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Mad Men recap: Desperate Times

In ‘Blowing Smoke,’ Don takes a stance on tobacco that causes ripple effects through the halls of SCDP

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Mad Men Sally Draper

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

“I bet I could get a date with your mother right now,” the Heinz man told Don. The agency was bad news around town, tarnished after being so badly used and excused by Lucky Strike. Director John Slattery created a good flow through the season’s penultimate episode (how did that happen?), as we segued from an empty table with the Heinz client to Betty’s kitchen table cluttered with the brand. This was an hour dedicated to the shape-shifter idea of perception and reality—or image, and afterimage, if we borrow from Midge’s clouded vision—that left the adults huffing to put a better face on their desperation.

The partners were still reeling from the loss of 50% of their business. Lane was back from England, apparently with his uptight wife and kids in tow. (Be well, Toni.) Faye’s sneering creep of a boss had an idea for how the agency could recover. Simply woo Philip Morris and their lady cigarette line. The gang was up for it, although nobody, not even Peggy, understood what an untapped market they had in selling cigarettes to women. “Of course you have Don,” said Jeff, of the agency’s ace in the hole. “You’re a certain kind of girl, and tobacco is your ideal boyfriend.” How’s that for a succinct description of Don’s special brand of toxic love, and the ladies addicted to it.

Speaking of addiction, Midge hadn’t fared well over the seasons. It was kind of nice running into her in the lobby, although she seemed a little goofy from the get-go, supposedly having come from some interview with a magazine related to Time or Life or Planet Earth or something. When Don told her he had his own firm now, she gave a little laugh. “Draper, Draper, Draper?” she guessed. It was a cute retort, from a woman who was always clever, and a shrewd nod ahead to Don’s actions later in the episode.

In retrospect she looked a little skeletal, and that cardigan hung on her like a sail, but I was taken aback by her later revelation that she was hooked on smack. It turned out that Midge had tracked Don down in midtown solely for his wallet. That Harry was a loathsome toad, bounding out their hovel’s door with Don’s $10 to go score some heroin after he’d offered up his wife. Midge announced herself a goner, drowsily grabbing at Don’s leg while she used her other hand to twitch and rub at her face. Don, who looked more grossed out than moved by his old lover’s loss of self, wrote her a check. He signs things, that’s what he does! But she wanted cash, and maybe a kiss, and maybe a stroll through the park. He wanted out of there, and if it took $120 to close this particular chapter on his past then so be it. “Do you think my work is any good?” she asked. “Does it matter?” he said sadly.

NEXT: Don changes the conversation.