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Cable Television Recap: Mad Men, Season Four, Episode 2: "Christmas Comes But Once A Year"

"Christmas Comes But Once A Year"
Written by Tracy McMillan and Matthew Weiner
Directed by Michael Uppendahl

Finally! Brigitte and I have another episode of television to our traditional Christmas Eve TV playlist! We usually start with a little Christmakkuh episode from The OC, move on to some Charlie Brown Christmas, and now can top it off with a little bit of Don Draper making his secretary feel like a whore after sleeping with her the night of the Christmas party and handing her her Christmas bonus the morning after! At least it also featured Joan leading a Conga line through the office. But still...nobody does repressed urges, misguided emotional outbursts, and sad children better than Mad Men!

Last night's episode description for "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" read: "A last minute visitor threatens to spoil the agency's Christmas party."Showrunner Matthew Weiner's aversion to allowing any details of episodes of Mad Men to appear to the general public is now well-documented (especially in the hubbub surrounding some of the recent controvsery over supposedly overly-spoiler-filled reviews from the New York Times, which has led Weiner to announce he will no longer send future episodes of Mad Men to critics to watch before they come on the air.) So, we all had to guess who the last minute visitor was who was going to spoil the agency's Christmas party.

At first, Brigitte predicted it would be Santa Claus. We figured that was almost correct when Roger proposed that the now-returned Fred (he of the alcoholic and pants-peeing tendencies in the second season) be St. Nick at the impromptu Christmas party Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was to throw in an effort to keep their biggest client Lucky Strike happy(*). That wasn't quite correct, but eventually Roger himself threw on the Santa outfit at Lee Garner, Jr. of Lucky Strike's power-struggle-inducing suggestion(**).

(*)Now, if that's not a premise from an episode of Frasier, I don't know what is. I can imagine Frasier trying to goad Niles into playing Santa Claus at the station Christmas party that he throws in an effort to impress a woman he admires, and Niles has hemorrhoids so when people sit on his lap it is very painful, and somehow Marty, Daphne and Roz get pushed into being Santa's elves. Brigitte, work on it as some Frasier fan-fiction right away!

(**)Actually, Roger as Santa was enough of a sitcom in itself to work as a laff-factory. Harry sitting on his lap and whispering "Sorry, sorry, sorry" was something I would definitely see myself doing at an awkward work party.

We had an awful lot more of Peggy this week, too, as we were thrown a bit more into her erstwhile relationship with a new putzy guy named Mark (hey now!) who is putzy in the same way Pete is putzy, but Peggy is so much changed since the first season. In bed, Mark calls her old-fashioned because she won't put out for him; he hilariously and sadly assumes that she's a virgin, and she knowingly tells him that she is, indeed, not old-fashioned, at all. The next morning at the office, Fred pitches some ad ideas to her in a condescending, sexist kind of way, and she unleashes a diatribe about how he's behind the times, how he's old-fashioned. Another subtle and great character moment on Mad Men.

We mostly shove Betty and Henry aside this week to focus on Sally; poor, stifled Sally. She started getting creepy calls from Glen, the boy down the street with whom Betty had a really weirdly codependent relationship with in the first season. I marveled at the fact that Sally, now a year older and a year more wise, yet still a child, mostly imitated the same mannerisms of her mother (her horrible, horrible mother) Betty. At this point, she's realized that her home without her similarly emotionally distant yet more gentle papa Don is a home at which she is miserable. So when Glen and friends break into the Draper house to vandalize it (and by vandalize, I mean, throw eggs and cereal everywhere, to which Henry correctly guesses that it was done by children) but leave Sally's room alone, she wistfully looks out the curtain in the way that characters do on Mad Men.

But the biggest character developments this week came near the end, with a progressively-untethered Don Draper drunk (again!), asking his nice secretary Allison to bring his keys back home that he left on the floor of his office. And, like he frequently does, because he craves that attention (and, possibly, as the "Previously on Mad Men" reminded us of, because kids used to call him "Whore's Son" back when he was Dick Whitman), he sleeps with her. And, totally unsurprisingly yet still shocking and heartbreaking, Allison, assuming he was going to make her his girlfriend, gets her heart broken by Don when he hands her a card filled with two $50 bills and makes no mention of the fact that he used her like a piece of meat. She quickly shot in a piece of paper into her typewriter and rapidly typed something out (hopefully a resignation letter, but probably just work that she was doing.)

All in all, like most second episodes of most seasons, this episode got some plots moving, but like Mad Men is so damn good at doing, just made us feel a part of the Mad Men universe. Whether the plots that seem to be set up will go to interesting places remains to be seen (but they probably will), but things are definitely developing.

Memorable quotes:
  • "Every time I turn around a corner, I keep thinking I'm gonna see my dad," says Sally. "You're not gonna. Especially now that (your mom is) doing it with someone else," hilariously/sadly noted by weird Glen. Mad Men is so good at making lines simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious.
  • "I love Mad Men and not working!" -Brigitte, on watching Mad Men and having a month off between ending her day job and beginning her Ph.D. program in the fall (congrats, Brigitte!) Side note: at first, I thought she said "networking."

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  1. Blogger Sean | 2:57 PM |  

    I hate Glen. I hope he dies for some reason. I just hate his stupid face.

    Everybody else on the show is great. I'm stoked for more season four.

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