Mad Men, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”

Last week, we were given the great honor of joining Don Draper right as his life feels like it’s falling apart and he’s hitting the bottom.

This week? It seemed to only get worse.

For Don and a lot of people in this week’s episode, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” the States’ biggest holiday is all about avoiding pasts that just won’t go away. As Don says, he doesn’t hate Christmas, he just hates 1964 Christmas since it’s the first one totally away from his family. Thus, it’s no surprise that Mr. Draper is a complete mess. He’s drinking heavily — so much so that even Roger calls him out for doing so too early in the day — doesn’t seem too focused on his work and is generally in a horrible mood. And much like last week, Don finds himself dealing with immovable forces that used to succumb to his charms. At work, a demographic specialist wants him to take a test that he doesn’t see the value in, his wily charms again don’t truly work on (most) women and the young people at the firm have no problem whispering about his pathetic-ness.

This all coalesces after the raging SCDP Christmas party when Don drunkingly forgets his keys, has his secretary Allison bring them and actually finds someone to accept his advances. It’s obvious that Don is just looking for any sort of human contact at this point and despite Allison’s rock-solid personality, I’m surprised he wanted to keep her around in the moment so much. Of course, my surprise was nullified the next morning when he doesn’t even give her the benefit of saying that it was all a mistake and instead awkwardly gives her the Christmas bonus she was owed — in cash. So after literally paying for sex last week, Don not-so-subtly almost attempts to again this week.

While Don makes Allison feel like a whore, Lee Garner Jr. acts similarly towards the whole office really and especially Roger. Everyone at the firm and Garner himself know that Lucky Strike is more than keeping SCDP afloat, and that gives Garner a blank check to do whatever he wants. Attempts to keep the Christmas party cheap are ruined (to Layne’s chagrin) because Lee wants to come and feel the fabricated love and once he arrives, Joan has to make things look more salacious and Roger is forced to uncomfortably put on the Santa suit. Even for a client man like Roger Sterling, this is terribly embarrassing and his decision to put on the velvet suit proves what kind of awful shape the firm is in. Lee Garner Jr. has showed bullying tendencies before but I’m guessing this isn’t the end of his maneuvering this season, especially if things get worse for SCDP. In a way, the party is an attempt on the firm’s part to prove to Garner and Lucky Strike that the past doesn’t matter and the future is better than ever. And although he leaves none the wiser in that sense, the aftermath of the party proves that SCDP can’t really take all the insanity.

Moreover, Peggy coyly tries to avoid her past with her new kind of-beau, who is all about jumping in the sack while Peggy stands distant, on-guard. It is apparent that Peggy is with the goofy Mark because she wants control in the relationship and by revealing her sexual history, she’d probably lose that or Mark altogether. I’ve been wondering what Peggy’s dishonestly this go-around says about her character, because we know that she’s been willing to bury truths in the past — most notably her pregnancy — so that she can just move on with her life. Perhaps that is why she is so able to connect with Don. They’re both not totally comfortable with who they are or who they are with — unless it’s with one another — so coming up with lies is much easier. After a nice talk with the returning Freddy Rumsen (we’ll get to him), Peggy gives in to Mark and has sex. He seems proud and Peggy is still playing dumb, but I guess this still keeps her in control of the relationship for now.

Freddy’s back! He’s been gone for two years in story time and thankfully, he spent that time getting and staying sober. Unfortunately, he works in an industry and for a firm that basically promotes heavy drinking. He’s able to slither away from any real temptation by not coming to the Christmas party, but I sadly can’t imagine this lasting. However, it was hilarious to watch Don and the others react so confusedly to Freddy’s sobriety as if it’s some sort of weird, foreign thing to them. Gotta love the 1960’s.

Finally, I’m not sure what to make of creepy little Glen’s return. He’s finally decided to monotonally stalk someone his own age by going after Sally, but the kid is just weird, am I right?

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