“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.

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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.

2013-05-13-mad-men-10

What We See: Ginzo (Ben Feldman) saying, with some interested surprise, "I don't know!"

What's Actually Happening: Ginzo's replying to the uncomfortably valid question "What does a 'copy chief' actually do, anyway?" And it's not like Peggy hasn't been wondering that too—it's just hard to know how to ask.

2013-05-13-mad-men-11

What We See: Stan telling Ginzo, "Spectacular."

What's Actually Happening: "How was your 'shroom trip with Roger Sterling, Stan?" "Spectacular. First we stared at surfaces and watched them move for what seemed like five hours, even though it was probably two minutes. Then we started playing with lighting concepts—you should see the vids when fluorescent light touches that silver hair! Then Roger for some reason wanted to press his balls against my beard, which even tripping I thought was weird, but to hell with it—he's the boss and they kind of felt rad anyway. After that, the mentals kicked in, it was time to come up with our own Fleischmann's campaign, so we designed this kick-ass concept based on Napoleon Bonaparte using margarine as a secret weapon in his war campaigns, which is totally true. Look it up! Also, Roger asked me to live with him—do you think I should?"

2013-05-13-mad-men-12

What We See: Don urgently walking to his office and then seeming to see someone.

What's Actually Happening: I hate to keep harping on the drinking, but the dark side of Peggy's "No one can drink like you" comment from this past episode is that Don's also in a category by himself in that he starts getting the DTs if he goes more than an hour and a half without some kind of alcohol. (I know it sounds farfetched, but think about all the weird flashbacks he has!) In this case, he's caught sight of Martin Luther King's head on Dawn's body, with Sylvia's voice telling him "I have a dream!" As it happens, Roger and Stan are seeing the exact same thing at the moment, but they're having a lot more fun with it.

2013-05-13-mad-men-13

What We See: Ken telling Roger and a couple other people, "It's worse."

What's Actually Happening: This one's easy—Ken led in by talking about how ballistic Burt Peterson (Michael Gaston) went the first time he got fired before saying that what he did this time was …well, I don't need to repeat myself. Remember Duck trying and failing to take a dump all over Roger's exquisitely white office furniture? It's like that, only, well, worse.

2013-05-13-mad-men-14

What We See: Megan (Jessica Paré) asking, "Where are you?" as Sally (Kiernan Shipka) looks exasperated.

What's Actually Happening: I know it seems like a typical scene with irresponsible Don Draper not caring about his stupid family, as Sally's planet-tracing eye-roll would suggest. But you know how in this past episode, the show went with the never-before-seen-on-TV idea to have Megan's voice fade to nothing in Don's ear? Turns out the condition forgot to reverse itself! At home, Don's managed to get by via lip-reading—the size of what Megan has to work with in that department makes the errand easier—but here, all he hears is dead air as he tries to convey into the phone that he has a VERY IMPORTANT MEETING! If Sally were so inclined, she could step in and facilitate the communication, but here's the real spoiler: She isn't.

2013-05-13-mad-men-15

What We See: Don tossing down a piece of paper and telling someone, "We cannot go on like this."

What's Actually Happening: Not sure how this got in there, but this is actually an outtake of Jon Hamm remarking on the Sylvia scenes in this past script, a reaction that prompted the hasty decision to write her out. Good instincts, but the damage is done.

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