'Have a Nice Holiday': Mad Men Recapped

Mad Men's third season concluded Sunday night with one of the series' most straightforward episodes to date, a simple, elegant inventory of a) everything Don Draper possesses and b) everything it cost him. It's an unusually binary approach for a show that doesn't often function with fewer than four or five narrative lines in the water at once, but when your independence costs this much, taking stock should probably always be priority No. 1. See if our numbers match after the jump.

Like so many ambitious men, Don winds up in the red -- way in the red, and what seems on the surface like a succession of betrayals actually is more akin to Don finally filing for moral bankruptcy. And he owes pretty much everybody, from Betty to Peggy to Roger to Pete on down the line. Everyone, that is, except for perhaps Connie Hilton, the wizened oracle with whom Don convenes in the opening scene. Connie has the gossip on Sterling Cooper's sale; by now, the office is not only on the market but has been sold with its parent company to McCann Erickson. That won't wash for Connie, who pulls his New York properties to Don's dismay. But Don's dismay is an even less savory morsel for Connie to wash down, and the old (self-made) man's rebuke is sharp, swift and severe.

But it also provokes this whole accounting in the first place: Who and what does Don take for granted in this disillusioned stage of his work and life, and how far is he willing to go to square up? Start the roundelay, I suppose: There's Bert Cooper, whom Don approaches about Sterling Cooper's sale and potentially buying the company back from the British. Bert doubts Don has the stomach for this high-stakes variety of renaissance, but Don surprises pretty much everyone -- including himself -- by next approaching and apologizing to Roger, who needs to be in for the coup to work. A cynic might say Don's just politicking, exploiting another resource to get ahead. Yet there's something more sincere here, undergirded by admittedly clumsy flashback memories of his father's own business compromise literally costing him his life. That won't be Don, and not least because he left Dick Whitman behind years ago. It won't be Don because -- as Roger recognizes -- he once again has something to prove as an ad man. His ambition hasn't abated; it's just more humane. It even involves the officious Lane Pryce, who'll comply in firing the three men (thus terminating their contracts) in exchange for full partnership in their new endeavor.


Not that magnanimity comes all at once. Nor does it come cheap. Peggy cashes in first, declining to simply join the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce team at Don's demand. She has options now, up to and including leverage over her boss. Pete has the same when Don and Roger find their ideal accounts chief feigning illness at home, preparing for an interview with Ogilvy. Neither will be taken for granted any longer. "You think I'll just follow you, like a nervous poodle," Peggy hisses. "I don't to make a career out of being there so you can kick me when I fail." Through their defiance, Don harnesses energy for his own renewal. He even confides to Peggy how he sees an extension of himself in her, a sincere affirmation of her personal value while his unsalvageable marriage dissolves. Harry Crane, meanwhile, kind-of-sort-of will be taken for granted as he unwittingly walks into the conspiracy with the option to either join as Head of Media (and get started kiping contacts and other account info before the start of business Monday), or be locked in a storeroom for maximum confidentiality before the rest of the office finds out what's going on. Not a tough call there. Even Joan Holloway Harris is back in the mix, shepherding them to their new office in a suite at the Pierre, where dewy fresh starts replace the stale hotel trysts of episodes past.

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  • Blackcapricorn says:

    Nice recap. This was a hell of an episode. It really bounced along and I am eagerly awaiting power rankings to sort out the top 4. Also, I think we are definitely in MatricideWatch territory considering how Sally reacted to the news of the split (someone is asking Santa for a crossbow for Christmas).

  • robenoir says:

    What about Don saying "no" to poaching Hilton's account? Seemed like a no-brainer, an answer to Connie's call to Don to stop whining and do something about it. I can only guess that Don is through with Hilton's power games...?

  • bess marvin, girl detective says:

    don should be #1 because he spent the entire episode assuaging the fragile egos of his co-workers so they can follow him to his new agency where he is his own boss. lane pryce should be #2.

  • TimGunn says:

    When I realized they were going to call in Joan, I got Suprise-Sue-excited. And then when she showed up at the office, I was fist pumping the air.

  • Sir Cerr says:

    Sterling-Cooper WAS Camelot. We're in a different world now.

  • JudgeFudge says:

    Not to be this blog commenter, but, I predict that this is the episode where Mad Men jumped the shark. There has been a trend all season, which I've kind of hated, of the show expanding its focus to peripheral charachters and to focus more on the "quirk" and the cultural set dressings, and not the dynamics between the characters, and how their personalities are affected by their work, and vice versa. As the show has become a more powerful brand, attracted a broader viewership and greater cultural cache, Weiner and Co. have been playing to the expectations of their audience, instead of making the audience meet their own creative vision.
    So, everything's reset for the next season, all our characters are back working together, being friends again, geared up to be the bestest, most stylish, most Mad Men group of ad men on basic cable.

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    I took it that Hilton was pulling his accounts from the agency, so Don had nothing to poach. Hilton mentioned throwing Don the Carribean hotels but he wasn't going to keep those hotels long anyway.