As Season 4 begins, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is up and running, although at a decidedly more modest scale than anyone there is used to. Just ask them about their mythical second floor!
Don's in a bit of a funk, partially due to living in a sad bachelor apartment while Betty and (husband!) Henry are living in the house Don's paying for, and partially because he royally screws up an interview with Ad Age in which his taciturn Midwestern stoicism is, perhaps for the first time, taken for smug posturing by the reporter. Even worse, he fails to mention Jai Alai, which leads to SCDP offending and possibly losing the walking cash cow that is Ho-Ho.
Peggy and cute new guy Joey are struggling to sell canned ham due to the penny-pinching of the client. Along with Pete, they come up with the New Marketing idea of hiring actresses to stage a fight over a ham at a supermarket in Queens to get some free publicity. The idea works and the client ups their media buy, but unfortunately, overzealous fake-fighting and lingering resentments between the actresses lead to one pressing charges against the other. Peggy is forced to go to Don, hat in hand, for bail money. Don's a dick to her and her maybe-fiancé, but Peggy, as usual, is able to level Don with one poignant exit line.
Betty and Henry are, like I said, married and living in Don's house. His family cannot stand her, and we're treated to the iciest Thanksgiving dinner ever, punctuated by Sally Draper regurgitating her sweet potatoes back onto the plate. Don finally tells Betty to get her narrow ass and her "temporary" husband out of his house. Henry, for his part, agrees and tells Betty to cut the shit and move on.
Roger has the spring back in his step, setting Don up on a date with Sarah Newlin, who appears to catch Don's eye by not putting out. And then he goes home and pays a hooker to slap him around.
By episode's end, Don decides to eschew the whole modesty thing, pitches a bikini ad to a "family-oriented" apparel company that is basically one giant middle finger to the father-and-son prudes in charge, and when they balk, he loudly kicks them out. Then he has Joan arrange a second chance at media glory, being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and being every bit the boastful, smarmy douche into which the American businessman would soon evolve. Happy 1964, y'all!
Last we saw our beloved Mad Men (and Certain Women, Subjugated Though They Were, as Was the Style at the Time), Don Draper said "fuck that" to being sold to yet another parent company, so he, Roger, Bert Cooper, and Lane Pryce took Pete, Peggy, Harry, and Joan off to form a new agency. Meanwhile, Betty said "fuck that" to being married to Don and thus went to Reno with Henry Francis to obtain a divorce.
"Who is Don Draper?" As season-opening thematic questions, it's a pretty significant (if obvious) one. The question is being asked by a bespectacled, shorthand-scrawling reporter for (we'll learn) Ad Age who is interviewing Don in the middle of a restaurant. Don takes the question silently, probably probing its deeper Dick Whitman-y double meaning for a moment, but ultimately, he's either not able or not interested in answering it. "What do men say when you ask that," Don wonders, condescendingly. Ad Age says most people think on it for a moment and then come up with something cute. "One man said he was a lion tamer." Don dismisses that kind of bullshit out of hand. Ad Age tries to prompt him by laying out what he knows of the Don Draper mythos: "Knockout wife, two kids, house in Westchester, take the train...anything? Now's your chance." Don is clearly uncomfortable about his personal life being up for discussion -- he doesn't even correct him about the "wife" part. Don finally says he's from the Midwest and "we were taught that it's not polite to talk about yourself."
Ad Age finally moves on to a question about a specific campaign for Glo-Coat, and Don's answer (he wanted the ad to be indistinguishable from a movie ... for the first 30 seconds, at least) is honest but a bit dull. Ad Age is finished and is basically like, "Uh, don't expect a long article," just as Roger and Pete arrive. Don makes introductions, and as Ad Age gets up to shake hands, he stumbles. Over his prosthetic leg. Roger, somewhat hilariously, is like, "So...what's up with that?" Ad Age simply replies, "Korea," which gives smarmy Pete the chance to jump in with his "we're grateful for your sacrifice" speech. You know, that spiel sounds hollow almost all the time anyway, but never more than when Pete Campbell is saying it. Roger smoothly hands Ad Age his card ("for when I finish my book"), and the man makes his way off. Roger wants to sit down for a drink, but they're off to their next meeting. It's all hustle with these boys now.
Said interview is with Jim and Bob of Jantzen swimwear. Jantzen whoever, who make, among other things, bikinis. Or, as they'd prefer them to be known, two-piece bathing suits. "Bikini" being a bit too smutty for their family-friendly image. Don, visibly chafing at their prudishness, asks if they want "women who want bikinis to buy your two-piece, or do you just want to make sure women who want a two-piece don't suddenly buy a bikini." Jim, the older (father?) of the two men pauses and aw-shucksily remarks that Don's fancy-talking "just tied a knot in my brain." Bob says they just want to best their competitors without "playing in the gutter." He adds, "That's just who our customers are." "Right now," Don answers.
Cut to Don, Roger, and Pete exiting the elevator at the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices. It's not the old digs, but everything looks crisp and professional and decidedly un-shabby. The accompanying happy-jazzy music doesn't hurt either. Along the way, we see Joan Holloway has gotten her own office, so high-fives all around for that. Roger concludes what must have been quite the bitch session about the Jantzen guys, chaffing that they come off as prudes, but one of them is probably returning from New York with VD. Don asks his accountant to give him a minute -- Bert Cooper has a bee in his bonnet about something. Don missed a meeting with someone or other, and Cooper was left to show off their meager floorspace. Pete asks if Cooper mentioned the second floor. Cooper: "I refuse to take any part in that charade." Heh. I guess in this business of lies and illusion, what's a made-up second floor to your operation? Cooper complains that they could have gotten more space for their dollar in an office downtown. Don, meanwhile, complains about their lack of a conference table. Ah, partners! Cooper exits, and Pete then turns his happy face to Don, asking why he's so glum since the Jantzen guys clearly loved him. Don hates that they're prudes, but he really hates that Y&R was out in the hallway waiting for the next meeting. He thinks next to them, SCDP looks like small potatoes. Pete thinks that works in their favor: "We're the scrappy upstart!" Don: "You don't say that to the clients, do you?" Pete also thinks they have one other distinct advantage over Y&R: they have Don. See how much more positive and productive Pete can be when you let him be part of the team?
In Peggy's office -- where our girl is sporting a very Patty Duke-inspired hairstyle -- she and New Guy Joey are aimlessly repeating that old soap opera parody where the woman breathily calls for "John!" and the guy replies "Marsha!" And on and on. Pete interrupts their good times with a canned ham. Boy, doesn't he always? He's worried that Sugarberry -- the ham-makers -- were sending a message by sending them only one ham in a cardboard box with no note. The gist is that while the campaign was listless (Don hated it), Sugarberry wasn't exactly free-spending in the first place. "Testing in four supermarkets in Queens?" Peggy scoffs. "How much were they spending? Nothing." Pete grouses that if the test were successful, they could've gone national and been a big account. "I thought we were getting in a streak." Again, the change in Pete at the beginning of this season is significant. He couldn't be more of a team player. Joey -- who's worried the loss of Sugarberry will put him down to two days a week -- suggests putting the ham on Don's desk, since he'll be having Thanksgiving dinner alone. "That's not nice," Peggy admonishes. Joey volleys back a "Marsha!" but Peggy's serious.
Speaking of the man who dines alone, Don's meeting with his accountant, who tries to press the idea of selling his old house. Betty was supposed to be out by October 1st, after all. "You're carrying a mortgage, plus insurance, plus taxes on a house you don't live in." But clearly Don is reluctant to cut the last tie to Betty. Accountant then changes the subject: "So how are your balls? Are you enjoying yourself?" I love how this episode is taking on the Myth of Don Draper and basically all the ways the fans of Mad Men have been hero-worshipping the guy for three seasons. Aren't these the questions the fanboys would be asking if they could? "Why are you so awesome?" and "How much pussy do you get anyway?" The whole point of the show used to be that these things made Don blend in to his era. Suddenly, they're making him stand out.
Back to Peggy and the Sugarberry Gang. They're sharing some booze and bitching about the client. "Two of their test markets were in Jewish neighborhoods," Pete kvetches. "They're idiots." Peggy starts her mind rolling on ideas for a P.R. stunt. Buying out the entire ham supply, or paying 100 women to line up for Sugarberry hams. A stunt like this is risky -- you can't bill for it, for one thing. But Peggy's got something here: They pay two women to get into a fight at a local supermarket over a Sugarberry ham. "They have to really fight," she stresses, "and get arrested." "Because it's the last ham," Joey interjects. Peggy: "We don't have to write a play. It's Thanksgiving, they're shopping, the stakes are very high." She's very excited about this. They can ply a Daily News reporter to write about it for a case of liquor. They could get that actress Gladys that they like. Pete offers that he could get it expensed if he says the women are whores. Pete! Contributing in the ways he knows how! "Should we run it by Don?" Peggy asks. Pete and Joey both kind of downplay that angle. But Pete's going to call casting.
Roger finds Don not-quite-napping in his office a