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Mad Men Recap: You Are Not a Good Person

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So not that much happened in last night's episode of Mad Men. We're now at the end of February, which we know from Peggy saying "Malcom X was shot last Sunday," which was February 21st, 1965.

The Allison situation finally blew up in Don's face. She gets jealous when she sees the letter from Anna, breaks down in the focus group, throws a paperweight at his head, and says, "I don't say this easily, but you are not a good person." We knew he had it coming, it was only a matter of time. I'm surprised she made it this long. Don knows he was wrong. He drunkenly stumbles home and starts typing an apology letter that says, "Right now my life is very..." before he stops. He seems to realize what a mess he's made and what a mess he's become. His punishment of the old lady secretary is amusing.

Trudy's pregnant, congrats! We knew they had been trying and were having trouble, so this is particularly exciting for them. Pete had a surprisingly cute reaction to finding out she was pregnant, giddy and saying, "I feel like my heart is going to burst!"

This news, not surprisingly, is taken less well by Peggy. She manages to pull herself together, go in and congratulate Pete. Her words are all business but they come with awkward taut silences of eye contact before she goes back to her office, bangs her head on the table and tries not to cry. We then see her lying down on her couch--the first time we've seen her do this--significant because it's what the men in the office are always doing. She's slowly and probably unintentionally picking up their habits (like when she's drinking whisky in the first episode) and transforming into one of them. But not quite yet--she has a new crowd.

It's really Peggy's episode. There's the tension with Pete, but she's also introduced to an entirely new, exciting group by Joyce from Life Magazine. I'm into her joining this new artsy scene and maybe we can finally get rid of loser Mark, so she can have some fun and explore some of the 60s nightlife we wouldn't get to see otherwise. Joyce is hitting on Peggy, tells her she looks "swellegent" and bites her ear! Peggy doesn't seem to be at all alarmed by the lesbian action, she calmly replies she has a boyfriend, and holds her own, "no, but he's renting it." She's smoking a joint (again!) and kisses the random guy Abe in the closet. Party on.

As Peggy's walking out of the office to meet her new friends for lunch, she and Pete stare at each other through the glass door. They're both standing with their respective lunch groups, hers so drastically different from the business crowd. It's intense, but they smile, as they both carry on with their separate lives. There's obviously unresolved emotions between them, but what are they exactly? They seem to both feel badly and both know that this means something to them, and that there's more to be said, but that they're not going to say it, at least not for now.

She's also funny when she's peering at Don over his office.

Cosgrove is back, and getting married. It was nice to see him. Where does he work now? He's funny talking about McCann, saying so seriously, "Are you kidding me? It's the worst agency I've ever seen. The worst. My mother was a nurse at the state hospital [...] and that was the last time I saw so many retarded people in one building." Will the real McCann Erickson respond to this (like Advertising Age did)? Will they bring Cosgrove back in? I'm not sure I care either way, it might be fun as a means to provoke Pete but otherwise he doesn't add that much--but either way I suppose we'll see more of him through his new fiancé's relationship with Trudy.

I'm intrigued by Harry's eating habits. He seems to always be stuffing his face, with a chocolate donut in the beginning, but actually looks a little thinner and at the restaurant orders a Caesar salad, no dressing--what's up with that?

It's interesting that the focus group brings back results that match Freddy Rumsen's idea about linking Pond's to matrimony. Don's not interested in using this old school method with backwards thinking. It shows us that maybe these focus groups aren't even useful--except for an environment for Allison to freak out in. And while the girls inside the room are talking about marriage, we--and Don--catch Peggy trying on and admiring Faye's engagement ring. There's definite tension between Don and Faye. She's engaged, so I'm not sure anything will necessarily materialize, but it will probably explode in one way or another.

There's some action in the agency. Pete "turned chicken shit into chicken salad" when he had to resign from the Clearasil account with his father-in-law and ended up asking for, and getting, the whole Vicks account--a major coup for them. We also see that smoking advertising is starting to become more of a problem in their opening discussion with Lucky Strike. There are new restrictions, no more athletes and they can't make the smoker appear super human in any way.

Though less exciting, this episode served a necessary purpose, putting Allison's breakdown, Pete's pregnancy, and Peggy in the foreground. Betty was missing from this episode, and Burt Cooper, funnily, only appeared sitting in the background, eating an apple. The scenes for next week look more exciting.

Shout out to John Slattery--first episode with a director credit--not a great start, but I'm still rooting for him. I'm just hoping he won't let his time behind the camera take away from his time on camera. We were missing Roger and his one-liners last night!

I wasn't able to get my recap up in time last week, but if you still care to read my comments on last week's episode, click here!

[UPDATE]

In response to Taylor J. Hodges comment--you're right. Slattery did an excellent job. When I said not a great start, I actually wasn't referring to his direction (though I read back and realize it totally sounds like I was), I was talking about how I felt about the episode in general and basing that on how I felt about the on the plot. The angles and shots were particularly interesting and effective. The opening shot of Don--at a low angle looking up--is exactly the kind of angle Don's telling Lee Garner Jr. they're no longer allowed to use for Lucky Strike, they can't do anything that "makes the smoker look super human." That's exactly how we see Don, the smoker, our hero, but he looks so fallen, so grotesque, lighting one cigarette with the next.

The angles and framing actually becomes a theme in this episode that I hadn't focused on. I apologize, and I'll do so now. The focus group really brings forward the concept of looking in on a group of people and watching them interact, like a little TV show of their own. The report they come back with touches on how the way you see people through that lens may not always be accurate, or what you're looking for.

Joyce's artist friend, David Kellogg, manipulates images through photography and film. The nudes can be seen as shocking, but also as artful. Depends on how you look at them. The film is a montage of images, and yet again, the pot also alters the image. Joyce is a photo editor for Life--angles and frames are what she does.

The shot of Don on the couch, in the office late at night with the one lamp on and the city in the background and the shot of Peggy and Pete staring at each other through the doors are particularly powerful shots. The wide shot--another enlarging angle--of Don on the couch was beautiful and also lonely, showing him as a small man, in a big room, in a big city. The intensity in the eye contact shot was felt as their eyes locked together the two lunch groups, on opposite sides of the glass door who look so opposite, in their clothes, in their demeanor, and in their lives. Both created palpable feelings.

We see more framing as Peggy looks in on Don after the scene with Allison through the whole in at the top of the wall, and as i mentioned, the image of Peggy lying on the couch is also significant with its associations to the men in the office. And of course, advertisements are manipulated images, created to make you feel one way or another, so its a theme of the show overall.

In 'The Rejected', people reject images and misread them. Don rejects the focus group reading. Pete's father in law continually misreads him, Ken's worried that people who hear gossip might misread him.

Direction--in a way--actually becomes a very important theme of the episode, which I just wasn't thinking about earlier, but in fact adds a lot to it. Congrats Mr. Slattery--sorry I came across as negative earlier!

What else do you think about this? Which were your favorite shots? Where else does this come up?