Tag Archives: Peggy Olson

Mad Men’s Summer Blues

AMC does a good job of spreading out its popular shows throughout the TV viewing seasons. That means that right now is a great time for those Breaking Bad lovers out there as the fifth season rolls along, but it’s the summer blues for Mad Men viewers and Dish subscribers. Recently though, there was some good news from the notoriously tight-lipped helmsman of the Mad Men experience, as Matthew Weiner admitted that Elisabeth Moss’s ‘Peggy Olson’ will still be a regular character on the show.

Weiner was quoted in that recent interview as saying:

“When people leave Sterling Cooper, sometimes it is the end for [the character],” Weiner allows. “But I will spoil that one tiny piece of anticipation and tell people that Elisabeth will be showing up to work.”

This is certainly great news for fans of the show, as Peggy has consistently been one of the most interesting characters on Mad Men from the word go. It really comes as no big surprise however, probably why Weiner was OK spilling the news, and having Peggy work for one of SCDP’s biggest rivals should only add to the intrigue of the storylines.

Speaking of storylines and Mad Men‘s love of the nostalgic reference, I went onto Wikipedia 1967 to see what interesting historical tidbits might make it into season six’s episodes. The Civil Rights Movement has already been embedded into season 5, but in 1967 there were numerous race riots across the country so we should expect a lot more of this topic along with a nod to Thurgood Marshall; the first African-American elected to the Supreme Court. The Vietnam War and protests at home were still a big news item so it will be interesting to see whether or nor we see a reappearance of Dr. Greg, or hopefully Dr. Greg’s corpse. The worst of the Vietnam years is still to come so I don’t think it will be a major presence, but if there is any major nod this season I would guess it to be Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the Military after being drafted.

Richard Speck, who was the guy who killed the nurses and was featured in the “Mystery Date” episode, was sentenced to the electric chair in 1967 so that would be a nice opportunity to put a bow on that storyline, and possibly comment on the moral dilemmas of corporal punishment. The very first Superbowl was in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, but Mad Men doesn’t make a lot of sports references so it would be a long shot for show material. The space race is still somewhat prevalent in the 1960’s so you might see the mention of the ‘Apollo 1’ disaster that killed three American astronauts. There are some other long-shots for episode material including the capture of Che Guevera, jokes about Allen Ginsberg and character Michael Ginsberg, but my favorite if I could put money on it is when John McCain was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong.

Mad Men as a cultural reference machine has always done a great job of incorporating and referencing relevant music and 1967 provides a lot of great candidates. The Beatles of course start to explode and diversify their sound, and the other side of the rock and roll coin – The Rolling Stones make their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to be the next big thing. Dark Horse candidates include the debuts of Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd, but you would probably be safer betting on references to The Doors and Ed Sullivan as well as Monterey Pop, the first famous major outdoor music festival.

Any way you shake it out there is plenty of material out there for the Mad Men writing staff to flesh out some more interesting plot lines, and after stepping up the actual drama last season I expect nothing but a more exciting season 6. For those of you who still haven’t gotten into Mad Men, or who are still catching up, there’s nothing like 7-8 straight hours of the show to get you hooked and take a break from snarky American swimmers. Any chance Ryan Lochte can make an appearance next season so he can get punched in the face like Pete Campbell?

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Mad Med Episode 513: “The Phantom” Finale

Considering that in the past two weeks the notoriously slow-paced Mad Men had one of its oldest and most popular characters leave the firm followed by one of the partners killing themselves I was expecting, as probably was the fan base at large, some sort of momentous season finale cliff hanger. That clearly was not in the cards. While the season finale, by regular episode standards, did have a couple of surprises, as a season-ender it fell a bit short as far as drama goes.

The episode was titled “The Phantom” and we are treated with phantoms both literally and figuratively. Don, feeling the stress and guilt of Lane’s suicide, is habitually visited throughout the episode by his brother, whom was also a suicide victim and receiver of Don’s tough love. We also get a Peggy Olson appearance this week, and hopefully this will quell the rumors that Elisabeth Moss is done with Mad Men, and she is more than a Phantom. Peggy has her own storyline in fact as she is handed a new account for women’s cigarettes that will, as we know, eventually become Virginia Slims and a major marketing success in its own time. We are witness to a nice conciliatory meeting between Don and Peggy at the movie theater, sans handy I would assume, and the puzzling image of dogs humping outside of Peggy’s Virginia hotel room. It looks like Peggy is here to stay and thank goodness for that.

The other major phantom of the episode comes in the form of Pete’s on-again off-again affair partner whom we learn is the frequent victim/consumer of electroshock therapy. After an uncomfortable encounter on the train, Pete gets a booty call from Beth Dawes and skips out on the Partners meeting for the liaison. Here he learns about her treatment and her desire to have one last fling before her memory is erased and all memories of Pete Campbell are gone. I’m sure there are some people out there who would jump at the chance to have all memories of Pete Campbell erased from their mind, but he does such a good job of being a dick you just shouldn’t do that to yourself. As an added bonus we also get to see Pete punched in the face two more times this episode! He really is a despicable character when as soon as you start to feel for the guy after he opens his heart to the post trauma Beth and confronts her scumbag husband, he acts like a total prick to the good-natured train cop and you are once again cheering as Pete takes another shot to the kisser. Whomever came up with this gem will have to update it with the new footage.

The cliff-hanger for the season finale hinges upon Don and Megan’s relationship. Megan’s acting career has continued to flounder and in this episode she gets desperate and stabs her friend in the back by asking Don to consider her for a commercial that SCDP will be producing instead of her considering her friend who had asked the favor. Megan’s mother is in town, rekindling her romance with Roger Sterling, and Megan’s depressive ways lead to a confrontation between her and Don which may have been the key to changing Don and Megan’s relationship as a whole. Megan’s mom describes her as someone with an artist’s sensibility without the artists talent. Don, after watching Megan’s test reel, acquiesces to her desires and gets her the commercial gig. The big question though, the one we are left with as the woman down the bar hits on Don asking “if he is alone”, is whether or not Don has lost respect for Megan. Did he give in and get her the gig because he really thinks she deserves it and just hasn’t gotten her break, or is he secretly disgusted at her lack of gumption and willingness to work hard at her art and gave her the job because it’s proof to her callous need to be spoiled. Fortunately the wait for season 6 will be significantly shorter than the wait for season 5 was, but still is too long if you ask me.

Two other things from the finale. SCDP is apparently making money hand over fist and will be moving into a larger space and Roger Sterling is doing LSD again… see gratuitous man ass.

AMC’s Mad Men: Episode 512 “Commisions and Fees”

The other shoe finally dropped. That is the inevitable matter of Lane Pryce’s embezzlement came to the attention of one Donald Draper this week, and though the initial confrontation played out as one might expect, the conclusion was shocking. Bert Cooper, thinking Don was trying to assuage Lane’s constant griping about the bonus, brings the canceled check to his attention which leads Don to bring Lane in for proper questioning. The true tragedy of Lane’s transgression is that if pride didn’t get the better of him, and he simply went to Don to borrow the money that he didn’t even wind up stealing everything would have been fine. Through embezzlement and forgery however he has lost the trust of SCDP’s lead man and Don will have nothing other than his resignation and in fact thinks he is doing Lane a favor by giving him a clean new start, and the opportunity to resign without any black marks on his resume. Unfortunately, as is often the case when you get embedded in a nest  of deceit, Lane can’t come clean with his wife who has made matter even worse by purchasing a new Jaguar as a reward to her husband “who never treats himself”. Here is where the brilliance of Mad Men‘s writing comes in. The Jaguar is the perfect symbol for all of Lane’s problems. It is not only a literal symbol of the firm’s success with the client he failed with despite his best efforts, but is also symbolic of the nouveau riche who can afford an impractical luxury car like Jaguar, and the lie he is representing to his wife. If it wasn’t abundantly clear that AMC would never get Jaguar as one of their advertising clients, last night’s episode sealed the deal. In a moment of true black comedy we find Lane trying to kill himself by using the Jaguar to asphyxiate himself, but the car is such a lemon that he can’t even get it to start up and do the job.

It’s too early in the Mad Men era for a Nixon reference, but if Lane Pryce had an exit speech I think it might be somewhat similar to tricky Dick’s exit; “You won’t have {Lane Pryce} to kick around anymore gentlemen, because this is my last {episode}”. Lane’s suicide is the second Mad Men death when characters face off against Don’s tough love and you’ve got to imagine this is going to weigh heavily on Don’s conscience, and it will be interesting to see what happens when word eventually slips out about the true circumstances of Lane’s “resignation”. I’m not sure if this was the case of Jared Harris getting to big for the show or not, but either way it was an expertly crafted character arc, and despite it all you didn’t want to believe that Lane had killed himself until you literally saw the bloated corpse that Don and company cut down from the ceiling.

The other big developments of the week revolved around Don lighting a fire under his own ass and Sally Draper becoming a woman. Don isn’t happy with the direction that SCDP has taken on and wants bigger fish to fry. As he says, “I don’t want Jaguar I want Chevy!” which leads Roger to set up a meeting with Ken Cosgrove’s father-in-law, the Devil incarnate, aka Ray Wise aka the chairman of Dow Chemical. Ken has long been against SCDP getting involved in his family business, but he concedes on two main factors. That he has been “dragged” on board, and that in no way can Pete Campbell be involved in their business, chalking up Cosgrove as yet another of Pete’s inter-office enemies. We won’t find out until next week whether or not his tactics were sound but Don’s approach to winning Dow Chemical was to literally yell at them and berate them for being happy with 50% market success, and it’s as much of a speech for himself and SCDP as it is for the client.

Roger, for his part, is happy to see the feisty old Don Draper as his LSD induced free thinking has begun to fade. We also get to experience another typical Don and Megan squabble when Don forgets to inform her that Betty is dropping Sally off at the apartment:

  • Don: (Demeaning comment)
  • Megan: (Bitchy response)
  • Don: (Some serious shit happened)
  • Megan: (Let’s kiss and make up)

That’s pretty much how Don and Megan interaction go these days as she feels defensive and marginalized, and he feels defensive and overly stressed. It’s always hard to tell what’s going to happen in the Mad Men teasers, but it seems like there might be some new wedge between Don and Megan coming and you wonder if the loss of Lane might push Don back into his self-destructive ways.

Meanwhile we get a fun little aside with Sally and her weirdzo boyfriend Glen this week as when she realizes she will have the apartment to herself Sally convinces Glen to come to the big city for a visit on the sly. These two characters both have been subject to creepy sexual undertones over seasons past so it was a relief that when Glen arrives at Sally’s apartment his greatest desire is to go to the Museum of Natural History.

There we are treated to the awkwardly sweet interactions of Glen’s dry jokes about the exhibits, and the exploration of what their relationship actually is. All of this is interrupted when Sally, feeling ill, makes a startling discovery in the bathroom and then freaks out and takes a cab back to the suburbs and her mom, leaving Glen in the lurch. This whole sequence is yet another fine example of the quality of writing in this show as the awkwardness of youth is naturally captured. Having Glen be as concerned over completing his book report as he is about finding Sally just feels so natural to their ages. Sally freaking out and providing her mother with another bitch chip to play against Megan also feels very natural as despite young Sally’s mistrust of Betty when important things happen it’s still her mother’s arms in which she seeks comfort.

Next week, regrettably is the season finale of Mad Men, and it should be a good one. In the past two weeks of what is normally a pretty even keeled show as far as dramatic changes are concerned they have had Peggy Olson leave SCDP and Lane Pryce kill himself. What kind of bombshell did they leave for the last week?

AMC’s Mad Men: Episode 511 “The Other Woman”

It’s 1967, a whole new year for the Mad Men crew, and nothing seems to be more important to the SCDP staff than landing their first big automotive contract in the form of that elusive beast; Jaguar. There are so many people working on the Jaguar pitch that characters we’ve never seen are coming out of the woodwork. Seriously, there are two extra guys in the room with Ginsberg, Stan, Cosgrove and Draper working on the pitch that I can’t ever remember seeing before. The elusive perfect pitch line is not coming easy for anybody but as we soon learn their sale may depend on an altogether different type of pitch. It’s not mentioned lightly that the “car people” are a bunch of sleazeballs, and it quickly comes to the forefront that the lynchpin of the Jaguar deal has a proposition that he says will seal the deal; Joan. If it had been anyone but Pete Campbell taking the meeting you might imagine that the deal would end right there. In fact if it was Don taking the meeting he might have hit the guy right in the face even in the middle of the restaurant. Pete however not only has the nerve to bring it up with Joan, but also to follow-up with a partners meeting to see how much they can raise to bribe her. Thus begins one of the elements of this weeks major theme: upward mobility of the 1960’s woman.

For Joan, who has an absentee husband who is divorcing her, a young child and nagging mother at home, and 13 years invested in the firm as a secretary, the opportunity of hitting a huge payday for a night of her services provides too much of a temptation. Lane, who is still freaking out about bonuses and the money he embezzled, has convinced Joan that her best bargaining chip is a 5% stake in the company, becoming a minor partner as opposed to a lump payoff. While certainly good advice for her long-term security, it is ultimately underhanded of Lane as he is also highly concerned that if he uses the $50,000 extension to bribe her, he won’t get his bonus and will be found out. It turns out that there “Will be no bonuses this year!” as Cooper booms so it seems like Lane’s fraudulence will be somehow linked to the season finale. Joan’s whole encounter with the sleazy salesman is handled with typical Mad Men brilliance, as we are treated to a bookended scene of Don’s efforts to keep Joan from prostituting herself. In the middle of the bookends we see Don making the sales pitch of the unattainable, which has become attainable (the Jaguar) crosscut with the unattainable (Joan) who has become attainable for a price and the metaphor is complete.

Two of the other women in Don’s life are also making their way forward as best they can. Don and Megan continue their domestic power struggle as Megan’s successful casting call gives her an opportunity to be in a play which is being staged in Boston. The thought of Megan being away for three months ignites the internal conflict of Don’s wish for his wife’s success coupled against his desire for her to be at home in the traditional sense. Megan, in her fiery way, recognizes this and accuses Don of not having thought of her leaving because he never believed she would succeed. Don, as he also proved with Joan, is at heart a good person who wants whats best for the people he cares about comes around to make peace with Megan and her dreams. Megan ultimately doesn’t get the part, and similarly to Joan is herself judged as a sexual pawn as she is ogled and asked simply “to step forward and turn around” in her second casting call.

Lastly we get to this week’s developments with Peggy Olson. It has been a long time coming that Peggy has been feeling more and more neglected, jaded and under appreciated at SCDP. Similarly to Pete Campbell copying Don’s lecherous past, Peggy is also following in the footsteps of her idol and doing what she thinks he would have done. The pact between Peggy and Ken Cosgrove to move on together has been mentioned frequently in the past weeks episodes, and Peggy has flirted with other advertising companies in the past, but the day that no one ever thought was really going to happen has come. After lunching with former Sterling Cooper salesman Freddy Rumsen, Peggy gets herself a meeting with Don’s arch-rival in ‘Cutler, Gleason, and Shaw’ who butters her bread and makes her an exceptionally attractive offer. 

As we learn from Peggy’s heart-wrenching dialogue with Don as she gives her notice, it’s not about the money. Don initially thinks she’s making a power play to get her much deserved raise, but quickly realizes that what Peggy really wants is to make a name for herself out from under the shadow of Don Draper and to further become the model of a self-made woman. Hopefully for Mad Men viewers Peggy doesn’t make herself a stranger as she promises to Don as she is one of the more enjoyable Mad Men characters.

Notably absent from this weeks stories of the burgeoning Women’s Lib movement is Betty Draper. This is because like her counterpart Trudy Campbell, an increasingly rare Alison Brie appearance, Betty is still a throwback to the 1950’s housewife who has built her life around being a debutant and keeping her efforts on the home front. Unlike Trudy however Betty doesn’t seem to relish in it, and will likely experience more conflict between being a housewife or a professional in the Mad Men future.

Overall this was another example of Mad Men at it’s best, interweaving multiple story lines with social commentary in a seamless and cinematically beautiful way. It’s sad to say that there are only two episode of Mad Men left this season so enjoy it while it lasts. Hopefully these last two weeks will be as amazing as this one.

Review AMC’s Med Men: Episode 506 “Far Away Places”

Mad Men producers have never been afraid of messing with your head (see episode 504), but this weeks theme has that very notion at it’s heart. The “Far Away Places” we travel to in this episode turn out to be Platssburgh, NY, Mars and wherever it is that LSD takes you.

This week’s episode, in continuation with it’s theme, also uses the now ever-popular technique of disjointing the timeline through overlapping stories shown out of sequence ala Pulp Fiction. This trick seems wholly unnecessary apart from keeping Don and Megan’s story line uninterrupted, and seems a ploy to make certain plot points, ie. Don’s frantic phone call, more interesting. Thus the week starts with Don and Megan skipping yet another Heinz pitch session much to the chagrin of one Peggy Olson. Unfortunately Heinz is yet again indecisive about what they want for their ad campaign and while Peggy gives them the verbal abuse they much deserve, her misplaced frustration with Don gets her booted from the campaign.

As an aside: the only time we see Pete this week is when he levees the bad news to Peggy and we don’t see Lane at all so the two of them must’ve needed some recovery time from last week dust up. No lingering black eyes for the make up department to deal with at Mad Men HQ! Peggy is beginning to feel the crush of being the creative lead and having to make up for Don’s absentee office work. In this episode it leads her to fight with her boyfriend, work late hours, drink too much and have random sexual encounters with strangers. Hmm sounds a bit like the old Don eh? I guess the new straight-lace Don, or the love-leave don as Bert Cooper phrases it, has had residual effects on his underlings. Someone’s got to be boozing and sexing to get the advertising done it seems, and there’s only so much Roger can handle. Continue reading Review AMC’s Med Men: Episode 506 “Far Away Places”