Last night's episode of Mad Men moves us forward to Christmas, white-haired Roger Sterling is Santa Claus, and people are getting drunk and having sex. When they find out Lee Garner Jr., from their only major client Lucky Strike, is in town and coming to their Christmas party, their scaled back plan needs a change of theme, Roger says, "from convalescent home to roman orgy," an apt phrase for this episode.
Like the three wise men bearing gifts, we have three visitors from the past bearing gifts:
Freddy Rumsen is back-- and sober (16 months), bearing a 2 million dollar Pond's account that could save the day. The last time we saw Freddy he was fired from Sterling Cooper for being a drunk after he peed his pants and passed out before a meeting. He's now in AA or as he calls it, a "fraternity," with the Pond's guy, who obviously falls off the wagon after one lunch with Roger.
Rumsen hates Pete--and doesn't want him anywhere near the account--because he knows Pete's the one who ratted him out when he got fired. He likes Peggy though. They had a special relationship because he was the one who pulled her up as a copywriter with the Belle Jolie account--and then she took his office. She's excited to see him. His creative ideas for the account are questionable, old-fashioned and just not that good. Peggy tries to urge him to change it, "have you seen our work? It's very different than this."
Lee Garner Jr., who's truly awful, comes bearing their livelihood, and the reason for the party. He forces Roger to be Santa and insists on torturing him throughout the party. While you think that'd be fun to watch because it's always Roger who's picking on everyone else, it's actually not. Garner is mean spirited and abusing his power in a way that makes us feel the agency's weakness. Roger is really at his mercy, just like Sal was...
But what was fun -- the episode actually kind of did turn into a Roman orgy! Joan and Roger are flirting again (yes!) and she wears the red dress he requests. At the very least, we know she still likes him wanting her. Peggy and Pete make awkward eye contact when they nod and don't say hello at the party, which only furthers my suspicions that something is -- or will be -- going on with them. People are making out in the offices at the party, and Don and Peggy both (separately) finally have sex (we'll get back to both) -- even Sally has a suitor.
Which brings us to our third visitor, my personal favorite of the night, Glen Bishop, who comes bearing twine. Remember him? He was the creepy little kid who asked Betty for a lock of her hair -- which, even weirder, she gave him! He's back, and now he's flirting with Sally who, by the way, looks prettier and has lost the lisp. Looks like Glen's upped his game, he's turned his hair fetish into a promising career. He now makes his own twine!
He's hysterically blunt and advises Sally on dealing with a new dad -- his mom also recently remarried. "After they're married a while, they'll have a baby. You should probably ask for something big now."
He's amazing on the phone. "It's Glen. Don't you want to know why I said my name is Stanley? [...] Because this is private." She tells him she hates living in the house, "Don't worry. One day, they'll wake up and they'll want to move. You'll see." So he comes over with a friend and ransacks her house to help her so they'll want to move out. To top it off, her room is untouched, with a message -- he left the piece of twine he made on her bed, and she smiles. Glen actually might be a perfect creepy playmate for Sally -- who's slightly creepy herself.
The Motivational Research Group comes in to introduce consumer evaluations which they'll use to help get to the client's real feelings below the surface. This kind of personal evaluation shows that times are changing and people are becoming more open and trying to go deeper. True to form, Don can't handle this and quickly excuses himself when the surveys are passed out. Not only does he have to learn to answer for himself as the face of the company, but people are starting to ask more personal questions in general, and he has to learn to answer to them as well. He needs to be able to fill out one of these surveys -- he needs a backstory.
A few other things about this meeting:
Looks like they got a conference table, congrats.
It's nice to see Joan in the meeting.
Harry is hilarious -- quickly grabbing four cookies and then aggressively guarding his paper.
Later, at the Christmas party when Dr. Faye Miller comes into Don's office to ask him about leaving the meeting, she gets him spot on. "You're the kind of man that doesn't want to take the test." He says his childhood doesn't have to do with selling floorwax, and she responds, "I saw that ad, it's all about somebody's childhood." She's right, and they're really teasing it out with the surveys. Then he hits on her, but fails.
Don's doing better with women, but still hasn't gotten his game back. Three girls -- the nurse, Faye, and his secretary -- all flirt with him, he makes three attempts, and one succeeds. He's improved because he finally has sex without paying for it (sort of), but the old Don Draper would never have sloppily slept with his secretary. The secretaries all flirt with him and it's so easy that it's too desperate. And the next morning he hands her cash! He's too used to prostitutes, he doesn't remember how to behave normally. Yes, it was her Christmas bonus he had promised her but it felt wrong, he could've waited a day so she didn't feel like a hooker. It was also kind of sad how she was obviously excited to see him the next morning and shows him the presents she got for the kids (yes, as the secretary but playing up caretaker role) and then was so disappointed by his dismissal, "Thank you for bringing my keys, I've probably taken advantage of your kindness on too many occasions" and payment. Now he's just going to need a new secretary because this isn't going to work.
Speaking of sex, Peggy's boyfriend Mark thinks she's a virgin! Amazing. If he only knew. She's been holding off because of her, let's say, promiscuous past and she's trying to take this relationship seriously (or maybe because he's unattractive and looks like a child). It's unclear if she told him she's a virgin but I'm pretty sure she didn't and he's just assuming because she keeps saying she wants to wait. Maybe that's why he jumped at the opportunity to say fiancé in the last episode ... to help his argument. Earlier in the episode, he accuses her of being "old-fashioned," which she takes out on Freddy and is why she gets so riled up about it.
By the end of the episode, she finally does give in and sleeps with him. When they're lying in bed after, the camera zooms in on her ring. Is that an engagement ring? From the position she's lying in it seems like that's her right hand, so maybe not? He says "you feel different" and she looks distant and uncomfortable because she's lying about it being her first time. She seems too uncomfortable. I can't see this lasting because ultimately Peggy will be true to herself, she's just scared of being alone.
Also, was the clip with her and Duck in the previously seen scenes supposed to foreshadow his return or just remind us she's definitely not a virgin? I think probably the latter, but I'd rather if Duck came back. He was too old for her, but this guy is lame and uninteresting.
A few other things worth noting:
Going straight from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the writers are really focusing on the holidays as a way to show that Don's not with his family and alone. It's potentially a little much because Don seems like such a mess, but these are two of the hardest days of his year. There were inevitable sad moments in this episode, especially with Sally's letter that says she wishes he could be there and with everyone questioning him about his holiday plans.
First Beatles reference! When he told his secretary to get Sally some Beatles 45s, and it's perfect he would think that was a good gift for "the kids."
Roger about his white office, "I feel like with my hair you can't even see me in here."
Don greets Peggy at the party, "Merry Christmas, Sweetheart." He's constantly using pet names with her, he called her "Honey" in the last episode. Could just be the standard way he speaks to women, but you don't hear it with anyone else. It shows they have a special relationship and she's potentially the only woman he respects (and wouldn't hit on) at the moment.
Why does Joey keep insulting Don? He is pathetic at the moment, but have some respect new kid...
This episode was really great and felt more like a classic Mad Men episode than the first. It was exciting, it was funny, it was sad. The premiere was really placing us, but this episode picked up the pace. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is clearly in a better place than it was a month ago -- note the conference table -- and they're working on it, introducing new methods like customer surveys. The addition of the Pond's account would be huge for them, but Roger may have lost it by getting that guy drunk at lunch. Either way, it's good to be back.