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'Mad Men': Secrets and lies

August 17, 2007 |  6:44 pm

Ah, so we’ve finally started to dig into the black-coffee-and-a-trenchcoat mystique that is Don Draper, our gimlet-eyed ladies' man, advertising visionary and owner of at least $5,000 in cash stashed in a locked desk drawer. “Mad Men” has been teasing us with tiny details, but Thursday’s show gave us the biggest peek into his past yet. The clues are admittedly baffling. Whatever the big deal is, it doesn’t seem to be as awesome as anything like a serial-killer twin brother who comes back from the dead. More like a really nice brother who would like to have lunch from time to time. Oh, the horror!!

So, yeah, Draper’s got a younger brother who looks not a bit like him. Adam, a strawberry blond man who works as a janitor in the Empire State Building, looks like he blew in from some North Dakota farm where everyone begins sentences with “Golly gee” or “I reckon.” He’s a grown man capable of delivering pleading lines like “Why did you leave me?” and for that I’m a little suspicious. Wasn’t there something just a little bit “Chuck and Buck” about this guy? A little too eager? A little too nice? Maybe I’m just on my guard because, at first glance, I thought Adam was Mike White.

The intrigue will surely keep mounting, but in the meantime, “Mad Men” is having fun elsewhere. Like with Pete Campbell, who has reclaimed his reputation as resident slimebag. After his coworker publishes a short story in the Atlantic Monthly, Campbell is in knots. In fact, Ken Cosgrove’s publication gets quite a few of Sterling’s denizens in a tizzy. And while another employee relies on a small bit of social sabotage to assauge his burning jealousy, Campbell is the only one to insist that his wife push one of his stories on her publisher ex-fiance, Charlie Fidditch.

And aren’t we glad that he did. Fidditch and Trudy's meeting burned a little hole in the screen. At first glance, I didn’t think Fidditch had it in him, but he delivered that stiff-suited “I want you now!” comment with sparkly-eyed heat. Trudy remained the faithful wife, much to Pete’s disappointment, and mine. “Mad Men” could use more of the steamy stuff. So far it’s been faux-passionate stage kisses screaming for a buttery sax solo in the background. Take the girdles off, “Mad Men.” I know it’s just basic cable, but you can do it.

More than ever before, Don’s jaunty but secretive Manhattan existence merged with his pale, strangely limpid family life. It renewed our faith in “Mad Men's" sophistication, mystery and sly humor. When Betty and kids come into the office for their portrait and Don’s nowhere to be found, Peggy panics in one of her ill-fitting dresses and turns to the hilariously calculating Joan. With cool repose, she milks Don’s secrets out in 10 seconds flat. With Peggy, Joan’s like a bored cat pawing a barely alive mouse. It's just so easy, but I love watching Peggy get a little claw in the back anyway.

--Margaret Wappler