"Who is Don Draper?" asks a reporter from Advertising Age.
After the question, TV's most mysterious character looks as though he's been struck – and Draper doesn't snap out of it until the end of season four's premiere when, in a fury, he kicks the Jantzen swimwear people out of his make-shift conference room in the new offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency in the Time-Life building in New York City.
And so it begins. It's 1964 and Don Draper's fortune has shifted.
Don's partners are less than thrilled with the milquetoast article that, not because of its content, but because Don clammed up and refused to give the trade paper's one-legged reporter anything to work with.
(The reporter lost his leg in Korea, an irony not lost on fans of the series. It was in Korea where the "real" Don Draper died and where the illegitmate Dick Whitman switched identities with his fallen commrade.)
In the past, accounts came to the spacious conference room at Sterling Cooper, where Don and his cronies strutted their stuff.
Now, Madison Avenue's hot guy has to cool his heels in line with other agencies courting the Jantzen guys.
Things aren't going well for the junior executives, either. They have to "stage" a fight over a canned ham, of all things, in order to keep a lucrative account – and they do it behind Don's back, getting a lot more than they bargained for. Harry, the firm's TV guy, has just sold a Jai alai episode to ABC, only to find out their Jai alai account has bailed because he wasn't mentioned in the Advertising Age article. The firm has even resorted to lying about a second floor full of offices – when they don't even have a conference table.
Don's personal life is running on empty, too.
Divorced from Betty, he lives in a ratty city apartment with none of the amenities expected by someone who earned $500,000 in 1963. When he comes home, the only one waiting on him is the maid - with a cold pork chop that Don doesn't touch.
A much-hyped blind date - based on the idea of squirting butter - fizzles.
Later, Don opens the door - and his wallet - to a hooker, and it's not her first trip to Draper's dingy den.
It's a good thing the network ran an "adult content" advisory at the beginning of the episode, because the lady of the evening delivers quite a wallop - literally - with little reaction from her customer.
Don's deficiency in the bedroom is somewhat of a surprise, since when he was married to ex-wife Betty, he chased - and caught - nearly every skirt that walked past him.
Don's relationship with Betty the ice queen isn't faring much better. It's Thanksgiving and she - along with the new husband and Don's three children - were supposed to be out of the house a month ago.
When he returns the kids prompty at 9 p.m., as Betty requeste, no one is home, so he waits in the dark. When Betty and the new husband return and Don asks where they've been, Betty says, "I've waited on you plenty of times."
After asking her when she's going to move out, Don slinks out of his own house.
(Things aren't rosy in Betty's life, either. Her new mother-in-law has her number telling her son, "You're rolling around in Don Draper's dirt." Sally, the oldest, is developing an eating disorder. The grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence.)
It isn't until the Jantzen swimwear people reject his ad campaign for a two-piece bathing suit as "too dirty," that the old, fearless Don appears.
As he blows through the agency, he orders an underling to get The Wall Street Journal on the phone.
The next scene has Don at the same table in the same restaurant, with a new reporter. This time, however, Don is in complete control. He's in the driver's seat (literally - he takes the seat where the first reporter was sitting), eyebrow cocked, Scotch poured. He's back on top and God help anyone who tries to knock him down.
It's going to be an interesting season. Peggy (the only female account executive) has cut her hair and grown a backbone. I can't wait to see what's in store for her. I missed Joan, (the firm's all-knowing Girl Friday) who had little screen time last night, but I'm sure she'll be a player in the firm's success. If Don is the driving force of Cooper Sterling Draper and Pryce, Joan is its heart.
AMC proved their genius once more ... the Emmys are just around the corner. "Mad Men" has 17 nominations. Debuting the new season and proving the series is worth every single one of the nine statues and four Golden Globes its won so far might stick in voters' minds as they cast their ballots.
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