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Mad Men – “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”

“Christmas Comes But Once a Year”

August 1st, 2010

“I don’t hate Christmas – I hate this Christmas.”

When Don Draper sits down to take part in a demonstration of a new form of customer research, he finds a questionnaire which asks him to describe his relationship with his father – the question, according to the Doctor heading the study, is designed to create a sense of intimacy which will then influence a more honest or meaningful answer to the following question about who makes household decisions. Of course, the test is not designed for someone like Don Draper, who has trained himself to shut down at the mere mention of his past – he walks out on the test because he cannot fathom that someone would want to return to their past in that fashion.

“Christmas Comes But Once a Year” is about what happens when people who are still running away from their past run smack dab into the present, people who are either so focused on not repeating past mistakes that other parts of their lives suffer or people who have lived so much of their lives covering up their past that they have no idea how to live in a present which no longer has the same rules. All of them are hoping that what they feel now won’t last forever: they remember happier Christmases, Christmases before their lives were thrown into a state of upheaval, and they hope that those Christmases will come again.

However, Don Draper also seems to think that it will happen without having to actually do anything.

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Mad Men – “Three Sundays”

“Three Sundays”

August 17th, 2008

When Father Gil (Guest star Colin Hanks) stops by to the Olsen household for a dinner party, he is asked to say grace. He gives a short little moment of reflection on the meal in front of them, and Peggy’s Mother commends him on the fine words and asks if he’s going to say grace now. He quickly breaks into the traditional verse.

Roger’s daughter, meanwhile, is engaged. Her mother wants a wedding, a big gala where all of their friends can come and enjoy, but she isn’t on the same page: the young Ms. Sterling does want to feel like she needs to prove her love to anyone in some grand ceremony after only two months of engagement. Eventually, it seems settled: like it or not, a big wedding is simply unavoidable.

We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this: as my brother (who just finished the first season) noted, the 60s is a decade of change and Mad Men is a show about people of an older era. While this is not yet the time when there is an active war between these two generations, the battlegrounds are being drawn: as Don himself says, “We have a lot of bricks, but we don’t know what the building looks like.”

But, slowly but surely, the bricks are falling into place; and over these “Three Sundays,” a lot happens to lay a foundation.

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