Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mad Men Season 2, Episode 8: A Night to Remember

Betty blows off some steam by racing her horse to the point of exhaustion.  She later beats up an innocent chair.  She's got issues -- she knows that what Jimmy Barrett told her about their spouses is probably right -- but she's not ready to deal with that head on.  She's not the only one avoiding things.  Peggy goes to church because she feels she has to, but the new priest in town can tell she rather be somewhere else.  At Sterling Cooper, Harry would rather just do the job he envisioned when he created a media department than the daily grunge work that is actually involved.  Finally, Duck once again ignores that he has no ideas to contribute and Don ignores that Pete would actually be a better head of accounts than Duck.  By the end of the episode, everyone will face reality, right?

The horse got off easy after we see what Betty did to that poor chair.  She's not nervous about the dinner party, and she's not mad at the chair for wobbling, but this is many years before Lorena Bobbitt and she has no idea how to deal with her issues with Don directly.  So she lashes out at inanimate objects.

Peggy may not know her place in the congregation, but she knows where she stands professionally and when Father Gill asks for her help promoting a dance, she gives it.  She will not be bullied or cowed to softening the message - she knows what young girls want to see.  But she still agrees to hear what the people in charge of the dance have to say.  Of course, the clucking hens do bully her and force her to change the flyers.  They were too risque, the couples too close, the theme "a night to remember" too scandalous.

She comes up with a new, tamer approach, but Father Gill isn't done with trying to exert pressure on Peggy.  He uses their time to pester her about taking communion and otherwise confess her sins and ask for forgiveness.  I'm trying to pretend I'm at all interested in this storyline but failing miserably.  The only redeeming moment was Peggy's baptism in the bath at the end of the episode when you see how troubled she is by what the priest had said to her.  I also like how at the end of his day he pulls out his guitar, not to sing a traditional hymnal, but an old blues song asking god to lead him to the promised land. It reminds us that priests are people too.

Harry finds a goldmine in his efforts to get some help with his TV accounts.  Joan volunteers to read scripts and look for problems/opportunities.  She thrives under this additional responsibility and her creative juices provide some great results. Joan has a knack for this and she's thriving at having so much responsibility and room for creativity.   So, of course, in 1962, the buxom redhead who is doing a great job ... is passed over and the job is ultimately taken from her and given to a man.  It is a heartbreaking scene.  Harry doesn't mean to be a sexist jerk, but it never occurs to him that the best man for the job would be a woman.

Duck and Don spar a bit on how best to sell the Heineken clients.  Don suggests a strategy to get them into stores and Pete backs him up, but Duck is dubious.  For the millionth time, Duck is trying to sell Don on the client's ideas/concerns rather than be open-minded to Don's approach.  And Pete once again proves that he would have been a better choice for account manager than Duck.

The dinner party goes well.  Duck is a late addition and his sobriety wagon-riding makes the drinkers a bit uncomfortable, but he's there and that's what Roger wanted.  The guest of honor is Crab Colson, a friend of Don's, who is now with the PR firm Rogers and Cowan.  Roger and Mona are there and the Draper kids are their perfect selves, with Sally entertaining and Bobby being cute, until it's grownup time.  It's typical snooty bourgeois crap, the upper crust who drink too much and complain about how expensive their yachts are.  Duck, still trying to appear the teetotaler, doesn't engage in any pregame imbibing, while Crab's wife Petra is tipsy enough to walk into a wall and later fall off a chair.

So, as I was saying the dinner party goes well...until Duck notices that Betty is serving Heineken with dinner.  He figures Don must have put her up to it, to prove that his approach to Heineken is the right one (rich suburban wives will think it exotic, like Burgundy wine, and will buy it for the home). Betty is not amused and feels manipulated, a pawn in some game her husband is playing with this strange fellow from work.  She does not like to be played with like that.  As soon as the guests have left and Carla goes home for the night, Betty lays into Don.  And we the viewers know this has nothing to do with a social experiment or beer and everything to do with her knowing that Don is back to his cheating ways.

Finally, Betty lets it rip.  "I know about you and that woman."  Don's "whats?" have little effect on Betty, she knows what she knows and she knows that he'll deny, deny, deny.  He looks disgusted by her accusations, how could she even suggest he would sleep with "that woman?"  How could she believe what Jimmy Barrett said?  It's sickening watching just how well Don can spin lies and act like he believes what he's saying.  But for once, Betty is not buying it, she's not going to bury her head in the sand any more. "You embarrassed me."  She says it twice, for effect.  She's using active words and putting the blame squarely on his shoulders; it's something of a turning point for Betty who typically acts more like Don's child than his wife.  She knows not to engage Don in a debate, that he'd probably win and deflect attention from the truth. 

The next day Betty, zombie-like, can barely get through the day.  You see an empty bottle of wine on the nightstand and an empty wine bottle on the floor. She rifles through all of Don's pockets, looking for some evidence and the lack of any evidence only manages to make things worse.  Not only is he cheating, he's going out of his way to make sure she never finds out.  He's meticulous about his cheating.  But now she knows, so she has to do something about it.  By the end of the next day, she tells Don not to come home.

Don, the consummate salesman, who can pitch anything to anyone, can't sell Betty on the idea that he's a loving, faithful husband.  She's starting to realize that everything about Don being part of an act, a sales pitch of one form or another, even if she doesn't realize the scope of this.  She sees all the scraps of notes he has in his desk drawer symbolizing that wherever he is, whatever he's doing, he's busy thinking of an angle.  She doesn't feel that Don has any genuine feelings for her, at least no loving ones.  She doesn't see how Don compartmentalizes his life and puts inconvenient truths out of his mind.  He probably really does love her, as much as he can love anyone or anything at this point.  But he does not see that lying to her and cheating on her obliterates the love .


Don says, of housewives as a potential market for Heineken, "They can buy this sophisticated beer and proudly walk it into the kitchen instead of hiding it in the garage."  That harkens back to Season One when Don was drinking beer that they kept in a fridge in the garage rather than in the kitchen.

It's so sad to see Joan as the pretty bird who should just fluff her feathers, or at least set the table and grab her husband his water.  Greg wants the barefoot and pregnant wife, lounging on the sofa eating bonbons.  He'll settle for the office manager who "walked around with people staring at you."  But someone who reads scripts and comes up with ideas, that's not for his Joanie.  It's not just Harry and Greg who don't consider Joan for the job.  When Roger hears she's been the one helping Harry, it never crosses his mind that she should have the new job either.

Don's face during the meeting with the Heineken execs is priceless.  As Duck goes on and on about Don's beautiful, educated, perfect wife, and as the exec mentions how well Don seems to know his wife, you see just a hint that things are in a very fragile state between Don and Betty.  Also, when Don asks the execs, "Why would I lie?" we know the answer.  It's what Don does.

Cute moments: Peggy pretending to be her secretary when Father Gill called; Roger standing at the closed door of his office waiting for Harry to get it, the secretary's double take upon seeing a priest at the copy machine.  I also like the subtle bit where Pete stands in Don's office after hearing about the dinner party that he wasn't invited to and looks at Don, perhaps waiting for an invitation. Instead, Don looks at him, shrugs as if to ask why Pete is still there, and then Pete forlornly leaves.

Literary references:

Peggy mentions Horatio Hornblower and Moby Dick.  HH tells the story of a naval officer who rises from poverty to the top of his profession.  MD deals with issues of class and social status, good and evil, and obsession, fate and freewill.


Father Gill: I see you at church, but you don't seem very comfortable.

Harry:  There are things to do that I didn't know were my job.
Ken:  How could that be? You made that job up.

Ken:  You need someone to lay down on the barbed wire so you can run over them.

Roger:  Crab, Duck. Duck, Crab.

CYO rep:  I don't like the way they're dancing.  They're too close together.  Maybe leave some room for the Holy Ghost.

Peggy:  You're supposed to tell them that they should trust me.  That's your job.

Greg: I thought you just walked around with people staring at you.

Betty:   You just do whatever you want, and I put up with it because nobody knows.

Don: I don't want to lose all this.

Father Gill: There is no sin too great to bring to God. You can reconcile yourself with him and have a whole new start.


Years later when we wonder why Joan dislikes Harry, and why Joan is generally so pissed off about the hurdles she has to climb to get anything at the office, we can remember back to this slight.  She obviously had a knack for the job and should have been considered for it.  Instead, she was relegated back to the secretarial world where Harry thought she belonged. But Joan will fight to take a place at the boardroom for many years to come.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mad Men Season 2, Episode 7: The Golden Violin

"Afraid you'll fall in love?"

Interesting question to pose to Donald Draper.  Don has already given us his view on love - that it doesn't exist, that it was made up by admen like him to sell pantyhose, etc.  He tells Betty he loves her, loves the kids, yet does he really?  Can you do the things he does and really love the people who you're hurting by your actions?

The Golden Violin is the name of the story Ken Cosgrove asks Sal Romano to read and it's based on an actual violin he once saw at the Metropolitan Opera that was perfect in every way, except it didn't make music.  There are many things in this episode that reflect that concept.  Sal as a husband, for one.  Sweet, smart, talented, only he's not attracted to his wife.  Don as a husband, for another.  Great provider, successful, handsome, only he's not at all who he says he is and has no grasp on the concept of loyalty.  Roger's marriage, for a third.  Twenty some-odd years, one daughter, he and Mona appear to have everything, only Roger is not faithful to his wife.  Nor is he in love with getting older.

As Don looks for a car to replace the one he wrecked while driving with Bobbie Barrett, he flashes back to when Don was himself a used car salesman, circa 1952.   He's glib and comfortable, a real go-getter, but without the cocky air he now has as he glides through the Sterling Cooper office.  Don's about to be rattled, as a woman comes in saying that she knows he's not really who he says he is.

Don leaves the dealership, possibly spooked by the memory, but Roger gives him a good old fashioned "you deserve it" pep talk about treating himself a little.  Of course, Don doesn't exactly deprive himself of much and his hesitance on the Cadillac may be more what it reminds him of than the monetary expenditure.

Duck may finally have gotten some good intel for the company, spending the weekend finding that Martinson Coffee is not happy with their agency and are looking for a new (read, younger) approach.  So the two Mr. Smiths come in and pitch their generation's view of the world, introducing Don to the burgeoning Students for a Democratic Society (which was formed at the University of Michigan in 1960 and promulgated its manifest in 1962).  He tells Don that today's youth doesn't want to be told what to do, what to buy, they just want to be.  So their approach to the client is a happy jingle that welcomes people in rather than pushes the product down someone's throat.  Don is impressed.

The meeting with the client goes very well and Don commends Duck on a job well done.  Yet it's Don that gets the attention and accolades, as he is welcomed into the upper crust by Sterling and Cooper.  After congratulating Don, Roger leaves the meeting and then Bert makes a telling comment.  "Would you agree that I know a little bit about you?"  Bert, of course, knows that Don is not Don but a draft dodger who assumed another man's name and identity.  He lets Don know that it's time for Don not to let that keep him from stepping out of the wings, onto the stage, and joining the show.

Harry has been called into a meeting by Bert and the other guys warn him that he'll be questioned about a new, mysterious painting that Bert has hanging in his office.  Jane takes the men on an adventure, breaking into Bert Cooper's office to check out the painting.  Harry is a confusing mix of bravado - he went out of his way literally to let the other guys know he had a meeting with Bert and brags about "his department" - yet he's scared and insecure as well. When he finally has his meeting with Bert you can practically sense the flopsweat as his moment approaches and Harry struggles - and fails - to say just the right thing.

Joan gets wind of the office shenanigans and uses it as an opportunity to get rid of Don's secretary.  But Jane is a pretty savvy girl for a 20-year-old secretary.  Rather than walking out of the office after getting fired by Joan, she has the instinct to go to Roger instead.  Instead of fessing up to actually having done something worthy of getting fired, she makes it seem Joan was jealous of her and fired her in a snit.  Roger comes to the rescue and (reminiscent of Duck telling the gum chewing secretary not to worry) tells her to come back to work on Monday. 

Ken is the guest of honor at dinner at the Romanos and Sal is totally smitten with his coworker, and shows off his cooking and entertaining skills while his wife Kitty is forced to fade into the background.  Neither Sal nor Kitty get what they want and they're stuck with each other for very different reasons.  Kitty isn't oblivious, in fact it seems that she's more aware than Sal is, but what choice does she have?  But it's funny that Ken missed the awkward dynamics and left wanting a marriage like that (be careful what you wish for!).

In a battle over Roger's heart libido, Jane and Joan square off.  Jane tells Joan to talk to Roger about her firing and Joan correctly notes that Roger should not have been pulled into this in the first place.  Jane lies about having run into him on her way out...unless "running into" means passing by his secretary's desk and opening his door to talk to him rather than leave.  Once again, Joan sees where she falls on the power meter and it's apparently below a pretty younger girl that Roger has eyes for.

Don and Betty are their usual beautiful selves at the party Jimmy Barrett is throwing.  Bobbie Barrett comes by with a network exec and Don is all business.  Betty leaves to let them talk shop and Jimmy comes over and, after buttering her up with flattery, he drops the news that their spouses have been having an affair.  Once again, Betty has it all and has nothing.  It's like the brand new car that they can't fool around in or let the kids sit in with messy hands.  Her marriage looks perfect on the outside, but it doesn't play.

And that car that Don was so careful to keep clean?  It's now as messy as his life.


Roger mentions the song "Enjoy Yourself" (It's Later Than You Think) to Don.  Here are some of the pertinent lyrics:
You never go to night clubs and you just don't care to dance
You don't have time for silly things like moonlight and romance
You only think of dollar bills tied neatly in a stack
But when you kiss a dollar bill, it doesn't kiss you back
Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
It's advice that Roger takes to heart in dumping Mona for the young, beautiful Jane. 

For all his talk of being a progressive hipster, it's Paul who won't break into Bert's office, while Jane manages to convince Sal, Ken and Harry to join her. Sal, the art director, of course recognizes the painting in Bert's office as a Rothko.  How the four view the painting provides some insight into their character as it acts as a sort of $10,000 Rorschach Test.  Jane dismisses it as "smudgy squares," Harry panics that there is one correct opinion about the piece that will seal his fate with Cooper, Sal searches for the meaning buried inside, while Ken just experiences the painting. 

Fun fact we learned - the expression "cup of Joe" may have come from Joe Martinson, a man who imported and roasted coffee beans in the late 1800s in New York. 


Wayne Kirkby:  You don't need to see yourself in a Cadillac. You're walking about in one every day.
... Those are wonderful if you want to get somewhere.  This is for when you've already arrived.

Anna:  You're not Don Draper.

Roger:  Where'd you get that sweater? I want to make sure my daughter never buys it.

Harry:  Two possibilities either Cooper loves it and you have to love it, like in an "Emperor's New Clothes" situation, or he thinks it's a joke and you'll look like a fool if you pretend to dig it.

Ken:  It's like looking into something very deep.You could fall in.

Bert:  Crane, focus, please. We didn't make you head of television just to shorten your attention span.

Bert:   People buy things to realize their aspirations. It's the foundation of our business.

Bert:   Philanthropy is the gateway to power.

Jimmy:   All I know is I know her, and you know him, and there they are, and they don't care where we are.

Jimmy:  You know what I like about you? Nothing. But it's okay. You got me everything I wanted.

Lack of subtlety: 
The car salesman telling Don: "I bet you'd be as comfortable in one of these as you would in your own skin."

Oh how times have changed: 
The Drapers leaving all the trash after their afternoon picnic.

Suicide watch:
Discussing sneaking into Bert's office, Ken says to Jane "are you suicidal?"

Whore count:
Jimmy says to Don, "You, you want to step out, fine. Go to a whore. You don't screw another man's wife."


First mention of Ida Blankenship, who was Bert's secretary at the time.

First introduction of Anna Draper, who becomes one of the most important characters on the show.  Her relationship with Don unfolds slowly, with the details coming out in subsequent episodes.  We will soon learn that she was the recipient of the book "Meditations in an Emergency" that Don mailed in Episode One and her presence will be an important one for Don for many seasons to come.

There are numerous references to horses in Mad Men, usually involving Don. Here, for example, Bert tells Don (about moving up in society): "It's time for the horse to catch the carrot."  In Season 7, Episode 7, Pete refers to Don as "a very sensitive piece of horse flesh."  The award Don takes home in Season 1, Episode 5 is a horseshoe.  Don's father is killed when a horse kicks him in the head.  Betty deals with her depression by jumping horses.  There's even a shot of Betty with a drink at the Stork Club next to a statute of a horse with a ballerina on its back.

Jane coming back to work after being fired parallels Don's return in Season 7.  Once again Roger flexes his muscle to defy the will of another, rehiring someone he doesn't want to lose, but conveniently doesn't tell either his partners or the formerly fired employee about his plan. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mad Men, Season 2, Episode 6: Maidenform (recap)

That was a jolt.  The episode starts with the the Decembrists' 2005 song Infanta playing loudly over a montage of women getting ready for the day.  According to at least one reviewer, the anachronistic song shines "a feminist light in a subtle and symbolic way on the historic position of virtually all 'privileged' women in many traditional societies."  And, indeed, this episode does have a lot to say about the two sides of every woman - what we see in ourselves and what is reflected back at us. But it is not just the women who deal with their dualities. The men are also forced to see themselves not as they want to be seen but as they are actually perceived by others.  And it's not a pretty picture. 

We get the subtle, and not so subtle, reminder that this is the early Sixties and sexism in the work place is much more obvious and pervasive. While Peggy is the right "man" for the job of keeping Playtex happy (withe her unique insights) she is also the one who has to ignore the lewd innuendos of Ken Cosgrove and the general frat boy mentality pervading the office.  She bristles at being left out of many decisions impacting the client and we watch as she maneuvers from the sidelines to getting in on the action thanks in large part to some good advice from Joan.

The title for this episode comes from one of the competitors to Playtex, a Sterling Cooper client who has seen great results and ever increasing sales.  Duck Phillips, who so far has been less than sterling in his position at the firm, brings to Don and the creative staff the client's complaints that they'd like their ads to be more like Maidenform.  The tension between him and Don is always there, but no more so than when Duck (who is to creativity what Freddy is to sobriety) tries to tell Don his side of the business.  Don doesn't understand why their approach isn't satisfactory considering sales are through the roof, but he agrees to brainstorm a new approach.

Duck gets an unexpected visit from his ex-wife, who brings up his drinking problems first chance she gets (while the reformed Duck counters that it's no longer a problem).  She drops off the kids and the dog, Chauncey, for a weekend visit and it could not be more awkward ("How'd you like to see A Funny Thing Happened," he asks and his son replies that they've already seen it. Trying to save face, Duck offers, "not from these seats.").  It's pretty standard divorced dad stuff and hard to watch, even when it happens to someone like Duck who we're not too fond of.  He has a tenuous, at best, relationship with his kids and the tension between him and Don is so evident that Roger asks Don to take him out to lunch to make peace.  Duck could use the break, he finds out that his ex is getting remarried and that she gets the new husband and the children, while he gets the dog.

The Drapers are at the country club and Don is managing to be sociable as Betty spots a familiar sight - Arthur from the stables.  He comes over and they flirt a bit, which is not unnoticed by Don, until Sally and Bobby blow the moment by racing in "Mommy, Mommy" while Artie's eyes go wide.  And thus the phrase Buzz Kill was invented that very day.

It's Memorial Day and at the country club they salute the veterans there, asking them to stand and be appreciated.  Don stands - but he's taking credit for service he did not complete.  He's no hero but a deserter whose namesake died because of him - yet he receives the love and admiration of all, especially his daughter Sally.  He looks at her, beaming with pride as she claps for her hero father, and we know that he's a fraud who does not deserve her adulation.  Worse, we know that he knows.

So how does he deal with his guilt feelings?  Well, he is Dick Whitman after all and he learned from the Hobo Code you can just up and move on.  So he leaves and goes off to call his girlfriend under the guise of needing to go into work.  He's a pip.  He wants to get together with Bobbie but finds out that she's going to be spending the day with her 18-year-old son (speaking of Buzz Kills).  She brings up the accident and Don is unhappy - he's put it out of his mind and doesn't want anyone reminding him of it.

Paul has a great idea (it was bound to happen eventually) - the new approach for Playtex would be the two sides of a woman - Marilyn and Jackie.  The idea was thought up when the guys were out for drinks after work one night.  Peggy is seeing how the old boy network works and she doesn't like it.  When guys can get together after hours, pal around and do business, that freezes out the women in the office..  She tells Freddy she wants in from now on.

Don comes by Duck's office for the talk Roger asked him to have, but Don isn't in a particularly conciliatory mood.  He puts Duck on the spot to claim one good thing he's done for the company in the eighteen months since he's been there.   Duck admits that maybe the American Airline move didn't go as well as he'd hoped (a contender for the understatement of the year award) but he wants to put that behind them and move forward.  Don says okay and they shake hands, but Duck does not like spreading himself prostrate in from of Don and Don doesn't like Duck screwing with his business.  This is not much of a peace.

Rather than have lunch with Duck, Don heads off for an afternoon rendezvous with Bobbie, who drops the other shoe that she also has a daughter.  They have some banter and she offers that Don can stay in her room while she goes.  Things will take a nasty turn shortly, but first...

Peggy gets the proverbial door shut in her face as she again deals with being treated like a second class citizen.  She is not told about casting for the Playtex commercial, again being shut out of her own client's work.

Pete makes friends with Duck's dog and then makes friends with a girl who had come into the office to audition for the Playtex account.  They end up back at the apartment she shares with her mother (Buzz Kill #3? Nah, Pete is undeterred).   Earlier, Pete had tried to impress his brother with how important he was at Sterling Cooper, but his brother only sneered at the free booze and mocked their mother's interest in Pete.  Pete had also tried to get a rise out of Peggy back at the office, ostensibly there to talk to her about his ideas for the Clearasil account, he was as charming as he could be, but Peggy was distant at best.  So after these attacks on his manhood, Pete looked elsewhere for reaffirmation and the young model was only too happy to oblige.

Don comes downstairs for breakfast to find his beautiful wife decked out in a sexy bathing suit ensemble.  She's rightly proud of her new purchase and how great she looks (after two kids!).  So, of course, he does what any husband would do.  He lectures her on dressing inappropriately - desperately, he calls it - humiliating her and treating her like a child.  Betty only makes the whole scene more painful by just absorbing and accepting what Don says and not realizing that they are his issues, not hers, that are what set him off.

Peggy is having a pity party and goes to Joan for some "this place is so sexist" support, but Joan (who is fed up to here with people treating her like a pair of boobs) isn't feeling the sisterhood.  If Peggy wants to be treated like an equal to the men, she better start acting like it.  And stop dressing like a little school girl.  It's some tough love, but Peggy needs it.

Don gives a typically great presentation to the Playtex clients and they love it in theory.  Only...sales are great, so why change anything?  Don hides his smug "I told you so" (seeing as he specifically told Duck there was no reason to change things) and the clients leave (after first getting an offer for some after hours fun).  Duck mopes around the office.  He feels impotent at home and now at work - replaced in his kids' lives by his ex-wife's fiance, and overshadowed at work by Don.  He's tired of feeling pissed on and he is going to find a way to regain the upper hand.  His first move is to get some liquid strength and inspiration and as fast as you can say "Bye, Chauncey" he is back on the bottle. 

You know what you should never say to Don Draper?  Anything, after he tells you to "stop talking."  But Bobbie Barrett doesn't heed the warning and she goes on to tell him that his reputation with all the ladies is quite excellent.  Don does not like the idea of his past conquests blabbing about him (since he conveniently puts the past out of his mind, these reminders are no bueno).  Bobbie has now committed two sins, continuing to talk and talking about him with other exes.  Bobbie, you've been a bad girl.  So Don ties her up and walks out of her life.

Peggy has taken Joan's advice.  She's styled like a woman on the town, not a girl raising money for a church outing.  She meets up with the boys from the office and the clients at a strip club.  It's hard to say how successful she is in her attempts to be treated like one of the boys.  None of her co-workers are sitting on a client's lap, yet it still seems better to be there, included, than excluded.  The look she exchanges with Pete (who has never accepted her sexuality unless it was his alone to see) had many meanings.  She's not thrilled she has to do this, but she's not going to be a victim.  He doesn't like seeing her like this, but he's not exactly a school boy either.  As the saying goes, it's complicated.

It's a new day in the Draper household.  Don is in his bathroom getting ready for the day.  He lathers up and starts shaving, his face staring back at him.  He doesn't see anything, at least not until his daughter Sally comes in.  She sits down to watch him shave, looking up to him with the same love and admiration she showed at the country club.  She's a good girl, she's not going to say anything.  She doesn't want to disturb him so he'd cut himself.  Her words, her presence, is too much for Don to take.  He's not the good dad this little girl should be looking up to.  And would he want some man saying to her what he said to Bobbie?  It's all catching up to Don.  He can't look away from the man in the mirror, he can't live with the knowledge of the man he really is any longer.  Can he?


Pete is the Rodney Dangerfield of both the office and his home - Peggy doesn't respect his creative suggestions and his brother doesn't respect his career.  Pete tries hard, but it seems he will never get the recognition and appreciation he so craves.  His fling with the model is so obviously not about the sex, but about her reaction upon seeing his business card, "Oh, my.  Account Executive."  It's that reaction he desires more than anything. 

When Pete's dalliance is about to start, the girl turns on the TV set.  What we see and hear is "High Flight," a 1941 poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. that was set to music and footage of flights and used as a TV signoff (yes, kids, in the old days, TV stations signed off overnight).  The poem was later made indellible when Ronald Reagan quoted from it after the Challenger disaster.   

Poor Chauncey.  Duck could not bear to have his dog see him fall off the wagon, and so out into the cold for his four-legged former best friend. Don was in a similar position at the end, unable to look at his daughter knowing what a terrible father he is.  But Sally doesn't get kicked out of the house, so how does Don deal with having a daily reminder of what a horrible human being he is? 

Betty is totally wrapped up in her looks and what they say about her and as long as some man flirts with her, she knows she's still okay.  She was flattered by Arthur's attention and was likely looking for more with her new bikini, but Don shut her down. 

Don is at his worst this episode in his relationship with all the women in his life.  He doesn't stand up for Peggy and shut down the sexist chatter in the office, he allows his daughter to see him as a hero when he's far from that in reality, he humiliates both his wife, who he treats like a child, and his mistress, who he treats like a whore.

Betty mentions that she and Don lived in Manhattan when the Rosenbergs were executed.  That was in June, 1953, so we know the two of them were living together at least that far back.

Don balks at the idea that he and Bobbie are alike.  She says early in the episode, "I know what you like" and "I'm the same way."  But Don doesn't want to see himself that way and counters later, "Does it make you feel better to think that I'm like you?"  His self-loathing is strong enough not to want to see himself in Bobbie, let alone in himself.

When Peggy asks during the Playtex brainstorming meeting "what am I" (trying to point out the erroneous nature of the statement that all women are either a Jackie or a Marilyn), Ken responds with "Gertrude Stein" (the lesbian writer of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas).  Don and Freddy try and help things by calling her more of an Irene Dunne, but the damage is done.  This is what we now lovingly refer to as a hostile work environment.


Don:  I like a happy client, although you'd think someone would be able to talk them out of jumping onto a bandwagon as solid as this.
Duck:  Maybe they want us to raise the bar.
Don:  Why, because their share of the market keeps increasing?

Pete: Her skin cleared up, but she still looks unhappy.
Peggy: She's a cheerleader.
Pete: For who, the University of Dour?

Betty: As we used to say in college, let's be friends.

Emcee:  Please, heroes, on your feet.

Bud: I was on the phone with her the other day, and you were all she talked about.
Pete: Really?
Bud: No. I'm kidding.
Pete: I don't think I know what's funny about that.

Pete: I'm very important to the agency.  My absence is felt.

Roger:  Has your wife seen that yet? [pointing to Jane] Do me a favor. Let me be there when it happens.

Roger:  You are going to have lunch with Duck.  Perhaps on a train car because I want you to sign an armistice on American Airlines. ... Errol Flynn is gone, and so is my taste for swordplay.  You two need to put them away.

Roger:  I've been married for over 20 years. I know the difference between a spat and spending a month on the couch.

Paul:  Marilyn's really a Joan, not the other way around.

Paul:  Women want to see themselves the way men see them.

Don:  You've been pitching more to me than you have the clients.

Duck:  If you hadn't brought me in, where would I be? Some fifth wheel at McCann?

Bobbie:  Where did you come from?
Don:  You don't want to know.

Duck:  Dogs are better than wives.  Never a problem communicating.

Don:  It's desperate.
Betty: I didn't know that.

Joan:  For a moment there, I thought you were just another person coming to ask me about my brassiere.

Peggy:  I'm a good drinker.

Joan:  You're in their country. Learn to speak the language.

Don:  It's a very flattering mirror.

Bobbie:  This is nobody's maiden voyage here, handsome.

Don:  Does it make you feel better to think that I'm like you?


Don's relationship with Bobbie is our first obvious clue that he has a damaged understanding of the relationship between men and women.  It is not surprising for us to learn that the man who doesn't want his wife dressing provocatively, yet is more than willing to have rough sex with his mistress, was raised in a brothel.  We hadn't seen the side of Don - the guy who would tie up a woman, demand that she be quiet, or otherwise control their relationship.  We see more of that side later but previously we've only seen Don in more equal affairs (with Midge and Rachel).

We know that Duck makes his big move shortly and then comes back years later to put his stamp on the company, yet he never does succeed.  The bottom line is that Duck is not a creative person and has no real vision - he wants to be the big shot and tries to be that guy, but always falls short.   

Betty is chatting with some friends at the club and the husband says (of where Betty and Don live, Osining, NY) "We get them to close Sing Sing, we'll be in Shangri-la."  There are many references to Shangri-la throughout the show, including the Season 7 premiere "Time Zones" where we see Don and Megan in bed watching the movie Lost Horizon.  It's similar to the theme of "utopia" which Rachel Menken explains to Don as the perfect place and the place that can never be.

Pete's brother says, of their mother, "I see her crossing the widow's walk with an eye to the sea."  While he's actually talking about the rooftop with a ocean vista, it's interesting to note that in Season Six, their mother finds her final resting place somewhere in the sea during a cruise with Manolo Colon.

Freddy says, after Paul makes the Playtex pitch,  "Apparently, I've already signed off on it."  That's another red flag about Freddy's excessive drinking, that he would have been too drunk the night before to remember agreeing to the idea, let alone signing his name to a napkin.

Shockingly, despite all the efforts of Mad Men fans, we never see poor Chauncey again.

One of the men Betty talks to at the country club mentions that their town would be Shangri-La if they only closed Sing Sing (the prison).  The idea of Shangri-La comes up repeatedly in Mad Men, up to Season 7's Lost Horizon episode.  Like the Utopia Rachel Menken described to Don (when talking about Israel), this notion of a perfect, idealized place of happiness is always just out of reach.  Not because it's unattainable, but because when people get there, they are still unsatisfied and want more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mad Men Season 2, Episode 5: The New Girl

Bobbie Barrett seems to have a bead on Don Draper.  Maybe people with alliterative names have a special understanding of each other, or soulless hedonistic cads have an unspoken mutual understanding.  She's talking with Don at a restaurant after having closed the TV show deal for her husband and she's trying to understand the mystery that is sitting across from her.  The exchange is telling.
BB: What the hell do you like? 
DD: What do you mean?
BB: Doesn't have to be in business.  I'll take anything. {{pause}} You can't even answer.
DD: The answer is huge.
BB: I don't think so.
It's like pulling teeth to get Don to admit to liking anything.  He cops to liking the ocean and bridges and movies, but this is all from her prodding.  He is not the least bit forthcoming.  Their discussion goes from vague but meaningful to flat out obvious:
DD: Why is it so hard to just enjoy things?
BB: God, I feel so good.
DD: I don't feel a thing.
Yes, we get it. Don is disconnected from life.  Numb.  Walking through zombie-like, playing a role, and not being himself.  Faking it a work, faking it at home.  Not having any true experiences or feelings. It's a little too on the nose, but Mad Men ofttimes is as subtle as a sledgehammer. 

Pete and Trudy Campbell are trying to get pregnant, but so far his seed hasn't taken, so the young couple go to a physician to see if there is anything medically wrong.  We know, but Pete doesn't, that he's not the problem as he's managed to impregnate at least one other woman.  We do get some insight into Pete - that he's feeling stressed at work, "tiptoeing around the creative crybabies" and drinking with "ungrateful turnips who just fell off the truck."  And, more surprisingly, he realizes that he's replaceable.

When Bobbie calls Don and tells him to jump, he asks how high.  She's got him wrapped around her finger and knows it.  One thing you can say for Donal Draper, he may ignore work and family, but when one of his girlfriends calls, he's always available.  And, speaking of girlfriends, who should walk back into his life while he's having his "business" drinks with Bobbie, but the one who got away - Rachel Menken.  It's probably not a coincidence that she finds him sitting with an attractive, powerful woman - he has a type when it comes to affairs. 

Don loses his cool when he sees Rachel, especially when she introduces the nice nebbishy guy with her as her new husband.  He forgets all about Bobbie, who has to introduce herself, and he sputters awkwardly through the exchange.  So much for Don pretending that he has no feelings, he clearly had them for Rachel and this seemed to open an old wound.  Sensing his vulnerability, Bobbie goes in for the kill and Don is more than willing to let her seduce him.  They go off together in his car, drinking as they head to their rendezvous at her place on the shore.  Right after Bobbie says she feels so good (warning #1) and Don says he doesn't feel anything (warning #2), she starts to make sure he feels something when in a moment of rapture he closes his eyes and crashes the car.  Instant karma.

Even in the early Sixties the police weren't crazy about drunk drivers and Don was going to have to spend the night in jail if he couldn't pony up the bail.  Who does he turn to but his trusty sidekick Peggy.  It's a bit of a tit for tat, he's been keeping her Season 1 secret (as we now learn in a flashback) and so he knows she can keep his. Why Peggy is helping Don is a mystery to Bobbie, but we see the bond they forged when he helped her through the aftermath of her psychotically-impacted pregnancy.  He taught her the Draper motto - "it'll shock you how much this never happened" - and she is now willing to help him put his own bad decision behind him. Still, Bobbie can't quite comprehend the nature of their relationship and the fact that it is not based on sexual attraction or even amorous longings, but on a foundation of help and support.

The title for the episode is "The New Girl" and we meet Don's new secretary, the lovely, college-educated Jane Siegel, who arouses the fancy of many of the male staffers at the office yet earn barely a notice from Don.  Jane is well aware of her assets and she uses what the good Lord gave her to optimize her chances for landing a husband - or at least much leering attention.  While Jane represents new meat, recently off the market is Joan Holloway who comes into work sporting an engagement ring from her beau the doctor.  It's clear that Roger is sad to see her engaged and ready to move on, but not sad enough to ever leave his wife for her.  Joan is not too pleased with Jane and her youth and beauty and so the lady of the plunging necklines and tight dresses lectures the new girl about proper office decorum.

Pete is happy to hear that he's not the stumbling block in their efforts to produce a Campbell heir, but he misses how the news has devastated Trudy.  He is oblivious to how important having a baby is to her - without a child, what does this all mean, she asks.  But Pete feels freed by the option not to be tied down with a child.  Perhaps they should have discussed all this before getting married.

The unexplained time gap between the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2 is finally filled and we solve the mystery of what happened to Peggy between giving birth and returning to the office back to her fighting weight.  Don came to her aid, gave her powerful advice about moving forward, and kept her secret.  The pregnancy, the mental breakdown, he didn't let any of it impact her future at Sterling Cooper and he instead instructed her to focus on the future.  Don is so good about putting the past behind him that he acts as if he doesn't remember anything about Peggy bailing him out or helping with his paramour.

Speaking of his ill-fated tryst, Don is shaken to hear that Jimmy Barrett wants to have a meeting and is a bit panicked that maybe he wants to confront Don about the affair.  Instead, Jimmy comes in to thank Don for being a mensch and helping out with his new show.  Hearing what a good guy he is from the husband of the woman he's sleeping with was unsettling.  But it gets worse for Don.

Because when he gets home, he finds that Betty is cutting back on his salt intake as she is worried about his high blood pressure.  Don, surrounded by his loving wife and adorable children, looks abashed when he hears Betty tell Sally that he can't have salt "because we love him."  Don knows he's completely unworthy, both of Jimmy's earlier praise and now the loving looks from his adoring family.  He's a fraud, he's always been one, but today we see that it's taking its toll.  Is this what guilt looks like?


Dr. Stone: Sometimes all a young couple needs is a good old-fashioned hand-holding.

Pete:  I spend half my day tiptoeing around creative crybabies and the other half drinking with ungrateful turnips who just fell off the truck.

Pete: So maybe I'm the end of the line.

Bobbie:  It's the big opportunity he's bound to ruin.

Rachel:  He's all business, isn't he?

Bobbie: Tell me what I want.

Bobbie:  This is America.  Pick a job and then become the person that does it.

Bobbie:  I love bridges. I don't know if it's the drop or just 'cause you get to see something disappearing behind you.

Bobbie:  Why is it so hard to just enjoy things? God, I feel so good.
Don:  I don't feel a thing.

Peggy:  You'll have to believe me that I'll forget this. I don't want you treating me badly because I remind you of it.

Betty:  You promised you wouldn't disappear like that anymore.

Jane:  I feel like I'm walking in tall cotton.

Don:  I'm not paying attention anymore until they're here a month.

Peggy:   He made me a copywriter.
Bobbie:  I bet you made yourself a copywriter.

Bobbie:  You're never gonna get that corner office until you start treating Don as an equal. And no one will tell you this, but you can't be a man. Don't even try. Be a woman. It's powerful business, when done correctly.

Roger:  I think it's nice to hear the story of relatively young love.

Jane:  What's your title here?
Ken:  Title? I'm Ken.

Bobbie:  You have to start living the life of the person you want to be.

Pete:  I sure as hell wouldn't want a kid here watching this donnybrook.

Don:  Get out of here and move forward.  This never happened.  It will shock you how much it never happened.

Don:  I guess when you try to forget something, you have to forget everything.


While hiding out in Peggy's apartment, Bobbie noticed an article about Marilyn Monroe and lamented her sad life, while Peggy couldn't see the truth behind the blond bombshell.

Freddy comes out from his office to regale Jane and Ken with his pants zipper performance of Mozart. He's not met with the reaction he was hoping for.

There was a lot of older women edifying, and envying, younger women - Joan and Bobbie acting as both mentors and rivals of their younger counterparts. Bobbie is another "new girl" in the story, at least she must look that way to Rachel Menken who recalls when she was the client Don was fussing over. For someone who doesn't look back, Don seemed affected by running into his old flame and perhaps that distraction (plus all the others) contributed to the car accident.

Betty mentions that he had promised not to disappear, so this is more confirmation that they've talked about his secretive ways and, while Don never cops to cheating, he has promised to be more present and to include Betty more. 

Lack of subtlety:  The fertility doctor smoking.  Pete thinking the Xerox machine might be responsible for sterility. Don drinking a bottle while driving.

How times have changed:  Don's blood alcohol level was .15 which the police officer tells him was at the then-legal limit.  Today, that would be almost twice New York's current limit of .08.


Joan tells Roger, "I'm not going anywhere" after he learns of her engagement and he correctly predicts that she will, in fact, leave them.  But Joan turns out to be the prescient one as while she leaves temporarily, she does come back.

Jane tells Joan, "I'm a little bit clairvoyant, and I think you two are going to be very happy together." Not only is she wrong about Joan and Dr. Greg, but she also doesn't see her future very clearly when she decides to take up with Roger.  It is interesting that Roger was obviously quite taken by Joan, he never cared about her enough to leave Mona for her. But his love for Jane wasn't real, he was more in love with her youth and what it said about him. 

Rachel introduces Don to her new husband, Tilden Katz.  It's a quick scene and we know that Don is drinking and distracted at the meeting.  Yet in Episode 9's Six Months Leave, when coming up on the fly with an alias, the name Tilden Katz is immediately upon his lips - as, no doubt, Rachel is always on his mind.

She is so on his mind that he's still thinking about her by the second half of Season 7.

Don tells (lies to) Betty that his car accident was because he mixed blood pressure medicine and booze, not that he was getting pleasured in the car.  Hearing that his doctor had prescribed medicine for high blood pressure, along with fearing that the worst could have happened, makes Betty understandably upset.  But Don tells her he doesn't want her getting hysterical.  In Season 7, when Betty starts studying psychology, we see her reading Freud's book on hysteria.