‘Mad Men’ Season 5, Episode 10: ‘Christmas Waltz’ Recap

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Christina Hendricks Mad Men Christmas Waltz Mad Men Season 5, Episode 10: Christmas Waltz Recap

Considering how defined the characters on Mad Men are by their pursuit of achievement, it’s not hard to imagine any of them being done near irreparable harm by the realization that perhaps they’re not fit – or no longer fit – for the world of advertising. Given the effort the likes of Don (Jon Hamm), and especially, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) have put in to attain such a career, seeing them stumble, as they have of late, is particularly worrisome when the end result of consistent failure is so dreadfully realized in the return of Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis).

Thankfully, the more fragile personalities of SCDP are largely spared the vision of a Hare Krishna Kinsey – which is a good thing, taking into account that the ego-battering of work of Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman), and the effortless, drifting success of Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) have already taken a rather sizeable toll.

‘Christmas Waltz’ moves Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce a little closer to the end of 1966, but with little to show for it. Mohawk is ceasing its advertising in the wake of a mechanics strike, and the agency’s only claim to fame is Don’s letter to Lucky Strike – which inadvertently steered most of the really big fish away from the agency. In addition, none of their work is seen as revolutionary enough to warrant mention in a New York Times Sunday Magazine piece. In essence, the company’s creative side has a stagnation problem – which would normally mean no Christmas bonuses, but since Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) owes some back taxes to England, he figures passing off a new line of credit as a surplus will justify the bonus he uses to pay the sum off.

Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) seems to be the only one finding success – in work, anyway – and manages to get the agency another shot at Jaguar, following the dismissal of the poorly behaved Edwin Baker. As is the case with Pete, the response to his achievement isn’t what he’s looking for, and so he barks at Don, “Yes, you may have to stay past 5:30,” after Don mentions landing Jaguar will be a lot of work.

Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) isn’t the only one who’s noticed Don’s lack of productivity. It seems work just isn’t what it used to be for Don, and his performance on Sno Ball proves it. Making matters worse, Don and Megan attend the play American Hurrah, where a character goes on about the evils of advertising – which later causes a row between the couple, ending with Don telling Megan, “No one’s made a stronger stand against advertising than you.”

Like the deadly smog keeping Don from opening his patio door on Thanksgiving in ‘Dark Shadows,’ there is a cost for what they’ve built. Whether it’s a company, a reputation or a relationship, the taxes are coming due – so to speak – and it’s becoming clear that not everyone is going to have what it takes when the time comes to get square.

Poor Paul Kinsey has to be made the example in this case. Since being left behind following the slapdash formation of SCDP, Kinsey apparently fell down the advertising ladder and was spit out to become a Hare Krishna with dreams of settling down with a woman going by the name Lakshmi (Anna Wood) and writing for Star Trek. Paul wrangles Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) into attending a group chant, so that afterward, he can ask his friend to pass along his spec script to NBC.

Unfortunately for Paul, his writing’s no good, and worse yet, Lakshmi shows up at Harry’s office, seduces him, then tells him to stay away from Paul – the group’s best recruiter – so as to not turn Kinsey into a “gross materialist.” Following that encounter, Harry decides it best to pay Paul’s way to Los Angeles, where he can fail thousands of miles away from him and the Hare Krishnas.

Jon Hamm Christina Hendricks Mad Men Christmas Waltz Mad Men Season 5, Episode 10: Christmas Waltz Recap

Joan (Christina Hendricks) is served divorce papers at the office, and following a semi-violent outburst, is taken to test drive a Jaguar with Don. If Don found it easy to get what he wanted from people before, with Joan on his arm, the world is definitely his oyster. The two whittle away the afternoon in a bar, where Don reveals he doesn’t get a thrill out of the Jag, and Joan tells him it’s because he’s happy. On the other hand, Joan is terrified that she’s destined to be a single mother now that she’s being delivered divorce papers at work when she’s so used to getting flowers.

Amidst a discussion of the struggle that comes with starting over, Joan wonders why Don never put the moves on her, explaining, “My mother raised me to be admired.” Don tells her he was afraid of her, and jokingly thought she was dating Ali Kahn. Don deflects Joan’s attention toward a guy sitting by himself at the bar. The pair does a good job psychoanalyzing the man, assuming he’s married, but bored – his wife having committed the sin of familiarity. Don opts out at that point, giving Joan some “Mad Money” in case the guy at the bar doesn’t work out.

Taking the Jaguar back to the dealer, Don drives it rather furiously, suggesting he may need a thrill more than he thought. He arrives home drunk to find Megan itching for a fight – a state she seems in more and more, lately – and she reminds him he loved his job and had it long before he ever met her.

At the office the next day, Roger delivers Joan some flowers with a card that reads: “Your mother did a good job. Ali Kahn.” Don’s not done there; he rallies his troops, telling them they’ll be working non-stop until they land Jaguar – as an agency’s first car is how they tell the world they’ve arrived. It looks as though Don may finally be ready to start over.

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Mad Men continues next Sunday @10pm with ‘The Other Woman’ on AMC. Check out the preview below:

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  1. Although I haven’t taken a test, and are also male, I’ve become convinced that during the bar scene with Joan and Don I actually ended up pregnant. Frankly, it could’ve been either of them.

    Gorgeous series. Slow start to the season, but the last 5/6/7 episodes have been hypnotic.

    • I’ve been waiting for a scene with the two of them for ages… the sex vibe in that scene nearly cracked my screen

  2. Thank you for the connection with the play Don and Megan attended and the fight the two of them had later. It went right over my head.

    I too loved seeing Don and Joan intimate. Each of them free to be who they really are without fear of retribution. No doubt the pairing of those two would be hot, passionate, and short-lived as one of them would inevitably burn to ash the other. Therefore, I hope it never comes to fruition.

    My favorite exchange last night:

    “You know, if I told you last December that we’d be in the running for a car, you would’ve kissed me on the mouth,” said Pete.
    “Maybe you and I should go as a couple (to test drive the Jaguar),” replies Don.

    It’s gotta suck respecting someone who will never, ever, EVER respect you. There are times I feel sorry for poor, smarmy, slimy Pete.

  3. Love your take on this! Especially that the “taxes are coming due” for all of them in some way.

    As for Don and Joan together, they make excellent friends. He seems lonelier without Megan at the office, and he may be able to have a friendship (as he did with Anna) in his relationship with Joan.

    Not only do they seem at ease with each other, but they’re equally behind the times. They’re more in sync than Don and Megan. Amazing what a difference just two or three years can make.

    I got the impression this episode was setting up for more transformation, not to mention even clearer demarcation of the generation gap. As I recall the mid and late sixties, the establishment men had a tougher time than the women, but then… my recollections are those of a child. I was roughly Sally’s age at the time.

    Don is going to have to reinvent himself again – and it sure won’t be with the Krishnas. He’ll have more worries on his hands than SCDP; there’s a monumental wave headed in his direction – and headed toward all the suits across the country.

    http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/mad-men-reviews/

  4. megan is starting to get pretty annoying. she needs to relax :-/

    • What does she need to relax about? Don’s comment about her leaving the agency was unwarranted and disrespectful, and she’s not one to take that kind of thing from someone.

      Then later on he doesn’t come home on time (this isn’t Betty anymore, he has been arriving at home on time for awhile now) and doesn’t call to say he’s going to be late. She was angry, and rightfully so.

  5. With each episode this season I can’t help but wonder more & more when is Pete going to snap?
    More than anything else that happened in this episode I couldn’t help but focus on his few lines about not getting the recognition he feels he deserves. Even in the scene at the end when they announced the bonuses and Don gave the pep talk I couldn’t help but think about how no one acknowledged Pete’s announcement.

    • Pete never got any parental approval, advice, or inheritance from his father.So all he wants is the same from (daddy) Don. Don never got anything but rage and degradation from his nasty father. Don won’t or can’t give Pete his approval. Pete is just dying for a father figure to say he’s doing a good job, he already blew it with his father in law, but he seeks it more from Don because he can’t get it. Looks like , from the previews that Trudy’s calling pete? out. Wonder if she knows about his phillandering? He truly is dead with out Trudy.

  6. I agree that this season started slow and clunky, but I am very pleased with the way the last three episodes have come back to form, digging deeper into the minds of these troubled souls.

  7. Seeing as how they brought back Paul Kinsey (in a sad way) I wonder how Sal’s return would be like….I’m guessing a now divorced semi outed guy. Plus I’m anxious to see duck Philipps in a worser downward spiral.

  8. It is going to be Don & Joan. Megan has had enough, here & Don will besplitsville.
    Don & Joan will be the new dream couple.

  9. I was bothered by the over the top outrage of Megan, when Don came home late. Don wasn’t that drunk, though I liked the way he bumped into the lamp, just like Betty did, anyone notice that? I think the seed of discontent planted by her socialist daddy, is beginning to grown in Megan. It does not help, that all Megan’s theeahtah freinds are also part of her growing dissatisfaction with sucess that she didn’t have to struggle for. I wonder if subcouncisously (thanks daddy) or counsciously Megan is now trying to provoke problems with Don? I don’t blame her for getting mad, but she was over re ACTING, maybe?

    • I don’t know grammapauline. At the height of frustration, there’s been many-a-time I’ve wanted to touchdown pass a plate of food at the wall. Alas, I always hold back ‘cuz I don’t want to clean up the mess.

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