Sex, swingers and power are all in play this week in what might be one of my favorite episodes of Mad Men to date.
The fourth hour of Mad Men this season was one of its largest ensembles to date and it doesn't waste a minute with any of them. Besides being hilarious and rather plot driven, the episode is a real stand out because it lets us into so many characters' lives. Before we dive into all of those though, first we have to get into Don who had quite an episode himself.
I don't know if Mr. Draper has ever been so broad in his range of likability as he was tonight, but we go from loving him to detesting him over the course of the night. Poor Megan, she has caught not just the wrath of a failed Heinz pitch (which I actually thought was better than Peggy's), but Don decides to ring his often rung bell about women selling themselves for money. Megan is simply acting out a “love making” scene on her show and Don compares her to a common whore for simply doing her job. To make matters worse, he is a giant hypocrite himself as he has paid Sylvia the last two weeks in return for services (even if she isn't a whore or if it was only a penny); this can't be a coincidence. Don's shaming of Megan for even considering the act earlier in the show, "I can tolerate stuff like this, but I can't encourage it,” was nothing to the anger at the end, but Megan's response to that line, “You're perfect,” was the most biting lines of the night.
Don isn't all asshole though tonight as he had me laughing on a number of occasions throughout the episode. The missed “friendship” with Megan's co-star and lead writer was a hilarious moment of awkwardness and confusion, while Don also has a fantastic moment with Stan over a joint working on their secret “Project K”. The charm and humor they can get out of Don one minute and pure disgust never fails to amaze me and this is a testament to both the show's writing and John Hamm's ability as an actor.
Speaking of “Project K”, Heinz's golden boy, Timmy, took a secret meeting with Don and Pete and the secret work that Don and Stan do on the project is billed under this secret code name. Besides doing some great work, they are still in a bake off for the account with CGC with Peggy at the helm. Both the master and the protege turn in some great work, but the delivery is what sets them apart. Don is continuing to tell the clients what they should think, and he is right, but Peggy excels at telling the client what they want to hear while still selling her idea. She might not be quite as good as her old boss yet, but she's adapting to the times of what they want when Don could care less. I see brighter pastures for CGC in the future. (it has been brought to my attention that both of them missed on the account, hence all the long faces. The winning firm's name just sounded like it could have been some dude in the room.)
The highlight of the episode might be the aftermath of the bake-off though, as CGC and SCDP collide at a local drinking establishment. News of a buy in the room sinks SCDP's ship and to make matters worse Ken comes storming in and tells them that Heinz Beans caught wind of the meeting and they have dropped SCDP as well; oh what a day. Peggy has pushed herself farther away from her old mates as she has beaten her mentor and betrayed her best friend and I am not entirely sure Stan will be able to forgive her on this one. Oh, by the way, did I mention Stan is awesome this week? Stan is awesome.
Some Short Notes:
-Harry blew me away this week, not just because he actually did some work, but because he was actually good at it. His hostility towards Joan was also quite shocking as he is apparently endlessly jealous of her achieving a partner title. This might be chauvinist, it might be that he really earned it, but the power play he makes against the partners can only be summed by Burt Cooper, "That was the most impressive thing he's done."
-Speaking of Burt, the brilliant cut after the swinging proposition and young ladies making out at the bar to the old fogies Burt and Roger sitting on the couch was editing brilliance.
-Dawn also played a prominent role in the episode for the first time since she sat behind Don's desk and it was nice that it wasn't just plot, but character work as well. Dawn has friends and problems of her own, one who thinks Dawn should speak up about race more than she does. While it's great to get to know her, I imagine this might be all set up for MLK's death which should probably happen next week on the show.
-Joan is back with an actual part this week and it is nice to see how comfortable she has become being a single woman. The whole sleeping to the top angle Harry throws at her doesn't phase her either, she deserves what she's got, and it was great to see her throw some death glares around the office. Harry crossing her to keep Scarlet as her secretary has to come back to haunt him, right? Either way, I look forward to this rivalry between Joan and Harry as the year goes forward.
A great, great episode of Mad Men this week has become the benchmark for the season going forward. Hilarious, dramatic and full of excellent character and plot development for just about everyone involved, it was one of the sharpest episodes the show has yet to deliver. Not a whole lot of ground breaking revelations this week, other than Don reconfirming he is a horrible husband, but what do you expect in hour four of a thirteen hour season. Still, if this is Weiner and team just getting warmed up we are in for one hell of a season.
-Pete's apartment is hideous.
-The old penny under the mat trick.
-"You should visit more often, turns out my mother is proud of me."
-No, Harry's office is the most hideous.
-What happened to Ken's mustache?
-Love the spy music for Stan's sneaking.
-"I guess they picked Stan because he has no conscience."
-"I can tell you he isn't in a room with tinfoil on the windows."
-"No, please, let him go on."
-"Meridith, why don't you step out." Line of the night.
-"It sounds like New Years Eve when they empty the garbage."
-What is this place? Telephones? It is just like high school.
-"I'm sure he's a man who plays many roles."
-"They like you, they like me, maybe we can be better friends?"
-"Should we fire him before he cashes that check?"
-"Your ad can run all day."
-"Don't thank me, you don't understand this is a punishment."
-"Miss it already."
-"Need to see a friend."
-Jessica Pare does some excellent bad acting.
-"You like to watch, don't you?"
-"Everyone to the conservatory set." Are they shooting Clue?
-"For you to find peace." Nope.