Mad Men, Season 4
Week 2: The Swedish Way of Love
The last time I had this much fun at a Christmas party it was held at the Nakatomi Plaza. Julia, you make a great point about Matthew Weiner's talent for party planning. I'd add to your list a couple more affairs to remember: the shindig thrown to celebrate Nixon's victory in the 1960 presidential election and the welcome reception for Guy McKendrick. Neither worked out as planned.
Freddy Rumsen! I have mixed feelings about his return. I was always fond of him as an exemplar of the boozy incompetence that Sterling Cooper got away with in the olden days, and I liked that he gave Peggy her first shot at an account. So I'm naturally happy to see his jowls back in the mix. But I also thought Freddy's departure from the series was masterfully handled, and I'm worried slightly that his return might take something away from what remains one of my favorite Mad Men moments. Back in Season 2, Roger and Don let Freddy go by taking him out for a final bender, a night as soaked in irony as it is in gin: We've got to fire you because you're a drunk. But no hard feelings, OK? Here, have another martini. Let's drink to your bright future.
It's a nice twist that Freddy has come back sober. I hope he fares better than Mad Men's other recovering alcoholic, Duck Phillips, who was driven back to the bottle by his stint at Sterling Cooper. It's not going to be easy for Freddy. Both Roger and Don miss cues and try to serve Freddy a drink. Peggy seems more attuned to his predicament—she wears a pained expression when Don starts pouring a celebratory whiskey—but even she is too dense to figure out what's going on when Roger returns triumphantly to the office having just thrown the Pond's rep off the wagon. Mad Men has romanticized drinking like few series before it—even the hangovers often look glamorous. It will be quite a change of pace if Freddy's fight to stay sober becomes a major plot.
Speaking of Duck Phillips, we last saw him in a tangle of sheets with Peggy the day of the Kennedy assassination. No sign of him yet this season, but Peggy's clearly moved on, taking up with this Mark Finley schmoe. What, do you suppose, does she see in this guy? Is it possible to come up with a unified theory of Peggy's taste in men? In Season 1, she was manipulated by Pete into a sexual relationship that left her pregnant and broken psychologically. Last season we saw her take greater control over her sex life, going out in Brooklyn and bringing home a guy to do her bidding. Then she took up with Duck, treating herself to nooners as if she were just one of the guys. In the year since last season ended, however, Peggy has grown disenchanted with one-nighters and divorcees. And despite bristling at Freddy's suggestion that all women want is to get hitched, she does seem to want to find someone who offers more than a Monte Cristo and a roll in the hay.
But how to find that someone. Peggy accuses Freddy of being old fashioned, yet Mark levels the same accusation at Peggy, who appears not to know how to behave sexually in the context of a courtship. Mark wants her to be a virgin yet also wants badly to depart third base for home. This leaves Peggy in the predicament so colorfully described by Freddy: Sleep with him and he might lose respect for you; lead him on and you're liable to give him a bad case of blue balls. Ultimately, Peggy decides to sleep with him, while maintaining the ruse that she's a virgin. I'm not too concerned that Mark will lose interest in Peggy, but I suspect that by the Valentine's Day episode she'll have lost interest in him. He doesn't seem smart enough, and he's already too irritated about that work piled up on her bed—Peggy's not going to trade her career for marriage. And maintaining this fiction that she's an ingénue, taking lessons from a man who learned about sex from "The Swedish Way of Love," just doesn't seem tenable after the sexual liberation she enjoyed back in '63.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the Christmas setting, this episode played with the theme of childhood. There was the Glenn plot, of course, which took that poor boy's creepiness to new depths. Julia, I think I'm more terrified by Glenn's return than you are. I'm no child psychologist, but having worked for many summers as a camp counselor, I do have a lot of experience with gimp, and that was one tight box stitch. Clearly the work of a psychopath. I'm at once eager to find out what comes next, and more than a little scared that we haven't seen the last of that twine-cutting knife.
The adults, too, were confronted with childish things. I think you're right, Julia, that Allison was won over by the idea of sleeping with her boss. But I thought her decision to acquiesce was also connected to Sally's letter to Santa—the pathos of Sally wishing that her father could be there to deliver the gifts on Christmas morning endeared Allison to Don. She also got to play at motherhood, buying gifts for the Draper children (first mention of the Fab Four!) and in so doing perhaps developed a false sense of intimacy with Don. Meanwhile, back at the Christmas party, Lee Garner Jr. took great pleasure infantilizing the employees of SCDP, forcing them to sit on Santa's lap. And he, too, was reduced to his boyhood self by the gift of the Polaroid—"Reminds me of when I was a kid—remember that? You'd ask for something and you'd get it. Made you happy."
That wasn't the childhood Don experienced. He skips out on Faye Miller's presentation rather than fill out a questionnaire that asks about his father, a rather less generous man than one imagines Lee Garner Sr. was. But Faye doesn't need to see Don's answers to know something about his childhood—she correctly reads the Glo-Coat ad as a window onto Don's upbringing. She seems to have Don pegged—this ought to be interesting.
OK—I've really overdone it. All yours, Agger.