‘Mad Men’ Recap: Are You Still Mad About Don?

by | July 26, 2010 at 8:58 AM | Mad Men

Jon Hamm in the 'Mad Men' season premiere (AMC)

Jon Hamm in the 'Mad Men' season premiere (AMC)

Keep your eye on the one-legged reporter from Advertising Age who was interviewing Don Draper in the opening scene of Sunday night’s season premiere of AMC’s ‘Mad Men.’

I have a hunch he could make trouble for Don (Jon Hamm). Here’s why: Don screwed him out of a good story, and if there’s one thing a reporter can’t stand, it’s getting scooped.

The reporter asked, “Who is Don Draper?” but Don revealed so little about himself and his ad agency, now called Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, that the reporter had no choice but to write a dull story that revealed nothing. It was a missed opportunity, not only for the reporter, but for SCDP. You have to understand: Ad Age was (and still is) read by everyone in the advertising and media businesses. An opportunity for front-page publicity in such an influential trade mag is not to be taken lightly. But that’s what Don did when he decided not to tell the reporter anything of value. The profile was so threadbare that it did nothing to burnish SCDP’s reputation at a time when the agency desperately needed publicity and, more to the point, the clients that could have resulted from it.

Senior partner Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) laid it on the line: “Turning creative success into business is your work,” Cooper told Draper, upbraiding him in front of everyone, “and you’ve failed.”

Slideshow: ‘Mad Men’s Best Quotes

Stung by the criticism, Draper was in a different frame-of-mind by the episode’s end, wowing a Wall Street Journal reporter with the dramatic inside story of how Sterling Cooper narrowly avoided getting swallowed up a year earlier by a much-larger agency, and detailing how the SCDP principals, with Don taking the lead, boldly relaunched their agency from a hotel suite.

Well, you can imagine how the reporter from Ad Age is going to feel when he reads this riveting account in the Journal. He’ll feel bamboozled, and a ticked-off reporter is a motivated reporter. And this reporter also happens to be a Korean War vet who gave his leg for his country.

Perhaps he’ll start digging and find out Don’s a Korean War vet too, only his name then was Dick Whitman. And he might learn he took the name Donald Draper from a dead lieutenant, in order to find a way out of the war. This happens to be Don’s big secret, and only a few people know it – among them, Bert Cooper and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). Did you notice how quickly Pete sucked up to the reporter? When Don introduced the reporter to Pete and Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Pete shook the journalist’s hand warmly and invited him to call him “Pete.”

Pete Campbell’s a devious guy – give him a reason to screw Don and he’ll take it. My prediction: Pete’s a source-in-the-making for this Ad Age guy. True – Pete’s been more of a team player lately than he used to be. Is he still capable of treachery?

Now starting its fourth season, the season premiere showed that ‘Mad Men’ is still TV’s richest drama. Such great details in last night’s episode: Don taking his date to a real (but long defunct) midtown Manhattan restaurant – Jimmy’s Lagrange, renowned for its chicken Kiev (who eats chicken Kiev anymore?) – the Barbizon Hotel for Women (now a condominium at Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street), and Sterling Cooper’s spiffy new offices in the then-ultramodern Time & Life Building on Sixth Avenue. Another great touch: The episode’s closing song, the 1964 hit “Tobacco Road” by the Nashville Teens, with its lyrics (“Growin’ up, rusty shack, all I had was hangin’ on my back . . .”) reflecting Don’s own hardscrabble upbringing.

So much to discuss! What did you think of the season opener? Is ‘Mad Men’ still the greatest or what?