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Ten takeaways from Mad Men's Episode 4, Season 7


Roger and Don again were the headliners in Season 7’s Episode 4. AMC photo

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Presenting our weekly 10 takeaways from Mad Men’s two-tiered, 14-episode final season. Sunday’s hour was subtitled “The Monolith.”

1. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) firmed his jaw and and started cranking it out again at the end of Sunday’s episode while colleague Roger Sterling (John Slattery) was last seen looking stricken and defeated.

The old friends, last of a breed at Sterling Cooper and Partners, remain the lead dogs of Mad Men -- at least in terms of story lines. Bucked up by recovering alcoholic Freddie Rumsen (Joel Murray), Don has rebounded from his own latest bout with the bottle to grudgingly assume the position of an underling on the comeback trail. His boss is Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). His assignment is to come up with a batch of “25 tags” tied to a campaign for potential new client Burger Chef. It’s a menial task for him, but nice work if you can get it. And Don can get it if he tries.

Roger isn’t as lucky. His daughter, Margaret (Elizabeth Rice), has run off to a commune after leaving her husband and four-year-old son behind. Accompanied by tart ex-wife Mona (more delicious work by the recurring Talia Balsam, Slattery’s real-life wife), they head off to fetch her. Daddy briefly bonds with “Marigold” after Mona leaves in a huff. But he’s newly determined to forcibly remove her the next morning after she steals away in the night with the commune’s head hippie. This doesn’t go well for Roger. And he’s abject in defeat, his vested suit spattered with mud, after Margaret/Marigold skins him alive him for being an absentee father who had his secretary order birthday gifts for her while he was shacked up in a hotel room.

So Don’s newly hunkered down and Roger is very much slump-shouldered. It’s all the more reason to measure the latter for a coffin at some point before Mad Men’s final act. He’s being destroyed on the inside in so many ways while even Don is comparatively at peace.

2. That was quite a little speech by old Freddie, who dragged drunken Don home, ignored his pleas to go to a Mets game and greeted him with black coffee the next morning. Then came the hammer: “I mean, are you just gonna kill yourself? Give them what they want? Or go in your bedroom, get in uniform, fix your bayonet and hit the parade? Do the work, Don.” That did the trick, working much better -- at least in Don’s case -- than “Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Start all over again.”

3. By episode’s end, a mammoth IBM 360 computer and its accessories had entered the agency’s offices, symbolically wiping out the “creative lounge.” Don has been raging against The Machine this season, alas to no avail. Fortified by a soda can full of straight gin, he got in one last dig at Lease Tech installer Lloyd Hawley (guest star Robert Baker). “You go by many names,” Don told him. “I know who you are. You don’t need a campaign. You’ve got the best (ad) campaign since the dawn of time.”

That’s a bit cryptic. But what Don’s getting at is that both the mind and the workforce are downsized in the process. Perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey also was still in his head. It was released the previous year, 1968, with sinister computer HAL stealing the film from its basically extraneous humans.

4. This week’s play-off music was “On a Carousel” by The Hollies. Great song, underrated group. And perfectly suited to Don’s current state of affairs at Sterling Price.

5. Right after the first commercial break came a reference to a TV show that “got canceled 11 minutes into the premiere.” Tim Conway also got a shout-out.

They were talking about Turn-On, a surrealistic followup to Laugh-In from its creator, George Schlatter. It got canceled after one episode aired on the night of Feb. 5, 1969, with at least one ABC affiliate pulling the plug while Turn-On was in progress. Tim Conway guest-hosted the show, whose premise was that it was produced by a computer.

6. Two great lines from Roger Sterling. Informed that his daughter had “run away,” he retorted, “To where? Bergdorf’s?”

Later, on the commune, Roger was told that everyone is equal under the sun, which also governs dinner time depending on when it gets dark.

“I haven’t felt this at one with nature since I was in the Navy,” Roger shot back.

7. Visual evidence at the commune tellingly rebutted the claims of “no hierarchy.” Women could still be seen as water-fetchers, clothes-washers and food preparers. They also were used to keep the men warm at night, as the guy clearly in charge noted with a grin.

8. Hamm again showed off his Emmy caliber acting credentials (he’ll probably never win one, though) while either glowering at Peggy or happily half-singing to Freddie, “I want you to meet the Mets. Step right up and greet the Mets.” They later became the “Miracle Mets” after winning their first World Series in that storied 1969 season.

9. Hamm has a baseball movie in his near future. Million Dollar Arm opens on May 16th. And Slattery is the director of God’s Pocket, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and opening in wide release on the same date. Commercials for both films aired during breaks from Sunday’s Mad Men.

10. Christina Hendricks’ Joan Harris so far has been given the least to do among Mad Men’s charter ad agency denizens. And time is wasting. Just three episodes remain in this first final season arc before the series takes nearly another year off.

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