Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TV Geek Out 167: Mad Men, "Waldorf Stories"

How low can he go? That's the question Mad Men's fourth season keeps asking about Don Draper, and "Waldorf Stories" charted some of the seediest stops along his fall. Even in the face of winning a Clio for the Glo-Coat commercial, Don still manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: His drunken pitch for Life Cereal plays like a grotesque caricature of the "Carousel"; he misplaces the award; and after striking out with Dr. Faye, he beds a willing jingle writer and, perhaps most shamefully, a plain waitress named Doris. He's surrounded by cautionary examples of what could be his future, from a morose Roger to a belligerent Duck, and by the mediocre present in the shape of Danny, a copywriter with connections and the belief that "perspiration's as good as inspiration." Danny's entrée into Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is mirrored by flashbacks to 1955, when Don is a wannabe adman looking for any way to get his foot in the door. "Waldorf Stories" isn't all downhill, however. We see SCDP's younger generation rise to their responsibilities, with Pete acting as "designated driver" at the Clios and showing Ken who's boss. Meanwhile, Peggy rises to the challenge of working for a demanding, forgetful, alcoholic boss and with the agency's latest sexist pig, art director Stan Rizzo -- and triumphs in ways big and small. This episode had more ups and downs than a hotel elevator, and we discuss them all here.