The latest episode of Mad Men was actually pretty good, a first for this season, but not for the right reasons. Double M actually manages to excel at creating unintentional humor, such as when Don gets angry or the feud between Pete and Roger Sterling.
But the stuff they wrote thinking would be funny was not. The old lady secretary is a jumping the shark moment, and the story arc with the little girl rebelling is just not something this show needs. This show skews older, so why waste time with an angry nine year old, or whatever she is?
When Sally is watching TV at her sleepover, David McCallum is on the TV. Audiences today know him as Ducky from NCIS, but this was a show he was on in the 60s, The Man from UNCLE. I liked both NCIS and Mad Men so I was quite chuffed to see it.
Otherwise great episode. I like the game theory ("chess match") between Draper and Shaw. Draper shows his ingenuity.
Sterling's digs at the Japanese were well written. Interesting to see a view on the differences between WWII generation and the ones too young for it. 1965 was only 20 years out from the end of WWII. I'm sure it wasn't easy for some people to go from anti-Japanese propaganda during the war to having them be new business partners. Betty is unchanged and still unhappy in her new life. Everything is all about her.
The title of the episode is a book about Japanese culture published in 1946 by an anthlopologist who wanted to understand the Japanese. They come calling in this episode as Honda, and at that time they mainly made motorcycles. They really wanted to test the waters for their brand new car line, and dangled the motorbike account to three firms (SCDP) being one in a ruse. (it was kinda a bait and switch) The winner got the side business of the car advertising.
We see a new rival for Don as another guy in a rival ad agency sees himself as the new Don Draper and lets Don know it. He took Jai Alai and Clearacil and was gloating about it to Don. He looked to get Honda too, but Don pulls off a caper that sinks his new rival at Grey.
SCDP almost blew Honda because Roger cannot let go of WWII and is prejudiced against the Japanese. However, deeper things were going on than that. He sees Pete is on the rise and Roger is fading with his one account, Lucky Strike. Although his name is on the door, Roger has a big client that is (unknowingly to them) a sinking ship, as regulations against tobacco will make their jobs harder and harder.
The caper was the best thing about this episode, as peggy driving around an empty set was the funniest moment in the show.
Also going on is Sally feeling ignored by both her parents and is acting out. On Don's one night with the kids, he leaves them with a babysitter. The whole season has been about Sally feeling ignored or worrying about it. Glen (the weird kid) warned her that once mommy has a baby with Henry, she will be on an ice flow, like Roger is feeling in his office. In psychiatry, what Sally is doing is common, better to do something bad and have her parents pay attention than be ignored.
Betty finally takes Sally to a child psychologist, where it is obvious Betty also needs some counseling. Its symbolic that a child psychologist would be perfect for Betty, as she has never grown up. Don also unloads some of his burdens on betty lookalike, the new researcher. My guess is her remark to Don in episode 2 will be true, he will be married in a year, to her..lol just you watch!
It's been a couple of episodes since we've gotten a look at Betty's side of the divorce equation, and as one would expect, it is not pretty. Understanding is a three-edged sword, as they say, and while Don and Betty continue to dig into their respective positions, Sally's behavior reflects the ugly truth. This is war by proxy, all too familiar to many in modern society and a nice parallel to the Vietnam situation percolating in the background.
This episode is dripping with irony. Don has a serious issue with the notion of psychiatrists, yet he finds comfort from talking to a lovely young woman who fulfills that very role. Betty seeks out psychiatric help for Sally, yet ends up getting just as much help from the child psychologist as her daughter stands to receive.
Betty has often been more sympathetic when compared to Don, but on her own, she is an individual with astonishingly stunted emotional and psychological growth. Part of the problem is Don's desire to create the image of the perfect family. Betty was young when she married Don, and there has always been the sense that she never really grew up; she just took on the role that was expected of her.
Time has worn down her ability to maintain the image, and now she is in a position where she has to find herself. That is a by-product of Don's narcissism, but the resulting behavior falls right on Betty's shoulders. She is revealing the same lack of maturity and identity that has plagued Don for much of his post-Dick Whitman life. The end result is a mirror image of Don's protracted disintegration.
In counterpoint, we see yet again that Don is most effective when playing the game of managing perception. He pulls a qualified victory out of the jaws of defeat through careful examination of expectation. As others have mentioned, the irony is that the creativity that Don's maneuvering requires is something innate; even as Dick Whitman, he would have this talent.
As noted after the previous episode, Pete continues to ride the Don Draper learning curve, though without that inborn talent; he wants so desperately to play the same game, but he doesn't perceive the cost. Roger plays the counterpoint role nicely, true to his character background. In fact, given his comments about the civil rights movement in the opening moments, he would appear to be positioned as the voice for the socially conservative elements of society.
In other words, "Mad Men" continues along its path of easy excellence through near-perfect character development. It's astonishing to think that this show gets basement-level ratings.
If Mad Men needs people to stand up and take notice one week before it packs an U-haul truck of Emmy awards, this is the way to deliver an episode.
You've got everything - an eyesore of a secretary, a blood crazy ad man, a diabolical plan, a masturbating 10 year old, and the gay guy from Desperate Housewives. A refreshing different Don Draper acting like a normal human being was nice to watch. Pete continues his rise in SCDP by bringing in the chance o win Honda's account. Not a whole lot of read between the lines we've got here. For people who like to view Mad Men as a piece of literature, there were a few good scenes to sit back and think about. As someone who likes being in both camps, I found this one a step up in story clarity and speed, and nevertheless a perfect hour of drama.