Mad Men Episodes

2007, TV Show

Mad Men Episode: "Seven Twenty Three"

Season 3, Episode 7
Episode Synopsis: Betty becomes involved in local politics; a troubling incident leads Don to begin thinking about his future; and Peggy is on the receiving end of an exquisite gift.
Original Air Date: Sep 27, 2009
Guest Cast Chelcie Ross: Connie
Full Episode
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Season 3, Episode 7
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Length: 47:37
Aired: 9/27/2009
Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and VUDU
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Mad Men Episode Recap: "Seven Twenty Three" Season 3, Episode 7

How does a TV show follow perhaps one the best episodes ever in its run? If it's Mad Men, it does so by only getting better. I'm sure many will argue that this episode didn't pack the same punch as the previous one — there was, after all, no mowing over of an ad exec's foot. But in the same way I laughed through the over-the-top horror last week, I found myself compelled by the intricacies of this week's mini-bombshells, the ones whose seeds were planted early this season and are just now blooming.

The jaw-dropping blood spray was replaced with an unsettling narrative structure. The show settled for quiet-but-powerful one-liners ("I don't want to have any more contact with Roger Sterling") and cold stares instead of screaming secretaries and fainting copywriters. Gone was the roaring John Deere engine, and in its place Betty silently swoons while thinking of a man other than her husband.

Mad Men
doesn't get much better than this.

"I'm not worried about you. I'm worried about Duck." — Pete Campbell

And worry you should, Pete. Duck Phillips sends Peggy a Hermès scarf, in an attempt to woo her to join Grey Advertising. (He sends Pete a box of Cuban cigars.) Pete tells Peggy not to accept the gift, and points out that Duck's real motivation in seducing them is to get back at Don for squeezing him out of Sterling Cooper. Peggy seems to take Pete's advice to heart, and tells Duck to stop harassing her.

She does, however, end up returning the scarf to Duck in person. That leads to a drink (not for on-the-wagon-again Duck, mind you), which leads to a kiss, which leads to this: "I want to take you into that bedroom, lock the door, throw you on the bed, take off your clothes with my teeth and give you a go-round like you've never had," Duck says. That might be the most convincing pitch we've ever heard from Duck! And it works well enough for Peggy to spend the night and even have another "go-round" for breakfast. (Aside: We've loathed Duck ever since he turned Chauncey loose on Madison Avenue, but his behavior this week is a new low. I felt greasy just watching him come on to Peggy.)

Peggy is her own woman, but I think she ended up where she did because of Don. After again being slapped down by the one person from whom she seeks approval ("Put your nose down and pay attention to your work because there isn't one thing you've done that I couldn't live without," Don says), Peggy settles instead for another man in power who wants to give her some attention. Even so, and as Duck notes, Peggy is still Don's girl. I couldn't help but think of just how much Peggy has modeled herself after Don when we see her in the office wearing yesterday's disheveled outfit. And I think Don noticed too. That, or he knows that she knows that the bandage on his nose is not the result of a fender bender. (More on that later.)

"With no contract, I have all the power. They want me, but they can't have me." — Don Draper
Once Conrad Hilton officially brings Sterling Cooper on board to handle the ads for his New York hotels, Don seems to be walking on air. It isn't until he floats on down to Bert Cooper's office that the wind is taken out of his sails. Lane Pryce informs Don that the Brits are thrilled with the prospect of Hilton's international potential, but that the deal won't move forward unless Don is under contract. Don pushes back, saying Connie will take him at his word, and Pryce agrees that he will. Hilton's lawyers — and Sterling Cooper, it seems — will not, however. Don promises to take the papers home for review over the weekend.

When he returns to work Monday having not done so, Roger pays Don a visit, thinking he can charm him into signing the contract. (I guess he forgot about all that bad blood between them.) Roger says if Don plays ball, he could probably have his name on the wall, but Don is still unwilling to budge. This makes Roger think that Sterling Cooper's very own David Ogilvy is looking to make a move. "The problem is, I don't know if you don't want to do this here or if you don't want to do this all," Roger says. So, Roger calls Betty, "the woman behind the man," to see if her persuasiveness is any more effective. (My, how little the man knows.)

Betty evades Roger, but yells at Don when he gets home for not even telling her that a contract is on the table. "What's the matter, Don? Do you not know where you're going to be in three years?" Betty asks. Don claims Betty is only asking out of selfishness, and that as long as she is taken care of, his work doesn't concern her. But she cuts Don a little when she turns his explanation (the quote at the beginning of this section) into a summation of their relationship. "You're right. Why would I think this has anything to do with me?" she quips coolly. And as usual, Don runs from the fight, leaving Betty at home with crying baby Gene.

"We all have skills we don't use." — Betty Draper
Conveniently, Betty realizes her lack of power in her marriage in the same episode that she engages another man. When her involvement in the Junior League of Tarrytown gives her a reason to call on Harry Francis (the bold, baby-bump-feeling gent from Roger's Derby Day party), it's instantly recognizable that the destruction of the Pleasantville Road Reservoir isn't exactly the most pressing item on either of their minds. Francis sets up the Saturday hike, knowing he will only have the hour to eat a slice a pie... and see Betty, of course.

Their "date" is brilliantly interspersed with Don's watching an eclipse in the park with Sally and Miss Farrell. She's not drunk this time, but she's still very forward, assuming that since they'll both be in Ossining this summer that he'll make a pass at her. It seems a little presumptuous on her part, but I chuckled at how Don thought himself above such things. ("I'm not bored!") Wherever this flirtation leads, it's clear Don enjoys a woman with a brain. He can only smile when Miss Farrell answers his we're-not-all-the-same reaction with "You're all wearing the same shirt."

Where Don's flirtation ends, Betty's goes a step further. She plans a second meeting with Francis to actually check out the watering hole. And when he shields her eyes from the eclipse, she confesses she feels a little dizzy. Perfect then, that he points out a "fainting couch" in the antiques store. After her tiff with Don, she buys it, massacring her newly redesigned living room by blocking off the fireplace. But there she lies, no longer on her shrink's couch under the control of Don. Here, she lies, all but touching herself, thinking of the man who makes her dizzy — a man who isn't Don.

"Would you say I know something about you, Don? Then sign. After all, when it comes down to it, who's really singing this contract anyway?" — Bert Cooper
Don is dizzy too, when, after leaving the house and his fight with Betty, he picks up two hitchhikers looking for a lift to Niagara Falls. They're heading there to get married, they say, and Don joins in their celebration by taking their drink and a couple Phenobarbital pills. They all end up at a motel where Dick Whitman's father tells Don in a hallucination that he's allowed himself to be taken advantage of. At that very moment, he is punched in the brain stem and left robbed and bloodied on the motel floor.

Back at work, Don arrives to find Bert Cooper sitting behind Don's desk (the same spot Connie occupied earlier). Don has lost the power. Cooper, who rarely says anything that I don't laugh at, delivers the shock of the night when he uses his knowledge of Don's past to blackmail him into signing the contract. Don's flailing attempt at some semblance of control is to tell Cooper that he will no longer deal with Roger Sterling. And so he signs the dotted line. July 23, 1963: the day the Don Draper we know and love/hate died, at least a little.

A few other thoughts:
• This is this season's second reference to David Ogilvy, "the father of advertising." Horace Cook Jr. mentioned him a few episodes back, and Sterling dropped his name in this episode, speaking of his well-read book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, which was released in the summer of '63. I've read that the episode's title, the date that Don signed the contract, is also a reference to Ogilvy: He was buried on July 23, 1999.

• I really thought Don was harsh with Peggy tonight. ("You're good. Get better and stop asking for things.") But it's a repeated theme this season: Peggy always seems to catch Don after he's had a conversation he didn't like, this time with Roger Sterling.

• When Betty said the line I quoted about skills, my mind instantly flashed to the Season 2 premiere when she used a little focused flirting to get the mechanic to do the work for less without going too far. She toyed with Arthur Case in Season 2 as well before finally sleeping with the drunk gent at the bar. I can't help but think she might begin using her skills more and more.

• I really thought the show was setting us up for Don to somehow assume total control of Sterling Cooper or to go out on his own. (The latter causes tons of problems in terms of the ensemble cast, I know.) So I found it interesting that the agency was able to lock Don down, for three years at least. And I love that the thing that saved Don from Duck's reign resurfaces to Don's chagrin the same night that Duck gets the upper hand with Don's girl (and her whiskey breath). Hmm, I thought Duck was a gin man?

• Speaking of Peggy-Duck, where does this go? Was it a one-time thing? We have seen Peggy fine-tuning her one-night-stand skills. Based on her interaction the next morning with Don, I think she's still loyal to Sterling Cooper. But will Duck continue to seduce Peggy (professionally or personally)?

• Line of the night, though tough to choose: Don, responding to Connie's critique that he was late and didn't have a Bible of family photo on his desk: "Maybe I was late because I was spending time with my family reading the Bible."

• Finally, isn't it time that Don learns to stop running off with strangers? I have already spoken about how he opens up to random people, but his moment with the young lovers/robbers reminded me of his time in Palm Springs, only with violence instead of Mexican food. Like much of the rest of episode, it seems like Don can't just get away with being Don anymore.

What did you think of the episode?

Watch our 60-second recap of "Seven Twenty Three":
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How does a TV show follow perhaps one the best episodes ever in its run? If it's Mad Men, it does so by only getting better. I'm sure many will argue that this episode didn't pack the same punch as the previous one — there was, after all, no mowing over of an ad exec's foot. But in the same way I laughed through the over-the-top horror last week, I found myself compelled by the intricacies of this week's mini-bombshells, the ones whose seeds were planted early this season and are just now blooming.

The jaw-dropping blood spray was replaced with an unsettling narrative structure. The show settled for quiet-but-powerful one-liners ("I don't want to have any more contact with Roger Sterling") and cold stares instead of screaming secretaries and fainting copywriters. Gone was the roaring John Deere engine, and in its place Betty silently swoons while thinking of a man other than her husband.

Mad Men
doesn't get much better than this... read more

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Premiered: July 19, 2007, on AMC
Rating: TV-14
User Rating: (1,142 ratings)
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Premise: A look at the high-powered world of advertising in 1960s New York City, from the boardroom to the bedroom.

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