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'Mad Men' - 'Public Relations' Recap (Season Premiere)

by Bob Sassone, posted Jul 26th 2010 12:33AM
Mad Men
(S04E01) "Who is Don Draper"? - Advertising Age reporter, to Don

That's probably going to be the big question this fourth season of 'Mad Men.' We know that he's really Dick Whitman, but now that he's divorced and has started his own company and has a new life with an apartment and weekend visits with his kids, we don't know how he's going to handle it all.

I felt an overwhelming sadness in tonight's episode.

Sure, it started with that beautifully filmed and scored scene introducing the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (one floor, but let's tell everyone two) and ended with "Tobacco Road," showing us a new era is upon us, a really nice, upbeat bookend, but the rest was all Don being unhelpful at the interview, screwing up at work, shining his shoes alone in his new apartment, buying sex, spending Thanksgiving alone (well, except for the sex), and just not being really happy.

And we thought -- at least I thought -- that the more upbeat "caper" vibe of last season's finale would continue into this ep and Don would be happier. Not happy that he's away from Betty and the kids but happy because he has a new life in front of him and can do what he wants.

Speaking of Betty: mother of God is she messed up. The first few seasons she was the type of person who you hated and loved at the same time. She had so many flaws but you somehow still rooted for her. That was probably a combo of the writing and January Jones' performance. But in this first episode, I'm starting to actively dislike her.

The way she treats the kids, like she accidentally found herself pregnant three times and now has to "deal" with them. I was happy to see Henry's family not liking her at all. Her forcing the food down Sally's mouth has to rank as one of Betty's worst moments on the show. I swear Sally is going to grow up to have an eating disorder and Bobby is going to become an alcoholic.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Henry is that thrilled either. Every scene with him and Betty I could swear I could see a thought bubble over his head that said "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"

'Mad Men' is great at quiet yet intense moments, and this episode had a few. Jantzen not liking Don's pitch even though he thought they would, Peggy's "fiancee" looking uncomfortable as Peggy and Don talked, Betty and Henry coming home late and Don confronting them like he was their parent. Talk about uncomfortable.

But back to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. I was unhappy that Don didn't take the interview with Advertising Age seriously. A guy like Don would know that an interview like that would be incredibly important, especially for a new agency. Don even said "they raise you up then they tear you down," a phrase that is commonplace now, so he knows.

Sure, he has a secret background to hide, but he can certainly keep the Don Draper myth going if he sells it. It reminds me that no one knows about Don/Dick except Betty and Pete (and Cooper, to a certain extent). It probably won't come to a head this season, but it will probably be addressed at some point. Did Betty tell Henry? How will Peggy take it? What will happen when Roger finds out?

It made me happy that Don got back into "caper" mode for the episode-ending interview with The Wall Street Journal and I'm sure that's going to help the agency as the season goes on. Though I hope they can live on the Lucky Strike account for a while (I didn't realize that the jai alai account was such a big portion of their business).

For a moment I thought that Don kicking out the Jantzen guys was going to mean that he had gone overboard and would be in trouble with Cooper, Roger, and Lane, so it was good that they ended the episode on a brighter, more positive note, with Don in charge again, creating another myth.

More thoughts:

• Did anyone else think that Don's blind date Bethany looked and sounded a lot like Betty? She was like a younger, more positive Betty. There has to be a reason for that, symbolically at least. Matthew Weiner wouldn't do something like that accidentally. She seems different than Don's other girls though.

• Peggy and Joan have new things that I think work well: a new hairdo for Peggy and an office for Joan. The hair works on her. She seems more modern and sure of herself, more an equal at the office. At the end of last season Joan seemed to lose just a bit of her nasty edge, and you can see that here in her interactions at the office too.

• I don't think I like "likes to get smacked around during sex" Don Draper, but I can't say that it doesn't fit.

• The woman at the other end of the table at Thanksgiving, did they say who that was? I'm assuming it was Henry's mom and not his sister or aunt.

• No Ken or Paul in this ep but Aaron Staton's (Ken) name was in the opening credits and he is in all of the promo pics, so he'll turn up at some point. I wonder if the other old Sterling Cooper gang will pop up too.

• Love the SCDP logo! I want that on a shirt and various other items immediately.


"They're so cheap they can't afford a whole reporter." - Roger, about the Ad Age reporter with the wooden leg

"Stay away from one-legged reporters." - Don, on what he's learned

"I love how they sit there like a couple of choir boys. You know that one of them is leaving New York with VD." - Roger, on the Jantzen guys

"I can use my expense account if I say they're whores." - Pete

"I wish we had a second floor because I'd jump off of it." - Harry

"I've raised people in my life Henry. Those children are terrified of her." - Henry's mom

"She's a silly woman...I know what you see in her and you could have gotten that without marrying her." - Henry's mom

"I don't think I can help you feel better about the world." - Don, to his date Bethany

"It's The Daily News. It's one big section." - Pete, to the women faking the fight

"Believe me Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary." - Don, about the marriage

"You know something? We're all here because of you. All we want to do is please you." - Peggy to Don

Oh, if you're wondering what all the "John" and "Marsha" stuff was all about, here you go:

[Follow Bob on Twitter.]

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> "I don't think I like "likes to get smacked around during sex" Don Draper."

Agreed. It was dangerously close to a "jump the shark" moment.

I did like the juxtaposition, though, of that scene with the one of Betty and Henry in bed.

July 27 2010 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Second floor certainly was a big theme in this episode.

July 27 2010 at 5:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Betty is playing to character. She thought she needed to have possession of the children because that's the way those moms were brought up. But she doesn't know what to do now that she has them. don would be infinitely worse. Betty will hit that slide where the looks begin to diminish and her one big plus will be gone. Maybe she is headed to therapy . . .

July 26 2010 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment

(Cue Mommy Dearest imagery)

July 26 2010 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nobody turns into a Betty or a Don without a reason - we've seen some of Don's reasons, maybe soon they'll do flashbacks to some of Betty's. I'd love to see some flashbacks to her childhood; or to how exactly she and Don got together in the first place.

July 26 2010 at 9:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment

I think we saw it exactly in Don't date with Bethany.

July 27 2010 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Betty is the disclipinarian parent. I don't see her behavior with Sally as any different as how she treats her in private; treating her daughter so disrespectfully in public was part of Sally's punishment, however, the result is the public looking at her as a bad parent. The irony is that had Don disciplined his children in much the same way, he would have been viewed as a strong father.

July 26 2010 at 5:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to slutty_whore's comment

IMO I think they are trying to show that Betty doesn't know how to be a parent, and that she in a way resents being a parent. Even Don, who would have the least parenting ability on he show, shows more skill at it than she does.

July 27 2010 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I went from having so much empathy for Betty in season one to absolute antipathy for her right now. What a vapid bitch!! She's had every privelege in life (money, beauty, education, family) and still she is the shallow narcissist.

After this show plays itself out I hope they might consider a show focused on Sally Draper as an adult. Or how about a crossover with Sally as a 50 something meth head on Breaking Bad??

July 26 2010 at 5:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nora Carrington

I was bothered by some of the sex/relationship messages of this episode. I think you're right on the mark about Bethany & Betty being similar, and yet Don falls for it, at least to some extent. Why? Because she doesn't put out. I know that the madonna/whore thing was firmly in place in 1964; it was still fairly well entrenched when I was in high school in the early 70s. But still. You'd think given how smitten he was with Suzanne, and the bohemian woman from Season 1 that he'd be smart enough to know that those old scripts don't work. Now that he's single he could be kind of a rebel/pioneer and pick a real woman who loves sex, yet won't tolerate his bullshit. Why can't he -- or any man, for that matter -- figure this out?

July 26 2010 at 4:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Nora Carrington's comment

Only thing I can see is, for Don, its more about the chase than the capture. He has a "professional" to take care of his other needs and he has his new lady to stimulate him in other ways.

July 26 2010 at 4:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The pace of this episode was frantic. My goodness, whats the rush? I loved Don kicking the two piece people out of his office, it was hysterical.

July 26 2010 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had to look up Andrew Goodman that Bethany mentioned. He was a white Jewish civil rights worker from NYC who was helping register black voters in Mississippi when he was lynched by the KKK in June 1964 along with two other young men. So that would mean that it's November 1964, about 10 months or so from where s3 left off.

July 26 2010 at 3:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh man am I glad I'm not the only person who felt that way about Betty! I've always hated the way she treats sally but this episode she blew it! And the way she was when Don wanted her out a month ago was just ridiculous! This new betty is getting all over my nerves, it's gotten me calling her names in 5 different languages and yet I can't vent my anger out enough!

July 26 2010 at 2:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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