Mad Men, "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"

Don: “I don’t hate Christmas. I hate this Christmas.”

I hope everyone was excited about the return of Glen, or Creepy Glen, as I like to call him. As the Draper-Francis family picks out a Christmas tree, Glen emerges from the shadows to talk to Sally. His mother got re-married, he explains, and he heard about what happened with Sally’s parents. Bobby Draper seems to be adjusting well to their new life, he and Henry putting their arms around each other as they walk away. Sally is the one who truly feels the loss of Don, especially given the strained relationship she’s always had with Betty. Glen is her new ally; he understands what it’s like to be part of a divorced family, and he can finally get revenge against Betty for the way she dropped their inappropriate friendship. When he later calls looking for Sally, he introduces himself as Stanley and Sally is totally unfazed by his secrecy. “I hate it here. I really do,” she tells him. He assures her that one day, her family will wake up and not want to live in that house anymore. At night when the house is empty, Glen and his friend break in, dumping food all over the kitchen and making a mess. When the family arrives home later, Sally’s room is undisturbed and Glen has left a present for her: the little homemade key chain that he showed off earlier. Betty glances into Sally’s room and walks away, and I wonder if she’ll suspect that Sally had something to do with the prank.

At the SCDP office, Don’s secretary, Allison, enters with the mail. “Good time? Bad time?” she asks. “Yes,” says Don. She holds up a letter from Sally, addressed to Santa Claus c/o Don Draper, and Don asks her to read it aloud. Don and Allison are clearly comfortable with each other, but she gets flustered by the sad tone at the end of the letter. Sally asks for a gold necklace that they saw at Macy’s, hinting at quality time Don has had with his kids offscreen, and says that what she really wants is for Don to be there on Christmas, though she knows that can’t happen. Don pulls out a wad of cash and rattles off a list of presents that Allison should buy, adding some Beatles records for Sally and a transistor radio for Bobby. Allison asks about bringing a guest to the office Christmas party even though Joan has already said no (doesn’t she know that you don’t cross Joan?), and Don explains that Lane has scaled the party back to “a bottle of gin and a box of Velveeta.” He says she’ll get her bonus, though, even if he has to see to it himself.

The party doesn’t stay small for long. Roger gets a call from Lee Garner, Jr. of Lucky Strike, their biggest client, and also the guy responsible for getting our beloved Sal fired last season. He’s offended that he hasn’t been invited to the party and basically invites himself. Roger, chugging some Maalox, calls Lane and Joan into his office. They have to upgrade the party from “a convalescent home into a Roman orgy,” he explains. He then flirts with Joanie, as he affectionately calls her, and asks her to wear the red dress with the bow on the back to the party. She brushes him off, but sure enough, she shows up in the red dress. Here’s hoping they both break up with their awful spouses and get back together this season.

Freddy Rumsen returns, and he’s been sober for 16 months. He meets with Roger to ask for a job, offering to bring his Pond’s account with him. Roger agrees, but Freddy asks one more favor: Pete Campbell can’t get anywhere near this account. I believe Pete was the one who spread the word about Freddy drunkenly passing out in his office, causing Freddy to get fired. Instead, Freddy is teamed up with Peggy, who is delighted to see him. As they start working together, however, Peggy quickly becomes annoyed. Freddy is stuck on old-fashioned ideas; he wants to show older actresses using the face cream, thinking that young women will look to them for beauty advice, and he tries to push the “use Pond’s or you’ll never get married” angle. Peggy tries to tell him that these ideas are not going to work at the new SCDP, and she finally snaps at him when he pushes her too far. Freddy quietly leaves and doesn’t show up for the Christmas party, even though he’s been recruited to play Santa.

Through Joan’s party planning magic, the office looks wonderful for Lee’s visit. The men bring their wives, which means we get a dose of Trudy Campbell, played by the lovely Alison Brie. The group starts a conga line, led by Joan, and there’s a fantastic shot of them dancing by a kissing couple in a dimly lit room. Lee opens his present, a Polaroid camera, and seems genuinely grateful for a moment. “Reminds me of when I was a kid. Remember that? You asked for something and you got it and it made you happy,” he says, and I think this is the episode’s defining idea. Characters are getting what they want (or what they think they want) and then they have to deal with the aftermath. Lee forces Roger to put on the Santa suit so he can take photos of people sitting on his lap, and Harry whispers apologies as he gingerly sits on Roger’s knee.

With the party winding down, Don decides to head home. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” he says to Peggy, which was surprising and sweet. For the second time in this episode, Don stumbles down his hallway and fumbles for his keys. He doesn’t have them; a call to Allison confirms that they’re on the floor of his office. She agrees to drop them off at his apartment before meeting the rest of the office group at a bar. Give her an hour, she requests, because Don might need some food, too. “He’s pathetic,” Joey says. When she arrives, she wakes Don up and ushers him inside. She gets him some aspirin and he’s apologetic, but then he pulls her down onto his lap and goes in for a kiss. Allison protests at first, but she quickly gets into it. Apparently, the third time is the charm for Don as he was already turned down by his neighbor, Phoebe, and Dr. Faye Miller.

When we cut back to this scene, it looks for a moment as though Don has passed out on top of her, but I don’t know if the way it actually played out is any better. They disentangle themselves and Allison straightens out her dress, says she has to meet friends, and gives Don a quick kiss before leaving. She seems happy. The next morning at work, Don gives her a long look before walking down the hall and meeting up with Roger. They make jokes about Lee Garner, Jr.’s behavior from the night before, and then Don reaches Allison’s desk. She’s still happy and ready to flirt. A stack of Christmas presents that she bought for Don’s kids sit on his desk. Don thanks her for her kindness and mentions that he might sometimes take advantage of it. “Excuse me?” she asks, her face falling. Don gives her a card with her bonus money and she goes back to her desk. Inside, there’s a generic message from Don and two $50 bills. She quickly shoves all of it into her desk and goes back to work, and I couldn’t help but think of Don’s encounter with the prostitute last week.

Meanwhile, Peggy has spent much of the episode dealing with her eager boyfriend, Mark. He assumes that she’s a virgin and Peggy doesn’t bother to correct him while he goes on about how there’s nothing to be worried about. He tells her she’s old-fashioned before she gently shoves him out the door. Later, during her reconciliation with Freddy, he apologizes for assuming she wants to get married. She admits that she does want to be married someday and she doesn’t know what to do about the increasingly impatient Mark. Freddy warns her that she can’t do anything with Mark or he won’t respect her, but she can’t just lead him on either. “I don’t want to be alone, ” she says.

The final moments show Don, lonely in his dark office, finishing off a drink. He puts on his hat and coat, grabs the stack of presents for his kids, and walks off down the hall. Peggy is in bed with Mark. “Do you feel different?” he asks, and she doesn’t answer.

AUGUST 8: Don takes a trip and Joan has scheduling problems in “The Good News.”

Photo courtesy of AMC TV.

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