When we last left “Mad Men” and the stalwart folks of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Sterling was Sterling, Cooper was in a bad mood, Pryce was busy being officious, and Don Draper was in the middle of an emotional meltdown. And with this episode, we learn that things are a lot worse than we thought…

The Players:

Episode Title: “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”

Jumping ahead substantially from the premiere, we’re at Christmas, 1964. Don has Allison go shopping. Allison brings Don his keys. SCDP’s own personal Fuhrer pays a visit just in time to ramp up the company Christmas party. Freddy Rumsen is back, and not living up to his reputation. Betty’s best friend from season one makes a comeback and Peggy plays at being a “good girl.”

The Good:

  • Oh, Here’s Where We Left The Comedy: After a fairly serious premiere, although this episode is no less serious, there are a ton of funny moments. Whether it’s Peggy struggling with her painfully naive boyfriend, or Glenn’s comment on Sally’s new dad (“My mom said that would happen” is probably the biggest laugh of the entire episode).
  • It’s Old Home Day at “Mad Men”: The show sees not one but two callbacks to the first season; Freddy Rumsen returns triumphant and Glenn who we hadn’t seen for two seasons, suddenly comes back. Freddy has been revamped into a sober, but still old-fashioned ad-man, and has some wonderful scenes with Peggy as the new guard runs into the old.  Glenn meanwhile trashes the Draper, Francis household just to give Sally a present. That’s….cute. We think.
  • Don’t Mind Me, I’m Only Bleeding: Yeah, remember how Don just seemed to have a few personal problems that he was working through, like not quite having his mojo with the ladies? It’s worse. A lot worse. As in “his-own-employees-don’t-respect-him” worse. Don’s falling apart and in a major way.
  • Fire on the Horizon: We get a lot more clues as to what’s going on…apparently Pryce’s marriage? Yeah, not so hot. Don is obviously struggling in his role. They keep mentioning SCDP’s rather shaky financial status. Sterling apparently has an ulcer, and that’s only going to get worse.
  • The Final Scene: So sue us, that awkward conversation between Allison and Don, and that final moment when Allison is looking at her bonus and wondering what exactly it was for are just great and why we keep watching this series.

The Weird:

  • Aaaaawk-ward: If there was an episode with more cringe-inducing moments per minute in this series, we can’t think of it. Whether it’s Pete and Peggy seeing each other with their respective significant others at the Christmas party, Don staggering home drunk and being taken to school by his neighbor, or Roger being crammed into a Santa suit with the attendant everyone-sitting-in-his-lap, everybody got a go-round doing the Humiliation Conga this episode.

The Bad:

  • Like We Needed Another Reason To Quit Smoking: We understand that they’re trying to establish the stakes, but why are they spending so much time setting up Lee Garner, Jr. as such a jerk? Seriously guys, once you have “attempted rapist” on your resume (poor Sal), there’s just nowhere else to go. We don’t need to be reminded to hate his redneck guts.  And his dialogue and scenes are among the most ham-fisted in the entire episode. He might as well have “Hey! Big ethical confrontation coming down the pike!” floating over his head.
  • Did They Land the Account?: We really wish this episode had told us whether they’d landed Pond’s.
  • Broadcasting Your Punches: While there is a lot of hilarity with Peggy and her boyfriend, they’re also pretty blatantly setting her up for heartbreak by season’s end. Some writing is obviously on the wall but even so, they could have made him a bit less of a doofus.


After the Don-centric and somewhat humorless premiere episode, this one keeps up the momentum in fine style. All of the cast gets a moment to shine and we even see Allison as a promising new character. The fact that we want next week’s episode now says it all.

Rating: 9.2/10

“Mad Men” airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC

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