MAD MEN, SEASON FIVE/EPISODE 10: CHRISTMAS WALTZ

by Claire Moshenberg on May 24, 2012

Big thanks to my delightful editor E.C. Fish, who covered this beat with aplomb in my WiFi-less time of need. (In unrelated Spleen-ish news, his Pine Juice Derby post  inspired the boyfriend and me to pick up some Beefeater for the beach.)

This week, everyone’s dreams came true and Joan and Don spent most of the episode together. Not together in any sort of naughty context (though there were hints on the blogs right before this season about that occurring soon, so stay tuned), but together nonetheless, which is unfortunately a rarity. Are there two more beautiful human beings on Earth? Probably not. There were also Hare Krishnas, pumpernickel hats, and a Halloween flashback for yours truly. Let’s get started.

Lane’s Snafus

Lane has gotten himself into a financial snafu, the details of which are blurry and hidden from his office (which his hired Snafu Untangler has been instructed to avoid) and his wife. Lane becomes immersed in a web of questionable financial finagling. He extends SCDP’s credit, pretends it’s a surplus, offers bonuses to all, and then bickers when the other partners decide to delay those bonuses until the Christmas party. He eventually steals the money from SCDP by forging the partners’ signatures on a check.   

Rebecca Is Underused

Embeth Davidtz, who plays Rebecca Pryce, is an excellent actress. She was a pleasure to watch on In Treatment, and I was only an every-once-in-a-while Californication fan, but the few times I saw her on that program I thought she was delightful. I don’t know what they plan to do with her on Mad Men, but thus far they haven’t done enough. She’s a bit of a punching bag, trotted out for scenes where she does traditional annoying-wife-character things (Pay bills! Make friends! Feelings!) or used as the one place where Lane can vent his aggression. When asked by a business associate about Rebecca, Lane says she’s “underfed and underpaid.” I would add underused.

More Giant Hats, Please

Also underused is the fabulous hat Lane sports in this episode. Janie Bryant, let’s bring out that big fluffy pumpernickel loaf of a hat as much as possible. Let’s make it a trend. Let’s put them on all the characters and have them do a musical number. It’s the end of the season. Throw me a bone.

Work/Life Balance Isn’t A Thing Yet

Proud boy Campbell has gotten his grubby little fingers on a shot at grabbing the Jaguar account for the agency. Since he of the chewing-gum pubis (or Bazooka Joe, as an apt and slurry Roger put it) is out, SCDP is back in the running, and Pete is setting up meet-and-greets, presentations, and all sorts of get-this-account goodies for the firm. Don sighs and responds, “It’s a lot of work,” to which a sneering Pete says, “Yes, you might have to stay past 5:30.”

Don’s newfound marital bliss and worthwhile home life have been major themes this season, and his attempt to embrace a concept that doesn’t exist yet is part of that. There is no work/life balance for the ad man. Look at the copywriters nesting in their office. Don says, “I would live here if I thought this was more than a pipe dream.” After home sours a bit, with a spaghetti-throwing performance by Megan D, Don changes his mind on the status of Jaguar and rallies the troops to throw their home lives to the wind and camp out on Madison Avenue through the holidays. He gives an old-school Don Draper speech. He’s back! Prepare to swim the English Channel and drown in champagne.

Pete, and 50 Shades of Mad

Every episode, we watch Pete try to turn a half-promise into a company takeover. When his Jaguar prospects don’t inspire an enormous reaction from the partners, he starts spouting his usual petulant-child nonsense. “No one has given me the reaction I desire from this blessed event,” he whines at a partners’ meeting. “If I told you last December we would be in the running for a car, you would have kissed me on the mouth,” he snaps at Don (and sows the seeds of about a thousand homoerotic fanfic stories. 50 Shades of Mad is on its way.).

Harry’s Krishna

When Sterling Cooper became Sterling Cooper Draper Price, they lost a bunch of characters, big and small. Over the past two seasons, a few have returned (Alison, Ken Cosgrove) and this episode we saw the return of one of the bigger left-behinds, Paul. Paul lures Harry down to the Hare Krishna Center, where Paul is now robed and shaved, fully immersed in Krishna culture and the toxic love of Mother Lakshmi. Harry knows right away that this whole counterculture adventure for Paul is less about increased consciousness and more about the sensuous Rachel Weisz look-alike running the joint.

But Harry gets into it! He sways and sweats; he chants with a head full of visions, like his beautiful daughter’s floating face. He believes in it, for a minute anyway, but he’s insistent that he won’t let Paul recruit him. But that’s not what Paul’s looking for — in fact, he’s ready to leave the Krishnas and start a life on a farm somewhere with his love, Mother Lakshmi. He wants to fund this adventure with profits from a Star Trek script about slavery, which he hands off to Harry in the hopes that Harry will pass it along to the network.

The script is terrible, but Harry wants to help. It seems that, like Roger, his eye-opening experience has made him kinder at his core, though not always morally upright in his actions. When Mother Lakshmi stops by his office to seduce him, he goes along with it immediately. Afterwards, when he finds out that her true intentions were to sleep with him as a bribe to keep him away from Paul, he declares, “You’re the worst girlfriend in the world.” She doesn’t care about Paul really; she just wants to keep her star Hare Krishna recruiter.

Harry figures out how to help Paul escape the Krishnas, pursue his dreams, and move on without revealing a myriad of sad truths to him. He gives him money too, and a train ticket to start a new life in LA.

Surprise, There’s An Airplane Here To See You

Joan erupts in a righteous fit of rage at the incompetent front-desk girl after she lets in a stranger who serves Joan with divorce papers. In a particularly enraged — and kind of hilarious — moment, the front-desk girl says the man told her he had a surprise for Joan, to which Joan replies by throwing a model airplane at her and screaming, “SURPRISE! An airplane is here to see you!”

Don walks in on this and whisks Joan away to take her mind off things at the Jaguar dealership, where they play a fake couple and test-drive cars. Joan is, of course, so beautiful it’s eye-melting, and the Jaguar guy is clearly salivating as she sashays around the luxury automobiles. After temporarily purchasing a Jaguar, Don and Joan slip off for drinks. Joan talks about how work is her escape from her personal life travails, how she’s competent and in control. Balanced against her brains, again, is her beauty — she was raised to be admired, she used to command front lobbies full of flowers, and she “scared the shit out of” Don when he first met her.

Don and Joan are drunk, beautiful, and so flirtatious that the screen might burst into flames. At one point he quotes Bobbi Barrett, who told him, “I like being bad and going home and being good.” Don and Joan talk about life, about wives at home whose only sin is being familiar, about men who don’t know what they want but are wanting. And as they dance around the edge of something happening between them, Don is shockingly responsible. He puts on his slick hat and heads home.

I Called It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween 2009: I’m Joan Holloway; my boyfriend is Don Draper. Okay, I didn’t call it. But they have so few scenes together, this episode gave me all the Halloween flashbacks. Enjoy.

Claire Moshenberg is a San Francisco-based author, activist, and new-media consultant. She is co-proprietor of the web site Charm City Jukebox.

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