S4:E6 Last night was the Primetime Emmy Awards, so I’d be very surprised if you watched Mad Men too…because if you were like me, you stuck yourself with a cactus thorn every time Jimmy Fallon broke out his guitar and then just passed out. Mad Men did, however, walk away with awards for Best Drama Series, Best Writing, and at last week’s Creative Arts Awards, won Best Hairstyling and Best Casting. So it was otherwise a successful night for them. Did they deserve all those awards? Let’s take a look at last night’s episode and find out.
We opened up with Don and Peggy interviewing a guy with an outrageously skinny tie, trying to school Don about what a good advertisement looks like. It turned out he was Jane’s (Roger Sterling’s wife) 24-year-old pipe smoking cousin. But since all his ads were “cures” for something, Don ushered him out and insisted he take his unoriginality with him. Peggy said he made her feel good about herself, and she asked Don if he was excited to be nominated for some award that advertisers get if they’re good at convincing us that Vicks Vapo Rub is good for when we run out of Milkbones, too.
Don went to talk to Roger about Jane’s cousin, and how all of the ads in his portfolio weren’t even ones he did: they were ones that inspired him. Then, we flashed back to a dubious time when Don was a salesman and he was helping Roger find a mink for somebody. Roger caught a glimpse of one of the ads in the store and told Don to call him…but “only for specific shipping instructions.” This scene made my heart sink a bit — even though we’ve spent the last four seasons watching Don use and abuse his assistants and generally inhabit a climate of total superiority, it’s amazing how all it takes is one scene for us to go right back to making sure he’s got enough jelly on his peanut butter sandwich.
The flashback continued, and we saw Roger give Joan the mink. She opened up the box and found a portfolio that consisted of the ads Don had lined the suit store with. It was, of course, forgotten about when Joan took off her dress so she was only wearing his gift.
We came back to a time we’re more comfortable with (one where Don asks for a “simple but significant” drink), and saw Peggy trying to get the new art designer to step up his game and stop making her do all the work. He rambled on and on about nudes before Peggy asked him if he thought his leather jacket would protect him from being the target of a Don screaming session. That seemed to resonate with him, and the two of them got to work. And by “work” I mean doing what I did in tenth grade chemistry, which was throwing pencils up in the air so they’d get stuck in the ceiling.
At the Cleo’s (the advertisement awards), Don won the award for his Glo-Coat commercial. Unfortunately, he wasn’t asked to give a speech. Instead, Joan, Roger, Don and Pete raced back to the office to make a presentation to the people at Life cereal. However, Don was totally wasted while he talked to the executives, and they didn’t seem to think average folks would understand the irony that Don incorporated into the ad. So Don, in his drunken stupor, rambled off slogans like, “Life, the cure for the common breakfast.” Which, incidentally, his inebriated conscience probably lifted from Jane’s cousin’s portfolio.
Don had his secretary lock Peggy and the art director in a hotel room so they could get some work down for a deadline they had to meet the following Monday. Peggy took off her clothes so as to “inspire” his nudist tendencies, but it only rendered him less capable of completing the task at hand.
Peggy showed up at Don’s house to remind him that he changed the Life ad from “Eat Life by the bowlful” to “Life: the cure for the common breakfast.” This upset him even more than when he learned he slept with a woman who stands in front of fries and waiting for them to fry. The next day, he called Jane’s cousin back into the office and offered him $100 for his “idea,” which Danny rejected in favor of a job. Don gave him one, but only because he remembered how Roger gave him one. It was all very “Lion King.”
I take it by now you’ve realized this episode was about an awards ceremony, and it aired on the night of an awards ceremony. Clever, yes. Over the top? Surely. But the message was good, and Don slept with his first unattractive woman. That alone made Mad Men worthy of all its Emmys.