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Ten takeaways from Mad Men's Episode 3, Season 7


Roger and Don: Reunited, but will it feel so good? AMC photo

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Presenting our weekly 10 takeaways from Mad Men’s two-tiered, 14-episode final season. Sunday’s hour was subtitled “Field Trip.”

1.Let’s start at the very beginning of the episode, with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) alone in a movie theater watching an unidentified feature. It turns out to be 1969’s Model Shop, the first U.S. film from director Jacques Demy. Set in Los Angeles, it starred Gary Lockwood, Oscar nominee Anouk Aimee (A Man and a Woman) and Alexandra Hay as a young actress whose relationship with Lockwood’s character is on the rocks.

There’s a parallel, of course, in Don’s increasingly troubled marriage to struggling young actress Megan Draper (Jessica Pare). Also notable: the film’s soundtrack is by Spirit, one of my favorite rock groups of the 1960s. They briefly play themselves in Model Shop, with lead vocalist Jay Ferguson at one point agreeably loaning $100 to unemployed, disaffected architect George Matthews (Conway). Don still doesn’t need the money, but he’s likewise unemployed and disaffected.

One wonders whether Don in reality would have been caught dead patronizing an art house film. His tastes seem to run more toward mindless TV, as we’ve seen throughout Mad Men. And in an earlier classic episode, he jerked the needle off The Beatles’ “Revolver” album after Megan had strongly recommended it. Here’s a link to the Spirit clip from Model Shop, in which a poster of The Beatles is clearly visible in Ferguson’s music room while he plays a new composition for Conway’s character.

2. A newly docile Don ended the episode with an agreeable “OK” after old pal Roger Sterling (John Slattery) greased his re-entrance to Sterling, Cooper & Partners. He encountered a decidedly frosty climate before Roger convinced the agency’s other decision-makers that it would be cheaper to re-hire Don than buy him out. But these are not terms of endearment. Neutered for now, Don will have to abide by a number of “stipulations,” including no drinking in the office “outside of client hospitality.” Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9” then kicked in during the closing credits. Key lyric: “If the sun refuse to shine, I don’t mind.”

So my prediction of a reunion between Don and former protege Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) was right but also very wrong. Because they won’t be fighting back with their own new agency. They’ll instead be stuck with another for now, with Peggy cold as ice in telling Don, “Well, I can’t say that we missed you.”

3. It’s easier from a storytelling standpoint to have the remaining charter Sterling Cooper denizens all under one roof again -- albeit with interlopers Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) and Lou Avery (Allan Havey), to whom Don must now report. But it’s also deflating at the moment, with Don almost desperately wanting to be wanted after Megan pushed him out of her life while loyal secretary and confidant Dawn Chambers (Teyonnah Parris) had her hands too full to fully service him with door-to-door intel and deliveries. A semblance of old, entitled Don slammed down the phone after Dawn asked if she could put him on hold. But by the end of the episode, he seemed ready and willing to take daily workplace urine tests if that’s what it took.

4. Betty Draper (January Jones) was seen for the first time this season. Creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner decided to remind viewers what a lousy mother she can be during a school bus field trip to a farm with oldest son, Bobby (Mason Vale Cotton). The kid was so happy and proud to have his mom along. But it all went sour when he innocently traded her lunch sandwich for a sack of gumdrops from a classmate. Betty upraised him and ordered Bobby to eat his candy. In the same motion, she put on her sunglasses and coldly turned away from him while they sat on a picnic blanket outside the farm.

“I wish it was yesterday,” he told stepfather Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) at the dinner table that night. It’s easy to see Bobby now adopting his sister Sally’s (Kiernan Shipka) deep-seated resentment toward mommie dearest. But it’s getting harder to justify Betty’s continued presence on Mad Men. She’s become little more than an irksome, time-consuming detour.

5. Harry Hamlin has been really good in a much-expanded role this season. From this perspective, he’s also surpassed old-liner Lou Avery as Sterling Cooper’s principal villain in residence. “This agency is too dependent on creative personalities,” he groused in Sunday’s episode. What’s needed is a computer, not all these “creative hijinks.” Take him down, Don.

6. Smart ass, underling ad man Ben Feldman (Michael Ginsberg) continues to aim some withering fire at Peggy. The latest burst: “She’s upset because I got nominated for a Clio and Rosemary’s Baby didn’t.” Irresistible segue: NBC’s new four-hour version of Rosemary’s Baby is coming on May 11th.

7. Sharpest cut of all Sunday night: Megan learning that Don’s surprise visit was tied to her alleged inability to accept rejection after auditioning for roles. “Thanks for the visit, daddy!” she spat. This came soon after they made love to satisfy Don’s “hankering.”

8. Betty sulkily watched TV in her bedroom while cuddling baby son, Gene, the only child she hasn’t yet despoiled. Did the audio sound familiar? It was from an episode of the sitcom My Favorite Martian. There was a lot of crap on the tube back then.

9. The blast from TV’s past in Sunday’s episode was Jim Metzler, who had a featured role in ABC’s 1985 miniseries North and South and its 1986 sequel. Metzler guest-starred as adman Victor Perkins, the guy who accompanied David James Elliott’s Dave Wooster to dinner on the night they offered Don a contract that he then used as leverage.

10. All things considered, Roger Sterling acted pretty heroically Sunday in going to bat for Don. But first he showed up late to the office after again drinking his lunch. I still think Roger’s odds of survival to the very end of Mad Men are the longest of any charter character. Although Betty might also be prone to doing something drastic before Roger can imbibe himself into the grave.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net