'Mad Men' recap, 'The Collaborators'

April 15, 2013|By Karmen Fox

For all you complaining about the less-than-stellar season six premiere, feast your eyes on the scintillating second episode.

“The Collaborators” delves into themes of desire, putting on a good face for show and the sin rooted deep in Don’s history: prostitution. The death and suicide images are still there, but toned down a bit from last week’s one-and-a-half deaths. That’s always a plus.

Don runs into the good -- but not good enough for his wife -- doctor in the elevator before slipping away to sleep with said wife. His excuse? Forgetting his cigarettes. “You should really quit,” Dr. Rosen admonishes Don. The smoking or the adultery?

Before entering Sylvia’s apartment, Don has a flashback to his days as Dick Whitman. But instead of the farm, he’s moved up from handling horses to whores with the help of his “Uncle” Mac.

“Find your own sins,” a red-clad prostitute tells young Dick. Sure, Don’s found smoking, drinking and adultery, but it looks like he’s also taken on Uncle Mac’s penchant for prostitutes.

After his morning tryst with Sylvia, he hands her a wad of cash. Fitting, since we saw her arguing with her husband earlier over money.

Dr. Rosen confides in Don on the elevator that he suspects she’s sending money to their child at school. Would a mother really need to sneak sending money to her kid? I doubt it. Looks like we’ll get the answer later.

Later Sylvia runs into Megan, who also confides in her spouse’s lover. Only in her case, it’s much sadder. Megan had a miscarriage, though she admitted she was somewhat relieved, since she didn’t want to hinder her budding career.

Sylvia, a Catholic like Megan, lays on the guilt. Megan then feels worse. Don walks in while Megan wipes away the tears.

The four are supposed to double date the following night. Fun and not awkward at all! Megan bails, since she’s depressed about her miscarriage, understandably so. Don goes without her and dines with the Rosens. Eventually Dr. Rosen gets called into the hospital, and that leaves just the two smitten sex kittens.

Don turns on his game. But Sylvia, apprehensive to flirt in public and jealous that he and Megan have still been having sex, resists him. He tells her he wants her all the time, and not just in the maid’s room (odd choice, since Megan plays a maid on her daytime soap). But, still, Sylvia feels guilty.

“You want to feel s---y, right up until the point where I take your dress off.” You sure do know how to woo a woman, Don. But, it’s Don Draper, so of course it works.

Don then goes up one more flight to his home to a grieving Megan. She opens up about the miscarriage, which is a double surprise to him.

They put off the talk of having kids -- neither even used that word once -- and he said he wanted whatever she wanted. Anything to avoid anxiety, huh, Don?

The ghost of prostitutions past comes back to haunt SCDP in the form of Herb, the revolting Jaguar client and Joan’s one-time John. And, of course, he’s darkening Joan’s doorway.

“I know there’s some part of you that misses me,” he gloats. “And I know there’s a part of you that you haven’t seen in years,” Joan retorts. Bravo, Mrs. Holloway (Harris?), bravo.

Seething, she goes to Don’s office to announce Herb’s arrival, pouring herself a drink. Don, who notices she’s angry, heads to the meeting where Herb wants more foot traffic at his dealerships.

His solution: Less TV ads and more radio ads, but SCDP has to present it as their idea to get the Brits to green-light it.

Don says it will drive away their target audience (not to mention tarnish the prestige of TV ads), but Pete insists it’s all about what the client wants. Too bad Don knows what he wants and how to get it.

When meeting with Jaguar, Don bungles the pitch intentionally (unlike the “Jumping off point” pitch from last week), and he does so masterfully. “That was the deftest self-immolation I’ve ever seen,” Roger says. And the suicide imagery just keeps on coming.

Don might not have been able to stop his partners from pimping out Joan to an unctuous car salesman, but he did stop Herb from ruining the prestige of a national car campaign.

(A brief note about Don’s perplexing moral cognitive dissonance regarding prostitution: True, he has solicited and continues to see a prostitute, but I suspect his moral outrage with whoring out Joan is in part because he respects her, while he condones Sylvia’s prostitution since he has feelings for her.)

“He’s not a businessman,” Herb says to Pete. Clearly, his shortsightedness is not limited to just his privates.

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