Monday, September 28, 2009

Mad Men “Seven Twenty Three” Bad Day For Don Draper

Don Draper – Is That Dick Whitman looking back at him?
Photo AMC

Last night’s excellent episode of Mad Men “Seven Twenty Three” speaks to a significant date in the life of Don Draper (Jon Ham). What leads up to it makes it so, and it seems that everyone is compromising themselves to varying degrees during these few days.

The episode was more about Don’s important date. We are given a glimpse of the events leading up to the day, when the show opens with Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) waking up in bed with another man whose face we can’t see; Betty (January Jones) laying on a fainting couch in a beautiful frock; and Don is walking up on the floor of a motel room and he’s been beaten.

Peggy’s days leading up to 7/23 involves getting an expensive Hermes scarf from Duck as an enticement for her to come to work for Grey. Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) also got cigars, but he is sending them back and urges Peggy to do the same with her scarf. Peggy hates that Pete comes into her office and tells Pete he is infecting her with his anxiety. But Pete has good reason to worry as he thinks Duck is just trying to use them to strike back at Don, who helped force Duck out of Sterling Cooper. When Peggy calls Duck to tell him she is returning the gift, he invites her to the hotel where he is meeting with Hermes and tells her to sop by at 6 to meet them. She doesn’t intend to go, but things change when she later finds an excuse to approach Don and brings up the Hilton account he just landed and asks to be involved. He rips her, asking her what else she wants from him, saying she is always in his pocket, adding he resents her pretending to have something for him to sign off on something when she just wants something like a raise or an office. He wounds her even further by saying r there is not one thing that she's done there that he couldn't live without, saying she's good but she needs to focus on getting better and stop asking for things. She comes close to tears, and saying she is sorry, she leaves.

Later, she arrives at Duck’s hotel room, too late to see the Hermes people, but she comes in to have a drink with Duck. But he then comes on to her, and they wind up in bed, and this is the man we saw her waking up in bed with that we saw at the beginning of the episode. One is forced to wonder if Duck really was as attracted to Peggy as he told her, or is this the way he found to get at Peggy so he could get back at Don? I suspect that Duck’s motives have nothing to do with an attraction to Peggy.

Betty’s days start with an interior designer showing her and Don the changes she made to their living room. Late, she has a meeting there with the Junior League, and the issue on the table is a new 3 million gallon water tank that is planned for their area, and they are worried it will ruin the natural beauty of their area and destroy property values. The want to get the Governor’s attention on the matter, and Betty remembers meeting someone from the Governor’s office (she met him at Roger’s party in the episode ”My Old Kentucky Home” ) and they find his full name of Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley), who is an advisor to the governor. She calls his office and he calls right back. She tells him about the issue and they agree to meet at a local diner on Saturday. He seems to be taken with her, and Betty seems to be trying to hide her attraction. He tells her he will look into the matter but makes no promises. When they walk out of the diner Betty says she feels faint, but it is probably her attraction to Henry. When they pass a furniture store, Henry points out a fainting couch and explains that Victorian women used it when they become overwhelmed. Betty, worried that this is a small town, rejects his offer for a walk to her car, and they shake hands instead. Roger later calls under a false premise and spills the news to Betty on an issue with Don’s contract, and she and Don fight about the contract (more on this later). We then find that Betty has purchased the fainting couch and moved it into the living room, to the horror of the interior designer. It seems to me that Betty is getting restless and unhappier with her marriage, and Henry Francis may be just the ticket.

Don’s day is the most complex and ends the worst. He arrives to work late to find the office abuzz as Conrad Hilton (Chelcie Ross) is waiting in his office, sitting in Don’s chair. He lectures Don on Don not having family photos or a bible on his desk. He tells Don he wants him to handle the New York area Hiltons, and his method of contact with Don will stay the same, but he can’t say the same for the lawyers. Of course, since Don has no contract, he is called to meet with Bert Cooper (Robert Morse), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), and Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) where they tell him the lawyers for Hilton insist on Don having a contract. Don pushes back, and seems upset that they are not pushing back with the lawyers for him. They offer him a three-year contract with a signing bonus and tell him to take it home and think about it.

What Don seems to be thinking about at one point is not the contract, but Sally’s teacher Miss Farrell (Abigail Spencer). The kids are all in the park getting ready to see the eclipse of the sun as it skirts the area. Miss Farrell is showing the kids and the dads there how to set up their “camera obscura” which are cardboard boxes they cut out to allow them to view the eclipse safely. When Don strikes up a conversation with Miss Farrell, she assumes he is hitting on her, because she says they all do it. He puts on the innocent act. When she walks off to look at the eclipse with one of the kids, Don stares right at it, the only thing protecting his eyes are his sunglasses

Back at the office, Roger comes in and quizzes Don about the contract, and tells him all they need is a letter of intent. When Don isn’t responsive, Roger leave and asks Don if he simply doesn't want to do it here or just not at all. When Roger leaves, Peggy walks in, and using needing his signature as an excuse to get in to see him, she asks about the Hilton account and this is when Don demeans her. Keep in mind that Don met with some of the account guys earlier and they also brought up the issue, one has to wonder why Don is being so prickly with Peggy – Don’s sexism is coming out.

Roger then makes that phone call to Betty under a false pretense, and then tells her about the contract issue with Don. Betty is annoyed with Roger and hangs up on him. Later, she rips Don about why he didn’t tell her, and he takes the drink he just poured for himself and walks out. While he is driving, drink in hand, he picks up two young hitchhikers who ask to be taken to the nearest motel. They say they are going to Niagara Falls to get married, as they heard a married guy wouldn’t get drafted for Vietnam. Don continues to drink, and they offer Don “reds” – Phenobarbital – and he takes two of them. They arrive at the hotel, and Don parties with them by drinking while the two of them make out. Don hallucinates, seeing his father sitting in the corner of the room with a rocker and his jug of whiskey. When Don seems to get drowsier, they couple wonders why the pills haven’t knocked him out yet, and the guy strikes Don on the head, putting him out cold. Don wakes up on the floor, bloodied, and finds a note from the couple that essentially says they robbed him but left him his car – and one dollar. How nice of them.

When Don walks back to the office, face swollen and with a bandage on his hose, he says he was in a fender bender. When he walks into his office, Bert Cooper is waiting for him, sitting in Don’s chair. He tells Don a story, saying that Sacagawea carried a baby all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and it thought it discovered America, adding that Don has been standing on someone's shoulders. Bert is annoyed with Don, saying that they brought him in and nurtured him like family, and now is time for him to pay them back. Bert pulls out the contract and asks a bombshell of a question: "would you say I know something about you?" Don knows that Bert is on to his real identity of Dick Whitman, so Don answers Bert that he would. Bert uncaps the pen, saying, "then sign" adding, "after all, when it comes down to it, who's really signing this contract anyway?" Don signs, but insists that he doesn't want any more contact with Roger Sterling. The date on the contact is 7/23/1963.

It seems that Peggy is literally sleeping with the enemy. One has to wonder, is she doing this to get her foot in the door with Duck, or can she use what she finds out from him to get the advantage – and Don’s appreciation? Is Betty playing with fire with Henry Francis and will he expect more from her in exchange for his help with the water tower? And now that Don is in to Sterling Cooper for 3 more years, will he feel even more trapped and will his behavior get more erratic? What will the office be like if he refuses to have contact with Roger? And what about the over-controlling Conrad “Connie” Hilton? Will he be the best thing that ever happened to Don, or will he smother Don with his overly conservative, narrow views? And if Bert knows about Dick Whitman, who else knows, and will this come back to haunt Don in the near future? I believe that Don’s days where he could look at the sun with little worry are over. Not only is Conrad Hilton and Bert Cooper sitting in his chair, so is Dick Whitman.

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1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

"It seems that Peggy is literally sleeping with the enemy. One has to wonder, is she doing this to get her foot in the door with Duck, or can she use what she finds out from him to get the advantage – and Don’s appreciation?"

Or perhaps Duck had said the right thing to get her interested in a night of sex? Peggy does have sexual drives like everyone else.