Friday, June 5, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 9: The Beautiful Girls

"Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do."

We see the familiar back of Don Draper's head as he is being brusque on the phone with someone.  We think it's a business call as he discuses clearing an hour on his schedule and grabbing lunch.  We then see two sandwiches, wrapped, waiting to be eaten, while we hear the very loud sounds of coitus consummatus.   Don and Faye Miller have moved their relationship forward, from that first chaste dinner to a nooner at his apartment.  Faye takes Don's willingness to let her stay behind in his apartment as a sign that they are moving to the next step and yet they are not close enough for her to violate the "Chinese Wall" that surrounds her work for other clients.

They take another step when she is asked to take Sally back to Don's place after she showed up unexpectedly at the office.  Faye takes meeting Don's daughter as a big step and Sally senses that there may be something going on between Faye and her dad.  And she doesn't like the idea.  What Sally does want is to live with Don.  If you don't find her questioning why she can't live with him heartbreaking, you need a new ticker.  But it's not just the divorce laws or Betty that's the problem, Don is not equipped to be a parent.  He does great at these little visits, but his drinking and carousing are not suitable hobbies for a dad.  He's been trying to be a better man, but is he ready to be one?

After he tucks Sally in for the night, he sits down at the desk where we last saw him journaling.  But he can't find the words, and just sits there, looking miserable.  The next morning, he awakes to a homemade breakfast.   In one of many small but memorable moments, Don wonders what Sally put on his french toast and she says, Mrs. Butterworth.  He has her bring over the jar and sees that it's rum.  "Read labels," he tells her.  Then they have this funny exchange.  Sally:  "Is it bad?"  Don: "Not really."  Their time together is so cute and precious and yet so fleeting.  Sally is trying her hardest to be the perfect daughter, still believing that if she's good enough he'll let her stay.  She gets Don to agree to take the morning off and take her to the zoo and it's sweet and lovely and still so sad.

Speaking of sad, Don's latest and greatest secretary to date, Miss Ida Blankenship, died peacefully at her desk while Don, Ken and Faye were pitching the Fillmore Auto Parts brothers Manny, Moe and Jack.  Her death hit Roger particularly hard, not because he was particularly close to Ida (though Bert apparently was), but because it brought back memories of his own near-death experience at the office.  He turns to Joan for comfort and Joan is in need of the same, with her husband heading off to Vietnam.

Their increased interactions culminates with an out of the way dinner and nighttime walk through a sketchy neighborhood where they are robbed at gunpoint.  Afterwards, scared and relieved and shocked, they fall into each others arms and break both their vows, invoking the near-death exception to the marital fidelity rule.  But the next day, back at the office, Joan lets Roger know that it was a one time deal.  He's married and she's married and that's just how it is.  Roger has regrets and thinks his times with Joan have been his happiest, yet she's right.  The fact that they never were together, officially, openly, is a source of sadness for both of them, yet that is what it is and what it always has been.

The SCDP work story this episode is devising a new pitch for Fillmore Auto Parts.  There are three things going on here, one the idea of how a small family-owned business can compete with the big chain.  Two, how there once was a tension between white collar and blue collar and the idea of selling something as good for both seemed unfathomable.  Three, how seemingly nice guys can do some really awful things and get away with it because no one wants to be the one to stand up.  Thanks to Abe, Peggy has her eyes opened to the truth behind the three nice guy clients - that their company promotes bigotry.  But none of her white male coworkers are troubled by it, at least not enough to risk losing the business.

It's time for Sally to go home with Betty, but she doesn't want to leave.  Again, she begs to stay with Don and again promises to be good.  Don doesn't know what to do and tries to engage Dr. Faye to help convince Sally that she should go home.  Faye is awkward and unconvincing and Sally runs away down the hall, tripping and falling right in front of Megan, the young beautiful secretary.  Megan hugs her, tells her everything is going to be okay and disarms her by saying she falls all the time.  As stiff and cold as Faye is with Sally, that's how warm and comforting Megan is.  And Faye could not help but notice that she was awful with Don's daughter.

Don comforts her and tells her it's okay and they make plans to go out again Saturday night.  But Faye is worried.  She's made certain choices in her life and one was to focus on her career and not get married and have children and she's not sure that's a decision she regrets or wants to change.  Peggy has also made that choice.  Just two episode again she toasted to being newly single.  But now she has a new suitor, albeit a rabble rousing, leftwing policy espousing, curmudgeon named Abe who equates working for corporations as war crimes.  She's intrigued by Abe and by the fact that she inspired him to the point of writing up an anti-capitalist manifest in her honor.

At the end of the day, the three beautiful girls go home, alone.  Joan, whose affair with Roger never turned into anything more and who is now stuck in a loveless marriage with someone who doesn't consult her on the biggest decisions in their lives.  Peggy, who is conflicted about her new confrontational beau.  And Faye, who worries that Don gave her a test and she failed it by not being the maternal figure he might want for his children.    They are the working women of the mid-1960s, navigating new waters and finding them particularly bumpy.


Peggy first met Abe in Ep. 4.04 The Rejected and they had a brief make out session, so when Joyce asks Peggy if she remembers Abe, she does indeed.

Their discussion on civil rights is as relevant today as it was then, with Peggy telling Abe that it's not just about black versus white, but male versus female.  She notes that there are plenty of things she can't do as a woman and he tells her that no one shoots her for trying to vote.   Both of them are right and I wonder what Abe would think of the fact that we have an African-American president before a woman one and what Peggy would think of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot."

Abe gives Peggy the  you work for the evil corporation speech and Peggy does not apologize, saying it's not her job to tell her clients what to do but to help them deal with problems.  But, again, both are right and while Abe shouldn't criticize her for making a living in advertising she also can't ignore that some of her clients may have policies that she does not endorse.

This may be the first time Peggy had to face the moral decision of how to deal with a client with whom you disagree.  If Fillmore Auto Parts does practice racial discrimination, how can she continue to work for them?  Peggy ventures a suggestion - have Harry Belafonte sing the client's jingle. Have them dissociate themselves from their racist practices. But her fellow SCDP workers don't share her concern and don't want to upset the apple cart.

When Peggy questions why they are doing business with a company that discriminates, Don tells her, "Our job is to make men like Fillmore Auto, not Fillmore Auto like Negroes."  He doesn't look happy about that description, but he accepts it and that is understandably troubling to Peggy.  She's starting to open her eyes to what's going on around her and starting to question the status quo.

There were some great visual moments.  Joan trying to pull the afghan out from under the recently deceased Miss Blankenship, Pete coming over to help move the body, Don's taking his time writing up the contract in the conference room while in the background everyone cleared the body out of the office.  And you gotta love Harry Crane, who's blanket was used to cover Ida. "My mother made that!"

Stan rewrites the lyrics to Petula Clark's Downtown as he's joking around with Peggy and her girlfriend Joyce.  Later, a different Petula Clark song is heard in the background at the bar.

Peggy tells Joyce about one of her concerns at work: "I have to hire more copywriters, but these men come in and I know the better they are, the more my job is in danger."  It's a fear many people have, that their position could be threatened by new blood. But Peggy is particularly concerned because as a female copywriter she's a distinct minority. 

Don has certain expectations for Faye and she failed in all of them.  She wouldn't tell him what business she was doing apart from Sterling Cooper and she was not much of a babysitter.  As an independent woman, Faye may expect to be treated as an equal and not held to a higher standard, but that's not what Don expects.   He wants her to be that bowl that Joyce mentioned, that comforting, encompassing, well that he can pour himself into.

It was amusing seeing the "Queen of perversions" Miss Blankenship refer to the advertising business as full of sadists and masochists.  Her final episode was glorious.  How she correctly corrected Bert's crossword mistake, her loudly asking Don if he's heading to the toilet, her complaining about how Faye is pushy.  She'll be missed.

Roger tells Joan what Megan tells Sally - it'll be okay.  Neither believes it. (Joan retorts, that's what people say.  Sally is even more direct telling her, no it won't.)

"I Know a Place" by Petula Clark.


Faye:  You wanna leave me here? You sure?
Don:  I'm taking everything interesting with me.

Roger (to Joan):  I was just giving her a hard time.  Can I interest you in the same?

Ida (to Peggy):  It's a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.

Peggy:  Bad news.  Don showed up.

Peggy:  But I have to say, most of the things Negroes can't do, I can't do either, and nobody seems to care.
Abe:  What are you talking about?
Peggy:  Half of the meetings take place over golf, tennis, in a bunch of clubs where I'm not allowed to be a member, or even enter.

Bert:  A three-letter word for a flightless bird.
Ida:  Emu.
Bert:  Nope.  It starts with an "L."
Ida:  The hell it does.

Roger:  I knew I was rubbing you the wrong way, so I thought, why not have someone rub you the right way?
Joan:  I brought you bear claws.
Roger:  Caroline won't let me have one unless it's on the end of a real bear.

Joan (to Roger):  I forgot for a second that you're incapable of doing something nice without expecting something nicer in return.

Woman from train: Men never know what's going on.

Abe:  We have a religion in this country and it's business.

Don:  I would have my secretary do it, but she's dead.

Roger:  Damn it, I don't want to die in this office.  I almost have, twice.

Joan:   Poor Ida.
Roger:  She died like she lived.  Surrounded by the people she answered phones for.

Roger (to Joan):  Every time I think back, all the good stuff was with you.

Bert (of Ida):  She was born in 1898 in a barn.  She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper.  She's an astronaut.

Ken:  Harry said, on the form where it says "cause of death," they wrote "Don Draper."
Stan:  How long do you think Yvette Mimieux's gonna last on his desk?
Ken:   I say we start a pool on whether she's fired, quits or dies.

Stan: Have you ever been to the South? 'Cause they have a way of doing things,
Peggy:  The Fillmore brothers are from Boston.
Stan: Same thing.

Faye: I can't do anything for you.

Faye:  Well, it feels like there was a test and l failed it.

Suicide mentions:
Roger said "If it looks like I'm going, open a window.  I'd rather flatten the top of a cab."  He also says he's going to drink cyanide and then flat out says he's going to kill himself.

Whore mentions:
Joyce says Abe wants to turn Peggy out. To "turn out" a woman is to lead her into prostitution. 

Spoilery Observations (Don't Read Until You're Caught Up)

Sally tells Don that she loves him so much and Don says he loves her too.  That may be the only time Don says I love you.

Peggy worries that hiring new male copywriters could endanger her position, but that fear is unwarranted.  She's good at her job and is never at risk of losing it. In fact, when she hires Ginsberg his talent is more of a threat to Don than it is to her. 

Sally asks Don if she can live with him. She says her brothers can live there too, she'll take care of them.  Seeing Sally act like a grownup, making Don breakfast and talking about how she could help take care of her brothers, is really sweet but it also now looks like foreshadowing.  Her offer comes to a sad reality at the end of the series when Sally has to step in for the ailing Betty as the surrogate mom to her brothers.  The difference is then she no longer looks to Don as the answer for who can save her but sees him for the flawed, limited father he is.

Stan wondered how long Megan would stay on Don's desk and Ken joked they should start a pool on whether she's fired, quits or dies.  No one had any money on marries the boss.

No comments:

Post a Comment