Mad Men Recap: A Thorny Matter Indeed

Mad Men Season 7 RecapIt’s Valentine’s Day on this week’s Mad Men, and it’s a very long holiday indeed for Peggy, who in a moment’s time goes from elated to crabby and then stays there for the rest of the episode. (At least she’s got company; Lou lives there.)

Elsewhere, Don and Sally gain a better understanding of each other, Joan switches offices and Pete sputters ineffectively – except no one can hear him all the way from California. Foiled again, Campbell! Read on for what went down in “A Day’s Work.”

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CUPID’S ARROW HURTS | Peggy shows up at work, sees a vase of long-stemmed roses near her desk and automatically assumes they’re for her – despite the lack of card. “Hard to believe your cat has the money,” Stan deadpans. (Ha! Sorry, Pegs; that was mean but funny.)

The flowers are actually for her secretary, Shirley, who doesn’t have a chance to say so before Peggy assumes that Ted sent them to woo her back. A whole lot of awkwardness starts… now! Peggy calls Ted’s secretary and leaves a message in not-well-thought-out code, then later gives Shirley the roses, then even later asks her to throw them out, saying, “I am sorry, but they’re cursed.” (Excellent line reading there by Elisabeth Moss.)

When Shirley refuses, explaining that the delivery was actually for her, Peggy’s embarrassment comes out as jealous fury, and it’s a terrible look on her. “You have a ring on. We all know that you’re engaged. You did not have to embarrass me. Grow up!” she shouts, storming away. Later, she angrily requests that Joan assign her someone else to answer the phones, but won’t say exactly why. And when Ted calls, she doesn’t answer

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‘YOU’RE SUCH A BIG DEAL’ | Pete and Real Estate Barbie Bonnie celebrate his landing a big account – the Southern California Chevrolet Dealers’ Association, he patronizingly explains to her – with some late-night office sex on the desk. (Ted surprises them by being there so late, but he averts his eyes, so it’s all good.) The next morning, however, the partners put the kibosh on Pete’s business move by saying that the much bigger main Chevy account, headed up by Bob Benson in Detroit, should have the right to say yay or nay on the smaller – yet related – SoCal dealers deal. (By the way: The fact that Pete overhears most of this via an underperforming conference call system doesn’t help his ego at all.)

Pretty soon, he’s drinking in Ted’s office and throwing out ideas like starting their own firm and/or them never talking to each other again. He’s so full of hotheaded bluster that I absolutely love when Bonnie gently but firmly explains to him that they’re both salespeople, and that means sometimes you’ve gotta just suck it up. The uncertainty of the gig is what makes the game so thrilling, she says. “Our fortunes are in other people’s hands, and we have to take them.”

WHAT DON’S REALLY UP TO | Don’s out-of-work existence goes something like this: Sleep until afternoon, eat Ritz crackers, watch TV in pajamas, ignore a giant cockroach crawling on the other side of the room — or, as I liked to call it, my senior year of college. One day, his only important meeting is with his former secretary Dawn, who we learn is helping him keep Megan in the dark about his dismissal and is feeding him intel about accounts and such.

On Valentine’s Day, however, he has a date… with someone from another firm. (That’s JAG‘s David James Elliott as Dave Wooster.) Apparently, rumors are out there about Don’s bonked Hershey pitch and subsequent leave of absence (the candy giant eventually signed with Ogilvy, Roger informs us), but no one knows specifics and Don’s not confirming or denying anything. Given his impressive body of work, it’s not hard to believe that several agencies would be interested if one of Sterling Cooper & Partners’ show ponies suddenly indicated he might like trotting in a different ring.

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BUSTED – AGAIN!  | But while Don is out at his meeting, Sally’s in the city for her roommate’s mother’s funeral – and when she loses her purse during some not-school-sanctioned shopping after the service, she swings by dad’s office for assistance. Sal quickly puts together that Don hasn’t been in the building for a while; she later finds him at home, and on the ride back to school, she lets him know that she knows something’s up. (Side note: Shtupping the neighbor, lying about getting fired – what’s Sally going to catch her father doing next? Smoking a crack pipe?)

Don evades, Sally dishes attitude, and it’s business as usual for father and daughter Draper until they stop for dinner on the way to her dorm. He confesses, via the understatement of the year, that he’s not at SC&P for the time being: “I didn’t behave well,” he says. “I told the truth about myself, but it wasn’t the right time.” His honesty seems to change something for Sally, who’s much more relaxed with her dad as their time draws to a close. She even says “I love you,” before closing the car door and scampering to her room – and from Don’s reaction, I’m guessing he hasn’t heard that from her since she was in diapers.

MOVIN’ ON UP | When Lou complains that he doesn’t want to share Dawn with Don anymore – he’s mainly ticked that she wasn’t there to handle Sally – Joan counsels the secretary to hold her tongue. What I love about Dawn is that she doesn’t. She pointedly tells the old man that she wasn’t at her desk because she was spending her lunch break buying his wife a last-minute Valentine’s gift – something he should have done when she reminded him about it weeks ago. Lou is slightly cowed, but he still wants a new girl.

But Joan’s fix for that – moving the front-desk airhead to Lou’s area and putting Dawn at the entrance – doesn’t sit well with Bert, who loses many points in my book when he remarks that he doesn’t want an African-American woman sitting somewhere “people can see her from the elevator.” Joanie rubs her face as if to say How in holy heck is it still my job to handle this ridiculousness?

As if in answer, Jim soon enters her office, realizes that she should have a space upstairs with the other account execs and extends an offer. So now Joan’s up with the big boys (toting some flowers Roger sent her via Kevin), Shirley is Lou’s new assistant and Dawn is in charge of personnel – a move that the smile on her face seems to say suits her.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!


Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. SUSO says:

    ANOTHER “meh” episode. I know that it usually takes an episode or three to warm up every season, but this is pushing even those limits. I kept watching after the meandering season six because I knew this was the last season, but with all the other really great television on Sunday nights it’s place on my DVR is suddenly in jeopardy.

  2. Terry says:

    So far this season has been very very boring. Something better start happening soon or I am through with it.

  3. David4 says:

    Fans of Mad Men are saying it’s boring? It was the most boring TV show I have ever seen in my life and it got even more boring?!

    • SUSO says:

      The show was not boring until season six. It was a reflection of the minutiae of life in ironic, unexpected ways as well as an an affecting portrait of the slow downfall of one “invincible” man who would never be able to define himself or achieve happiness.

      But then it became a repetitive slog of Don’s slide and offered nothing new of interest either. It feels like a bicycle latched in place now, with Weiner’s interests the only ones served. In essence, the Apple has been peeled and there is nothing underneath supporting it.

      • Salty Dog says:

        I completely disagree. It’s not an apple, it’s an onion. Sure, there are consistent themes in the show’s portrayal of Don, but he’s had a clear arc. The Don who gave up his spot in LA for Ted, despite his wanting so badly to go there himself, is not the Don who started out the show. Would season 1 Don do something selfless like that?

    • LOL Oh my god, this.
      It was so dreadfully boring in Season 1! Why are the fans expecting anything different now? They didn’t overhaul the writing staff.

  4. GeoDiva says:

    The Dawn & Shirley side show in the breakroom was hillarious.

    • whatnowwhy says:

      Can you explain why Shirley was calling Dawn “Shirley” and vice-versa? (In the coffee area) I didn’t get it and been wondering since.

      • Kell says:

        I think because many of the office people don’t know which is which. Even though they look nothing alike except for the color of their skin. They seem to be making light of the constant casual racism they face.

        • TV Gord says:

          I think you’re right. Your explanation made me laugh, even though it’s sad that that’s the way things were for them. I’m glad they address the racism of the time, though. They do it well, too.

  5. Anon says:

    Same thing happened with Nashville for me – I’d rather read Kimberly Root’s review than watch the show.

  6. Mark says:

    Boring? I think some of you watch too much “Scandal.” That’s a fun show, but a plot twist is not needed on “Mad Men” every 5 minutes. “Scandal” is perfect if you have ADD. On this episode, Peggy’s Valentine frustration was very funny. The hidden (and not-so-hidden) racism at SCP was exposed. Pete implies that perhaps he wants to start hi sown agency. Could that be a way to get Don to California, where he belongs?

    Sally and Don…bonded, with a out-of-left-field 1968 song from of The Zombies, “This Will Be Our Year” as Sally exited Don’s car. The usual great usage of period music, there. What would you people like to have “happen?” Should Don finally jump off that balcony, as the opening credits imply?? This is storytelling, folks. It’s not a race.

    • Marilyn says:

      Spot on, Mark. Mad Men has always been about the characters, and relationships, and how they intertwine. Best moment was when Don finally gave Sally what she wanted-honesty and truth. Sally’s reaction was a combination of puzzlement, wonder, and finally, just barely, the slightest hint of an understanding of her father. Sally’s parting statement was, perhaps, the beginning of the road to redemption for Don.

    • I totally agree. I have tried to watch scandal and there is too much going on for me. I do think the season 7 premiere of mad men was a bit slow but the second episode was great! I was glad to see Dawn promoted and I think we are seeing more and more of what a villain Lou Avery is. Remember back when Duck Phillips kept going after Don and eventually managed to get himself named president of SC? It all blew up in his face at the end. I am enjoying the story so far. I know in the end Lou Avery will be gone just like Duck Phillips. I am not sure what is happening with Peggy’s character though. She is insufferable this season.

      • Mary says:

        I totally agree about Peggy! The way she was written last night seemed totally out of character. Hard to watch.

        • N tTVf says:

          ^ This. Perhaps the worst episode for Peggy – hard to watch. Character regression.

          The rest of the episode was okay/good – it takes time to start things up each season. That said, I think last season/S6, really got off to a quick start with Don/Sylvia Rosen. This season [2014] is only seven episodes, so they will need to get things rolling quickly now if there is to be an episode 7 ‘cliff-hanger’ event.

          I think this particular episode was really about Don-Sally and the repair of their relationship. I think what has always earned Don a special place in his daughter’s heart is not just his honesty (or lack of) with her, but the fact that he has a bit of a wild-streak/mystery about himself, and I think Sally does identify with that – she has that as well. The fact that her father understands that she needs some space, and he’s the one (the only one?) who gives that space to her to explore a bit.

          I’m hoping Don doesn’t go back to SC&P – I think he can do more good (and damage) by free-lancing around, doing his thing with Freddie, producing good work for multiple competing companies on competing accounts, and then watching them all destroy each other. The ultimate puppet-master.

          • Gail Zbarber says:

            Sally says to Don “I’m so many people.” She is her father’s daughter and identifies with Don over Betty, much as I did with my Dad in the 50s – 60s growing up in NYS with an unstable mother.

      • Pete says:

        Peggy is clearly uncomfortable with the pressure that’s been thrown on her, post Don. Give her one win and she will start showing her true colours.

    • waterbug says:

      Agreed Mark!

  7. TV Gord says:

    I am in complete agreement with Mark. The season premiere has always been more about setting a tone for the season than being an action-packed story progression. This week’s was anything but boring. I thought Don and Sally’s scenes were really interesting, Peggy’s misunderstanding with the roses was as funny as it was prickly. I love that Dawn “failed upstairs” by being promoted to the basement and Joan’s old job. Even Pete had a funny scene that actually allowed him to laugh for a change. I thought this episode was very entertaining!

    Maybe I’m just in a mood to laugh tonight. Terry’s comment above made me laugh, too, because I think I’ve ever the exact same sentence from someone every season! :-D

  8. anna says:

    Why is Peggy such a jerk? Ted dumped you, get over it. Where the hell is Betty? Sally is such a brat. Joan is the only one with a story that’s going forward.

  9. DramaMomma says:

    Mad Men works at a different pace than other shows. It was until I was sick one day and I watched 3-4 episodes in a row that I got sucked in. So in all fairness, I can see why some people say it is boring. I probably never would have watched it if something else was on that day. This is why this 7 episode run worries me, a lot! At this point, the show isn’t going to pick up new eyeballs so all this is going to do is annoy existing fans. The pace is all off. I did not think show was boring last night, but I do have this countdown clock in my head, yelling at the screen “Move it! If Don isn’t working by the end of this, then what was the point of this!”

    Other notes:
    -Lou is just miserable to watch. Don was awful at times to work with but Lou takes it to a new level. Love how Joan stuck him with the dimwit secretary in the end.
    -Peggy, oh Peggy! I felt bad for you up to a point. Get your big girl panties on and get over it.
    -Please can Don join Dave Wooster’s firm. I would live to see David James Eliott with Jon Hamm ever week.
    -Jim, I think you are creepy, but your observation of Joan’s job was spot on. Sad, that Roger has been dismissive of Joan’s professional potential for years.

    • Yeah but I think the dim wit got moved back up to reception. They couldn’t put Shirley out front because Bert Cooper wouldn’t have approved her either. They had to give Shirley to Lou and put dingbat Meredith back at the front desk with her dumb blonde self.

  10. Julie says:

    I don’t mind the slowness of the show, but the one thing that kills me is Peggy’s storyline!! She used to be my favorite character and has become unbearable. They better turn this around. She is better than the Ted fallout.

    • Salty Dog says:

      Peggy’s been going this way for a while now IMHO. This isn’t out of the blue. She’s progressed from having a healthy confidence in her work to being somewhat arrogant. Plus, her petulence with Ted is really more reflective of her creative frustrations than anything. She’s incredibly stifled under Lou, and that frustration is manifesting itself in every other part of her life. If she were creatively satisfied, she wouldn’t be this unbearable. It’s illustrative of the overall direction of SC&P – away from creative and toward the big agency model of making money by using their size to get ad space cheaper than a small agency can.

      • N tTVf says:

        Yep, SC&P is really becoming the same company it was when they got bought out by the British Company in season 3. Once that happened, all hell broke loose and SCDP was formed and ran off with accounts.

        That may be what will happen again. The core – Joan/Peggy/Roger/Pete/Ken – they are all getting frustrated and disgusted – Duck Phillips strikes again!

        So the dynamite is being laid down in place all over SD&P [both coasts] – all that is needed now is ‘the striking of a match.’ That may end up coming from Freddie — via you know who.

  11. Ashley says:

    Mad Men has always been’s nothing new. Only difference now is people want GoT every week. GoT is now the critics darling.

  12. cuius says:

    It’s FSS (Final Season Syndrome) – see also HIMYM – seems everybody mentally gives up (and concentrates on finding a new gig).

  13. CourtTV says:

    Glad for Dawn and Joan.

  14. Meredith says:

    aMC calling this season of Mad Men the final one make me feel like Sally after catching Don in a lie. I am actually enjoying this penultimate season of Mad Men…dawn just might be my favorite character.

  15. RD says:

    It was mumbled, but Sally’s comment that she has to be “so many people” at the diner seemed like a big moment in the father-daughter bonding setup. I didn’t notice anyone mentioning that.

    • Mary says:

      I heard her say that too but I didn’t really understand what she meant. What exactly did she say? It was hard to understand and then Don didn’t respond.

      • N tTVf says:

        Yep, I noticed this as well – I think what is meant (just a guess on my part) is that Sally (like Don – perhaps any of us) has to ‘put on a face’ in different situations in order to ‘go along to get along.’ You can’t always just be yourself, because people/companies/situations won’t respond well to that – you have to give them (and sell them) what they want to see, what they want to believe. A new character for each situation – creating an illusion.

        At that moment at dinner, that’s a wonderful father-daughter bonding. I think Don begins to realize Sally is not so much like her mother (as Don had proclaimed in the car ride) – Sally is much more like Don, both very self-aware of their circumstances and the consequences of those circumstances and ‘the covering up’ one has to do to be able to keep rolling and moving forward.

        Maybe that’s what we are learning about Don – and Sally; the real replacement for Anna may not be Peggy in the long run, but Anna’s replacement in Don’s life may well be Sally. Sally will know all about Don’s life, and she’ll completely understand – no further questions need to be asked on either part – they are both in on it at that point.

        • Pete says:

          I think this is really perceptive – Don has been looking for someone who understand him and it would be quite ironic if it turns out to be his ownw flesh and blood.

  16. EJ says:

    Sally’s comment about being “so many people” reminded me a lot of The Americans’ teenage Paige’s remark to her mother about “not being able to see myself” or some such bs . I think pre-teen angst/self-reflection can be better conveyed without such artsy-fartsy rhetoric.

  17. Salty Dog says:

    I’m finding this season very interesting so far. For a show that’s made its hay on Don/Peggy’s creative genius (and more recently, Ted’s), we’re veering completely away from that. SC&P is now turning into McCann – winning accounts because it’s big, not because of its creative genius.

    I think we’re going to see those on the outside (Don and Pete in particular) form their own firm in LA. Don’s already been forced out, and Pete’s on his way to being marginalized. I would guess that happens as the climax of the first 8 episodes, and then the final 8 end up being this new, small, creative agency taking on old friends SC&P for an account.

    And here’s the problem: what about Peggy in that scenario? She can’t join the new firm; Ted moved to LA to get away from her so his family could stay intact. But she’ll be creatively stifled at SC&P. What would be really interesting is for SC&P to be losing business to the new firm, and to stop the bleeding, they promote Peggy to creative director so she can take on Ted and Don directly.

  18. Jen says:

    Great episode! Last week’s was a little slow but this week’s was so entertaining and had me laughing a lot. So happy for Joan! I must admit Megan being MIA was wonderful and I hope that will be the case more often. I do hope though that we see Betty soon. It was weird that they didn’t even show her once last night with all of the Sally drama.

  19. Kayla says:

    Sally Draper is everything. Her unexpected “I love you” to Don was incredible. The look on his face said everything. Joan is always incredible. I loved the way she called Bert out on his racism towards Dawn. Also glad that Dawn stuck up for herself. That was absolutely fantastic and really showed growth in her character. I enjoyed how she and Shirley called each other by the other’s name. It was a nice jab at the fact that they face racism every day, even in the office where their coworkers mistake them for each other based on the colour of their skin. Great step up from last week’s episode!

    • Anne says:

      Fabulous scene! This happened at my old office. Most of the white folks got the only two black guys (who worked in different departments) mixed up all the time. When they passed each other in the hall, they’d joke about it by greeting each other with the wrong name.

  20. april-ann says:

    Loved Don and Sally, and Dawn and Shirley, and Joan, Peggy, and the “personnel issues”. Everything else was dullsville. I don’t care if other firms know about Don’s “leave”, only as far as other offers go. I can imagine news/gossip travels fast in the NY advertising grapevine. I know she’s serving a purpose, but I’m already tired of Pete and his real estate tart. On the bright side, no Megan.

  21. Gail says:

    Hopefully in the second half of the last season, now filming. we will again see Bob Benson. He is referred to a a lot but no sightings so far. His CBS show is finished for the year so perhaps he will return to Mad Men.

  22. Ilya says:

    Gail, please! “Bob Benson” derailed last season. We don’t need to actually SEE him again.. I do hope that Betty the sharpshooter shows up soon. Somehow, I really care about what happens to ol’ Birdie.

    Loved episode 2, season 7. Its really a shame there are only 7 episodes this ‘year.’

  23. Jo & bill says:

    No comments on the dozen roses? It was ridiculous. There were 36 at least……

  24. Kathryn says:

    I don’t understand the complaints about this season being “boring”. It’s not exactly a show I would typically describe as “exciting” or “action-packed” – I don’t see how these episodes have been any more or less so than past seasons.

  25. Jon says:

    Where’s Bob Benson? After building up momentum with season 6 finale, his character completely disappears on screen? (we know James Wolk is busy filming ‘The Crazy Ones’, but still) Season 7 has being extremely boring. The audience wants more storyline about advertising, executives fighting for accounts, excellent plot twists, or Bob Benson proving to be the new Don, having a clash with Lou, etc. Peggy’s and Sally’s characters are becoming insufferable to watch. Too 2-dimensional, bitchy and a brat. And the only smart dialog this week, it was the exchange between Shirley and Dawn, and Dawn becoming the Head of Personnel. Also please give a more consistent storyline for Ted, give him something to do, for Pete’s Sake! Ted’s a top creative in the agency! More action in this series, please! I’m a fan, but it seems the show is already succumbing to a slow death.

  26. Jean says:

    I didn’t watch Mad Men until recently… have watched 6 seasons over the last two weeks, mini-binging, 3-4 episodes at a time. Love this show… love the characters. Having watched it this way, Peggy’s response to the roses makes complete sense…she’s lost Don, with whom she has had a love-hate relationship and she’s lost Ted, with whom she’s had a love relationship. Even Peter is gone. There’s no one left at the firm who appreciates her or her “brilliance”. So, of course she’s upset that the flowers aren’t hers.

    What I find really amazing about the show is how flawed the characters are; not one of the main characters is particularly likable, but when they show their vulnerability, I’ve been touched and can’t help but hope they will find their way.