Sunday, April 21, 2013

MAD MEN 6.4--"To Have And To Hold"

 In 1963, a crack advertising firm was sent to New York by a series of economic factors for a crime they didn't commit. These men and women promptly escaped from being bought by McCann Advertising and escaped back to Madison Avenue. Today, still sought after by many clients, they survive on clients like Jaguar, 1960s-era angst, and meaning gazes into the middle distance. If you have a problem, if you need something sold, maybe you can hire . . .THE MAD MEN

 [Shame on you, Internet, for not having a Youtube of Mad Men in the style of the "A-Team" intro for me to slot in here. However, feel free to imagine it being here and being totally awesome.]

 Last week was a pretty grim episode, wasn't it? I mean, sure, it has the awesomeness of having Trudy utterly humble Pete in ways that even the Iron Sheik wouldn't unleash on someone, and Don torpedoing Herb the Jagoff's attempt to get all the ads to feature him, but . . .yeah. Bleak stuff, even for Mad Men.

This week, the title of the episode is "To Have and To Hold," which is the title of the soap that Megan's on. Does this mean something? Let's find out.


 "We're sitting here waiting for the phone to ring: this IS high school."

 We open with that rarest of things--a continuing plot thread from last week (this early, it's quite the thing) Pete and Don have a clandestine meeting (in Pete's hellaciously depressing apartment in the city) with the Heinz Ketchup rep from last week--the one that the Bean rep lost his shit about in an epic "If you so much as look at him, I'll kill all three of us" wobbly. They make plans to work in secret on a spec project to woo Heinz to SCDP, and Don puts Stan in a windowless room to work on the campaign, which so far seems to be Don and Stan hitting a joint and debating what a hot dog really wants on it.

 This leads to another baller-move Draper presentation, followed quickly by Peggy's presentation (so much for secrecy) and a wonderful scene where Draper's crew sits with Peggy's crew and learns they've both lost, and even though they're rivals, there's a quiet moment of understanding between the two of them--as small firms, they fight over the scraps.

 Well, right before Ken Cosgrove comes in and tells them their secret project has cost them the Heinz beans. Nothing wagered, nothing gained, but a little wagered and everything's lost.

 That might be important later.

 Meanwhile, Joan gets a visitor--Kate (who I think was her roommate from way back in Season 1? I may be wrong there) She's repping for Mary Kay, but planning to interview with Avon because women competing with women is really rough. This is contrasted with Joan, who's now a partner at SCDP (with all the gnashing of teeth the memory of that entails) and Joan's mom--who, you'll recall spent most of Season 4 punching holes in her boat is actually proud of her, because she has money and power.

 Think on that--we'll come back to it a little later. In the meantime, take a shot of Johnnie Walker.

 Meanwhile, Dawn (Don's secretary that they hired to take the curse off being construed as racist last season) gets a subplot, which is pretty stunning on its own, but more for the knock-on effect. She punches fellow secretary Scarlet's time card so she can skip out on five hours worth of work, and this draws the attention of Joan, who inflicts her DEATH STARE on both of them, forces out the truth, and she fires Scarlet on the spot, threatening to do the same to Dawn.

 Unfortunately, Scarlet's Harry Crane's secretary and fuck-buddy and this touches off Harry Crane's molting from "homunculus with ridiculous sideburns" to "Omega-level asshole" and he storms into a meeting of the partners, demanding a partnership, as he's just dreamed up an  idea to help Dow Chemical (who SCDP DID get it seems) to prop up their sagging image, as it's been suffering given that they're y'know, dumping napalm on people at this time in history. The trouble is, baller moves like that are beyond Harry's ken, and he's not quite smart enough to know that, and continues to run his mouth even after he gets a fat commission check threatening that he's going to fuck off an ply his trade elsewhere. Cooper dismisses his theatrics with laser-guided insults and Roger manages to up even his usual level of withering contempt.

  Joan, meanwhile, is done with this shit, and the only thing you can do when that happens is a girl's night out. So she and Kate go to a single's bar, then another, which primarily consists of drinking and picking up guys, and Joan looks rather OVER the whole damn thing. This culminates in a great scene where, the day after, Joan and Kate are talking about where Joan in and how Kate admires her. Joan, knowing what got her there, doesn't see anything special about what she's done or where she is, but Kate tells her it's there--it's available, and she can take it.

 That might be important later.

 But hey, that soap opera thing with Megan? She's got a big role and a love scene, which weirds Don out a bit, but not as much as when a dinner with Megan's work friends turns into an invitation to an orgy. Don's expression is pretty damn priceless as they stammer out a polite declination, but it's just a hilariously awkward scene. Don doesn't swing that way, it seems.

 It would get in the way of his cheating, after all. He accosts Sylvia in the elevator and hits the "stop" switch (Can you DO that in elevators without getting in trouble? Because they do it on TV all the time) and they make plans for some canoodling. There is an added layer of irony in the fact that Megan is playing at having an affair while Don is having an affair.

 Irony, however, is something that happens to other people, and Don is an asshole about it, all but calling Megan a whore for kissing guys for money . . .and then Don tottles off and bangs Sylvia, who at least gets a pointed shot at Don by saying she prays for him to find peace. Good luck sister--that search has been on for years now.

 This was a pretty good episode, and felt a lot more thematically "together" than most episodes this early in the season. Joan's story was touching and sad and paralleled Don's--like him, it seems she's never happy even when she has what she "wanted." Megan's not happy because she can't make Don happy and the firm can;t be happy with Heinz baked beans, and lose everything when they get greedy.

 Again, that might be important later.

 And that's it for this week. Join us next week when Pete takes up playing with Tinkertoys, Roger can't stop making Devil's Mountain with his mashed potatoes, and Bert Cooper drops acid and insists that everything be bolted down and would you please use the chains this time. All this and more is guaranteed NOT to happen in the next exciting episode, "The Flood." Wear your hip waders!

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