As always, spoilers are afoot. So walk softly or take the scenic route.
Kinsey's a Krishna, Harry shows he still has a soul, Joan and Don reminisce, Roger wants to do more than reminisce, and Lane is engaged in backdoor misdeeds. Everyone's jockeying for position, re-evaluating their direction and choices in life and suffering varying degrees of emotional trauma in the process. In short, it's Christmas time on Mad Men.
'Christmas Waltz' was one of the few (or perhaps first) Harry-centric episodes in the series, and it begins with our bespectacled hero receiving word Paul Kinsey has been trying to meet him for a lunch. Harry reluctantly agrees to his former co-worker, only to find Kinsey become a Hari Krishna and has claimed to renounce the material world. No matter how many times I watch it back, the sight of the formerly bearded, pipe-in-his hand "artiste" in a flowing robe and nearly shaved bald head is startling, and a bit hilarious. He invites Harry to chant, and he eventually gets into it after some sensual coaching by Kinsey's new love Lakshmi, so much so he's still chanting after everyone's stopped.
Kinsey being Kinsey, he has to managed to retain his pretentiousness, pontificating about how much he has changed and grown spiritually. But the facade quickly crumbles as he confesses Harry over lunch that he's unhappy and wants out of the group, but won't leave without Lakshmi. Kinsey's had a tough time since we last saw him: he's bounced from ad agency to ad agency to the A&P--yes that A&P. And try as he might to get into the religious groove, he can't clear his mind, and feels lost. He still wants to be writer, but is so desperate and/or deluded that he hands Harry a script for the season premiere of Star Trek, thinking that the leap from Krishna recruiter to Hollywood screenwriter is just one phone call or meeting away. Harry knows the script is terrible, but gets a second opinion from Peggy anyway, who advises him to be honest and tell Kinsey to give up his dream.
Later, Lakshmi makes a surprise visit to the office and seduces Harry. At first she's all free-love c'mons, moaning about the fire inside her that Harry ignited, but her true manipulative demeanor comes out after the deed is done ("you thought I was some confused little girl?")--she wants Harry to stay away from Kinsey, for fear he'll be sucked back into the material world, and has used nature's credit card as a down payment. "He's our best recruiter. I mean he really can close," she says, not even catching the irony that her movement is just as much of product as anything that's being pushed at SCDP. Despite a slap to the face by Lakshmi, Harry decides to do somewhat right by his old pal; he doesn't tell him that his script sucks, but he does advise him to get the hell away from Lakshmi, and gives him $500 towards a west coast move. A change of scenery maybe what Kinsey needs, but if the best writing he can come up with is white Negroines, the he better learn a trade out there. Nevertheless, it was nice to see this empathetic side of Harry; over the past four seasons we've watched him go from happily married man to a shallow, convention-whore banging douche. It was good to show someone on the show occasionally thinking beyond themselves.
Speaking of douchebags, Joan's soon-to-be ex husband Greg may be out of the picture, but he can still manage to inflict pain on his wife. While at work, Joan is told she has a visitor at the front, but surprise! It's divorce papers from your rapist! The sight of the paperwork sets Joan off in a way she's never acted in public, unleashing a vicious tirade on a secretary ("Surprise! There's an airplane here to see you!").
It wasn't like Joan was having a particularly good day at work to begin with. She's finally spilled the beans to Roger about being Kevin's father, but refuses his money, despite what seems like his honest attempt to be a part of his son's life; perhaps after her ordeal with Greg she isn't in a rush to be beholden to a man anytime soon. She casts a cynical eye towards Roger's post-LSD enlightenment, and probably sees the money as involving her child in her longstanding secretive/mistress role in Roger's life, and doesn't want any part in that. After all, he's offered her many things over the years--an apartment, a bird--but never a ring. Or even the opportunity being his girlfriend--you know, out in the open and all that. "We made a baby," a drunken Roger says. "Yes, and now it's some other lucky girl's turn," she snaps before seeing him out.
In the middle of her blowup, Don calms her down a bit and the two go Jaguar scouting, pretending to be husband and wife (a interesting twist given Joan's "that's kind of girl Don Draper marries" speech a few episodes back) before heading out for drinks. Joan drops her mask, telling Don about her divorce and longing for the days when she was greeted with flowers instead of legal documents. The days when, like Don, she could enjoy being bad then going home and being good.
Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's Joan's dress/hairstyle and Don's hat, but the two almost seemed to have stepped back into the 50's while sitting at the bar. Whatever the case, the atmosphere certainly lends itself to the two reminiscing about the their first impressions of one another. The conversation between the two easily contains the episode's best dialogue, showing Joan worrying about how her single mother status will affect her dating life and how easily Don has forgotten his chaotic bachelorhood of the recent past. Or at least he's acting that way, agreeing that Megan is perfect and he's truly happy. The conversation about knowing what men and women want is fantastic, with Joan unknowingly hitting on Don's past with Betty and possibly his present with Megan, if the look on his face on the way home is any indication.
But we saw this coming earlier; his unhappiness with her decision to pursue acting is becoming more apparent (to her anyway) with the two clashing after seeing a play decrying advertising/consumerism. And while he may have been helping Joan by taking out her of the office mid-tantrum, he was also playing hooky--from the moment Pete tells him about Jaguar, Don is unimpressed and is listless at work; last week's spark of creativity and competition with Ginsberg over Sno Ball has faded. At least until a furious Megan, possibly fearful of Don reverting to his old ways, lays into him when he comes home late. After tossing her meal into the wall, she screams at him for being selfish and inconsiderate and reminds him that he loved his work before he met her.
Rather than unload on her after she doesn't play into a bid for angry sex, Don, looking slightly astonished, sits down and eats dinner. Megan seems determined not to be Betty and let Don do whatever he pleases. And demanding he be home for dinner, or at least tell her where he is, is step one in her plan. At first her words seem to have a positive effect; when he makes a rousing speech at a SCDP meeting the next day, the result is like watching an old statue coming back to life. But from the look on Joan's face as she watches him in action--not to mention flowers he sent her--Megan may soon have some competition on her hands. And so will Roger. Her reminding Don of how much he loved work may come back to haunt her.
Last but not least Lane. Our British boy is deep in debt and owes some back taxes in his homeland--so deep that he must resort to lying to banks to get more credit for SCDP that he can play off as a company surplus and use as an excuse to hand out Christmas bonuses. So deep he must forge checks in Don Draper's name to pay off his bills. Lane's tense mood was palpable throughout the whole episode, as he fought for the partners to keep their Christmas bonuses even after news Mohawk Airlines was suspending their ad campaign with the company. Whatever the case, Lane's debt woes and money fraud schemes will definitely to a big blow up down the road.
Come to think of it, with Joan and Don's teasing flirtation, Megan's anxiety over not knowing where her husband is at all times (as well as their obvious disagreement on advertising vs. acting), Roger seemingly wanting back in in Joan's life, a lot of bombs may be going off in the near future.Or since it's Christmas time, a lot of folks may be getting what they think they want or thought they wanted, but will find themselves holding lumps of coal. Disappointment and dashed expectations: they're the gifts Mad Men keeps on giving. God Bless us every one.
--The unenthusiastic response to Pete snagging Jaguar was a nice running gag, as and his "What ghost visited you Ebeneezer?" was one of the best lines of the night.
--Dawn...chile I give up at this point. Maybe they'll throw you a bone in the season finale.
--Roger's "Bazooka Joe" was nice gum/pubice! reference.
--Will the writers chronicle Paul's west coast journey? Probably not, but his return was unexpected and an interesting twist on the character IMO. Paul always cast himself as an outsider and a rebel (he went down South for the civil rights movement, dating a black girl, was playing guitar during Sterling Cooper's British takeover in season three as a way to stick it to the man) even though he wasn't much of either, so in a way it made since he would fall in with such an extreme, alternative sect. Getting sloshed all day would've been too easy. If Paul's gonna be unhappy then dammit, he'll be the Picasso of unhappiness.
So what did you think of 'Christmas Waltz?' Discuss.