By ADAM BUCKMAN
NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 2010 — Was Sunday night’s ‘Mad Men’ episode really only an hour? So much happened to so many of the show’s characters that it seems impossible that all that plot development could occur in 60 minutes.
But it did. In a very complicated turn of events, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) appeared to find inspiration in a heroin-induced painting for a p.r. plan aimed at improving his dying agency’s image in the Madison Avenue advertising marketplace. The plan involved a full-page ad, written by Don, that he placed in the New York Times without consulting any of his partners at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
The ad sought to reverse the perception that SCDP was being abandoned by its clients, especially Lucky Strike, which accounted for nearly three-quarters of the agency’s income before quitting the firm a couple of episodes ago. In addition, the firm tried to land a new tobacco client, Philip Morris, which was planning to launch a new cigarette brand aimed at women (presumably the brand that would become Virginia Slims), but lost to another agency.
So Don’s full-page ad declared that SCDP didn’t want cigarette clients anyway, that the agency refuses to be in business with companies that manufacture and market such a dangerous product. The ad was aimed at burnishing the agency’s reputation, but by the end of Sunday’s ‘Mad Men’ episode on AMC, it had succeeded only in alienating Don’s partners, who didn’t seem to understand his strategy. One of them, senior partner Bert Cooper (Robert Morse), appeared to quit the agency for good. Is the eccentric Cooper really out? Let’s hope not – he’s one of the show’s best characters.
Meanwhile, the rest of the agency’s senior staff set about firing people in a bid to slash costs. Then, in an effort to sustain the agency, the partners all agreed to kick in up to $100,000 apiece to ensure that the bank continues the firm’s line of credit. This put Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) in a bind as wife Trudy (Alison Brie) forbade him from emptying their bank account to save the agency. Incredibly, Don Draper saved the day, secretly paying Pete’s share of the money.
As if all of the drama about the future of SCDP was not enough, the show returned to Don’s former Westchester home front, to the home of ex-wife Betty (January Jones), where the creepiest kid in all of TV – lonely neighbor boy Glen Bishop (Marten Holden Weiner) – was pursuing a “friendship” with Don’s daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka). Glen is the boy who vandalized the Draper home earlier this season, and a couple of seasons ago seemed to pursue an icky, inappropriate relationship with Betty, who seemed to come perversely close to acquiescing to his advances. Now, Betty’s seeing the same child therapist who’s treating her daughter, even refusing to see a shrink better suited for an adult. What can we say about Betty? She is one damaged individual.
Perhaps the episode’s biggest surprise was the sudden reappearance of Midge (Rosemarie DeWitt), the bohemian artist from Greenwich Village with whom Don carried on an affair in Season One. Now she’s a wraith-like shadow of her former self, an unsuccessful artist and heroin addict who allows her addict “husband” (we’re not sure if they’re really married) to pimp her out for drug money. In fact, drug money was the whole reason she staked out Don in the first place. He felt sorry enough for her to give her some cash and take the abstract painting off her hands that somehow inspired his p.r. scheme. He did not feel like having sex with her, however, though she offered it freely.
Only one more episode left to go in the fourth season of ‘Mad Men,’ and once again the agency is up against the wall. Will Don’s p.r. strategy wind up saving the agency and make him a hero to his partners? Or will he fail? What do you think will happen next Sunday? How on earth will they wrap everything up in a single hour?
Contact Adam Buckman: email@example.com