-garde play with his young, artsy wife is something he has neither mastered or cares to. The divide between Megan and Don continues to widen as he is inflicted with a play decrying advertising. Megan states that the play was less about advertising and more about “the emptiness of consumerism.” With a sneer, Don answers back, “Well, we all know no one has made a stronger stand against advertising then you.”
Back at the office, Draper is in a world that he knows and controls — yet he has lost his enthusiasm for his job. Even the possible acquisition of a car account, the defining moment for any ad agency, doesn’t cheer him up. Only when he absconds with Joan after her emotional outburst in reception does he feel back in his element. The car “does nothing for him” but his only slightly subdued sexual banter with Joan in a bar is something that he can control and excel at. “I miss that,” she says in reference to a freer more carefree time in her life when she received flowers at work, not petitions for divorce. In watching these two spar with each other we realize that marriage, for all its wonderful qualities, has stolen something essential from each of these people. In the end, Don leaves before things get too inappropriate and charges down the road in his borrowed Jaguar. The symbolism is a little obvious, but funny nonetheless.
When Don gets home he encounters a furious Megan who demands to know where he has been. Plates fly, voices are raised and she demands that he sit down and eat with her. This time, the anger is not a prelude to sex. This time, it is about Don behaving like a husband. He acquiesces but he also realizes this is not a marriage like his last one where Betty accepted certain behaviors in exchange for her lifestyle. He appears to be pondering what he had said earlier to Joan: “Congratulations for getting divorced. Nobody knows how bad it has to get for that to happen.”
Except, of course, Draper does.
One of the strangest, yet most realistic elements of “Mad Men” is that the story lines of characters that aren’t featured on a weekly basis move along in the undercurrent. Their lives unfold even if the cameras aren’t around to show us what happened.
The last time an episode featured Joan for more than a matter of seconds here and there, it was mid-summer. Since then, Christmas has crept up on Manhattan. Sunday’s episode, titled “Christmas Waltz,” revealed a lot about what has happened in Mrs. Harris’s life since then.
First, it seems that she has been both receiving and rejecting money for Kevin from Roger, calling it a “short-term solution.” Though the question about what will happen now that Roger and Joan are both single has been on a lot of people’s minds, it seems the answer is simple: Absolutely nothing. She doesn’t want his money and she doesn’t want him. After Roger informs her, as if she wasn’t WELL aware already, that they “created a human life” together, she responds with a line that may have hurt a more sensitive man’s feelings.
“Yes. And now it’s some other lucky girl’s turn.”
This statement, followed up by her scene in the bar with Don, shows us that Joan is beyond weary about men these days. As she points out to Mr. Draper when they are “out to lunch,” she used to be the girl who got flowers from her admirers in reception. Now she’s the girl who got served with divorce papers.
Speaking of that … Joan has always been calm and collected even in the face of things that would have driven other people to the point of tears, hysteria or worse. Her model plane freak out on the receptionist must have been cathartic for her, as well as for fans who recognized that she deserved a bit of an emotional release after all these years. “SURPRISE! THERE’S AN AIRPLANE HERE TO SEE YOU!” Wonderful. Simply wonderful.
Anyway. Moving on.
Joan’s most memorable moment of the episode may have been defined by rage, but we can clearly see that there has been an overwhelming sadness dwelling under her professional composure. She admits to Don that she is worried about the future, and has been wondering what the “starting over” process holds for her. Viewers don’t find out much about what she plans to do about it, but, gosh, could Weiner have picked a better setting for their conversation?
In the midst of a season that has been about the 1960s barreling at breakneck speeds into the age of The Rolling Stones, religious cults, foreign cars and LSD, boy was it soothing to see Don and Joan kick back in an old-fashioned mid-town bar with classic Christmas tunes coming from the jukebox speakers.
Speaking of the good ole days, Joan was back to being the girl who gets flowers by the end of the episode. They may have just been from Don, but they were symbolic of a conversation between the two of them that seems to have reminded her that she is a woman worth admiring.
Tyler Hannah – Pete Campbell
There is no better time of year than Christmas to feature a battle between consumerism and the enlightened spiritual world. It is the Hare Krishnas squaring off against Sterling Cooper Draper Price — clearly the latter is the heavyweight. Not only did the Hare Krishna faction have defectors among them, but the only people to reach true peace and shirk materialism were the acting troupe of Megan Draper’s friends. And, in true Christmas spirit, when given the gift of competing for Jaguar, Pete whines that he is not getting the reaction for which he had hoped on such a momentous occasion.
Peter’s antennae must have been working for the first time this season. He sloughed off his pet romance with Beth and for once focused on work for the simple pleasure of gaining accounts, and, in doing so, he noticed astutely that Don no longer takes his work as seriously as in the past. Let’s hand it to Pete — he noticed that there is something aloof with Don. In actuality, the two of them play well off of each other.
Pete is blind to the idea he tacitly challenges Don. After seeing that Pete could not bolster company morale, Don delivers a rousing speech instilling in the firm that he is back on top and that they will make the best of Jaguar cars. Unbeknownst to Pete, and perhaps Don, Pete lit a fire under his fellow partner. Campbell did not do this through encouragement and support — rather, it was his flaccid personality and ineffectual public speaking that led to Don’s wake-up call.
At a time when the characters are supposed to be humble to one another and spread goodwill towards all, never at their highest has there been so much cutthroat, savage behavior. Lane thinks the company checkbook is his own and dabbles in a little yuletide forgery. The swine-like Kinsey pedals a script to Harry for a slingshot up to the corporate media heads. And, reaching out from the ether of Vietnam, “Dr. Captain Harris” served Joan with divorce papers on Pearl Harbor Day. None of these characters actually deserved to receive a Christmas gift.