10
Oct
2010
Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 12
Blowing Smoke
Jordan
The first half of this season of Mad Men showed us Don Draper at rock bottom. The back half of it is showing us SCDP at rock bottom And thank God that Don went through what he did earlier this season, because he is back in full force just in time for his firm to need him most. Yet his demons are still haunting him. The liquor is still flowing, and the past comes back to remind him of his prior sins, in the form of Midge.

We last left Midge living the bohemian life in the village in 1960. When she returns, its to shake Don down for heroin money, under the guise of selling hi ma painting, to feed her heroin addiction. As she puts it, her husband "said it would help me take my mind off of work. And that is a full time job." Midge's addiction mirrors Don's of course, but more importantly, his experience with her shows him how far he has to fall, and inspires him to do some quitting of his own. Not alcohol, of course (that's a much more difficult beast to tame), but his association with big tobacco. Its not for nothing that the first time we saw Midge, back in the pilot, Don was trying to figure out how to pitch to Lucky Strike. Its also not for nothing that that episode was called "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and now, five years later, we get "Blowing Smoke" where Don finally kicks the habit (business-wise anyway) and strikes out in a bold new direction. Tobacco was big business for advertisers in 1965, and SCDP is taking a bold stance by saying that they don't want a part of that business' hypocrisy, even if it is just for business purposes.

Of course the rest of the company isn't exactly happy with Don's choice. They all think he's pretty much shot the company in the head, but as he tells them, "If you don't understand what I did, you shouldn't be in this business." We know that Don will get the last laugh here, but its interesting to watch everyone panick at his revolutionary strategy. Bert automatically resigns, which seems sad until you recall that he was not even important enough to warrant an office. And the rest of the partners need to put up serious money to keep the company afloat. Pete is having trouble getting the money together, but Don pays his half, which I'm sure squares the two for Pete having to drop the account a few weeks back, at least in Don's mind. We know that Don thinks money will solve all of his problems, and in this instance, he's probably right.

Finally, poor, poor Sally (which is pretty much how I should always refer to her, just like I always refer to her younger brother as Fuck You, New Bobby) got her heart broken by Betty again, and had her tenuous relationship with Glenn torn away from her by her mother's wrath and fury. Betty not only humiliates her directly ,but also tells Henry its time for the family to move, tearing Sally away from literally everything she has (and potentially even Dr. Edna). Sally and Dr. Edna have formed a strong connection, with the former recognizing the latter's insight and intelligence, and the latter providing exactly what Sally has needed her whole life: Someone to say "I'm proud of you" which Edna does tonight. Sally brushes it off like its nothing, but Edna knows better. This is a girl who needs someone, somewhere to validate her as something other than just a burden or a screw up. And in Edna's brief conversation with Betty, she suggests that perhaps betty should seek the help of a professional psychiatrist. In a moment that's almost too perfectly telling, Betty sullenly asks, "Why can't I talk to you?" and Dr. Edna patiently replies, "Betty, you can talk to me. But, as you know, I'm a child psychologist." Of course Betty knows that, but as Dr. Edna can clearly tell, that's really exactly what Betty needs, and Betty none too subtly refuses to seek other help and pushes to stay with Dr. Edna.

This week gave us a lot to ponder, and made me even more excited for what will happen next week. Don is back on top of his game, both at work and in his relationship with Faye (who he should really just marry already), but his firm is in serious trouble. And they need an idea man of Don's quality to pull them out of it.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-Sorry if the insight is a little lacking this week. Time is not on my side at the moment. Also, I'll apologize, but my coverage of Boardwalk Empire just isn't happening right now. Better luck next season. The first year of law school isn't hard, right?

-Sally doesn't believe in Heaven. "When I think about forever I get upset," she says, and describes this frustration using the Land O' Lakes logo, just like dear old Dad would.

-Watching Don shil for Heinz' business, and fail, was a little heart rending, and a whole lot of desperate.

-"Food is cyclical." Yeah, ok. I bet next week I'll want baked beans instead of ketchup.

-Another great moment was Don calling the waiter back once the Heinz guy left. We didn't need to see Don take the drink. We knew it was coming.

-"You are forbidden from giving more to that company." "You don't get to forbid me!" Backbone Trudy! And bitter, childish, misogynistic retort, Pete!

-"Little mix up there. It was Eunice Kennedy."

-"I'm no longer part of this agency. You there, get my shoes!"

-Nice moment between Peggy and Faye. "You do your job so well. And they respect you. And you don't have to play any games. I didn't know that was possible."

-Notice Sally was still eating with the kids at the end of the episode. Henry had to come to her, she didn't get to move up in the dining hierarchy.

-"Its pretigious." "We can't eat prestige."

-"Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people's names before I fire them."
Tags: Mad Men
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