MAD MEN: Christmas in August
Read on for my recap and review of Mad Men 4×01, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” aired August 1st, 2010:
Previously on Mad Men, it was made very clear that the fortunes of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (hereafter referred to as SCDP) are directly tied to Lucky Strike. The cigarette company is by far the firm’s largest client—making up 70% of their business. An “untenably insecure position,” indeed, Mr. Pryce. Lee Garner, Jr. has power over SCDP, and he’s willing to use it, just for sport. The extent of Garner Jr.’s selfish cruelty was already made apparent with his treatment of Sal back in “Wee Small Hours” (I miss you, Sal!), so his behavior this week was no surprise, sadly. This time around, Jr. set his sights on Roger Sterling. No, not sexually, but he used his power to force Roger to dress as Santa Claus. A small act, but one aimed to humiliate and send a clear message as to who’s in charge. These machinations, of course, took place with the holiday season in the background. Despite the title of the episode, Christmas does come more than once this year. And the early Christmas present is just what I always wanted (and some stuff that I could do without). I mean, we got a heartwarming letter to Santa, a Conga Line, amazing dialogue, and Joan wrapped up like a present. Thank you, Santa AMC! Unwanted, however, is Don’s treatment of his secretary. For shame, Don Draper. For shame. On to the recap …
It is snowing when the episode begins, and we see Betty and family shopping for a Christmas tree. Bobby and Henry seem to have a good relationship, which is interesting. Sally is definitely less happy with the new arrangement. Suddenly a boy calls Sally’s name. It is Glen—that weird neighbor boy who was obsessed with Betty and asked her to cut a lock of her hair for him. Shiver. Sally politely greets him and he reminds her, “It’s Glen.” Sally, like the viewers, knows this. Glen protests, “Well, you all walked right by me when you came in.” Ouch. Sally apologizes. He tells her that his mom got married. Remember her? The scandalous divorced woman? Betty was oh so disapproving of her. My, how things have changed. Anyway, Bobby explains that she got married, and now he’s supposed to live with his new step-father. Bobby asks if Glen is buying a tree. No, he explains, he’s working. His job is to bring twine over and then he gets to cut it. He proudly shows the kids a lanyard that he made, attached to a knife for cutting said twine. Aaaand the creepy child is ARMED. Uh oh. Bobby is impressed, and possibly Sally is too. As the Draper children prepare to leave, Glen tells Sally, “Maybe I’ll call you.” Yikes! Be afraid, Sally. Be very afraid.
Cut to the shocker of the episode: Don typing. Yes, the man knows how to use a typewriter! Who knew? His secretary, Allison, enters with mail for Santa Claus (aka Daddy). Adorable. She reads it to him. I guess Don has mastered typing, but not reading. Seriously? Her job is to read mail aloud to him? Although, I really shouldn’t complain, as her reaction to reading the letter shows far more emotion than we would have received from Don. The letter is written by Sally, who is quite aware who really buys her Christmas presents, but since “Bobby thinks this is going to the North Pole,” she tells her dad that they should keep up the “r-o-o-s.” After Allison spells out Sally’s version of “ruse,” Don quips, “Too much television.” Ha! I’m just impressed that Sally knows what a ruse is. On second thought, OF COURSE she does, knowing her parents. Allison continues to read off the list of requests that Bobby has, though he is aware that he may not deserve them, since he apparently “left the freezer door open.” You can just imagine Betty’s looming presence with that line. Also, baby Gene wants a “fireman,” though Sally doesn’t know what that means. Hee. Then we get to Sally’s request, which is sweetest of all: she wants a necklace with her initials on it, but most of all, she wants her dad to be there to give it to her on Christmas morning. “But I know you can’t be,” she adds. Allison is a bit teary-eyed at this, and Don is affected, but hides it. He lists the things he wants Allison to purchase for the children, including gifts for “her” and “him,” presumably Betty and Henry, and hands her some money. Allison takes this opportunity to ask if she can bring someone to the Christmas party. He explains that Lane has scaled back the party, due to budget concerns. He does assure her, however, that she will still be getting a bonus, even if he has to fund it himself.
Cut to Roger’s office, where the arrival of Freddy Rumsen is announced. Yes, Freddy is back. Remember him? He’s the sweet but alcoholic ad man who peed himself in the office, and then Pete orchestrated things so that he was fired. Freddy looks much improved since we last saw him in season two. His commentary on Roger’s minimalist and oh-so-modern office design is perfect: “Geez, it’s like an Italian hostel.” Ha. Roger explains: “Jane had it decorated. I feel like with my hair, you can’t even see me in here.” Funny. But also true. Roger offers him a drink, but Freddy says, “Maybe later.” Freddy explains that he walked out of his last job with a client: Pond’s. Also, he’s now clean and sober. The “maybe later” comment was to be polite. Freddy offers SCDP the account, and Roger accepts. Freddy does have one caveat though: he doesn’t want Pete Cambell involved. Neither do we, Freddy. Neither do we. In fact, Freddy expresses surprised that Roger and company took him along. Roger replies, diplomatically: “No comment.”
Freddy and Roger enter a room where Peggy, Don, and Peter await. Peggy greets Freddy enthusiastically. Aw, I remember that they were friends. He calls her Valerie, though, and I don’t get the reference. Anyone? Pete asks how he’s doing. Freddy: “I was just talking about you.” Ha! The others are filled in on the fact that Freddy has brought them a two million dollar account: Pond’s cold cream. As Don pours a drink, Roger makes a comment about it being too early. Aw, that comment seems to be for Freddy’s sake. Roger is kind of a sweetheart. Don, however, has no compunction about offering a drink to the alcoholic, and sports a very surprised look when Freddy declines. Shut up, Don. When Pete speaks up, Roger tells Campbell that he himself will be handling this account. Pete still doesn’t know when to quit, and is about to bring up Freddy’s drinking problem: “I hate to bring this up, but I do believe it’s on everybody’s mind …” Roger interrupts: “We want to know if you can be Santa at the Christmas party.” Freddy: “Role I was born to play.” Roger wins this scene.
Meanwhile, in suburbia, Glen calls the Draper home, asking to talk to Sally. However, when Carla answers the phone, he says his name is Stanley. Sally doesn’t even question Glen’s oddity, which really makes me worry for her dating future. Glen asks, “Don’t you want to know why I said this is Stanley?” Sally: “I guess.” No, Sally, the proper response is to hang up the phone. Glen explains, “Because this is private.” Uh oh. I don’t know if I like the sound of that. Glen asks why she hasn’t moved. Sally’s response is rather sad: “I don’t know. I hate it here. I really really do.” He asks why, and she says that every time she goes around a corner she thinks she’ll see her dad. Sadness. Glen: “I’m sorry. But they’re not going to get back together you know … One day they’ll wake up and they’ll want to move.” Hmmm. As we shall see, Glen may try to hurry along this natural process.
Cut to a meeting at SCDP, complete with a conference table. Yes, the gang has finally purchased a table. Some type of presentation is going on, and the speaker introduces Dr. Faye Miller, who helped develop “the carefree gal in white pants.” Faye says, self-deprecatingly: “It’s right up there with the polio vaccine.” Ha! I kind of like her. Joan is far less impressed. Perhaps because she wouldn’t wear white pants, nor is she ever carefree? Or perhaps because Dr. Faye Miller is representative of a new generation of woman—one that received far more choice and opportunity than hers? Hmmm. Dr. Miller passes around a test, designed to find out “feelings that exist below the surface.” When she encourages them all to take a cookie, Harry asks, “What does it mean if we don’t?” Faye deadpans: “You’re psychopath.” Ha! Harry makes sure to grab multiple cookies. Don excuses himself quickly, with the excuse that he has an appointment. Riiiiight. As he is on his way to enter his office, he sees new boy Joey flirting with his secretary, Allison. Aha! Methinks that Joey’s dislike of Don, so apparent last week, has now been explained.
Back at his apartment, Don is woken up by loud banging. His neighbor, a nurse, is hammering something to the wall. Is that Laynie Hart, aka Eden from Heroes? Yes. (By the way she should totally have been cast as Alice in Twilight.) But in this show she is Phoebe. She is not really sorry for waking Don up, especially since he is clearly running late for work. She is also is very aware of him, and thinks he’s been aware of her too: “Don’t pretend that you’ve never noticed me. You always grunt when you put your keys in the door. It’s not good. That’s why I’m inviting you to my party.” Hmmm.
At the office, Freddy and Peggy (hee!) brainstorm about the Pond’s campaign. Freddy thinks that Tallulah Bankhead would be perfect as the face of the campaign. Peggy says that all the research says that they’re trying to get young women, but Freddy persists. Their difference of opinion is interrupted when Roger enters. He is returning from a meeting with Cal Rutledge from Pond’s, clearly wasted, and says that he has to go lay down. Peggy sighs, “I can’t believe that’s his job.” Let’s just hope that this job doesn’t provoke another heart attack. I can’t handle Roger dying! Freddy is alarmed by this news, and calls Calvin. He asks, “Did you just have lunch with Roger sterling? And you have nothing to say to me?” Ooooh … Freddy must be Cal’s AA sponsor. Awww, he’s looking out for him. Freddy makes plans to meet with his friends, and then tells Peggy that he has to go. He tells her to continue thinking of names: “I’ll do ‘em too. Don’t worry. I’m sure yours will be better because you’re girlier.” Peggy is not exactly thrilled.
Sometime later, Roger is woken up from his nap by the phone. It’s that snake, Lee Garner, Jr., big honcho at Lucky Strike. He wonders where his invitation to the Christmas party is. As Roger tries to explain, Jr. says: “Madison Avenue, office Christmas party? I’ve seen the movies. You find me.” Uh oh. Roger then tells Pryce that they now have to have a real Christmas party. Pryce: “How did that happen?” Roger: “It happened.” Pryce recommends taking Jr. to the Four Seasons, where he can have three courses. Roger knows what’s what: “This man doesn’t care about food.” No, he cares about control. Pryce is not so convinced, and lectures Roger about the value of money. Roger then calls him “Olivier.” Hee. Pryce asks, “What about other clients?” Roger: “We have no other clients. If Lee Garner, Jr. wants three wise men, we bring it to him.” He yells for “Joanie,” and she arrives. He explains that the party needs to be upgraded: “We need to change its rating from convalescent home to roman orgy.” Ha! Joan takes charge. Problems like these are the kind she excels at. She says that she will allow all the girls escorts, and take care of Jr.’s wishes. Roger says, “You’re off limits.” Joan: “I don’t think he’s the one that needs to be reminded.” Awwww. Why do I still like those two together? He tells her that he still thinks about the dress she last wore to the office Christmas party—the red one with “the bow on the back that makes [her] look like a present”—and asks if she could wear it. Joan good naturedly tells him to “Stop it,” clearly pleased, as she sashays off.
Cut to Peggy and her boyfriend, arriving at Peggy’s apartment. He is all over her, and she tells him to knock it off. He keeps pushing, saying that he’s tired and wants to lie down with her. Peggy: “My bed is covered with work.” Boyfriend: “That’s kind of symbolic.” Ha! Boyfriend is not as dumb as he seems. He asks, “How long is this going to go on?” Peggy gets angry, “I’m sorry if you think you’ve put in the time.” He complains, “We’re not doing anything.” Peggy: “We’re doing some things.” Boyfriend: “We’re not doing anything that I can’t do myself.” Shut up, Boyfriend. He again pushes: “Can’t we just get undressed and lie together?” She says that she wants him so much that she wants to wait, which prompts him to say that he wants to be her “first,” and calls her “old-fashioned.” Peggy assures him that she’s not. Given what we know about Peggy’s past, this scene has so much more meaning for the viewer, meaning which Boyfriend is completely ignorant of. He gives examples of pre-marital intimacy from Sweden. Really? Peggy retorts: “You’re never going to get me to do anything that Swedish people do.” BEST LINE OF THE EPISODE. She then tells him that she thinks he should go home. He kisses her and then obnoxiously tells her to “Think about THAT,” and leaves. Really? Peggy, you can do sooooo much better. (Update late at night on 8/06/10: Oh my goodness, I just learned via Twitter that Peggy’s boyfriend is totally played by Karl from Lost! No wonder I thought he was annoying. Also, how did I miss this? Bad Lostie.)
Later that night, Don arrives home, drunk, late at night. His cute neighbor, Phoebe, is cleaning up from her party, so Don missed it. He says he might have a vacuum, and then drops his keys. Well, at least the thought to help the girl clean crossed his mind. Progress? She asks, “Where the hell are you coming from?” Don: “Work.” Phoebe asks, “Where do you work? White Horse Tavern?” Ha! In response to comments about her party, Don says that he hates parties. She says, “Of course, and you hate Christmas. Don: “I don’t hate Christmas. I hate this Christmas.” Awwww. Now I kind of feel bad for the guy (spoiler alert: it won’t last that long). Phoebe helps him open the door, and make his way inside. He asks if he can get her something, but she tells him that he needs to go to bed. As she deposits him in bed, and removes his shoes, he comments: “You’re good at that.” Her explanation? “My father was a drunk.” He wonders how she can stand to work at the hospital, but she says she loves it: “I love working at the hospital. Coming into the world, people leaving it … everything happens there.” Yeah, she is waaaaay too good for Don. She says goodnight and leaves, and he calls out good night too.
The next day, presumably, preparations for the SCDP Christmas party are being made. Joan directs, as she does best. I love when she is in charge … which is most of the time that she is in a scene.
Meanwhile, Freddy and Peggy continue to brainstorm about the Pond’s account. Freddy’s ideas are all beauties of a previous generation: Tallulah Bankhead (he still can’t give her up), Jessica Tandy, Barbara Stanwyck (sidenote: every time I hear her name I think of Emily Gilmore—thank you, Gilmore Girls, for taking over my life), and Doris Day. Peggy: “I don’t even understand your list.” Ha! I love you, Peggy. Freddy explains that the idea could be that the Pond’s cream makes women look good. Peggy: “Nothing makes old ladies look good.” Hee. Also, mean. Freddy clumsily tries to explain, and Peggy starts to think that maybe indulgence could be a good angle. Freddy: “No. If you use Pond’s you’ll get married.” Peggy is offended: “That’s not what I saying.” Back away, Freddy. Sadly, the guy doesn’t get my message, but continues: “Or we could go the other way. Don’t use Pond’s and you won’t get married.” Peggy has had enough. She blows up at him (or at least a Peggy-version of “blowing up”) and calls him “old-fashioned.” She says that, “Everyone was right about him.” Waaaaay harsh. Interesting that she chooses to throw her boyfriend’s insult to her at Freddy. Thoughts on this? When Peggy’s secretary buzzes, in Freddy puts on his hat, and gets up to go. Peggy apologizes. He tells her not to worry about it. Trying to regain friendly ground, she asks, “Is Violet coming.” Freddy lies, “Oh, she wouldn’t miss it.”
Then we are treated to a Mad Men-esque commercial, for Dove. If you DVR’d the show, I hope that you didn’t skip all the commercials, because it was kind of fun. When we returned from break, I was a little worried that I had changed the channel and was now watching a horror movie featuring creepy children. Alas, no. It is night, and the house is dark. Glen makes a phone call to Sally again, but no one answers. Creeeepy.
Cut to the Christmas party. We see Roger and Jane, Pete and Trudy, Harry and his wife, and Don all alone. The other couples talk about their various holiday plans: trips to the Bahamas and the mountains. Don says that he is going to Acapulco, and when pressed, says that he’s not taking anyone special. Jane interjects that it’s his own fault. I guess she took her blonde friend’s rejection personally. Roger, however, sarcastically expresses pity for Don in the “sea of bikinis.” Hee. Peggy and her boyfriend arrive, and Don tells the man that it’s nice to see him again. I disagree.
We then see other little moments at the party, but Joan is the star, wearing the red dress with the bow in the back. Roger, of course, notices: “Nice dress. Where’s Mr. Holloway?” Mr Holloway! So true. Joan answers, “Saving lives.” Then Lee Garner, Jr. arrives, and they make a big production over him, which kind of makes my stomach turn. Joan says, “We have gifts, girls, and games, but first I’m gonna get you some food.” Lee: “Well, that’s a good idea, Red. I’ve been drinking all day.” Uh oh. A drunk Lee Garner, Jr.? Not a good sign.
Back in suburbia, Glen and a friend enter the Draper house, which still seems to be empty. They open the fridge and start dumping food all over the kitchen. Ewwww. People making a deliberate mess stress me out. Oh, who am I kidding? People making a mess, period, stress me out. This is like those food-fight scenes in movies, where everyone just throws sticky things around. Or like those car-chase scenes, when people nonchalantly knock over fruit stands. Ugh. It upsets me.
Back at the party, Joan is leading a Conga Line. Fun times. Then things slow down, and Lee wonders where Santa is. Roger says he didn’t make it, but he left presents. Lee is not satisfied by that, and thinks that Roger would make a good Santa. Roger protests, hoping the tobacco heir is joking. He’s not. Roger has to bow to Lee’s pressure, as Lucky Strike is just too big a client. Poor Roger.
Meanwhile, Henry, Betty, Bobby, Sally, and Gene arrive home to a mess. Henry suspects that it’s just kids, but he goes to check out the house, just in case.
At the party, Roger is now in the Santa suit. Poor Roger. Lee pokes fun of him, and kind of leans in on Jane. Ugh. Roger pretends it doesn’t bother him though, and presents the company’s gift for Lee. It’s a Polaroid. He says that it reminds him of when he was a kid. There is some longing there, of times gone past. But I still wouldn’t mind if Lee suffered a debilitating disease. As they all exchange gifts, Don tells Peggy, “Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” which I found kind of jarring. It seemed to be presented as a sweet moment, but it was just weird. Since when does he call her sweetheart? It’s a bit patronizing and/or familiar. I guess it reflects that the two now share a closer relationship? Hmmmm. I am probably over-thinking this.
Back at the Draper-Francis residence, Sally’s goes upstairs to find that her room is fine, and not messed with. Bobby, however, finds eggs in his bed. Hee. I should probably find that less funny than I do. Sally does learn that Glen was in her room though, as he left his lanyard behind on her bed. Sally smiles. Hmmm. I am worried for Sally.
At the party, Faye (the blonde doctor who thought up “the carefree girl wearing white pants”) enters Don’s office. She is a little offended that he walked out on her presentation. He’s disappointed that she came in to fight, not flirt. She tries to explain the worth of her job, but Don is not convinced. He snarks: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how understanding my childhood will help us sell floor wax.” Oh, but that ad about floor wax told us so much about your childhood, Don. Sigh. He is the opposite of self-aware. She points out that she can already tell from the test that he is the type who walks out on the test. Yes, indeed he is. Don then changes the subject, asking if she wants to get some dinner. She says no thank you. But she does leave him with this consolation: “But don’t worry, you’ll be married again in a year.” Don is all like, “Excuse me?” Faye replies: “I’m sorry. I always forget: no one wants to think they’re a type.” She is not sorry one bit, I think, and her reply was calculated to let Don know that she has his number, and thus proving the value of her work.
Elsewhere at the party, Lee does obnoxious things. Ugh. Every time I see that guy I want to punch him. Plus, I miss Sal.
Cut to later that night. Don arrives home, stumbling as he looks for his keys. They’re not there. He knocks on his neighbor’s door, but there is no answer. Then he goes to a pay phone and calls his secretary, who finds them on the floor of his office. Allison agrees to bring them to him. Joey then comes into the office, telling her that they’ll give her half an hour and then meet up at X. She replies: “Better make it an hour. I might have to get some food in him.” Joey: “He’s pathetic.” And inside, Joey wishes that Allison found her handsome boss pathetic too. Sadly, for both Joey and Allison’s sakes, she does not.
Allison arrives at Don’s apartment and lets him in. She then gets him water and aspirin, but he says no to food. She gets ready to leave, but Don he pulls her onto his lap. She says “No,” but that he replies “No what?” Really, Don? Seriously? But then she seems to get into it, and kisses him back. He tells her that she smells good, and she takes off her shoes. Uh oh.
Cut to adorable Sally Draper, as she looks out the window. Oh, I hope that Glen isn’t out there watching her. I am really worried about little Sally, you guys.
Cut to the Don and Allison aftermath. She giggles, and says, “My goodness.” He says, “I know,” and strokes her face. So did they have sex? Yes, it seems that they most definitely did. At least that is the assumption made in two interviews with Allison’s portrayer, Alexa Alemanni—one with NYMag.com and once on the AMC blog. Disappointing, Don. Very disappointing. Allison then says that she’s supposed to meet somebody, and that she should go. He asks if she’s sure and she says yes. She’s smiling, and definitely seems pleased, albeit flustered. She says she’ll see him tomorrow and kisses him goodbye.
At work the next morning, Peggy enters her office to see Freddy at her desk. He explains that it was the cleanest. I love that no one dared to party in Peggy’s office. Hee. She asks if he’s okay, as he didn’t come to the party. Freddy is fine. He explains that the Santa suit often comes with a bottle in the pocket, and he didn’t want that bottle. Awwww. Peggy is relieved: “Oh good. I don’t want to worry that every time I hurt your feelings you’re going to start drinking again.” Smooth, Peggy. Smooth. Freddy’s response is priceless: “Why don’t you stop hurting my feelings.” Easy enough solution. Peggy apologizes, again: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I said that you’re old-fashioned.” Freddy: “And I’m sorry that I said that you wanted to get married.” Peggy reveals, “I do want to get married.” Freddy notes, “You’ll have to work less. Find someone.” She says that she already has a boyfriend, but she clearly is afraid of ending up alone. Freddy advises: “My two cents: If you want to marry him you can’t do anything physical.” Peggy asks, “What if I don’t know?” Freddy: “Well, you can’t lead him on. It can be painful. That is not a joke.” Sigh. Freddy means well, but he is, indeed, old-fashioned. Still, some good advice is hidden in the awkward package, as Peggy does have to decide whether she wants to stay with her immature boyfriend. Does she want to take the relationship to the next level physically? And what are the implications of that in the long term?
Roger arrives in the office, making light of last night’s humiliation. He quips to Don, “My father used to say that this was the greatest job in the world, except for the clients.” Oh, Roger.
Don greets Allison. Awkward. She has a big smile on her face as she enters the office with him. It seems that she may have seen last night as a date of sorts. Hmmm. Don sees the pile of presents, and she explains that they’re for his children—the ones he asked her to buy. She asks if she wants him to get the door, and if he’d like some coffee. Don replies that he “overdid it” last night—as in he had too much to drink. He adds, “I’ve probably taken advantage of your kindness on too many occasions.” She seems confused and a bit upset by this. He thanks her for bringing the keys, very professionally and impersonally, and apologizes for taking advantage of her kindness. He also gives her the promised bonus, but his tone is very distant. He is clearly pretending that last night didn’t happen, as he wishes her a merry Christmas. Allison’s crestfallen expression is rather heart-breaking. She goes to the desk and opens the card, which holds $100 cash. She then puts a piece of paper in the typewriter, and gets back to work. Her sad face looks out the window. While it was unrealistic for her to expect a different reaction from Don, I can’t help but feel sympathetic. Badly done, Don. Badly done.
Cut to Peggy and her boyfriend, who just had sex. He asks if she’s alright, as he is still under the impression that he’s her first. She says “Of course.” He then he asks if she feels different. She gives him a quick kiss and then just stares blankly ahead. So, is this a sign that Peggy decided her boyfriend’s not marriage material? A sign that she is refusing to be “old-fashioned”? A sign that she just gave in? Regardless, she certainly doesn’t look happy or in love. Oh, Peggy.
Back as SCDP, Don turns off the lights, and exits his office. As he carries home the pile of presents for his children, “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” plays. Bookends? Hmmm. I guess we open on a letter to Santa, full of all the innocence of childhood, while we close on a song about perceived adultery? He plans to buy the presents and then he brings the presents home? I don’t know. The beginning and end are both Christmas-y and involve presents. I give up.
Thoughts? Reactions? Questions? Comment away.