'Mad Men' Recap: A Surprising Valentine's Day
'Mad Men' Recap: A Surprising Valentine's Day
Morgan Glennon
Morgan Glennon
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
This week on Mad Men, Peggy has the worst Valentine's Day of all time, Joan and Dawn get unexpected promotions and telling the truth finally gives Don something to smile about.

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It's the last stretch of episodes before we say goodbye, forever, to our favorite ad agency screw-ups and misfits. This means everything is more meaningful and the audience will be looking for little clues into the fates of our favorite and least favorite characters. (After all, just look at all the Charles Manson speculation still swirling thanks to a single T-shirt Megan wore.) It also means if Don and company are going to find some sense of happiness and redemption before the end credits roll, this is the time for it to start. 

Last week did not leave us off on a very upbeat note, with Don literally sitting out in the cold and Peggy crying alone in her apartment. This week isn't what I would deem a warm and fuzzy episode, but it does give us some hope that Don Draper won't end the series the same sad, dishonest man he began as.

Telling the Truth

More than the Valentine's Day trappings and the office shakeups, this episode is about the repercussions of telling the truth. Last week, we discovered Don's act of honesty last season might not have had as profound an effect on our protagonist as some hoped. He was still lying to everyone in his life about his work regiment at SD&P, including Megan and Sally. 

This week, Sally finds out the truth of his forced sabbatical the hard way, and yet this hard truth only works to bring father and daughter closer together. I don't think it's any accident that the few moments of grace the show allows Don have revolved around his children. 

At first, of course, he reverts to the old Don Draper we know and dislike, blaming Sally for finding out about his workplace lies. He accuses her of being just like her mother, setting a trap for him and lying in wait for him to spring it. 

She says it's more embarrassing to catch him in a lie and then brings up her embarrassment at the thought of bumping into his mistress Silvia in the building. While Don might be all about hiding the truth, Sally isn't content to live a lie. She even admits she only went to the funeral of her roommate's mother for a chance to go shopping. 

Finally, he comes clean with Sally in a diner on the way back to her school and she rewards him, sweetly and simply, with a Valentine's Day "I love you" that makes him smile. Don Draper having a moment of honesty and actual happiness? Are we still watching Mad Men

More important, does it mean Don is capable of adapting a more honest approach to his life, especially when it comes to relating to his most important people? It's too soon to tell, but after last week's down note ending, this episode leaves us in a much more positive place with Don. 

Peggy Has the Worst Valentine's Ever

Lies aren't only the purview of Don Draper, however. Over at SD&P, it's a lie of omission that causes grief for Peggy when she thinks her secretary Shirley's flowers were sent by Ted. This leads to many pieces of mistaken identity that are actually quite funny, while also being completely sad on Peggy's part. 

The best moment is Peggy leaving Ted a coded message about "loosing an account," which Ted takes quite literally on the buggy conference call between the New York and California offices. "And we didn't even find out what account Peggy lost," Ted says in confusion, as the call cuts off.

Peggy's whole storyline seems like it could fit right at home on a sitcom like Modern Family. At this point, Peggy is basically a few episodes from becoming a living, breathing Cathy cartoon. 

With her career currently in a standstill thanks to Lou Avery's play-it-safe approach, Peggy suddenly has the kind of time she's never had to think about her personal life and the choices and mistakes she's made along the way. She yells at Shirley when she finds out the truth about the flowers, and mentions several times that she doesn't need to rub her engagement in Peggy's face. 

Will Peggy finally start making her personal life a priority and find some happiness outside of the office? At this point, I'm pretty sure 30 Rock's Liz Lemon had better Valentine's Days, and she routinely scheduled dental surgery for February 14. 

Joan and Dawn Move Up

With the season premiere starting on a somewhat somber note, week two throws in some much-needed humor. To wit, the office has a huge personnel shakeup thanks to mistaken identities, mysterious flowers and a mischievous teenager. 

Perhaps one of the best scenes of the episode is the simple and funny moment of Dawn and Shirley bonding in the kitchen over their respective crazy bosses. As they leave, they swap names, a subtle clue this is an everyday occurrence with their white coworkers. It's taken a long time for Mad Men to deal with race in the same way it's always dealt with gender, but more scenes of Shirley and Dawn would certainly be welcome. 

Lou Avery is furious at Dawn for letting Sally just stampede into his office, even though she was out buying his wife perfume for Valentine's Day. Way to continue the trend of being the worst, Lou! Meanwhile, Peggy wants Shirley off her desk because of the embarrassing flower situation that she makes 10 times worse by yelling about it in front of the whole office. 

Poor Joan, serving as both an account manager and the head of personnel, has a huge headache on her hands. Especially when Burt Cooper's blatant racism means Dawn can't work the front reception desk, either. 

Picking up that Joan is working two jobs, Jim offers to have her move up to the second floor and into an account manager's office. Joan takes him up on the offer, and Dawn steps into her stylish shoes as the new head of personnel. No one at SD&P ever gets promoted for a normal reason, do they? 

Elsewhere in the Mad Ad World...

-- Jim wonders if Roger is going to be a threat after a dust-up over Chevy. I doubt Jim has to worry much about that. Roger seems truly checked out of the ad rat race, too busy doing drugs and taking advantage of the beginning of the free love decade to notice much about what's going on around the office. 

-- Pete is angry he won't get to work on the white whale account he just brought into the firm. His new real estate agent girlfriend Bonnie sets his self-pitying straight, saying the thrill and danger involved in sales is the reason they both like it. She serves him up a hard truth, which is that sometimes an act of god, or a fire or Bob Benson in short shorts will steal your hard work. It just means you'll have to dust yourself off and try again. Pete has never been very resilient in the face of struggle, but perhaps this new tan, orange-loving California Pete is a different animal.

-- Don is taking meetings with other ad agencies all over town, even though he's still under contract at SD&P. In a somewhat surprising twist, it turns out Dawn is still giving Don messages and keeping him in the loop with what's going on at the old firm. Don has a whole spy network in place to keep tabs on the agency and still get his ideas in the door.

-- "I told the truth about myself," Don explains to Sally, "but it wasn't the right time." Mad Men encapsulated in a sentence. 

-- "Just cash the checks," Ted advises an angry Pete. "We're all going to die someday." Once again, Mad Men encapsulated in a sentence. 


What did you think? Are you glad Joan is an "accounts man" now? Do you think Don will start telling the truth? And when will Don finally return to SD&P? Share in the comments! 

Mad Men airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC.

(Image courtesy of AMC)



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