Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mad Men Season 1, Episode 9: Shoot

We open on a pastoral scene of life in the country. Just another quiet, bucolic day in paradise.  Betty, the kids and Polly out in the back yard, their neighbor setting free his pigeons to fill the bright blue sky.  So serene.

On a night out on the town seeing a Broadway show, Don is being wooed by McCann Erickson, one of the bigger advertising agencies in Manhattan.  Jim Hobart puts the hard sell on Don who for the most part seems flattered but uninterested.  When Jim's wife Adele asks Don to join her to get cocktails, Jim chats with Betty.  He asks if she were an actress and she blushes, saying she's "just a housewife" before adding that she used to do some modeling.  Jim keys in on her false modesty and mild self-deprecation and recognizes that this is something she is proud of and misses.  He suggests she (with her Grace Kelly looks) might be perfect for a campaign his agency is doing for Coca Cola and he gives her his card.

Betty had been a model, in Manhattan, when she met Don.  She tells Francine about this (and I'm more than a little surprised she hadn't dropped this nugget earlier to her best friend) also mentioning that she spent a summer in Italy after college.  She used to model for an Italian designer and she still has some of the outfits he made for her.  So Betty still keeps a piece of her past around (and after two kids, the dress still fits!).

When Don gets into work, there's a package waiting for him.  It's a towel from the New York Athletic Club along with a membership pass and a note from Jim Hobart welcoming Don to the club.  That's not all he wants to welcome Don to...Jim is so subtle. Don calls Jim and they dance and parry a bit, Jim the determined suitor, Don the reluctant catch.  Don makes it clear that he's not all that interested,  referring to accepting Jim proposal as "waving the flag." But Jim makes a great offer - $35K a year with a three-year contract.  Money and stability, what more could Don want?

Betty talks to her therapist about the offer and we get a little more of her, and Don's, back-story.  She was a model, he was a copywriter for a fur company and he had asked her out.  She turned him down, but three weeks later he sent her the fur she had been modeling and this time she agreed to go out with him.  Within no time, she was engaged, pregnant, and her modeling days were behind her.  She moved to the 'burbs and suddenly felt very old.  With mild encouragement from her therapist, Betty delves more deeply into some of the baggage she still carries about her looks and weight.  Her mother had worried about Betty being too heavy and was constantly monitoring her weight.  But once she became a svelte, beautiful model, that didn't satisfy her mother either.  She called her a prostitute.

Instead of saying, "go on," or "tell me more," as he normally does Dr. Wayne goes out on a limb and directly suggests to Betty that she is angry with her mother.  This gets quite a rise out of Betty.  She is not at all prepared to admit that!  Instead, she gets angry with her therapist.  She accuses him of not listening to her and provoking her.  She's not angry with her mother, she says.  She was just doing what she thought was best.  She wanted her daughter to be beautiful so she could find a man.  But the problem, as Betty sees it, is that finding a man is not the end all and be all of a woman's existence.  After you find him, marry him, buy a house in Upstate NY and have two children...then what?  Betty is about as unfulfilled as a person can be and she sees no way to fix this.

Not at all subtly, the next image we see is of Jacqueline Kennedy, speaking Spanish, helping to get votes for her husband's campaign.  Like Betty, she was the pretty girl who went to college, she studied abroad, and married a handsome man.  But rather than sitting at home and smoking and waiting to die, which is what Betty feels she is doing, Jackie is out hitting the campaign trail and working on a common goal with her husband.  Perhaps this spurs Betty's later decision?

There is more talk at Sterling Cooper about the upcoming election - Nixon currently holds a commanding lead and probably won't ask for their help unless something changes.  No one, with the possible exception of Pete, sees Kennedy as much of a threat and they all think that women will HATE Jackie.  O, how wrong they were!

Don comes home (after getting in a dig at Peggy - his "girl" who's spending her time on her other work and is now not pulling her weight at his desk) and Betty wants to talk to him about taking up Jim Hobart on the offer to model for Coke.  Don reminds Betty that she used to say she hated modeling, but she really wants to go back.  She can get someone to watch the kids.  Don can tell Betty has made up her mind and that it really doesn't matter what he says.  He acknowledges that he can't stop her from doing what she wants to do.

Peggy has been looking like she put on a few pounds and today it's confirmed as she splits the seam on her skirt at work.  Joan helps her out with a spare outfit and Peggy now needs to bring not just an extra shirt, but an extra skirt (preferably with an elastic wasteband) to work.  And maybe cut down on the danish.  AKA...filler scene that better pay off later!

Roger comes into Don's office carrying a golf bag and it's not because it's almost tee time.  Jim Hobart has launched his second offensive (third if you count the offer to Betty). Roger doesn't want to lose Don, so he makes sure Don knows he's appreciated, telling him he's one in a million. Roger tries to discourage Don from considering Jim's offer and Don suggests that there might be some things that a firm like McCann Erickson could offer that he can't get where he is now.  In a nice, if obvious, piece of staging, the camera pans back as Jim's golf bag filled with enticement looms between the two.

The Greek chorus comment on Don potentially leaving Sterling Cooper - Pete would be happy to see him go, Paul hopes Don takes him with him and Harry wonders how much money they're offering him.  They also weigh in (see what I did there?) on Peggy's recent physical transformation, some attributing it to work and stress, others positing that she had slimmed down to get her job and this is the real Peggy.  Pete has the cojones to say, "who thinks about her?"  Well, you for one, Pete. 

Betty is in the waiting room with the other models and she looks terribly out of place, dressed for a 50's debutante ball while the others are looking slightly more modern.  She meets the art director and goes in for a tryout.

Pete and Harry are reminiscing about old college days and Pete tells him a story about how his frat blocked another frat's party by monopolizing the area and suddenly Pete gets a great idea for how to help one client, Secor Laxatives, while indirectly benefiting another, the Nixon campaign.  They buy all the ad time in the key states and there's nothing left for Kennedy to buy.  Again, Pete is showing some clever, out-of-the-box thinking.

Betty looks ecstatic sitting for the Coca Cola shoot and she is beaming when Don comes home, telling him how great the day worked out for everyone.  See, a mother can have it all!  That is, if the mom conveniently doesn't notice that her daughter is upset and not eating her dinner.  Or until the daughter jumps into bed saying she's afraid the neighbor is going to shoot the dog.  That's when Don and Betty find out about the scene we saw earlier (while Sally and Bobby were being babysat by the inattentive Ethel), when Polly went after one of the neighbor's birds and he threatened to shoot the dog if he saw her in the backyard again.  So, of course Betty is faced with it being her fault (and not the psycho neighbor or the lackadaisical babysitter) that Sally is afraid and worried.  If she only stayed home like a good wife, none of this would have happened.  She assures Don that the kids will be in good hands tomorrow, with Francine, and that she'll handle the neighbor.

The next day at the office starts with a creepy scene of Paul, Harry, and Pete each taking turns lavishing praise on Don, only to be interrupted by Roger and Bert.  They think Bert has come in to lambaste someone for the Secor Laxative commercial buying spree, and Harry is ready to take the fall with Pete reluctantly chiming in...only it turns out that Bert and Roger loved the idea, think it was inspired. Don congratulates them on the idea and everyone celebrates.  Pete celebrates too much, or lets it go to his head too fast, and in no time he is being sexually inappropriate with his long-suffering secretary and this manages to creep out even Paul. 

Don gets another package marked personal, and it's also from Jim Hobart.  It contains stills of Betty's shoot for the Coke ad with a note to call Jim.  But rather than inspire Don to consider the move, it pushes him into the waiting arms of Sterling Cooper.  Don goes over to Roger's office, manages to negotiate a very nice raise for himself, and commits to staying put without a contract.  He knows that this means Betty will not get the commercial for Coke - is that the reason he's doing this or is it something else?  Was he really turned off by Jim's using Betty to get to Don, was that what he meant when he told Roger that he liked they way they do business?

The scene between Peggy and Joan (dealing with Peggy's recent weight gain) is brilliant as is the revelation at the end - that Joan is trying to be helpful to Peggy.  She sees Peggy gaining weight and she thinks that Peggy is ruining her chances of getting a guy.  Joan cannot fathom that Peggy has any other agenda for being there, working hard, and expanding into copy-writing.

Betty gets the news that she won't be getting the commercial work for Coca Cola and while the art director does a great job of letting her down gently, she's still devastated.  This meant so much to Betty and having it, then losing it, is another blow for her to take.

Just a few minutes earlier, Pete was being a complete ass hat to his secretary, leering at her, making veiled sexual overtures, otherwise behaving like the consummate creep.  Then Ken makes a couple tacky comments about Peggy and Pete cold cocks him.  Was Pete only defending his own honor, or was he also putting Ken in his place for being so vulgar and insulting?  The fight continues for just a few seconds (while Don and Roger walk out, ignoring the melee) before Paul brings to two together to shake and make up. 

When Don gets home, Betty has dried her tears and is back in Susie Homemaker mold.  She looks perfect, with a home-cooked meal waiting for him, the children already tucked into bed.  Betty lies to Don and tells him that the day's shoot went very well but that she's decided that she doesn't really want to go back to work.  Don does not let on that he has any inkling that this may not have been her decision.  She tells Don that she rather be there for him, making his dinner and taking care of him.  Don tells her none of that is important (he probably thinks he's helping, but I'm not sure he is).  But he does add that her job is to take care of Sally and Bobby and that she's great at that and how he would have loved to have a mother like her.  Well, Don hasn't had much to compare her against, so I'll cut him some slack.  I can't imagine this will satisfy Betty and she is the same person who told Dr. Wayne how unfulfilled she was as just a mother, so it looks like repression and denial are in her future.

The next morning, Don heads off to work after hearing about the fun day (I just typed that as gun day, Dr. Freud!!) Betty and the kids are going to have.  Betty makes their breakfast, takes them out, does some laundry, picks up a shotgun and shoots the neighbor's pigeons

If ever there wan an iconic shot from Mad Men, it's pretty blonde Betty, in her nightgown, with a cigarette, taking aim at the pigeons.  She may not be what she wanted, she may have had her dream taken away from her and she may be stuck just being a housewife, but do not think you can push Betty Draper around. 


Jim Hobart:  Your name came up.
Don: Three millionaires in towels in a steam room?  I don't know how to take that.
Jim:  Take it as a compliment, a sign that you're destined for greater things.

Jim:  All I'm saying is you've done your time in the farm leagues. Yankee stadium is on the line.

Jim: Besides getting the handsome prince, are you an actress or something?
Betty: No, I'm a housewife.  I did do some modeling a lifetime ago.
Jim: I'm not surprised.  That is some face you've got there.  Anybody ever tell you you're a dead ringer for Grace Kelly?
Betty:  They used to.

Betty: Am I that wrong for Coca-Cola?
Don: You're not wrong for anything.

Betty: He basically said the man was trying to sleep with one of us, and he didn't like the idea of either.

Jim: Eventually you come up here or you die wondering.

Betty: I think it would be fun to go in and be that girl again.***
Don: Well, I can't stop you from doing what you want to do.

Don (to Betty): Don't worry, I'm not going to ruin this.  I'm very happy for you.

Don: If I leave this place one day it will not be for more advertising.
Roger: What else is there?
Don: I don't know.  Life being lived?  I'd like to stop talking about it and get back to it.
Roger: I've worked with a lot of men like you, and if you had to choose a place to die it would be in the middle of a pitch.
Don: I've done that.  I want to do something else.

Peggy:  I know what men think of you. That you're looking for a husband, and you're fun, and not in that order.
Joan: Peggy, this isn't China.  There's no money in virginity.

Don (to Betty):  I would've given anything to have had a mother like you.  Beautiful, and kind, and filled with love like an angel.


Fiorello! the play that the Drapers and the Hobarts were seeing was running at the Broadhurst Theatre before its Broadway run.  It won the Tony as well as the Pulitzer Prize and the lead was none other than Richie Cunningham's Dad, Tom Bosley.  It was based on the former mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia, a Republican, as he took on the Democrat political machine of Tammany Hall that controlled the city at the time.

We know that Sterling Cooper is one of the smaller firms and that they have trouble competing with the larger ones like BBDO, so it was a sign that Don Draper is making a name for himself that representatives of three of the biggest firms were all talking about him.  Jim Hobart says that Don is destined for greater things. 

The parallels between Betty's mom who was worried about her weight and Joan worrying about Peggy's are pretty obvious.  Both women come from the old school that a woman's job is to find a husband and anything not in furtherance of that plan - like getting fat - is a mistake.  Neither woman imagined that Betty or Peggy could want anything else out of life and both probably thought they were being helpful in their criticisms.  Betty feels powerless and resigned to living a meaningless life, but Peggy seems to have some spunk and to want more. 

Possibly because of the message sent at this time in American culture, Pete thinks he should be this Lothario, flirting with and conquering the women around him.  He wants to be that guy, but he's not.  He's not debonair and sexy, he's just an awkward little weasel.  Trudy loves him, but also emasculates him.  Only Peggy gives him what he wants - to be looked up to and respected and desired.  But he is only interested in her if she's meek and subordinate.

Great small moments involving Pete.  First, when he thinks he's in trouble for his idea on buying TV time for Secor only to find out that Bert thinks it was a brilliant idea.  Basking in the compliment, Pete rises from the meeting in Don's office, looking smug, and says, "are we done here?" only to have Don dismissively respond, "No" forcing him to sit back down. Then Pete is in his office celebrating his big moment and he tries to woo his secretary only to be shot down in front of the guys.  Finally, when Don goes to talk to Roger and Roger reassures him that despite this small triumph, "I can give you my assurance that nothing good will happen to that boy, though I can't seem to keep my word on that, hard as I try."

The episode is about power, ultimately.  Don has it when he is being courted by other firms and parlays that power into a better deal for himself at work.  Betty used to have it with her looks and now she feels like she has nothing.  Pete wants it and will never get it, finally trying to exert his masculinity with a punch in the face.  He has great ideas at work, but that doesn't seem to satisfy him as he'll never be Don.  Betty acts out on her powerlessness as "just a housewife" by taking aim, literally, on her neighbor's pigeons.

Betty's mother called her a prostitute for being a model

Time warp: Betty using "gay" for happy and upbeat, in saying "very gay songs."  

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