Mad Men, Season 4

Week 12: Quitters
Talking television.
Oct. 11 2010 6:24 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Week 12: Quitters

Still from Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) 

Heeeeroooooin. Fellow clubbers, I was sad to witness Midge Daniels' ignoble return. When last we saw her, in Season 1, she had found true love with another beatnik—at least in Don's eyes—and accepted Don's bonus check as a parting gift. But instead of taking that check and buying a car, Midge apparently took a walk down to Union Square, many times. All season, we've been pondering whether Don is in the grips of alcoholism. But there seems to be no shock of self-recognition in Midge's apartment. Rather, Don coolly hands over all the money in his wallet and removes himself from the scene of the desperation.

Even as Don extricates himself from Midge's bohemian life gone sour, however, he's jarred and motivated by her art. It's after a long staring session at No. 4 that Don finally does some thinking about the nature of addiction and pens his "Why I Quit Tobacco" manifesto. Do the two of you think that Don believes what he published in the New York Times? He tells Megan that his screed isn't really about the evils of tobacco, and she comes back with that great line about who is really dumping whom. It's true that Don's gambit was an attention-diverting stunt, but I think he does feel that advertising should have a moral purity to it. Which is weird, considering his private life—though then again maybe not, since with that kind of life you try to impose order at work. As usual, Don is at his most inspiring when he is trying to imbue his profession with a higher purpose.

Advertisement

That's perhaps why I fell for the best prank in Mad Men history to date: Robert Kennedy is calling Don! Of course he is! I was thinking that was kind of an awful Brahmin accent, and I was ready to unleash my scorn here, until the senator went on to clarify his anti-laxative stance. Brilliant stuff from Chaough. I'll admit that I entertained thoughts of a season finale that had Don skinnydipping with Teddy and some co-eds at a Kennedy shindig. The RFK joke also served to remind us how interior and claustrophobic this season has been—mostly focused on the inner doings of the new agency.

That agency now seems in mortal peril. The episode ends with a glimmer of hope courtesy of the American Cancer Society—Cosgrove, at least, perked up—but I am curious of what you thought of Don's defense of himself in front of the partners. He just assumed that they should be able to appreciate the higher-level machinations that he set in motion. But what did Don achieve? If you want the "good" guys, call Don Draper and friends? I am having trouble seeing the master stroke here. He's hoping to save the firm by giving it an aura of pluck and independence, but there are only so many Connie Hiltons out there. If his letter was an ad for the firm, it has a narrow appeal.

Still, I think the firm will be saved next week, in a development that won't be as shocking as Glen * in his football uniform. Really? Isn't he supposed to be in his bedroom reading comic books? Or were Glen's shoulder pads a statement that football was de rigueur for the budding American male of the time, no matter his level of dorkiness? Much as I love Kiernan Shipka, I thought the scenes between the kids were seventh-grade-school-play-awkward. Their no-backwash courtship did set the plans to move out in motion, at least.

Finally, Faye is totally on to Megan. Maybe she really can read minds.

Go fish,
Agger

Correction, Oct. 11, 2010: This sentence originally confused the creepy Glen with baby Gene, who will probably not play football but will one day read Gibbon. Gene was on the writer's mind because we see him in his high chair in this episode and he seems to have grown too fast for the show's time frame. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.