Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Double Tapered Style

That video just works itself, which gave us really all of November to focus on things that might be considered work related. And that's kept us from trying to offer opinions on whatever happened with the past four Nebraska Football Games. But seriously, the real question we have right now regarding the Huskers is, What the hell did Cody Glenn get suspended for?

One of the more intriguing things about Bo Pelini's first year as the new sheriff in town is how he's handled the media. And one week ago, during his normal Tuesday Press Conference, Pelini stood up in front of his sheep and dropped a bomb that nobody saw coming: Former Running Back turned Linebacker Cody Glenn was suspended from the team indefinitely. All indications are that he's gone for the year. But for what?

Glenn had played remarkably well for somebody who switched positions during his senior season, so much so that there was serious speculation that he could be a mid-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was one of the great stories of this team going into the Kansas State game.

And still, after a week, where WE'VE asked anyone and everyone, and other members of the media have patrolled nearly ever bar in Lincoln, nobody can uncover the truth. The rumor mill has been working overtime, and we've heard every possible story. None has any merit. Frankly because Pelini has his staff and team so buttoned up on the situation that nothing has come out. Which in this day and age, is just insane.

All Pelini is on record about the situation is that Glenn violated team rules. But what rule would lead to a Senior starter getting suspended indefinitely? Which makes everybody think it had to be something really bad.

Pelini didn't have his weekly presser today, which means he could dodge any questions about Cody Glenn for another week with no game this weekend. If it's a simple "violation of rules", you'd think Pelini would address the situation again one week from today and say the Glenn would be activated for the Colorado game, which is the last home game for the seniors. Imagine the seniors getting introduced prior to the game and there's no sign of Cody Glenn. Wouldn't that suggest the kid did some serious shit?

Obviously he didn't go LP on somebody, or Andy Christensen, because there would be a police report and nobody would have to rely on Pelini to get the scoop. But nobody has anything on Glenn. At least nobody in the know is talking about it. Yes, some players paid tribute to Glenn during the K-State game with "shout outs" to him via their sets of eye black.

The smart money is on Pelini making a statement by suspending Glenn for doing something minor. And if that's the case, he has to at least activate him for the Colorado game and give him a chance to return to starting linebacker for the bowl game. If Glenn's still suspended next week, this story stinks to the heavens. Even after the Lawrence Phillips fiasco, Osborne gradually brought him back to the point where even HE got to start in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, give NFL scouts something to think about, and leave early for a shot at the pros. And LP went Spiderman on an apartment building, breaking into an old girlfriends apartment (a player for the University Women's Basketball Team no less) with the team's future starting quarterback hiding in a closet. And oh by the way, pulled the woman's hair down a flight of stairs for good measure. Even he got a second chance.

So if you don't see Cody Glenn at Memorial Stadium (on the sidelines, in uniform) next Friday, something aint right in Denmark. He did something more than shit his pants in Vegas.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nebraska/Oklahoma Week, Part 2

The 10-year Anniversary of the 1995 Nebraska Cornhusker Football team, considered by many to be the greatest college football team ever, served as the backdrop for another "classic" moment in the Nebraska/Oklahoma "rivalry". Even though the game featured future NFL phenom Adrian Peterson, it's mostly remembered for a coach going to the throat slash card on national television and spending the rest of the following week denying that it ever happened.

Oh but it did, Billy C, it did.

2005 -- Oklahoma 31, Nebraska 24: Two years after this game, some Nebraska fans would look you in the eye with all seriousness, and argue about how this game should go down as a Nebraska victory. There was some merit to this, as in July, 2007, the NCAA ordered Oklahoma to "vacate" all of it's 2005 victories. That decisions was wisely overturned in February of this year, because seriously there's nothing worse than having Husker Fan swear up and down that they should have had an extra victory in 2005. You just can't win that argument.

Neither could Callahan, after acting surprised at anyone who brought up the "throat slash" he blatantly did during the 4th quarter of this game against the Sooners. My favorite part of that short video clip is seeing Kevin Cosgrove walk up to Callahan, trying to look interested with that playbook stuffed smack down the middle of his pants. It might have been the only time Grover acted inspired all day.

The Sooners did have Adrian Peterson, who would run for 146 yards against Cosgrove's complex traps. Nebraska had Cory Ross gaining 21 yards on 10 carries. The Huskers did also discover that they had a real find though at Quarterback in Junior College Transfer Zac Taylor. Billy C would ask Taylor to put the ball in the air 45 times against Stoops and Company. And Nate Swift, who THIS year is setting all sorts of career receiving records, had 9 catches for 116 yards. So things were actually looking up for Callahan and company.

But the idea is to actually win the game, something the Huskers couldn't do after falling behind by 21 points. For the 2nd straight year against their hated "rivals", Husker fan would have to be content in their team not backing down.

And for the 2nd year in a row, they'd have to come to terms with another bizarre incident involving their head coach.

Of course, this being just year 2 of the Callahan Experiment, defending Callahan came rather easily to some Husker fans (look at some of these old comments on that you tube video for proof, most of them say, "That's how I reacted after that play" or something like that). It wasn't the Throat Slash itself that caused such a ruckus. Watch the video again. Callahan actually catches himself first a few seconds before going through with the gesture. Which means he had a brief moment of clarity where he KNEW he shouldn't pull off that gesture. Then he said, "Oh, fuck it", and went ahead and did it anyway.

Again, this part defines Callahan at Nebraska. There was that little part of him that knew somebody would see this, or it would cost his team a penalty, or golly, that Osborne fellow is actually here at the game celebrating some team from 10 years ago and he certainly wouldn't tolerate this behavior. And then there was the "Oh, fuck it" part of Billy C. We'll admit, sometimes that "Oh, fuck it" part was what wanted us to see if he couldn't actually work out with Nebraska longer. Because sometimes the "Oh, fuck it" card comes in handy.

But then Callahan had to face his weekly comrades at this Tuesday Press Conference. By then, the video was everywhere. The game was nationally televised on ABC. It was Oklahoma/Nebraska, which always gets attention no matter how badly the teams are playing. The very first question Billy C was asked on Tuesday was about that video posted above.

"What throat slash?" Callahan responded. "I don't remember any throat slash. What are you talking about."

If only we could find the audio of that press conference. The tone in Callahan's voice compared to what Pelini's been offering on a weekly basis this season. The difference is just remarkable. Callahan knows he's lying when he says this, knows it's out there, and you can just hear it in his voice. But somehow, he flat out denies it ever happened.

Nebraska would go on to their first Bowl Game under Callahan that season, beating a pretty good Michigan team in a rather entertaining Alamo Bowl. In Billy C's eyes, it was a successful season. Maybe even a sign that things were on the right track.

Yet Callahan's eyes don't think that throat slash ever happened. Which is fine, because thousands of Husker Fans are still getting to sleep at night convincing themselves that Bill Callahan, Head Coach, Nebraska Football, never happened either. .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nebraska/Oklahoma Week, Part 1

The Nebraska/Oklahoma "rivalry" gets the revisit treatment all week long, and of course everyone is pointing out the rich ties between Bob Stoops and both Carl and Bo Pelini. As another World Series winds down (one that might not be over by the time Saturday's NU/OU game becomes final), "Oklahoma Week" becomes one of talk about the rivalry everyone wants it to be, or wishes it once was. Not to gush on sentimentality (and really, the major games have and will continue to be covered to death), but there are some forgotten nuggets in this rivalry that are worth revisiting.

2004 -- Oklahoma 30, Nebraska 3: The last time Nebraska played in Norman, Oklahoma, during a season and era everyone would just as soon forget. And for many reasons. This was the game that to Husker Fan was like watching that hot ex-girlfriend have sex with a guy you know at that moment had everything over year. Yes, Bo Pelini, the guy everyone wanted as Husker Head Dog, was helping coordinate a defense for the Sooners that was hell bent on shutting out Nebraska. This was less than a year after Pelini was passed over (or depending on the story, not even considered) for the Nebraska job, despite openly campaigning for it. Nebraskans wanted Bo, he wanted them, but the guy in charge wanted...well, shit, he really didn't know who he wanted. He certainly didn't want Bo. So he waited until Al Davis fired this short Irish guy who resembled the Bridges Brother who didn't play The Big Lebowski. The one who turned all of the Oakland Raiders against him, but damn if he didn't have the biggest playbook in the world. And oh by the way, he's got Kevin Cosgrove to take care of whatever defense they might need.

Did we mention that Billy C had a Quarterback with little interest or skills in directing this West Coast Offense? But Callahan would make him shovel out the shit anyway?

Oklahoma was a 30-point favorite, and it certainly looked like we'd have a push as Pelini and Company were on their way to a 30-0 shutout with 33-seconds left in the game. The Sooners got tagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as the Huskers were set to run out the clock with the ball deep in their own territory. Why did Oklahoma get a flag? Too many "Hillbillies" were throwing oranges onto the field, which allowed the Corn start at their own 28-yard line instead of their own 13. No big deal, as Joe Dailey and this merry group of misfits couldn't muster up anything against Pelini's game plan.

Then out of nowhere, on a fullback trap play of all things, Steve Kriewald (seriously, Steve Kriewald) busts through for a 48-yard gain. And Callahan gets the Huskers in line as if they were on their way to a game-winning score. He hurried the offense along, called for a run play to get the ball in the center of the field, and made poor Joe Dailey try one last pass attempt to get closer to pay dirt.

And here's where one would get the impression that Callahan had money on this game (and if he did, he could always go to the Pete Rose argument of saying he was betting on his own team and taking the points). As only 1-second remained on the clock, he hurried his kicking team on to the field so that David Dyches could kick a meaningless field goal as time expired.

Vegas went crazy. Husker fan took some bizarre satisfaction in NOT getting shutout by a far superior Oklahoma team. A little "at least we didn't get completely blown out" mentality.

What everyone remembers from this fiasco, of course, was everyone throwing oranges on the field in hopes that the Sooners were Orange Bowl bound (home of the BCS Title Game that year, Oklahoma was 10-0 and ranked 2nd in the BCS poll after the game). Orange fruit flew all over the field, causing confusion to Billy C and his big-ass playbook. I still maintain that Callahan had no clue why anyone, at the end of a football game, would have pause to even think to throw oranges on to a field. Especially in November (remember back to Callahan's first year, he was quite puzzled with many a tradition at the collegiate level).

Noticing the oranges littering the field, Callahan uttered one of his finest quotes as Husker Head Coach to one of his assistants, overheard by many players and media folk.

"Fuckin' Hillbillies."

Legend suggests he actually got close enough to some OU fans and actually said, "You guys are a bunch of fucking hillbillies", but it was the "Fucking Hillbillies" line that became his slogan. In fact, the slick Billy C didn't even deny saying it, and actually APOLOGIZED for using the phrase at the following Tuesday's press conference.

There were Champs Bowl representatives at the game checking the Huskers out for crying out loud. What sort of impression was this for Callahan to leave on these fine citizens?

The two things that somehow sum up the bizarre Bill Callahan era at Nebraska: Hurrying up to kick a meaningless field goal against the coach who would one day replace him; and "Fucking Hillbillies", not so much that he said it, but that he admitted to saying it. Because one year later, the whole world would witness another Callahan incident during the OU/NU game in Lincoln, something he would deny doing for the next three years. But we'll get into that game tomorrow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency

"I sell products, not advertising." -- Don Draper, during tonight's Mad Men Season 2 finale, one with so many water-cooler moments any spoilers will be out before anyone makes it to work in the morning.

Don Draper is the ultimate salesman. Nobody works a room like him. We learned through flashbacks this season that he used to sell cars for a living, and was so great at that he was able to make enough money to keep his "widow" on his payroll. Don has landed more accounts for the Sterling Cooper advertising agency than any Account Executive. He saved the Lucky Strikes account in the series pilot, and most famously closed the deal that brought in Kodak. As Alice Cooper (Bertram's sister, not the rock star) noted last week, "Don's very savvy." Don was the only one to immediately pick up on Peggy's new haircut for crying out loud. You would think Duck Phillips, for all of his jealousy and personal vendetta he has against Draper, would understand the importance of Don Draper at Sterling Cooper. Roger spends most of his time chasing the hot young Secretary, and Bert makes an occasional figurehead experience.

Duck's been reaching the boiling point with his frustration in making a big impact at Sterling Cooper for sometime. And out of all of the great scenes tonight, my favorite had to be the poker game that Duck played in the conference room, Duck on one side of the table with the new British owners, Don on the other end with Bertram and Roger. Duck and Don had their aces up their sleeves, but Duck was blindsided by two very important things: Don knew about Duck being named President; and most importantly, something we the audience have know for sometime, Don Draper doesn't have a contract. So Duck got his head handed to him, as Draper was playing with house money. "If the world is still here on Monday," Don says as he leaves the meeting, "We can still talk." Duck's been back on the bottle for a few episodes now, and his inability to hold his liquor contributed to his temper tantrum following Don's exit. Nobody knows who will be running the new Sterling Cooper, but we know one thing for certain: It will not be Duck Phillips.

As anyone into Mad Men surely realizes, not all story lines get tied up nicely. But there were two biggies that had to at least be addressed tonight. The obvious one being Don and Betty somehow getting back together, and the other regarding Peggy's baby. We'll deal with Peggy first, because her storyline set-up a scene between her and Pete that will surely go down as one of the greatest in this series short history, one that will warrant major recognition for Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser.

You could never tell how Pete would eventually find out about knocking Peggy up, her having the baby and giving it away. But the entire storyline regarding Pete and Trudy this season and their fighting over adoption a child led you to think that somehow those story lines would cross. What I didn't see coming was Pete finally breaking down and professing his love for Peggy, even getting to the point of calling her "perfect". Pete and Peggy get an incredible scene together in Pete's office (on the very couch where they wildly had sex early one workday last season, which was also a nice tough). It's a long conversation, one that allows for pauses. This is especially important for Peggy, who's had to keep so much bottled up inside of her through the season in order to keep her career on the fast track. Mostly inspired by Father Gill's continuation to unburden herself of her guilt, Peggy finally admitted to Pete what happened. Father Gill only appeared in three episodes, and it often seemed like he wanted Peggy to admit her secret to him. I'm glad it didn't work out that way, and the scene with Pete finally showed him to be more human, even allowing him to tear up when Peggy leave the office. The wonderful inter cutting between Peggy in bed later that night, relieve and smiling as she does the sign of the cross with Pete sitting alone late in his office with the rifle suggests the new differences between the two. Peggy is content with her professional life, and free from carrying around the guilt that plagued her outside the office. Pete with the rifle is startling. Remember, this show spent the better part of an episode this season ("Six Month Leave") surrounding suicide. Pete's lost both women in his life, after not exactly admitting that he loved Trudy when she left their apartment earlier.

"It must be nice, needing time and just taking it," Betty says sharply when Don finally comes back, literally hat in hand, to meet Betty at the stables. But unbeknownst to Don, Betty just learned she's pregnant, even though she doesn't have any idea "How that's possible". She continues to ride horses, smoke more cigarettes than Don on a normal day, and even orders a Gimlet at a bar while Don sits in his hotel room watching "Leave it to Beaver" with the kids. Part of Betty's growth during her separation with Don is that she's spent many times trying to actually walk in his shoes (remember last week, when she even endorsed his own checks). She had the manipulative revenge moment with Sara Beth, and tonight she wanted to see for herself how Don spent many a night. A gentleman who doesn't look that much different from her husband orders her a drink, and after first waving off his advances, she winds up in the Men's Room with him in the back of the bar (very convenient to have a nice couch at the ready in case such situations arise). She makes sure he understands this is a one-time thing. "I'm married," Betty tells her suitor as they enter the Men's Room.

Part of what makes Don an incredible salesman is how he picks up on things in preparation for his pitch. And he learned something from his California trip. Dick Whitman can go back to being Don Draper, let Betty move on without him, and go around and have affairs with the Bobbie Barrett's of the world without a care in the world. But Anna Draper helped him understand how he doesn't have to be alone. When Don writes Betty that letter -- the one that finally has her call Sterling Cooper ans ask him to come him -- he remembers all of this: "I understand why you feel it's better to go on without me, and know you won't be alone for long. But, without you...I'll be alone forever." The episode ends with Betts having to tell Don something. For a moment, you think she might admit to the affair, thinking that Don would finally do the same and they could officially move on. Instead, she simply offers, "I am pregnant." Jon Hamm gets his James Gandolfini moment here, where he can say so much with small facial expressions that suggest so many different emotions. We fade to black as Betty and Don hold hands, with the idea that they're at least going to give their family another try.

The back drop for the entire episode is the Cuban Missile Crisis, something many of us thought would be a part of this season. Those who lived through those 13-days in 1962 will tell you without exaggeration who absolutely terrified people were. It's a great way for Matthew Weiner to show how the main characters react to the news. The Don Draper who comes back to New York (at least the Don we see at Sterling Cooper), remains the center of calm. "Nobody really knows what's going," he tells Roger. The newly rich Roger, madly in love with Jane, can't believe Kennedy would ruin all of his fun, "Just when I was getting a second chance at life." Harry's big concerns are over how Kennedy's news bulletins will interrupt his programming and cost the agency money. And poor Pete. Just when he thinks it's the right time to proclaim his true feelings to Peggy, he spends his Friday night alone with that rifle, pondering his own demise.

Overall, what a season. Mad Men only has two completed seasons in the books, and both are like separate novels. What do Weiner and company do from here? Does he jump 2 more years to 1964, where Beatlemania is about to take America by storm? The one thing Weiner is on record about is how he doesn't want to deal directly with the Kennedy Assassination as that's been so over-played. The one thing that Duck did get right was about the future of television and the need to spend more advertising dollars with that medium. It's just too bad Duck won't be around to see any of this, at least not at Sterling Cooper.

I hope we haven't seen the last of Jimmy Barrett, and remember his "Grin and Barrett" television show has a 36-episode commitment, which would give the series at least a 2-year run. Could accidentally watching one of those episodes bring back further friction into the Draper marriage? I just don't want Jimmy's story to end with Don knocking him down at that bar in "Six Month Leave". That punch came from Jimmy's blunt "You're garbage...and you know it" confrontation to Don, and of course Jimmy telling Betty about Don fooling around with Bobbie.

There will always be such big questions regarding Don Draper. Will he ever let Betty in on the whole "Dick Whitman" story? Can he really go and give this family life a legitimate effort, even after seeing the Jet Set life isn't for him? Or will he grow bored after a while, like he did after just two episodes this season and giving in to Bobbie Barrett's evil charms simply for the reason that he could?

Another question (and again, on a show like Mad Men, something like this is completely possible): What if Pete Campbell really can't take working in the same place as Peggy Olson? A few weeks ago, audiences might have rooted for Pete to blow his head off right there. But after that tearful meeting with Peggy, Pete won over the audience.

The really big questions remains: When does AMC start season 3?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mad Men: The Mountain King

Spoilers regarding tonight's pertinent "The Mountain King" episode of Mad Men. But first to address those wanting to get into Mad Men for the first time. We've been asked a lot, "Which episode should I start with?" You can't just pick up somewhere in the middle (like, I don't know, say tonight's episode). Creator Matthew Weiner set up season 2 of Mad Men where you didn't have know everything from season 1 to get into the show, but you do have to watch from the season's first episode to enjoy and appreciate each episode. Weiner goes for character before plot, but he winds up balancing both impressively. So if you're new, start from the beginning -- hell, go back and start with Season 1 and then find time to let all of this season envelop you.

Mad Men has always been about identity, or in a lot of cases, lack thereof. It was summed up perfectly in the episode "Six Month Leave" by Freddy Rumsen, after he was fired from Sterling Cooper: "If I don't go into that office everyday, who am I?". Nothing spoke to this idea more tonight than Bert Cooper, and his reluctance to go along with the merger with those "Brits" Duck fell off the wagon with in last week's episode. Cooper wants no part of this change, but the money behind a lot of his success (his sister, appropriately enough named Alice Cooper) and a rather devil-may-care Roger convince him it's the only thing to do. But it makes Bert fear losing his own identity. Sure it's a nice payday for everyone, but like Freddy, if Bert Cooper doesn't come into that office everyday, even if for nothing other than to confuse a baby shower with a birthday party, what else is there?

Pete's clearly been looking to form his own identity from day one. He used the one trump card he had (his father-in-law's executive status with Clearasil) to land a big account. But tonight he was pushed further into adopting "someone else's child" by his wife. If Pete knew of the merger meetings going on behind closed doors, there's no doubt he wouldn't have stood up to his father-in-law's threat to "review" Clearasil. But looking to make his own mark, and not wanting "someone else's" child, Pete makes a critical error. The merger going through will leave somebody like Pete "up for review" as I'm sure we'll see next week, and just losing the only real account he's brought to Sterling Cooper can't bode well. Then again, Pete's an asshole, considering that it's a major miracle that he hasn't been spreading gossip about Don's absence since the California trip (of course, Peggy gave Pete the idea to not bring up such talk).

Betty's still looking for her own identity since she tossed Don to the curb. She even perfectly forges Don's name to endorse his checks. Betty's initial reaction to catching her 8-year old daughter smoking in the bathroom is, "You'll burn the house down!" Like everyone else, Betty doesn't know where Don is, or if he's coming back. But she did get her own sense of satisfaction as her planned meeting between Sara Beth and Arthur worked out exactly as she planned. You could tell Betty was just waiting to use the line, "There's a difference between wanting and having" when she got the chance with Sara Beth. Betty's reward to daughter Sally for smoking -- actually it was for becoming a "young lady", but a lot of it was guilt over how bad of a parent she's been -- is the pair of horse riding boots she's been wanting since episode one of this season. Sara Beth is a wreck, and Betty's still not sure what will happen with Don. But Betty will now parade Sally around when she sees her at the stables, just to rub it in as much as she can to Sara Beth.

Joan's situation is the worst, and easily the most unsettling. Her fiance Greg shows no interest in her sexually (and remember, this is JOAN we're talking about). Not until they can sneak into her boss's office. Joan's been at Sterling Cooper for 9 years, she knows how that place runs. Even the thought of having sex in Don Draper's office is forbidden. But it's the only way Greg thinks of her. He sees how well Roger knows Joan, and assumes she's tossed around the office. Greg raping Joan on the floor of Don's office is one of the most disturbing things we've seen on Mad Men. Since this is AMC and not HBO, it's not as graphic as the Dr. Melfi rape scene from the Sopranos, but there is a stunning close-up of Joan's face as she's raped, while she stares off at Don's coffee table and couch. Joan's not as young as Jane, at least not young enough to make Roger Sterling leave his wife Mona. Getting older meant she had to get married, and notice how even after that wretched scene she still brings up all of his "Doctorly" wonders. Joan isn't the marrying kind, she's certainly not one to put-up with someone like Greg. The fact that she was violated, especially in the work place where she's considered the Queen of the Castle, is something Joan Hollaway can't keep tucked away, Peggy style.

We've said all along that Peggy Olson has been Don Draper's hand picked successor. In a way, Don's been cloning himself through Peggy, personally and professionally. While Don continues his trip, Peggy gets her chance to be Don Draper. Everything she does to land the Pop Sicle account is vintage Draper. The way she describes how "Everyone cuts Popsicles in half, all year round" and likening it to "Christianity, behavior, not religion" sounded like something right after Don Draper's playbook. Peggy is as savvy as Don is business-wise. The night before the pitch to Pop Sicle, she walks around the darkened Sterling Cooper offices, smoking away. And after she lands the account "all by herself", she realizes her growing identity should be rewarded with the ultimate prize at that agency: Her own office (Freddy Rumsen's no less).

But the big story, as it always is with Mad Men, remains: Where the hell is Don Draper? He didn't go off with his Jet Set friends from last week, realizing that a life free of any obligations was too boring for him. He goes to the one person in this world he can be completely open and honest with. It's the woman he called last week from Joy's house, the woman we got to see briefly in a flashback from "The Gold Violin" episode. Her name is Anna Draper, the widow of the original Don Draper. She tracked Dick Whitman/Don Draper down by finding the person using her husband's social security card to get a driver's license. She's been on Don's payroll since she first tracked him down, to the point where we learn he even asks Anna for a "divorce" when we flashback to him telling Anna about meeting "Elizabeth" and how great her laugh is. Dick/Don goes to Anna because he's so lost. Lost from the unfulfilled promises he thought he'd get from the Jet Set. He can tell Anna things he could never tell Betty. But mostly, he needs help in finding his way. "I have been watching my life," Dick tells Anna. "I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it. I can't."

But Dick Whitman/Don Draper can actually drop any facade when he's around Anna. He fixes a chair of hers, something that would have come in handy at the Draper residence a few episodes ago. He can go out and talk to people without having to give them some life lesson pitch. He can stare in wonder as mechanics merge "two Buick's and a Pontiac." He even introduces himself as "Dick". And he sure loves the ocean. Anna Draper gets all of this from Dick Whitman because she's the only one who truly knows his secret. He can let his guard down to somebody. Anna even suggests he can have a life with Betty and the kids. "People don't change," he says back to her, in a moment that was both honest and Don Draper-esque. "I always felt that we met so both our lives could be better," says Anna. As "The Mountain King" ends, we can see Dick Whitman AND Don Draper allow their sins to be washed away.

Other Highlights from "The Mountain King":

  • We know we make the comparisons to The Sopranos a lot with Mad Men, but damn if Anna Draper didn't look and even walk like Svetlana, the one-legged Russian who was the straw that broke the back in getting Carmela to throw Tony out of the house. Like Dick/Don does with Anna, Tony certainly thought highly of Svetlana. And who else was reminded of Janice Soprano when Betty was on the phone with Sara Beth, taking such odd delight in her sadness?
  • "Let me tell you something," Peggy tells Ken and Sal when coming up with their Pop Sicle idea. "The Catholic Church knows how to sell things."
  • Yes, that was The Day The Earth Stood Still on television when Joan first initiated sex with Greg, the very same movie that's coming out as a re-make co-starring none other than Jon Hamm.
  • Bert looking for any sort of way to stop the merger: "You can't trust the Brits."
  • Peggy is so comfortable in her new office she explains how she got it to Pete: "I'm sleeping with Don. It's really working out."
  • Paul made it back from his trip in one piece, but got dumped by Shelia. He sees Peggy taking advantage of the opportunity in having Don away: "Why don't you just put on Draper's pants while you're at it?"
  • Roger really doesn't care what happens. Whoever asks about Freddy's office first gets it. Just get this little merger over with so he can move along with this life and not be late for dinner with Jane.

  • Alice telling Roger he has "two children to look out for." We learned tonight that it was Bert's widow who introduced Roger and Mona. So there are many reasons none of this sits well with Cooper.
  • Peggy had to pour Sal & Ken scotch into those cheap plastic cups, then endured the wrath of that bastard of a copy repairman. No wonder she wanted her office so badly.
  • No Duck Phillips tonight, even though his merger idea is in full swing. You can never predict what will happen on next week's season finale. This isn't the type of show that will neatly tie everything up, have Don come home to Betty and the kids with open arms, and make the world right again. Don isn't even shown in any of the preview's for next week's finale. We know we have a third season already ordered for this series. But what the identity of this show will be after next week is anyone's guess. And a big reason why we won't stop watching.

    Our Moneyball Movie Is Officially Happening

    Our long national dream, one that we first tried casting over two years ago, finally has the green light. We never thought of Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball, but now we can actually see him pulling off the role of the rascally rabbit who is the Oakland A's General Manager. And there's excitement over who's adapting Michael Lewis' classic into a script, but they need to re-think their choice of director.

    Steve Zaillian is slated to adapt the book into a screenplay, and really you can't ask for a better writer to do such a thing. But their choice to direct Moneyball: The Movie is none other than David Frankel. Before you get too excited, Frankel directed The Devil Wears Prada, and even worse, two episodes of Entourage (including the pilot, although we do have to give Frankel points for staying away from the train-wreck that's become Entourage since season 1). But this has to mean that Frankel is a big fan of Adrian Grenier, somebody who has no business being in any sort of movie like this.

    If Pitt's really on board, he's got enough pull to name his own director. And seriously, wouldn't David Fincher be fun for this? The only thing we insist is our original idea of Paul Giamatti playing Bill James. The only casting change that needs to made is for the role of Kenny Williams, now that Harold Reynolds has found consistent work. Our new vote is for La Monde Byrd, who most recently has been seen on Mad Men playing the roll of Hollis, the elevator man.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Game 7: Nebraska 35, Iowa State 7

    After next week's game, Joe Ganz will have finally played the equivalent of a full season. He's got 10 games under his belt (as a starter that is) after Nebraska beat Iowa State 35-7 today at Ames, and he's already thrown for 3,524 yards. Which is more than Gill or Frazier, more Vince Ferragamo. The most important thing is the Corn got a win today, even if it was against a team as awful as the Cyclones, but after losing 3 straight, you could tell afterwards that Pelini was relieved to finally get that win in conference play.

    Let's go back to Ganz. He was 27 of 37 for 328 yards, all of this despite having to listen to the Versus announcers complain the entire first half about how Ganz was "out of rhythm". Nebraska gets the Versus treatment next week, again at 11:30am. Versus is the former Outdoor Life Network, the home for the NHL. Days of Thunder, the movie known mainly for introducing Tom Cruise to Nicole Kidman, immediately followed the Nebraska/Iowa State game. We'll probably have Vanilla Sky after next week's Baylor game. This tells you all you need to know about the Versus network. I'm really surprised Andre Ware isn't calling some of the College Football games they carry. But get used to Versus, because that could be the network that will carry the Bowl Game Nebraska goes to (two more wins and they're in!).

    Unless this is continued proof that Shawn Watson and Ganz have some things figured out. The big phrase of the week to describe the "new" Husker offense was "Dink & Dunk". The quick, short passes that move the chains, keep the clock going, and keeps the opposing offense on the sidelines. The Huskers are doing more than that with Ganz. You still can't completely trust the offensive line, but from a confidence standpoint they did rack up some rushing yards. Nate Swift -- who, when his career at Nebraska is complete, is going to be remembered as one of the better receivers to have played here -- ran a reverse in the first quarter that could have been a huge ran if Ganz would have completed his blocking assignment on the play. So it's not a "Dink and Dunk" offense, they're keeping with doing whatever works with these kids.

    Remember, this isn't a very good Iowa State team at all. Yes a win on the road, especially a conference road victory, is harder to come by in this crazy year of college football. Baylor beat the Cyclones just as easily (38-10 at home) last week. I don't think Baylor's that much better than Iowa State, so if Pelini and company really want to keep things going they'll over-deliver next Saturday in Lincoln. There's no reason they shouldn't roll up an even bigger margin against Baylor. Because Pelini has everyone on board with everything.

    We mentioned in last week's post about the great theater that Pelini's press conferences have been. This week added a new wrinkle, as Pelini tried to keep things light around the media. He was Johnny Carson to the covering local media, who played Ed McMahon, laughing too-loudly at anything Pelini had to say. Some sounded like Max Cady, sitting in the front row of the movie theater watching Problem Child with Nick Nolte's concerned family in the back during Cape Fear. You had to think that Bo had a moment like Tony Soprano did during the "All Happy Families" episode of The Sopranos. Tony would tell the worst jokes during a poker game, only to have Paulie, Vito and Silvio fake laugh at him like it was the funniest thing they ever heard. There was even that creepy-slow motion shot we got from Tony's perspective, where T watched his employees belly laugh at his "Boring 747" joke. You have to think Pelini had a moment like this at his Tuesday Press Conference, where he could have made these yokels laugh at anything he said. And they did.

    After today's game, Bo was in a justifiably more relaxed and even pleasant mood. He commented on how badly his team "needed" a win. Pelini knew he had a great Texas Tech team beat last week, even out-coached Mike Leach. The moment Bo Pelini officially put his stamp on the Nebraska football program, where he became the Head Coach, came on that fake field goal attempt in the final minutes of the 4th quarter last week against Tech. After Leach pulled off that 4th and 5 out of his ass, thinking only to draw the Husker Defense offsides but wound up going for what could have been the deciding touchdown. Pelini calling for the fake field goal afterward, getting the touchdown to force overtime, shifted everything his way going forward. He wasn't going to be happy to just play a Top 10 team close on the road. That call let everyone know he was all in, and since then everyone's officially bought into his "system". Even though we know Bo hates giving things like "systems" a name.

    The other thing that has Pelini happier is his defense. He was embarrassed after the Missouri nightmare, and since then his defense has continued to gel and take shape. We knew going into the season that things would get better following Hurricane Cosgrove, if only because things couldn't have gotten worse than Grover Ball. The team still makes mistakes (how many fumbles did they have on that opening drive today? Wasn't it at least 3?), and the penalties have got to get under control (but they only had 4 today). But today was just about getting the win, getting in position to beat up on Baylor for next week.

    So how good is Nebraska? We still don't know. They could finish 8-4 and I wouldn't be surprised. The only game left that I feel totally confident in betting the farm on is the Kansas game in Lincoln (we'll get more into that when we get to that week's game). They're not a complete team, but they're finally showing signs of becoming the team that Pelini wants. And shit, right now, that's not bad.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Mad Men: The Jet Set

    As Roger Sterling would say, we don't want to get too deep before the cocktail hour, but there are only two episodes left of this rather brilliant season of Mad Men. And after tonight, some new shifts in the storyline make us wonder how things will play out over the next two weeks, especially since our main character is now obviously focused on reconnecting with his former identity to the point that he's officially searched out an old friend from his former life. (As always, spoilers follow for those who haven't seen "The Jet Set" yet.)

    Which is all the more interesting when you consider how everyone in this series has always been about "moving forward", especially tonight. I always draw similarities between Mad Men and The Sopranos, and we had a big one tonight. "The Jet Set" is the equivalent of The Sopranos "Kennedy & Heidi" episode from that series' final season (an episode ironically enough, co-written by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who also wrote "The Jet Set"). In "Kennedy & Heidi" Tony couldn't handle staying home to deal with everyone's emotions regarding the death of Christopher, so he, like Don Draper, runs away. Tony goes to Vegas, finds an old stripper girl friend of Christopher's, has wild sex with her, does peyote, and ultimately finds his own revelatory moment in the desert, ending that episode screaming "I get it!". It was enough to satisfy Tony to come home and accept his killing of Chrissy and deal with the world he created.

    Don Draper has always ran away whenever he found himself in a situation he couldn't "Draper" his way out of. In California, Don was to be all business, but "The Jet Set" shows us this was more of a vacation for him than anything else. Don meets a new, fascinating group of people, a group more well-off than Midge's beatnik friends from season 1. The nomads Don falls in with tonight are well-off enough to the point they can come and go as they please with no worries about money. This season has made many references to how "well-off" financially Don is, so the idea of running way with this care-free group appeals to him. He even meets an ideal companion in Joy (played by Laura Ramsey), who bears a striking resemblance to his wife Betty (and yes, that was January Jones playing the figure of Don's imagination early on to suggest the parallels). Joy may or may not be the answer Don's been looking for. He does wind up sending his suitcase back home, but Betty's house appears empty, and the delivery man can't find anyone there to take in Don's belongings. But Don's not completely ready to run-off with this new, attractive band of rich misfits, obvious in his final scene tonight. "Hello, it's Dick Whitman," he says to an unidentified person on the phone. "I'd love to see you. Soon."

    While Don stays in California, Pete, who initially wanted to take in some relaxation time on the trip only to find himself having to be all business while Draper drifted away, comes back to Sterling Cooper to find everyone moving forward. Roger's going through with his divorce, has Jane convinced to marry him, and Peggy's got a brand new look, thanks to one of the young copy-writers Kurt. You know...the one who we thought from episode 1 of this series might be, as Tony Soprano would say, a "little light in the loafers." Kurt has moved forward more than anyone at Sterling Cooper, announcing to a stunned group of of co-workers, "I'm homosexual. I make love to the men, not the women." Of course this is heart-breaking for Salvatore, who like Don has been forced to lead a double life. He's more stunned when he hears Ken -- the object of Sal's hidden interest earlier this season -- announce to everyone that he doesn't want to work with a "queer."

    And then there's Duck, who we've been suggesting all along is the biggest thorn in Don Draper's side. Now that Roger's moving forward full-tilt with the divorce, his lawyer warns him that his wife, "has the marriage license, and she wants to hurt you. I have a list of conditions, and an alimony that would support Rita Hayworth." Roger might really think that Jane will offer him the "life he's always deserved to have", but he's ignoring the fact that he'll be stunned financially. Duck sees this as his big chance. He meets with his old British colleagues, offering them the chance to buy Sterling Cooper on one major condition: Duck is named Don Draper's boss.

    While everyone tries to move forward, we finally see with Duck that this isn't possible unless he resorts to his dark past, namely the bottle. This is the first time we get confirmation that Duck is back to the booze -- and really, it's suggested he's been clean all season, until that meeting with the British ad men where Duck realizes he's actually better at his job when he's drinking. Duck even has a case of Tanqueray shipped to the office (brought in to him by none other than Joan of all people, and don't think for a second that she's not paying careful attention to all of this). Still drinking, Duck finally empresses Cooper and Roger, as he's finally become the person they thought they were hiring last season. Duck can't have the impact at Sterling Cooper without help from his drinking, and you know this isn't going to end well. But with Don away, Duck's plan is firmly in place: Being named head of creative in his brokered deal means that he can literally become Don Draper. And on a show where everyone's trying to be someone else, it makes perfect sense for Duck Phillips, who slowly realized this season that it was Draper who had been running things at Sterling Cooper (or at least getting too much credit).

    More highlights:

    • Roger encouraging Duck to go all Pac-Man Jones and go out and "make rain" if he really wants to show he's been worth bringing on to Sterling Cooper.
    • January Jones had a lot of heavy lifting to do over the past three episodes, and tonight we only got that brief shot of her at that bar in Don's vision in California.
    • Pete notices something different about Peggy when he returns home. Ken's response: "Kurt's a homo." Out of everything that hurt Sal, Ken's reaction to having a "queer" around has to hurt him the worst. It's not enough to have the young Smith come right out and announce his sexual preference in front of everyone, something Sal couldn't do. But then to learn Ken is repulsed by the whole thing, you have to worry about Sal.
    • Joan may have officially lost the interest of Roger, but the "straight" Smitty is clearly smitten by her. This might be the first time somebody younger than Joan has shown an interest in her, and it throws her for a loop.
    • Not sure why, but I don't buy the fact that Jane tells Roger that their souls are the same age. Perhaps it's her horrible attempt at poetry.
    • Poor Peggy: "I always pick the wrong boys," stating the obvious.
    • Don's fascination with Joy isn't at all surprising, considering that unlike Betty's father, Joy's dad treats her simply like a friend. He even walks in on them in bed together as if they were just sitting at the table having coffee. Joy even tells Don her father will take care of him because he's "beautiful and doesn't talk too much."
    • Don having that moment of clarity while watching the show on nuclear missiles. It serves as the moment that he goes from being Don Draper back to being Dick Whitman. It's never safe to make guesses on what happens next with "Dick Whitman" after that phone call, and my haven't we come a long way since the Jimmy and Bobby Barrett arc, but you have to think we'll get some resolution on who Don/Dick called at the end of "The Jet Set".
    • Even if Duck's boozing gets him what he wants (in particular, becoming Don Draper's boss), he'd still have to deal with the fact that he doesn't have Don's talents. Duck might be able to scheme with Don on leave, but he's still no match for a determined Don Draper in that office.