Mad Men, Season 4, Ep. 2: Christmas Comes But Once a Year

Last year, G.D. and I disagreed on how the Drapers judged the quality of their marriage. He called it objectively bad and thought both viewed getting out as a blessing.  But I thought the Drapers, or  at least Don, wouldn’t necessarily have thought of marriage in the same way we would today. For Don, marriage obviously didn’t preclude sexual activity on the side, didn’t require he curb his drinking or in any way hamper his work life. All it did was give him the veneer of respectability, the stability of family and the ability to access suburban social circles closed to a bachelor.

This episode was, in some ways, about the opposite. Don is pathetic, though I can’t tell if we’re supposed to see him as such or if it’s just important that his underlings think so. Don had always managed to keep his philandering ways out of the office, and now he’s having sex with the secretary who feels sorry for him. He’s patronizing prostitutes and flirting with everyone, but it’s not working as well because he’s not as charming. Don married was irresistible; Don divorced is palpably lonely. But there’s nothing really different about his behavior, only the way it’s perceived.

On to the episode recap: Freddy has returned, sober, and butts heads with Peggy, who despite her trail-blazing path so far is dating someone seriously and refusing him sex on the Rules-like premise that it will keep him serious about his intentions to make an honest woman of her. Freddy tells her as much, and it’s to him she confides that she actually does want to get married. All of this comes out while their working on a pitch for Pond’s, the client that got Freddy’s foot in the door. Its hinted he retained Pond’s loyalty because he’s in AA with a muckety-muck who falls off the wagon after lunch with Roger. Roger, meanwhile, has to turn an austere office party into a real one after a Lucky Strike honcho, Lee Garner, the one who got Sal canned, decides to turn up. It becomes Roger’s job to debase himself for the client. This, again, isn’t much different from the kinds of cartwheels they turned for clients at Sterling Cooper, but we’re supposed to view it differently. Once out on their own, the founders of this new agency — it has too many names! — is a scrappy survivor that depends on the largess of one big client, and everything it does seems a little more desperate.

Meanwhile, back at the Osining homestead, Weirdo Glenn,  the little boy whose crush Betty indulged a little too much, has returned. He is working to befriend Sally and breaks into the Draper/Francis house to tear up the kitchen while the family’s all gone. This would seem harmless if Glenn wasn’t a serial-killer waiting to grow up, and I’m actually nervous about what it’ll do to poor Sally.

Some highlights: Trudy, who’s busy being Annie, makes a brief appearance; we see more of Joan being gorgeous; and Peggy has sex with her suitor in the end. If I forgot anything, as always, let me know in the comments.

  • Can I say how weird it is to see Allison Brie in this role now? When I first started watching Community, I was like “It’s Trudy from Mad Men!” But now I found her voicing Trudy’s ridiculousness almost as a send-up, like she was Annie playing Trudy. or something.

    (I mean, I don’t care. I luh she, regardless.)

    • I felt the same way (and am glad that someone else I know watches Community)

    • I felt the same way (and am glad that someone else I know watches Community)

  • K

    Any thoughts on what might happen between Don and his pixie-like nurse neighbor? I get creepy vibes from her (it’s in the eyes, y’all), but other people think she’s sweet and adorable and might help get Don back into fighting shape (without getting a developed backstory/inner life of her own because, duh, that’s how Mad Men works.)

  • TMA

    Glenn is a little cray cray. Clearly, he had and has issues stemming from his parent’s divorce (and perhaps his own twisted personality). Unfortunately, in 1964 children weren’t getting therapy and/or pharmalogical agents for their issues. So, Sally best watch her back. Also, I kept thinking about how Carla was going to have to clean up the mess Glenn and his lackey made.

    Don is clearly a mess. I couldn’t believe he had quickie, through the zipper sex with his secretary. That was so tacky and desperate.

    I felt somewhat bad for Roger when Lee Garner, Jr. punked him and made him wear the Santa suit. However, I still haven’t quite gotten over his blackface performance from the last season. Karma’s a b****.

    Also, it was nice to know wealthy white folks who were against programs like Medicare in 1964, most likely have children who are against it now and possibly go to Tea Party rallies. See, America has retained some messiness from the Mad Men era (write about that Katie Roiphe!). Yayy!

  • Scipio Africanus

    I doubt the scions of Bert Cooper et. al. are currently Tea Party People. The Tea Party set strike me as uneducated hicks from backwaters, not the East Coast upper crust type Republicans.

    I really hope Matt Weiner’s son is just an excellent actor, and not really that creepy.

    Lol at Peggy playing this dude. I’m still thinking through how I feel about her holding out on the guy when she thought she liked him, and then sleeping with him once she realized she *didn’t* like him.

    I was wondering how they would work teh Beatrles into this. By Christmastime 1964 it had already been 10 months since the Ed Sullivan appearance, and I *think* this was when Beatles For Sale was released for the holiday gift season.

    Don mentions that he lives around Waverly and 6th Avenue. That’s on the other side of the same block as Electric Lady studios, but I don’t believe Don will still be living there by Hendrix’s rise.

    Freddie is fascinating ebcause he made it to a somewhat senior level position and he’s *not* a blueblood type. He’s got an outer borough NYC blue collar vibe, like a much nicer and likeable Archie Bunker. I’d love to get some insight into his backstory.

    • TMA

      Scipio, the Tea Partiers aren’t necessarily backwater swamp-dwelling folk. So, I do think it’s not implausible that Bert Cooper, III and his ilk are making posters and phone banking for their local Tea Party chapter.

      I can actually understand where Peggy is coming from. She’s a young woman working in a vary male-dominated field. She’s forging her own path (leaving Brooklyn, moving to Manhattan) and trying to figure out what her life is going to look like. That’s evidenced by the kinds of men she dates and her relationships with them. She wants to get married, but she wants to have her career as well. The guy she was dating in this episode was a Nice Guy (TM), the kind of person her mother and sister would think is appropriate. This is also the kind of guy who may likely flip out/be turned off if he found out that Peggy was really more conversant in the Swedish Way of Love than he. So, when she thought they may have something, she probably figured (and rightly so) it was better to downplay her…ahem, prowess. However, when she realized that she doesn’t like him, it’s easier to have sex with him. She has no expectations that their relationship is going to lead to anything substantive. So in the meantime…

  • I was happy Glenn was back at first because I thought he was going to fulfill his destiny and kill Betty but now that he’s talking to Sally, I’m worried.

    Man, seeing Don so pathetic is like watching A-Rod trying to get that 600th homer.

  • Scipio Africanus


    Glenn = Son Of Sam?

    Glenn = Ted Bundy?

    Glenn = Ira Einhorn?

    Sort of a Name Your Adventure insight on Glenn up to about 1990.

  • Leigh

    I don’t think Don’s secretary took pity on him at all. I was trying to figure out why she let herself be “seduced,” and by the look on her face the next day, I felt like she confused his drunken affections as something more meaningful. This season/year (1964) is an interesting one, because I think everything about the characters and their storylines seems more desperate, i.e., watching them live out a dying way of life. Like her sleeping w/him believing she was going to become a couple w/her boss, a reasonable dream for a secretary in that era, but one also increasingly out of sync as times change. And the congo line around the office party. Etc. So much of this episode I watched feeling pity for these folks, knowing the world is changing around them and this is still what it’s all about for them.

  • Also, I’m still creeped out that Glenn is played by Matthew Weiner’s son

    • Leigh

      I didn’t know that was his son! Yeah, Glenn is super creepy!

    • Scipio Africanus

      I feel like as soon as Glenn discovers the pr0ns (has he already?) it’s O.V.E.R.

  • xtian

    Did anyone else think of this song when Don bedded Alison?

    • quadmoniker


  • Pingback: The Double Standard on Sexual Exploration. « PostBourgie()