My Top 10 TV Shows of 2014

To say that there has been an abundance of good television shows this year is an understatement. I really wanted to make this list a top 20, then thought maybe 15, considered 12 for a moment, before realizing that it would only be right to narrow it down to just ten and give honorable mentions to all the shows that did not make the final cut.  Is that cheating? Maybe. But so what.  Here we go with honorable mentions (and for the record, there are no spoilers for any show):

Honorable Mentions: Comedies

Louis C.K and Sarah Baker combined for seven amazing minutes of television on Louie
Louis C.K and Sarah Baker combined for seven amazing minutes of television on Louie

Louie (FX) – Always great and this year’s episode of “And so did the fat lady” was perhaps my favorite half-hour of television this year.  Just a fantastic job by Louis C.K and guest star, Sarah Baker, a thoughtful, smart and funny 30 minutes that everyone should find and watch.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) – The only network comedy I can stand to watch right now and it consistently makes me laugh every week.

Last Week Tonight (HBO), The Daily Show (Comedy Central) – John Oliver’s new show on HBO did a wonderful job of mixing the way The Daily Show covers topics in the news, with the way, The Bugle, Oliver’s podcast, finds important stories that are not being covered by the mainstream outlets.  Meanwhile, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show remains the go-to place for coverage of everything that is going on in the political world and beyond.

Silicon Valley (HBO) – Well put together show and enjoyable first season, but it was not must-see like the comedies that did make the list.

Jeffrey Tambour has his best role of an incredible career in Transparent
Jeffrey Tambour has his best role of an incredible career in Transparent

Transparent (Amazon) – The hardest omission from the top ten and one I desperately wanted to find a way to include it in the list.  Jeffrey Tambor is absolutely brilliant in the leading role, but the supporting cast is also fantastic and I watched the entire season within a week.

Honorable Mentions – Dramas

Mad Men (AMC), Homeland (Showtime) – Both of these shows have been among my favorites in previous years, but neither had strong overall seasons in 2014.  The second half of Mad Men and a string of five Homeland episodes were among the best installments of any show this year.  However, I seriously wondered why I was still watching Mad Men during the opening few weeks of the half-season, while I was outright hate-watching Homeland until it suddenly got good again.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – It was not the best season of this once-great gangster story, but it was good enough to give a fitting finale to the show.  The penultimate episode was one of the most entertaining hours of television in 2014.

In my mind, McNulty moved to Brooklyn from Bawlmore and vacations in Montauk
In my mind, McNulty moved to Brooklyn from Bawlmore and vacations in Montauk

The Affair (Showtime) – I thought this was a compelling and excellent new show, though to be fair, I will always watch McNulty (Dominic West) in a leading role.  Throw in any actors from The Wire and you can usually guarantee I will be in…except if it is a show about zombies (sorry The Walking Dead fans, you’ll not see that in my top 10…or Game of Thrones – all of my favorite shows take place in a version of the real world).  The split-narrative of The Affair could have turned out to be clunky after the opening episode, but it was handled brilliantly and gave the show a unique story-telling device.  Alongside Dominic West, Ruth Wilson is also great as the other participant in the affair that gives the show its title.

Sherlock (BBC/PBS) – My wife and I did not watch any of the Benedict Cumberbath/Martin Freeman version of Sherlock Holmes until this January, so it was tempting for me to include it.  However, the three episodes that were released in 2014 were not as good as what had come before, so it drops down to honorable mentions.

Justified (FX) – A really fun show every year, but next year’s final run of episodes with a much-anticipated showdown between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder could find it crack the top 10 in 12 months’ time.

The Missing (BBC/Starz) – Another import from the UK, the first hour of The Missing was an incredibly hard show to get through, not because it was bad, but because of the harrowing nature of the subject matter.  James Nesbitt stars as the father of a boy who goes missing in France in 2006 and the duel narratives between present day and the events from eight years earlier are incredibly well intertwined.

Onto the main list. Continue reading

My Top Ten TV Shows of 2013

Such was the abundance of good shows that aired in 2013 – which included the conclusion of my second favorite program of all time –  I have an “honorable mentions” list  that is nearly as long as my top 10 list, but I wanted to stick to a round ten rather than expand it to (SEO and all that jazz).  A side note, I have heard great things about the Netflix show Orange is the New Black and Showtime’s Masters of Sex, but I have not had the opportunity to watch either as yet so they will be absent from my top 10 list.

Honorable mentions

Top of the Lake: A beautifully directed, compelling show set in New Zealand and starring Elisabeth Moss, I enjoyed Sundance’s first foray into original programming, but it was a little heavy going and when a couple of episodes piled up on the DVR, it felt like something of a chore to get through, rather than the enjoyment that other shows provided.

The VP...and some former Senator from Delaware
The VP…and some former Senator from Delaware

Veep –  Creator Armando Iannucci’s imaginative use of swearing is the highlight of this show, but there is plenty more beyond that, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s hilarious performance as the Vice-President.  It also gave me my favorite line of the year: VP Meyer had been consistently telling Jonah – on one of his many visits to the office “on behalf” of the President – to f*ck off, then bates him once more:

Meyer: So let me get something straight, you like to have sex and travel?

Jonah: (Enthusiastically) Yes!

Meyer: (Mouths) So F*CK OFF

Justified – The search for Drew Thompson was not a bad plot, but the best part of Justified is when Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) share screen time, which they just did not do enough of this time around.  It continued to provide a thoroughly enjoyable hour of television each week however, but unlike last year, this time it did not crack into my top 10.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart  – And in particular, the guest host stint by John Oliver when the main guy was directing a movie over the summer.  Oliver is a fantastic comedian and proved himself adept in the big chair, something that has earned him his own show on HBO in 2014 – his writing and correspondent gigs on The Daily Show will be missed.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee – The web series from Jerry Seinfeld was once again fantastically funny and an enjoyable way to spend twenty minutes.  All of the guests in season two were hilarious, but the Chris Rock installment was my favorite and I cannot wait for the new episodes to come on, starting on January 2nd.

Arrested Development – The much-anticipated return of Arrested Development finally happened for real in May, when 14 new episodes were released on Netflix to a mixed critical response.  While they were not as good as the first two seasons of the show – I thought the third year, when they were focusing a lot on the fact that they were being cancelled, was less funny – the new episodes when considered as a whole were clever, witty and enjoyable, plus they provided closure for all of those who wanted the show to be brought back.  Of course, they still might make that movie…

Treme – With non-stop action this year…just kidding, the pace of David Simon’s most recent television show remained slow throughout the five episodes of the final season, but that was part of what was enjoyable about the look at the New Orleans music and culture scenes after Hurricane Katrina hit the city.  Despite a shortened run, Simon still took the time to let us enjoy some extended moments, most notably: Davis having a multitude of musicians into the radio station to perform a live version of “Sing Sing Sing”; and the goodbye to Albert Lambreaux from his family and fellow Indians at the start of the finale.

Dishonorable Mentions

Dexter – I had seen the first half of the final season when they first aired, but then did not have Showtime for a few months and, even though I could now go back and watch the finale, I have not found the will or motivation to do so, such was the poor quality of the last few years of this once great show.

Bates Motel – I am a fan of Hitchcock’s original movie and the A&E series about Norman Bates’ early life sounded much better than it turned out to be.

(Major spoilers for all of the shows listed so do not read on if you do not want the latest seasons ruined)

Top 10 List

10. Hello Ladies

Of all the shows I watched this year, none made me laugh as much as Hello Ladies, the new HBO show by co-creator of The Office, Stephen Merchant.  The supporting cast – in particular Nate Torrance – were funny, but it was Merchant’s performance as Stuart Pritchard that was the standout aspect of the show, which borrowed some of the material from his standup tour of the same name.    Hello Ladies continues the tradition of  The Office and Extras of providing harsh, painfully funny situations – the type of humor that will not always be to everybody’s taste, but makes me crack up – but it does slightly surprise me that out of Merchant and Ricky Gervais, it is the former who made a show like this, while the latter made a bittersweet one about kindness (see number 5).

9. Mad Men

This was the only show that I attempted to do episodic reviews of in 2013 – though I saw the final two episodes late and did not get the opportunity to complete the season recaps – but ultimately Mad Men has shifted to a program that I enjoy watching, but do not think it will ever reach the standard it set in its first few years.  Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm with the ending was because I was convinced that this year’s run of episodes was leading up to the death of Megan Draper – who seemed to be drowned out by sirens whenever she spoke – and was disappointed to be wrong (not because I wanted the character out of it, I just thought I had found some hidden clues).  Nevertheless, the Bob Benson/Pete Campbell storyline was fantastic, Don Draper’s Hershey pitch was also brilliantly done and Mad Men remained one of the better written and acted shows on television, the only thing it falls down on is by comparison to its own first three seasons. Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11: Favors – Haiku Review

With no time to do a full review of last week’s Mad Men, here are a few haikus to sum up a highly entertaining episode. Usual review will be back for Sunday’s episode.

Bob Benson is gay
He likes Pete Campbell “that way”
Or is it a ruse?

Mitchell is 1A
Until Don gets Ted to play
Sylvia is grateful

Sally’s lost her key
Tries to retrieve her love note
Will need therapy

Peggy has a rat
Stan will not come to her aid
She gets her first cat

Manolo the nurse
Takes care of Pete’s mom all over
Yuck! Old person sex

Sunkist? Ocean spray
Ted wants his juice not Draper’s
Sylvia wants Don’s.


Mad Men Season 6 Episode 10: A Tale of Two Cities

Don: We’ll go back to Disneyland.  From what I remember, something amazing happened there.Megan: I made the biggest mistake of my life.

mad-men-megan-draperIn last week’s review, I suggested that Megan Draper appeared to be doomed as her words were often drowned out by sirens, which I believed to be a foreshadowing of her murder by the end of this season, set in the particularly volatile year of 1968.  A few days later, Grantland published an article about another conspiracy theory that was projecting Megan’s death, as she had been dressed to resemble Sharon Tate, a woman who was murdered by followers of Charles Manson in 1969, but after tonight’s episode, I am sure that many more people will be convinced about the dubious future of the current Mrs. Draper.

On a trip to California in late August 1968 – the episode is set at the time of the Democratic National Convention, when anti-war protestors in Chicago were met with what was described in the Walker Report as a “police riot” – Don falls into a swimming pool and has a dream/near-death experience in which he meets both Megan, who tells him she is pregnant, and PFC Dinkins, the officer whose lighter he had ended up with after drinking with him at a bar in the season premiere.  Dinkins describes himself as being dead and tells Dick – who has shed his skin and tells a woman in this vision that Don is not his name – that he should see how he looks and Draper then stands over a swimming pool, witnessing his own body faced down in the water.  Roger Sterling dives in and resuscitates Don, but the warning signs for Megan’s own well-being remain: that dream sequence; the quote referenced above, where she (jokingly) describes agreeing to marry Draper as the biggest mistake of her life; and her telling her husband to go for a swim since it always makes him feel better, when in fact it nearly results in his death.

In the final season of The Sopranos – on which Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner, worked – Tony is shot by his uncle and while in a coma, he sees himself in California, being called by another name (Kevin Finnerty) and there is foreshadowing of his eventual death at Holsten’s diner (spoiler alert, but some people still do not actually believe he was killed – which I guess means they never watched The Godfather) including him saying that dark spots on his brain are a “death sentence”.  When he awakens, Tony believes he has been given a second chance and initially changes his ways, but this does not last and his those dark parts of his mind are not overcome, resulting in him being shot.  In the same way, in Don’s dream sequence, Megan tells him that the pregnancy is a “second chance” and perhaps the message is that if he can change his philandering ways, there is a chance is wife will be saved, but all of the past behavior of Draper suggests this is very unlikely to happen.  At the end of the episode, having not been back to his apartment upon his return from California, Don asks Dawn to get his wife on the phone – a strange line for the show to have put in there given that we never hear that conversation and perhaps one that predicts that some time soon, Draper will reach out to Megan, but it will be too late and she will be far beyond his reach.

Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9: The Better Half

mm609-ted-560Tonight’s episode of Mad Men was all about people being put into a position where they were forced to confront the past while looking to the future and, in some instances, choose between the two.  The prime example of that came in the opening scene, as Peggy is called into a meeting to help determine whether Ted or Don’s idea should be used for the pitch to Fleischmann’s margarine.  When Ms. Olson is unwilling to opt for one over the other, she earns a tongue-lashing from Don, who tells her that he will look over her work and give an educated opinion, as that is what professionals do and that she should try it some time. Despite this, it is Peggy’s newest mentor, Ted, who really gets under her skin, as he tells her that, despite it being a cliche, he is in love with her and every look and touch they exchanged distracted him from giving the pitch to the client, but says that nothing can happen between them since they both have someone else.

However, Olson’s relationship with Abe sours as he reveals his disdain for her after he is stabbed twice – first as he was getting off the subway by assailants he refuses to describe to the police, then accidentally by Peggy, who has fashioned a homemade bayonet to protect herself from potential home invaders, but the blade ends up in her boyfriend’s stomach – and they break up after he tells her that “your activities are offensive to my every waking moment”.  Thinking that her new single status will come as good news to Ted, Peggy is surprised when Chaough – whose previous vulnerability has evaporated now that Fleischmann’s liked his campaign idea – merely tells her that he is sad to hear the relationship ended and is sure that she will find somebody else. Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8: The Crash

You might need a complex vitamin superdose to appreciate Ted's jacket also
You might need a complex vitamin superdose to appreciate Ted’s jacket also

Some people say that in order to fully appreciate the music of Bob Dylan, you have to be stoned when you listen to it; or that LSD is necessary to enjoy Dark Side of the Moon or to understand the White Album.  I cannot attest to the validity of those claims – though I do think Blood on the Tracks is a great album without any herbal accompaniment and am not sure if anyone will fully comprehend Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da no matter what chemicals they ingest – but I do believe that tonight’s episode of Mad Men may well only make sense with a complex vitamin super-dose half of the creative staff of SCDPCGC (seriously, even the doctor thinks that is a mouthful and wants to know the new name…) received to help them work.  Like last season’s episode, Far Away Places which featured Roger Sterling taking LSD – there was an element of the timeline being warped but in this instance it was not parallel narratives, rather an entire day passing when it seemed to Don Draper to be no more than a few minutes.

The hour started with a strange scene showing Ken Cosgrove driving an Impala at high-speed with Chevy executives who were taunting him and firing a gun out of the window, ultimately ending in a crash that leaves the accounts man needing a cane.  The manic nature of that opening continues throughout the episode, as most of the agency are stressing out about how they can satisfy their high revenue car client and the administering of the aforementioned stimulant shot – which appears to be methamphetamine – is supposed to help them be inspired over the weekend.  In the creative team, Peggy and Ginsberg are the only two who are on the Chevy campaign but did not receive the vitamin boost – and the former is not sober as she is drinking – while Ted Chaough is unable to concentrate on work as he is too distraught over the death of his partner, Frank Gleason, who succumbed to the cancer we discovered he had two weeks ago.  In the end, much of what the group come up with is dismissed as being gibberish, but during the course of the episode, Stan and Peggy kiss, with Olson only pulling away in the end because she has a boyfriend, rather than through lack of desire.

For much of the time, it appears that Don Draper is also frantically working to find a solution to the Chevy problem, as he desperately seeks an old campaign he worked on at Sterling Cooper that he believes was about soup – but in fact was about oatmeal – and in which lies the answer to his conundrum.  However, it turns out what he seeks is not the perfect pitch for the car company, but a way of convincing Sylvia that their affair should not end.  Don’s behavior has become problematic for Mrs. Rosen, as he pines at the back door of her apartment smoking cigarettes and leaving butts that Arnold finds; and for himself, as he spends the entire weekend working on the pitch to aid his love-life, in the process ignoring both his commitment to Chevy and his children.   Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7: Man With A Plan

MM_607_MY_0122_0800Imagine being a politically liberal person in 1968 America.  You are a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and are against the war in Vietnam; you feel as though your views are not reflected by the actions of the government.  But you do have hope: Martin Luther King Jr is a powerful voice in the fight for justice for all; prominent Democrats Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert Kennedy come out against the war and successfully oust President Johnson from the Primaries.  However, by the beginning of June, both King and Kennedy have been assassinated and the Democratic nomination appears destined to go to Vice President Hubert Humphrey who – as was mentioned here last week, then noted by Don in tonight’s episode – had the majority of the delegates sewn up.  Come November, the White House will be won by Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War will continue on for another seven years – the feeling of hope and expectation is gone; the sense that there was a swing towards a more liberal mindset in the United States, vanquished.  In the next 24 years, the Democratic Party will hold the Presidency for just one term as the country moves further and further to the right.  Over the course of tonight’s Mad Men episode, which concluded with the news that Senator Kennedy had been shot, Don Draper – who is far from a liberal, but has defined himself as being against the war  – experienced a similar fall from a feeling of power and control, to a place where he feels desperate and alone.

At the beginning of the hour, Don is heading down in his apartment building’s elevator and overhears Dr. Rosen arguing with Sylvia – his wife and Draper’s current love interest – over Arnold’s wish to move to Minnesota.  While he wants no part of this domestic quarrel, Don’s interest is piqued when Sylvia calls him at works and tells him “I need you and nothing else will do” and so arranges to meet her in a hotel, then proceeds to dominate her over the course of the next day and a half, making her stay in the room and wait for him to return.  At the same time, Draper is also engaged in a power struggle at work, as the merger between SCDP and CGC has become a reality and everyone is figuring out how they can work together and, in some cases, if they will have a job at all.  As a partner, Don does not have to worry about his employment continuing at the new company, but he is concerned about his position in comparison with Ted Chaough, as the two creative geniuses – who were the progenitors of this amalgamation – compete to be the alpha male.   Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 6: For Immediate Release

Don "concealing" his disdain for Herb
Don “concealing” his disdain for Herb

The latest installment of Mad Men felt like a throwback to some of the earlier days of the series, with Don Draper focused on trying to land a top client, having already lost another; Roger Sterling using his charm and a caper to make an important business connection; and Pete Campbell being at odds with his father-in-law.  By the end of the episode, events had led to yet another major change in the organizational structure of the agency, the fourth iteration since the series began: initially, there was Sterling Cooper; then, in the Fall of 1962, it waspurchased by the British Company, Puttnam, Powell and Lowe; in December of 1963, with McCann Erickson set to buy the parent company PPL, they broke off and started afresh as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce; and now there is to be a merger with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough.

In order to get the two agencies to a point where their senior creative partners – Don and Ted Chaough – would be willing to end their rivalry to team up together, the show made it clear that neither was likely to survive without the other.  For CGC, the obstacle was in the form of a health scare for one of its partners, Frank Gleason, who is battling pancreatic cancer – his death would mean the other two partners would have to buy him out, something they would have been in a stronger position to do had they not resigned their Alfa Romeo account to pursue Chevrolet.  By contrast, things have never looked better for SCDP than they do at the beginning of the episode, as Bert Cooper, Pete Campbell and Joan Harris are working with an underwriter on a proposal to take the company public, which would result in a big windfall for all of the partners.

However, the public offering would have been made on the basis of existing accounts, two of which are quickly lost by Don and Pete.  Draper is the cause of Jaguar exiting the agency, as he is unable to hold his tongue when Herb Rennett suggests that he should run all of his idea by a kid who is writing fliers for him at his New Jersey dealership.  Don not only tells him that they no longer want his business, but also insults Herb by making fun of his weight when he says that he does somersaults – his animosity stemming from the Jaguar man’s insistence on getting to sleep with Joan in order to take his business to the agency last season.  While Draper announces that he has never felt better, this is dampened when he is berated by Ms. Harris for making everything she had been through mean nothing and that if she could deal with Herb, then he ought to be able to as well.  This has much more of an effect on Don than the dressing down Pete attempts to give him – perhaps because Joan did not fall down the stairs before shouting at him – but Campbell is upset because he believes that the hard work he has done in getting the agency to where it is, something that earns him praise from Bert Cooper, he believes has been undone by his partner’s inability to control his impulses.  As it turns out, Pete’s own lack of impulse control costs the agency another account, as a trip to a brothel results in an inopportune encounter with his father-in-law, who subsequently pulls the business of Vicks Chemical from SCDP.   Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 5: The Flood

MM_605_MY_1219_1202“By Monday, it will all be a dream” – Sylvia Rosen

Set on April 4th, 1968, the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, tonight’s episode of Mad Men puts its characters into a moment of American history when everything was uncertain, while they simultaneously dealt with both knowns and unknowns in their own lives.  The death of the inspirational leader of the Civil Rights Movement was another reminder to a generation that the age of innocence, when they could feel safe and secure, had ended abruptly with the shooting of President Kennedy in 1963.  Less than five years later, the US was embroiled in a prolonged conflict that many of its citizens did not believe in and were in the midst of an election campaign that would ultimately see the incumbent in the White House not have enough support within his own party to seek a second full term.  This is alluded to in The Flood as Paul Newman speaks out in support of Eugene McCarthy – who later beat President Johnson in the New Hampshire Primary, forcing him to drop out of the race – at an advertising awards ceremony, only to be interrupted by news of the murder of Dr. King.  With the perspective of history on our side, we know that things will not get any better in the ensuing months – especially from a liberal’s perspective – as Robert Kennedy is assassinated two months and two days after MLK.  Nevertheless, while the real-life events form the backdrop to the storyline on Mad Men, it is the effect they have on the characters lives that continues to take centre stage.

The most pressing concern for all is that there will be full-scale riots as a reaction to the tragedy – which did happen across the country, but were averted in New York City, something that Henry Francis’s boss, Mayor John Lindsay was given credit for – but Don is particularly concerned about the well-being of Sylvia Rosen, the neighbor with whom he has been having an affair, as she and her Doctor husband were in Washington D.C. for the weekend (the assassination took place on a Thursday night).  As Draper tries to distract himself with both work and drink, he is forced to go upstate to pick up his kids at Betty’s insistence, despite the fact he will have to drive through Harlem, where there is tension and unrest, with the children.  Being a father is not something Don has shown much interest in at the best of times, but with his mind on Sylvia’s safety, he drinks and sleeps while Megan takes care of his offspring.  However, when his latest wife takes Sally and Gene to a vigil in the park, Draper is forced to look after his other son, Bobby, who had feigned illness to avoid going with his siblings and step-mother.

Rarely have we been given the chance to see Don form any sort of bond with his sons – he did connect to a small degree with Sally last season – and, as his ex-wife is always ready to tell him, he takes any opportunity he can to get out of seeing his kids.  In order to avoid doing any parenting – but not wanting to negate the television ban that was inflicted by Betty, due to his tearing of some misaligned wallpaper – Draper takes Bobby to the movies to see Planet of the Apes, which leads to a moment where Don finally has an amazing revelation – he loves his son!  Earlier, he had witnessed socially adept Joan give the most awkward hug in history to Dawn, his African-American secretary, in an attempt to comfort her; but now Don sees Bobby show much better empathy to a cleaner at the theatre, telling him that he should watch the movie as it’s what people do when they are sad.  Draper’s conversation with Megan, where he confesses that he had to pretend to have feelings for his children and feared that his own father felt the same way about him, was a brilliant performance by Jon Hamm and showed the anguish and internal strife that the character deals with, in a large part due to his own troubled youth.  To be fair to Don, I think every new parent worries about whether or not they will be able to love their child – though for most, myself included, this evaporates the moment you see and hold your newborn baby, whereas it has taken him more than a decade to figure out he should not need to fake it. Continue reading

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 4: To Have And To Hold

MM_604_JA_1210_0476In last week’s episode of Mad Men, we saw the apartment that Pete Campbell rents in Manhattan be used for one type of betrayal; this time , it was the setting for another form – as he and Don Draper held a clandestine meeting there with Timmy from Heinz in a bid to get the Ketchup business, going against the wishes of their current client, Raymond, who represents the company’s vinegar, sauces and beans department. This sets up the theme for the entire hour – the battle that people face between being loyal and their desire for more – be it love, money or admiration.

The mission to get the Ketchup account – cleverly codenamed “Project K”, which would hardly take an Enigma machine to crack – is supposed to be a secret one of which only Don, Pete and Stan are aware, but the latter’s indiscretion to Peggy in a phone conversation had clued Ted Chaough into the fact that the business might be up for grabs. Draper had believed strongly in showing loyalty to Raymond and his beans, as he had come to them at a time when the agency was on its knees and desperately needed the client, but he could not resist the extra prestige and money that would come from landing the premium product of Heinz. Ultimately, Don fails to land the account – and loses Raymond’s business as well – but does get to hear the work that his former protegé, Peggy, is now producing as he eavesdrops on Olson’s “Heinz: The Only Ketchup” pitch through the hotel room door – including her use of his line: “If they don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation”. While Draper is frustrated to hear that Heinz Ketchup has gone to the largest advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, and has no interest in battling to be the most successful small firm with Chaough; the biggest hurt befalls Stan, who is upset that Peggy betrayed his confidence and exploited a private conversation between friends to attempt to land a big account for her new agency, which results in him flipping her off as he leaves the bar.

Outside of work, Don’s own infidelity continues with Sylvia, but he is forced to confront the image – if not the reality – of his wife having an affair, as she is given such a storyline for her pseudonym on the soap opera she works on. Wanting to be completely honest with her husband, Megan tells him all about the plot – despite knowing that he would never watch the show and thus she could have kept it as a secret. In what had been billed as an attempt to soften Don up, they have dinner with Mel and Arlene – a married couple who are the head writer and one of the stars of the show – but their true plan was to suggest to the Drapers that they all enjoy a night of smoking grass and swapping partners. While they are able to laugh off this offer of free love in the cab ride home, Don is unable to stop himself from going down to the set to watch Megan – for the first time – perform her love scenes and is angry when he believes that she enjoyed filming them. The complete hypocrisy of Draper is displayed when he admonishes his wife in her dressing room, suggesting that she might want to spend the night with Arlene and Mel who are more open-minded than him, then he is shown going to Sylvia’s apartment to continue his own, real affair.

Continue reading