“Next Week on Mad Men,” Decoded

What you're watching.
May 13 2013 3:42 PM

Ashen-Faced Don Draper, and Other Mad Men Promo Predictions

Reading the tea leaves of AMC’s maddening “On the next Mad Men …” promos.

130513_TV_previouslylogo

This article originally appeared on Previously.TV, a brand-new TV commentary and recap site created by Tara Ariano, Sarah D. Bunting, and David T. Cole, the original founders of Television Without Pity. Visit Previously.TV for more.

If you're like many people on the Internet—many, many people—you've complained that AMC's "Scenes From Next Week's Mad Men" aren't revealing enough. Lines like "I'm sorry, am I interrupting something" and "That's disgusting" could apply to roughly 87 percent of the scenes on this show in one way or another.

But Mad Men relies on subtext—when an hour script is 80 percent set-design and wardrobe notes, it better—and if you're an expert in picking it up, you can pretty much tell exactly what's going to happen in every scene shown.

Last week, I let you know how easy it was for a master to read what was going to happen in Mad Men's scenes from next week, despite how much the show would rather I keep my knowledge to myself. Having seen how my vision played out this week, [Jack Donaghy voice] I think I made my point. So here's your handy guide to the promo clips that aired after this week's episode:

2013-05-13-mad-men-01

What We See: Don (Jon Hamm) standing on the internal SCDPCGC stairs looking peaked as the camera pushes in.

What's Actually Happening: Don is sweaty and ashen in all the scenes from next week, and there's a reason why. He thought he was clever when he exerted the power of his iron liver in getting Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) to pass out in front of the whole creative team. This comes back to bite him, however, when Ted, cleverly waiting until Roger (John Slattery) is off renewing his membership in the Mile High Club, succeeds in passing a ban on drinking at SCDPCGC before noon. He also manages to institute a mandatory arrival time of 10 a.m., partners included, and what we're seeing here is Don's first staring-at-the-clock realization just how long a dry two hours can be. It won't be the last.

2013-05-13-mad-men-02

What We See: Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) suspiciously asking, "What's going on?"

What's Actually Happening: Despite their sometime animosity, the concept Ted and Don came up with for the margarine commercial is a go—the client loved the dairy-farm setting! The only complication is that, after Peggy left the room, the client confided to Ted (it's afternoon, so Don's off making up for lost time) that he really sees Peggy as the wholesome dairy-farmer's-wife type. He might think differently if he'd seen her in action in, say, a movie theater, but this is why Ted's currently in her office holding a bonnet and apron for her to try on. Her disappointment is understandable, given how far away this is from the outfits she imagines wearing while alone with him.

2013-05-13-mad-men-03

What We See: Roger telling Stan (Jay R. Ferguson), "You either get used to it, or stop thinking about it."

What's Actually Happening: It doesn't take Nostradamus to see that any conversation between Stan and Roger would have to be about drugs; honestly, I can't believe the show's restraint in holding these two apart for this long. The twist here is that they've already taken the drugs—Roger, as a thank-you from Jane (Peyton List) for coming over and getting rid of a hippie squatter she accidentally let into her apartment, got a bag of mushrooms, and he didn't have to look very beard to figure out who to take them with.

2013-05-13-mad-men-04

What We See: Don resting on his couch and starting up when he hears the door open.

What's Actually Happening: Sensing that Ted is keeping a close eye on his performance, Don decides to enlist Dawn (Teyonah Parris) in helping him practice getting up quickly from a prone position so as never to look like he's slacking off. Unfortunately, Dawn gets called into Joan's (Christina Hendricks) office for her weekly report on the time-card situation (she even has to do a separate one for the supply closet, don't you know), leaving Don's door unattended for Ted to walk right through. Not yet having had enough practice—he might have wanted to start half-sober, but he's not one for easing into things (sorry, Sylvia)—he fails to get up in time, and Ted goes right off into a snit about how Don's a "pinup layabout" and "won't get by on his looks forever." Sure, there's some sexual tension—Ted may not be Don's type, but yelling always turns him on at least a little—but let's put a pin in that for now; the point is that by taking steps to avoid this exact situation, Don made it come to pass. Irony! (Well, for this season, at least.)

2013-05-13-mad-men-05

What We See: Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) telling Ted, "Ted, calm down, you need a nap too."

What's Actually Happening: You'd think he's pissed about Don's nap. But what Ted's actually annoyed about is that Don can get wasted, nap on his couch, and then reappear without a hair out of place, whereas one sip of alcohol seems to make Ted look like he's been partying for three days with Jerry Garcia. Sorry, Ted, most of us don't have bodies that synthesize alcohol into hair product. It's one of the few elements of the Draper mystique that hasn't yet died.

2013-05-13-mad-men-06

What We See: Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) telling someone, "I think that's in poor taste."

What's Actually Happening: Hoping to build relations between the CGC and SCDP people with a little friendly competition, Ken (Aaron Staton) and Jim Cutler settle on Pete, the easiest of targets, to be the butt of their joke—specifically, a pool where everyone picks a phrase that would be crazy hypocritical ever to come out of Pete Campbell's mouth. Strong contenders include Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) with "It's a matter of principle" and Joan with "[anything with women]" (this is accepted after a judges' sidebar in which Ken explains a few things to Jim), but the clip here is the winner, with CGC's Mathis (Trevor Einhorn) the surprise winner. The purpose of the exercise is slightly defeated when Ken ends up getting Mathis fired, but it was fun while it lasted.

2013-05-13-mad-men-07

What We See: Ted Chaough telling someone, "You did not make that clear."

What's Actually Happening: In any merger, there are going to be some surprises, as two companies with different corporate cultures, histories, and secrets attempt to become one. In this case, when they were out in Detroit, Roger gave Ted a brief run-down of the other players at SCDP, which included the statement that Bert Cooper has "no balls." They all had a chuckle over what Ted took as a metaphorical statement, but he learned otherwise when he encountered Bert in the executive washroom standing at the urinal with his pants around his ankles. With Bert's eyes safely closed as he chanted in Japanese for this slash to come out honorably, Ted couldn't resist taking a look, and thus came the shock of his life, which is why he still looks a disheveled mess at this meeting. Well, that and he had another brainstorming session with Don.

2013-05-13-mad-men-08

What We See: Roger telling what looks like Don, "You don't know what he's up against."

What's Actually Happening: You'd think he's talking about Frank Gleason (Craig Anton), and you'd be right, but it's not his cancer per se. It turns out Sloan-Kettering has given Frank quite an optimistic prognosis—it's just that his healthcare is going to cost in excess of $5 million. While this may seem outrageous even without 1960s currency calculations, it does put SCDPCGC in an awkward position—do they allow Frank to cash out now, which would save his life but seriously damage the company, or do they wait for him to die, at which point they'll be rolling in Chevrolet money and even Ted will be like "Frank who?" It's a trenchant commentary on issues that plague our society to this day, and as such can't be bogged down by little concerns like subtlety.

2013-05-13-mad-men-09

What We See: Don holding his head in his hand.

What's Actually Happening: Desperate for a pre-noon drink, Don tries to get Dawn to let him snag one of his bottles of Canadian Club out of the supply closet. It places Dawn in a tough position, but she's ultimately more scared of Joan than she is of Don and as such clings tight to the keys and stands fast. He's obviously in a bad way; if it makes him feel any better, Canadian Club is pretty unhappy about the situation too.