“Mad Men,” Episode 10, “Christmas Waltz”

By Cynthia Littleton

There was a Pedro Almodovar touch to this episode. It was titled “Christmas Waltz” but might as well have been “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

Model planes and new china went flying, Don and Joan went on a mini-bender that yielded some of the best dialogue of the season, and Paul Kinsey reemerged after three seasons, more deluded than ever. So much to love in this seg, written by Victor Levin and Matthew Weiner and sharply directed by Michael Uppendahl.

Clearly there was also a strong undercurrent theme dealing with faith, which was hammered home at the end by the sign that Don Draper has found his religion again in the Madison Avenue parish. The closing scene provided a great Don Draper speech, proving that speeches aren’t necessarily a bad thing so long as they’re in character (and well written). Plus, it had the extra benefit of showing up applause-starved Pete Campbell, who’s been awfully huffy with his senior partners lately.

Layne Price has probably signed his ticket out of the agency by forging that check. He’s violated his faith as a CPA and will lose credibility with Joan et al once the check and the $50,000 bump in the agency’s line of credit is discovered. The Sterling Cooper Draper Price banker took it on faith from Layne’s assurance that the agency could afford the credit bump. Now with Mohawk Airlines pulling its billings, they’re going to be in an even deeper hole. Good thing Don didn’t crash that XKE!

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  1. Wallace92620 says:

    Tonights episode looked at yet another facet of the season’s theme, that after chasing ones dreams in youth and early career, it dawns at some point that realizing those dreams doesn’t bring happiness. Don is bored at work, Roger isn’t the big cheese rather he’s becoming marginalized, Pete is never comfortable or accepted for what he perceives is his value to the firm. Joan isn’t a happily married woman but a single mother.
    And now tonight the theme comes at us again, with the focus on consequences. Lane played fast and loose with his UK taxes and now has to become a criminal and carries the secret of his embezzlement. Don feels more and more trapped by being in advertising as it now becomes a symbol of the bad in materialistic 50’s culture and Don lives it. Even his wife rejects it, not just as a job, but as a value-added endeavour by taking Don to a play lampoonning it. At work, Don’s consequence of his tobacco letter has been to keep away clients, and the consequence of his loss of dedication is a stagnated department and a ho-hum reputation in the industry. Don is feeling the consequences of making advertising his career, marrying a younger woman with a different perspective of the world, writing the tobacco letter and neglecting his duties.
    Joan’s consquences dawn on her as she realizes she is no longer the sex symbol, desires and alluring, getting flowers from gentlemen suitors, but now a middle-aged divorced mother. It dawns on her she is no longer everyman’s dream and she fears where that leaves her and what her choices really are. The consequences of her decisions to make a bad marriage and engage in activities that lead to her child are becoming clear to her now.
    And the poster boy for having one’s youthful expectations crushed, Paul. He falls farther than any so far, to being a krishna, and an unhappy one to boot. And like Don with his younger wife and Pete with his dangerous affair (as ways to try to capture the thrills they thought they’d find but didn’t), Paul makes the hail-mary of writing a script for Star Trek. A desperate attempt to find what he failed to find in advertising and as a krishna.
    This season, as society advances in the 60’s to be more inclusive, break old rules and breakdown old norms, the SCDP characters find them doing the opposite. They are aging and seeing that they are being left behind by the new generation of younger people – be they Megan, the krishnas or the groupies Don met backstage at the rock concert a few weeks ago. And in this episode they see that while this new younger generation, like Megan are still making their choices (acting over advertising) they (Don, Roger, Pete, Joan, Lane, Peggy) have made theirs and they are past that. Their options are limited and growing more limited as time passes. The world is no longer the post-WW2 world that was their oyster (a point driven home by Roger’s exhuberant celebration of the 25th anniversary of Pearl Harbor). Now they are living with the consequences and not liking much of it.

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