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Mad Men Recap: ‘Waldorf Stories’

August 30, 2010

Don and Roger meet for the first time

First matter of business to address this evening: congrats to Mad Men for its Emmy Awards this evening.  Mad Men took home the big prize for Best Drama for the third year in a row, and Matt Weiner and Erin Levy won for best writing for a dramatic series. Now, on with the recap.

“Waldorf Stories” begins with Peggy and Don interviewing Danny, an unimpressive candidate who has brought his “book” for them to evaluate.  The portfolio only contains a meager smattering of original ideas, all culled from the “cure for the common cold” phrase.  The rest of the book is padded with advertising that Danny has found inspirational.  He smugly explains that his “original” ideas are a take-off from the cure for the common cold idiom.

If it has been a while since you took English 101, an idiom is a phrase, word, or saying that is a figurative interpretation of the word that is separate from its literal meaning.

Danny name-drops Roger, and says he thinks that aspiration is as good as perspiration. If only.  Don is not impressed.  Little does Danny know that dropping Roger’s name to Don is not likely to gain him any favor.  The two have a complicated love/hate relationship.

For a short while, I thought that Peggy had secured a foothold in the office.  After all, she is sitting in on a meeting where she will have input on a potential hire.  Surely that is some progress?

Alas, as soon as the diminutive  Danny (did anyone else see that his head only came up to Don’s chest?) is dismissed, Don takes Peggy down a notch when she tells him that it is nice to see someone who is worse than her.  ”Don’t get used to it,” is his blunt reply.

Don divulges that Danny is Jane’s cousin, hence the Roger Sterling  connection.

Peggy tells Don good luck at the CLIO awards, he shrugs her off with feigned indifference.  Is this Don’s attempt to  downplay the ceremony because Peggy’s contribution to the Glo-Coat advertising campaign was thoroughly glossed over, and he knows it?

Before she leaves, Peggy expresses frustration with Stanley, an art director she has been instructed to work with. Compassionate as always, Don basically tells her to suck it up and learn to work with him.

In the next scene, Roger is pontificating about silent films, and lamenting that Hardy was always mean to Laurel.  A woman dictates as he speaks, and it is revealed that Roger is working on a memoir, and this particular chapter pertains to his childhood.

Don busts into Roger’s office to bitch about Danny.  The two have a good chuckle over a cocktail.

Roger: “When does he start?”

Don “First of never” (erupting into peals of laughter.)

Roger wishes Don luck at the Waldorf, where the CLIO awards are taking place, and we are treated to a rare flashback, this time back to when Roger and Don first met. Roger is shopping in a fancy store that specializes in fur coats, and Don is the salesman. Roger hopes to find a coat that says “I’m getting to know you, but I don’t want to scare you away.”  Don knows the perfect pelt.  Roger settles on a waist-length coat.  Is it for Mona?

Roger notices a print ad on the wall of the store that shows a woman wearing a three-quarter length coat.  The ad copy reads “Why wait for a man to buy you a fur coat?”   Roger asks who does their work.  Don says he designed it.  Roger passes Don a business card, but just as the over-eager Don is getting excited about the prospect of speaking with Roger, he is cruelly brought down to earth. “I just want to give you proper delivery instructions,” Roger says.

It is is an asshole move, and gives us a bit of insight into the relationship dynamics between the two men.  Roger established from the get-go that he is the one in the position of authority.  He knew the business card would raise Don’s hopes, but he purposely beat him down a bit.

Turns out that coat was not for Mona, after all.  We are catching a glimpse into the early days of Roger and Joan’s courtship. Joan looks exquisite in a black gown, with milky white skin and billowing breasts.  It is obvious to see why Roger went out and bought a fur coat for her.  She is truly stunning.

After the temptress gets the gift, she purrs, “When I wear this, I will remember what happened the night I got it.”  Who could resist that alluring promise?

Snap back to present time. The gang is supposed to meet with Life cereal to pitch a campaign.  Joan informs the boardroom that the Life representatives have been delayed.  She opens the bar and reminds the gents (and Peggy) that they only have one hour until the CLIOs.  Drink up!

You can tell Peggy was really longing to go to the CLIO awards.  Instead, she makes her way to speak with Stan, who is showing a KKK film reel that he made for a Lyndon B. Johnson advertisement.

The two begin verbally sparring almost immediately.  Stan accuses Peggy of being repressed, brainwashed, and thinking everything is dirty.  Stan fancies himself an enlightened liberal-minded chap who has been saddled with a stick in the mud. It’s not hard to see where this is going.

Don, Joan, and Roger hold hands

Meanwhile, at the CLIOs,  nemesis Ted Shaw delivers the best line of the evening when he spies Roger and Don. “If it isn’t Pebbles and Bam Bam.  Did you leave any drinks for the rest of us?”

Ken Cosgrove makes an appearance, much to Pete’s chagrin. Pete becomes positively horrified when someone lets it slip that Pete and Ken might be working together soon. Pete follows up last weeks “Christ on a Cracker” with “Judas Priest” this week.  He’s our new go-to guy for awkward curse word euphemisms.  I love it.

Pete tries to ask Don about the new development, but Don shushes him, rudely.  While the opening ceremony begins for the CLIOs, Duckie stands up, drunk out of his skull, and is promptly escorted out following a brief gin-soaked diatribe. This interruption prompts the MC to tell the crowd, “pace yourselves.”  Only in Mad Men world.

Predictably, Don wins an award for the Glo-Coat campaign, but just prior to that win, a few interesting things take place. Joan clasps hands with Roger under the table.  Shortly after, Don takes her other hand (Joan is sitting between the two at a circular table.)  When Don wins, Joan stand up and Don kisses her, on the lips, and lingers just a bit longer than he should. That should have been a cheek kiss, right?  Please don’t have Joan and Don hook up.  Anyone think that would be a good idea?

The guys are informed that the Life cereal people made it, after all, and are waiting back at the boardroom.  A soused Don and company stumble back to the office. Don gives a not-so-smooth presentation to the cereal team. His pitch is “Eat Life by the bowlful.”  He believes that moms will get the irony, and kids will understand the picture.

The Life rep thinks the slogan might be too smart for mainstream people.  (This irritated me to no end. Seriously?  Too smart?)   Drunken Don starts hurling out a bunch of alternative ideas, one of which is Danny’s “Cure for the common breakfast.”  Don has no idea what he just said, but the Life people love it.  Peggy looks like she is going to blow a gasket.  She cannot believe that Don is stealing another idea and taking the credit.

Pete meets with Lane to express his concerns over Ken Cosgrove, and basically gives a “it’s him or it’s me” ultimatum.  Raise your hand if you wanted Lane to say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”  Instead, Lane placates Pete by saying that Roger isn’t pulling his weight, and Pete can’t be expected to do everything.  It is a wonderful bit of psychological wizardry that Lane pulls off.  He clearly knows how to work Pete.

Don goes on a serious bender following his win.  First, he propositioned Dr. Miller (again) to no avail.  Then he beds a brunette followed by a blond, washed-out waitress named Doris. You can’t sink much lower.  Betty calls him, snarling that he is two hours late to pick up the children. He thinks it is Saturday, but it is Sunday. He politely chases Doris out and has a bit of hair of the dog.

Finally, Peggy has been sequestered with Stan, who continues to goad her.  She has been beat down at work, where she has no power, and now this imbecile mocks her incessantly.  So Peggy wields the one power she has; her sexuality.  She stuns Stan by stripping and demanding that he do the same, and then proceeds to go about brainstorming for the Vick campaign.  She has the hint of a smile when she can’t help but see that he is *ahem* distracted.  It is a small victory, but symbolizes Peggy’s emerging power, and reinforces that she will not continue to be silenced.  I suspect  some things will be shaking up at the office.

Back at the post-celebration going on at the bar, Joan leaves Roger, noting that he has crossed the line from being lubricated to being morose. We then get a final flashback to Roger and Don.  Don takes Roger out for drinks at 10am under the pretense of picking his brain, but we later find out that Roger never remembered  hiring Don.  Did Don intentionally get Roger plowed on their first meeting?  It is difficult to tell the exact sequence of events, but it seems feasible.

Peggy confronts a hungover Don at his apartment about Danny’s idea.  The episode ends with Danny getting a job at the firm, after Don tried to pay him off with some chump change.

You can read our previous Mad Men recaps here.



3 Responses to “ Mad Men Recap: ‘Waldorf Stories’ ”

  1. Ally on August 30, 2010 at 11:41 am

    You left out my favourite scene of the night: when Peggy goes to Don’s apartment, and this time she scolds him (note he’s sitting on an armrest, and their heads are at the same height). Finally she tells him, re: the tagline, boss/role-reversal-like: “Fix it.” I cheered.

    Also, in Don’s furrier ad, Betty was the model. Remember, this is how they met — at the ad shoot. Then he sent her a fur coat.

    Between Roger-Don and Don-Danny (who was the newspaper editor on Gilmore Girls, btw) the moral of the night seemed to be: the secret to success is get your prospective empoloyer hammered.

  2. amanda on August 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    This was a very interesting episode. I loved seeing the flashback of Don and Roger meeting. Don seemed so green, yet so eager. I love Don’s older secretary barking at the job candidate that it’s not “my job to recommend restaurants.” She is also seen for a second reading with a magnifying glass. Such great little details.
    I especially loved Peggy finally becoming empowered and assertive by scolding Don to “Fix it!” I am hoping that she becomes a partner and perhaps the top person in the firm at the end of season 6. She seems like the most talented person on the staff. It is also so fascinating to watch subtle changes in decor, artwork, and relationships between the sexes.
    Anyway, thanks for the great recap!

  3. Shannon on August 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    @Ally I have a great short term memory but a poor long term one. Totally forgot about Betty being the model. Excellent catch.