Mad Men: “Waldorf Stories”

This episode begins with Don and Peggy interviewing Danny Siegel, a hopelessly unqualified copywriter. Don flips through his portfolio, each ad a variation on the theme of “cure for the common [blank]“. Don isn’t impressed, even though Danny mentions Roger’s name several times. Don escorts him out of the office, then asks Peggy if they’re on Candid Camera. The two then talk about the upcoming Clio Awards, with Peggy mentioning her own role in the Glo-Coat commercial. Peggy then complains about Stan Rizzo, the agency’s new art director. To her complaints, Don only says that Stan is more talented and that she needs to learn how to work with him.

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Meanwhile, we see Roger rambling about Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy in his office. His secretary Caroline is there, taking dictation for his book, but Roger has gotten off topic. Don walks in to thank him for the “prank” of the Danny interview. The two share a few laughs, but then Roger says that Don must hire him to appease Jane, his wife and Danny’s cousin.

Roger then flashes back to the first time he met Don. He was working as a fur salesman at Heller’s Luxury Furs, and when Roger walks in Don gives him a polished, but somewhat “by-the-book” pitch. Roger sees a store ad in the mirror, and turns to look at it. Don proudly tells him that Heller’s lets him do all their advertising work. Roger hands Don a business card, and Don excitedly thinks that Roger’s offering him his big break. Unfortunately, Roger only gave him the card so he could arrange delivery of the fur coat. Continuing the flashback, we see Roger and Joan in a hotel room, where Roger gives her the box from Heller’s. She opens it and finds the fur inside. She tries it on, and Roger sees a book in the box, which he thinks might be an “owner’s manual”. He opens it and finds that it’s Don’s portfolio. He says that it was “out of line” for Don to put it in with the fur.

We then see most of the partners and the creative team waiting for a meeting with representatives from Life cereal. Joan walks in and announces that the Life folks have been grounded in Philadelphia due to bad weather, and she invites everyone to have some drinks before the Clios, which are due to start in an hour. Peggy politely asks if Joan is going with them to the awards, and it’s clear that she’s jealous, even after Don says that Joan is going to attract new clients.

Peggy leaves the room, and goes to Stan’s office, where he is showing two secretaries his highlight reel. Peggy runs the girls out, and she and Stan have words about his seemingly lack of output and Peggy’s unwillingness to do anything to “get his juices flowing”. Paul, claiming to be a nudist, calls Peggy repressed.

We then see Don and Roger at the Waldorf Astoria, having a few drinks before the awards ceremony. The two men are approached by Ted Chaough, who, after calling them “Pebbles and Bamm Bamm”, introduces them to his guest, Major General Frank Alvin. As soon as Chaough walks away, Roger says that the general is an actor Chaough hired to impress someone. In the meantime, Ken Cosgrove and a co-worker named Phil walk up to Joan and Pete, where Phil lets it slip that the “old team is getting back together”, which Pete takes to mean that SCDP is merging with Ken’s agency.

The ceremony begins, where a drunken Duck Philips disrupts the proceedings. He is led away by security.

Back at the office, Stan wastes time talking with Peggy. He calls his KKK ad “the best thing I’ll ever be near in my life”. Peggy, as if to one-up him, talks about how involved she was with the Glo-Coat commercial, and how she resents Don for taking all the credit. Stan stands up and proclaims himself ready to “speech-itize the whole Vicks experience”. He tells her to grab a pencil so she can write down his ideas, and she asks why he never writes down her ideas.

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Don and SCDP win their award, but almost as soon as Don walks off stage, a secretary appears to say that the people from Life cereal rented a car, drove from Philadelphia, and are waiting at the office. Pete suggests that they reschedule, but a very tipsy Don suggests that they go ahead with the pitch.

Back at the office, Harry entertains the Life folks with liquor and spoilers from upcoming episodes of Peyton Place. The gang from the Clios show up, and Don drunkenly goes through their “eat life by the bowlful” idea. When the Life executives say that they like the idea, but worry that it might be too sophisticated for their customers, Don goes through several taglines. He’s so drunk that he doesn’t realize that he called Life “the cure for the common breakfast”, the tagline Danny had used so often. The Life guys love it, and Don calls an end to the meeting.

Outside the conference room, Peggy tries to tell Don that he’s plagiarized someone else’s work, but he cuts her off and tears in to her for not coming up with ideas for Vicks. He tells Ms. Blankenship to book Peggy and Stan a hotel room and tells Peggy not to come out until she has something good.

Peggy chases Pete down, who blows her off to talk to Lane. He wants to know if the agency is merging with Geier. Lane says that they are not, that they’re hiring Ken. Pete protests, and Lane apologizes to him for not asking in advance. Pete is furious and almost walks out, but Lane catches his arm. He calls Roger a “child” and tells Pete that they can’t have Pete “pulling the cart by himself”. He says that Ken is proven, hungry and has big money clients.

At a bar with the rest of the Clio winners, Don, Roger and Joan keep drinking. Don breaks away from Roger and Joan to hit on Faye. Faye, perhaps wisely, turns him down, saying that he’s “confusing a lot of things at once right now”. She says that he’s very happy for him and his award, then leaves.

In the hotel room, Stan flips through a copy of Playboy while telling Peggy that she’s ashamed of her body. Peggy, tired of his taunts, stands up and begins undressing. He calls her a “fruitcake” and she calls him “chickenshit”. Stan stands up and undresses… and it’s obvious that he’s uncomfortable.

Back at the bar, a woman approaches Don and Joan and asks if the man they were talking to is Don Draper. Joan says that he is, and she goes off to talk to him. Roger muses that they don’t give awards for what he does… which, when asked by Joan to explain, he says “find guys like Don”.

Roger flashes back again, this time remembering a time shortly after he met Don for the first time. Roger’s waiting for the elevator when Don walks up and reintroduces himself. Don claims to have a meeting in the building, but Roger sees right through his plan. Despite Roger insulting him as much as possible, he agrees to go have a 10am drink with Don. We then see them at a bar, where Roger says he can’t hire Don because he knows too much about him now. Roger gets up to leave, but is unsteady on his feet. Don offers to call him a cab.

At the hotel in the present day, Peggy continues to deal with a useless Stan. Finally, he calls her the “smuggest bitch in the world” and gets dressed. Peggy smiles.

We then see Don making sex with the woman from the bar, who we find out also won a Clio, in her case for the “Best Jingle for Cakes Mixes and Toppings”. Don asks her to hum a few bars, and she pushes him on his back and starts humming the “Star Spangled Banner” while she goes down on him.

We see Don close his eyes, and night turns to day. He’s jarred awake by the phone ringing. He answers the phone to find that it’s Betty, who is furious with him for not picking up the kids. When Don says that he’s going to come on Sunday, she says that it is Sunday. Don has lost an entire day to drink. We then see that he has a different woman in bed, this time a waitress named Doris. She, by the way, calls him Dick.

After Doris leaves, Don pours himself a drink and falls asleep. He wakes up much later to Peggy banging on his door. She asks if he’s OK, as she’s tried to call him all weekend. He says that his phone isn’t working. Peggy asks to come in, where she tells him that he sold the Life execs on Danny’s “cure” tagline. Don tells her to come up with ten more, but she refuses, as she’s been in the hotel room with Stan all weekend. Don doesn’t remember sending them there. She orders him to fix the situation with Stan. She then turns and leaves.

Monday rolls around, and Lane walks into Pete’s office and says that Ken is on his way over and that he’s made lunch reservations for three. Pete refuses, and tells him instead of send Ken to the conference room.

Don walks in and finds Danny sitting on the sofa in his office. He offers to buy the idea from him for $50. Danny says that he wants a job, and Don doubles his offer to $100. Don plays hardball with Danny, but eventually caves and hires him.

In the conference room, Pete meets alone with Ken. Pete says that Ken would be a great addition to his team, and that he needs to know that Ken can do as he’s told. Ken smiles at first, but when he figures out that Pete’s being serious, be nods his head. Pete’s superiority play over, he asks Ken about his wedding plans.

Peggy, meanwhile, can’t believe that Don hired Danny.

We then see Don walk in to Roger’s office, where he announces that he’s hired Danny. A happy Roger gets up and hands Don his Clio, which he’d put into a drawer. Roger says he’ll give it back if Don will say that he couldn’t have done it without him. Don, confused, asks if he didn’t say that already. He thanks Roger and takes his award.

Roger then has one more flashback. He runs in to Don again in the lobby of Sterling Cooper. Roger tells Don to leave him alone, but Don says that he hired him. Roger, confused, asks when. Don says yesterday, then says that Roger told him “welcome aboard”. The elevator door opens, and the two share the elevator ride up to Sterling Cooper.

OTHER STUFF

– According to Peggy, Danny Siegel worked as an intern at Maurice H. Needham Co. The agency was founded in Chicago in 1925. In 1951, the agency opened a New York office to take advantage of the expanding TV market. Sometime in 1965, the agency merged with Doherty, Clifford, Steers and Shenfield to become Needham, Harper & Steers. In 1986, the zenith of the corporate takeover, three agencies – DDB, BBDO and Needham Harper – merged to form Omnicom Group. Omnicom acted as a holding company, and while BBDO remained a separate agency, DDB and Needham Harper merged to form DDB Needham Worldwide. If you want to read more of their corporate history, click here.

– Don points out one ad in particular whilst perusing Danny’s portfolio:

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This ad was created by DDB, and was especially famous because it broke so many advertising rules… namely putting the world “lemon” in huge letters in an automobile ad. Read more about DDB, Bill Bernbach and VW’s 1960s advertising in the “Other Stuff” section of last week’s recap.

– I hope anyone intelligent enough to seek out Mad Men recaps would already know this, but just in case: Candid Camera was a television show in which pranks were played on celebrities and members of the public, and the action captured by hidden cameras. It began as a radio show called Candid Microphone in 1947 and moved around from network to network after first appearing on TV in 1948. The show ran off and on for 38 seasons, and spawned countless imitators, of which Jackass and Punk’d are somewhat recent examples. Woody Allen began his comedy career as a writer for the show.

– As mentioned later in the episode, the Clio Awards were first given in 1959 for “creative excellence in advertising and design”. Named after the Greek Muse of history, the awards went international in 1965, and are today one of the largest awards programs in the world. In 2007, for instance, “more than 19,000 entries from all over the world” were judges by “a jury of more than 110 judges from 62 countries”.

– A “$500 to $1,000 gift” would cost Roger between $3,364.41 and $6,728.82 in 2009 dollars.

– Nice shot of Betty in the Heller’s ad:

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– According to the HD feed, Heller’s Luxury Furs was located at 246 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. I’m a bit confused by this address: according to Wikipedia, Seventh Avenue does run through the Garment District, which stretches from 12th Avenue to 5th Avenue and 34th Street to 39th Street. Seventh Avenue is even called “Fashion Avenue” on those stretches. However, according to Google Maps, 246 Seventh Avenue is a location in Harlem, where the street is known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. It seems like a highly unlikely location for a fur shop, and even less likely a place Roger Sterling would go. I wonder if they meant to do that, or if perhaps they meant to make it 246 Fifth Avenue, a much more likely location. Or maybe I’m wrong about the address or am just reading too much into it.

– According to Don’s business card Heller’s phone number is JL 5-0176.

– The LBJ commercial (allegedly directed by new SCDP art director Stan Rizzo) was real:

The ad, which never ran, attempted to link conservative Barry Goldwater with the Ku Klux Klan.

– Peggy, to Stan: “Has Don yelled at you yet?”

– The guy talking to Don at the bar before the ceremony is Ned Elliot, who works for Kenyon & Eckhardt (now Bozell Worldwide). He is nominated for his ad for New England Merchants National Bank, which became “the first interstate regional bank in the United States in 1985″ after the Connecticut Bank and Trust Company and Bank of New England Corporation merged to form the Bank of New England. Although Connecticut bank could trace its roots back to 1792 and the Bank of New England to 1831, the merged bank failed only six years after the merger, in 1991.

– Pointless trivia: according to Wikipedia, “when Hanna Barbera decided to add a baby to [The Flintstones], their first choice was a boy. When Ideal Toy Company heard this, company executives approached Hanna Barbera with a proposal to change the baby character to a girl for which the toymaker could create a doll, and Hanna Barbera agreed”. So that’s why Pebbles was a girl… because they could sell dolls!

– The man hosting the Clio Awards is John Aniston, father of Jennifer Aniston. He was born on July 24, 1933 on the Greek island of Crete with the name Yannis Anastassakis.

Byrrh is a blend of red wine and tonic water (yuk!), created in 1886 by brothers Pallade and Violet Simon, who Wiki notes were “itinerant drapers”. Popular as apéritif for several decades, the drink’s popularity declined after World War II, when changes to the French tax system made sweeter wines more economical.

Peyton Place was a soap opera which ran on ABC from September 15, 1964 to June 2, 1969. 514 episodes were aired in total, and to this day it is the only prime time show in American history to air continuously without reruns. At its peak, ABC ran three new episodes a week of the series.

– Don’s drunken mention of nostalgia is an obvious call back to “carousel scene” in the season one finale:

It’s interesting to see just how much Don has become a drunken parody of himself. The “carousel scene” was one of the finest moments in the history of scripted television; the current Don can barely stumble through the story.

– Madame Defarge is a character from Charles Dickens’ classic story A Tale of Two Cities. In the book, she relentlessly schemes against the Evrèmonde family, previous generations of whom had offended crimes against her family.

– Stan looks at a Playboy magazine in the hotel room with Peggy. That’s the real cover of the April 1965 issue:

mad_men_s4_e6_0zplayboy 1965About the cover: Ian Fleming died on August 12, 1964, and The Man With The Golden Gun was the thirteenth and last James Bond novel, published posthumously on April 1, 1965. Playboy serialized the entire novel in their April through July issues that year.

At the time of this episode, Schlitz was the second largest brewer in America. Famously, Schlitz changed their formula in the early 1970s. The new beer was vastly cheaper to make, but didn’t have nearly the flavor of the original. It also spoiled quickly, leading Schlitz drinkers to abandon the brand in droves. A 1981 strike at a Milwaukee plant caused such financial distress to the company that it was acquired by Stroh Brewery Company in 1982.

– Don asks Ms. Blankenship to call The Pen and Pencil restaurant to see if they’ve found his Clio award. The Pen and Pencil was a steakhouse on 45th Street between Lexington and First Avenue. At the time, the area was known as “Steak Row” and The Pen and Pencil’s owner, John C. Bruno, was often called “The Mayor of Steak Row”. Coincidentally, Bruno died on April 11, 1965, right about the time of this episode.

– Speaking of, I did a somewhat thorough Google search and just couldn’t find the exact date the 1965 Clios were held. I’ve seen a few Mad Men fansites who insist that this episode takes place in April, but I’m not sure they’re right. And that’s because they’re all using Stan’s Playboy magazine as a guide. As you probably know, most magazines are a month or so ahead of the actual date (e.g. the October issue of Playboy should hit newsstands soon), but I don’t know if that was going on in 1965 or not. Anyone know?

– The Pen and Pencil is also mentioned by Freddy Rumsen in the season 2 episode “For Those Who Think Young”.

– $50 would be $366.44 in 2009 dollars, and $100 would be $732.88.

– Loved Rogers’ line about him liking chocolate ice cream, but having to eat vanilla because his mother said it wouldn’t stain anything.

– The closing credits song this week is “Ladder of Success” by American country artist Mary Frances Penick, better known as Skeeter Davis. The song is from the 1964 album Let Me Get Close to You and is pretty straightforward:

Nothing can stop him now no one can top him now
I guess I’ll have to let him go
Up, up, up, the ladder of success

MY THOUGHTS

Let me begin by saying that personal and professional commitments have me VERY busy for the rest of the week. This week’s recap was therefore a bit of a “rush job”, so if there are more typos and grammatical errors than usual, that’s why. And I apologize in advance for that.

So… yeah. This is one of those Mad Men episodes that seems to divide everyone. I loved it, but there are many out there in Internetland calling it the “worst episode ever”. I’m not sure I get all the hate, as this episode, in many ways, had it all.

The big question here is if Don has truly hit rock bottom. To us viewers he certainly has, and it seems like he’s finally getting the message. Waking up next to Doris, her calling him Dick, losing an entire day and missing the kids, and his hazy memory of what happened with the Life folks and Peggy and Stan seems like a huge wake up call, and judging from his grimaces towards the end of the episode, he finally seems to “get” it. I haven’t watched the previews for the next episode (not that those are ever any help), but I hope Don gets everything straightened out.

My favorite part of this episode were the flashbacks. It gave me goosebumps to see Roger meeting Don for the first time! But then, we learned a truth about their relationship: that Roger only hired Don because he was drunk. There are, of course, obvious parallels between Roger and Don and Don and Danny, although pre-Sterling Cooper Don seems to be much more on the ball than Danny. And then there’s the biggest question of all: did Roger actually hire Don, or did Don take advantage of Roger’s drunken condition to hire himself. And if it’s the latter, is Don’s entire career a giant scam? In other words, did Don show up in the second flashback with the express idea of getting Roger drunk and “hiring himself”? It’s a bit of a stretch, especially since the first episode of the series Don has been shown to be essentially a good man, albeit one with a dark side and a lot of secrets. But the show has really turned on Don this year, so I guess it’s possible that Don really is a bad guy after all.

Two quick things to round out this line of thought: we saw Betty in the ad that Don did for the fur store… does this mean that Don and Betty were already together at that time? It seems strange… Sure, Don is handsome and amazingly slick with the ladies, but I just can’t imagine Princess Betty falling for a fur salesman. Also, in the second flashback, Roger says that Don is a fur salesman, and that he needs a “good fur guy”. This strongly hints to me that Don actively conned his way into the job. Of course, Roger could have changed his mind off camera… I suppose we’ll find out more about that later.

My goodness, but Joan looked beautiful when Roger gave her that fur, no? It was nice seeing her with her hair down, and she looks so much softer (if that’s even possible!) than she does with her office ‘do. Unfortunately, that scene at the Waldorf seems to rip open a giant hole in Mad Men spacetime.

In season 1, episode 6 (“Babylon”), it’s strongly hinted that Roger and Joan have been having an affair for only a year… yet in this episode, we see them in the hotel room before Don joins Sterling Cooper, thus dating the affair to sometime in the mid(ish) 1950s. The Lipp Sisters, who are normally the Internet arbiter of all things Mad Men, have come up with the lame story that Roger was in the hotel room with Mona, and that it’s just his drunken imagination placing Joan at the scene. I find this unlikely, as Roger’s daughter had to have been born sometime between 1940 and 1945 to have gotten married last season. It would have been unthinkable at the time for Roger to have gotten Mona pregnant outside of wedlock, so we can peg Roger’s marriage to sometime in the early 1940s. Perhaps the imminent war made them tie the knot?

Sure, it’s possible that Roger and Mona met in the hotel and used the old “illicit affair” story to spice up their love life with some role playing. But I find this unlikely, especially as Roger tells Don in the first flashback that it’s a “getting to know you” present. I think Weiner meant for this inconsistency to happen, and hope that we find out why later. It’s also possible (and quite likely, actually) that Roger and Joan hooked up in, say, 1955 and had an on-again, off-again affair for a few years, and that the affair mentioned in “Babylon” was simply the last go-round of it. We’ll have to see. Of course, the fact that Don and Betty married in 1953 really complicates things. I know I was wondering about their status only a couple of paragraphs ago… but I’m confused, and maybe you are, too!

On another note, it was nice to see Peggy and Pete assert themselves. People in the show always seem to dismiss Peggy as a mousy, repressed Catholic girl, but we’ve seen time and again how much homegirl can work it. And Stan is a pompous ass, so it was nice seeing him take him down a couple of pegs, even if the “nudist scene” was a bit over the top. And Pete needed to have dominion over Ken, although it kind of hurt to watch him do it. Ken wasn’t my favorite character, but seeing his chipper smile knocked off by Pete didn’t make me happy at all. Still, I consider it necessary for Pete’s long-term survival at the agency. He may be a partner, but Ken has a charisma that Pete sorely lacks. Without his partnership (and his warning speech), I could see Ken taking Pete’s place in a matter of months.

Did I mention that Stan is a pompous ass?

Like it, love it or hate it, this was an important episode of Mad Men. I can’t wait to see what happens next week!

5 thoughts on “Mad Men: “Waldorf Stories””

  1. In season 2 or 3, Roger mentions to Cooper many times about finding Draper and Betty at that “ridiculous/or pathetic” fur shop. And yes in season 3 Betty and Don tell Lane and wife that they have been married for 9 or 10 years and I think that that scene was in 1963. Also, when Joan was leaving sterling Cooper last season they congraduated her 9 years of time there. So….I’m gonna say that the flashback was between 1952-1954. And Betty met Don when he hired her to model for the fur company. Thet were definitely dating then. Married by the time he was copywriting. As for Joan and Roger. I’m curious if the affair lead to the job or visa versa. Anyway, I love your recap and thoughts!

  2. Oh I loved Peggy’s line “I can work like this, Let’ get liberated. “. And I also LOVED Pete when tells Ken “I need to know you can do as told,” and puts his hands behind his head as if to say I’m the boss….take me back to old Pete…self rightgeous Pete, and I kinda like his pickly side. Makes me laugh. And one more thing I LOVE Faye turning Don down for a 3rd time. Its awesome. She’s my hero!

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