'Mad Men' Recap -- It's a Good Thing 'Christmas Comes But Once a Year'

Don Draper This episode of Mad Men is brought to you by drunks, whores, and one extremely sinister child!

The show opens with Betty and Gramps taking the kids Christmas tree shopping. Who is working at the lot but creepy little Glen, the kid who once asked Bets for a lock of her hair? He buttonholes Sally and reveals that his mom’s remarried too, so he’s in the same boat. He shows Sally and Bobby the lanyard he made to attach to his penknife -- pay attention. You’re going to see it again.


Don’s in the office, typing, when his secretary, Allison, comes in with the mail -- including a letter to Santa from Bobby, forwarded by Sally. It’s a list of desired gifts, with #1 being that he’d be there Christmas morning, though she knows it’s not possible. Yeesh to the Don! He assigns Allison to do the shopping -- everything the kids could want, and then some.

Hey! Drunky Freddy Rumsen is back! In case you forgot, he peed on himself some time last season and when the firm gave him an ultimatum -- dry up or get packing -- he picked the latter option. But now he’s clean and sober and has a two million-dollar account for Pond's in his pocket, thanks to a “fraternity associate,” which will save the firm from being slaves to Lucky Strike (more on that later). Peggy’s delighted to see him -- Pete less so.

Creepy Glen calls Sally under an assumed name -- their relationship must be secret. They commiserate about being kids of divorce; he tells her Don and Bets won’t get back together, and she bemoans their living situation. She hates it there, thinking she sees her dad around every corner.

Hey, now we know who Atherton is! I had no idea when he was brought up in the first episode, but he’s the market-research guru their firm works with, and he’s got a jazzy blonde dish who’s developed a test they can take so their work gets closer to the heart of their clients. Don gives her a wolfish look and slinks out when he sees one of the questions would require him to talk about his feelings about his father (you know, the drunk who screwed a prostitute to create him, among other atrocities).

At home, the nurse down the hall invites him to her Christmas party. He demurs.

All’s not well on the Pond''s account. Peggy’s come a long way, baby, since the days when she worked with Freddy, and while she wants a fresh approach, he’s stuck in some old-fashioned ideas about women, beauty, and marriage. When Roger comes in drunk from a meeting with the Ponds guy, he beats a hasty retreat, phoning the guy (from his “fraternity,” huh?) and setting up an AA sponsor meeting. Meanwhile, Roger finds out that the guy behind the Lucky Strike account, Lee, will be in town for their Christmas party and expects the royal treatment. They have to change the party’s rating “from convalescent home to Roman orgy.” Roger orders as he flirts with Joan and asks her to wear the red dress “with the bow that makes you look like a present.” Oh, Roger!

Peggy’s fiancé wants some lovin’. She’s not ready. He assumes she’s a virgin and she doesn’t straighten him out.

Don comes home drunk, just as the pretty nurse is cleaning up her party. She thinks she has him pegged as someone who hates Christmas, but it’s sadder than that -- he just hates this Christmas. The first divorced Christmas. She follows him into the apartment and does for him what she always did for her dad -- puts him to bed and takes of his shoes so he doesn’t get sores on his heels from passing out drunk in his clothes. Then she slips out, leaving him un-schtoinked.

Back at the office, Peggy loses it with Freddy. He hints that she’s crabby because she’s not married; she blasts him for being old-fashioned.

We see scenes of the office Christmas party alternating with scenes of Betty and Gramps’ home. First, Westchester: Creepy Glen calls to make sure nobody’s home, then shows up with a pal and vandalizes the place with eggs and other dairy products. The family arrives home to find the house wrecked -- eggs in Bobby’s bed, eyuw! -- except for Sally’s room, which is pristine except for a lovingly placed lanyard on the bed. Told you we’d see that again. She’s pleased, because this is a show about the most emotionally healthy people in the world.

Meanwhile, the office party goes into full swing. There’s a cheeky moment when Atherton bemoans Medicare as the first Socialist step toward the elimination of personal property. Tea party, anyone? Lee, the Lucky Strike guy, shows up and immediately starts needling Roger -- joking about his age, his hair, his heart attacks, and insisting he play Santa, a humiliating ritual. Still, they give him a lavish present (a Polaroid!) and pretty much kiss his hiney, because Lucky Strike is a third of their business.

The market-research blond comes in and rips Don a new one for missing her presentation. She respects his work; why won’t he respect hers? All he does is flirt with her, but she sticks to her guns: Her test has merit, and their business boils down to “what I want vs. what’s expected of me.” So he … asks her to dinner. God, he’s thick. On her way out the door, she assures him he’ll be married again within a year -- she, like the nurse, has nailed him as a type. Ouch.

Back at home, Don realizes he has left his keys at the office, and Allison must bring them to him. Her pals are all going to Chumley’s, and shake their heads at how pathetic Don is acting while she arrives at his door, lets him in, gets him an aspirin … and returns his advances! In the time it takes us to flash over to Sally mooning over her lanyard, he’s unzipped his pants and hiked up Allison’s skirt for a little donner-and-blitzen. Her hair’s not even mussed! Blushing, she insists she has to meet her pals, and he bids her an unconcerned farewell.

The office is a wreck in the aftermath of the party. Freddy and Peggy apologize to one another, though it’s clear they still don’t see eye-to-eye. Nonetheless, she asks him for advice about her boyfriend’s advances; he says not to give in if she wants to get married, but not to lead the poor guy on, either. What does Peggy want? She isn’t sure.

Don jokes to Roger about “ze fuhrer’s party.” Hum, Roger did act like a bit of a whore, didn’t he?

Speaking of, are you ready for awkward? Allison comes in at Don’s request and he gives her a veiled brushoff, saying thanks for the keys but he feels he has “taken advantage of her kindness on too many occasions.” Oh, and the bonus he promised her in the first scene of the episode? Here it is -- two fifties and a note thanking her for “all her hard work.” She returns to her desk, staring vacantly out the window as she realizes she, too, seems to have made a transaction she didn’t recognize at the time.

Peggy stares into the darkness as her boyfriend thanks her for the nookie, wondering if she feels different, now that he has introduced her to the pleasures of the flesh. Is she feeling like a heel? Or does her physical surrender mean she’s not really into him after all? Is she the only one who doesn’t feel like a whore?

Nothing’s clear as Don clears out of the office carrying the armful of presents Allison painstakingly bought and wrapped for his kids. So loaded with significance, this Christmas business! Thank goodness it only comes once a year!

How'd you like this episode? Did you catch the first reference to The Beatles? Tell us in the comments!

Image courtesy of AMC

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