The Low Down: It’s Valentine’s Day…and in true Mad Men fashion, everyone’s sad. Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) is headed into New York for the funeral of her roommate’s mom, but plans on ditching the burial in order to go shopping with her friends. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is still utterly depressed. He sleeps all day, drinks like a fish and let himself go to waste. The highlight of the day, the part he gets dressed up for, is when his secretary Dawn (Teyonah Parris) comes to give him his mail and messages. Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) snags a huge deal but the New York crew decides that since it deals with Chevy and GM, Bob Benson must be brought in, much to Pete’s dismay. Meanwhile, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is all pissy about Valentine’s Day and mistakes her secretary’s flowers as a romantic gesture from Ted (Kevin Rahm). Joan (Christina Hendricks) does some secretary shuffling after unrest in the office. Sally loses her purse and must find Don to take her back to school and she uncovers another of his lies.
The Bed and Booze Count: Pete gets busy in the California office. A few drinks are had by various characters.
Favorite Performance: Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper. She has constantly stolen the show whenever she’s been onscreen and tonight was no different. The creators of Mad Men have created such a strong-willed and strong minded young woman who despite all the emotional turmoil and upheaval in her life, stands up for herself and sticks to her guns. Of all the female characters on the show she may be the most empowered woman on it. Shipka takes this character, which could’ve have been such a cliche, and turned it into a powerful character. When you see her enter an episode you get this instant sensation that no matter what, her scenes are going to be amazing, and they always are. When she goes ballistic on Don in the car talking about how she feared running into Linda Cardellini’s character in the elevator to the point she wanted to puke, was riveting.
The Supporting Scene Stealer: Teyonah Parris as Dawn. Dawn’s one of those characters that’s just kinda there. She was introduced in Season 5 and given some nice airtime in that season, but faded to the background last season. In fact, she faded so far to the back who even remembers any of that Season 5 development? Regardless, tonight was her night. Dawn was given ample screen time helping illustrate just how sad Don’s life is as well as transition Joan’s character from head of personnel to accounts. Teyonah Parris is always fantastic in this role and it was great to see her have her own little rant midway through. Sadly, with everything that has to happen this season, tonight might be the highlight of character for the season.
We Weren’t “Mad” About This Part: While it progressed the “secretary shuffle around” Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) and his opposition to a black receptionist in the front of the office is pretty deplorable. Yes, it was fading sentiment of the time, but is this the best use for Cooper? Sure, he hasn’t exactly been a vital cast member the past few seasons, but this was a bit unnecessary.
The Best Part of The Episode: The diner scene between Don and Sally was awesome. It’s a scene we’ve seen between the two before, rarely have we seen Sally on an unabated offensive. She ices Don out so hard (not eating, giving him the silent treatment) that he just cracks and begins to finally tell Sally the truth. Then, she orders a Coke, signaling a temporary peace, that she was okay with her father now. Then when Don pulls up to her school and she says, “Happy Valentine’s Day Dad, I love you” that just hit you right in the heart. Don’s astonished look and Sally’s sincere smile made this episode special.
The Little Thing We Loved: TV historians, did you recognize the man Don was having lunch with? That was none other than David James Elliott, the former star of the CBS naval legal drama JAG, which was the series NCIS was spun off from. It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes from this cameo, (Guess the Neve Campbell thing is a dead end), but it was a treat to see the star of a series, this reviewer grew up on, was kinda cool.
Final Thoughts: “A Day’s Work” was a tale of two shows really. The first show is the depressing state of Don Draper. This is utterly fascinating. Watching Don wallow in his own misery, a misery he inflicted upon himself, is just really good drama. His interactions with Dawn and Sally were awesome and you’re just so intrigued to see where this part of the show is going. Give me 60 minutes of this every week and I’m happy.
The second show is far less interesting as we look at the agency and the people in it. A lot of the interesting developments in this aspect of the show used to revolve around Don and how his actions effected everyone. Without Don, it’s not as interesting. Peggy is just a sullen, lovelorn puppy. Ted is a less sullen version of Peggy. Pete’s still a douche. Characters like Stan (Jay R. Ferguson), Ginsberg (Ben Feldman), Ken (Aaron Staton), Cooper and Cutler (Harry Hamlin) are relegated to throwaway lines and scenes. We haven’t heard anything from Bob Benson (James Wolk) or Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) at all yet. Roger (John Slattery) has been reduced to merely a one-liner machine. The only character moving forward is Joan (Christina Hendrick) It’s very disorganized and disinteresting at this point. What are we trying to get at with the agency stuff? (Also let’s point out January Jones’ Betty Draper nor any of her new family have shown up yet either.)
Somehow the two of these shows have to meet up again in order for this show to finish strong. Here’s hoping they do.