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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.2 - A Day's Work


crazyforkate

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After a slow-moving (but satisfying) season premiere, will the action start to pick up? Let's find out!

Previously on: Sally catches Don in the act, Joan does her power play with Avon last season, Ted buggers off to California, Don gets kicked out of the agency. Lou Avery is also a dick. Don and Megan remain distant, even in bed together. Opening credits. Maybe we'll actually see more than half the cast they're trumpeting. Written by Igla/Weiner, directed by Uppendahl.

Don wakes up alone, a state in which he has been for a while. He rolls out of bed past noon and watches The Little Rascals on TV, eating Ritz crackers from the box and penciling the level on his bottle of Canadian Club. He spots a cockroach in his perfect apartment and sighs. Ah, reminds me of college.

Later on, he gets a visitor. It's Dawn! Apparently, she's a frequent visitor, as she noticed he was out of various kitchen ingredients last time. However, they don't appear to be having it off, which is a relief, because she's miles too good for him. Even though he's not at SC&P these days, she still functions as his secretary, ordering Megan's Valentine's Day bouquet and dealing with other administrative minutiae - including all the office gossip. (He tried to get her to steal copies of the work from Peggy, but she didn't go that far.) He tries to pay her, but she refuses because she's just too damned decent. Dawn has long since joined the Nice People Club, which on this show numbers about three members at any given moment. Don closes the door behind her and looks thoughtful, as usual.

And we see Sally again! Kiernan Shipka is growing up as quickly as ever, leaving all of those who remember Season 1 to feel old. Apparently, a classmate's mother has died, and Sally and her roommates of course use the tragedy as an excuse to escape the funeral and go shopping in New York. Also, Sally literally comments that she can't wait to "get Betty in the ground". First name and everything. Holy crap, I thought the damage would take at least another decade and two spiritual experiences to show up.

Pete is still working on Chevy and dating Bouncy Bonnie, the real estate agent, but he's more into the former at the moment. He blabs on about how important he is and how much the company needs him, blah blah blah. She manages to seduce him anyway, they shag on her desk, and it's as awkward and creepy as you could expect with Pete. Things are especially bad when Ted walks in, asks how it went, then casually wishes Bonnie a good night. Despite themselves, they can't help giggling. Well played, Chaough.

Peggy gets into the elevator and finds Stan and Ginsberg, who are not happy when she starts to boss them around. When they find out she has no plans for Valentine's Day, well, the temptation is too much to resist, and they start making jokes about gloomy masturbation. However, Peggy is cheered up when she finds a huge bouquet of roses on her desk. She takes them into her office and restrains herself from firing Stan for his smart remarks. Her secretary, Shirley, shows up, and from the look on her face we know immediately who the flowers are actually for, but Peggy is so pathetically happy about it that she keeps her mouth shut. She does make a gentle hint, however, which Peggy mistakes for being discretion over Ted. Sad Shirley leaves the office looking pretty forlorn. Peggy, for her part, sends Ted a cryptic message, at which she fails spectacularly. In fact, she accidentally tells him that "the business is gone". No way will this come back to bite her in the ass.

Roger comes in with a charming Valentine's Day soliloquy, in which he manages to drop the k-word (slur against the Jewish people) twice. Lou Avery is not impressed. And dressed slightly better this week, fortunately. We learned the company lost Hershey. Thanks a lot, Don!

Sally and her friends board the train after the funeral/truancy exercise. Apparently they had quite the time, as an allusion to a head shop might suggest. Sally realizes she's forgotten her purse and gets off the train.

Dawn and Shirley meet in the break room, where Shirley bitches about Peggy's flower theft (and it is implied that Peggy is not a great boss in general). After they complain for a while, Shirley decides she's going to get them back, but Dawn tells her she's being an idiot and will probably lose her job. She also confides that she has two bosses. And there's another dumb decision of the morning!

Don goes to a meeting with a rival ad exec, who is hoping to poach him and is not hesitant to use blackmail to do so. However, Don's not so keen to admit to what happened. Meanwhile, Sally shows up at SC&P, where she is let in by the incompetent Meredith. She heads to her dad's office, only to find Lou Avery occupying it. The man is somewhat condescending when he tells Sally that Don's not there, but when he realizes that Sally doesn't know, he gets the best "Oh crap" look on his face. He stumbles through what is starting to be the world's cruelest explanation, but Sally, who is more sensible than (almost) the entire staff at this place, asks if Joan's there instead. Smart girl. When she finds the door locked, though, Avery helpfully tells her that everyone's probably at lunch, effectively kicking a teenager out on the street. Classy.

Don's still at lunch with the exec (and a dude from McCann who randomly joins in), where they trade ribald stories and pretend to like each other. It seems like every agency in New York is courting Don, except for the one he's actually employed by.

Bitter over her non-romance with Ted, Peggy "gives" the roses to Shirley, making sure to point out how magnanimous she's being. Shirley gives a smug smile, though it's pretty mixed in with the "are you kidding me?" face.

Pete brags about his advertising prowess on a conference call to New York. Cooper destroys him with another one of his epic put-downs. However, Pete appears to have won new business, so they're happy with him anyway. They argue over whether to pursue Detroit further. Ted and Pete conduct an epic war via paper signs. The call cuts in and out, everyone continues to debate, and Don is brought up, or as Cutler puts it, "our collective ex-wife who still receives alimony". Eventually, the call falls apart completely. Roger storms out. Against Cooper's advice, Joan leaves, too.

Don comes home to find his daughter, which was not expected. He tries to tell her he was at the office, but she's not buying it. She in turn lies, telling him she came to get train fare - a story he also sees through. Don offers to drive her back to school, and provide an absence excuse. She asks him to write the truth.

Dawn returns to her desk only to get yelled at by Avery, who somehow blames her for Sally's appearance, even going so far as to demand an apology. God, what an asshole. When she hears what Avery said to the kid, she immediately gets Don on the line. Just as Don and Sally are about to leave, the call comes through. Everyone's lies are exposed, though neither acknowledges it.

Joan has been summoned to deal with Dawn's transgression of not controlling a teenager she barely knows. Once there, Avery yells about having to clean up Don's messes and refuses to hear Dawn's side of things. He demands that she be moved somewhere else. Dawn, demonstrating the first "brass balls" moment of the season, has a moment to say her peace and chews out Avery spectacularly. It is glorious. Consider the mic dropped. Joan is clearly on her side, and even upbraids Avery a little, though the self-absorbed boss clearly doesn't give two shits.

Roger calls Pete in order to break some tough news - he's going to run everything through Detroit, which means priority goes to Bob Benson. Pete flips out, of course, and starts screaming insults at Roger, who nonchalantly hangs up. Not that Pete notices.

When he finally does figure it out, he goes to Ted and vents his existential rage. Yes, literally. He's tired of California's frontier attitude, as his name now means jack shit. Ted advises him to "just cash the checks, you're going to die one day." Ol' Pete is missing New York, where status is everything, and is clearly plotting a way to get back. This whole storyline has been hilarious from the get-go, while still being incredibly sad. It now looks like everyone on this show is miserable. I'm not adding Pete to the list of people "most likely to strike out on their own" this season, along with Don and Peggy.

Dawn has been kicked off of Avery's desk, and is now manning reception. She is replaced by Stupid Meredith, which is probably a good thing for the company.

Don and Sally have their Father-Daughter-Liar-Road-Trip, where he interrogates her about her story and reveals that he knows she went to his office, though he hypocritically refuses to say why he wasn't there. They continue to argue, and of course it goes back to the elephant in the room - what happened with Don and Sylvia. Sally admits that she was terrified of running into "that woman" in Don's building. He gives a choked apology, but she tells him to stop talking. They pull over at a gas station. Don is barely keeping himself together.

Shirley has a call from California for Peggy, but Peggy refuses to talk to Ted, obstinate woman that she is. Probably a bit drunk by now, Peggy instructs Shirley to throw the flowers away, calling them "cursed". She goes on a long speech about commercialization, while Shirley wears the "are you kidding me" face again. As Peggy goes to throw the bouquet out, Shirley finally admits they're hers. Pegasus is humiliated, though she would have been significantly less so if she hadn't screamed about it for the whole office to hear. She throws a tantrum like a five-year-old, then cries for the second time in as many episodes. All in all, not a great season for Peggy thus far.

Cooper comes in to find Dawn working at reception, which immediately sends him running to Joan. He's concerned about appearances, shall we say, and says some extremely awful things about it. Joan suggests that maybe he wants her to "dismiss her based on the color of her skin", with perfect Joan snarkiness. Cooper instantly backtracks. However, he still wants Dawn moved. Joan rubs her temples.

Pete shows up to an apartment Bonnie's showing, where he proceeds to preview what their date night will be like. Of course, being Pete, he explains it in the grossest way possible. How on earth does he end up dating all these gorgeous women again? He complains that he's unappreciated at work. She recounts a time she lost a big commission, which he of course belittles. However, she turns it around by telling him that business really is a thrill. "I want to chew you up and spit you out," says Pete. For some reason, she takes this as a sign that she should have sex with him. I like Bonnie, but seriously, no taste.

Don and Sally wind up in a restaurant, where Sally refuses to eat or speak. He admits that he only pulled over to get her to talk to him, then vaguely explains the circumstances behind his departure, and why he kept it a secret. When he mentions that he "told the truth", Sally latches onto this and asks him to elaborate. "Nothing you don't know," he says, which begs the question of just how much Sally knows. He admits he doesn't really know how to fix the problem, or why he's not with Megan in California. "Why don't you just tell her you don't want to move?" Sally asks, and as soon as we see Don's face we know she's right. Sally settles for a Coke, and Don is left in thought.

Peggy is still in a mood and still at work. Like everyone else at the agency, she runs to Joan to fix the situation. She wants to move Shirley. When Joan offers several alternatives and Peggy rejects them all, Joan finally explodes. Peggy winds up flouncing. Cutler comes in the other door, prompting Joan to scream at him too. When she attributes this to "personnel issues", he realizes that she has been working two jobs this whole time, something which failed to dawn on anyone else in the past however many seasons since she got promoted. (I think it was the end of Season 4? She didn't make partner until Season 5, though.) He vows to do something about it, and before you can say "Finally someone with common sense", Joan is moved upstairs to work as an account (wo)man.

Sally calls her friends, who have her covered until she can get back to school. Back at the table, she finds that her dad has ordered her a meal anyway. They talk about the funeral. Sally claims she only went to go shopping in the city. He doesn't chide her, but gently tells her he doubts it. They reach some kind of understanding after all this time, which culminates in a dine-and-dash from the restaurant, sharing an identical wicked grin. World's best parent? I think so.

Joan moves upstairs toting her own flowers, supposedly from Kevin, though it's obvious which silver-haired hedonist sent them. Roger, clearly resenting Jim's recent authority kick, barely bothers to say something nice about her promotion. Shirley is sent to look after Avery and his tantrums, while Dawn gets moved to a slightly nicer place - her very own office, as she takes Joan's old job. Yes, this actually happened, and yes, I cheered.

Cutler and Roger run into each other in the elevator, where they talk about the conference call and Roger's chat with Pete. Jim mentions that he'd hate to have Roger as an adversary. The drama, it is heating up.

Don drops Sally off at school. She bids him goodbye, and just as she's about to go, she suddenly turns and tells him she loves him. As she walks away, Don stares, stunned. End credits.

Well, I liked what I saw. The women of SC&P kicked some serious ass this episode, with the exception of Whiny Peggy, who proves that success isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'm excited to see Joan finally get her recognition and Dawn finally get her own plot. The Don and Sally storyline was also very well-played, showing what needed to be worked through quite believably. As much as I enjoy Mad Men's atmosphere, however, I do hope that things will kick up a notch as the season goes on. The show has always been slow-moving, but if it stays at this pace for the next five episodes, it risks stagnation. Coming up in the next few weeks: "Field Trip" and "The Monolith", which must have something to do with 2001. I can't wait!

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