MAD MEN “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” Review

It is Christmas time at Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce despite the fact that it is actually reaching sweltering temperatures everywhere else in the world. Used to the extravagant parties of the past, the staff seems somewhat disappointed that it will be scaled down this year. In fact, spouses and guests are not even allowed. That all changes, of course, when Lee from Lucky Strikes shows up in town expecting a grand Christmas party. Joan steps in to kick the party up a notch and makes sure there is plenty of girls, gifts and liquor for the agency’s biggest client. Naturally, spouses and guests are encouraged to come as more bodies equals a greater appearance of success. If there is anything more meaningful to the agency and its partners than appearances, I have yet to see it.

Of course, catering to your client’s every whim does not come without a price. This time it is Roger that pays the price. It was Roger that caved to Lee’s insistence at showing up at the Christmas party that didn’t exist. Once there, Roger again caved and allowed Lee to bully him into playing Santa. Although it was clear that Lee knew this made Roger uncomfortable, it was also clear that it was for this very reason that Lee insisted on it. And so Roger donned the suit and passed out gifts (Lucky Strikes naturally). Still not enough humiliation for Lee, he also insisted that all employees sit on Roger’s lap for pictures taken with Lee’s new polaroid camera courtesy of Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce. Is there anything Roger won’t do for a client? I guess it doesn’t help when that client is 69% of your entire client base.

Hopefully that will not be true for long. Freddie is back and he is sober and brings with him a $2 million dollar client, Ponds cold cream. He wants a shot at the new firm and even agrees to leave the Ponds account behind if it doesn’t work out. His only caveat is that he doesn’t want Pete anywhere near the account. This makes for an awkward moment that Roger attempts to smooth over. I am sure that we haven’t seen the last of this as eventually Pete will want to know why he is not allowed to work on the campaign. Since they cannot use Pete, they assign Peggy to help out. It seems like a perfect choice as Peggy is a young woman and within the intended market for the product. However, Freddie cannot see that and insists on using slogans and campaigns that Peggy calls old-fashioned. Later, however, Peggy takes Freddie’s old-fashioned advice on sex and marriage. Somehow Peggy’s boyfriend has got it in his head that Peggy is still a virgin. Although there is nothing farther from the truth, Peggy has done nothing to correct this assumption. This puts her in a tough spot as her boyfriend is pressuring her for sex and she is trying to make him wait. Will her boyfriend lose respect for her as Freddie predicted?

Perhaps the most intriguing storyline for me this episode of Mad Men was that of young Sally Draper. During a family trip for a Christmas tree, she runs across a classmate, Glen. With his odd mannerisms and direct conversation, he reminds me of a young Don Draper. Did anyone else see that? He was proud of his accomplishments (cutting of the twine) and assumed that Sally would be interested in him while remaining aloof (“maybe I’ll call you”). When he does call, he uses a fake name, finds the common ground of children of divorce, and then tells Sally that one day she will want to move out of her house. We then see Glen and his friend break into the Draper home and trash the place with food they find in the refrigerator. The only room left untouched is Sally’s bedroom. Glen also leaves a gift behind so that Sally would know it was him. Sally appears happy for the attention and that someone would do this for her. A classic case of a girl looking for a guy just like daddy.

Speaking of daddy, Don Draper is still a mess. He comes home from the office every night wasted. His neighbor whom he doesn’t ever remember meeting even remarks on it. One night, she even has to help him to bed. His secretary notices when he forgets his keys after the Christmas party. Of course, this time Don helps her to bed. Although they seem to enjoy themselves that night, as predicted, the next day he wants nothing to do with her. Even more insulting is the Christmas bonus he hands her and the card that remarks on all of the work she has done for him. I am sure she felt like a prostitute at that moment. I actually thought she might be typing her resignation letter. As the new copyright guy remarked, Don is quite pathetic this season.

Not helping Don’s weak attempts to appear normal was the firm the agency hired to help them market themselves. Headed by a doctor and creator of marketing for feminist hygiene products, the first thing requested were questionnaires about the employees and, specifically, their families. As soon as Don heard the question about fathers, he was out the door not unnoticed by the female doctor. She later confronted him at the Christmas party and insisted that she could tell an awful lot about him by the mere fact that he refused to fill out the questionnaire. She predicted he would be married again within a year as that is his type, must to the utter disgust of Don who probably believes at this point that his type is playboy. She sums up Don’s life with one phrase “What I want versus what is expected of me.” Hasn’t that been Don’s struggle all along? I am sure that struggle will continue to play out this season and I am happy to go along for the ride.

What did you think of this episode of Mad Men? Share your thoughts in the comments below.