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Mad Men: The Arrangements - Review

"I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow." - Scarlett O'Hara.

I have always thought that Betty had some things in common with the famous title character of "Gone With the Wind" but tonight her father Gene actually made the comparison. Nicely done. In an episode that made me think that the writers of Mad Men finally let their guards down with a purely lighthearted and playful episode they quickly lowered the boom.

"The Arrangements" had lots of humorous situations and a few horrific moments. But isn't that always the case with this show? Who said Mad Men is all about dark drama? Oh, wait. Never mind. The theme of this season is change and there were lots of them on display starting with Peggy's decision to move to Manhattan, Gene's growing fondness of Sally (leading to heartbreak) and Kitty finally figuring out the truth about Sal.

If there was anything to be learned from this show it's that the truth is just as hard to take even when you're right all along. Missed opportunities, clueless clients and a fun time for all marks the fourth episode of this excellent season even though the main storylines hardly moved forward. So stay in this Labor Day weekend as I review the latest episode of Mad Men.

On to this weeks recap and review . . .

It's June 1963 and Gene in his infinite (and senile) wisdom decides it's the right time for little Sally Draper to learn how to drive. Even though there's nothing quite like the sight of a twelve nine year old driving a Lincoln, you have to think that this is the same type of thing he did with Betty. Sally is having the time of her life and you can tell she fully enjoys the attention being lavished on her by good old grand dad.

Pope John XXIII has died and while visiting her family Peggy tells her sister she's decided to move to Manhattan to start the next phase of her single girl in the city master plan.

Pete has brought his old Dartmouth buddy Horace, into the Sterling Cooper den of thieves because "Ho-Ho" as he likes to call him, has stumbled on to the next big thing. Seems that Ho Ho is convinced that Jai Alai will conquer the world and in time will be bigger than baseball. It also seems that having a rich daddy causes some serious self-delusion. As Lane, Kinsey Harry and Sal try to keep from bursting out laughing Ho-Ho very enthusiastically pitches them on the greatness of both the sport and it's biggest star Patchy. He shows his cluelessness the more he speaks and even pitches them the idea of doing a show spanning all three networks at the same time, much like the President's address. Um, okay. During Ho-Ho's naive and unrealistic pitch Pete gives the stink eye to Harry as if to say "just agree and take his money" when in walks Don. When he hears what's going on his internal moral compass registers off the charts and when Lane asks for a million bucks up front the meeting ends. Don may be a liar and a cheat but there is no way that he can take candy from a baby, so to speak. Afterwards, Don tells Lane that Ho-Ho is the son of one of Bert Coopers oldest friends and that taking his money for such a losing prospect could jeopardize the agency. Pete defends Ho-Ho's dream and Lane approves.

Betty is cleaning up for the maid when Gene wants to talk to her about his funeral arrangements. Even though Gene can see the writing on the wall, Scarlett O'Hara Betty can't. He tells her that she's getting her mother's fur coats and sensitive Betty gets upset. He takes the blame for Betty turning out like a spoiled princess and she chastises the stunned Gene for being selfish and morbid. She is Scarlett O'Hara incarnate, that's for sure.

Sal gets his chance to become a commercial director when the guy they hired got a real directing gig. Don makes the decision on his way out the door and Ken and Harry don't think it's a good idea. Sal is happy but as the guys leave he wonders if Don is doing this because he knows Sal is gay. That won't stop him from directing his first musical number though.

Fired up, Peggy puts the following and incredibly drab notice on the Sterling Cooper break room bulletin board:

Working Girl Seeks Roommate
I'm a clean, responsible, considerate person who wants a roommate to share expenses in Manhattan. Allergic to cats but will tolerate dogs. I have some nice furniture and a small television. Serious and financially secure women only, please.
Contact: Margaret Olson, Sterling Cooper, 23rd Floor.

Can't believe she's a copywriter after reading that masterpiece. Funny thing is that I could actually hear her saying this in a conversation. She and Pete would be perfect together, imagine the great monosyllabic and abbreviated conversations they would have!

Don is trying to enjoy his drink and evening paper when Gene comes in with Bobby and an old box. He shows off his Victory medal, speaks like he's still in the service (inappropriately) and gives Bobby a helmet he swiped off a dead Nazi German he killed when he fought in WWI. Don has enough and the testosterone flies around the room. At this point, I found myself thinking when is this old guy gonna go away? Oops, more on that later.

Kitty buys some frilly green lingerie and jumps all over Sal while he's planning the next days shoot. He of course turns her away and then acts out the one-shot beginning of Bye Bye Birdie in an incredibly effeminate way. Great acting on Kitty's part as at first she enjoys his idea and then the blood drains from her face as she slowly realizes she married a gay man. What they've been married a year and now she gets it? I guess rich people aren't the only ones expert at self-delusion. The you-know-what is gonna hit the fan, let me tell you.

The next day, Lane in his eminently backstabbing and sleaze ball way goes to Bert Cooper about Don's concern over taking money from Ho-Ho. Horace Sr. comes in and exhibits so-called tough love by telling the guys to take all his money to teach him a lesson. Bert is happy to take Ho-Ho's 1st million with chance it will turn out to be much, much more.

Kinsey writes some clever copy and gets Lois to prank call Peggy about being her roommate while Harry and Ken laugh hysterically in the background. Peggy is all business even when the call gets increasingly bizarre. It was good to see the guys have a laugh at the uptight Peggy's expense again as they haven't had a chance to have fun in awhile. Ken on the other hand needs to be more serious as the co-head of accounts or Pete is gonna bury him.

In a prophetic scene, Gene and Sally bond as they enjoy some chocolate ice cream in the kitchen away from Betty's watchful eye when he says he smells oranges emanating from the carton. Hint, hint. As soon as he said that I knew he was a goner. He continues to spoil her like a good grandfather does even though he is putting salt on every spoonful. I've heard of putting salt on watermelon, but ice cream? Now that's just weird. Later on Gene drives Sally and Bobby to school and it even more clear how much he adores her when he's kind to her and nasty to Bobby. Typical.

Don and Pete take Ho-Ho out for din din to hear more of crazy Jai Alai ideas and Ho-Ho delivers in a big way. Don goes against Horace Seniors advice and tells him to "reevaluate this particular obsession" to Pete's horror. But there is no stopping this kid as he is bound and determined to make Jai Alai the biggest sport in the world. He mispronounces his way through dinner and even threatens Don in a not so subtle way. It's hard to take this ascot wearing and utterly clueless individual very seriously and you can see the exact moment on Don's face when he decides without any apprehension to take all of this kids money. Very cool.

Peggy finally realizes that she has become the joke of the office because of the ad when Joan comes in to give her advice. It's very clear how different these girls are (if there was even a shred of doubt before) and I secretly wished that Joan would dump the doctor/rapist and be roommies with Peggy. Now that would be fun.

The next day, Pete ambushes Don with the Ho-Ho contract and they go and visit Lane to deliver the good news. Ken, Kinsey, Harry and John Hooker (remember him?) are in Burt Peterson's old office trying to play Jai Alai. Not a very smart move I agree. They talk some smack about the sport when Lane comes in and Don tries to throw the ball to Ken but instead destroys Burt's ant farm. "Bill it to the kid!" Later, Joan brings in a can of Raid to clean up. Why doesn't she get one of her girls to do that?

In a very entertaining scene, Peggy meets her new roommate she got after posting a "Joan-like" ad on a different floor. The new girl is a typical fun-loving sort who hates sailors and is Swedish. As she described all the things she hates in a roommate it was fun to see the looks on Peggy's face. She so desperately wants to fit in and just be a young girl but sadly this can only end in disaster.

It's time for the big reveal of Sal's shot-for-shot rendition of the Ann-Margret opening performance in Bye Bye Birdie to the Patio folks. As they all sit in the dark and watch the ultra painful singing of the Ann-Margret wannabe everyone hates it. The client admits it was their fault and Don agrees. Peggy gives Don the "I told you so" look and Sal is crushed. No one could put their finger on why it was such an epic failure when Roger chimes in "It's not Ann-Margret". Wow, it was bad. This can't be good news for Ken who in his eagerness pushed creative to do what the client wanted. First rule of business is that the client has no idea what they want, not ever.

The playfulness of the episode comes to a screeching halt when Gene doesn't show up to pick up Sally and Bobby from school and later on a policemen comes to the house to deliver the news that Gene passed away at a local store. From a stroke no doubt. Betty nearly faints when she hears the news and Sally cries. Don gets a call from Betty while Sal is in his office owning up to the epic failure of the Patio ad. Don rushes home but first congratulates Sal for now becoming a commercial director. Can't say that Don is surprised by the news of Gene's death though.

Peggy buys her mother a new TV to cushion the blow when she tells her that she has decided to move to Manhattan and to add insult to injury, her mother says very cruelly that she will "get raped" there. Peggy's sister Anita tries to run interference but to no avail. Her mother is downright pissed and refuses to look at her. We know Peggy is her favorite but would it have killed her to be slightly understanding and somewhat compassionate? My God, she was mean.

Don and Betty sit in the kitchen with her brother William and Judy discussing that he was the 2nd Gene Hofstadt at the bank and that Gene often wondered how he'd be treated in heaven with two wives. They have a good laugh at that and Sally hears it. Of course her being so young and not understanding the subtly of adult grief she goes off. Child actress Kiernan Shipka gives an extremely heart wrenching performance as she tells her parents exactly how she feels, for the very first time in her life. Does Betty the ice woman finally act like a mother and comfort her child? Nope. Not by a long shot. Instead she scolds her and sends her out to watch TV much to the dismay of Don who missed his chance to comfort his heart broken child. What a waste. Simply put, Sally is enraged because A.) No one takes her relationship to her Grandfather seriously and B.) Her feelings are not addressed at all.

The show ends with Don getting up in the middle of the night and starts packing up Gene's room but stops to stare out the window, no doubt thinking of his relationship with his own dad and what kind of father he really is. Heady stuff.

Random Thoughts . . .

Love, love, love the fact Gene let Sally drive his car. Reminds me of my youth. Enough said.

Had no idea that Peggy had commuted two hours a day every week. Wow, that sucks. Did I somehow miss that her real name is Margaret?

How lame is it that Pete and his college buddies have stupid little nicknames. Ho-Ho? Pete's nickname is Humps? How can Ho-Ho be so damn clueless? Didn't he go to Dartmouth? He would've had to go to class some of the time, right? It was kinda cool to see such an idiot client though as I'm sure it happens more often than not in the ad business.

Jai Alai? Bigger than baseball? Seriously? I did think it was pretty funny that Ho-Ho had a magazine from Miami promoting it. Of course we have the luxury of looking back at history and that Jai Alai never really made it out of Florida. It's biggest claim to fame was the opening credits of "Miami Vice."

I'm not sure the reason why Don went downstairs to look at a picture of his mom and dad or what triggered it for that matter. Was it the tough love from Horace Sr.? Or was it Gene's relationship with Sally? It's obvious that Don had issues with his father so it could be that all of the ways different fathers handle things got him thinking of his own dad and his parenting skills.

Again, how the hell couldn't Kitty know that her husband of well over a year is gay? Forget Ho-Ho, Kitty is supremely delusional. The look on her face when she realized it was priceless though. So there is that.

How could Peggy write the worst ad for a roommate ever? I thought she had some talent. What gives?

Peggy's new roomie is played by actress Carl Gallo who recently played a porn star on Showtime's "Californication". She has the look of a late 50's early 60's girl so it's perfect casting. Just saying. That initial conversation was a classic comedy homage. Awesome.

What's with the obvious telegraphing of Gene's death? It was handled with all the subtly of a lead balloon. Smells like oranges to me.

Did anyone notice the bad direction in Sal's ad? Besides the girl shrieking she looked confused at the beginning. While it's true that Ann-Margret's rendition was intentionally bad (No, I didn't think she actually sounded like that) she did have that incredible sexuality that the girl they used did not. Bad idea from the start. Ken should be demoted immediately.

Kinda weird that Roger was only in one scene this week. Gotta have more Roger!

Best Exchange:
Karen: "There are so many interesting men out there - - except sailors. I have a couple of rules: One of them is I don't like sailors.
Peggy: "No sailors, I agree."
Karen: "So, Peggy Olson, I have to ask. Are you Swedish? Because I am."
Peggy: "Norwegian."
Karen: "Well, we won't tell my parents."

Next Best Exchange:
Ho-Ho: "Now let's get one thing straight. If Jai Alai fails, it's your fault. I'm sorry but that's the way it is."
Pete: "Don't apologize. Everybody thinks that, nobody says it."

Best Lines:
"I'm terrified of him catching balls in the face." - Ho-Ho.

"You don't want to hear about it. Scarlett O'Hara." - Gene to Betty.

"I don't understand why you like talking about this when you can see so clearly that it upsets me. Selfish and morbid. I'm your little girl and I know it must be horrible to be looking at whatever you're looking at, but can't you keep it to yourself?" - Betty to Gene.

"You know something? You're a jerk!"
- Peggy to the prank caller.

"If this were me, I would say something like: Fun-loving girl, responsible sometimes. Likes to laugh, lives to love seeks size six for city living and general galavanting. No dull moments or dull men tolerated. Or something like that!" - Joan to Peggy.

"Must be horrible having a client insist on something and then change their mind once they've seen it. I hope it never happens to me." - Don to Sal.

Overall, I give this episode 4.8 Lucky Strikes out of 5 for it's incredibly funny situations and dialogue. It narrowly missed a perfect score because of the obviousness of Gene's impending death. It really showed that the one thing not handled very well in the Mad Men universe is death. I did really like the adeptness of the comedy situations. This cast can do comedy very well and I'd like to see them do it more often. Not that show lends itself to that but I dare to dream. Right?

Feel free to leave some comments and thoughts in between your Labor Day festivities and in the meantime enjoy this sneak preview of next weeks episode when Don comes face to face with Sally's hot teacher. Enjoy!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's episode: "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" or "The Fog" - Betty and Don deal with Sally. Pete pursues a new angle in business. Betty has a strange dream.

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on September 6, 2009 11:27 PM
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