Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Mad Men "Christmas Waltz"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Christmas approaches, Lane's financial woes push him into some very bad decisions. Pete has managed to secure a renewed attempt to get the Jaguar account, but no one seems to be giving him the respect he wants. Joan gets some bad news that prompts an interesting afternoon out. Paul Kinsey returns.

Christmas Waltz was one of the best of the season, focusing mostly on SCDP goings on, and very referencial to past events, including Kinsey's appearance in one of the more surprising moments. However, Joan's scenes overshadowed everything, and are easily some of the most memorable of the series to date. It was really a pleasure to watch her get some focus and show why she's one of the big stars of this show.

As we approach the end of the season, I'm wondering how much Jaguar will figure in the plot developments, given it received so much focus. It could provide a nice balance to the loss of Lucky Strike at the end of last season.

Spoilers Now!
Lane is in trouble with the tax man for avoiding taxes in Britain when he paid for his partnership at SCDP. To avoid jail he has to come up with some cash. Lane devises a scheme, so meets with Walt, their banker, asking to extend SCDP's credit by $50,000, given no one is paying their bills on time. He gets the extension. Then Pete announces that Lane's friend from Jaguar is nolonger with the company, and they've asked SCDP to pitch a campaign, courtesy of Pete's persistence. Some in the office still aren't keen on Jaguar, but Pete remains excited about it.

Harry has lunch with Paul Kinsey, who is now a Hare Krishna. He convinces Harry to stay for a prayer session which Harry ends up getting into, helped by the fact of the attractive Lakshmi encouraging him. He and Kinsey have lunch, where Paul admits he's in love with Lakshmi. The movement saved his life when he was at rock bottom and he wants to make a life with her but not in the movement. She won't leave unless she knows she won't end up on the street again, given she has a shady past. Harry figures he's asking him for a job, but Kinsey actually gives him some writing he's done on spec for Star Trek and asks him to read it and pass it along to NBC.

At the partner's meeting, Lane announces they have a surplus of $50,000 so they can distribute Christmas bonuses this year, including to the partners. Don wants to wait until the Christmas party. Lane wants the bonuses now for morale. Pete adds Jaguar would like them to test drive some of their cars to get some perspective, so asks Don to accompany him. Bert comments Jaguars are lemons and is not enthused about the potential account.

Roger is drunk because it's Pearl Harbor Day and manages to irritate Joan. Roger tells her not to worry given he'll cover her expenses for the baby, but Joan doesn't want his help and if he's not careful won't even be a family friend, she adds.

Don and Megan watch an experimental play that has a message against advertising, which annoys Don and creates a bit of friction between them. Meanwhile, Lane goes in late and forges Don's signature on a cheque for himself so he can pay his bill. Harry asks Peggy to read the script to get her second opinion because he feels it sucked. Peggy has more of the tough love approach when it comes to being honest with Kinsey and suggests he should tell the truth.

Joan gets served divorce papers in reception so she tears a strip off the receptionist and smashes a model airplane. Don witnesses the blow up and takes her aside, getting her out of the office and offering to test drive the Jaguar as Pete asked. The two of them have fun posing as a married couple and Don writes a cheque for the car when the salesman won't let them both drive it together, then heads off with Joan. They end up at a bar for a drink. Don isn't impressed with the vehicle, but she says it's because he's happy.

Joan explains Dr. Harris wants a divorce. They discuss the years they've known one another, and Don adds that Bert always told him she was the one person at the agency never to cross. And he's the one man who has never given her flowers. He offers congratulations that she's getting divorced. No one realizes how bad it has to get for that to happen, he muses. The two of them dance as the bar fills up. She tells him he's irresistible and Don realizes he should go. He can drive and suggests she stay to take advantage of the single men in the bar. 

Lakshmi comes to see Harry at work. She confesses she felt a bond with him when he was chanting and seduces him into sex on his desk. Afterwards she says she did it for the movement and adds that he's disgusting. She only came there because she doesn't want him shaking Paul's devotion by giving him false hope for his teleplay. Harry asks her to let Paul go. But he's their best recruiter. She warns him to stay away and let Paul be happy in Krishna. 

Harry has lunch with Paul, saying he loved his script but he can't give it to anyone over at NBC for legal reasons. Harry agrees he has a future. He gives him an envelope with $500 and a ticket to Los Angeles. He wants him to leave the Krishnas and try his future in California. If he goes back to Lakshmi he'll never be strong enough to leave. Paul agrees. Harry's the only person who has actually done something for him, he says.

Don drives home trying out his new wheels. Megan is waiting for him as he arrives drunk and is furious, demanding to know where he was all afternoon. Megan berates him for not caring to call and insists he eat dinner with her. She tells him he still has his work and loved it before he ever met her. 

Lane's wife is excited about travelling home for Christmas, which would add to their financial pinch of which she is blissfully unaware, so he tells her that Edwin left Jaguar and the firm can't pitch to them without Lane. He asks her to stay with him for Christmas. She agrees and adds she's proud of him.

Roger delivers Joan some flowers that were left anonymously at reception. But from the note it's obviously from Don.

Pete announces Mohawk is on strike and is suspending all work for the time being. So there will be no bonuses, Bert adds. Lane protests. Bert says the partners will defer until the end of January then. Lane addresses the staff about Mohawk, and then explains they will forgo their share in order to reward the staff. Don takes the opportunity to rev everyone up about Jaguar, telling them to prepare to take a great leap forward because the next six weeks they'll spend on winning the account. Every agency is defined the moment they got their car, and the world will know they've arrived. Everyone is excited. Lane is not.

The Verdict:
I really enjoyed this one, and had a big smile on my face during all the Joan and Don stuff. It was easily some of the best of the entire series, building on their relationship over five seasons.

In case we were wondering if Dr. Harris suspected the paternity of the baby, we know now, and it's Joan who has been rebuffing Roger's attempts to keep her financially secure.

The return of Kinsey was another bit of Mad Men quirkiness tossed in, managing a Star Trek tie-in to boot. It was a nice cap to the character, sending him off to parts unknown in California in search of a dream. Being abandoned by the rest of creative on their move to SCDP was a serious scar he's had to bear. Now just to find out what's happened to Sal.

Megan is in a difficult position. Unless she finds success in acting, she's stuck at home being the next Betty Draper while Don disappears at work (especially since he seems to have found his passion for advertising again). While their marriage appears pretty successful so far, it could slide off the rails if Megan's sense of self-worth collapses. And from the look on Don's face when he was driving home, there's a lot of issues about the women in his life mulling around up there. He still sees Megan's career choice as a personal slap in the face to him.

Finally, Lane appears to have passed the point of no return. I find it difficult that his scheme could work, especially with someone like Bert around with tons of time on his hands to look into the extra $50,000. He's dug himself in pretty deep, and the bit about Edwin being shipped back to England is really foreboding. That would be a sad way to end things with this great character, so I hope there's some resolution in sight for him.

As usual, Pete gets no respect. And in this case I agreed with him.

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