Last night, with images of the gang at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce still fresh in my head, I had a crazy dream that they were all characters in some strange new production of Cabaret. This was much more interesting and unique than the episode we watched last night. It was an hour of good television, for sure, but it wasn't an hour of great television. It was scatter shot and diffuse without any real surprise or revelation. In fact, the best part of the episode was the dress Megan wore to her dinner with the writer of her soap opera.
The lackluster showing (one of my least favorite episodes ever and the saddest of a so far weak season) makes me especially sad because it was the first that featured Joan, always one of my favorites, and the first one ever to give us a story from the perspective of Don's secretary, Dawn. Their stories were set up to parallel each other, with both Joan and Dawn spending time with a close friend and talking about work. Joan's old friend Kate was in town looking to leave her job at Mary Kaye to start calling for Avon and Dawn was helping to plan a friend's wedding, and not very well.
After some needless meandering and making out with boys at the Electric Playground, a proto-rave space that seems made for cougars and French younger men, we discover what Joan wants is a life just like Kate's, where she has a husband and children and fulfilling work. Kate has one job that appreciates her enough to give her diamonds and another company that wants her so badly they flew her out to New York and put her up at the Waldorf. Joan doesn't feel wanted at all at SCDP, and when she is pursued with diamonds, it's not for the work she does behind a desk. Joan fought hard for her position, she sold herself to become a partner and, she says, no matter how long she works there they'll always see her as a secretary.
Ironically, Kate wants Joan's life, to have made it in New York without having to rely on any man. What Kate doesn't know is that Joan had to use her sway with men to get there, something that seems to be the only fact that is now salient to her character, since it's been hammered home two weeks in a row. We all know that it will forever be lurking in the back of our minds when we see her (just like the time her husband raped her) but do we need to keep playing up that one choice week after week?
Dawn has the opposite problem with her friend. While she likes her job and wants to keep it, she's jealous that her friend is getting married and won't have to work. In fact Dawn can't get a date or meet anyone because of her job. She says there is no one "like her" on the subway below 72nd street and she is certainly the only face of color in the office. Dawn wants what she is "supposed to" want, to break color barriers and make it in the white man's world, but that comes with a price. Not only is she an outcast with men, her friend doesn't think her job is worthwhile either. She thinks she should give it up for something closer to home, or at least something that will help her meet a man.
Dawn is so eager to please everyone (something her friend likens to a "yes, master" stance) that she has a hard time saying no to Scarlet when she asks to punch out her time card after she bolts from work early. When Joan tracks them down (complete with spy music that would have been perfect if it were deployed either once or three times during the episode rather than a weak twice) instead of waiting for her punishment, Dawn tells Joan that her pay should be docked for her dishonestly. Little does Dawn know that the thing that makes her not fit in, her race, is also what saved her job and there was no danger of her being fired anyway. Dawn says that even if everyone else hates her, which they already do beause of her color, she only wants to please Joan. They're two outcasts siding together — a direct contrast to the relationship between Joan and Peggy, where they were both outcasts but always positioned as rivals.
Still, Joan sees something in Dawn's honesty, and promoters her to being in charge of the supply closet and the time cards. Dawn wants everyone to think she's more than just a secretary and leaps at the chance, leaving behind her chance for acceptance both professionally and personally. Joan wants to be thought of as something other than a secretary and starts acting like it, pulling away from her clerical responsibilities and ceding control of her "petty dictatorship" so that she can become more like a partner. Sadly, she, too won't every find true acceptance because, of course, we will always be imagining how she got herself to the boardroom.
The key to this episode was Don's pitch to the Heinz ketchup people. "If you can get yourself in their imagination, then your ad plays all day." That is what both Dawn and Joan are trying to do, get themselves into the imagination of their bosses as something other than they are. Dawn doesn't want to be seen as "the black girl" she wants to be a responsible secretary. Joan doesn't want to be a secretary, she wants to be a partner. Harry doesn't want to be the ridiculous jerk with the funny glasses and the faux Louis Quattorze desk, he wants to be a partner, just like Joan.
Harry Crane was really the catalytic event for Joan to try to grow into her new position. He comes in questioning her authority when she fired Scarlet and, even though he's not a partner, pulled rank on her. I loved when Joan said, "Well, Scarlet. You will do what's right." She may not have control over the men, but she has control over the women. She doesn't even need to tell them what to do, they just do it.
But so much of last night's episode seemed extraneous, like Harry and his Broadway Joe on Broadway pitch with Ken's father-in-law, Leland Palmer. I guess it's setting up that Harry, despite his utter ridiculousness, is actually good at his job. By standing up for himself, he's created a new image in the boss' imagination of what he's really like. Then he pointed out to Roger and Bert Cooper (who suddenly has an office?) if they don't start appreciating him he's going to leave. Glad we set that up. Also glad that he got $23,500 for his Broadway Joe on Broadway idea, which is more than his annual salary, but still not a partner. Man, that's nothing!
This was a very work focused episode, and things are still not going well for Don Draper at work. Pete convenes a meeting with Timmy from Heinz ketchup at Pete's pied a terre, showing us all that Don will now be whoring himself out for work, just like all the other visitors to Pete's pad generally do. Even thought Don was against going after the client last episode, he's changed his mind now that he thinks it can be carried out in secret. If they get the job, Timmy will deal with Heinz Baked Beans, and if they don't, no one will be the wiser.
Back at the office he has Stan holed up in a tin-foil-lined office smoking pot and doing work with the spy music going on in the background (just how does his work in secret have anything to do with Joan's very public pursuit of Scarlet and Dawn?). Don's pitch about getting the consumer to imagine the ketchup is a good one, but they don't get the account. Not only that, but he runs into Peggy and her firm on the way out of the hotel room where they were taking the meeting. Don thought they were the only horse in the race, but he got burned.
Naturally he stops to hear Peggy's pitch, which is just as good as Don's but she uses his patented, "If you don't like what people are saying, change the conversation" line. It's only natural for her to take lines from someone who is her mentor. The difference between Peggy and Don is, however, that whenever she uses one of his moves, it doesn't work out for her. When she gets aggressive with clients or staff, something that Don does, she ends up losing the account or getting a bottle of feminine deodorant. Don's line doesn't work here, either.
After the pitch, Peggy and Ted run into the SCDP team at a nearby bar and they all learn that they lost the account to the largest ad agency in the world. Everyone there has compromised their morals and they have all lost. Don lost the Heinz Beans account, Peggy lost Stan's friendship and Don's respect, and Pete, well, he's once again lost to Ken Cosgrove.
While Don might have been immoral when dealing with Heinz, it's his hypocracy with Megan that is staggering. First they have dinner with Mel (Ted McGinley, from Married with Children and more sitcoms than you care to imagine) and Arlene and they propose a swingers set up for a rendezvous with Don and Megan (who, of course, doesn't even get it at first until they spell it out for her). Naturally they shoot this couple down, but marvel in the cab later how brazen they were and how they have been together for 18 years. Maybe if Don were allowed to explore a bit more within the confines of his marriage, he could make one last that long as well.
But what really galled them was how out in the open it was. Don wasn't upset that they asked them, but that they got the idea of a fourgy into their minds and now he can't shake it. Don thinks that these peccadilloes should be hidden. In fact, I think he gets off on it. He likes that Sylvia, his downstairs neighbor, goes to church and prays for his redemption. He likes that the secret of their affair tortures them both, it makes him feel awful about himself, which seems to be some sort of drug for Don.
This is also what seems to upset him so much about Megan's love scene with her coworker. It's not that she's kissing another man, but it's that she's doing so in public. He says to her, "You're kissing men for money, do you know who does that?" Yes, he calls her a whore, and we all know, thanks to last episode's clunky flashback, how Don feels about whores. Also he is just like he was as a teen, lurking in the shadows watching a woman who is close to him have sex with another man. Still he goes right from arguing with her in her dressing room to making out with Sylvia in her maid's bedroom.
Yes, we get it, Don is a hypocrite, but he sees the big difference being that his is private and hers is public. Megan is letting herself get into the public's imagination as a sex object and, even if they don't show much on daytime television, the people who watch it are going to mentally have their way with his wife. No one is ever going to know about Don and Sylvia except them, so it doesn't threaten anyone's perception of them.
Of course Don is wrong. Someone is going to find out. They always find out, and once they do, it's not going to be the fact of them sleeping together that is going to drive Megan (or Arnold) absolutely crazy, it's going to be all that imagining and speculating about what happened that is really going to cause all the trouble.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
More: 'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper Is a Whore'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper Has No Idea Who He IsWhat Is This 'Mad Men' Season 6 Party All About Anyway?
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)Which Game of Thrones Actor Looks Least Like His Character? (Vulture)
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Top Story: Star Shows First Shots of Douglas Baby
Star magazine captured the first paparazzi photo of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas's new baby girl, Carys Zeta Douglas, who was born Easter Sunday, USA Today.com reports. The highly sought after photo shows a long-lens shot of the dark-haired newborn asleep in her mother's arms and is on the tabloid's cover. According to USA Today.com, editors won't reveal where the picture was snapped, what they paid for it or whether the couple--who recently and successfully sued British mag Hello!, for publishing unofficial pictures of their 2000 wedding--will take legal action. In another case, USA Today.com reports lawyers for the couple Wednesday sent a cease-and-desist letter to Clear Channel Worldwide, which recently posted photos on the Web of a "heavily pregnant and topless" Zeta-Jones sunning herself in Mexico and smoking a cigarette.
Franklin Ordered to Clean Up
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was ordered to clean up the mess left by a fire which ravaged her Oakland County, Mich., home Oct. 25, the Associated Press reports. Kaye Chartier, Bloomfield Township's code and ordinance director, told The Oakland Press Franklin, who was in Texas at the time of the fire, has 10 days to clean up the site and 30 days to inform the township of her plans to either renovate or demolish the house. After a six-month investigation, it was ruled the fire was caused by arson. No charges have been filed.
Rhode Island Affiliate Won't Air CSI: Miami Episode
Out of respect for the victims and survivors of the tragic fire in February during a Great White concert, a Rhode Island-area CBS affiliate will not be airing an CSI: Miami episode which deals with a nightclub fire, AP reports. The episode, scheduled to air Monday, focuses on the criminal investigation of a fire at a Miami nightclub that was caused by pyrotechnics.
Dixie Chicks Open Tour With a Bang
With or without controversy, the Dixie Chicks opened their summer tour to a cheering, sold-old crowd Thursday in South Carolina. According to AP, singer Natalie Maines headed off any possible negative reactions that may have arisen from her now-infamous comment about the President. "We have a plan for this," Maines reportedly told the audience. "If you're here to boo, we welcome that. We're going to give you 15 seconds to do that." The fans cheered them on instead, AP reports.(Now, would you be there if you felt like booing them? Just askin'.)
Another Lawsuit Against Michael Jackson
A design firm that claims it was hired by Michael Jackson to build him a personal theme park in Las Vegas sued the singer Friday, alleging that he owes about $80,000, City News reports. Cancilier Studio Inc. claims Jackson made a deal with the company in March 2002 to help design and build the "Neverlands Estate,'' where the company would pay the tab and be paid back "later." Cancilier finished the project but has yet to see any money from the pop singer.
Rap Music Label Has Drug Connection
An extensive money-laundering investigation by the Internal Revenue Service has uncovered that the record label Murder Inc., who represents recording artists as Ja Rule and Ashanti, had a partnership with notorious drug dealer Kenneth McGriff, AP reports. According to the affidavit, one informant told federal investigators that while "[Irv] Gotti [owner of Murder Inc.] is the public face of Murder Inc., McGriff is the true owner of the company ... It is well-known in the music industry that McGriff has provided Murder Inc. with 'muscle.'"
Roth Isn't as Heroic as He Claims
In a statement, former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth claims he stopped an intruder Saturday on his property and held him at bay with a shotgun until the police arrived--funny thing is, the police say it didn't really happen that way, LAUNCH Music.com reports. Police did corroborate that Roth's neighbor was found on the front lawn of the singer's house, but that Roth was on the second-floor balcony with not a shotgun in site.
J.K. Rowling Will Talk About New Potter Book
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling will field questions about her fifth installment Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from roughly 4,000 fans when she takes the stage at London's Royal Albert Hall, Reuters reports. In order to promote the launch of the book, the event--with tickets being awarded through school lotteries--will take place June 26.
Role Call: Garner Gets "Happy," Cusacks Leave "Stepford," Another "Lizzie Maguire"
Jennifer Garner will replace Gwyneth Paltrow in the indie Happy Endings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film, also starring Lisa Kudrow, is described as a contemporary comedy set in Los Angeles involving three intertwining stories with 10 characters…In more replacement news, John Cusack and his sister Joan have dropped out of the remake of The Stepford Wives, with Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler in negotiations to replace them, Variety reports…Meanwhile, Disney already has a sequel in the works for the cutesy Lizzie McGuire Movie, which opens May 2 and stars the new 'tween queen Hilary Duff.