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In listening to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s commentary about his hit show’s third season, during an AMC marathon last week, and in his remarks about season 4, I have to admit that the Mad Men genius and former Sopranos writer/producer was making me nervous.  He said that everything that happened in season 3 was for a reason, and necessary, but that is what will make for a totally different season 4.  For a fan who likes his Mad Men how it is, the sweat was forming on my brow.

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And then season 4, episode 1, entitled “Public Relations” began, and Don (Jon Hamm) hits a reporter doing a piece on him in an ad magazine with his trademark smug, lambasts Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) for wasting his time with a cattle call when the hopes of the new agency rest on how he accounts for each hour, derrides Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) in his usual fashion, and then pours a scotch and dives on the couch in his new office for a nap all within the first 5 minutes, and I say, “Thank God it’s the same old Don” and “Matthew Weiner, you got me good!”

Vincent Kartheiser (L.), Jon Hamm, and John Slattery (R.), above.

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Next, Roger (John Slattery) imposes on Don’s nap to push a date on Don with one of Jane’s (Peyton List) friends, a twenty something year old we later find out is played by Anna Camp (Sarah Newlin, True Blood).  In fact, the Mad Men camp kept under tight wraps who the new castmates would be, and from what we could surmise, since Aaron Staton is still in the credits, the actor who plays Ken Cosgrove, we can assume that the struggling Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce may be soon hiring their old co-head of accounts to bolster their flagging revenue.

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Then Don’s accountant comes in to meet with him, and the two drink scotch, while the money man urges Don to get Betty (January Jones) to adhere to the divorce agreement and vacate their old premises, which Don is paying the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep on, though he no longer lives there.  Don says he doesn’t want to bring it up and start World War III.  It isn’t until about the 20 minute mark when we see Betty for the first time this season, with her new family, that of her new husband, advisor to the governor, Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley), as they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Francis’s over-bearing matriarch, who seems very wise later on in the episode when she turns her attention to criticizing Betty to her son.

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That Thanksgiving dinner takes an eventful turn when young Sally tells Mrs. Francis she doesn’t like her food and then spits out her cranberry sauce while coughing loudly, before Betty pulls her away from the table.  Later that night, it seemed like sexy time for Henry and Betty, until Sally (Kiernan Shipka) causes some ruckus in the hallway, and Betty gets up to find her fumbling with the phone, trying to call Don.  Like children bickering almost, Betty tells her young daughter that Daddy isn’t going to be pleased when he hears Betty’s version of the story.  Since old Henry can’t recover the steam when Betty returns, he tells her to send the baby out tomorrow when Don picks up the kids, and that they’ll go out to a romantic dinner alone, as we get the idea that Henry is losing patience with Betty and all the baby momma drama.

Don, who had rebuffed Roger’s and Jane’s invite to Turkey Day because he has plans, despite the fact that Jane’s and Don’s new friend will be there (Don pictured at the top on one of his firsr post divorce dates), it turns out had plans indeed–for a young prostitute who Don requests slaps him in the face repeatedly, asking for it “harder”, while she is on top of him and they are having sex.  A stunning new trick for Don, who seems to play a dull character in “Public Relations” personally, working from home in the evening by looking at print ads and television commericals.  Could it be that Don, always the power player, now likes the fantasy of ceding that control in the bedroom, or is he perhaps feeling guilty about his treatment of women, or both?

The next day Don picks up his children (above) and Betty and Henry get in the car to head out to their romantic dinner, when Henry jumps her and they have sex in the front seat of the car which is still parked in the garage.

When Don brings the kids back the next night at 9 PM, the appointed time, Betty and Henry aren’t there.  Sally uses her key to let them in and don puts the kids to bed and then waits for Betty, like a guest, in his own house.  Don’s blood is boiling, and when Betty returns, Don tells her she needs to be out of the house.  Henry chimes in that it’s just “a temporary situation” to which Don replies, “that’s what everyone thinks.”  When Don leaves, the level headed Henry tells Betty that Don is right, and that she needs to get of the house, and that Betty hasn’t even looked for a new place, to which betty bristles and pronounces she won’t sell the house on “his terms”, referring to Don.

When we next see Henry Francis doing chores for his hulking, bossy mother in her living room, we get the distinct impression that the governor’s right arm is a card carrying momma’s boy, and when we hear her insight, we can’t help but to agree with it–especially those fans of the show who have been for long arguing and debating Betty’s relative ice queen like mothering persona and her often cruel treatment of the kids.  Remember in season 1 when Betty tried to demand that Don strike Bobby and how Betty is always relatively cruel to Sally, who complains about her continually, and who found great solace in the attention that Betty’s father Gene (Ryan Cutrona) gave her before he passed.  Betty seems to only chide or ignore the girl, who clearly blames her mother for her parent’s divorce.  Remember that in season 3’s finale, “Shut the door, have a seat”, the kids drank chocolate milk with their housekeeper Carla (Deborah Lacey) on Christmas while Betty is on a plane to Reno, pursuing her divorce and new marriage.

Henry’s mom slams Betty by calling her a “child”, laments on behalf of Betty’s kids that Sally and Bobby (Jared Gilmore) are “terrified” of her, and punctuates her remarks by telling her son that she has raised a lot of children and knows what’s going on, and that his interest in Betty is obvious and he did not have to marry her to satisfy it.  Sounds like Henry has plenty of reasons, after just one episode, to consider the folly in marrying Betty, as we flash back a few seasons to a creepy psychiatrist questioning Betty and then secretly feeding the information back to Don.

Don, in the end, recognizing the the critical mistake he made in the show’s opening scene when he was too terse with an ad mag reporter doing a story on him, leans back and makes himself appear to be Superman as he immodestly reveals  the exciting 11th hour formation of the new agency to a reporter from the Wall street Journal, set up by Bert Cooper who pulled some of his old world money strings to get Don another interview with a much more widely circulated publication.

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As for Weiner’s assertion that everything is different this year, we can ride with the statement along certain lines.  Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), SCDP’s Head of Television, has a bigger role, reflecting the period’s newest and most effective medium for advertising, television.  Joannie Holoway (above with Jared Harris) has her own office, Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) seems invigorated by being back on the frontlines, so to speak, and Peggy seems like she may be the Head of Creative, as it certainly seems like she is the only person besides Don in Creative at the new agency.  But Mad Men, the best show on television, returned on the same high note with which it concluded season 3 in November, as it now sinks it’s teeth further into the historical plotlines of the 1960’s, while rememberring its bread and butter–the microscope on the disparate lives of its male and female leads, Don and Betty Draper.

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Well done indeed.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)