Mad Men Season 7 Episode 1 Recap

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Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. First some quick thoughts:

This was a long weekend for me with one event in DC and one event in Philadelphia, and Chris came with me, so I’m not totally sure how coherent this will be. Additionally, it usually takes a few episodes into the season for me to remember how to recap a television show. In any case…

Episode Title: “Time Zones” obviously refers to Ted, Pete, and Megan in California, Bob in Detroit, and everyone else in New York. But also, different times in their life, relationships, work.

Timing of the episode: January, 1969 as evidenced by Richard Nixon’s inauguration. The Super Bowl Freddy mentioned was Super Bowl III. It featured Joe Namath and the Jets, and was played a week earlier.

Overall, everyone seemed unhappy. Roger’s unhappy, Don’s unhappy, Megan’s unhappy, Pete seems happier than we’ve ever seen him (but Ted says he’s unhappy), Peggy’s unhappy, Ken’s unhappy, Joan’s unhappy, and nobody else cares about anything.

Considering how often the opening scene of last season was referenced during the season, we should pay special attention to Freddy’s opener. “It’s not a time piece, it’s a conversation piece.” We’ve heard, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation” a couple times on the show, and the two quotes are stuck together in my head right now. Maybe the passage of time will be a key theme this season, maybe I’m too tired to make sense of anything? It was 8 minutes until Don’s first scene (a musical montage!), which likely didn’t mean anything thematically.

I kept trying to count the number of the passed out women in Roger’s first scene. At least 5.

Don’s replacement, Lou, is like the kindly, but surly, grandpa of SC&P. He says such shitty, mean stuff, but without any emotion behind it. “I think you’re trying to put me in a position of saying ‘I don’t care what you think’.” Peggy is bristling at the new dynamic, and, as it turns out the work being produced. I loved this, “Well, I’m tired of fighting for everything to be better. You’re all a bunch of hacks who are perfectly happy with shit. Nobody cares about anything. No one wants things to be better? I got it, I’ll just stand out here all by myself.” That’s a very, very, Don Draper thing to say. Peggy breaking down at the end was her feeling totally alone, probably about as much on a personal level as a professional level. Ted was professional and personal and he left, and Don was professional and he’s not around.

It’s been two months since the end of last season, and Don hasn’t told Megan about getting the boot from SC&P. He’s going to have to work on that relationship. The morning after Don gets to California, Megan drops a Playboy on his chest. I wondered if she was sending a hint she didn’t want to be intimate.

Ken pulls Joan into a meeting with a 14 year-old shoe executive who wants to fire SC&P. Joan goes to speak with a business school professor for ammunition on how to respond. I got the sense she’s done this before, but not with this professor. I wonder if Joan will step more into an account executive role. Remember last season when Joan was managing a client a bit?

Pete Campbell is going bananas in California. “The city’s flat and ugly, and the air is brown, but I love the vibrations.” This should be a lot of fun.

Both Roger and his daughter appear to be going on the same journey of exploration, but they’re taking different paths. The scene with Roger coming home drunk to his new lover felt very important. He’s tired, exhausted of this life. I wasn’t sure if he was tired of the bohemian lifestyle, or of life in general.

“Blame Madison Avenue for that.” This was the second or third subtle to not-so-subtle dig at advertising in the episode.

“She knows I’m a terrible husband.” “Well if she doesn’t know, you should keep it that way. That’s what people do.” “Have I broken the vessel?” “What can you do about it, it’s done.” Don flew home from California with the ghost of Don Drapers past. It looked like Don was going to go home with the mysterious airplane beauty, but he had to work.

At first you think Don’s lying to himself AND Megan, until Freddy comes over with sandwiches and it becomes clear Don’s been sending Freddy around with Don’s pitches. For me, it completely changed how I saw Don in this episode. Less pathetic, more driven, producing work again, good work. I wonder how long he’ll be in the shadows for. “I been there, you don’t want to be damaged goods.” Maybe he’s less unhappy than I thought.

Final song: You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Vanilla Fudge

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 1 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 4 Recap

Mad Men art

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Guess the baby never wants to come out, because it’s still not here.

-We’re in March, 1968 with the announcement of Robert Kennedy’s campaign, the announcement of Johnson’s non-campaign (cute moment between Roger and Bert), and an NYU student protest against Dow Chemical recruiters. This pace ties with last year with about a month in between each episode.
-We got some Harry Crane and Joan stories in the episode, and neither of them are very happy. Harry continues to feel slighted and jealous of Joan, and Joan, despite her status, still isn’t very respected or well-liked.
-The episode’s title, ‘To Have and To Hold,’ caused me to look closely at different ways marriage was represented in the episode. (‘To Have and To Hold‘ was also the best selling book of 1900, but I defy anyone to read the Wikipedia summary and connect it to this episode.) We saw it in the first scene with Heinz Ketchup Timmy, Dawn’s friend getting married, Megan’s love scene, Megan’s co-workers inviting Don and her to swing, Joan’s friend cheating on her husband. It’s an overall terrible depiction of marriage in the late 60s.
-Right away, there’s double infidelity. Don, Pete, and Timmy from Heinz Ketchup are meeting in Pete’s apartment behind Raymond’s (Sauces, Vinegars, and Beans) back. Timmy used the meeting as an excuse to stay in the city and see a woman, not his wife. He makes this clear by creepily taking his ring off on his way out. “I don’t need much of an excuse to come to Manhattan.” (Also, adults with y sounds at the end of their name are OK as long as it’s not Timmy.) This is also Don being unfaithful to his client, Raymond, and I’m not totally sure how Pete convinced him to change his mind. And then Pete and Don share a special moment with Pete offering up his bachelor pad for Don’s use. It’s like he got a quarter through saying it and realized it was a bad idea, but he couldn’t stop. “Well, it’s available to you if you ever need to spend the night in the city.”
-Don’s secretary, Dawn, went to meet with friend/sister? who is getting married. Dawn’s the maid of honor, but can’t find a date. (Always the bridesmaid, never…) Mad Men’s continued avoidance of race issues in the 60s has been a thorn to many critics. It’ll be interesting to track Dawn this season to see if she’s the only view into this side of the 60s. She also described the life of a non-principal at SCDP, “Women crying in the lady’s room. Men crying in the elevator.” We never really do see how the worker bees live, but tonight at least, Dawn got some good lines. “It sounds like NYE when they empty the garbage.” “I don’t care if everyone hates me here as long as you don’t.”
-Joan has a friend visiting from out of town which gives us a chance to check in on her. Both her friend and mother make much of her title at the firm, but when Joan tries to fire Harry Crane’s secretary, we get an illustration of how much power she really has. SCDP is willing to let her do her thing and manage things as she sees fit, and they were happy to get Jaguar as a client, but they also need to be mindful of what Harry brings to the business. I don’t know if they’ll ever make him a partner, but mostly because Sterling just likes playing with him. I thought the shot of her in the cab while her friend and the manager were making out, replicated almost exactly in the club – Joan set apart, sitting up straight – but then willing to be seduced, oh gosh end this run on sentence. Anyway, that shot made me think of Joan at SCDP. Alone and unhappy, but up for it. Joan’s friend came in from out of town to see what it was like to choose career over family and… “I’m really not you, am I?”
-This episode did focus more on the women characters, Joan, Megan, Dawn. We even got to see Peggy pitch.
-Megan was bound to do a love scene at some point if she continued to get bigger roles, and did you really think Don was going to like it? He starts off gruffly accepting, “If I wasn’t your husband, I would be happy for you.” And then Megan pushes it a little further, “Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it.” Don came to watch the scene, and it wasn’t just a love scene, it was a character betraying his entire family, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but the guy was a cartoonish version of Don. So… Don, a guy playing someone else, was watching his wife playing someone else while she made out with a guy playing him. That’s a lot to take in.
-Besides the obvious and comedic, two things stood out for me in the swinger dinner with Megan’s writer and castmate. Don’s been an actor his entire life and he’s now married to an actor and here is at dinner with some. “I could cast you.” “I’m sure he’s a man that plays many roles.” The second quotation is just one of what is basically a weekly reminder of how Don is not who he says he is. The second part that stood out was Don saying he was agains the war. I’m not sure if it was just the company he was in or he actually believes that, but I’m not sure how prevalent that opinion was among the NYC businessmen of the late 60s. Not sure how many of them smoke dope in a room with tinfoil on the windows, either, though.
-Harry Crane’s office is ridiculous, but at lease he has the window he coveted for so long. For what it’s worth, his $22K salary in 1968 has the 2013 spending power of $149,003.60. Thus making his bonus worth another $150K or so. Not bad, Harry. Harry continues to have a giant chip on his shoulder, and I’m of two minds. Either it’s unwarranted because he’s not good at his job, or we just don’t see how successful he really is because of how the character is written. I’m going to go with unwarranted based on how SCDP treats him. They give him enough to keep him wanting more. “I was different than you, Mr. Crane, in every way.” “Should we fire him before he cashes that check.”
-The pitches to Heinz. It’s clear Don’s ideas only work on certain clients and others either need more coaxing, or something else to convince them. For their pitch to work, Timmy from Heinz would have had to be more confident in his brand. Interestingly, Peggy’s pitch gave him everything he said was missing from SCDP’s – the bottle, etc – and neither of them got the account. So it seems Timmy just wanted to be wooed. [Update: J. Walter Thompson ended up with the account, which wasn’t quite clear]. Peggy intro’d her pitch, “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation” the same way Don discussed his idea with the Madison Square Garden team in Season 3 Episode 2. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
-There was a neat parallel in Don’s pitch, using a customer’s imagination to sell ketchup, and when he went to the set to watch Megan’s scene to avoid having his imagination run wild. “If you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.” Megan did get into that space and it wasn’t sitting well with Don. “You kiss people for money, you know who else does that?” Another prostitution reference that was maybe supposed to go in last week’s episode.
-Mrs. Rosen is praying Don finds peace and I’m too tired to think about it.

What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 4 Recap

Super Precious Art Gallery 20th Century American Authors show

Last week we put up the artwork for the latest Super Precious Art Gallery show, the theme was 20th Century American Authors. I think this might be our best show yet, which I will likely say every month, but the art is great. There are posters inspired by Orwell, Gibson, Steinbeck, Salinger, Vonnegut, and of course, Bukowski. The show has been getting some good feedback and was picked up by The Millions, Flavorwire, ShortList, and Exp.lore.

I’d really appreciate if you signed yourself up for the Super Precious email list, which gets a message about once every 6 weeks.

Below are ‘Destruction of Words by Vaughn Fender, and “Vonnegut” by Jon Defreest.


Super Precious Art Gallery 20th Century American Authors show

Two Awesome Local T Shirt Companies

1. Print Brigade, or PRBR, has got just what you need for your body. That is, if you like wearing good looking T Shirts. (If you don’t believe me because they’re friends, would you believe Thrillist?)
I Like To Ride Bikes

2. Family Dinner for One, or FDF1, has got just what you need for your body. That is, if you like wearing good looking T Shirts. (If you don’t believe me because they’re acquaintances, would you believe The Boston Globe?)

Both places have several designs, so if you don’t like bicycles or kittens, you can still have fun.

Two Awesome Local T Shirt Companies