The Great Mad Men Re-Watch, Part 8: Men Behaving Badly

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Don is about to become extremely familiar with room service at the Roosevelt Hotel, as Betty is about to kick him out of the house. And Roger, seeing how happy Don is, decides to do the mature thing and leave his long-suffering, smart wife in favor of Don’s hot, new secretary. It’s more men behaving like brats as we enter the next edition of the The Great Mad Men Re-Watch.



Season 2, Episode 7: "The Gold Violin"

Review Notes:

The tables are turned at the top of “The Gold Violin,” as an impossibly smooth Cadillac salesman uses every line in the book to sell Don, the salesman’s salesman, a new car. The scene brings up a flashback for Don, back to his days as a used-car salesman, and his first encounter with a woman who we’ll later find out is Anna, ex-wife of the real Don Draper.

The Mark Rothko in Bert Cooper’s office—the one that cost him $10,000—has interesting repercussions around the office. Curious as to what all the hoopla is about, Jane, Don’s hot new secretary, convinces the boys to sneak into Bert’s office for a closer look. They’re not sure what to make of the the big, red splotch, Harry most of all, thinking the painting is actually a trap: If you fail to love it, Bert will hate you; or if you fail to point out it’s a matter of the Emperor having no clothes, Bert will think you’re an idiot. Eventually the two sit across a desk from one another, and when Bert catches Harry staring off at the picture, he asks him what he thinks of it. Harry, spineless man that he is, answers the question with a question: “What do you think of it?” Bert is taken aback to find himself on the receiving end of a pointed, open-ended question, but admits the painting is an investment more than anything—one he hopes will double by next Christmas.

It’s that same painting that leads to one of the great stand-offs of Season 2, in Jane vs Joan: Battle of the Bombshells. It’s an amazingly tense confrontation, when Jane, who has gone through life not being told “no,” plainly looks Joan in the eye and asks why she’s the only one who’s allowed to “have all the fun.” That earns a firing from Joan, but one visit to Roger’s office later, and Jane is back on the desk. The second encounter, when Joan sees her sitting at Don’s desk without having been told anything about her partner pardon, is even icier, because Joan assumes Roger is sleeping with Jane. Sorry, Joan. There are some battles not even you can win.

And then there is that uncomfortable dinner at Sal’s, when he lures Ken over to visit under the guise of giving Ken feedback on his latest short story. Poor Kitty, try as she might, she’s just a buzzing gnat hovering in the way of Sal’s shameless play for the handsome Cosgrove. There’s obviously some trouble in paradise here—even Ken can feel it, and pries himself out of the situation—but Kitty is still in deep, lovely denial. She’ll have to wait until Sal does his Ann-Margret impression on the bed to really wake up and smell the gay-husband coffee.

Grade: A-
The Sal/Ken stuff felt kind of forced—Ken just doesn’t strike me as Sal’s type. But the rest of the episode worked beautifully.



Season 2, Episode 8: "A Night to Remember"

Review Notes:

This episode will forever be remembered as the one in which Betty served dinner to a Duck and a Crab. It’s Betty’s famous “trip around the world” menu, where frosty glasses of beer called Heineken are served to Don’s big, important advertising friends, and everyone laughs and laughs at Betty because she fell right into their demographic-research trap. “Stupid Betty! You are so gullible. All you need to see are some wooden clogs and a vase of tulips and you’re all over that beer from Holland.” At least, that’s how Betty interpreted it. And with Jimmy Barrett’s having told Betty the episode before about her husband’s affair with Bobby, Betty is hardly in the mood to be made anyone’s advertising lab rat. She confronts Don in the kitchen, in what will become a turning point in their marriage, and for the entire series. “You embarrassed me,” she says, repeatedly. Don tries to brush it off, but then she drops a bomb on him. “You think you know me. Well, I know what kind of man you are.” It’s a pretty devastating accusation for Don, who's been leading a bulletproof existence until this point. The two seem to be on the road to reconciliation, but Jimmy’s Utz commercial pushes Betty over the top. The episode ends with her interrupting Don on the phone and telling him not to bother coming home from the office.

Joan’s story is about to take a turn for the tragic, too, and in some ways it begins in this episode, after she is brought on by Harry to read TV scripts and help their clients strategize over how to best sell on-air advertising. Joan is a natural at the job, and actually advises a client on an upcoming soap plot that will earn bigger ratings, but cost the client the same amount for a spot. She thinks she’s going to get the job. Then comes the scene: the scene where fat, stupid Harry introduces her to the clueless dope he hired instead of her, simply because that clueless dope has a penis. It’s infuriating, and watching her contain her rage and sorrow and humiliation, while trying to explain to the new guy the basics of the job, is just as devastating now as it was the first time around. Great work from Christina Hendricks, as always.

Grade: B-
More boring stuff from Father Gill.



Season 2, Episode 9: "Six Month Leave"

Review Notes:

Two tragedies befall Sterling Cooper in “Six Month Leave”: Marilyn Monroe dies, and Freddy Rumsen pees his pants. The Freddy Pees His Pants story is one of my favorite Mad Men subplots ever. The client is Samsonite, and at a dry run for the big pitch, Pete, Peggy, and Sal come into Freddie’s office. After he pours Sal a tumbler of booze, Freddy then proceeds to wet himself...and wet himself...and wet himself. He isn’t even aware he’s doing it, until the other three point it out to him. Sal finds it hilarious, Peggy pities him, and Pete, well, Pete’s face says it all: absolute disgust. Freddy, meanwhile, keeps his composure, then waddles over to his desk to pass out. I particularly loved the brief moment where they aren’t sure if he died or not. Pete squeals, and Duck wants to do the same thing to Freddy that he did to that Irish Setter—throw the big, red, dumb thing out on the street. Against Don’s objections, that’s exactly what happens, though it’s masked in a “six-month hiatus” excuse and a night on the town. Freddie takes the news reasonably well (there’s alcohol involved, after all), and the three end up at a gambling speakeasy. That’s where Don sees Jimmy Barrett, and clocks the mouthy comedian in the face.

But Freddy’s loss is Peggy’s gain. She steps in for Freddy on the Samsonite account, and blows them away. So Don tells Peggy she’ll be taking his accounts while he “takes a few months off.” Don isn’t particularly nice about it, and Peggy is pissed to learn of how she won her promotion. She barges into Pete’s office for telling on Freddy’s pee-pee pants. “He did it to himself, they have no self control,” Pete says. Peggy replies that she owes Freddy her job—and it’s true, she does, sort of. Poor Freddy... but he’ll be back, in Season 4.

Grade: A-
The Freddy plot is a classic.



QUESTIONS

We’ve now spent quite some time with Don. Play armchair psychiatrist: What is going on in this guy’s head? Could any woman satisfy him? Midge? Rachel? Or would he grow bored of them, too? Is it just another matter of a man being married to his work?



Episodes to watch for Thursday: "The Inheritance", "The Jet Set," "The Mountain King," and "Meditations in an Emergency"




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