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Vincent Kartheiser (#110 of 20)

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 13, "The Milk and Honey Route"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Milk and Honey Route”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Milk and Honey Route”

The title of last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Milk and Honey Route,” comes from a handbook for hobos written by Nels Anderson, who himself lived the hobo life in the 1920s before writing his sociological study of the behavior and function of homeless people. In essence, he argued that living homeless is as honorable and worthwhile a way of life as any other, and that’s the kind of life we might very well find Don (Jon Hamm) in by the end of next week’s series finale. Indeed, all the characters in “The Milk and Honey Route” seem to be closely examining how their lives should be lived, whether their death is imminent or the farthest thing from their mind.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 11, "Time & Life"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Time & Life”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Time & Life”

“Time & Life” opens with Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) getting gleefully teased by Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), now the head of marketing for Dow Chemical, who denies Pete the easy approval of their mutual business for the sheer pleasure of watching him squirm. Once Don (Jon Hamm) enters, however, Ken quickly buttons up and agrees to SC&P’s plans for Dow. In essence, Ken’s unyielding dislike for Pete is simply outmatched by his idolization of Don, and last night’s episode catches Ken, along with several other characters, trying to move beyond intimate grudges in the dubious hopes of brighter skies ahead. Indeed, the dark truth at the center of “Time & Life” is that business is always personal, inseparable from the emotional baggage and mercurial philosophies each party brings to the table, to say nothing of the dreams, both failed and realized, that people naturally build into their careers.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 6, "The Strategy"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “The Strategy”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “The Strategy”

The title of last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Strategy,” relates twofold to Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) teetering world. Most tangibly, the reference is to the upcoming Burger Chef pitch, which Peggy has been spearheading with Don (Jon Hamm) as her right-hand man. With Don’s return, Peggy has feared being placed in his shadow again, which is exactly where she finds herself when Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Lou (Allan Havey) ask her to allow Don to do the pitch. And of course, it’s right then, when she’s most uncertain of her place at SC&P, that Don passive-aggressively questions her entire concept. One couldn’t be blamed for snickering when Don suggests that it might be beneficial to switch perspectives in the ad, as he’s shown a distinct talent at approximating what its like to be in other peoples’ shoes while only sporadically empathizing with other points of view.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 2, "A Day’s Work"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “A Day’s Work”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “A Day’s Work”

The day in question in “A Day’s Work” is Valentine’s Day, and showrunner Matthew Weiner and company crafted an episode riddled with allusions to business as a love affair. When Don (Jon Hamm) is caught taking a meeting with a big shot by a headhunter for a rival agency, he quips that he’s just “looking for love.” And back at SC&P, Don’s relationship to the company is compared to that of an ex-wife of Jim (Harry Hamlin), who’s still having trouble finding footing in his relationship with Roger (John Slattery). And when Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) is in the midst of undressing peppy realtor Bonnie (Jessy Schram), the dirty talk takes the form of something like contract arbitration.

This feeling of emotional disputes being handled like salary negotiations is most potently felt when Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) allows the flowers on Shirley’s (Sola Bamis) desk to become the inanimate agitator for her still-raw feelings for Ted (Kevin Rahm). The episode continues to return to Peggy to see how long her unfortunate presumption reverberates in her, and she shows deeper shades of confusion, insolence, uncertainty, and shame as the day goes on. It’s one of the most assured, self-contained storylines the series has conjured thus far, made complete by its aftershocks felt in a secretary shuffle managed by Joan (Christina Hendricks), who also, in a quick bit, has the intentions behind her flowers mistaken.

Mad Men Recap Season 4, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Tomorrowland”

Given that the third season of Mad Men came, with much fanfare, to an apparently ’game-changing’ conclusion, all eyes were on last week’s season four finale, “Tomorrowland” (written by Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner, and directed by Matthew Weiner), to one-up its predecessor. The episode turned out to be a much lower-profile affair; it confounded expectations by being shockingly not shocking. Fan predictions had ranged from the outright demise of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to Don (Jon Hamm) saving the firm at the eleventh hour by landing Disney as a client. Instead, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Ken (Aaron Staton) work to keep the company chugging along by signing a significant but relatively small-time pantyhose company as a client, and Don proposes to his secretary Megan (Jessica Paré).

Season three’s finale was exciting because it was the dissolution of the two institutions Mad Men had long centered on (Sterling Cooper and the Draper marriage), and the beginning of something new. We came into season four with endless expectations, not quite knowing what turns the show would take, but demanding that they be groundbreaking. When we were introduced in the season premiere to the new, modish, brightly saturated set, it was clear that things had changed, and excitement was bubbling.

Mad Men Recap Season 4, Episodes 11 and 12, “Chinese Wall” and “Blowing Smoke”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episodes 11 and 12, “Chinese Wall” and “Blowing Smoke”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episodes 11 and 12, “Chinese Wall” and “Blowing Smoke”

In the very first scene of Mad Men’s pilot, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” Don Draper (Jon Hamm) introduced us to Lucky Strike Cigarettes. Since before we knew about Dick Whitman, or even about Betty (January Jones) and the kids, we’ve known about Lucky Strike, and how important the account is to Sterling Cooper. Now, over the course of just two episodes, “Chinese Wall” (written by Erin Levy and directed by Phil Abraham) and “Blowing Smoke” (written by Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton, and directed by John Slattery), Don, along with the rest of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, has had to deal with the reality of losing the account.

Mad Men: Season 4, Episode 10, “Hands and Knees”

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<em>Mad Men</em>: Season 4, Episode 10, “Hands and Knees”
<em>Mad Men</em>: Season 4, Episode 10, “Hands and Knees”

A couple of times over the course of this season of Mad Men I claimed that Don Draper (Jon Hamm) didn’t have much at stake anymore in continuing to conceal his true identity. Turns out I was wrong. Well, at least half wrong. In my defense, in a key scene of this week’s episode, “Hands and Knees” (written by Jonathan Abrahams and Matthew Weiner, and directed by Lynn Shelton), Don confesses his identity switch to Faye (Cara Buono) with very little in the way of repercussions. Don confesses as if speaking into a void, like he’s not even cognizant of another person being in the room with him; he’s simply saying the words because he can, because he needs to say them, and perhaps the most shocking part of his confession is how easily the words pass from Don to Faye. Faye even seems pleased that Don trusts her with the information, and tries to play the role of caretaker, reassuring Don that everything will be alright. At one point even Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) expresses sentiments similar to Faye’s, telling Don that his past isn’t really all that scandalous, and that they could ride things out should the truth be revealed.

Mad Men Recap Season 4, Episode 7, “The Suitcase”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “The Suitcase”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “The Suitcase”

Spy stories are great vehicles for exploring ideas of identity, and I’ve always loved the moment that often comes when the spy goes so deep undercover that there’s only one person who knows that the spy is actually working for the good guys. Invariably, this lone handler is killed, leaving no one to vouch for the spy’s true identity. The drama then becomes less about the spy convincing people of his lies and more about him trying to convince people of the truth.

This is largely the situation Don Draper (Jon Hamm) finds himself in in this week’s Mad Men, “The Suitcase” (written by Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger). When Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) succumbs to cancer, Don loses the one person he feels ever truly knew him; she knew his past and his secrets, and she loved him anyway. Now Don has been robbed of his one connection to the truth he spent the first three seasons of Mad Men trying to conceal. Like a spy without a handler, he’s left stranded in a web of fabrication without any means to return to home base, and the foundation upon which he built his life has seemingly crumbled.

Mad Men Recap Season 4, Episode 6, “Waldorf Stories”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 6, “Waldorf Stories”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 6, “Waldorf Stories”

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the proverbial self-made man. He transformed himself from penniless farm kid Dick Whitman into successful Manhattan adman Don Draper. He ostensibly rose to the top by means of his pure creative genius. Well, that, and a whole lot of lying. And also Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) drinking problem.

In this week’s Mad Men episode, “Waldorf Stories” (written by Brett Johnson and Matthew Weiner, and directed by Scott Hornbacher), the story of Don’s arrival in the advertising world is revealed through flashback, and, as it turns out, it’s not at all the sort of grand event worthy of Don Draper’s name. Rather, after shamelessly trying to get Roger to look at his portfolio, Don gets Roger embarrassingly drunk (before noon), and somehow manages to weasel a job offer out of the situation (which Roger doesn’t remember the next day; who knows, maybe Don made it up).

Mad Men Recap Season 4, Episode 5, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

I recently went car shopping with my brother-in-law. He’s beginning his second year at college away from home, and his dad felt it would be best if he had a reliable car. He was given a budget and a few specifications, but, above all else, one golden rule: buy Japanese. It was a commandment given and accepted so reflexively that I doubt it was based on anything specific, rather than the general assumption much of America has come to live by, that Japan makes the best cars.

If the first half of the twentieth century was largely defined by war and the rise of the automobile, the great irony of the second half is that Germany and Japan would return to the world stage, only now selling cars. At a time when these cars are the default choice for many American families, it’s strange to think about the transitional period depicted in this week’s Mad Men episode, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” (written by Erin Levy, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter), during which Americans were still growing accustomed to purchasing Japanese products.