"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mad Men: The Mountain King

A lot went down in this episode of Mad Men, which makes sense as the next episode will mark the conclusion of season two (boo!). However, despite some character story lines progressing along, this episode doesn't offer many clues as to how Betty and Don will resolve their marital issues.

I did learn a bunch of stuff about other characters, though, including the fact that Pete is violently opposed to adoption and poor Joan is caught up in a terrible relationship with a wretched man. And while Don's away in California indulging in a mother of an identity crisis, Peggy's slowly but surely proving herself to be the brightest star in the office. So much to talk about!

Don Draper: Whoa. Talk about getting some answers. I finally learn the identity of the mysterious woman who showed up at Don's car dealership job in a flashback a few episodes back. She's the real Don Draper's wife! (And I so called it, as soon as I understood who she was, that she's the person to whom Don mailed the Meditations in an Emergency!) Turns out the two struck a deal that was financial as well as emotional. The "real" Mrs. Draper allowed Don to live as her legal husband until, of course, he met Betty. The flashback where he comes home to tell Mrs. Draper about the beautiful model he wants to marry is a nice glimpse into his early feelings for Betty, and I loved that dopey grin on his face as he described Betty to Anna. I can't decide if Anna (Mrs. Draper) is a force for good in Don's life or a kind of enabler. On the one hand, the little family they form together is sweet, but on the other hand she offers rationalizations like this one after he finally admits he's ruined everything by lying to Betty: "You love her. You don't have to tell her everything." I think I get what she's saying, but hopefully Don won't take this to mean that he doesn't have to be honest with Betty.

Peggy: Peggy continues to be the character I enjoy rooting for the most. Even though I know she's made some bizarre, confused decisions in the past, she still seems to be the most well-adjusted, rational person in the office. The way she lands the popsicle account is brilliant and I love watching how quickly she's become one of the guys (in their own way they seem to accept now that she's reaching their level, professionally) and they respect her. I also really enjoyed her exchange with Joan. It seems they've realized that they both struggle to stay afloat in a man's world. The cherry on top of last night? Peggy landing her own office. Hurray! When Pete is curious how she landed such a sweet situation she deadpans, "I’m sleeping with Don. It’s really working out.” Sassy, funny, upwardly mobile Peggy? Yes, please!

More thoughts:

OMG, Sally Draper smoking is so disturbing but I laughed out loud. It's heartbreaking to hear her tell her mom that daddy left because Betty is "mean and stupid." Ugh! That kid is going to be a handful as a teenager, especially if she (crossing fingers!) becomes some kind of '60s hippie activist. Probably won't be able to stick her in a closet then!

For some reason Ken's contribution to the popsicle campaign brainstorm made me laugh: "In Vermont we made our own ice cream. It was a pain in the ass."

OK, Pete's reaction to the adoption agency is crazy! After he screams "Hells bells Trudy! That's final!" and tosses dinner over the balcony, I loved how Trudy put him in his place: "You don't speak to me that way!"

Aaand. . . Daddy pulls the Clearasil campaign from Pete, who is too stubborn to back down and keep the business for Sterling-Cooper. I'm amazed that Pete's personal issues cause a client to withdraw, and Pete doesn't seem to care much about it.

Let's get the terrible scene with Joan and her fiance out of the way. Just, ugh. I could hardly stand to watch that go down in Don's office. I've never felt as sympathetic toward Joan as I do now. How soul-shattering was it that they went straight to dinner afterwards (though she left the flowers on the desk, which seems like even more heartbreaking symbolism)? She cannot marry that jerk.

One of the funniest lines to me was when Anna comments on Don's crush on Betty: "Look at you. You're in the lavender haze." Ha! People in the '60s used funny phrases.

Betty's call to Sarah Beth is also insane! Sarah Beth accuses Betty of encouraging her affair with Arthur and Betty shoots back that there's a difference between "wanting and having." It's an intense scene that makes Betty look like the puppet master over these people as a way of working out her own desires. Maybe?

Cooper's sister Alice is fabulously powerful as a character and I enjoyed her back-and-forth with Roger. She appears to convince Cooper of agreeing to the merger. And does it seem darkly foreshadow-y when she says something in the beginning about letting Roger Sterling die in the arms of a 20-year-old? Anyway, the staff is going to flip out! I can't wait.

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