Tuesday, August 24, 2010

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Five: "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword"

Konichiwa, Charujasato-san! We hope you’re the mood for suburban child scandal and advertising intrigue! Lord knows we are! And if you aren’t? Who are you, Dr. Lyle Evans? Click ahead and let the fun begin! It’s spoiler time!

Boivin: This week we got two very distinct plotlines, one being a return to the house formerly known as Draper. As I mentioned in the very clever and funny opening line to this post, we’re back to the show’s regular formula of half of the plots revolving around Don and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s adventures in advertising and the other half dedicated to the home front. I guess we should start with the office comings and goings: Don’s got a rival! The Japanese? Those sandal-wearing goldfish tenders?

Jordan: The same. Just in time for Lucky Strike to see its bottom line drop into the toilet, Pete Campbell, who is becoming so good at his job I’m damn near proud of him, found the next golden goose in the Honda corporation. They were only manufacturing motorcycles at this time, but Pete find them as they’re looking to expand into the car market. They’ve chosen three American advertising firms to compete for the account. And they’re only allowed three thousand dollars to win over the men from the East. Piece of cake for Don Draper, right?

Boivin: In terms of cake pieces, it would’ve gone great if not for Pacific vet Roger Sterling shooting his mouth off. How’d you feel about Roger’s series of anti-Japanese tirades? I thought they were hilarious (Editor's note: Charge Shot!!! does not advocate nor does it condone Mr. Boivin's racism), and my weakness for World War II puns was in full effect. Also, I loved all the stuff about navigating the Japanese customs with the help of Cooper-sempai. About time we got some use out of his hentai fetish!

Jordan: Is there any way you can feel towards hentai that doesn’t qualify as a fetish? I certainly thought they were funny and, more importantly, plausible. Roger doesn’t often look like much more than a smug asshole, but here we see that he does indeed care about someone other than himself. There are scant flashes of his humanity, and this was one of them. Thank the kami Pete reeled him in, though. Don brought it home, but Campbell had the balls to tell him off.

Boivin: I like this heretofore unexplored rivalry between Pete and Roger. I think Roger’s fired him at least once but their interaction has been fairly minimal and professional. With Roger off the rails, Pete speaks truth to power and shows what a competent and, amazingly, essential part of the agency he has become. Who could have figured that his bitchface would climb so high?

And speaking of interactions with Roger, I loved his scene with Joan. And speaking of which, how does she not fall over?

Jordan: A giant ass that acts as a counterweight. Joan has become even more fierce than she was the first few seasons. The partners still parade her about, but SCDP’s rank-and-file seem too intimidated by her to treat her like an object. She, the symbol of everything backwards about female employment in the ‘60s, has ironically become the most powerful woman in the office. Maybe more so than Peggy, who we only see a bit of in this episode. But we swap an Olson for a Francis as Betty comes roaring back into the picture.

Boivin: Peggy riding around that empty sound stage on the motorcycle: one of my favorite images ever. I think I’ll get it as a tattoo.

Regarding Henry: he’s shaping up to be a pretty swell guy. Betty on the other hand...yeesh. When you hit a child, you generally lose all the audience’s support. Betty’s becoming an almost over-the-top monster (not that I’m complaining) and is starting to be the closest thing the show has to a straight up villain. The way she deals with the, um, situation at home is really bad. She’s losing sympathy fast.

Last season, a reader of this feature accused me of harboring an illicit crush on Sally Draper so I’m going to let you take on this part of the episode.

Jordan: Oh Jesus, Boivin. Illicit would be the nice word for that.

The A.V. Club last week named Betty Draper as one of their 22 “Showblockers,” characters so grating/unrealistic that they stop an otherwise quality show in its tracks. And while I agreed totally with that conclusion last week, I actually remembered why I felt sympathy for Betty while watching this episode. She’s inhumane, inhuman even, but she really did deal with some truly heinous, alienating shit in the form of one Mr. Donald Draper. Seeing Betty slap Sally stings a little bit less when you realize Betty’s really just a child herself. But she’s certainly hard to love.

Boivin: Betty’s “Showblockers” problem comes a lot from her being separate from the office story-lines. Dealing with her takes focus off the stuff going on about accounts and such. But it’s essential for Don. I love the war between the two of them, and Betty has some good points about his piss poor child-rearing skills. Faye’s suggestion that Sally just needs to know that daddy loves her was spot on.

Jordan: You know, I think there’s something sweet and genuine brewing between Faye and Don. We both kept expecting them to jump into bed together immediately, but watching them slowly learn more and more about one another is far more satisfying. I think Don may have found his foil. But for now, he’s still the awesomest dude in Awesome Town. Him writing a check to the Japanese returning the three grand for the ad contest was one of the most fist-pump-worthy moments of the season. And it really does warm the cockles of my heart to know that, even without Lucky Strike, SCDP will be just fine, now that they’re doing things Don’s way.

Boivin: One last note before we go: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. taught me how to masturbate too.