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Mad Men recap: The High Life

Roger’s fancy garden party reminds Don that he’s still on the outside looking in, while Peggy puffs her way a little further into the boys’ club

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Mad Men
Carin Baer/AMC

Mad Men

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
7
run date:
07/19/07
performer:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss
broadcaster:
AMC
genre:
Drama

It was Derby Day on the island, which meant the creatives were stuck working in the city and the muckety mucks trotted off to the country club to watch Roger serenade his new bride in black face. And what a prize, that girl. I like, or at least feel real tremendous affection and sympathy, for all of the characters on this show. All except silly, self-entitled Jane. The bird returned to the Sterling Coop earlier in the episode and we were treated to a killer reunion between Jane and Joan. Jane was dressed to the nines like a joker from a stack of cards. After Joan bathed her in a plume of cigarette smoke, Jane’s neck chords tightened ever so slightly before she sing-songed back ”Roger had my rings resized. I keep losing weight.” She played a cruel ace by giving Joan a mundane task before she turned and swished off to meet her sugar daddy. Joan stared stoney-eyed after her and I was reminded that nobody gives better frozen face than Christina Hendricks.

It was an evening of warring impulses, people either grasping at outdated traditions or finding freedom in experimentation. Somewhere in the middle were those who aren’t after power but rather a little dignity in their modest lives. Joan came to the sad realization that her marriage wasn’t some fantasy endzone. Readying her apartment for a dinner party, she lectured her husband, whose triangular torso in that tight white tee and belted khakis made him look like Brando’s understudy in Streetcar, on the expectations of Emily Post. It was no surprise that Joan was as smooth playing host at home as she is in the office, and the doctors’ wives were impressed. ”The fact that Greg can get a woman like you makes me feel good about his future,” one told her. Joan, glancing up from the roast she was preparing for men who laughed at fart jokes, looked uncharacteristically vulnerable. But what of her future?

After dinner it came out that Greg had botched an important surgery and Joan, a woman who prizes competence above all else, looked seriously spooked. No Chief Resident equals no house in Riverdale and no glorious sayanora to the Sterling Cooper gang. A skittish Greg forced Joan to entertain the guests with a cheeky love song on the accordion. ”C’est magnifique,” she sang (or lip-synched, rather obviously). She looked humiliated, by the song and her greater performance of a happy wife.

At the Draper house, Carla refused to play the role of the mild-mannered and anonymous maid for Betty’s father. Last week Betty insinuated that Carla had eaten the last of her precious Melbas. When she got wrongly fingered again for sneaking a five-dollar bill from Gramp’s money clip, she slapped down the crabby old man who insisted on calling her another woman’s name. ”My name’s not Viola,” she told him. ”It’s Carla.” He looked dumbly at her, before wondering if she knew Viola. ”We don’t all know each other.” It was the most we’ve ever heard from Carla, and I doubt she’ll be eating dinner alone at the counter come season’s end. That woman’s interior life is getting ready to swell over, and the Draper house can’t contain it.

It was Sally, of course, who took the cash. That girl is desperate for some attention, and the feat of walking backwards all the way up from the living room certainly isn’t going to get her any from Betty. Some of you wondered if this episode would end in a molestation scene. And I admit that after Sally basically outed herself for the crime and then crept down that dark hallway in that creepy nightgown (the angles of her shoulder ruffles alone could give me a nightmare), I worried you all had guessed right. But Gene didn’t cop a feel or give a lecture, he merely asked her to read to him some more. He wanted her company. And nobody ever wants Sally’s company. Gene wanted her to read some more from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. ”Just wait,” he’d said with thrilled excitement when she’d closed the book earlier. ”All hell’s going to break loose.”

NEXT: How the other half lives

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