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Recapping the Mad Men Recaps: Episode 3, "The Collaborators"

article_madmenepi3_Don2.jpgEach week PAPER will help you sort through your feelings about Mad Men by rounding up the best and brightest of the MM recaps. Read below so you can compare, contrast, and think real hard about it while arguing with your mistress over the menu at your local Italian restaurant.

Surprise! That opening wasn't a sex party.

"I kept expecting someone to pull out a fishbowl full of housekeys." -- EW

"I thought we were going to have a key party and a couples swap in the first three minutes." -- NY Times

"The opening bit at Pete and Trudy's party (Pete flirting with two women; two men flirting with Trudy, Playboy bunny cottontail Easter joke and all) led me to expect this episode would be about counterculture/Hair values infiltrating the suburban middle class...But no, it was a traditional Mad Men setup, contrasting a man's 'boring' suburban life at home and his 'exciting' 'single' life in the city." -- Vulture

Pete still sucks. The word 'shitty' was used twice in last night's episode and you, Pete Campbell, are the SHITTIEST shit in all the land:

"We've always known Pete was a cretin: We've seen him force himself on women and cheat on Trudy before. But, God, it's the callous cluelessness that makes me hate him." -- NY Times

"I'd like to petition the authorities to have every episode punctuated by Trudy reading Pete the riot act, or at the very least, it'd be nice to have someone punch Pete in the face." -- Huffington Post

"[Pete] is a monster. Trudy tried to make it easy for him and he was too dumb to see it." -- Slate

"How much more horrible do you think Pete can become without literally sprouting horns?" -- NY Times

Don needs to do it with everyone, 24/7.

"Don lives and breathes seduction and oozes self-confidence. He comes to it naturally, where Pete is always calculating and self-questioning. Don sleeps with women to fulfill some need, to temporarily caulk the Rosebud-shaped hole in his soul that prevents him from ever being content, but Pete's problem is more that he needs the need. He wants success, and success is synonymous with Manhattan Sex Pads and meaningless affairs. But where Don chooses a collaborator who values discretion as much as he does, Pete's fling shows up on his doorstep and ends up telling Trudy about the whole she-bang." -- EW

"Apologies for the sophomoric analogy, but Don and Sylvia Rosen's sloppy affair reminds me of that Sex and the City episode in which Natasha catches a pink-bra-ed Carrie in the apartment she shares with Big. Between Don sneaking into the Rosens' on his way to work and remaining with Sylvia at a restaurant after Megan and Sylvia's husband, Arnold, bailed on their double date, I have to wonder (yes, I'm doing this in Carrie Bradshaw-speak), 'Are they trying to get caught?'" -- Rolling Stone

..because he was raised in a brothel:

"Perhaps what he saw through the keyhole as a boy growing up in a whorehouse implanted the desire for that kind of transgression (or transaction -- him throwing money at a woman was a jarring moment). One thing that life experience probably taught him was the idea that entry into every new place -- even the most private places -- comes at a cost." -- Huffington Post

"Whores and johns, agencies and clients. Pete asks Don why he won't just give Herb what he wants. Because of the way Herb sees the agency. Because of the way Herb sees Joan, sees the world. Because Herb is a john." -- Slate

"The idea of prostitution was everywhere in 'Collaborators' -- Don gives Sylvia money after they sleep together, Joan's public shame Herb comes into the office and ignites Don's protectiveness of her because of what she did for the company to ensure Jaguar as a client. It's a theme that has been ever-present in Don's life." -- Collider

"It's easy to see where Don's lifelong relationship with women might have gone awry. He hands Sylvia a wad of bills after they finish up, ostensibly helping with the Rosens' cash troubles, but really he's just signing the bill of receipt for their encounter, echoing his earliest experiences with transactional sex. Don relies on women for affection, but can't return that affection fully or monogamously." -- EW

It turns out Don had a Psycho moment:

"Young Don [peeped] through keyholes à la Norman Bates and watching his uncle, a self-identified "rooster," laying his newest hen, Don's mama. In the present day, Don ends a morning tumble with Sylvia by giving her a handful of cash." -- Vulture

"It's only the third episode of the season, but remorse is slowly encroaching upon the sinners, even those who have been taught from an early age that it's OK for your stepmother to sleep with her sister's lover, which Dick watched, Psycho-style, through a keyhole." -- Rolling Stone

Are Don and Megan over?

"When Megan plucks up the courage to break the news to Don, he perfunctorily comforts her, but her devastating loss looks more like the death knell of their marriage." -- Rolling Stone

"You watch [Megan] climb into bed wearing sleepwear that appears to be made from mattress pads, and it's like watching her die. A woman wearing a buttoned-to-the-throat nightgown on Mad Men spells doom like nothing else." -- Complex

"Don reassures Megan after her miscarriage/abortion, and strengthens their bond to end the episode..." -- Collider

"In the scene in which he sympathized with Megan over her miscarriage, [Don] was kind, understanding and sympathetic. And that's just not how Don Draper is built. He can only be that guy up to a point, but that scene (among others) laid the groundwork for the end of that marriage." -- Huffington Post

Peggy's 'Leaning In':
"Now that Peggy knows SCDP's relationship with Heinz is shaky, Ted Chaough is prepared to go in for the kill. Get ready for Draper vs. Olson, Round One."
-- Rolling Stone

 "In the end, Peggy has to sell out her friend -- her only friend? -- for that work, another take on the work/life (im)balance of successful people that the show often illustrates."
-- Collider

Is history still a backdrop, or is it coming to the fore?

"Much of the tension threaded through the episode came from news reports and updates on dire situations in Southeast Asia. There was a sense of the real world not just leaking in to everyday life but repeatedly intruding and bringing with it a sense of palpable dread and tension. That kind of intrusion has occasionally happened in the past within the world of "Mad Men"...but over the years, the show has gradually amplified the sense of danger and made scary events feel much more ever-present and unavoidable." -- Huffington Post

"I think Weiner's pushing the pace and amplifying the sense of crisis to mirror the world outside Madison Avenue."  -- NY Times

"We talked about race in shows like Mad Men, and how it's a background issue (should it be more in the forefront?). The war is, too. A newscast plays in the background when Don is with Sylvia, and he doesn't listen. Pete tunes in to the nightly news, but his mind is elsewhere. It hasn't really hit home, but it's also inescapable." -- Collider

"As usual, the show throws in a few timestamp references like the U.S.S. Pueblo being captured by North Korean forces and the Tet Offensive ramping up in Vietnam. Politics and current affairs vaguely invade the conversations on the show, but it's still mainly background noise." -- EW

Was this episode a little bit dumb or great?

"Jon Hamm directed for the second time around, but other than eliciting a couple of knockout scenes from Alison Brie and Jessica Paré the episode fell a little flat." -- Rolling Stone

"Seeing Don as a kid in a brothel and then seeing him hand money to his mistress: It's all so obvious...At this point, I feel like there should be AMC coffee mugs emblazoned with Don's catchphrases." -- NY Times

"This was one of my least favorite episodes of Mad Men overall -- not just because it covered well-trodden territory and lacked the subtly cinematic moments that the first three hours of season five had in spades, but because it just felt muddied. The one big stylistic flourish -- cross-cutting between Don getting Sylvia hot-and-bothered in the restaurant and their inevitable tryst -- was sexy, all right, but the execution was cliché. The whorehouse flashbacks were purely expository and pretty clunky, and that final music cue, 'Just a Gigolo,' was face-palm obvious, as if Robert Zemeckis had suddenly stepped in as music supervisor." -- Vulture

"'The Collaborators,' the third episode of the sixth season of Mad Men, found the series settling into a dark and nasty groove. A bloody gash, really, where the characters will fester and fail. Mistakes are there for the making, and everybody wants in on the action." -- Complex

"At what point does Dick Whitman's life story become so utterly filled with horror and tragedy that it tips into some kind of parody? His life is like 50 country songs condensed into one long litany of rejection and pain." -- Huffington Post

And everyone's favorite line. Motherf*cking Trudy Campbell, ladies and gentelman:
"If you so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you."

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