Mad Men: Surprise! Don's 40

Mad Men S05E01/S05E02: "A Little Kiss"

After 17 months jonesing for a Mad Men fix, our first minutes of Season 5 were something of a mildly perverse joke, spent with a group of young ad men we’ve never even seen before. Many stories below, a crowd of predominantly African-American protesters march in support of equal-opportunity hiring. Our only clue as to what year it is a “GOLDWATER ‘68” sign hanging in their window. I could feel my pulse begin to race as questions piled on top of questions: Who are these guys? Where are we? Just how much time has passed between seasons? It’s not until several scenes later, when we see a still-prepubescent Sally Draper stirring from sleep, that I was hit with a sweet wave of relief: Mad Men has indeed moved ahead in time, but nothing so drastic as three years.

Judging from Joan’s baby (yes, she had it, and it’s a healthy boy), we’re no more than six to eight months ahead of where we left off—a rare moment of more time having elapsed between seasons in our own world than in the world of the show. The most jarring change? Don Draper has moved out of his dumpy Greenwich Village walk-up into swanky new uptown digs, replete with a sunken living room and ample balcony space. It’s a recent move, seeing as Sally is still finding her way around it, though all three kids display an ease around Megan that we’ve never seen around any other mother-figure.

Pete, too, has moved into roomier quarters—a full acre in the suburbs. (RIP, giraffe art.) And while he’ll try to deny it to his commuter pal, Pete, now looking a little thicker around the waist, is fighting off a wave of malaise. “There was a time when she wouldn’t leave the house in a robe,” Pete confides about Trudy, his wife. There’s a symmetry in where Pete begins Season 5 to where Don was when Mad Men began: having achieved the career, the family, and the home in the suburbs, yet perpetually nagged by an itch they simply cannot scratch. In Pete’s case, he contemplates a beagle might fill the void. At work, it becomes the quest for a more spacious and impressive office—and thanks to Harry’s big mouth and a pocket full of cash from Roger, at least one of those dreams comes true.

Speaking of the SCDP offices, the walls are still standing, but just barely. Roger is now forced to share Caroline (quickly becoming my favorite supporting character) with Don. Roger came out of Season 4 effectively castrated by the same people who once treated him like a god. Now he has nothing better to do than torment his co-workers and hover over Pete’s girl’s desk in the hopes of crashing future meetings. Has it really come to this, Roger? And yet if the great Roger Sterling risks obsoletion, it’s Bert who seems on the verge of virtual extinction: A little slower of mind and foot, he dawdles out of the boardroom to announce he’s heading to the bathroom, even though the meeting has already been drawn to a close in the hallway. Let’s hope he doesn’t pull an Ida on us mid-season.

And therein is the key to what lies ahead for Season 5—and for lovers of Mad Men, it could prove to be just a little disconcerting. For as the ‘60s roll on, our heroes are too finding themselves cast aside, like last year’s model convection ovens. Case in point is a moment inside Don’s office that verges on blasphemy: As Megan lays out her coupon mockups—as Peggy had feared, she’s been quickly elevated to junior copywriter—Don tries to get a little hanky-panky going, and is softly denied. “Open up that blouse,” her orders her, to which Megan replies, “You’re a dirty old man.” Ouch. Don Draper: Dirty Old Man. And on the eve of his dreaded 40th birthday, no less.

Everywhere in "A Little Kiss," there’s a sense that things have changed, yet it’s hard to put your finger on what. The cues pop in seamlessly, from migrating hemlines to fancier gadgets and appliances to subtle shifts in cast attitudes. Don seems almost blase about his work routine—he’s more focused on getting Megan to open that blouse—while even Peggy, pillar of progressive thinking, seems out of step with the times as she presents her corny “bean ballet” to Heinz. All Heinz wants is something that makes beans seem cool again: “I want the kids in college,” the executive says. “It’s convenient. They have the hot plate, they’re sitting-in … Maybe it’s someone with a picket sign saying, ‘We want beans!’”

The centerpiece of the episode is the surprise party, which had everything short of Peter Sellers in brownface going, "Birdie num-num." While I felt it had pacing problems and ran too long, it did serve in to fill a great number of dangling details. Peggy is still with Abe Drexler, her idealistic journalist boyfriend. Roger is still with Jane, but there are definite signs of trouble in paradise; I’ll be surprised if they are still together four episodes from now. The booze flows, Ken smokes weed, Megan does a downright dirty rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou,” and for a brief moment it seems as though Megan’s attempts at marrying Don’s professional life to his personal life, and both of those to the hip-swinging times, seem like they might actually succeed. Needless to say, however, they don’t, and Megan finally learns what it’s like to get on her man’s notorious bad side. (But the dirty old man would ultimately get his wish, and then some, when the two converge carnally on a filthy floor.)

The threads weave together nicely by episode’s end: Joan’s undermining mom has pointed out the minority employment ad taken out by Roger as a prank, bringing Joan back to the office in tears, where Lane reassures her she’s still needed. (Meanwhile, the baby is passed off and pushed around the office like a mail cart.) That same ad also fills the waiting room with African-American job applicants, and the last shot is that of Lane reluctantly accepting resumes. SCDP, thrust to the forefront of the civil rights movement, and all because of a petty, inter-agency rivalry. If that doesn’t sum up the blackly hilarious world of Mad Men, I don’t know what does.


Questions:

1. Well? What did you think? Did it live up to the huge expectations?

2. Do you think Don and Megan will survive the season?

3. Was a Betty-less episode a welcome change, or was something missing?

4. Which characters would you like to see return this season?


Fun Finds:

Want to hear the original “Zou Bisou Bisou”? (Here’s a primer on the song.)

Comments (28)
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The wait between seasons was far too long!

Now MM is back...Don and Megan will have to have a long rough patch before splitting for good. That get's Don working his cad-magic.

Roger will also split with his other half and get back to chasing women like season one.

Lane will go after Joan but she'll reject him and try to be the good wife and mother.

Peggy will try to get another promotion and stay true to her man.

Can't say about Betty because we haven't seen what they've done to her over the hiatus. I'm hoping that she becomes some vamp that Don will want to bed after leaving Megan.

Wound through all of this will be some Madison Avenue business or what passes for business in the bars and boardrooms nearby.
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There were moments I enjoyed - we've seen several new sides of Joan so she may have some good storyline time this season; with her Mother, with her baby, Joan's tears and Lane comforting her was nice. I don't usually enjoy the season premieres because of all the exposition that has to be done, so without and big jolts, I hope for better i future episodes.



I'm shocked to read these nasty comments about Betty; next to Sally, Betty's my favorite character. Ever since she pulled out that shotgun in Season 1 (?) and shot the birds in the yard! Come on - she's a character I would never underestimate!!



And then there's Sally. She has had a couple of scenes that were riveting - remember the total meltdown at the agency!!?? And some of her scenes with the creepy neighbor ladies about Sally touching herself?? Pretty intense time in Sally's life. Take it from me, there will be plenty of issues that can be explored with our girl Sally. She's a very accomplished actor at such a young age. Have you noticed that her character almost dominates all the other actors in scene? Look out!
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How come no one has mentioned the creepiness of Lane finding the wallet in the cab, & calling the number while looking at the photo he found in the wallet, & kept when he returned the wallet to the boyfriend? Obviously, Lane's wife is a pill, & he's ripe for looking for someone else - but probably not Joan, since she's too much a woman for him!
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Am I the only one who thought Sallys scenes were kind of creepy? Wonder where this will lead us ... I love Megan. She represents kind of a next step in change that happened during this time. First, women in the workplace (Peggy) and now those wiveys even dare to be no more stepfords at home anymore and actually have fun, too!! I loved how Don struggled with that - although his penis was still in charge ;).
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AMC is kicking so much ass right now that my head is spinning :-).
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I'm waiting for the sexy womanizer in Don to come out, i love the show when he's a real pig :)

Pete is such a whiny baby, no wonder they don't take him seriously!
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1.I loved it.Way more exciting than season 4's premiere episode.

2.It's hard to tell at this point but i like them together.

3.I can't wait to see how is Betty been doing.I don't like her but i love to watch her and can't imagine Mad Men without her character.

4.Sal Romano and Paul Kinsey

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1) The best part was Joan's storyline, especially her visiting the office. I like her interactions with Lane. I miss the old Don though.

2) I don't like Don with Megan. They don't seem to have anything in common, except sex of course. I prefer him with Faye.

3) I think Betty is an important part of the show. She's the mother of Don's children after all. I'd like to see more of how she and her husband are doing.

4) Since I prefer Don with Faye, I hope they bring her back.

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I laughed throughout most of the episode, even thought Megan was gonna jump off the balcony at some point. This is Mad Men after all. Anything can happen! I hope they survive the season, although I dont think they will. Thank god there was no Betty in this episode. It was a welcome improvement, although I expect them to bring her back next week, which is a shame. I'd love to see more of Burt this season. He's been dwindling around the last few seasons and episode. He's a great character addition to the show and they should really do more with him.
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Decent episode(s), but nothing strong. Basically a starting point to spare us months of a pregnant Joanie. A happy Don is a pleasant fiction, but it's really just a matter of time.



I do like the moments with Lane and Joan in general. The bit last season with the mixed-up roses may've been the funniest moment of the show for me.



The only time I'm interested in Betty is when she's merely bent in the head, not when she's a spiteful shrew, and I only see the latter coming in the near future.
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months of re-run write ups for then a review with 12 comments....? tv.com needs to start covering some shows that will reach a wider audience.



episode was okay, hope there's more exciting things to come.
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This episode of Mad Men was just okay for me. It seem liked the writers focused too much on trying to make the audience laugh. (Admittedly I got a good chuckle or two, but I don't watch Mad Men for laughs) The actors were great but, the writing was so weak. The dialogue between Don and Roger was especially weak which disappointed me the most. And don't even get me started on Megan (they need to get rid of her quick, her characters is doing nothing for me) So I'm gonna have to agree with: NateDogTheGreat "blah, bring back Breaking Bad"
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1- Perfect episode! I was a bit worried, but Mad Men is still awesome! Not even a single dull moment.

2- I don't think so! But I like her and I hope she stays around at least until the end of the season.

3- Betty was pretty annoying in season 4 even though she used to be one of my fav characters. So it was nice not seeing her LOL.

4- Sal!
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blah, bring back Breaking Bad...
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Breaking Bad's really not all that. Heisenberg's a moron with Savant-grade chemistry skills, who realistically would've been shot in the head years ago. Indeed, the fact that he *won't* be getting shot in the head dilutes nearly all the suspense when he's in trouble.



I'm torn between who's dumber, him or Nancy from Weeds. Weeds at least has other likeable characters for balance...and Nancy's hot.
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Clearly you haven't seen Breaking Bad. To say there is no suspense is moronic. It's suspensful no matter what likeable character we are with. Okay, nobody likes Skyler.



Although I'm not against Mad Men, please tell me. Where is the suspense in Mad Men? Why should I keep coming back to watch it week after week? That's the things. Breaking bad is addictive. Mad Men is not. Even outside of suspense being a reason for watching/liking a show (and I know you're not arguing that Mad Men is suspensful), there is still not a great deal that draws me in to watch Mad Men. But everything draws me in to Breaking Bad.



Go watch The Wire. Bitch.
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ouch. quit w/the hatorade. we all love BrBa, and there is room for Mad Men, too.

but the sexist slur? that has got to go... lance reddick told me to ask you if you kiss your mama with that mouth!
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I couldn't agree more man
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AMEN
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If you don't like the show ,don't watch it.
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It was absolutely a great premier that I enjoyed throughout. The long run time gave the episode the feel of the movie, which kept the scenes from feeling rushed.

With equal rights coming such a prevalent force this season, I really hope to see the return of Sal!
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Betty is the Lori Grimes of Mad Men. The less of her we see/hear the better. I like the season 5 premiere a lot. Nothing seemed forced.
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It's hard to tell if Megan/Don is going to last. This is the season is obviously going to be about the two of them getting to know each other. She young. He's old(er). She wants to live out her fantasies about marriage. He's more than used to getting whatever he wants. There will definitely be some head clashing there. From what I saw however, she might be trying to manipulate him or it might just be her naivete from being thrown into that kind of environment so fast.

I absolutely hate Betty, but even I admit I'm curious to see what has and what will happen to her this season.
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C'est Magnifigue>Zou Bisou Bisou
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1. yes

2. yes

3. YES (welcome - how about a Betty-less season?)

4. Sal
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Answers to your questions:

1. I wrote a bullet-point review of the episode. I'm so used to Bam! Pow! season premieres that at first I thought, This is it. I've been hearing, seeing, reading, smelling--well, maybe not the last one--nothing but Mad Men for the past couple weeks, so I was a filly at the gate come premiere time. But then I remembered what I love about MM: it's simple, understated. It need no dramatic cliffhangers or surprises. It's simply a character study, and I welcome back my old friends with open arms.



2. They won't survive the season. The divorce/separation will end as quickly as their engagement began. But as I've stated in my review, Jessica Pare's name in the opening credits may clue in to lots of Megan-centered storylines.



3. Betty is not one of my favorite characters, and I don't really like January Jones, but I missed her and indeed felt a little empty.



4. I want to say that we'll see Faye again this season. Even though there was closure between her and Don last season, it just ended way too depressingly for Faye. Faye was such a poignant person in Don's life, and as much as he wanted to rid of someone getting too close and serious for him, I see her coming back requesting fDon, "Youse gots some eesplainin' to do."
More+
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Good episode. Don and Megan won't last long. The same can be said for Roger and Jane. Mad Men is back.
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I think it was a good way to get us back into the world of Mad Men. It was a good way to start the season. I don't think that Don and Megan's marriage will last the season.
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