Mad Men

Season 2 Episode 7

The Gold Violin

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Sep 07, 2008 on AMC

Episode Recap

As the episode opens, Don is browsing a Cadillac showroom, looking at a 1962 Blue Coupe DeVille with special interest. A salesman approaches with his pitch, and after ascertaining that Don is from Sterling Cooper, goes off to get the keys for a test-drive. As Don waits, he has a flashback to 1952, when he was himself a car salesman. In the flashback he is trying to talk a young man, along with his father, into buying a 1950 model car, but the young man isn't sold yet. A blonde woman we've never seen before enters the dealership and Don wrongly assumes it's the missus, but the father corrects him. The woman looks at Don earnestly. Don asks the young man to think about it and goes over to talk to her. She asks him if he's Donald Draper, to which he answers Yes. "You're a hard man to find," she says. Don says "Excuse me," and she says "You're not Don Draper." Don looks perplexed as the flashback ends. Back in the present, Don is too disturbed by the memory to take a test drive, after all, and flees the scene, to the disappointment of the salesman.

At Sterling Cooper, Roger Sterling is talking up Jane (Don's attractive new secretary) at her desk. As Don arrives Jane tells him Bobbie Barrett has called (again) without leaving a message. In Don's office, as they wait for Duck Philips to arrive, Roger jokes about Jane before trying to sell Don on the Caddy with the points that: (a) he can afford it, and (b) life is finite, to which Don just looks at him quizzically. Duck arrives with news about Martinson Coffee's current agency (Gray) and their young TV and print creatives.

Don's youth brigade, Smith and Smith have arrived and are chatting up Jane, who shows no interest. Once in Don's office, Smitty explains to Don about the anti-authoritarian attitude of youth culture while Kurt sets up a tape player. "We just want to be," he says, to which Don replies "You just want to -be- selling coffee?" "Just listen to this," Smitty says. Kurt presses play on the reel to reel to end the scene.

Paul Kinsey is pouring a glass of water into a Pampers disposable diaper as he closes a meeting with Peggy, Ken, and Sal. Jane arrives with notes from Don which Peggy takes with her as she exits. Harry Crane arrives with news that he has a meeting with Mr. Cooper. As a little jab to Harry, Paul tells him that Cooper is probably going to ask him about "the picture." After some banter about the painting, Jane brazenly suggests they all go up and see it since Cooper has left for the day. Harry protests, but Jane goes anyway. Ken follows her, Sal follows Ken, and the rest of the men fall in line. As Jane opens up Mr. Cooper's door, they all stop to remove their shoes. The painting is "#7 Untitled (Green, Brown, and Orange)" by the modernist Mark Rothko. No one gets gist of the painting except Ken Cosgrove, who shares his thoughts with Sal. "Maybe you're just supposed to experience it. Because when you look at it, you do feel something, right? It's like looking into something very deep. You could fall in." Sal is impressed. "That's true! Did someone tell you that?" "How could someone tell you that," Ken replies. Harry gives up on his search for a brochure, cueing a quick exeunt. The Rothko hangs silently, "just being" on the wall.

We see a brief shot of the elevator doors echoing the painting. The doors open and Jane, Ken, and Sal enter. Ken talks about how their little adventure could make a great short story. Ken is surprised that Sal read his previous story. As the elevator arrives he tries to invite Jane to dinner but is summarily rebuffed.

The following morning Ken and Paul are having a chat at the coffee cart. Paul tries to ask Ken about the painting, but is intercepted by Joan. Ken flees the scene. Joan appropriates Paul's coffee and takes him aside. She's heard that he, Jane, and Ken were in Mr. Cooper's office. Paul doesn't correct her, but tells her to mind her own business in the familiar tone of an ex-lover. Joan says nothing and gives him back his coffee. As she saunters to the coffee cart Paul says "I had nothing to do with it." "Thank you," is her curt reply. Paul asserts "Nothing happened!" and exits.

Sal is talking to Smith and Smith. Smitty tells Sal that Kurt doesn't need any artwork. Sal asks Kurt if that's what he said, and Kurt replies with something incoherent about Don's signature. When Ken arrives Sal dismisses them: "3 o'clock... and HE (Kurt) doesn't talk in the meeting." Ken asks Sal to read one of his unpublished stories, telling him "You're not like everyone else around here." Sal says he would be honored to read it. As Ken is about to leave, Sal asks him to come to dinner on Sunday "you know, with Kitty and I." Ken accepts. Sal's gaze lingers as Ken exits.

Don is giving the opening presentation to Jim Van Dyke of Martinson Coffee. Smith and Smith, Peggy, and Duck are also in attendance. Don mentions "unsuccessful attempts - puppets and so forth - to capture the attention of youth." (This refers to a series of silly Wilkins coffee ads made by Jim Henson in 1957.) Don opens up the floor to Smitty, who mentions that "a cup of Joe" was - in fact - named after Joe Martinson. He explains that young people don't want to be told how things are, they want to discover things for themselves - they want to feel. He asks Peggy to start the reel to reel tape, which plays a catchy song with a Mexican theme. Jim Van Dyke isn't too sure and asks "What are the pictures that go with this?" Don quickly answers "If you sign we'll tell you." Jim looks unconvinced as the scene ends.

Harry arrives for his meeting with Mr. Cooper, who gets right down to business about media purchases. Harry just stares at the painting, prompting Cooper to call him to attention. "We didn't make you the head of television just to shorten your attention span." Harry tries to come off as knowledgeable about Rothko, and asks Cooper what he thinks of the painting. Cooper seems taken aback by the question. "Nobody's ever asked me that," he says with some interest, but after a beat he adds, "Probably because it's NONE of their business." Cooper then asks Harry how it strikes him, and Harry admits he knows nothing about art. Cooper tells him to stick to numbers because aesthetics will only give him a headache. With pride, Cooper admits it's just a monetary investment, that - just between them and the lamppost - its price will double by next Christmas. They share a laugh before getting back to the expense reports.

Betty is in the kitchen combing her daughter's hair when she gets a call from Jimmy Barrett. Jimmy invites her and Don to the Stork Club to celebrate his show "Grin & Barrett" having been picked up by ABC. He flirts a bit with Betty, comparing her to Lady Godiva, and ends up by saying "Betty, it would mean a lot to me if you were there." Betty says she and Don will try to be there and hangs up, a little flattered or perhaps just bemused.

Don is sitting in his office doing paperwork when Jane announces Mr. Philips. Duck abruptly enters and announces that they got the Martinson Coffee account. Don offers to order something non-alcoholic for Duck and pours himself a drink. Duck keeps darting his eyes to Don's glass, giving the impression he might be yearning for a drink himself. Jane enters and tells Don Mr. Cooper wants to speak with him - just him. Don bounds off with some enthusiasm, but Duck hesitates for a few seconds before going out.

Don arrives to find Roger Sterling and Bertram Cooper waiting for him. Bertram invites him to sit. Roger tells him Jim Van Dyke was impressed, and is inviting Don to join the board of the Museum of Early American Folk Arts (which today is named the American Folk Art Museum). Bertram explains that "philanthropy is the gateway to power," which fails to impress Don. Roger explains that Don's position is more than just his work as a creative director, which Bertram underscores by explaining that Don will be wearing his tuxedo a lot more. "It's time for the horse to catch the carrot," says a characteristically cryptic Cooper. Bertram sends Roger out and explains to Don that he is being invited to join the political and take his seat among those who actually make things happen in the world. Don looks perplexed but kind of proud.

Don is sitting in the blue Caddy from the opening scene. The salesman appears and asks him if he'd like to take a test drive. Without looking up he says "Wayne, I would like to buy this car."

Joan arrives at Jane's desk and asks her to come with her. Jane asks what it's about, if Joan can just tell her. Joan accuses Jane of breaking into Mr. Cooper's office. First Jane tries to deny it, then to blame the men: "They made me. I had no choice." But Joan knows the score and doesn't buy it. Jane goes on the offensive, asking Joan "What's wrong with you? Are you the only one allowed to have any fun around here?" She takes aim at Joan's age, telling her "Please, I don't need a mother. I'm 20 years old." Joan doesn't pull any punches. She tells Jane to collect her things, that she's going to the break room to find her replacement. "See that you are gone by the time I return."

It's a sunny day as Betty and Don exit their house to get acquainted with the new Cadillac. Betty is excited and impressed. "It's like the cockpit of a jet!" She tells Don "I can't wait to pull up to the Stork Club in this." Don says "Any time you want." "Monday night?" she asks. She tells Don that Jimmy called her to invite them both. "I think he likes talking to me." She tells Don the kids won't be home for an hour, kisses him, and asks if he wants to take her around the block? "Not in here," says Don.

Jane is walking through the offices with a cardboard box. She knocks on Roger Sterling's door and enters. She thanks Roger for being kind to her and tells him that she's been fired by Miss Holloway. Roger is sympathetic to the beautiful girl in distress and offers her a drink. He tells her Joan has been going through a rough time, that she's engaged. He learns that Jane lives in the Village on Jane Street, and finds it to be "a pretty picture." He tells Jane not to worry, that by the time she comes back in on Monday morning, it will all be taken care of. She thanks him and he tells her to call him "Roger." She goes out with her box.

Sal and Kitty are in their apartment waiting for Ken, who's late. Ken arrives with a big bouquet of flowers and praise for the smell of the food. Ken asks them how they met. Sal says it's a boring story, but Kitty disagrees. She tells Ken that she grew up a block away from Sal in Baltimore, that she always had a crush on an older man. Sal explains that as soon as he moved his mother up to New York, Kitty came along. Sal asks Ken to try the sauce, and he's impressed. Ken is impatient for Sal to tell him his opinion of "The Gold Violin." Sal is effulgent with praise, but Kitty hasn't read it. The three toast to "'The Gold Violin' by Kenneth Cosgrove." Ken explains that he saw a gold violin at the Met, perfect in every way, but it couldn't make music. As dinner commences Sal can't take his eyes off of Ken, so smitten is he.

Don and Betty are having a picnic with the kids. Bobby runs up and announces that he has to pee. After Don sends him off to urinate behind a tree, Don tells Sally about how, when he was a kid, the outhouse was far from the house, and at the new moon he had to follow a rope to find it in the dark. Sally is glad they didn't have to live in the olden days. She asks, "Are we rich?" and Betty replies "It's not polite to talk about money." Bobby comes running back and they prepare to leave. Don finishes his beer and throws the can onto the park lawn. Betty gathers up the blanket, casually spilling its contents on the ground. They pack up the car and drive off leaving a pile of litter behind.

Meanwhile back at Sal and Kitty's, Sal is quizzing Ken about Harry's meeting with Mr. Cooper. Ken tells him that Harry told him he has the answer now, but he (Ken) wouldn't understand. As Kitty tries to make conversation, Sal thoughtlessly dismisses her, and presses Ken about how he - a writer - ended up in accounting, trying to get a bit more on the personal side. Kitty seems to notice Sal's special interest, and an awkward silence follows. Ken tries to get going, but Sal tries to keep him there by offering him a cigarette and some coffee. Ken insists he has to go. Kitty offers Ken some pie, but he declines. He gives Kitty a friendly kiss on the cheek, thanks them for being so kind, and leaves. Kitty offers Sal some pie, but Sal isn't hungry. Kitty is upset that Sal was dismissive with her, asking "Do you even see me here?" Sal is contrite and apologetic, and Kitty calms down, but it's clear they both know something is wrong. Sal finds Ken's lighter on the table and pockets it as the scene closes.

Ken and Jane are arriving at the office, along with others. He asks Jane to the opera, but she rebuffs him, telling him not to lurk near her desk because she's being watched. Ken enters the break room and tells Sal he was going to call Kitty but he didn't know how it was with Italian people if you call someone's wife. Sal assures him it's okay, that she'd like that. Ken thanks Sal for the hospitality and tells him he hopes he can have something like Sal and Kitty someday. Sal is visibly bothered by Ken's heterosexual fantasy, but manages a friendly reply before exiting.

Jane is back at her desk in front of Don's office when Joan comes up and says "What on God's green Earth are you doing here?" Jane stammers before asking Joan if Mr. Sterling has spoken to her. Jane says Roger told her that Joan loses her temper a lot, that she's impetuous, and that it's not serious. She asks Jane what she was doing talking to Roger Sterling. She tells Joan that she ran into him on the way out. Jane can see that this bothers Joan, and smiles a little, asking her if there's a problem. Joan says there's no problem, that everything is crystal clear. Jane goes back to her typing, only slightly shaken.

Don and Betty arrive at the Stork Club. An ABC executive named Andrew Colville greets Don, who introduces his wife. Bobbie Barrett comes up and greets Betty and Don. She asks Don if Andrew has told him about her idea of adding a few items to the show. Betty insists on getting the drinks so they can discuss their business. Bobbie starts to talk about Rolex product placement, and Don has a cynical take. Andrew doesn't care if Jimmy wants a Rolex, as long as they bury Candid Camera. Alone in the corner, Betty is drinking Champagne and admiring a Lady Godiva statue. Jimmy Barrett comes up and says "If you're trying to blend into the wall, you can't." As the tray comes by, Jimmy grabs two glasses. Betty protests, but Jimmy insists. "The drunker you are, the funnier I become. ABC did research. Come on, let's keep each other company." They sit down across the room from Don, Bobbie, and Andrew. Jimmy says "Look at us, at the kids' table," and talks about his life following behind salesmen like Don. He flatters Betty, honestly amazed that Don doesn't seem to appreciate her. "What do you think happened between the two of them?" he asks her, referring to Don and Bobbie. "Look at them," he says, and Betty does, recognizing familiar signs. She seems to know Jimmy is right, but she doesn't want to hear it and tries to flee. Jimmy restrains her and says "I don't like it any more than you do." Betty is offended, and says "You people are ugly and crude," before breaking away. As she crosses the room Jimmy asks, "What people? You mean comedians?"

Sal is sitting in his chair watching TV as his wife does needlepoint and his mother sleeps on the couch. He puts a cigarette in his mouth and glances at his wife before producing Ken's lighter from his shirt pocket. He lights his cigarette and looks at the lighter for a moment before returning it to his shirt pocket.

Don is standing by the exit of the Stork Club when Jimmy approaches. He asks why Don is leaving so soon and Don explains that Betty isn't feeling well. Jimmy insists on paying to retrieve Betty's scarf from the coat check, and tells Don that thanks to him, he got everything he wanted. Don keeps his usual distance, brushing off Jimmy's praises. Jimmy decides to confront Don, saying "You know what I like about you? Nothing! But it's okay, you got me everything I wanted. What did you get? Bobbie? Lots of people have had that." Don tries to duck it, but Jimmy keeps on. "Please. I laugh at you. I go home at night and I laugh at you." "I don't know what you think happened," Don says. Jimmy gives him a dead stare. "You. You want to step out, fine. Go to a whore. You don't screw another man's wife. You're garbage, and you know it." As Betty arrives, Jimmy puts on a smile. "Good night you two. It's been a gas." Betty and Don both appear shaken as they make to leave.

Betty sits in the passenger seat of the Cadillac wearing her blue gown, no seatbelt, and a thousand mile stare. Don is driving, with a look of shell-shock on his face. They sit in silence for several seconds. Suddenly Betty vomits. Don looks over at Betty with an expression of horror and perplexity.