Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men and macho men
It’s Christmas, and time for presents!
What do you get for a man who has everything? If the recipient is Lee Garner, Jr., you get him whatever he asks for, which is nothing he particularly wants, but which comes at great personal cost to yourself, both financially and in terms of your personal dignity.
The same goes for Don. He can’t have what he really wants, which is who knows what, so he decides to have Allison for Christmas. He first crosses the line with her by making her read Sally’s rather personal card aloud to him, and then gets her to sleep with him after the office party. As with Lee, it’s a gift that costs much more to the giver than its value to the recipient. Dons downward spiral proceeds apace — in seasons past, he never would have slept with a secretary. His alcoholism is approaching Rumsenesque pantswetting territory.
Peggy’s boyfriend (who I swear, is the spitting image of Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink. Is this some kind of joke, from Duck to Duckie? Poor Peggy and her paltry poultry?) wants her virginity for Christmas, but she’s unsure. She doesn’t have her virginity to give, for one thing, but more importantly, she’s struck with a self-conservationist instinct that SCDP and Allison, in the above scenarios, entirely seemed to lack — what if the gift is meaningful only to the giver, and not the taker? It’s only when hopelessly old-fashioned Freddy Rumsen articulates that very fear that she realizes that she doesn’t want to be governed by those illiberal rules, and takes the plunge. At the end it seems that Peggy’s the one who has realized she doesn’t want to be married to this boyfriend of hers. (This being Mad Men, it probably means the two will be married by the beginning of next season.)
The only truly inspired gift-giver this year is Glenn, who knows, even before Sally herself, that what Sally wants for Christmas is … mayhem and a lanyard. I loved the scene of Glenn and his recruit, joylessly trashing the Draper-Francis residence. They’re doing this because they have to damn it, not because it’s fun.
And a present for all of us viewers, to reward us for sitting through an especially grim episode: conga-line Joanie with a big red bow. Seriously, so cute it made my teeth hurt.
I’m only a few episodes into the first season, but holy cow is this show addictive.
The premise is simple — it’s a progressive elimination shooting competition. The challenges are visually interesting and well-considered, but really much of the show’s appeal lies in its examination of competing brands of machismo. You have the hardened ex-Marines, the tough ex-cops, a couple total sociopaths, a kid sharpshooting prodigy and a cowboy. Also, a gun rights radio host, Bill, who completely confirms all my prejudices about right-wing radio — petty, unwarrantedly self-righteous, and dumb as rocks.
On the red team, two contestants stick out — Brad, the businessman from the Bay Area, and Kelly, the kid. They’re the two who don’t fit into the macho mold, and not uncoincidentally, everyone on the team keeps trying to eliminate them, even though they are two of the team’s very best shooters. (Admittedly, Brad’s personality is unbearable.)
In the first episode, Mike has to choose someone to go up against in an elimination challenge, and chooses Kelly, the best shooter in that round, because, he says, if he goes out, he wants to go out shooting against the very best. This is basically insane. It’s a team-based elimination challenge. By choosing to shoot against Kelly, Mike increases his chances of losing, and if he wins, he has diminished his team by eliminating one of his best teammates.
It’s not a smart move, but it is a tough guy move, and in these circles that’s what seems to matter.
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