Arts & Culture

Jews Watching Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 1

Season four of Mad Men has begun.  To many, the show is the best example of how television has changed for the better, and for us at Jewcy HQ, it’s become something of an obsession we need to review on … Read More

By / July 26, 2010

Season four of Mad Men has begun.  To many, the show is the best example of how television has changed for the better, and for us at Jewcy HQ, it’s become something of an obsession we need to review on a weekly basis.

Things open up with another moment in the ever-evolving world of Don Draper as he sits with a newspaper reporter who’s doing a story on the new firm, Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Campbell.  "Public relations," is the name of the game and just so happens also the name of this particular episode of Mad Men.  Spinning the  narrative and cultivating an image, it’s the kind of thing that Don never had to worry about as the up and coming hot shot at an established advertising outfit.  But now, dealing with it is one of the many concessions he’s been forced to make as a result of his choices.  The Don we once knew worked at Sterling Cooper, a renowned ad firm, with no binding contract.  He was free.  Don did whatever he wanted because he was unflappable, always able come up with an idea that saved the account.  He could also do who ever he wanted.  His wife Betty played the roll of perfect housewife at first obediently, but quickly unraveled by the end of season 1.  Now, they are divorcing, Betty in Don’s house with Henry, the silver fox that stole her away.  In the tradition of the show, the season begins a few years after the last one ended.  A walk through the new office building shows that the new firm that Don started along with Roger, Pete, Burt and the British guy Lane, played by Jared Harris who was the Russian in "Happiness," is doing well.  At the end of last season they were working out of an apartment, now they have two floors and a sign, but they’re still no Sterling Cooper, a point they continue to drive home with a scene in which Don tries to win the account of bathing suit company that turns out to be a sort of Cattle Call.

"Every hour of my time has to be accounted for," Don demands.  "Get me in a room where I have a chance."

The old Don wouldn’t have been so peeved about the cattle call.  He would’ve simply walked into the room and wooed the bathing suit people, maybe sleep with one of their wives.  We follow Don to the apartment he’s living in where he continues this new-Don behavior by yelling at the maid for not re-arranging his stuff.  The old Don didn’t yell at the maid, he was too salt-of-the-earth for that.

Meanwhile Peggy and Pete are trying to save a ham company gone astray.  Sugarbaby Hams have been wasting their money by advertising in Jewish neighborhoods, so Pete and Peggy develop an idea to give them a boost before Thanksgiving.  They hire two actresses to fight over a ham at the grocery store.  Here we see not only the inception of the PR stunt, but a renewed chemistry between married Pete, and Peggy who had his illegitimate baby.  When the ham stunt spins out of control and one of the actresses presses charges, Don yells at Peggy, and as always, Peggy subtly puts him in his place.

Roger Sterling convinces Don to go on a date with his young wife’s friend Jane.  Roger convinces an apprehensive Don with this little chestnut.

"See her this weekend.  If you hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her." 

They hit it off, and make out, but when she pops the question about Thanksgiving, Don declines, we assume in favor of seeing his kids.

Not so, the kids are having dinner with their mom and their new dad’s family.  It’s an awkward and terrible meal.  Nobody seems to approve of Henry and Betty’s union, not the parents and not the kids, which Sally shows by spitting out her sweet potatoes.  Don on the other hand, spends his thanksgiving with a prostitute.  A scene best represented by this bit of dialogue.

 

Hooker: Stop telling me what to do.  I know what you want.

Don: So do it.

Hooker: [Slap]

Don: Harder

 

The emotional apex of the episode comes when Henry, Don and Betty, square off.  Betty still living in Don’s house, sleeping with Henry is another, if not the biggest element of Don’s life that’s out of his control.  When Henry refuses to leave the room to let them talk, the old Don may have socked him one.  The new Don tells Betts to move out or start paying rent.

When the newspaper article comes out, it’s not good.  Public Relations is not working out for Don the way it used to.  The episode ends with Don sitting down with another reporter from the Wall Street journal, determined to get it right.   He turns on the Draper charm, telling the story of how they became the scrappiest, new underdogs in the ad world.  In this scene, he’s old Don again, the best bullshit farmer on Madison Ave.

Mad Men question of the week?  Had Betty become completely unlikable?  Do you want Betty and Don to patch things up?