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Mad Men: Seven Twenty Three - Review

"Stop barging in here and infecting me with your anxiety." - Peggy Olson

Seedy motels, draft dodging drug users, wild sexual liaisons, secret meetings, solar eclipses and threats all took center stage on the latest episode of Mad Men. But wait there's more!

After last weeks Tarantino-esque bloodbath comes "Lost" style flash forwards, minus the sound effects (thankfully!) It seems as though the writers heard the complaints that nothing ever happens on the show and that characters spend long stretches just staring off into space as tonight's show seriously kicked itself into another gear. So much is happening right now that it's getting hard to keep up with the frantic pace. It seems like all the "swept under the rug" emotions these people have experienced over the last two years exploded out into the open, in a major way.

"Seven Twenty Three" made me think of two different but similar things; "Lost" and being lost. No matter how much the characters evolve they are first and foremost lost in their own little worlds to their severe detriment. This is what makes this little AMC drama so damn compelling. Get ready for lots of twists and turns.

On to the review and recap . . .

The episode starts off in the aforementioned "Lost" style with some flash forwards of what's to come but instead of sound effects and the obligatory "48 Hours Earlier" nonsense we see Betty in a frilly dress lounging on a chase lounge, Peggy in bed with a stranger and Don waking up in a seedy hotel room all bloodied and bruised. What?!?!? Back to the present and we see Don getting dressed for work and as he heads downstairs he runs smack in the middle of Betty and her redecorator talking about changes to the living room. Betty not trusting her instincts asks Don for his professional advice on what he thinks. Don literally gives his two-cents and goes to work.

Arriving late as usual, Don is greeted first by Roger in the elevator waxing poetic and then runs smack dab into the peanut gallery waiting outside his office. Conrad Hilton is waiting in his office and the boys are all a flutter. While sitting in his chair, Connie gives him grief for being late and for not having a Bible or family pictures in his office which puts Don on the offensive. Connie is testing him and goes on to tell Don a metaphor for cheating but he's really saying he's gonna give Sterling Cooper and specifically Don his New York Hotel ad business. Don agrees and walks him out of the offices to thunderous applause when he turns back. Who knew you could have a pissing contest while walking?

Looking for something else to do, Betty is replacing Francine as Secretary for the local Junior League. First order of business is to save the water supply by appealing to the Governor. Betty offers up the fact she knows Henry Francis in the Governor's office and is of course recruited to call him. This is the guy she had that electric connection with while pregnant at Roger's Derby party and you can tell by the glint in her eye she's excited to possibly see him again. Uh, oh. Later, Betty calls Henry and leaves a message and literally seconds later he calls her back. She goes into Don's study for some privacy and Bobby hangs up the phone prematurely. Seeing her yell at him for it was very spot on. Henry calls back and she gives him the pitch but he ask to meet her at some cafe. She hesitates (yeah, right) and they make plans to meet on Saturday.

Don is going over the Jai Alai rollout (remember that?) with the team and after it's over Pete asks to be put on the Hilton account. Don quickly puts him in his place as the good father always does. Isn't Pete the co-head of accounts? Why is he so mousy? After leaving Pete storms into Peggy's office right when she's opening the Hermes scarf gift Duck sent her. They argue about Duck's intentions and gossip about Conrad Hilton as she assures him that she won't tell anyone they're being courted. It's like a tennis match between these tow as he insults her and she lobs it right back at him. Listening to their shorthand speech patterns with each other makes me wish even more they will wind up together.

In the first bombshell of the episode, Don is called into Coopers office where Lane and Roger all give Don grief about not telling them that Conrad Hilton is now a potential client. After some fake pleasantries, they lay the law down and off Don a three year contract much to his surprise. Don shoots a nasty look over at Roger and they way he turns away makes you know that he threw Don under the bus. A very surprised Don is upset and tells them he'll think about it.

Flash forward: Looks like Don got beat up pretty bad; and Betty is rubbing herself over her dress. Yowza!

Back in the present, Betty meets up with a very cordial Henry at the bakery cafe and she acts like a little girl as usual. The sexual tension between her and Henry is palpable as he orders apple pie. Henry lays down the foundation of not promising her anything and at the same time telling her not to give up. After their pie, Henry says he's gotta go much to the disappointment of Betty. They leave the cafe just as the eclipse is going on and the eternal child Betty look up at it. He saves her and she feels faint. Her helpless little girl act doesn't stop him from leaving though, for now anyways. They stop and look at an antique chase (fainting couch) lounge in a window, he impresses her with his knowledge of Victorian ladies and he's gone. Betty buys that chase lounge and puts it smacj dab in her living room which makes her decorator very unhappy.

Don is at Sally and Bobby's school where hot teacher Suzanne is showing the kids how to make a Camera Obscura so they can view the eclipse with burning hole into their eye sockets. Francine's husband is complaining as Don listens incredulously. Cue the "Why can't you stare into the eclipse?" line. Suzanne starts chatting with Don and before you the eclipse is even over she calls him a philanderer and says that all men are the same. Don is genuinely surprised and offended at this and gets extremely defensive saying he's different. Keep telling yourself that Don, we won't be fooled!

Flash forward: Peggy wakes up next to a yet unidentified man. The plot thickens . . .

On Monday morning Peggy calls Duck Phillips to tell him she's returning the scarf and he invites over to the Pierre Hotel to return it person. She's at the same time flattered and surprised that Duck wants her to work for him. Hmm.

Roger comes in to see Don to ask him about signing the contract. Roger is a little pissed off at Don and it shows as his comments are dripping with sarcasm. Basically he says if Don signs then he could have his name on the shingle and huffs and puffs on his way out. Peggy comes in under false pretenses of getting Don's sign off on some creative and launches into her request to be put on the Hilton account. Bad timing Peggy! Don goes off on her and as she stutters her intent he almost reduces her to tears as he describes her petty and selfish nature. Even though he's right (as usual) it was still way harsh. Roger goes straight from Don's office to calling Betty to get her to convince him to sign the contract. For once Betty's cold blooded nature works in Don's favor as she tells Roger of and hangs up on him. You go Betty!!! This can't end well for Don and Roger's relationship. Not well at all.

Peggy goes to see Duck at the hotel and he invites her for a professional drink to discuss the opportunity he's offering her. They negotiate and she turns down the job offer and without any warning or indication at all Duck makes a major move on her by getting very descriptive with what he's going to do to her sexually. Seriously?? Next thing you know they are having some down and dirty sex even though Duck is more than slightly creepy when he says; "I love the taste of alcohol on your breath." Ewww. The next morning Peggy is kinda back to her worried self when Duck in all his smarmy charm convinces her to have some morning sex. Double ewww.

When Don gets home Betty tells him out the Roger call. Don is pissed and Betty is upset about Don not signing the contract. They have the first real fight since they got back together (not counting the Gene fight) and he accuses her of being selfish while she wants to know where he'll be in three years. Don storms out of the house to go for a drive with his freshly poured drink in his hand. Sounds like Roger played his last hand of poker with Don. While drinking and driving Don picks up a young couple hitch hiking and finds out that they are heading to Niagara Falls to get married so he can avoid the upcoming Vietnam draft. The conversation turns to drugs and before you know it the "Bonnie and Clyde" youngsters offer Don some Phenobarbital or "Reds" for short and Don takes two with his whiskey. Obviously this won't end well.

After getting stoned and a motel room, Don is dancing with the very young girl as the boy starts getting kinda aggressive with Don and sexually with the girlfriend. Don has a hallucination of his deaqd father who tells him a hillbilly joke but the laughter is short lived as his dad starts insulting Don fo who he is and what he does. Talk about your requisite bad trip. Don starts to pass out as "Clyde" bangs Don on the head. The next morning he's been robbed of his cash and wedding ring but "Bonnie and Clyde" leave the Cadillac. Whew, what a relief!

The next morning Peggy comes to work in her same clothes and look like he's been in an accident (which he conveniently tells everyone) and is greeted by Bert Cooper sitting in his office chair. Cooper lays down the law in a major way by threatening to reveal Don's true identity. Sign the contract or else! Don reluctantly signs the contract and says he doesn't want anymore contact with Roger. Ooh, that's bad. The episode ends with Don coming home all battered and bruised in more ways than one and tells Betty he signed the contract.

Random Thoughts . . .

The triumvirate of Don, Betty and Peggy made lots of people upset in this episode. Tensions were high and I like it! Teflon Don finally got his.

Love those flash forwards. They are now pretty cliche in less talented writers but in the Mad Men universe it works extremely well, as long as it's not overused.

Not even a glimpse of Joan in this episode which is very, very upsetting. Just saying.

While it's obvious that Guy McKendricks is history it would be kinda funny to see him limping around the office maybe with John Hooker running after him . . .

Is it me or does Conrad Hilton remind you of a cross between Howard Hughes and Ross Perot?

Did anyone notice how Betty's eye got bluer when she was with Henry? Either it was great acting or great color correction. Regardless she looked luscious.

Lots and lots of one-liners from Don tonight. Pete, Connie, Peggy, Betty, Roger, Francine's husband and Cooper were the lucky recipients of Don's sarcasm and wrath. Talk about covering your bases.

Don better stop thinking he's invincible. He got very lucky with those hillbillies, it could have turned way more ugly very fast. His father did tell a funny joke though!

Who knew that the tottering old Bert Cooper could be so vicious? Imagine what this guy was like when he was younger. Yikes.

Best Exchanges:

Don: "Have you been here in August? It's a ghost town."
Suzanne: "Where are you going?"
Don: "Oh, we'll be here."
Suzanne: "So, now I know that. Most just come right out and ask if I'm going to be around."
Don: "I was just making conversation. You can change it if you want to."
Suzanne: "You're all the same . . . the drinking, the philandering. They don't know that word."
Don: "Do you want me to leave you alone? Just say so."
Suzanne: "It's hard because this happens a lot."
Don: "Nothing is happening. We're just talking."
Suzanne: "Okay."
Don: "Where I come from schoolteachers especially used to say you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover."
Suzanne: "So you're different huh?"
Don: "Is that impossible?"
Suzanne: "You're all wearing the same shirt."

Betty: "Damn it! What is wrong with you?"
Bobby: "You said to hang up the phone!"
Betty: "After I pick up the phone!"
Phone Rings.
Betty: 'FREEZE!"

Best Lines:

"All you do all day is evaluate objects, I would like the benefit of your eye."
- Betty to Don.

"I told you I don't want them hovering. If I'm late send them away and call them when I get here." - Don to Allison in front of guys.

"Maybe I'm late because I was spending time with my family reading the Bible." Don to Connie.

"Pete, I think you're supposed to bring in the account and I'm supposed to beg to be on it." Don to Pete.

"What do I have to do for you? Peggy tell me. You were my secretary and now you have an office and a job that a lot of full grown men would kill for. Every time I turn around, you got your hand in my pocket. You want a raise, you want this account. Put your nose down and pay attention to your work because there's not one thing that you've done here that I couldn't live without." - Don to Peggy.

"Don is going to do whatever he's going to do. And honestly I find it terribly disrespectful that you would go behind his back." - Betty to Roger.

"I want to take you in that bedroom, lock the door, take your clothes off with my teeth, throw you on the bed and give you a go-around like you've never had." - Duck to Peggy.

"Let me explain something to you about business, since as usual you're turning this into something about yourself. No contract means I have all the power. They want me, but they can't have me."
- Don to Betty.

"After all, when it really comes down to it, who is really signing this contract anyway?" - Cooper to Don.

"I don't want to have any more contact with Roger Sterling."
- Don to Cooper.

Overall, I give this episode a perfect 5 Lucky Strikes out of 5 even though Joan didn't even have a token appearance. I like the fact that Don finally got called out and that Peggy got her some lovin' from someone else besides Pete. John Hamm owned this episode, hands down. Simply put this episode was flat out amazing. Just when I think that Matthew Weiner couldn't top himself he does. This kind of epic storytelling should be sent to the Smithsonian for preservation for future generations. Wow.

Feel free to leave some comments and thoughts about this exceptional episode and in the meantime enjoy this sneak preview of next weeks episode where Pete and the boys are left behind to work in August. Oh, the agony!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's Episode: "Souvenir" - Don takes Betty on a business trip. Pete helps a neighbor in his building. Funny times abound when Pete's involved . . .

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on September 27, 2009 11:17 PM
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