Stan works behind closed doors on “Project K”, the secret Heinz account (Ginsberg yells out “Project Kill Machine!” at Stan assuming that it’s a government project). Stan is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters with his awesome beard, yellow jacket and there’s a scene where he smokes pot in the office (and he hands it over to Don!), and he flips off Peggy and Ted! You go Stan!
Joan continues to see that being a partner doesn’t really mean too much (like many of the complaints that she had in one episode of season five) while Harry can’t stand being in the position he’s in any longer and storms in to demand a partnership. Of course he doesn’t get it.
SCDP’s Heinz pitch is good, but it seems too much like something the agency has done before. And then Peggy and Ted walk in and give a better pitch! This also puts the business with Heinz beans in jeopardy as well. In the end, neither of them get the account.
Musical awesomeness: Serge Gainsbourg and Bridgette Bardot’s “Bonnie and Clyde” fits in perfectly.
STRAY NOTE: YES, Bert has an office again! And it looks exactly the same. But where’s that Rothko?
While I wish that getting a glimpse at Don’s past would be interesting, it doesn’t do very much. We already know that Don spent some time in his early life in a whorehouse, and this doesn’t give much and doesn’t add to the plot of the episode. Don continues his affair with Sylvia, but something here seems different than the affairs that Don had in seasons past.
Megan continues to show self-loathing by keeping Don out of certain aspects of her life (much like what Betty did throughout the first three seasons of the show) but somehow they still care for each other. I expected their relationship to fall apart last season, but somehow they keep going.
Peggy’s phone talk with Stan goes the wrong way and her boss ends up using it for the company to win Heinz Ketchup. Peggy is more like Don than ever before, but she still cares for the people at SCDP, as the scene shows. Pete has a fling with his neighbor, and it goes horribly with the woman banging on his door after her husband found out. Pete’s wife doesn’t put up with his shit and tosses him out of the house. We all can’t be as swift and put together as Don Draper.
And Don really puts on a show for his presentation to Jaguar by doing what Herb asks of him (Herb’s the creep from last season who slept with Joan) only he presents them in a very backhanded sort of way that immediately gets shot down by the rest of the people in the meeting.
I predicted that Lane’s death would loom over this entire season, and I might be wrong. But there’s plenty of death popping up all over The Doorway. The first thing we see is man being resuscitated. Roger’s mother dies, and Roger reacts hilariously by having to comfort his secretary while he feels nothing. Roger even slips up his words at his mother’s funeral by getting angry and saying “it’s my funeral!”. Roger seems to be going for existential awakening like Don went through in season four, but as we see in his scene at the psychologist he states that going through doors in life and “changes” doesn’t add up to much difference at all. I have a feeling that Don is going to have find a new way go about his life very soon.
All the talk of death on this episode does the feeling that Don will try very hard to bury a certain part of himself, but of course it’s not going to be easy. Seeing the stairway and the second floor of the office was a real payoff. Getting a glimpse at everyone’s physical changes (except for Don) was really nice too. So much facial hair! Betty is a walking disaster in black hair. Ginsberg and Stan (aka caveman!) look great. Roger looks the best though with the sideburns and the long front swoop! Pete looks even more a mess than last season, did he get even fatter?
STRAY NOTES: Great to see Don throw up in front of Roger! (throwback to the first season). Great to see Don with The Wheel again (throwback to the first season).
A Little Kiss (5.1) An eight month gap leaves us in the middle of a very different environment from where we last saw everyone. Don and Megan are married and living in a really nice apartment. Megan decides that it would be a great time for Don’s birthday party (even though his birthday was six months earlier). This show how different Don and Megan are based off the people at the party. We can tell this marriage isn’t going to last. Joan brings her baby into the office and everyone gathers around it, including Roger saying “There’s my baby!”, great double meaning there (although Roger didn’t intend it). It’s great to see the pillar finally get Pete! And there’s race issues all over this episode with Lane not trusting a taxi driver and there’s something in his face at the end of the episode that I can’t quite place.
Tea Leaves (5.3) Betty has gotten fatter, and it’s absolutely hilarious! She goes to the doctor and gets scared that she has some tumor, only for it to turn out to be benign. The audience is just as disappointed as Betty. Peggy finds a new coworker with Ginsberg, although I really question the final scene with him and his father (although his mixed up suit is really fantastic). Yes, of course The Rolling Stones are going to record a jingle for Heinz! Jesus Don! Really? Roger continues to do nothing this season, and I’m loving it. Pete continues to climb the ladder with Mohawk Airlines coming back to SCDP. Cinematography note: wide shot outside the Francis house on Independence Day.
Mystery Date (5.4) Horror film takes a certain place in this episode with Don being sick and having a fever dream that’s sure to freak out anyone watching the episode for the first time. Of course, the point of Don’s fever dream is to show that Don still has plenty of things to hide and he’s a much darker man than maybe even he knows. But does it really get us anywhere? Ginsberg blows it by pitching the wrong idea to a client and almost gets fired. We finally see Joan get payback on her rapist husband by throwing him out (the idiot can’t even add, he thought it was his kid).
Signal 30 (5.5) Masculinity takes center stage here with Pete trying to fix a sink (and failing, Don’s got it) and trying to man up in a fist fight with Lane (and looses), trying to hit on a younger woman and trying to confide in Don, but Don always tries to interact as little as possible with most people (after all, he’s gotten tricked into social situations twice this season).
Far and Away Places (5.6) One of the best episodes of the entire series, this goes through three stories and messes with time structure as well. We see Peggy growing more and more like Don with her sternness with the Heinz account and getting some dude off in the theater. Roger and his wife take an acid trip and see their marriage fall apart at the same time. Don and Megan are at odds over the weekend with Don staying in a work mindset and getting frustrated at his wife for not liking orange sherbet. It’s great that Cooper tells Don to snap out of it and step up at work. Cinematography notes: great shots of reflections on windows, Don at the phone booth with the hotel in the background and the final shot of Don at the table.
At The Codfish Ball (5.7) Megan’s parents show up and her father openly shows that he’s disappointed in Don and thinks that their marriage isn’t going to last. Megan and Don pitch a great idea to Heinz and get the account. Peggy has some issues with her boyfriend and her mother. Sally grows up too fast at the end when she sees Roger and Megan’s mother having an intimate moment that she wasn’t supposed to see. Plus, it’s very nice to see Roger and Don stepping up their game after taking most of the season off of work.
Lady Lazarus (5.8) Megan decides to pursue acting and quits work at SCDP. It’s great how accepting of this Don is, but I can’t help but wonder how this will effect them if they don’t see each other at work every day. Pete has an affair with a friend’s wife, and she ends up calling it off. You get the feeling that Pete is genuinely hurt by this. Don shows his age, as he knows nothing of today’s music, and can’t even make it through a Beatles song.
Dark Shadows (5.9) It’s Thanksgiving and Betty is determined to stir some shit in Don’s world. Fuck off Betty. Even her daughter knows that Betty is a crappy person and she gets the better of her at the end of the episode. Don tries to get back to work with an ad that doesn’t exactly match up with Ginsberg’s but it works anyway. Great shot of the smog from the apartment window.
Christmas Waltz (5.10) Rifts continue in Don and Megan’s marriage (there’s no way this is going to carry into season 6 right?) Megan takes Don to go see a play that takes a shot at advertising, and Don gets offended. Lane needs money to pay off taxes from Britain, so he forges Don’s signature on a check. There’s a great moment of finally seeing Don and Joan have some dialogue with each other. And we see that Paul is deep into Hare Krishna.
The Other Woman (5.11) SCDP is trying to get Jaguar, but getting the account brings up a moral problem for the company. Well, at least for Don. Everyone else, hell even Joan, doesn’t exactly seem that bothered by it. Great sequencing of events with Don walking to Joan’s a little too late, and not finding out that it’s out of place until later. Peggy ends up taking an offer at another agency and the scene where she gives her notice to Don is heartbreaking.
Commissions and Fees (5.12) Having Peggy leave was tough enough, but to have Lane commit suicide is almost too much. It seems like something that should have happened in the final episode of the season, but the last episode is more like a coda to this traumatic event. I can see Lane’s ghost looming large over the next season. It’s almost ill of the show to insist on showing that Lane fails the first time, and it’s dark humor doesn’t resonate with me. GOD DAMN Glen has show back up and spell out the theme at the end of the episode. Screw off Glen.
The Phantom (5.13) Don and everyone else is on the verge of change again, but I’m slightly conflicted here. Once again, we get themes spelled out too obviously. The ending is great, not getting to see Don give an answer. Cinematography notes: shot of Don leaving the set and walking into the bar (with that James Bond music!), shot of the partners upstairs.
Public Relations (4.1) We jump forward almost a year, and see that everything has changed. It’s Sterling Cooper Draper Price. And it’s a new office, an office that’s much more modern and very bright. It’s very odd to see after three seasons of dark tones for them to be working surrounded by windows. Don is single, living on his own and Roger tries to set him up with someone, but it obviously doesn’t work. Peggy has grown into an even stronger character than in season three.
Christmas Comes But Once a Year (4.2) The return of Freddy Rumpsen, Glen and Lee Garner Jr.! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Freddy is cleaned up, Glen throws a mess around Betty’s house, and Lee Garner Jr. makes the office throw a party, and put Roger in a Santa suit. We also see Peggy turning even more into Don with her lying to her fiance about her sexual past.
The Rejected (4.4) Peggy gets a new group of friends that act much younger than the who she works with. Pete continues to have issues with his family’s company and he finds out that his wife is pregnant. Don’s secretary freaks out and quits over Don not wanting to discuss their one night stand.
The Chrysanthemum and The Sword (4.5) We get a look at the company’s competition, and how Don outsmarts them in a grab for the Honda account. We see Roger get severely pissed off and racist over the company trying to get Honda because Roger still holds a grudge against the Japanese over WWII. There’s several great moments of directing here with Don alone in his hotel room and a scene in Roger’s office. Betty is starting to become a horrible mother with a strong misunderstanding of her own daughter and getting pissed off at Don over nothing that important.
Waldorf Stories (4.6) Don sinks deeper into alcoholism as he ends up with another set of women over the course of several days in his hotel. Don, Roger and Joan are at an awards show and they end up winning, this ends up with Don being drunk and having to make a presentation to Life Cereal, by presenting a slogan that’s not his own. We see a flashback to Don’s past where he gets his job at the agency thanks to his persistence with Roger.
The Suitcase (4.7) The stand out episode of the season, and one of the best in the entire series. It’s shot beautifully, and I would start to mention specific shots, but they’re all over this entire episode. Don and Peggy spend the night in the office, attempting to get a pitch for Samsonite. The two battle back and forth between the two makes sense on both sides, and they go through several levels in the emotional spectrum before the episode is over.
The Summer Man (4.8) After last episode’s fallout, we see Don starting to be very existential and pull away from drinking. But this is done in a disappointing fashion with Don writing his thoughts in a journal and having a voice over for the first time on the show. Sure, it’s very well made, but it’s a curve ball for Mad Men and it doesn’t exactly work. There’s also some shots that try to go into Don’s head and his dealing with alcoholism.
The Beautiful Girls (4.9) Don has to deal with his secretary dying (Roger’s line “She lived like she died, answering other people’s phone calls” is hilarious) on the job and Sally showing up at his work on the same day. Joan’s husband gets sent off to Vietnam and Roger takes her out for dinner, and they get mugged. This ends up with Roger and Joan having a moment of passion after years of not seeing too much between the two.
Hands and Knees (4.10) Lane deals with his family that wants him to come home to Britain, and there’s a violent confrontation with his father and it’s quite sad to watch. North American aviation ends up pulling out, and Lucky Strike has to move on to another agency. Cinematography note: some great lighting in the Playboy Club. We see Don getting stressed to the max over some government agents coming over to Betty’s house and asking about his past. It’s just a routine, but it puts Don over the edge and throws him in a panic.
Chinese Wall (4.11) SCDP is in a scramble with Roger revealing that Lucky Strike has pulled out. Roger reveals this by lying to everyone with some acting over the phone. Pete’s wife has a baby in the middle of all this mess and he’s stressed to join the competition. NOTE: Roger Sterling’s book, “Sterling’s Gold” was turned into an actual book, but the book is nothing but Sterling quotes from the show.
Blowing Smoke (4.12) We see the return of Midge, but she’s hooked on heroin and only looks up Don for money. We see Betty turning into a bigger bitch than before. Don continues on his existentialism with an ad against tobacco. This is done to help keep the company afloat by gaining interest in other companies and trying to call out the competition, but there’s a serious aspect to Don’s letter that calls back to the writing in his diary several episodes before.
Tomorrowland (4.13) The season started with the question “Who is Don Draper?” and we see Don answering this by moving forward with his life. He takes the kids on a trip and brings along Megan and he ends up proposing marriage to her. Don brings up his other name to his children and it’s a relief to see him be as honest as his can with his kids without confusing them. Don is visibly happy when he gets back to the office and tells the office that he’s getting married, it’s the first time in the entire season that we see him like this. SCDP lives on somehow, and Don has opened a new page in his life. It’s a great way to close out the season.
Out of Town (3.1) This episode is such a shock with all the stuff that happens. We pick up the story six months after the season two finale. It all moves so fast with no sort of decent rundown over whatever might have happened in the last few months. One specific thing that sets this apart from the previous seasons is the lighting. Everything seems much brighter. There’s some great yellows and reds that pulsate through the episode. We get a slew of new characters tossed into the mix with people coming over form England after the merger from last season.
Love Among The Ruins (3.2) Peggy starts to grow into a very strong woman with this episode and how she handles her sexuality and how she handles work. There’s a great cinematography moment with Don and Betty’s brother, the use of black and white is very well done. We see a little more of Roger’s life and his daughter getting married.
My Old Kentucky Home (3.3) Harry, Peggy and Smitty spend their day off at the office, smoking marijuana. It’s quite funny and once again, shows Peggy stepping up to the plate and that her mind is always on work. There’s a party being thrown by Roger and Jane, and there’s a moment that’s almost too much “HEY look how messed up things were” with Roger in blackface. Everyone laughs, but it’s very uncomfortable to see today. But it’s very believable.
The Arrangements (3.4) There’s a theme of parents running through this episode with a client coming in that has had everything handed to him through his father, this client shows how much he’s like Pete. But also how much Pete has grown up. Peggy also continues to mature when she moves away from her mother. Betty’s father dies, and Sally ends up the one that’s emotionally hurt.
The Fog (3.5) Betty has her child and the episode shifts into a scary dream, it directly reminds me of Rock Hudson’s Seconds for some reason. Roger’s call to Don and saying “Dada” is one of the funniest things to ever happen in the show. Pete’s realization that a certain brand of televisions is being bought more by African Americans, and Pete thinks that he’s ahead of them just for the company to already know these facts. The punch comes from Pete insisting that they integrate ads, and the company backs down from Pete’s suggestion.
Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency (3.6) The British are coming! And so is riding lawnmower. We see Roger and Don start to patch things up in their relationship. Sally is cautious of the newborn in the house, and we find out at the end that she thinks the baby is some sort of reincarnation of her grandfather. The scene with the cake for Joan where she starts crying, is very great because we know that she’s not really leaving.
Seven Twenty Three (3.7) Don gets mugged, and has his first meeting with Hilton. It’s great how right off the bat, we see Hilton sitting in Don’s chair, showing that he’s the one in charge. But, Don landing this account comes at a price for him. He has to sign a three year contract. This entire episode shows Don failing over and over and being caught off guard again and again. Duck is trying to get Peggy and Pete on board with his company, and both of them back off of his offer. Although Peggy ends up taking Duck up on another offer.
Souvenir (3.8) Don and Betty take a vacation to Rome, and it’s fantastic to see Betty all dressed up and speaking some Italian. Seeing Betty like this does give Don some passion and their marriage ends up being reinvigorated. But this ends up being a brief passion as Betty then gives Don the cold shoulder once they return home. The best moment of the episode comes when and gives her daughter some facts of life advise.
Wee Small Hours (3.9) We see Salvatore get fired over a client from Lucky Strike hitting on him. It’s very sad to see, and hard way for Sal to end his run on the show. Don gets a stack of problem (again) with firing Sal, dealing with the rejection of Hilton and still having issues with Roger. It’s very irritating to deal with Hilton rejecting the company’s fantastic add.
The Color Blue (3.10) Don has an odd exchange with his mistress’es brother, and gives him a ride. There’s a certain part of Don that sees his own brother in this man, and it shows in his face. But he still doesn’t follow through on his promise to this man and lies to his sister as well. Betty decides to sneak into Don’s desk and unravel the secrets in his life. Sterling Cooper turns 40 years old, and Don ends up getting some sort of reward at the end of the episode.
The Gypsy and The Hobo (3.11) Roger and a new client show that they had a romantic relationship on the past, and there’s several scenes that give Roger some great material, and I wish he was in the show more. The main story here is Don being found out by Betty, and Don having to reveal his past to her. It’s a punch in the gut, and it’s so perfectly acted and shot. One of the best episodes of the entire show. Perfect final line too.
The Grown-Ups (3.12) The assassination of JFK has been looming over the entire season, and it’s almost surreal to see how the characters act to this. Having everyone glued to the television over a single event mirrors 9/11. Having all the characters be in such a state of shock over this does open up for the fallout of Betty and Don, and there’s a great shot towards the end with Don in the living room.
Shut The Door, Have a Seat (3.13) Hilton informs Don that Sterling Cooper is being sold. And the rest of the episode shows everyone in the office getting together to try and build a new business. We get flashbacks to Don’s past and showing his father having issues selling his business. The parallel of Don losing his family and his business is perfect, and it closes one door and opens another perfectly for the next season.
I’m on my way to Dallas with some friends for my birthday and I discovered that Hip Hatchet is perfect road trip music.
I’m glad this trip is happening right now because I can still feel the lump in my throat over Roger Ebert passing away. Yes, we all knew he had cancer, and this should have been expected at some point. But that doesn’t make the news any easier.
I was hesitant to write about Ebert because I was at a loss of words, and I still am. I cannot begin to explain how he shaped the way I view film, but also my own critique of music as well. I can easily say that there’s no way I would be writing today if it wasn’t for Ebert and his drive to always write, even in the worst of circumstances.
I have cried twice since hearing about his passing. Things are said about the dead like “there will never be another person like him” but there really will never be another critic like Ebert. Even when his cancer should have got the best of him, he kept on going and building himself into one of the most important writers I can think of. Not only with his film reviews, but also with his Twitter account and remarkably personal blog posts.
Roger Ebert, you will be sorely missed.
“Roger Sterling’s acid trip synched up with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Let’s do this. They might seem like an odd pair, but Pink Floyd and Mad Men share the same crucial themes: Time. Money. Home. Alienation. The passing of youth. The fear of death. And hanging on in quiet desperation, which is the Sterling Cooper way.” - Rob Sheffield on the Pink Floyd/Sterling Cooper connection