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Monday, May 21, 2012

Mad Men: "Christmas Waltz"

Ah Christmas, “that time of year when the world falls in love” as the song would have it. And what of the men and women at SCDP? Are they suffused with the love of their fellow man? Yes and no.

Harry Crane is overcome by the seemingly simple rhythm of the Hare Krishna chant, and even though his newfound connectedness is tested by the scheming ways of Mother Lakshmi, he is still moved to help his old friend Paul Kinsey.

But things are far rockier in the Draper marriage, where Megan’s burgeoning artistic impulses are coming to loggerheads with Don’s consumerist career. Their minor spat on the heels of witnessing a truly dreadful avant-garde play is nothing compared to the clichéd dish-throwing outburst that results when Don spends an afternoon blowing off work to drink with Joan.

Joan’s on an emotional rollercoaster herself, from calmly but firmly denying Roger the chance to but his way into fatherhood, to screaming at the receptionist who let a process server into the office with her divorce papers, to flushing at Don’s flattery and flowers. (Signed “Ali Khan” as a reference to Rita Hayworth’s husband.)

Pete’s warm, fuzzy feelings are short-lived as always, when the Jaguar knows doesn’t garner him the loving reception he had hoped. Seriously, Pete, maybe you could wait until you actually land the account?

And then there’s Lane, whose previously hinted at money troubles come to bear here, although without any clarifying explanation. (I don’t think there’s a more sinister meaning behind “gave to a foreign power”) Lane tries to get out of his jam by extending the office’s credit to give the staff and himself Christmas bonuses, but when his plan fails we see him forging Don’s signature on a check. Judging from Mad Men’s usual style, this should come back into the story line sometime in Season 8.

This installment also seemed much more contingent on historical name-dropping than character and plot. Look, it’s Star Trek! Look, it’s the crazy Hare Krishna movement! Look, it’s the Jaguar XK-E!

More so than most weeks this season, “Christmas Waltz” seemed more about putting pieces in order than telling a single story. There were a number of nice moments, but nothing really coalesced, and the whole episode seemed more about setting up the last three episodes of the season. Here’s hoping all the staff’s “New Year’s dreams come true” but as far as this week goes, “Christmas Waltz” was something of a disappointment

Other Thoughts:

-It can’t be a coincidence that Lane embezzles the same amount of money George Bailey was accused of embezzling in It’s a Wonderful Life.

-That test-drive where they pretend to be a couple sure seems to tease the possibility of a Don-Joan tryst, doesn’t it? I say unlikely, although it seems equally unlikely that Don will continue sheepishly sitting down to dinner when Megan yells at him.

-In the annals of drunk-acting, Jon Hamm knocking over the lamp with his overcoat goes into the Hall of Fame.

-It may be hard to believe from how wooden and trite it was in the episode, but that was a real play Megan dragged Don to. It’s called America Hurrah, by Jean-Claude van-Itallie.

-Really loved Roger needing to translate Lane’s announcement about the bonuses.

-Is Don’s speech at the conference a sign that he thinks Megan was right about him, or something else?

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