Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Don Got His Groove Back

Don Draper's been having it tough this season.  Divorced, and at loose ends, he seems to have lost his suave ways.  He can't close the deal with women, he drinks too much and can't even sell like he used to. In this seaon's fifth episode, "The Chrysanthemum And The Sword," I wonder if he's bottomed out and it on his way back up.

We start the show with Miss Blankenship still as Don's secretary.  She's mostly played for laughs, but she's so awful she seems to be in the early stages of dementia.  Don gets a call from The New York Times.  They want a comment on a competitor, Ted Chaough, a mad man at a competing company who is poaching Sterling Cooper accounts.

At a partner's meeting, Pete has lined up a meeting with Honda.  They make motorcycles and soon may make cars.  Everyone's happy but Roger, who fought the Japs in WWII.  (Pete says "taking meetings."  Was that in use in 1965?)  He walks out and the rest plan to keep him out of the loop.

Don has the kids at his apartment, but he's off on a date (to Benihana) with Bethany.  The sitter seems to be--I think--Pixie Chick from Heroes.  While
she's with the Bobby, Sally cuts her hair.  Is she acting out against Betty?  She's also getting curious about sex, which is always tricky, but probably trickier in 1965.

At Benihana, Ted Chaough runs into Don and tries to stick it to him.  He tells Bethany it's a fly he's trying to swat away, but seems bothered.

He comes home and finds out the bad news.  He fires the sitter, but knows what's ahead when he brings Sally home.  Don is right.  Betty is not amused.  Holy crap, Betty slaps Sally!  Betty is already the most unpopular character on the show, but they're not messing around here.  She sends Sally to her room and then laces into Don.  After he leaves, hubby Henry is the voice of reason.  Don't punish Sally.  Did he learn his diplomacy working for Rockefeller?

At the Honda meeting to set up the big pitch, Bert, Don and Pete follow Japanese ritual as best they can.  Bert's pretty good, having studied the East a bit. Don has the natural cool for it.  Pete's a bit off, but at least he's trying.  Then Roger, who's wise, marches in an insults everyone.  Cooper Sterling has lost face. Nothing to do but fall on their sword.

Don storms into Roger's office.  Then Pete.  He says Roger doesn't want new accounts because that'll make them less dependent on Lucky Strikes.  A bit harsh, but even Don admits he has a point.

Sally's at a slumber party.  Everyone's asleep at she's watching David McCallum on Man From U.N.C.L.E.  What's a girl to do?  Sally starts playing with herself, but is interrupted by the mom walking in.  She hustles Sally back home and tells her mortified mom what happened.

Betty's so mad she could spit. Henry suggests maybe she see a child psychiatrist.  Betty, who's had her own problems with the profession, isn't thrilled, but it looks like that's the way they'll go. From what Henry's seen in the past, his attitude is like how some feel about the stimulus--think how much worse things would have been without it.

At the office, Lane and Pete meet with Don.  Maybe things are working out.  Then Bert and Roger come in.  First Roger apologizes.  But Bert knows what's happening.  They didn't get a gift, they're as good as dead.  (They did get a nasty gift from Ted--quoting the Beach Boys (we also heard about Selma and civil rights) to mock them.)

Don figures a huge commercial will impress Honda, but the rules, set by Honda, limit them to $3000 worth  of boards and copy, nothing finished. They don't have the money anyway.  It would bankrupt them.

Betty calls Don at home to tell her about their plans for Sally.  Don and Betty snap at each other, but it is intriguing that Betty only said "playing with herself" to Henry, but "masturbating" to Don.

At the office, Don calls in Pete, Peggy and Joan.  He has a plan.  Finally, we're seeing the old Don in action.  He got an idea from a Japanese book (the title of the episode) everyone is supposed to be reading.  (Don doesn't seem to be doing that badly with women now, and he hasn't been drinking much, but it's selling something that would really prove he's back).  His plan is simple.  No campaign, nothing, but give out the impression they're making a commercial so the competitors will waste money and break the rules at the same time.

They go to work.  Joan interviews a director Ted uses, and Don is seen with a Honda cycle.  Word gets back to Ted and he's trying to figure out what's going on.  He's not going to let Draper get the better of him. He even calls in Smitty, who now works for him!  Smitty tells him Draper doesn't play by the rules and is a genius (as opposed to Ted). Peggy ostentatiously brings a Honda to an empty but closed set, and drives it around.  A high level or intrigue this episode.  May seem like conventional plot, but it's fun.

An odd scene in the office kitchen.  Don runs into Dr. Miller.  He opens his mock gift--sake.  He and Faye share a drink.  She tells him her marriage ring is just to keep people away, she's not married.  Hmmm.  She also talks about how people like to talk about their problems to interested strangers, and feel better after.  Don talks about his problems, and knows Sally will be going through this soon.  Regardless, with the husband issue out of the way (not that that often matters), it looks like a green light for Don and Faye.  But we'll see, this year may be different.

Another scene with a female doctor: Betty talks to Dr. Edna, who may be seeing Sally.  But it's more a scene of Betty revealing her secrets. She'll be seeing Dr. Edna too (who won't tell Sally's secrets, though Betty's psychiatrist was happy to talk to Don).  Betty's a lot more sympathetic here.  Maybe, like Joan's husband last week, they're trying to pull her back from the edge.

The big meeting with Honda.  Ted comes out, arrogant as always--and holding the film he shot for the commercial. Don comes in, withdraws from the competition, returns the check because others have not followed the rules and Honda has allowed it. (You think we're ashamed?  You should be ashamed.)  He walks out.

Roger's old lover, Joan, confronts him.  He's still mad about the Japanese and she tells him it's time to move on.  I'm guessing this scene was written months ago, but I bet most people who watched it thought about the Mosque controversy near Ground Zero.

Anyway, good news on Honda.  They're not giving away the motorcycle concession, but they'll consider Don for the cars.  Lane and Pete make a few jokes about how cheap their cars are (pretty cheap idea to do that, actually) and we're out of the scene.

Sally waits with the Draper maid Carla to see Dr. Edna.  Hard not to feel sorry for Sally.  She's always been confused, and now she knows everything thinks she's so awful she needs to see a doctor.  It's hard to figure if Dr. Edna will be good for her or not.

I thought it was a good episode.  A little torpor goes a long way--we needed to see Don back in action, on top of things.  Maybe some day his talent will fail him, or become outmoded, but not just yet.  He's still the ad whiz that keeps CSDP going.

1 Comments:

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11:53 AM, August 24, 2010  

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