Mad Men: A Day’s Work review

Mad Men, Valentine's Day, and Don Draper's daughter all converge in "A Day's Work." Here's Nick's review...

Valentine’s Day may be a day dedicated to love and togetherness, but if you’re not feeling particularly loved or together, it can be a pretty loathsome thing. While some spend the morning of Valentine’s Day hitting the snooze button to waste the AM hours being a lazy lover before work, others just ignore the alarm till 12:34, and then spend a morning indulging in Ritz crackers, daytime television, bad ads, and booze, being lazy because they have no work. Welcome to Mad Men, where most everyone falls in the latter category, or some degree within it. Characters on Mad Men celebrating Valentine’s Day would be like a Romney kid having a bar mitzvah; they just have no sense of or need for it.

The only couple that we actually see together on this Mad Men Valentine’s Day is Pete and real estate agent Bonnie, and I’m pretty sure they’re just fooling around. The only people that receive flowers are Joan (they’re from Roger and addressed to Kevin) and Shirley, Peggy’s secretary, and she gets reassigned for showcasing her fiancé’s gift (more on that in a minute). Mad Men couldn’t be any more romantically cold at the moment even if it were an arranged marriage, or Don Draper at the end of the last episode sitting on his balcony.

Instead of spending the day in the company of an adoring wife, Don spends his afternoon in the company of adoring competition. Don goes out to lunch with a friendly competitor, and though he cannot be explicit, he makes it clear that he’s willing to dip his toe in other water if it gets him back to work. It’s not a shock to his buddy, he’s heard the rumors; Don’s managing Megan’s career, he’s working in L.A., or maybe he cried or punched a guy in a big meeting and got laid off. It doesn’t matter to this guy, or an interloper from McCann-Erickson; Don is still a hot commodity in their eyes.

His little look for love might help boost his ego, but is that really a good thing? Should Don feel better about himself after a little flattery when in reality he’s that guy waking up at 12:34, only throwing on a suit for when his secretary comes to brief him about the business and let him know if his wife called, god forbid she learn of his involuntary sabbatical?

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Well, someone found out about his sabbatical. Sally, after escaping school and a friend’s mother’s funeral, finds herself in the city and loses her wallet. Stuck without an address book, she heads to the SC&P offices, and walks into another room to find something unexpected and embarrassing to her father. Sally finds a salty Lou Avery in her Dad’s office, and when she finally catches up with Don at the house, he lies and tells her that he was at the office. After some stilted conversation, Don gets a call from Dawn who tells him of Sally’s discovery, and when he hangs up, the two get in the car to take Sally back to school.

While some people spend Valentine’s Day on romantic drives at dawn with their wives, Don spends a car ride bickering with his daughter. Don wants to know why she was in the city, but Sally has bigger fish to fry. She takes the opportunity to remind Don of the affair she witnessed, and actress Kiernan Shipka plays the difficult teenager with an extra dollop of maturity and real hurt. At a diner and after sensing his daughter’s obvious repugnance, Don opens up. He reveals the circumstances of his leave at work, and Sally is instantly sympathetic to her father’s story, particularly becomes it involves Don’s upbringing, the one real thing that she knows about her father. They also discuss Megan, with Sally getting out of Don the fact that he just wants Megan to move back home. Don says it’ll fix things, but can’t say how.

When Don drops his daughter off, it’s clear that they’ve come a little closer to understanding one another. Sally closes the car door quickly on her Dad, but not before saying “Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.” Upon hearing his daughter say the l-word, Don sits dumbstruck. Whether he’s looking for love in his professional or home life, the search for love has always been Dick Whitman’s true purpose, and it may be his only cure. Don didn’t have the prototypical Valentine’s Day, but he had the one he needed.

The Best of the Rest

– Dawn playing spy for Don comes back to bite her. She angers Lou Avery and he has her reassigned to reception, then Burt Cooper’s racism has Dawn displaced altogether. Meanwhile Joan has to deal with the secretary shuffle while juggling the Avon account. Both girls are frustrated but it ends up working out. Cutler notices that Joan basically is performing two jobs, and has Joan moved upstairs permanently to a new office in accounts. Dawn is tapped as Joan’s replacement downstairs. I love that we’re getting more time with Dawn and I’m glad to see her upward mobility.

– Peggy is an absolute monster this week. She mistakes her secretary’s flowers for her own and just expects that they’ve come from Ted. She sends Ted threatening messages with comedic jilted anger and acts like an absolute tyrant when Shirley stands up and claims the flowers as her own. Shirley then gets tossed up in the secretary shuffle as well. The whole thing is pretty funny, but it only further proves Peggy’s complete unhappiness.

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– Pete’s California bliss certainly was fleeting. Sure, he’s nailing Betty lookalike Bonnie, a strong real estate agent with her own ambition, but he’s facing even more hardship on SC&P front. For a guy constantly fighting to be at the center of operations, moving to California wasn’t such a smart move. Pete lands another car account, but isn’t able to manage it in Detroit on his own, and he isn’t even able to fight for his opinion due to crummy phone service. Pete is, by his own account, stuck in a sort of purgatory.

– Roger is at odds with Cutler, who tells Sterling that he’d “hate to think of you as an adversary.” Cutler backs Chevy while Sterling supports Pete’s new account. Cutler also throws some barbs about Don, calling him an ex-wife that they’re forced to be alimony to. Doesn’t look like Cutler wants Draper back in the office anytime soon.

– Lou Avery is also immune to Roger’s charms along with Peggy’s. If Joan doesn’t charm this guy then he’s a robot.

– Ginsberg on Peggy’s V-Day: “She has plans, February 14th, masturbate gloomily.”

– Ted is such a sad zombie, he doesn’t even react to Pete and Bonnie banging in the office. He’s more than content being left out of the fold, unlike Pete.

– Roger reacts selfishly to Joan’s promotion, lamenting the fact that it came courtesy of Cutler’s endorsement.

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4 out of 5