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Mad Men Recap: "Mad Money"

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Christmas come early: Kinsey! Joan and Don! Baby Daddy Roger! This was fun.

Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks are electric on the screen together. It's impossible to think about anything else, so let's just start here. Joan has kept her cool in the office all season and what a relief to see her throw the airplane at Idiot Secretary's face. Just as Joan breaks down, Don swoops in to take her on a magic Jaguar ride. "Buying things makes people feel better." From the moment Don wraps his jacket around her, they turn into Superman and Wonder Woman; they're unstoppable. Joan immediately jumps into character at the dealership, and points to the hottest red car in the room. "Oh honey, what's that?" It's the most beautiful car ever made. The salesman dares to attempt to ride with Joan. What's that? Here's $6000 for you to get out of my way. And off they go, the hottest couple in the world in the hottest car in the world.

They sit in a Christmas-lit bar and for the first time, Don and Joan really talk. (There's only been that moment of understanding in the hospital post-lawnmower incident.) Don gets Joan to let her guard (and voice) down, "you're going to need to start defining pronouns," and she tells him that Greg served her divorce papers in the office. Don congratulates her on getting divorced. He's been there: "No one realizes how bad it has to get for that to happen." Though usually kept apart, Don and Joan are the two characters closest to equals. They stand on opposite ends of the show, as counterparts to one another -- the sexy, damaged powerhouses with perfectly crafted exteriors. When they finally come together, their chemistry is so explosive that we simultaneously want and fear their union.

They reminisce about back in the day, laughing and drinking as old comrades from the same generation, the one that's been lost in the middle of the old and the new. It's just that when Joan used to be called to reception it was for flowers, not divorce papers. She got so many flowers, Don jokes, "my first week here I thought you were dating Ali Kahn" (the prince who famously romanced Rita Hayworth). But none from him. "You scared the shit out of me." They both seem genuinely enchanted by one another, Joan the Untouchable and Don the Irresistible. When Don asks her to dance, she says they shouldn't -- "you and me in Midtown" -- Midtown couldn't handle it.

Sizing up a potential suitor down the bar -- who he is and who's at home -- Don and Joan talk figuratively about all men and women and about themselves, the cheaters and the cheatees. They speak from experience, as they each, in a way, represent their sex. Don says a man cheats "because he doesn't know what he wants, but he's wanting." Joan corrects, "He knows, it's just the way he is and maybe it's just the way she is." They connect in that moment, it's him and it's her, and Don realizes he needs to get home to his perfect wife. With a hat tip and "mad money," he says goodnight sweetheart, following through the next day with perfect charm, red roses from Ali Kahn (and delivered by Roger).

At the bar, Joan puts on Doris Day's "Christmas Waltz," also the name of the episode. "Santa's on his way/He's filled his sleigh with things/Things for you and me." This episode is a lot about consumerism and identity, the chasing and rejecting of "things." SCDP is going after Jaguar as a possession to define their agency. The consumerist culture lives on in the advertising world, but the 1960s anti-consumerist counterculture is what we find outside. Megan takes Don to America Hurrah (a real play that premiered in November of '66) about "the emptiness of consumerism." On stage, anonymous suits denounce advertising, vomiting from a panic attack brought on by beer ads. It's a physical rejection of consumerism -- mirroring Bazooka Joe (or gum-in-the-pubis Edwin)'s self destruction, that culminated in vomiting all over Jaguar's head dealer -- and in effect, consumerism.

We get a look inside the anti-consumerism movement with Paul Kinsey's return. We haven't seen the artsy pot-smoking, jazz-loving, black-girl dating copywriter since we packed up and left the original Sterling Cooper back in Season 3, and we've missed him! What's he been up to? You shoulda seen him on LSD at Ken's bachelor party. He's a Hare Krishna now, bald and spouting the truths of Prabhupada. "We reject the material world in favor of the recognition of one's true idenity." This movement is the ultimate form of the minimalist counterculture, but we see that it's all a farce and this spiritual system is equally corrupt.

Paul gets his old buddy Harry to come down and see him. Harry's skeptical but his reaction is great when introduced to Mother Lakshmi, he looks at Paul, "Oh I get it." And it turns out he does get it. Paul's a fake follower who's not really at peace but just wants to be with Lakshmi and wants Harry to pass his Star Trek spec script called "The Negron Complex" on to execs at NBC. The script is terrible but Harry really wants to help his friend who's clearly gone off the deep end. Mother Lakshmi turns out to be a psycho and shows up at SCDP to seduce Harry and tell him to leave Paul and his sci-fi fantasies alone. He's her best recruiter and she needs him focused, randomly spitting out, "You want to make him into a gross materialist when he's living in the spiritual world." But neither of them are really living in a spiritual world. Paul is still an insecure, struggling writer and Lakshmi is an ex-prostitute named Janet who changed her name only to trade her body for silence instead of drugs. It's just a different kind of currency. Harry realizes he needs to get Paul away from this nutjob and tells a little white lie to send him packing. He tells him the execs in LA loved his script, it's just a no-go this time and offers him $500 to move to LA and start over. Harry channels Don when he tells him, "This failure, this life, it'll all seem like it happened to someone else." Paul agrees to go. They hug. It's touching. Turns out wise-cracking Harry has a heart, after all.

The other significant piece of information we get is Roger finally owns up (to us) to being Joan's baby daddy. It was unclear what level of acknowledgment was going on when she brought the baby into the office and he blew smoke in his face and called him a dud, but Hawaiian shirt-wearing, Pearl-Harbor-Day-slurring Roger tells us it's openly acknowledged. She said she hasn't asked for the money, but he tells her, "No, and you shouldn't have to, and you don't, and you keep sending it back." At least he's sort of trying. He says he'll cover Kevin through college. Joan tells him if he's not careful "Uncle Roger" won't even be a "family friend." Roger starts up with his "I had an experience" and "we made a baby together" but Joan shuts him down: "and now it's some other lucky girl's turn."

And then there's Lane. Lane, Lane, Lane, WTF is going on. He's in some sort of tax trouble with the UK and needs to come up with $8000 in two days. This desperate search for cash frames this episode that deals with consumerism, showing the true evils of money and its ability to turn a law-abiding, tightfisted accountant into a book-cooker. With his not-so-bad bonus plan delayed, Lane breaks down and breaks into Joan's office, steals the checks and (rather skillfully) forges Don's name. He thinks he's just taking the check early, but when Mohawk suspends business and the partners decide to forgo their bonuses all together, Lane's already taken what's no longer his. So much about this just felt wrong. Why wouldn't Lane ask any of the other guys, especially Don, for help? He knows Don covered for Pete last season. Or why not just hit up the office cash cow, Roger? Why wouldn't he try to take out a personal loan? This just seems very out of character. There's no chance Lane won't get caught. Will Joan cover for him when she figures it out?

A few other things:

It's December 7th -- Pearl Harbor Day.

In many ways, this felt like a more classic Mad Men episode. Flirting, sexual tension, illegal activity and the uncertainty of fate -- those are all of our core concepts that have kind of fallen away with Don and his "happy" marriage.

Don's been moping around about Megan leaving SCDP. He tells Joan, "I feel like the office misses her." But Megan finally talks some sense into him, reminding him that he loved his work before he ever met her. She always seems to get through to him and we see his attitude shift as he comes back in the end with an inspirational speech to rally the troops: "Prepare to swim the English Channel and drown in champagne." He's ba-ack.

I've just started to laugh when Megan throws a temper tantrum. They're kind of really funny. She throws a plate against the wall and orders him to eat dinner. She's upset he was gone all day and didn't call. He should've called. I get why he thinks she's just trying to heat things up, her real mad is the same as her sexy mad. How's he supposed to know what she's doing?!

Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks play the progressing levels of drunk pitch perfectly at the bar, from reserved to giggling to googly-eyed.

Pete says, "meeting, Cooper's office" which means stand outside the bathroom -- hahaha.

The Don-Joan scene was reminiscent of Don and Peggy last season in "The Suitcase," finally fleshing out a connection we knew was there.

"I want to fly but I think we're gonna drive" -- Lane's banker said this about his trip to Florida but applies to the episode -- Mohawk's suspended and we're going after Jaguar.

What else? Thoughts?