Archive: August, 2008
|Office casual: Pete keeps it real.|
I’m starting to wonder.
By Episode 4, Season 1, all the basic plot points that would provide the season’s arc — Rachel Menken, Pete vs. Don, Betty’s shaky hands, Peggy’s misadventures with the pill — had been set in motion. After Episode 4 of Season 2, another dark and meandering affair like the episode preceding it, we are not quite there yet. This week gives us Don’s views on household management and corporal punishment, Peggy’s crush on a man of the cloth, Roger coming out of the old adulterer's home to sleep with an expensive escort, more of Bobbie's Lucretia Borgia-meets-Marlene Deitrich routine and a crushing moral lesson for Sterling-Cooper over the American Airlines account.
Of all of these, only the American Airlines plot seems to have any real juice. If you think back to Episode 2, Don (Jon Hamm) was vehemently opposed to S-C dropping their existing client, Mohawk Airlines, to clear the decks for a pitch to AA. Don smelled the AA pitch for what it was — a long shot, undertaken in desperation by Duck (Mark Moses). Well, the chickens come home to roost in Episode 4 — S-C is thrown into overdrive to complete their pitch for the airline's business on time.
The morning of the presentation, they find that Duck’s buddy at AA who promised them the account has been fired. Demoralization all around. Don goes home, smashes a plastic robot, gets a shove from Betty (January Jones), shoves back and reminisces about his long-dead, dirt farmin', ass-whoopin' dad. (Or rather, Dick Whitman’s dad. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen Season 1 yet, it is going to take more than an Internet episode recap to make this all make sense for you.)
Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) spends much of this week's episode back in Brooklyn, avoiding her illegitimate kid and flirting with a visiting priest (Colin Hanks). This does not sit well with her older sister (Audrey Wasilewski), who alerts the Father to the existence of Peggy’s child through a crafty confession. More great pre-Vatican II moments in this episode, from the punishment doled out to adolescents who act up during mass to the Palm Sunday household decorations.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is all but MIA again this week, although he does show up for an impromptu Sunday afternoon work meeting dressed in a tennis outfit I am not even going to try to describe (see photo).
Bobbie (Melinda McGraw) is back. She has a really bad/good idea for a TV show for her insult comic husband Jimmie (Patrick Fischler), and needs Don to help her get some changes made to his Utz contract. She helps Don, right there in his office, with Joan (Christina Hendricks) on the other side of the door but well within earshot. I think this is going to be an ongoing thing — blackmail?
Again, the aborted AA pitch seems to be setting us up for some sort of multi-episode conflict. So far it was the season’s only big, complex morality play, with Don clearly coming out on top. Next episode: Don goes duck hunting?
Bonus after the break: Triumph with Ladysmith Black Mambazo
|All hail the King|
Every Monday, the Showdown tells you who to see and where to see ‘em.
Monday: In Billy Shakes' Titus Andronicus, the title character's daughter gets raped and has her hands and tongue cut off so she can't finger the perps — namely the sons of Goth Queen Bitch and Titus' enemy, Tamora. After an interracial bastard son (scandal!) and lots more death, dismemberment and deception, Titus gets his revenge by killing Tamora's sons and feeding them to her in a pie. No better name for a band who "communicates utter contempt with life/people while simultaneously loving and celebrating it/them through anthems." With When Cars Ascend and Br'er, at the Barbary, doors at 6 p.m., tickets are $10.
Tuesday: Whoever said you can't judge a book by its cover is stupid. Hoobastank? Terrible band name, terrible band. Steve E. Nix and the Cute Lepers? Awesome band name, tight little power pop/two-chord punk (Johnny Thunders + Cheap Trick = Cute Lepers) off Joan Jett's Blackheart Records. With Avenue Rose and Power Chords, at the M Room, doors at 8 p.m., tickets are $10.
Wednesday: Time to class it up with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. Tonight, they're doing Bernstein up right with music from West Side Story, On the Waterfront and On the Town. At the Kimmel Center, show at 8 p.m., tickets are $39-85.
Thursday: Say it loud! There's a reason he's the Godfather. Still Black, Still Proud gives an African spin to the music of James Brown. Come for the King of Funk, stay for the likes of Pee Wee Ellis and Vieux Farka Toure. At the Kimmel Center, show at 7:30 p.m., tickets are $25.
Friday: Math rock is a terrible way to tag a band. What the hell does that even mean? Ok, we know what it means, but who wants to describe their favorite band as math rock? Instead, we hear at the Showdown would like to call Don Cabellero not math rock, simply rhythmically adept rock. Catchy, no? With An Albatross and Ponytail, at Johnny Brenda's, doors at 10 p.m., tickets are $10.
Saturday: The Showdown isn't advocating actor-to-musician crossovers. They are usually of ear-bleeding quality. But, while he may not have pipes that could've gotten him a record contract sans-movie stardom, Terrence Howard has got a nice, quiet husk to his voice. Backed by swelling strings or flamenco-y guitar and (thank the lord above) less auto-tune than most pop stars, this kid may have a future. At the TLA, doors at 8 p.m., tickets are $35.
Sunday: Celebrate the life of late local amp guru John Martin and get a bonanza of bands. In tribute to the guy who gave you a million wonderful-sounding concert experiences. We tip our hat. With Martone All Star Jam, Overdrive Datemaster, The Beloved Infidels, Harrison Webb Blues Thing, Chet Delcampo, The Martians, The Sparklers, Chrash, Tony Violence, Mountain King, at Johnny Brenda's, show at 7 p.m., $6 donation at the door.
|Episode 5's winning design
Sometimes, two wrongs do make a right. Who would’ve guessed Jerell and Stella would crank out one killer outfit that really deserved to win? Gunn said it best by describing their fitted V-neck, silk top, kick-ass leather belt and leopard float skirt design as a "true collaboration." It trumped the likes of winners Keith and Kenley's layered-ruffle, high-waisted A-line and floral blouse straight from Yawnsville. But as for every other designer, this safari ride through Lipstick Jungle, Brooke Shlelds' latest television endeavor, was pure nightmare.
Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. Everything you touch turns to crap — including poor, full-of-potential Kelli. It was sad to see her go, especially when Daniel deserved the boot. He couldn’t even make a roushed skirt! Suede was stressed to capacity by Terri, who surprisingly didn’t deliver this week when it came to design. She did, however, deliver the best line of the evening as she described Suede as having "balls of va-jay-jay." I don’t know what it means, but Terri’s still my girl. Korto's creamsicle poof coat gave Joe — and every viewer at home — reason to cringe, and though I didn’t mind Blayne’s sportswear-gone-work-wear emsemble, the judges begged to differ and left Leanne and him on the hot seat.
Next week’s gonna get ugly after Kenley LOLed at Daniel’s proclamation that he has "impeccable taste." (I thought they were friends, no? Our first broken alliance!) But Meana Garzilla won’t let Kenley have all the fun, as she reminded Daniel directly (and the whole lot of them indirectly), “You can’t get taste if you don’t have it." I have taste ... a taste from drama!
View all the designs from Episode 5 here.
Bonus after the break: Wait, the Riddler has a magic wand?
I have a habit of buying produce I don’t recognize. Sometimes it works out, and my Buddha hand lemon is both a pretty garnish and centerpiece. Sometimes my Monstera deliciosa takes over the kitchen and scares me out of eating it. I’m declaring pluots, my latest fruit find, a success.
A cross between a plum and an apricot, the pluot is a patented hybrid created by biologist Floyd Zaiger. Although it’s not particularly attractive (I think it looks like a dinosaur egg; nectarine reviewer Pat Rapa says skeeball) the plout is at least as tasty as its parent fruits. It’s much larger than a plum (think a big peach, but not a giant peach) and sweeter, with an unusually firm texture. As arts editor and fellow pluot taste tester Carolyn Huckabay noticed, the unexpectedly bright red flesh looks like a beating heart. For best results, take a big, creepy bite and hold up your wounded pluot triumphantly.
I found my pluots at the Beechwood Orchards stand at Headhouse Farmers Market, but I've also seen them at Whole Foods and Trader Joes.
|snapped by monica|
Bonus after the break: A really gory Ricky-Oh scene.
|Oh no he didn't!|
After two episodes of presumed marital fidelity, ad exec Don Draper (Jon Hamm) caves big time. Meanwhile, wife Betty (January Jones) is aggressively wooed by a Salingerean oaf (Gabriel Mann) at her riding club. Media buyer Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) makes an uncharacteristic power play. The Utz Potato Chip account is imperiled when its celebrity spokesperson (Patrick Fischler) mortally insults the Utz oligarchs (Jan Hoag and Steve Stapenhorst). After a thorough workout last week, Kinsey (Michael Gladis) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) are MIA this week. Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) barely surface. Odd, disjointed episode, all in all. But like its main character, Mad Men is all about taking the long con over the short one, so let’s give Matthew Weiner the benefit of the doubt and chalk this one up to long-term plot development.
Here’s a thought: It’s obvious that, circa 1962, Sterling Cooper is getting a lot less cool in the advertising world. There’s no irony and little abstraction in any of the work they produce. And their clients seem increasingly stodgy and provincial. Keep that in mind while watching this week’s big story — Draper’s first clumsy, then sadistic, attempts to save the Utz Potato Chips account from ruin — unfold. Think about that: Utz Potato Chips. This should have special resonance for PA-based viewers. If any further proof was needed that Sterling Cooper was mired in the 1950s, I think the fact that the entire agency is in DEFCON 5 because they are about to lose a York County-based potato chip company should settle the matter.
So what happened? SC has the Utz account. They hire mean-spirited Don Rickles-type comedian Jimmie Barret (Fischler) as a celebrity spokesperson. While filming a commercial in which Barrett, drunk off his ass, extols the virtues of potato chips over beer nuts ("What am I? A squirrel?"), the Utz-owning Schillings (Hoag and Stapenhorst) are ushered onto the set to bask in the celebrity aura they're underwriting. Barrett catches one look at the overweight Mrs. Schilling and unleashes a barrage of fat jokes that are as cruel as they aren’t funny. The Schillings, humiliated, threaten to pull up stakes. Don, charged with getting Barrett to apologize to the Schillings, makes a hash of it, setting out to lay down the law on Barrett’s girlfriend/manager Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw) but ending up getting seduced by her instead.
Draper arranges a sitdown at a fancy restaurant. (Betty, humiliatingly, is used as bait for lecherous Barrett.) During drinks, Don and Bobbie meet up near the bathrooms to make out/negotiate the terms of Jimmie’s apology. Bobbie plays the heavy, saying SC’s contract with Jimmie obligates SC to pay him even if he’s fired, and that if Don wants Jimmie to apologize, it is going to cost $25,000.
Here’s where I admit I was a little surprised. Draper’s response would, by contemporary standards, definitely be considered sexual assault. He does what he does, muttering into her ear "I’ll ruin him." Whether we are meant to understand this as her being overcome by Draper’s masculinity, or simply afraid for her life, Draper’s plan works. They return to the table and, taking a visual cue from Betty, Jimmie launches into an eloquent and borderline sincere apology. The Utz account is saved.
Draper, momentary transformation into Genghis Khan aside, has still supplicated himself to a monster. And Betty has been used — subjected to hours of Barrett’s inane flirtations as a way of softening him up — a fact of which she is all too aware. This leads to some good acting from Hamm and Jones on the way home; both are obviously feeling awful about themselves and the world, but say the exact opposite.
The kill-or-be-killed attitude that's helped Draper rise from penniless white trash Korea cannon fodder to Madison Ave. executive has a very literal component to it — when backed into a corner, he is more than capable of physical violence. Maybe he’d even kill somebody. Who knows — maybe he has?
Not tons more going on here: a goofy, but I suspect not self-contained story about Harry Crane, whose sole distinguishing feature up until this point is that he is slightly less horrible than the other junior execs. (Although if you’ll remember from Season 1, he did get busted cheating on his wife in the anarchic Election Night episode and spent the rest of the season crashing in his office, wandering the SC offices at night like a boxer-wearing, tubby poltergeist.)
Crane finds out cocky, stupid account manager Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) makes 150 percent of his salary and becomes uncharacteristically ambitious. Learning from a friend at NBC that courtroom drama The Defenders has lost all its advertisers due to squeamishness over an upcoming abortion-themed episode, Crane attempts to get makeup manufacturer Belle Jolie, a SC client, to buy up all the ad time for a song, arguing that the controversy surrounding the show and its content guarantee a huge audience of young women. Belle Jolie begs off, but Crane gets a raise and promotion, and not-gay art director Salvatore (Bryan Batt) gets to see the slightly less not-gay Belle Jolie executive Elliot Lawrence (Paul Keeley), with whom he had a brief not-flirtation in Season 1. (In all seriousness, the exchange between the two of them in that episode was one of the show’s saddest, most lucid moments.)
What else? Draper fires his secretary for not covering his ass while he was watching Le Jetée (or possibly Hiroshima Mon Amour). I have been reading a lot of the other Mad Men recaps and, while most of them are really good, I have a bone to pick with some of them about the way they interpret Draper’s forays into art and literature. Many in TV blogland seem to think this is some kind of posturing on his part, like he feels intellectually insecure or culturally behind the times and is trying to keep up. But with whom? And for whose benefit? I think this is missing the point: Draper is self-contained to the point of psychosis. I can’t imagine him needing or wanting anyone’s intellectual approval, particularly not the early-'60s East Village avant garde who he made such thorough mincemeat of in Season 1. On the contrary, this is just another facet of Don Draper’s craft: French New Wave, modernist poetry, post-war American sociology — it’s all just grist for the mill for him, all ideas to be taken and used.
Oh yeah, Betty gets hit on by Franny from Franny and Zooey. Or maybe he was just a talking sweater ...
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