Mad Men Episode 402 “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”

Just as Roger’s new office design is a facade that is not representative of the real Roger Sterling, so was everything in this episode.

It was all a facade, anchored by the “fake” Christmas party thrown expressly to quell the appetites of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s number one client, Lee Garner Jr. Well, one appetite: his giant ego and its need for incessant stroking. (His other appetite: men, was nowhere to be found, although I couldn’t help but wonder if Joan knows he’s gay by her remark to Roger that she was definitely not what Lee wanted at a previous party. But how great is it to see the return of Roger’s sexual banter with Joan? Complete with ol’ Rog leering at her bosom.)

It was sickening to see the level of fawning the office mates were reduced to, with the most pathetic moment coming when Roger was forced to not only dress as Santa but be photographed by Lee with Pete and Harry on his knee. Although it wasn’t all a bummer; we got Joan’s elaborate gyrations in the Conga line straight out of one of those Dinner n’ Strippers clubs these guys like to frequent. I think she pioneered the use of about 10 new body parts heretofore unused in the Conga.

The wake of the party spreads wide as Don breaks one of his cardinal rules and sleeps with his secretary Allison. Even his facade of professionalism (drinking like a fish during office hours excluded) is quickly wiping away with this latest act (last week it was throwing clients out of the office). Don can get slapped by as many hookers as he wants in the comfort of his home, but now he’s bringing his problems into the office and his new partners are not going to stand for that for very long. The desperation is beginning to seep through his sharply tailored suits and becomes apparent to pretty much everyone he comes into contact with, even his young neighbor with the Margaret Keane eyes and the attractive female psych doctor who feels insulted that Don ran out on her personality test. But she gets back at him with a couple of quips. Firstly, that he shouldn’t worry because he’ll “be married in another year,” then she really nails him with the zinger, “I’m sorry, I always forget. Nobody wants to think they’re a type.” In fact, Don doesn’t want anybody to think he’s anything other than “the handsome cypher.” He depends on it. But something tells me that this season will be all about pushing him to the point where he MUST reveal his true self, not just to one more character but to…is it possible?…the world.

Interesting to note that this is the first time since the pilot episode that we’ve seen mention of psychic evaluations in the context of advertising.  Remember, that was the very first conflict between Don and Pete when Pete took the research report out of Don’s waste basket and pulled it out in a pitch meeting (the report found that people have a death wish; shades of this suicide theme we see running through the show, more on this in a minute). It’s also interesting to note that the female psych doctor in the pilot was an aging shrew with a sharp German accent and this time, four years later, she’s an attractive young blonde with self-confidence and impressive credentials.

But let’s not forget the return of Freddy Rumsen! I asked actor Joel Murray on the red carpet about Freddy’s potential return and he was coy…

Freddy’s facade of course is that he’s in Alcoholics Anonymous (which was founded in 1935) and so is his contact at Pond’s Cold Cream (who is not Freddy’s fraternity brother, at least not in the traditional sense). Is Freddy his sponsor or is it the other way around? Either way, Freddy immediately calls him after learning that Roger had just enjoyed a gin-soaked lunch with the guy. I hope to see more of Freddy, primarily because he’s an effective foil to bring out aspects of other main characters.

Peggy continues to assert her influence in a man’s world, not only putting Freddy in his place for being old-fashioned but earning Don’s genuine well-wishes with his “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.” This sweetheart wasn’t a condescending one as when she was calling him for bail money but came wrapped in more of a friend/daughter tone. (This makes me see the show ending with Don retiring and passing the mantle to Peggy as Chief Creative Officer in the company.)

Peggy’s big facade in this episode is in letting her boyfriend Mark believe that she’s a virgin. Now there’s a TALL TALE if ever we’ve heard one! How long will she continue this charade? And did Freddy’s words about marriage really touch a chord? His views on chastity certainly didn’t take hold as she jumped into bed with Mark; or was that expressly a reaction to an older man trying to tell her how to act?

Either way, Mark’s a wuss and there’s a curb with his name on it so find it, Peggy, and find it fast. Joey may be a budding Lothario but at least you have the whole “John! Marsha!” going with him (by the way, am I the only one who Googled John and Marcia, not Marsha after the season opener and came up with a big fat nuthin’?)

Touching on the death and suicide theme, suicide has already been mentioned multiple times in these first two episodes of the new season which once again fuels the fire behind the predictors of Don’s eventual death by jumping out the window of a skyscraper, as hinted at in the opening titles sequence . But, for me, it’s more about that overall feeling of dread — impending doom or tragedy that always lurks in the corners of every room and permeates many episodes of the show, including this one as we welcome back everyone’s favorite creepo, Glen. Yes, he’s back! And I had forgot that the actor playing Glen is actually Matthew Weiner’s son.  So is he that creepy in real life? I sure hope not.

But there was that tone again with Glen’s home-invasion: will he burn the house down, slit his wrists, get seriously hurt in an accident or hurt Sally? But just as with so many subplots on The Sopranos (which Matt Weiner wrote for) it didn’t amount to any real damage. But he’s definitely got his sights set on Sally and she seemed to like it once she found that boondoggle key chain dealie on her pillow. So stay tuned for the continuing saga of “children of divorce and the parents who resent them.”

In closing…

It's about time they mentioned The Beatles!

Pondering what I want versus what is expected of me,

-Dan

Boosh!

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2 Comments

Filed under AMC, Mad Men

2 responses to “Mad Men Episode 402 “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”

  1. Bill

    Great summation and analysis Dan!

    I’m sure glad they didn’t run this at true Christmas time … _I_ might have been the one to jump out a window.

    Keep up the great work.

    Bill

  2. Thanks Bill. Do you use wordpress, also?

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