Christmas really came early in this week’s Mad Men, which gifted us with an hour that answered at least one huge question, took a seasonal stroll down memory lane, and featured some recently neglected members of the ensemble. The quips! The plot forwarding! The sexy sports cars! Let’s tear open the windows, throw up the sash, and review the big developments of “Christmas Waltz.”
Lane’s been naughty | Lane’s personal financial problems from a few episodes back haven’t abated, so we watched the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce money man rob Peter (and the rest of the partners) to pay, well, himself. He secretly secured additional credit for the firm and then proposed handing out early Christmas bonuses to the entire staff, but when Pete and Don wanted to wait, Lane snuck in and forged Draper’s signature on a hefty check, then used that money to pay off his United Kingdom tax debts. In related news: After Lane’s old pal, whose real name was Edwin but who I will forever remember as “CHEWING GUM IN HIS PUBIS!,” was axed from Jaguar, the British car company wanted to see what SCDP — and several other firms — had to offer. Knowing that the pitch would require weekend work over the holidays, and in light of a strike that would slow Mohawk Airlines’ ad needs to a trickle, the partners agreed to delay their own bonuses until January so the rest of the staff could get theirs on time. (Roger’s relaying of that info, after Lane’s attempt failed, was quite funny.) Lane’s face throughout this scene? As green as the cash he’s going to have to account for in the very near future. At least Don left everyone with a fantastic speech, which ended with, “Every agency on Madison Avenue is defined by the moment they got their car. When we land Jaguar, the world will know we’ve arrived.” Damn, he’s good.
Don’s quite nice (to Joan) | Roger commemorated Pearl Harbor Day by getting soused, donning a Hawaiian shirt (his hair in that scene, by the way, was the kind of throwaway sight gag at which this show excels), and irking Joan by hitting on Harry’s secretary, Scarlett. But when Rog and the redhead got a moment alone, we became privy to everything: He confirmed that he knows he’s Kevin’s father (!) and he wants (and has been trying) to support his son through college — but Joan won’t have it. “We created a human life. We created a baby,” he pleadingly told her. “Yes, and now it’s some other lucky girl’s turn,” she replied, sending him back out to Scarlett. The day darkened when Joanie was served with papers — looks like Dr. Greg is divorcing her instead of the other way around — and hilariously took out her rage by flinging the Mohawk Airlines statue at the clueless receptionist. (“Surprise! There’s an airplane here to see you!” is exactly the kind of thing you scream in the heat of anger, and it makes perfect sense in the moment.) Enter Don, who soothed his old pal by bringing her to the local Jaguar dealership, where they posed as a couple and test drove a hot red number as part of Don’s research on the company. Because this is Mad Men, the test drive ended at a bar, where the two spent hours making quite the pretty (platonic) pair. So much great stuff was packed into this scene! Reminiscing: Don never put the moves on Joan because she scared the stuffing out of him and Bert told him not to cross her. Pep talking: Don congratulated her on the split and assured her she’d find somebody better. And be still my heart, the flirting: The top two exchanges came when Joan turned down her boss’s offer of a turn on the dance floor (“You and me in midtown, and you with that look on your face?” she purred incredulously) and when she protested that no one was going to hit on her after she’d spent the evening sitting with him (Don: “Poor me, I struck out.” Joan: “Who’s going to believe that?”) You could roast quite a few chestnuts on the smolder power of Christina Hendricks and Jon Hamm — but I love that Don said goodnight and returned home to Megan, even if Megan wasn’t quite as thrilled. The follow-up flowers? The perfect touch.
Ghosts of agencies past | Guess where Paul’s been since last we saw him? Wrapped up in sheets, sporting a ponytail, and chanting with his Hare Krishna community like it was his job. Actually, it kinda was; he wanted a meeting with Harry because the penniless penitent, who’d worked his way down the ad ladder until he was out of the game, wanted a way to earn some money and provide for his new lady love, Lakshmi. (In hindsight, of all of the original guys, of course it was Paul who took up with the mystic movement. Can you imagine WASPy Ken strumming a sitar?) Kinsey’s plan for getting cash — writing a spec script for Star Trek and asking Harry to circulate it at NBC — probably only makes sense if you’ve inhaled too much incense. Same for Lakshmi’s rationale for visiting Harry at work to, um, raise his consciousness: She wanted him to tell Paul that his script was terrible and leave them the heck alone in order to protect the convert’s devotion — “And also, he’s our best recruiter. I mean, he really can close.” (Heh.) Instead, Harry gave his old colleague $500 and urged him to flee to California to find the kind of rebirth that eluded him in New York. “All these people said they’d do something for me. You’re the first one who did,” Kinsey tearfully said as he left. Aw, good luck, ponytailed Paul.
Your turn. What did you think of Megan’s plate-throwing outburst, and Don’s kinda inappropriate reaction to it? Are you dying to know what Kirk’s first line is in “The Negron Complex”? Were you as bored as Don was during the American Hurrah performance? And how likely is it that Joan will let Roger be the daddy-from-a-distance he wants to be? Give us our figgy pudding and sound off in the comments!