The other night my film professor and I were discussing The Old Dark House. We were arguing whether or not it was a comedy or horror film. The 1932 film was a pioneer in infusing humor into your typical horror scenarios. It’s a recipe with seen used time and time again, but only successful a few times. Season 2 started injecting comedic elements with its character Paul Kinsey. Season 2’s Emmy winning episode “Meditations in an Emergency” was full of Kinsey-isms and Season 3 has continued with that spirit. “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency” is appropriately titled not for the obvious punch line that develops but because Mad Men is increasing its comic relief. Sunday night’s episode has taken a touch of the absurd and made it work. While over the top, Mad Men’s go at it Sunday night quite successfully balances out the humor with macabre.
Little Sally Draper is scared of her new baby brother. Echoing horror films past, Sally suggests that he new baby brother is evil because he shares her dead grandfather’s name, room, and face. This prompts Don to confront Betty about the name choice. Betty chooses the name to honor and remember her father while Don doesn’t want to remember. He chooses to forget and move on. We almost forget that Don arranged for his father in law stay with them. But Don is not entirely cold. While comforting Sally, he rushes to her bedside and soothes her with a tone I don’t believe I have ever heard before. It was almost as if it wasn’t Don Draper but another person.
Meanwhile, the British owners of Sterling and Cooper pay the office a visit. “The British are coming,” Roger exclaims. It just so happens that they invade on the eve of Independence Day. They introduce a new member of the team, MacKendrick from London. They shake up the entire office and at the end, rearrange a few positions. This doesn’t last long. It also happens to be Joan’s last day at the office. Joan was planning on retiring because her doctor husband (she apparently was married during the off season) was supposed to get his surgical residency. Unfortunately, he does not and she goes through the motions of a “Bon Voyage” party anyways. The charming MacKendrick thanks Joan for her services to the company at the office party and she becomes emotional and cries. But the festivities continue and the staff decides that it’s the perfect opportunity to ride the John Deere tractor they received as a gift for landing the account. We see it’s a bad idea right off the bat: alcohol, a crowded office, and more alcohol. Throw in a clumsy secretary and you get carnage. Secretary Lois takes the wheel and runs over MacKendrick’s foot. Joan, displaying her doctor skills, quickly goes to his aide to help stop the bleeding.
While at the hospital, Joan and Don have a nice encounter. Joan and Don are two adults that know the tribulations that come with life and both are the faces of Sterling Cooper. The chemistry there is one full of respect which may be the reason why Don and Joan have never crossed a line with each other. While we often focus on Peggy and her successes, it’s equally important to focus on Joan. There is a scene with Peggy and Don where they are drinking champagne at the office party. Peggy comments on how it’s good and Don says he doesn’t think so. They are unequal. As much respect Don has for Peggy and admiration she has for him, they are unequal. Whereas despite their different careers, Joan and Don are equals. Joan is really a renaissance woman and can almost do all, including saving a guy’s life. Joan and Don’s scene is casual and relaxed. They have something there that Peggy and Don don’t.
Also at the hospital, the other members of Sterling Cooper’s parent company mention that MacKendrick will not work there as planned because “Doctor said he’ll never golf again.” And there we have it: America vs. England. America so smug and loud and blunt vs. England so rude and sly and in the end it’s English blood on American walls.
It would be remiss of me not to mention a special meeting Don had. There had been talk that Conrad Hilton was the mystery man that appeared in “My Old Kentucky Home.” Unfortunately, that episode came right before I started doing my recap so I did not focus much on it. It’s interesting to note that the gentleman, whom everyone thought was Conrad Hilton, was not. Much to my surprise, he was the man Don had a talk to behind the bar. The Mad Men writers like to be tricky. Hilton has asked for Don’s advertising advice and Don has asked for his business. Does Don take over the world with the Hiltons? Who knows? I guess we’ll have to wait until Sunday.