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Mad Men: Love Among the Ruins - Review

Last weeks season premiere of Mad Men answered some questions raised last season but tonight's episode did little to answer any more. If you're looking for neatly tied up (like Kinsey's ascot) storylines than look elsewhere.

This episode exemplifies why this show is the best thing on television. Brilliant acting, timely but not revisionist history and real reactions are trademarks of this show. By touching on actual events the show never fails to amuse by showing the characters reactions and narrow mindedness. In keeping with this seasons theme of change, the emergence of a new way of thinking abounds. We also get to nail down the time frame for this season to a certainty.

Roger is already married to an unseen Jane and is footing the bill for his daughter's marriage. Peggy feels compelled to assert her sexuality after seeing the opening segment of Bye Bye Birdie (which came out in the spring of 1963) and Joan's effortless charm. While Betty is the poster child of "what not to do while pregnant." And what of Don? Don proves once again why he's so successful at what he does. Repeatedly.

On to this weeks recap and review . . .

The episode starts off with co-head of accounts Ken and the gang watching Ann-Margret's shrill singing and Peggy clearly feeling uncomfortable. Seems as though Pepsi wants a frame-by-frame reenactment ad campaign to launch their new Patio diet soda to compete with Diet Rite soda. Peggy bristles at the thought of doing an ad campaign targeting women that is clearly unrealistic and sexist especially after Ken and and Harry are dismissive of her. Nothing ever changes with these guys.

Back at Casa de Draper, Betty looking like Wilma Flintstone, is planning to redecorate and Don takes the opportunity to tell her to eat by saying, "Have some oatmeal, that baby's gonna weigh a pound." This echoes the producers of the show when they told January Jones to gain weight not too long ago.

It's a wonder how Sterling Cooper continues to bring in new business because in a meeting with the developers of the planned Madison Square Garden, Kinsey insults the decision makers causing them to leave upset and bent out of shape by his beatnik attitude. Pete is angry with him and I bet he's jonesing for Peggy to be on his side right about now. Lane calls Roger, Bert and Don into his office to let them know they lost the Campbell Soup account, in England no less. Lane asks why they didn't get a meeting with them and Roger chimes in with "Maybe I should drag Burt Peterson in here and fire him again." Oh, that Roger. This episode is full of classic Rogerisms delivered flawlessly by John Slattery. Betty visits Don at the end of the day to go out to dinner with Lane and his wife and is subjected to some weird ring swinging by Joan that's supposed to determine the sex of the baby. By the way, wasn't that the most amazing blouse Joan has ever worn? I mean wow, Christina Hendricks looked incredibly sexy in that thing which didn't go unnoticed by Roger Sterling.

During their prim and proper dinner with Lane and his snooty and racist misses, Betty gets her years with with Don wrong or was it the other way around? On the ride home Betty completes her trifecta of pregnancy no-no's by lighting up a cigarette after drinking wine during dinner and stressing over her father's condition. She does say she shouldn't go for a long car drive, like that would matter after her other abuses. Ah, the glorious sixties. She tells him that she has arranged for her father to visit because his irritating wife left him which is bound to increase her stress level.

The next morning Roger gets a visit by his daughter Margaret and ex-wife Mona to go over her wedding plans. Makes sense since Roger is paying for the whole thing. This is where we find out that Roger is already married to Jane and that Margaret didn't even bother to go to her his wedding and now doesn't want Jane to come to hers. We also find out the wedding day is set for November 23rd, 1963 which just so happens to be the day after JFK was assassinated. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot.

Lane comes to Don and asks him to clean up the mess that Kinsey made with the vice-president of the proposed Madison Square Garden and wants he and Roger to take them to lunch and save the account. At the restaurant Don is giving Roger a hard time when the MSG vice-president shows up none too pleased. Roger tries his charm to no avail and then Don flashes that silver tongue of his and saves the account with a sincere and persuasive argument. Don hits the nail on the head when he says that New York City is in decay and that MSG is the future. How right he is.

When Betty's father does visit he comes with her brother William, his wife Judy and their kids. Later on William reveals that he wants to send their father to a home and Betty accuses him of just wanting the house. When Don gets home he shows he can handle the father with a well placed military reference but has to endure the brunt of Betty's anger. No matter what he says Betty shows she's got ice water in her veins. He just can't win. She still seems to be punishing him but what she's really doing is pushing him into the arms of other women.

We get a quick shot of Peggy at home still thinking of what the Patio ad will look like when she launches into the Bye Bye Birdie song into the mirror. She's no Ann-Margaret but at least she doesn't sound as shrill.

Back at Sterling Cooper Don is brainstorming ideas for the new MSG campaign when Lane comes in and says the head office in London wants to turn down the project. Don pleads his case admirably but Lane's hands are tied which makes him very upset. We find out that not only does Lane not know why they bought the ad agency but that he's not even the one calling the shots. Peggy comes in with the Patio soda ad and mentions Bye, Bye Birdie which Don hasn't seen, much to her surprise. Peggy expresses her disdain about the direction of the campaign and Don references last weeks Betty line by saying "Leave some tools in your toolbox". Nicely done. At the end of the day Roger solicits Peggy's advice in the elevator about his daughters marriage and doesn't quite get the answer he was looking for.

On her way home Peggy decides to stop at local bar where she effortlessly picks up a young college guy and learns that nothing really changes when she tells him where she works and he responds by saying that "I don't know how all you girls do all that typing." After her initial shock at that statement she asserts her sexuality and goes back to the young guys house to do the nasty. Having already been pregnant, she shows some responsibility by asking if he's got a condom. He doesn't but they have sex anyway. Big mistake. Afterwards, Peggy shows who's in control by leaving him in the middle of the night. This may be a new version of Peggy, one who is confident in her own sexuality just like Joan. Uh, oh.

When Don gets home to day number two of the father experiment, Betty tells him that William is bullying her into putting their dad into a home or by him moving in with him so Judy can be his nurse. Don's had enough and tells William what he's going to do. He scarily tells him that he will continue to support him financially and that Gene will live with them. Scared of Don, William shows what a wuss he is and relents. When they tell their father he gets pretty upset. In the middle of the night good ole dad is confused and they see him pouring all the alcohol down the drain thinking that it's prohibition. All Betty can do is walk away. Oh Don, what kind of mess have you gotten them into?

Don and Betty attend his daughters spring dance and instead of watching his daughter dance around all he can do is fix his stare on his daughters teacher. In slo-mo no less. You can't really blame him as she represents the joy of youth, something that Betty lost a long time ago. The episode ends the next work day when Don comes into the office and stares at Peggy which undoubtedly reminds him of the same thing.

Random Thoughts . . .

The one big unresolved question lingering over all our heads continues to be; what happened to Duck Phillips? I've heard lots of theories like he killed himself because he was brandishing a shotgun in his dark office in last years finale but I'd like to think he's in rehab in London or that he's attending anger management classes. Maybe someday we'll find out.

Who exactly is running Sterling Cooper? It's obvious that Lane is a glorified errand boy. It would be pretty funny if the person in charge of Putnam, Powell and Lowe turned out to be a woman. And where was John Hooker this week? Did he burn through all the secretaries already?

Don's clearly got some ill-feelings toward Roger because of the handling of the Jane romance and is not shy in letting him know it. I'd love for them to get into an all out brawl. Wouldn't you?

I'm not sure but I think that Melba toast is also bad for pregnant women in which case Betty mights as well take long car trips. It couldn't hurt at this point. The way she's going the baby is gonna come out with three arms and an oversized head. Any mothers out there want to clear this up?

It's kinda of a bummer we didn't get to see Rogers marriage to Jane as I'm sure it would have been a pretty wild affair.

Seems as though Paul Kinsey is becoming more and more civic-minded which is great but he needs to pick his battles more carefully and not with clients. He also needs to back a winner and not Penn Station vs. Madison Square Garden. You can't stop progress Kinsey! Although I did love the right wing response by the developer when he said, "This is the greatest city in the world. If you don't like it, leave".

Seems that come July 1st is when Joan's rapist-doctor-fiance becomes chief resident she's gonna get pregnant. That leaves plenty of time for her to rebel against him. She's pretty conflicted since she can't wait to get away from Sterling Cooper. I can't wait until we get into the Joan storyline.

Even though creator Matthew Weiner has said that they won't do a JFK assassination episode, it was a nice touch to allude to it by scheduling Margaret's wedding for the next day.

The Patio diet soda was the last straw for Peggy and her near invisibility to the guys at work. Soon she's gonna start dressing like Joan. The guys will pay attention then. It was pretty funny how she picked up the nerdiest guy in the whole place to take home.

Betty continues to show herself to be a vindictive child. Don's bullying of William was not over compassion for her but it was to make his life a little more tolerable and give her a shiny thing to play with.

Hearing Ann-Margret screeching twice in this episode was very painful and in no way shape or form makes me want to see that movie, ever. Enough said.

Best Exchanges:
Peggy: "I understand why you like this but it's not for you. I'm the one who would be buying Patio.
Harry: "You're not fat anymore."
Peggy: "Thank you."

Gene: "Thanks for the ritzy accommodations."
Don: "You're an Army man Gene, drop your socks . . . and grab something."

Best Lines:
"Ever get three sheets to the wind and try that thing on?" Roger pointing to Lane's suit of armor.

"Have some oatmeal, that baby's gonna weigh a pound." Don to Betty.

"My great, great grandfather Silas Dykeman would have turned his boat around if he had known that the city one day would be filled with cry babies." Pete Campbell.

"What else do you have to do today? What else do you have to do all week?" Don to Roger.

Overall, I give this episode a solid 4.5 Lucky Strikes out of 5 because of the great structure, writing, acting etc. It lost a half a point for showing the Ann-Margret song twice!

I'm very excited about this season but am especially looking forward to see the continued evolution of Peggy and the demise of Sterling Cooper. C'mon you know it's coming! Feel free to leave any comments below and to start a discussion. In the meantime check out a sneak peak of next weeks episode. Enjoy!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's episode: "My Old Kentucky Home" - Funny lines will abound when the writers fight off boredom when they are forced to work after hours. Roger hosts a party while Joan and Greg host a party of their own. Sally has a run in with Grandpa. Should be a good one!

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on August 23, 2009 11:18 PM
Permalink |

i think it was campbell holding his bb gun at the end of last season, not duck with a shotgun

-- Posted by: casey at August 24, 2009 8:53 AM

It was Pete Campbell holding the rifle at the end of last season, not Duck. Peggy and the dude "did other things" but did not have intercourse! Plus why would Melba toast be bad for a pregnancy? In fact, it is used to combat nausea.

-- Posted by: Rob at August 24, 2009 9:23 AM

Wasn't John Hooker heard over the speaker alerting Lane of his next guest's arrival?

-- Posted by: SydneyBristow at August 24, 2009 9:32 AM

"We get a quick shot of Peggy at home still thinking of what the Patio ad will look like when she launches into the Bye Bye Birdie song into the mirror. She's no Ann-Margaret but at least she doesn't sound as shrill."

Did you honestly believe that was Ann-Margret's normal singing voice?

-- Posted by: Rosie at August 27, 2009 4:56 PM

Casey & Rob: I know it was Pete last year with the shotgun. I was just saying there was crazy theories floating around. I just wasn't clear enough.

Sydney: It was John on the phone but does that really count? Talk about phoning in your performance!

Rosie: No, I don't think that was actually Ann-Margret's voice. She was very talented and that was bad on purpose. It was shrill and irritating by design!

Thanks all for reading and posting!

-- Posted by: Janaki at August 30, 2009 12:00 AM

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