Monday, August 2, 2010

Mad Men and Drinking, Season Four, Episode 2

"Duck doesn't understand this business. He's dry as a bone." That was Freddy Rumsen back in Season Two, just before he was going to be sacked for his excessive imbibing, complaining about teetotaler (and former drunk) Duck Phillips, who forced him out. Freddy unexpectedly returned in episode two of season four, titled "Christmas Comes But Once a Year," and much has changed for him. Now he's dry as a bone. "I'm clean and sober now. 16 months without a drop," he tells Roger Sterling after refusing an offer of "something brown." The intimation is he's in AA; he brings the Ponds cold cream account to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce owing to the fact that his connection at Ponds is a fellow brother in that "fraternity."

The irony of Freddy's return is that the men who fired him, Roger and Don, are still drinking, and not drinking well. And they are seen as increasingly out of step with the times because of their habits. Both men bend an elbow in their offices well before noon. Don is either hitting it harder (very likely due to his misery and regret over his divorce and the prospect of spending Christmas alone) or not holding it as well as Roger. Even Roger says "A little early for that isn't it, Don?" as Draper pours an AM glass of rye, to which Don replies, "You're joking, right?"

But his drinking is no joke. In each of the scenes in which we see him return to his dark Village apartment, he is weaving and near incapacitated, and has to be helped into bed by two separate, motherly women. The second woman is Allison, his loyal and sweet secretary. ("Do you want ice?" asks Allison in an early scene. "Yes," says Don. Don always wants ice.) Earlier in the episode, Allison shows signs of interest in Don, mildly flirting. Later, in his apartment, Don ungallantly takes advantage of her nascent feelings and quickly beds her on the couch. It's a serious misstep for Draper, who, cad though he can be, has always made a point of not bringing his bedroom life into the office. The morning after, he handles the situation was expected coldness, thanking Allison for her "kindness," and handing her an ill-timed bonus of $100.

Meanwhile, given that the episode included an office Christmas party, there were plenty of bottles to spot. Roger still has some Stoli in his office bar, the then-verboten Russian vodka that was introduced last season. Jameson is all over the place, at the party, in Don's office, at Don't home. Don also has a bottle on Tanqueray in his office, perhaps courtesy of Brit Lane Pryce, and Chivas Regal made an appearance in the background at the party.

And there were a couple nice bar mentions: The White Horse Tavern (first mention ever in the show) and Chumley's (second or third time that's popped up, and every time I hear it my heart breaks, knowing the real Chumley's is now gone forever.)

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