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‘Mad’cap Recap 4:2

Who doesn’t love a little Christmas in July?  Our gift to you is another smashing commentary from Kate on this week’s episode of Mad Men.  Look out for spoilers!

IT SEEMS THAT ON MAD MEN, we’re always talking about desire. The show does, after all, have its roots in an industry profiting from the manipulation of desires. Enter Christmas.  

Christmas, especially, is a time when people can become consumed with thinking about what they want and how far they’ll go to get it. Don and most of the people around him live their lives not denying themselves any pleasure they can afford (and some they discover they cannot afford). You want your dad to come home for Christmas? Write him a guilt-inducing letter. You want the attention of the cute girl next door? Wreck up every room in her house but hers. You want to keep your most important client happy? Put on a Santa suit and let Pete Campbell sit on your lap. You want your handsome boss to sweep you off your feet and give you a go-round like you’ve never had? You…might want to rethink that one.

Don’s dalliance with Allison is yet another new low for a character with an apparently bottomless capacity for destructive behavior. It was painful to watch him treat his loyal and competent secretary barely better than the prostitute he was with at Thanksgiving. The Don of last year might not have totally mangled the kiss-off the morning after; this year’s Don is struggling to hold his life together with both hands. Don used to have a talent for knowing what he wanted and being able to get it without letting it throw his life off-balance. Now’s he floundering in a sea of booze and loneliness, unable to charm the nurse across the hall, embarrassing himself in front of the younger employees at SCDP, and generally just being a sad shadow of the smooth operator he used to be. All he wants for Christmas is his old life back. How long before it really sinks in that it’s not going to happen? I’m guessing another half dozen episodes, at least.

Hey, speaking of booze and being a disgrace at work, Freddy Rumsen’s back! When we last saw him in season 2, he was being forced out of Sterling Cooper because his drinking had gotten out of control. He was a liability. Now he’s back, sober for 16 months and working his AA program. Good for him. But in some ways, he’s still an embarrassment. He shows up at SCDP with Pond’s Cold Cream in his saddlebag, a product that he views primarily as a way to “make old ladies look good.” I was right there with Peggy with my jaw on the floor as he pondered which wording to use in the campaign, to promise young women they can get married if they use Pond’s or to threaten them with spinsterhood if they don’t. His limited thinking doesn’t just reveal the received sexism of his generation, but also a set of shared priorities that are disappearing in the rear-view mirror. Later, Dr. Miller will spell out the distinction for Don: “It’s about what I want versus what’s expected of me.” Freddy sees Pond’s as a way for women to fulfill the expectations of others–to be attractive, to be married. Peggy, on the other hand, approaches Pond’s as an indulgence, something to do for herself because she feels like it. The generation gap is widening, and the signature cultural upheaval of the 1960s is edging closer.

But it’s not fully here yet. At work, Peggy may slam Freddy for being old-fashioned, but at home, she’s told her boyfriend that she is a virgin–a lie which he is happy to be deceived by in every respect.  It’s hard to tell what Peggy wants out of this relationship and why it’s worth lying for. Is she trying to keep up appearances in a world that hasn’t fully accepted the younger generation’s more self-centered attitude? Or is there a bit of old-fashioned spirit hiding under Peggy’s modern exterior?

In closing…is Glen Bishop the creepiest kid on television or what? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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One Response to “‘Mad’cap Recap 4:2”

  1. HAHA. Yes, SOOOOO creepy. And the exec producer’s son on top of that.

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