Mad Men: One Man's Bender Is Another Man's Opportunity


Liquor has always been prominent on this show—especially this season with Don’s dizzying spiral into full-blown alcoholism—but on last night’s episode, we learned that while booze might be his downfall, it also was part of his success.

Right now, we’re somewhere in April 1965, as evidenced by Stan’s Playboy.

There were plenty of monumental events in American history that took place at this time: President Johnson sent troops into the Dominican Republic fearing “another Cuba;” 25,000 protesters showed up in D.C. for the first SDS march against the Vietnam War; and NY World’s Fair reopened in Queens. The dichotomous mood—of destruction and havoc and progress and hope—of the country was definitely present in last night’s episode. It was also very heavy on irony.

Take Stan Rizzo, SCDP’s new art director, for example.

He thinks he’s more open-minded and progressive than Peggy, because he’s a nudist and provocatively reads girlie mags in front of his female coworker. But then Peggy called his bluff by insisting that they get naked if that’s the only way he can get work done. (Nice high-waisted shorts, BTW. You’d have to pull them up to his neck to give him a wedgie.)

Ironically, for all his talk about being so cutting edge and tantalizing, he ended up creating an ad for cough drops that took place in a church.

And then there was Don and Danny, Roger’s wife’s cousin who was applying for a job at SCDP. Don scoffed at the kid’s one-note “the cure for the common…” slogan, as well as his overt plagiarism (by including ads he didn’t even create in his portfolio) and refused to hire him. Later, Don went on to have his own creative genius acknowledged when he won a Clio for his Glo-Coat commercial.

While it doesn’t take much of an excuse for the employees of SCDP to knock back a few drinks, they had pretty good reason to be extra celebratory of this coup: In 1965, the Clio Awards were expanded to include international work, which not only increased the competition, but also gave the winners global attention in the industry. (Which could be really helpful when trying to land foreign accounts, like that of Honda.)

But Don’s victory lap around the bar was momentarily interrupted by the execs of Life cereal, who finally showed up for their meeting at SCDP. They were delayed by the wind, which coincidentally, Don was three sheets to during his presentation. They didn’t bite at his initial idea, but drunk on booze and accomplishment, Don started rattling off tag lines to them, confident that he could win them over. One of the ideas he spit-balled was “the cure for the common cereal,” which is the same lame idea for which he’d mocked Danny. The Life guys loved it, ironically making Don a more egregious plagiarizer than Danny.

Don then preceded to go on a bender in which he checked out during a b.j. from a brunette…

…only to wake up next to a blonde.

He lost a few days somewhere in between, and missed his visitation with his kids. At this point, his drinking is negatively affecting every aspect of his life, and he’s quickly losing the “functioning” part of being an alcoholic. Peggy showed up at his door and let him know that he had stolen Danny’s “common cure” tag line and that he needed to fix the situation. Don offered Danny some “freelance” money for the idea, but the kid played hardball, and insisted on a job at the company. Don had no other choice but to begrudgingly hire him.

Interestingly, it was revealed that Don got his big break in advertising by capitalizing on someone else’s drunkenness—Roger’s.

In a series of flashbacks while working on his autobiography (which sounds like it would be an awesome read: “I always liked chocolate ice cream but my mother made us eat vanilla because it didn’t stain anything”) we learned that Roger met Don—a luxury fur salesman—while buying a mink for Joan, with whom he was having an affair.

Learning that Roger was in advertising, Don pulled some Working Girl-type moves in order to get Roger’s attention and move up the ladder. (Just like Tess McGill, Don has “a head for business and a bod for sin.”) He ambushed Roger in the lobby of his building and insisted on taking him for a drink (at 10 am), which Roger couldn’t resist.

Realizing that Roger was so drunk by the end of their meeting, Don decided to take a chance, and lie his way into a job, by insisting that Roger had hired him. Roger had no real choice but to take his word for it, and give Don a job.

In the first episode of this season, the question was posed: “Who is Don Draper?” It’s become clearer and clearer that the answer is “A bullshit artist.”

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