[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don takes an interest in puppies Teddy shows Peggy his gratitude Peggy writes some copy Roger flies Northwest Bert orders a drink Pete and his father-in-law have a heart-to-heart.]
Don Draper (last week: 1)
"It's morning. We know because we see the rooster crow. A farmer's wife sits pancakes on the kitchen table, she puts a pat of margarine on top, and sets the dish down next to the yellowest fried eggs, a loaf of homemade bread, and a beading pitcher of heavy cream. Syrup pours. A smile comes over their Dorothea Lange faces."
Now, we ask you: Is this the margarine pitch that wins the day, steamrolling over warm-up nonsense about the various Gilligan's Island equivalencies of the butter-substitute oligarchy, or is this utter horseshit served with a side of perfectly crisp toast and artisanal marmalade? We honestly don't know the answer; maybe it's both. But there is, as there always is, the unflinching confidence in the delivery, because if Don Draper is good at one thing, it's mesmerizing with his monotone while he paints the room around him sepia and then convinces you it's never been a different color. The worst part, of course, is that now we desperately want some breakfast. And to drench it in margarine, it really brings out the flavor. Just like grandma used to make.
[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don takes Bobby to the movies … Peggy and Abe look at real estate … Betty considers an old dress … Harry and Pete have a frank discussion on current events … Joan hugs a secretary.]
Don Draper (last week: 1)
"If you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation."
No, that's not right. It's a little too trite at this point to start with a catchphrase so good even Peggy's using it in pitches.
[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don and Sylvia talk about faith Peggy changes the conversation Harry Crane files his performance review Ted McGinley swings by Heinz Ketchup goes great on hot dogs.]
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
You learn a lot about a man in a time of crisis, and this week we learned that Don's the kind of guy who responds to tragedy by worrying about the whereabouts of his mistress, crawling into the bottle of Canadian Club on his nightstand, and, upon waking the next day, bathrobe-swaddled and stinking of last night's impromptu date with the forgetting-juice, taking the boy to the movies while the wife takes the other kids to a vigil. "What else are we gonna do?" he shrugs, ready to sit back down to the half-finished, rubbery awards-show chicken that is his life and pretend the world's not going up in flames around him. You can't really say any of this is particularly new information, but it's always riveting to watch how these scenarios play out, to pluck at the jet-black What Will Don Draper Do? rubber band on your wrist and feel the blunt sting of the results.
[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don and Sylvia eat Italian food Don listens to Bing Crosby Trudy and Pete have a heart-to-heart Kenny passes the ketchup.]
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
This was a week in which Don Draper hid in dark offices while working on top-secret projects, eavesdropped at a hotel suite, and lurked in the shadows of a television set. But Don Draper is not a spy; Don Draper is an adman. Don Draper smoked joints in a clandestine hot box, drooling over the exquisite squiggles of ketchup on an illustrated hot dog begging to be smothered in the delicious suicide sauce that would hasten its own demise. Don Draper pressed an ear to a closed door, trying to hear how a professional ambush resolved itself. Don Draper sat across from a pair of swingers and barely concealed his disgust at how comfortable they were with a lifestyle that made public what he likes to do in private. Don Draper showed up unannounced at his wife's place of work, desperate to observe his on-camera cuckolding at the hands of a pretty-boy actor, and to ensure that the verisimilitude of their pantomime lovemaking met his stringent husbandly tolerance standards. Don Draper made damn well sure his wife felt shitty about it. Don Draper shattered his own adultery land-speed record, going from crying-wife-in-her-dressing-room to penny-under-the-mistress's-doormat in under 10 seconds. Don Draper avoided the crucified Jesus's gaze as he got down to business, because even though there's no God in Don Draper's life besides Don Draper, he still didn't want his partner's lord and savior tsk-tsking along with every sinful thrust, because that is a real mood-killer.
Don Draper has had prouder weeks. Maybe not busier, but prouder.
[Production note: Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings, unless it was the one we skipped: Don has a hot tooth … No one wants Lane Pryce's office for some reason … The Ghost of Adam Whitman drops by for Bring Your Dead Sibling to Work Day … Megan books a commercial … Pete's mistress forgets about him.]
1. Don Draper
"What do I do?" the subject asked the photographer, unsure of how to behave in an office that had been temporarily rearranged to make a better backdrop for a shot, a better reflection of the brain behind the operation.
"Just do what you do," answered the photographer.
"Gimme a minute," said the subject, flicking open the lighter of a drunk soldier he'd helped to marry on a distant beach, which bore the inscription: IN LIFE WE OFTEN HAVE TO DO THINGS THAT JUST ARE NOT OUR BAG.
"What do you want?" asked the subject, now distracted and queasy from a flood of memories of the soldier from that beach, of the solider he once was.
Here is Martin Scorsese reviewing The Searchers: "I go back to The Searchers all the time. A few years ago, I watched it with my wife, and I will admit that it gave me pause. Many people have problems with Ford's Irish humor, which is almost always alcohol-related."
You're happy with 50 percent. You're on top and you don't have enough. You're happy because you're successful. For now. But what is happiness? It's the moment before you need more happiness. It's the moment laughing in the hallway with your old war buddy after a successful battle, blood still on your mouth and steel-strength no-ner straining against your pants, when you remember how good the copper tastes and that you can still get it up for the negative when you have to. It's the moment right before the moment when they tell you that they sent everyone home, the coroner is on the way, and the body's still hanging in his office, purple and bursting with fresh death, and no one thought to cut him down.
These Power Rankings are entering uncharted territory. Never before has a non–Don Draper character occupied the top slot twice, and never before has Don been knocked from his perch more than once in a single season. Nothing makes sense. Up is down. Left is right, the sun is made of ice, and Girls is universally embraced as the uncontroversial reflection of a very specific kind of coming-of-age experience in New York. Pete Campbell wore a black suit, for the love of Showrunner. You get it by now, we know. We'll stop. But it was either this self-indulgent and, quite frankly, repetitive lead-off as we stalled to scrape off the bits of skull-shrapnel glued to the living room walls with bits of gray matter, or the word "NO" spelled with 500 O's. Perhaps we chose poorly. Cut us some slack; things are very touch-and-go right now.
"Our best thoughts come from others." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Things your wife won't do: spin around for a group of leering strangers in her pleated beige audition dress, accept an emerald necklace from a mouth-breather named Herb in exchange for a handsy nightlong dalliance, take a secret milkshake meeting with Ted Chaough. What kind of cologne do whores buy to give to their husbands on Valentine's Day? Peggy, can you get Joan in here? What's that? Peggy bounced? Well, where's Joan? Oh. Gross. Well, are there any lobsters left?
[Production note: Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings A French-Canadian siren sings a very catchy song and eventually quits her advertising job Pete Campbell and Lane Pryce come to blows in a conference room Roger Sterling gets a blowie at an awards ceremony something about hobos from a long time ago an untouched glass of orange sherbet in an upstate HoJo's a $250,000 version of "Tomorrow Never Knows."
[Production notes: How great was this episode? Feels like an instant all-timer, right up there with the suitcase, the tractor, and the Season 5 DVD outtakes of the makeup department entombing January Jones in the Fat Betty suit. Amazing. We should probably just quit right here. But we're not going to, because letting you down is an important part of our journey together. So as they say: Here goes nothing.
When Christina Hendricks's and Olivia Munn's phones were hacked and their private nude photos released online earlier this week, they both denied that the photos were real. (Go ahead and "do a Google" if you need to find them; they're not hard to track down.) In Hendricks's case, she did admit that her phone was hacked, and I know it's possible they are not her boobs in the photograph ... but girl? They sure look like your boobs. It's unfortunate that so much of the discussion about Hendricks is focused on her (awesome) boobs, because she is really an amazing actress. The undeniably gross ethics of this kind of hacking aside, these are not the worst nude photographs ever taken. They are flattering enough, and mostly in corsets? There are topless shots, but nothing like full spread or anything. The self-objectifying isn't that weird since these are actresses we're talking about. Munn has a couple of full body shots in lingerie, which would be no more risqué than publicity shoots she's already done if not for the obvious "intrusion of privacy" feel of the cam-phone shots and the extremely NSFW captions addressed to "Chris," presumably Chris Pine, with whom she was linked in 2009.
Like a cool breeze blowing through a stultifying summer of sequels comes the first extended look at Drive, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s hard-bitten ode to pulpy Americana. And whether it’s the unrelenting heat or the paranoiac visions of a gigantic blue monster staring down at us, we’re going all-in with this trailer. Hell, to our 3-D-scarred eyes these 146 seconds seem like the best film released so far in 2011! It’s basically got it all: Ryan Gosling, finally taking full advantage of his charismatic cocktail of rough-edged good looks and character-actor kook, Carey Mulligan playing someone tougher than Shia LaBeouf’s girlfriend, Christina Hendricks perfectly cast as a gangster’s moll, Albert Brooks surprisingly cast as a vicious criminal, Christina Hendricks oh did we already mention her? Plus, the picture appears to be a near-perfect blend of genre gas (He’s driving backwards! He’s threatening to hammer a bullet into someone’s skull!), and art-house design (a wordless montage of straight-razors and flying fenders set to a soaring orchestral score!). It’s a blessed reminder that the silly season will eventually come to an end, that cinematic pleasure can be experienced without guilt or Ryan Reynolds. Slick, sexy, and smart, Drive makes all the other cars on the road look like wiener-mobiles.
·News from the front lines of Hollywood's noble war on Christmas: Desperate for franchises, Dimension Films has commissioned two different scripts for the sequel to 2003's Billy Bob Thornton-starring alcoholic mall-Santa comedy Bad Santa with the intention of picking the best one — and if they're both good, the series could become a trilogy. None of the original makers (director Terry Zwigoff, producers Joel and Ethan Coen) are involved, but Thornton is allegedly "eager to come back" and Tony Cox seems to be available. Grade: B [LAT]
·True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard will play another Viking in The Vanguard, an action movie about two brothers who head back to Sweden following their banishment to North America. Details are scarce, but Vanguard is allegedly in the vein of Braveheart and Gladiator, which presumably means dead wives will be avenged and Skarsgard will develop real-life anger-management problems after the movie inexplicably wins Best Picture. Grade: B+ [Variety]