Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mad Men, "Maidenform": Reflections of the love you took from me

Spoilers for "Mad Men" season two, episode six coming up just as soon as I delete "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance" from my Netflix queue (and thank you very much, Pete)...

"Women want to see themselves the way men see them." -Paul Kinsey

Unsurprisingly for an episode that features so many characters looking into mirrors, "Maidenform" is about how people see themselves and then how hurt they are to realize how the rest of the world sees them.

Don is briefly pleased with Sally's worshipful gaze, particularly during the Memorial Day celebration, but after he realizes that Bobbie Barrett sees him as a reflection of herself -- and that, though he refuses to admit it to her, she's seeing him correctly -- he can't bear to have Sally look at him that way anymore.

Peggy struggles with an issue that still plagues women in business today -- how do you get an edge in business when the boys are doing so much business at the bar, or on the golf course, or other He-Man Woman Hater's Club-type venues? -- and needs Joan to tell her to stop looking like a girl when a woman can probably have more luck in this arena. (Modern businesswoman might suggest that Peggy's new approach -- not just dressing sexier, but sitting on the lap of a male client and giggling about it -- won't do her any favors, either, but least the guys seemed happy to have her around, and might think to invite her to future after-hours events.)

Betty is again flattered by the attention of young Arthur (so long as it doesn't go past attention) and is then embarrassed when he sees his reaction to the arrival of her kids. To feel better about herself, she buys a sexy yellow bikini at auction and is completely humiliated when Don -- who watched her, from afar, flirt with Arthur at the country club -- tells her exactly how he thinks she looks.

Duck Phillips, struggling to stay sober in the wake of personal and professional problems (his appearances late last season strongly implied that he was an alcoholic whose drinking nearly destroyed his career in London), finally succumbs to the temptation to drink. But he can't bear to see his beloved dog Chauncey -- a reflection of the life he threw away the last time he drank -- stare at him with those big brown eyes, and so he sends the poor pooch out into the streets of New York so he can destroy himself in solitude. (And if you have any doubt that Duck went back up for that bottle, it should have been erased by the immediate cut from Duck's haunted face to Bobbie Barrett pouring a glass of champagne.)

Pete, who has never had much of a personality to call his own and who therefore mirrors others -- see his desire to buy an "office dog" after seeing Duck with Chauncey -- preys on the insecurities of a model who just got rejected at a Sterling Cooper casting call. Though he's pleased with his predatory reflection in the mirror after returning home, unnoticed, he's furious when he watches Peggy acting flirty and happy at the strip club. (Pete's "I don't like you like this" to a happy Peggy from "The Hobo Code" was his version of Don's "It's desperate" to Betty here.)

Mirrors -- flattering and unflattering, real images and perceived ones -- are everywhere in this episode. Don has created a (successful) campaign for Playtex that holds up a mirror to the product and shows you why it works. The clients want a campaign that mirrors the one used by Maidenform (which is all about fantasy images of oneself), and so Don comes up with a new one that involves one woman playing two versions of herself, as Jackie and Marilyn.

Jackie and her husband have come up an awful lot this season, and they're also held up to the harsh light of the dressing room mirror. Don's public relations buddy at the Memorial Day barbecue talks about how the image of youthful vigor we all had of Kennedy -- which we all now know was a lie, that he was frail and sickly -- vanished as soon as Kennedy got to the White House and was confronted with the reality that he couldn't get anything done. (Case in point: The Bay of Pigs, which Don's pal was involved in.)

"Maidenform" is a less intense episode than last week's "The New Girl," but it features a number of typically beautiful, haunting "Mad Men" moments. Chief among them is Duck abandoning Chauncey so he can get his drink on in peace. Based on Mark Moses' continued listing as a guest star, I fear Duck's not long for Sterling Cooper. It's one thing to indulge the likes of Freddie Rumsen, who has a middle-tier job and at worst falls asleep on the job; it's clear from the rumors we heard about Duck last season and from the comment from his ex-wife about how he used to act in the afternoon that Duck is a much messier drunk, and the sort that Bert Cooper won't be able to tolerate as his head of accounts.

The shame of it is that Duck's fall off the wagon comes in the same episode where he finally makes peace with Don. He doesn't realize it at first (look how defeated he seems after Don leaves their "lunch" meeting) because Don can be such a cold bastard, but when the Playtex campaign plays out exactly as Don predicted it would, Don declines to play the "Toldja so" and genuinely tries to reassure Duck that this wasn't a bad thing. (Unlike the American fiasco, this didn't cost them any money.) There had been a lot of speculation that Matt Weiner brought Duck in to be this season's Richie Aprile, but after weeks of watching them clash and watching Duck try to lure Pete further into the dark side, Weiner instead shows us a very human and vulnerable side of Duck, and then tosses poor Duck off the wagon. Great work by Moses.

Bobbie Barrett, on the other hand, is becoming more problematic the longer she sticks around. I recognize that she's supposed to reflect (oy, there's that word again) an uglier side of Don, that he's drawn to her out of frustration with the state of his marriage and that both of them get off on the fact that neither likes each other very much. But the unpleasantness of their relationship is starting to flow into the actual scenes. The idea that Don's much more of a himbo than we realized, and in fact has a reputation among a certain circle of professional ladies is an interesting one (not that I ever thought Midge was his first mistress), but there comes a point where I'm tired of seeing Don cast this nasty woman out of his life only to go back to her again.

Then again, the Duck storyline doesn't seem to be traveling in the direction I expected. Maybe my perception of the Bobbie story is going to turn out to be as inaccurate as Sally Draper's view of her perfect daddy.

Some other thoughts on "Maidenform":

• Though the story overall is frustrating, I did get a kick out of Don doing the mental math whenever Bobbie revealed the existence and age of yet another kid. Jon Hamm had a priceless "How old is this broad?" look on his face when she mentioned the daughter at Sarah Lawrence, and the whole thing neatly mirrored (please stop me from beating this metaphor into the ground) Arthur's reaction to the physical reminder of Betty's motherhood.

• I really appreciated the nuance of the guys' behavior around Peggy in her storyline, which reflects (God help us all) her unique standing in the office. She's not a secretary, and they don't treat her like one, but she's also not one of them. Freddie's the one who plucked her from the typing pool by praising her way with words to Don, yet he still slaps her on her ass (albeit with a folder) to dismiss her complaints of being left out of the brainstorming session. And you can tell that Ken does sort of like her -- if nothing else, he recognizes that she's good at what she does, and therefore good for his own business -- but he also doesn't grasp what her complaint is about.

• Also, you can tell how badly Peggy could use that makeover, even if sexing herself up may not be the best way to deal with these guys. Don compares her to Irene Dunne, who was 63 in 1962, and hadn't even appeared in a movie in a decade. Dunne was adorable in her heyday, but it'd be sort of like telling a 22-year-old today, in the midst of a discussion of which Jessica is the hottest, that she reminds you of Diane Keaton. (Hat tip to Matt Seitz for suggesting Keaton; I was on the verge of going with the less age-appropriate Meg Ryan.)

• I loved that Betty's friend casually uses a phrase like "the summer they executed the Rosenbergs" while discussing the weather.

• Lost a little in all the hubbub about Playtex is the tension between Peggy and Pete over the Clearasil campaign. Two things that struck me: 1)Unlike Duck's proposed, unfinished suggestion for the Playtext slogan, Pete's "Thanks, Clearasil!" catchphrase doesn't sound bad (I have a nagging suspicion it was a Clearasil slogan at some point), but Peggy won't admit it because it would suggest he had some talent in her area; and 2)Peggy's TV commercial concept sounds fairly novel for the period, and maybe another thing that could help put Sterling Cooper (and Harry's brand new TV division) on the map.

• Another reason I suspect Duck is on his way out: Roger hasn't had much to do professionally this season. That said, the writers always make sure to give John Slattery one hilariously oily bit of business in every episode. In this case, it was his delight in admiring the curvy (albeit lobster-like) form of Jane and mocking Don about what Betty's eventual reaction to her will be. ("Has your wife seen that yet?")

• Any Stephen King fans immediately start thinking about "Gerald's Game" after Don left Bobbie tied to the bed? A robe sash isn't as hard to get out of as handcuffs, and of course someone would be home before long (either a housekeeper or this college-age daughter), but I did wonder how long she wound up stuck like that.

• For the second episode in a row, Freddie embarrasses a co-worker with something that seems inappropriate, but at least here, his request for a box of bras was actually professional, whereas there was no earthly reason (except comic genius) for him to play Mozart on his zipper last week.

• During the non-lunch peace accord meeting, there's a shot from behind of Don leaning on Duck's couch that looks exactly like the image of him from the main titles.

• Creepier part of Pete's seduction of the model: that her mom is in the next room, or that Pete (who recently lost his dad in a plane crash) has sex while the TV shows an aviation documentary where the narrator reads RAF pilot John Gillespie Magee's poem "High Flight", which is often read at the memorials for people who died in plane crashes? (Reagan quoted it while addressing the nation on the night of the Challenger explosion.)

• For the most part, music supervisor Alex Patsavas sticks with period-appropriate songs, but she's not opposed to an anachronistic tune if it fits right, which The Decemberists' "The Infanta" certainly does over the montage of Betty, Joan and Peggy putting on their underwear in front of the (sorry, but this is a literal use) mirror.

What did everybody else (or, at least, everybody else who was watching a Memorial Day-themed episode of a TV show in the middle of Labor Day weekend) think?

102 comments:

Anonymous said...

What was the song playing in the opening scene with the women getting dressed in front of the mirrors?

Anonymous said...

You thought of Stephen King, and not Constanza, when someone was left tied to a bed?

pdf said...

I thought that was a Placebo song in the beginning. Other point: Rogers & Cowan is a real PR agency (I'm the editor of a music magazine, and I deal with them from time to time), but I didn't realize they'd been around that long.

bonitobroth said...

It's strange, as I was watching the opening credits tonight, I thought "you know, the MM theme is good, but doesn't really sound like it's from the '60s. it's more 1997." and then the Decemberists song comes on.

I thought it was a little jarring, despite fitting the theme like a playtex. though they could get away with it during the closing credits, otherwise they should stick to period music. period.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What was the song playing in the opening scene with the women getting dressed in front of the mirrors?

You might want to scroll up a few lines to the part of the review where I specifically mention that song (complete with picture of the scene in question for your reading assistance).

Alan Sepinwall said...

You thought of Stephen King, and not Constanza, when someone was left tied to a bed?

Woman left tied to the bed, I go King. If it was a short, stocky, slow-witted bald man, I would have gone Costanza.

Cro Magnon said...

Lots of pictures of scantily clad pictures of women in various states of undress in this week's Mad Men post; too bad we could not have gotten something similar of Natalie Morales in this past week's Middleman post.

David said...

What did you make of the shots of Don's daughter, the first one at the fashion show...ahem... mirroring the one at the end? Don seemed at peace both times, while looking at his daughter (being applauded for his services first, and then shaving), then quickly the existential panic attack (or maybe something else) kicked in.

Also, I loved The Decemberists there. Great stuff. Personally, looking back on the episode, I saw it as the girls dressing themselves (the Jackie, the Marilyn and Irene Dunn) not seeing themselves as the men see them, conflicting with the guys campaign. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

I also love how Duck got Draper on his side. By suggesting they "move forward." That's not a problem for Don. He's a forgetful guy.

Man, with Gen Kill gone, I have no idea what I'd do on "Classy Drama Sunday" without the only classy sunday drama left till fall.

Fluffy said...

I guess the other thing that got to DD in the last scene was his daughter telling him, unprompted, that she wouldn't talk while he was shaving. Which must have reminded him of Bobbie doing the exact opposite: being told not to talk, and then doing it just to provoke Don.

Sarah said...

I was also sure that at some point Don had told Sally, "Don't talk while Daddy shaves." It must have been chilling to realize he tells his daughter the same thing as his disliked mistress.

Clare said...

Peggy disagreed with Paul's MM/Jackie theory. She didn't elaborate except to say that not all women are either one or the other. In the ad that Don showed the Playtex guys the model in her MM garb was wearing white, the Jackie garb was black. I found it interesting that in the beginning credits, Betty with her blonde, Marilyn-like hair was wearing white and Joan was wearing black. Paul's theory was based only on his assumptions. I would say that Betty may wear the mask of a Jackie, but underneath she's a Marilyn. Maybe Joan is really a Jackie underneath? All of these people looking in the mirror are different in their underwear--especially Don while he's shaving in the final scene.

Anonymous said...

Great wrap up Alan, as usual.

One thing I have to disagree with. Watch the scene again where Sally claps for her father at the Memorial Day celebration. When Don looks at her he seems pleased, at first. However, his facial expression quickly turns to unease. My read is that Don was ashamed. We know he's not the war hero he claims he was. Now he's perpetuating that fraud upon his daughter.

The best show on t.v. keeps getting better. Only 7 episodes left.

Britni said...

I agree with Anon above me. Sally looks up to Don and worships him, but he knows that he is not the honorable and noble man that she sees him as. I definitely think that this makes him ashamed and therefore he can't really handle the way that she looks at him because it makes him feel maybe like a fraud.

It's why he left the Memorial Day auction immediately after he noticed Sally looking up at him proudly, and why he asked her to leave after she told him that she would stop talking so he could shave.

I feel like, while he is proud of the fact that his daughter looks up to him, he is not the man that she thinks he is, no matter how badly he wishes he were. He is a fraud and he is starting to have to deal with the reality of that. The actions that he could at one time push into the back of his mind are beginning to catch up to him.

He seems to suddenly be developing a conscience.

Anthony Foglia said...

Alan wrote, Based on Mark Moses' continued listing as a guest star, I fear Duck's not long for Sterling Cooper.

Oh sure, but last year when I asked what the meaning of John Slattery always being listed as a guest star meant, people shrugged me off. :-)

(BTW, did I catch Marti Noxon's name during the credits? That's never a good sign.)

clare wrote, In the ad that Don showed the Playtex guys the model in her MM garb was wearing white, the Jackie garb was black. I found it interesting that in the beginning credits, Betty with her blonde, Marilyn-like hair was wearing white and Joan was wearing black.

I noted that too. Wouldn't the black bra and underwear be a much more sexually powerful image than white? Would a daytime costume employ that? Then again, the "Jackie" pose was pretty sensual, compared to the giggly "Marilyn." Really, though, the choices were for artistic reasons. (Maybe they said the brunette was "Bettie Page", it would work more, but she would be too inappropriate for the 60's.

cgeye said...

Actually Bobbie wouldn't have any problems getting out of those knots, since her arms were so far down the bed that she'd most likely be able to undo one knot with her teeth, if she keeps the other hand near the headboard.....

It's on the Internet, you could look it up.

Also I thought Peggy's style freeze was a function of her 'no, never ever did I get pregnant' phase. If nothing changed her from her first day at SC, and the shift to Joan's horrid dress suggestions made things worse, I could see why she wouldn't take even a saleslady's advice about appropriate clothes for her position. I think this is Bobbie's doing, as well -- as we now know, she has a girl Peggy's age, and she knows what men expect -- and *this* is the real theme of the evening, how everyone deforms their true selves into What Real Men Want -- a women they can relate with to look like.

This theme holds for Don, too. He's used to affairs to be a black box pressure valve. He goes into a hotel room stressed, and nothing comes out of them, especially gossip. I know being seen as a not-very-savvy form of slut can shock a man, but I'm surprised Don never understood that smart women with independent sexual lives talk about men the same way men talk about girls. (Samantha of SITC was merely the latest model of voracious power broad.) Hell, part of those women's power is being honorary men in terms of aggression and cruelty, so most likely he got a rep back in his furrier ad man days. Both scenes with Sally worshiping him had Don uneasy, I thought: The first, with Don taking on the heroic mantle he did not earn, and the second, with him fully aware that his dogging around could one day get back to his daughter, and he'd lose that worshipful gaze forever.

I am still shocked, really, that Bobbie took him on knowing about his sexual nature. Will that convince those that she was sexually assaulted? Who can say.

cgeye said...

Oh, and this:
"Don compares her to Irene Dunne, who was 63 in 1962, and hadn't even appeared in a movie in a decade."

-- wasn't the killer insult to Peggy. It was "Gertrude Stein". In 1962, it doesn't get worse than for a nice girl to be compared to an expatriate bulldyke poet living in France with a moustached girlfriend.

But, having said that, the boys weren't hateful to her, at least they weren't more than usual. They were really telling her what they thought about women, just as they didn't choke up or tell her to leave or get all guilty when she went to the strip club. They're used to party girls, and they're leaving it up to Peggy how she'll be a professional party girl copywriter executive colleague.

It still puzzles me how she'd be so dense as to not see that she'd have to be with clients wherever they wanted to go -- and NYC strip clubs were designed for business entertaining, as they are today.

Anonymous said...

Why did Peggy put on pantyhose in the opening scenes? I was a kid in 1962, but when I started wearing hose, I still wore stockings and a garter for a while, so I don't think pantyhose were for sale yet in 1962....

Anonymous said...

The Rosenberg line reminded me of something, and I just figured it out. The first line of "The Bell Jar" reads "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."

cgeye said...

Reposting these gossip missives on Hamm's and Slattery's visit to the DNC:

http://tinyurl.com/6cscmu
http://tinyurl.com/64gubb

The latter article has Hamm comparing present-day campaign advertising to the Nixon/Kennedy ones from MM's last season.

Britni said...

Anon said: Why did Peggy put on pantyhose in the opening scenes? I was a kid in 1962, but when I started wearing hose, I still wore stockings and a garter for a while, so I don't think pantyhose were for sale yet in 1962....

It says here that pantyhose were invented in 1959, so they would have been available, but it also mentioned that the seamless pantyhose were not on the market until 1965. From what I recall, Peggy is putting on seamless pantyhose, so the scene would be partially historically accurate and partially not.

Mad Women said...

My heart broke when Duck released his beloved dog on Madison Ave.

How long until Roger starts sleeping with Draper's new girl?

Anonymous said...

Bobbie says that a woman from a publishing company told her about Don's prowess. Might this be the woman Don sent the book to in the season opener?

floretbroccoli said...

I wondered about the pantyhose, too. Pantyhose didn't become popular until skirts were short enough to require them.

I well remember my grandmother scoffing at a friend of hers who wore pantyhose as trying to be young.

Jennifer J. said...

Alan, can you please tell me what song was used during the closing credits on the show? My husband is dying to know. Thanks!

I never get to participate in these b/c we usually don't watch Mad Men until Monday night at dinner. It's wonderful (and enlightening) reading everyone's ideas.

Duke broke my heart tonight and he'll never get it back. I'm so *beyond* a "dog person", so that Chauncey bark felt like it was killing me.

I wonder if Peggy's Playtex idea would have gotten SC more work from Playtex? Peggy's really got the knack esp. for anything related to women. It's both fascinating and very difficult to see her trying to "rise" in her business with everything she's up against in her times.

I liked the guys saying Marilyn Monroe was Joan.

Don is the most dense and complex character. Sometimes that drives me up the wall! Mostly I love it though. :)

Does anyone else feel as if they're not yet getting enough answers to all of last season's cliffhangers and what happened in the time between? Don't get me wrong I like to be manipulated in a certain way but I just don't want this to become like Season 3 of Lost. I have fears people. That's all I'm saying. I don't need to be spoon-fed but I just wanna know! Gimme more than a shred....

drake leLane said...

As a couple folks have pointed out, Don was definitely uncomfortable with Sally's look of admiration at the Memorial Day celebration (just watched it again).

Don's having a much harder time compartmentalizing his duplicity, especially now that there are others privy to his secrets. Peggy and Bobbie both have provided reminders to Don about the accident, and it seems to rattle him each time. Since he keeps the accident in the same blind spot as Dick Whitman, the holes poked in that balloon have his big lie leaking out with the smaller lie.

Evie Garland said...

Thanks for the thoughtful analysis! I always enjoy reading your take on the show.

Thought it would be interesting to note that my boyfriend, after seeing the first ep of the season, probably would have joined the "drop outs" after the first ep. But now he loves the show. Just goes to show you that (like Emmy voters) viewers need to see something good right away to stay hooked (unless their girlfriends force them to watch)

drake leLane said...

And is it just me, or did Bobbie invite Don to stay and masturbate in her beach house?

"Stay... relax... believe me I'm the same way. It all has to come out somewhere."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh sure, but last year when I asked what the meaning of John Slattery always being listed as a guest star meant, people shrugged me off. :-)

Situations were different. It was a new show then, and Slattery was listed as a very special guest star.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thought it would be interesting to note that my boyfriend, after seeing the first ep of the season, probably would have joined the "drop outs" after the first ep. But now he loves the show. Just goes to show you that (like Emmy voters) viewers need to see something good right away to stay hooked (unless their girlfriends force them to watch)

I wonder if, in retrospect, Weiner and/or AMC realize it was a mistake to open season two with such a slow, contemplative episode (even by Mad Men standards) like "For Those Who Think Young," given that they were working so hard to bring in new viewers.

At the very least, they might have thought about running it back to back with "Flight 1," which was much more action-packed (again, by Mad Men standards). In one of the earlier Sopranos seasons, HBO ran the first two episodes on the same night because the premiere was such an atypical show (it was the one with the FBI trying to bug Tony's basement) and they wanted to make sure viewers new and old got something closer to the usual Sopranos experience.

Nicole said...

It's a show for adults, do we seriously have to cater to ADD adults for everything? I watch a bunch of television and have never found this show to be that slow paced. It's not a shot em up kind of show, but where the characters are important. I've watched arty films where nothing happens. This is not one of those shows.

The dog killed me ... I was even hoping that Pete picked him up.

It was nice to see the madonna/whore dichotomy applied to Don as well as to the women. He clearly didn't like it when Betty was trying to be a little less than the asexual mother, and so I didn't feel bad when his escapades bit him back. Normally a guy would take pride in being able to bed all these women, so I guess Don really doesn't know what kind of "Don" he wants to be. I think he was bothered by his daughter's gaze because she is the one woman that he hasn't sexualized and so he couldn't dismiss her as easily as he does with Betty or Bobbi or any other adult woman and so the admiration and his hypocrisy hit him hard.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's a show for adults, do we seriously have to cater to ADD adults for everything?

Based on the ratings fall-off from episode 1 to 2, I unfortunately think we do.

llsie said...

Just a small comment this week.
As a woman, I have to say it was so nice to see women (in the fashion show/strip club) who looked just like me. That is to say "fat", according to all tv and movies I have ever seen in the 26 years I have been alive.
It actually shocked me how emotionally comforted I felt to be affirmed as normal/desirable.

Anonymous said...

I had a flashback memory last night when the "boys" talked about women being either "Jackie or Marilyn". When I was a little girl my neighborhood pals and I would play some pretend games- and we would choose to be Jackie or Marilyn.

Good little Catholic girl that I was, I remembered choosing Marilyn
but I told my friends I was a Marilyn that was never divorced...

Whooo. They sure nailed that bit.
My Mom was definitely a Jackie.

virgil said...

Agreed about the actresses they used for the memorial day fashion show and the strip club; they looked exactly right for the time period--more fleshy than moodels would be today, but not in the least "fat".

Don's reaction to his daughter in the bathroom seemed to me a little extreme to be simply him feeling uncomfortable about how she sees him. My hunch is that it was a verbal trigger that reminded him of something awful (that either happened to him, or--just as likely-- that he did to someone else).

Anonymous said...

"Peggy disagreed with Paul's MM/Jackie theory. She didn't elaborate except to say that not all women are either one or the other."

And I think that makes a lot of sense as it neatly dovetails with her place in the office. As has been mentioned, she's not one of the "girls" nor is she one of the "guys".

I think the relationship between her & Joan is developing into an interesting one. And it was a nice illustration of just how on her own Peggy is (Joan saying she doesn't speak that language & has no desire to).

I got curious about the summer they executed the Rosenbergs line, remembering it from The Bell Jar. But according to what I found, it wasn't published 'til 1963. Is it an anachronism? Or is Weiner evoking the suffocation woman of that era experienced? Or did people refer to humid days like that? :-)

The scene with Duck & Chauncey broke my heart. Those big brown eyes, looking to be let back into the building. The dog, along with a good portion of the cast deserves an Emmy. Why couldn't he just give Chauncey to Pete? Maybe Chauncey could humanize Pete.

Along with the dog, another powerful moment was seeing Don just sitting there in the bathroom as the credits rolled. I think he normally forgets any negative/bad feelings about himself as part of his forget/move forward strategy and this was a wake up call. I agree his daughter saying she wasn't going to talk probably reminded him of Bobbie talking.

I also found it intereting how Pete's & his brother's wives were almost interchangeable. Their names rhyme (Trudy/Judy) and there's a strong physical resemblance.

Re: the point a previous poster made about the body types of the strippers, that was the norm back then. A friend and I were watching an episode of I Dream of Jeannie and there was a scene of one of the male characters surrounded by women in bikinis, who were obviously intended to be very attractive. The women weren't what I would consider fat, but they were realistically attractive. This was in the early 90s and my friend remarked on how standards had changed (criticizing the more recent standards) saying that if they were in the industry today, someone would be telling them to hit the gym. Also, if you notice during the fashion show, not every woman has abs of steel.

jcpbmg said...

Anthony, apparently The Toxon is now a staff writer and producer on the show, how upsetting

Matt Weiner, I thought you had better judgment than that...

Anonymous said...

This is the first I've seen of this blog, and I'm very impressed by it.

"Mad Men" is good enough to remind me of great movies, and two came to mind with the "Maidenform" episode:

1. Don may have dismissed "Psycho" as meaningless garbage -- but maybe he saw it and got something out of it anyway. (He doesn't seem much of a movie guy, though -- meanwhile, I really appreciate Pete seeing "Cape Fear" three times!) The Jackie/Marilyn business reminds me of Hitchcock's conspicuous use of black and white lingerie with Janet Leigh.

2. One of my favorite scenes in "The Graduate" is when in the course of eleven minutes, Dustin Hoffman gets Anne Bancroft to start talking, and by the end he is "whipped" and resigned to silence. The Don/Bobbie scene was the inverse of that: it starts off with his asking her not to talk, and it ends with him reminding her of that.

Great show -- and incidentally, great blog.

Otto Man said...

"you know, the MM theme is good, but doesn't really sound like it's from the '60s. it's more 1997."

Actually, it's 2006. The song is "A Beautiful Mine" by electronica artist RJD2, off the Magnificent City Instrumentals album.

osofine said...

I did not like the placement of The Decemberists song over the opening scene. I actually had to postpone watching the episode for at least 10 minutes because I wanted to go online and find out about the song.

Not only do I think that they should stick to period music (the exception being the closing credits), but this song, IMO, is a bit pretentious as well as ambiguous (I did like this song, but this is the first time I've heard it - I'm at a strange age for MM - I'm too young for '61 and earlier music, but I'm also too old to be very familiar with '00's music... My favorite music tends to be '65-'90). In the end, I didn't think it was as revealing of/ or relevant to anything enough to warrant it's anachronistic appearance).

[My daughter woke up and I ended up falling asleep before continuing this post further. Now I can't remember most of the other comments I wanted to make! Oh well!]

I did notice that when we see Betty waking Don up at home the morning after tying up Bobbie and walking out, he has his hands up under his pillow in his sleep! I thought that was a nice touch (and consistent with the - I'm using the word - mirroring). Then of course we see that he's still thinking about the event when Sally says that she's going to be quiet so he won't cut himself - I thought the same thing as another poster that he must have told her in the past to be quiet while he was shaving. I wonder if he's beginning to realize that he bosses around the people he cares about (he "demands" that Betty not wear her new bikini) the way he was pushed around as a child. That also fits nicely with the theme of how one looks at oneself vs. how others see us.

I was very interested in the above comment about Peggy going back to dressing like a little girl as opposed to maturing into a more Joan-advised look (the advice from Joan in Season 1, not this episode) as part of her denial that she is experienced enough to have had a child. (My apologies to the OP for just twisting that observation a bit to serve my own theory that Peggy has been in neurotic - though necessary - denial about having Pete's baby).

Overall, I thought the episode was pretty weak after last weeks power-punch, but it does seem to work for the show to have some more dreary episodes between the WOW or WTF? episodes. Shows that try to keep up that level of shock in every episode are far less realistic (and when I refer to "shows", I mean 99% of programming! In terms of reality, most tv would have one think that every week someone not only gets murdered, but the killer is caught and the case is wrapped up! Obviously this isn't a crime/law/ or medical show, but still, its nice that they aren't so in fear of losing ratings that they have to add nail-biting cliffhangers at the end of each week). Anyone know how many episodes have been shot or are planned for this season? If it's only 12, they I may have to take back what I just wrote - but if they are stretching out that historic year, and have the time to do it, I don't mind a few semi-dull episodes.

I think Don needs a woman who is turned on by S&M (even though, or because she refuses to be passive) because he has so much built up anger which he is terrified to turn onto his family (his kids, anyway). Although it wasn't such a known "fact" back then as it is now, kids who are abused are more likely than others to become abusers. Don seems well aware of this potential in himself, especially in times of personal crisis. Better to tie up Bobbie, who is into it (as she was into it in the restaurant scene), than to go off on Sally!

As for the Kennedy/Monroe references, it was either last week's episode or the week before that someone pointed mentioned it was rumored that Marilyn was going to be at the big birthday bash for JFK ("Happy Birthday, Mr. President...").

As I've mentioned, I was born over a decade after these events (though for some reason seem to "remember" them as well my parents). I am in a generation in which I appeared at a costume party in middle-school dressed as Tina Turner (though I'm white) the year she swept the Grammy's and every other girl at the party was dressed as either Cindy Lauper or Madonna) so I have a question: was the JFK/Marilyn affair common gossip at this time? [Actually, was Marilyn's birthday song taken as some sort of "proof"? In this day and age we'd have tons of tabloids moving Brangelina off the cover to show Marilyn singing to the president (well, not this president, lol)! I'n not as sure about how the gossip mills ran in '61.]

Another question: where was Sing Sing? Near the country club? Where is the country club? (I'm from NYC and Fairfield County, but I'm not as familiar with Westchester/ Long Island as I probably should be)... I know there was a train to Sing Sing from Grand Central thanks to "Breakfast at Tiffanies", lol! I asking because of the post-Rosenberg reference when the same woman say she fears a power outage and the gates opening... (I know I could just Google it, but it's much more fun to ask real people).

Yeah, that reference to the weather and the Rosenbergs was pretty cold (no pun intended) - though it set the scene at the country club very well!

I know there was at least one other point I wanted to make, but the early bird catches the worm, and this worm fell back to sleep!

Thanks again, Alan, for another great article!

"...an aryan from Darien with braces on her brain" - "Auntie Mame"

Anonymous said...

According to the AMC official show site, the Drapers live in Ossining, NY:

http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/cast/bdraper

That's where Sing Sing is located. Here's a NY Times article about the juxtaposition:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F03E5DF1038F934A25752C1A963948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

The Rosenberg line still doesn't make sense to me because The Bell Jar wasn't published until 1963 and this episode is May 1962. Again, I don't know if this is an unintentional anachronism or if they're trying to say/imply something.

As to the knowledge of JFK/MM, one of my history teachers said it was well known by the press, but they kept a lid on it out of respect for Jackie. Don't know how true that is. But given that Don's in a media savvy field, it would make sense that he & his colleagues might be aware of it.

Anonymous said...

Abandoning the tied-up Bobbie flashed me back to the St. Elsewhere episode where bumbling Erlich (Ed Begley Jr.) gets locked out of the apartment, leaving girlfriend Roberta tied to the bed.

When they come face to face a day later, he's braced for her fury and surprised when the submissive Roberta calls it the hottest night ever.

I kinda think Bobbie will groove on the abuse the same way.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I didn't think "The Infanta" fit at all, in part because the Decemberists are a little fey for this show. If Weiner & Co. need a modern band to provide some anachronistic music, I'd think something like the National might be a better choice . . .

La Rêveuse said...

Hmmm... I don't think Don's trying to be a good person at all, it's just about appearances. Like he told Peggy after the baby was born, "you'd be surprised how fast it goes away." (Or something like that). He tries to not let anything bother him, to not have a conscience, to bury his past: "Live like there's no tomorrow, because for me, there isn't one." But with his daughter, he's seeing, perhaps, that there is one, there are consequences. I want to like him so much, but I kind of hate him. And I do hate Bobbie--she's like a physical manifestation of his nastiness. I'm glad she said the line about the other women--'bout time he realized he's not in control.

The line about Betty's bikini made me angry, but it's more proof of his attempted control of her. He accused her of acting like a little girl, but that's exactly how he treats her. Yet, when she was in the black bustier and fishnets, she was in control. His grip is rapidly slipping.

Pete, on the other hand, is still emerging as an interesting character. No sense of boundaries whatsoever--I just love to hate him. His voice and delivery are so odd, he almost sounds non-human. He just creeps me out!

I agree about the music--love the song, but would rather they stuck to period. Even if they do make a mistake on the hose. (Though a Manhattanite who works on MadAve would likely be up on the latest trends and be wearing pantihose. Yuck, am I glad we don't have to anymore!) I for one am glad that Peggy stood up for herself and showed up, and even let a little more show; she's learning that at least at SC, sex is power. Didn't like the giggle and lap thing, but times have changed. Note the respect she earned by showing up. Wouldn't be surprised if she ended up running the place someday. ;)

Clevelle said...

Was I the only one who thought it hilarious that when Peggy asked her male colleagues about her beauty, the closeted gay guy responded with "Hellenic?"

wondering said...

Who is this Marti Noxon and why is it a bad thing s/he's listed in the credits?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Rosenbergs line isn't anachronistic, as the Rosenbergs were executed in 1953, and the woman was referring to the summer itself, not to The Bell Jar.

Matt Weiner may have been referring to The Bell Jar, but I can totally see how someone of the period would make a similar observation to the one Sylvia Plath did.

Anonymous said...

I'm not reading too much into Mark Moses' listing as a guest star. Rekha Sharma, aka Tory from BSG is frequently listed as a guest star. Do certain screen guild rules apply for shows with particularly large casts?

Anonymous said...

Well, even if people in 1962 conversationally compared hot, muggy days to the summer the Rosenbergs were executed, the Summer of 1962 was actually rather unseasonably cool, but I don't know about Memorial Day specifically:

http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/090/mwr-090-12-0527.pdf

pgillan said...

Sometimes, when I'm watching TV now, I try to anticipate what Alan will use for his "Spoilers after I <do something>..." line. This time, I was sure it would be "...after I get a dog for the office..."

Next time, Sepinwall. Next time.

Nicole said...

Marti Noxon was a writer for Buffy who took charge when Joss Whedon was working on Angel and is blamed by fans for the poor final seasons.

I would agree the the last few seasons were weaker than the first few, but I think blaming her entirely for it ignores the contributions of the other writers and that some of the actors seemed more interested in trying to start a movie career.

I don't think she will be a problem with Mad Men because Weiner seems to have a plan with where this will go and there is a finite amount of seasons, or at least he says there are.

wondering said...

Thanks, Nicole. I didn't watch Angel or Buffy, so I guess that explains why I was out of the loop.

drake leLane said...

If it was just Buffy, Nixon would've avoided the reputation, but she also was brought in to kill Meredith on Grey's Anatomy. And then there was the awful Point Pleasant.

Really, though, the reputation is unwarranted, as, in the case of Grey's, she was just polishing Shonda Rhimes' turd.

Weiner brought in a lot more women writers this season, as there's a lot more focus happening on the gender.

drake leLane said...

I think it should also be pointed out, that while Don was a bit harsh (and personal) with his "desperate" criticism of Betty's bikini purchase, his point that she shouldn't be wearing it is completely defendable.

At that time, it was still not socially acceptable to wear a bikini, especially a housewife. It wasn't until after Ursula Andress walked out on that beach in Dr. No, which premiered the following year, that bikinis gained acceptance in the US.

Chris Johnson said...

"La Rêveuse said...

Hmmm... I don't think Don's trying to be a good person at all, it's just about appearances."

That's a good observation, and I think that idea applies to most of the characters. At that time in the U.S. "keeping up appearances" was much more important than personal fulfillment or individual expression. I think part of the reason I enjoy the show so much is because it depicts the fall out from striving to conform to the impossible social rules of the time.

It is interesting that Bobbie Barrett, a character who openly flouts pretty much every rule of social conduct that applied back then, is not given a sympathetic portrait. Apparently the characters on Mad Men are damned if the do, damned if they don't...

anon said...

drake lelane said:

It wasn't until after Ursula Andress walked out on that beach in Dr. No, which premiered the following year, that bikinis gained acceptance in the US.

That's probably being a little too picky. The film certainly helped -- the Frankie and Annette beach pictures were also just around the corner -- but bikinis (having been around for a while, after all) were gaining ground in the U.S. before that. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini charted in 1960, for example. The truth is that Betty should have an opinion about bikinis, just as Don does.

-----
osofine,

"Sing Sing" refers to Ossining, NY. Hit Tarrytown and head north.

Anon

drake leLane said...

"Betty should have an opinion about bikinis"

Yes. Sally too. Bobby soon enough.

Housewives wearing them? Not so much.

Hollywood was under pressure to from the National Legion of Decency to keep them out of films, even though they'd already become popular in Europe. It took a foreign film to break the bikini barrier, Dr. No provided that, and then the floodgates opened in Hollywood. Beach Blanket Bingo came shortly after, and SI's first Swimsuit issue came in '64. By '65, one pieces were 'square.'

Sure, "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" inspired a wave of buying after it hit in 1960, but it wasn't housewives.

purplejeep said...

The ending scene. Didn't Sally say she wouldn't talk while daddy shaves so he wouldn't hurt himself? I got the feeling that Bobbi is going to hurt Don by talking...

Helene H. said...

Actually, the scene where Don tied Bobbi to the bed reminded me of Kimber tying Christian Troy to the bed in Nip/Tuck, and making some comment as she was leaving that he would be OK, the housekeeper was coming on Friday.
Or something like that. There was also an interesting juxtaposition in this episode vis-a-vis the Jackie/Marilyn theme, reminding me of how Don is married to a blonde, but seems to be really attracted to brunettes. He tries to make his life what he thinks it should appear to be, when the reality is very different, like in much of advertising.

anon said...

Drake,

This is an interesting point. I assume characters to be roughly the relevant actor's age. So taking Betty to be 30, and an ex-model, I assume that she has some opinion about bikinis and the type of women who would wear them -- particular since she's spending a lot of time these days thinking about what men like (including men engaged to just-past-teen-agers). On the other hand, you're right that she's a suburban housewife surrounded mostly by folks with young kids (i.e. no teenagers), and therefore somewhat removed from the...front lines...of the bikini revolution.

So then did you think it was strange that a tony country club in the burbs was having a bikini based fashion show?

(Incidentally, I wasn't disagreeing with Andress' role in opening up American films to the bikini. I just don't think Dr.No started the change. I don't recall when Mansfield's bikini shoots occurred, but they probably helped mainstream things too.)

Anon

brainylagirl said...

drake lelane asked: "And is it just me, or did Bobbie invite Don to stay and masturbate in her beach house?"

No, I think you missed a beat there. What she was inviting him to do was snoop around her place while she was gone, inviting him to partake of her own secrets, indirectly build intimacy. "You'd let me do the same," she says, implying that he also wants to be known, but only obliquely (love that last shot of the episode by the way, which really captures this). When he denies it, she retorts that their alike, both needing a valve and it (i.e., one's secrets, the truth) has to come out somehow. Don is at odds with himself about how much of the truth he wants anyone to know; and he is most ambivalent about this with his lovers, who blur the boundaries for him, of his compartmentalized emotional life / sense of identity. With Betty, his wife, he knows exactly where the line is - and makes sure she knows it too - but in his affairs, there's this urge to let down his guard all the while terrified that he will be seen for what he *really* is. (It's not clear that even Don knows what that is, by the way; he's just afraid of it.)

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a really strong episode. Although, I also found the Decemberists song really jarring (as much as I like the band.) If you're trying to take us to a different time, it doesn't work with a modern song playing.

As for the episode itself, I felt so bad for Peggy and all the sexism she faces. And holy crap did she look pretty at the end, but her sitting on the client's lap was painful to watch.

And Pete's reaction to that was very similar to Don's reaction to Betty in her bikini. They can each see these women as sexual objects, but God forbid other men to do it, too.

I thought Don reacting badly to his having a rep around town among the ladies, was very fitting for the character. He's worked so hard to create the character of Don Draper, that he's furious when its not seen how he's crafter it (and he was already feeling bad about having taken on the Don Draper persona earlier at the Memorial Day luncheon.)

I see some posters here are upset about the hiring of a certain writer because of how they ran a previous show. I think this is really unfair and mean-spirited as you have no idea what the writer had to put up with in those working situations. Like on Buffy, once Joss was not around everyday to run the show the network might have felt they could be more aggressive in giving notes to the new person, and that she didn't have the power Joss had to say no (without risking being fired or labeled by the development execs, which would hurt her in the future.)

You also don't know which ideas and storylines that you have loved this writer contributed to, as TV writing is incredibly collaborative.

Cagey said...

Great commentary, per usual. My husband questioned my jumping on this site right after seeing the episode - silly guy.

First and foremost - I felt for Peggy in this episode. I worked in Big 6 public accounting in the late 90s and was very frustrated to watch my partner, managers and seniors trounce off to strip clubs without me. Oh SURE, I could have gone, but I was not as desperate or foolish as Peggy. I knew damned well that my male co-workers would not respect me if I actually joined them. Very frustrating - damned if I did, damned if I didn't.

It saddens me watching this show and seeing in some respects, how far women still have to go in the business world. Many of Peggy's struggles were my very own. *sigh*

On a brighter note, my very last professional position (before chucking my career to change diapers 24/7) was working at the Federal Reserve, and I will be damned if I did not work in similar setups and with similar furniture as depicted at Sterling Cooper! I still giggle at some it - to see all that furniture sparkling NEW instead of old, scratched and beat-up brings a smile to my lips every Sunday.

Mo Ryan said...

"She's not a secretary, and they don't treat her like one, but she's also not one of them."

Gaaaaah I've been there. In my twenties I had a job at a magazine firm that employed 95 guys and about 5 women (that was more or less the ratio when I arrived). Most of the magazines were videogame-related, so you can imagine the level of maturity. Yeah, good times. I felt for Peggy so much in this ep -- it's so hard to fight something that nobody around you recognizes as a problem. At the firm where I worked, there was one office full of four sympathetic female copy editors. Once or twice I might have gone in there and gotten something in my eye, as my eyes may have watered a bit.

Duck leaving the dog outside -- oh lord. So heartbreaking.

I'll be glad if we've seen the last of Bobbie. That actress and Hamm just have no chemistry, and those scenes got repetitive.

I think the central part of the Peggy story line was kind of what wasn't pointedly acknowledged -- that she does have a feel for this kind of thing and the campaign may have fizzled because no one listened to her. Maybe the clients were going to just wimp out regardless about starting up a new campaign in any case.

But the point is -- all the men had theories about how women want to be seen. Not one of them asked Peggy in any serious way whether their conclusions were true. They didn't bother to got a sense of what she thought.

By ignoring her, they deprived themselves of the only insight that really could have made a difference. They're taking the word of a drunk Kinsey in a bar over the word of an intelligent woman. Yeesh.

dez said...

They're taking the word of a drunk Kinsey in a bar over the word of an intelligent woman. Yeesh.

Yeesh, indeed. At least a couple of them acknowledge her intelligence, though not necessarily in front of other people (save Don, of course). Speaking of Don, that scene at the end was very haunting. Great acting by Hamm (especially his reaction to Sally echoing Bobbi's words from the aborted S&M-fest).

I hope Chauncey was found by a nice person and given a great life. I understand Duck feels like he's losing everything (wife & kids to the new guy, e.g.), but to cast out his own dog like that, a dog he clearly loved? LOSER.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: [waves to Marti Noxon!]

cgeye said...

Duck loved Chauncey more than his kids and wife, at least in terms of open displays of affection.

Duck let them have the dog for continuity's sake, which I never understood, unless he thought the dog could give them the love he couldn't.

If that's true, why would Duck let Chauncey go? If he waited a half hour, he could have called a friend, hell called his sponsor. Was life that bad for him?

Also, what did he say to Don about how he failed his men as a Marine? I didn't understand if what he sai was true or a metaphor.

Art Fleming said...

Marti Noxon was already credited as consulting producer in the series premiere.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, perhaps I'm alone in this, but I don't fine Bobbie "nasty" and "unsympathetic" at all. (Yes in the first episode, but certainly not after the last-- I see some vulnerability, and kindness (both revealed in her interactions with Peggy...), and complexity. Of all the women on the show, she's the only one who's found a way (nasty and aggressive as finding that way in that world at that time for a woman might be) to forge, negotiate, a life on her own terms. (A path Peggy is only starting on.) She's no more despicable than any man on the show--and I think a lot of the unsympathetic judgments toward her character have to do with her gender-- e.g. her aggressive sexuality seems nasty and shocking only because she's a woman. (And admittedly, my different reaction to her may have to do with the fact that I don't find some power play in bed, um, that offputting... Anyway, I see a lot of tenderness from *her* in her play with Don (though certainly not from him-- I see the nastiness in Don, not her.)

Matt B said...

Was the usage of the Decemberist's song in the opening the first usage of "modern" music in the show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Was the usage of the Decemberist's song in the opening the first usage of "modern" music in the show?

Off the top of my head, they used a Cardigans song over the closing credits of one of the first episodes of season one. This may be the first time they've used an extremely anachronistic song (as opposed to the slightly ahead-of-its-time Bob Dylan song from "The Wheel") during the episode itself.

Anonymous said...

I also feel sympathy towards Bobbie, and I agree that many viewers perceive her as nasty because she is a woman.

emeraldliz said...

Woohoo! Mucho notes!

The Decemberists song- yes jarring, but for us just added to the intrigue, and with all the dressing shots, was well worth it

Bondage- there was plenty of slack there for her to get herself out of, Don's little petulant tantrum is telling though

Don- love him getting his smokers morning cough, eh?

Chauncey- Ducks last vestige with the wife and their life together, if she has him there's still a CHANCE they could go back to the way it was. With the wife giving Chauncey back, there's no chance of that. I'm guessing that's a large part of what's kept Duck sober all this time, the possibility of reuniting.

Betty- I don't think she got a bikini to make herself feel good. Her husband had just left the family on a holiday, all the other wives were buying them, she's a former model, so what's the problem? Oh right, Don not being able to see past his own failings.

Oh and LOVED seeing all the white at the Country Club. And Clare Kramer, another Joss Whedon connection!

Peggy- I thought it was quite bold of her to use pantyhose as well, but it probably is better for her and holds in any apron from the baby better.

Marti- I had no idea people blamed her for the downfall of Angel, there's plenty of blame to be had on that, especially whoever decided Connor as a teen was a good idea. I thought everyone loved her work, especially in Firefly.

And finally, suggesting that Marilyn is really a Joan- so true!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Marti Noxon can be blamed for the downturn in Buffy or Angel. Both shows had a good run & went on past their prime, which happens often with tv shows. After awhile, very few shows stay creative & interesting. Even when the creative folks realize it's time to pack it in, there may be contractual obligations with the network.

Anonymous said...

This is my first post. This show has me hooked. I don't know why but the sub-plot with Duck and his dog has grabbed me.

I was interesting the conversation between Don and Duck. Basically Don told Duck that his only issue with him was that he kept trying to sell the clients ideas to Don instead of the opposite, selling Don's ideas to the clients. I think Duck grasps that now.

The scenes with Duck and his family really pulled on me. My parents divorced in the early seventies, so I kind of relate to that.

I found the part where Duck let his dog out go really despicable. He made no effort to find a home for the dog. Now we don't know that Duck went back upstairs to have a drink but it’s a pretty good bet.

I'm thinking that we're going to see Duck slide into an alcohol induced breakdown. However I think we're going to see Don intervene and bring Duck back from the abyss let we saw with Pete and Peggy. Don could have let these people go when they were down, but he chooses to keep them and now they have a certain loyalty to him.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Don was also upset with finding out he had a reputation because that would lessen the "conquest" of sleeping with a new woman? In other words, maybe he didn't like the idea that a new woman would be after him for his reputation instead of the magnetic image he has about himself. He sees himself as very attractive while Bobbi sees him as another box on her "to do" list checked off.

This show is not "The Sopranos". There is no reason to speculate on intended or unintended parallels.

brainylagirl said...

Agree w/ the recent anonymous posters who think any antithapy toward Bobbie has more to do with latent ideas about what's appropriate sexual behavior from a woman. She's a strong, smart, independent woman - in spite of being married and living & working in a man's world. She knows what she wants, and she's not ashamed of what that is or asking for it. Don's attracted to these types, but she crossed some sort of line for him. She was a little cold and crass about Don's reputation in bed, but she's just making it clear that their rel. is about sex and not a whole lot else. She isn't Midge and she isn't Rachel. She's more like Don than either of those two, but she's far more self-aware and at peace with herself.

I also didn't really pick up on Don "doing math" in his head when she revealed she had a college-aged daughter. That's another of the things he likes in a mistress, a more mature woman than the one he chose in Betty, his wife. Anyway, he just seemed taken aback at large pieces of the puzzle of Bobbie that were missing. (I guess he thinks he's the only one who plays things close to the vest.)

Of all his relationships with other women, this has been the only one we've seen that's probably most honest in terms of give and take. At the same time, this isn't a relationship that's going to help Don grow as a person - not in the way he seems to want (and then get scared about) with Midge or, especially, Rachel.

I think the reason Don was upset was that he doesn't have as much control as he thinks over the spread of information about himself. He's cagey about word getting out about his philandering, yes, but on a grander level, word getting out in any way at all that he hasn't disseminated himself. Without that control over his image, Don looses the ability to negotiate the various aspects of himself that he reveals - in the business world and outside of the office. He wants sole control over his "brand" - no viral marketing. :)

PamelaJaye said...

If it was just Buffy, Nixon would've avoided the reputation, but she also was brought in to kill Meredith on Grey's Anatomy. And then there was the awful Point Pleasant.


technically, Point Pleasant came before Grey's as well as Brothers & Sisters (let's not forget Sarah Whedon and the long gone Amber Trachtenberg). After Grey's (she must have been thinking: finally! something I can't destroy! she was pushed over to Private Practice (oops) and "left to pursue other projects."

She was last seen in Dr Horrible (where she looked much prettier than in Once More With Feeling")

So, is this where she landed? I've watched twice now and missed it both times (unlike on Grey's where i noticed her name the first week)

I'm guessing Marti was left to polish turd as Shonda seems to get terribly sick every February (read the writers blog) in a respiratory kind of way.
perhaps it would help if she quit smoking...

I'm not sure if there's any help for Marti (I have mixed emotions about Marti.)

drake leLane said...

Yeah, my Point Pleasant reference wasn't meant to be chronological... just added at the end to emphasis how bad it was, like 'and then there's ______, Oy!'

Even with the occasional stinker, Marti's pretty talented. I realize some folks don't trust her, but Weiner has so much control over this series, you could have Joe Eszterhas on staff as a writer and I wouldn't be too worried.

PamelaJaye said...

ah.
yeah Point Pleasant was one of those shows that you get halfway thru the pilot, and not onlt delete the rest of the ep, but the entire recording schedule (mythTV's version of "season pass")

FrankW said...

Great blog, I so enjoy reading these posts on Mad Men.

So much I would want to add, but mostly I also don't think Don is doing the math with Bobbie, I think it's something akin to "too much information" - he doesn't want to sleep with "a mother". That's something different.

I love the careful use of the "Draper-insight-stare". It was the key scene last episode kept coyly returning to until finally letting us view it in intensity, where he leans in, looks Peggy in the eye in the hospital and just insists on bypassing all reflection on where she is, why etc.. and just tells her get out of it, do what you have to do.

In this episode, it appears at the end, turned upon himself, a sudden impact with dread in the mirror, in the dark pools of his eyes. Perhaps he realizes the cost of his just "getting out of here".

Mad Men has a well deserved existentialist side, that gets designed and styled in different sensibilities, but it's there, punctuating when necessary.

Splitting personalities aside, there is no gender-symmetry here, so as for Peggy - I see her taking more than advice from Don's dictum and operating manual in this episode. I don't really know how he's going to feel about that. And in a way, something will have to be done with Peggy - she can't rise above a certain point in that world there, not then. So it's going to be curious, if Don discovers a conscience, will Peggy lose more of hers...

As for Peggy being insecure with Pete contributions "Thanks Clearisil" etc.. I think that introduced that she was getting pissed off at everyone moving her out of her role, from different angles. She stiff-arms Pete's attempt at conversation in the office because she wants her space, literally. She goes into the old-boys club night because, that is apparently part of her job space, like it or not. She does whatever she has to do to get out of --- what exactly. That's a question still. Where does she imagine to get to. The "wife" of a politician? or high powered exec?

Anonymous said...

Oh I wanted to add - I hated the use of an obvious contemporary track on the women-dressing scene. Using quasi-hip contemporary music in such a full track, rather than a quick snippet, will incredibly date the show, and makes you wonder who exactly is the audience in mind, what age?!

There were so many possible songs to use that are part of the era. Why go to some MTV style to make it "hip". Even the camera movements were different. It seemed... desperate rather than Mad, if you get my drift. And it didn't contribute anything except lower the expectations held high so far, of incredible management of period-atmosphere and contemporary narratives. Seriously, early 60s music scene, god there were tons of possibilities to use, just bountiful...

JustJoan said...

Thanks for that good defense of Ms. Noxon, above. I always cringe when I see some bashing blogster go at her, not only because I know how hard it is to identify who actually wrote or writes what in TV or film, but also because she is entirely responsible for one of my very favorite moments in Buffy: her wonderful cameo singing role in "Once More With Feeling." If nothing else, she has a killer voice.

drake leLane said...

I'd hardly characterize The Decemberists as "MTV style," and the song was certainly not used to appear to be hip.

The story behind the song has some meaning here as it's the coronation of the Spanish heir ("The Infanta"). She's presented a blank slate, juxtaposed against the different women archetypes of the time that a child (adopted) could grow up to be. Peggy the metaphorical Infanta here... she's shown with no mirror (blank slate,) she dresses "like a little girl" and even when she tarts herself up, she ends up sitting on a clients lap like a child.

It's interesting that, as Andrew Johnston pointed out, they almost used the song to end last season's 9th episode ("Shoot") which in that context, would've underscored Betty's child-like turn in that episode.

I'll grant that the song is a bit jarring, but I think that's more due to the constraints that Mad Men has set for us last season, constraints which, I imagine, are going to be loosened up a bit in the interest of this being a series that goes on for 5-6 seasons. Or not ;)

LA said...

frankw said...
I love the careful use of the "Draper-insight-stare". It was the key scene last episode kept coyly returning to until finally letting us view it in intensity, where he leans in, looks Peggy in the eye in the hospital and just insists on bypassing all reflection on where she is, why etc.. and just tells her get out of it, do what you have to do.

In this episode, it appears at the end, turned upon himself, a sudden impact with dread in the mirror, in the dark pools of his eyes. Perhaps he realizes the cost of his just "getting out of here".


Frank W - Indeed. But let me add further that in my mind, those are the moments Dick Whitman rears his face.

Contrast the pictures Alan used of Don in the reviews for this week and last week's episodes with the other pictures of Don used earlier in the season. (go here: http://sepinwall.blogspot.com/search/label/Mad%20Men%20season%202)

That's Dick's face you're seeing in the mirror and talking to Peggy in the hospital; it's Don's face in the earlier episodes' pictures. And kudos to Jon Hamm for his ability to transform his face to such a degree as he slips back and forth between Don and Dick.

Anonymous said...

Jon Hamm is such a good actor, that the change that showed on his face in that last shot was really chilling. At first I was afraid he was having a heart attack or some other serious medical episode. (knew it wouldn't really be heart attack after last season, though) Beacuse he can show great emotion through subtle expressions, I'm betting that he was having a flash back to something VERY serious that we will learn about later.

That is one of the many things I love about this show and blog. There is so much going on, and so many possible interpretations that it keeps me interested and thnking about each episode throughout the week. Hope the lower ratings this season don't spell doom.

SR said...

I wonder if, in retrospect, Weiner and/or AMC realize it was a mistake to open season two with such a slow, contemplative episode...

You'd be surprised how often this happens. A bunch of years back, I worked at a cable network that had a big ad campaign for the 2nd season of their flagship original series. The ads showed a lot of action and featured the star of the show...who, it turns out, wasn't even IN the first episode of the new season!

In order not to see all that advertising go to waste, it was mutually agreed to bump episode 2 up to be the season premiere. With a tiny reshoot, the former episode 1 was repackaged as a flashback episode later in the season.

SR said...

Also, kudos to the writers for Pete's shout-out to Otomanelli Brothers butchers, an Upper East Side institution for more than a century:

cgeye said...

A reminder that Turner Classic Movies will show the film with the role that made Robert Morse a star: HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, today (Thursday 9.04) at 10am Eastern.

In it, he's a wow -- and you can see why Mr. Weiner picked him to be the Cooper of Sterling Cooper.

Groundhogs!

Juanita's Journal said...

"Bobbie Barrett, on the other hand, is becoming more problematic the longer she sticks around. I recognize that she's supposed to reflect (oy, there's that word again) an uglier side of Don, that he's drawn to her out of frustration with the state of his marriage and that both of them get off on the fact that neither likes each other very much. But the unpleasantness of their relationship is starting to flow into the actual scenes. The idea that Don's much more of a himbo than we realized, and in fact has a reputation among a certain circle of professional ladies is an interesting one (not that I ever thought Midge was his first mistress), but there comes a point where I'm tired of seeing Don cast this nasty woman out of his life only to go back to her again."


Is Bobbie Barrett really that nasty? She strikes me as a woman who has no problem with facing her own sexual tastes or desires. Is the reason why many label her as nasty is because she is a woman with a voracious appetite? Are only men allowed to enjoy sex the way she does?

Juanita's Journal said...

"If it was just Buffy, Nixon would've avoided the reputation, but she also was brought in to kill Meredith on Grey's Anatomy. And then there was the awful Point Pleasant."


I must be one of the few who actually enjoyed the later seasons of BUFFY more than the earlier seassons. Like MAD MEN, BUFFY's later seasons vividly captured the ambiguities of adulthood, in which one discovers there are no black-and-white or clear cut answers to life. Perhaps this is a message that many did not want Buffy to face. Or themselves.

Frankw said...

la :
That's Dick's face you're seeing in the mirror and talking to Peggy in the hospital; it's Don's face in the earlier episodes' pictures. And kudos to Jon Hamm for his ability to transform his face to such a degree as he slips back and forth between Don and Dick.

Wonderful observation, makes total sense too! Now I really wonder how that's going to play out. Hamm is really a find for this role.

DJ RJAY said...

I liked the episode in general but the one scene which baffled me was when Don returned from the country club and drank milk out of the bottle and just stared out the window. Seemed like such a throw away scene.

I took it that Don was shocked that Bobbie chose her family over a fling in the sack with Don since Don was clearly ready to abandon his family for the day to meet up with Bobbie.

Perhaps Don is realizing that he is not like Bobbie but more that he is WORSE than Bobbie.

Any thoughts?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I liked the episode in general but the one scene which baffled me was when Don returned from the country club and drank milk out of the bottle and just stared out the window. Seemed like such a throw away scene.

It's a reminder of how relatively empty Don's life is, and also of how he didn't want to be around his family at that moment, under any circumstances. He could have easily gone back into the country club and told Betty that when he called the office, Peggy or somebody told him they had matters under control. Instead, he goes home, and there's nothing for him to do but swig out of the milk bottle.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is Bobbie Barrett really that nasty?

I used that word because that's clearly how Don feels about her. He loathes Bobbie and finds most of her conduct repellent, yet he's drawn to her in spite of himself.

On an objective scale, I'd so she's no worse a human being than, say, Roger Sterling. But I don't exactly hold up Roger as an admirable character.

Tom C. said...

It's interesting that the ad men used Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe as cultural touchstones. True, they were the "IT girls" of 1962, but within 18 months or so, they'd both be out of the spotlight. Is this another example of how Sterling Cooper seems to constantly be falling behind the times?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is this another example of how Sterling Cooper seems to constantly be falling behind the times?

In this case, no, because 18 months is a long time away -- especially for pop culture -- and at this particular moment in time, Marilyn and Jackie were what people wanted to talk about.

kathy said...

>>>I must be one of the few who actually enjoyed the later seasons of BUFFY more than the earlier seassons. <<<<

Count me in. I liked later Buffy as well -- not to say there weren't some clunkers in there, but on the whole, I felt the post-high school episodes had higher highs than the high school years.

I have no issue with the Bobbi character. I really hated Don with both Rachel and what was boho gir's name, I forget? I didn't see any chemistry or connection or anything between him and Boho, nor did I believe any real chemistry existed between him and Rachel. Both of those characters bugged me, Bobbi, I'm OK with. I can see why Don would be interested in her.

I don't read Don as loathing her, I think he's more afraid of her than anything. I think he gets off on being The Mysterious One with his women and she blew that all to hell by letting him know, he ain't that big a mystery. And I think it scared him to find out that his cheating was an open secret. Also (and obviously), having her tell him she was in control -- in that she decided to check HIM out after hearing about him, well, Don doesn't respond well to not being the one in control. Of course, when Betty was letting him control everything and being uber-passive last year, he didn't like that either....what DO men want?

Anonymous said...

In regard to Bobbie: Hate is a very strong emotion, and I think it likely Don was more turned on by her when she was being a bitch and trying to get tough with him about her husband's contract. Perhaps he now doesn't like her tenderness, or fears what appeared to be a growing intimacy

Also, I did not understand the reference to Richie Aprile in Sepinwall's analysis. I have seen all the Sopranos episodes, but do not see in what way Duck compares to him. I'm sure many of you do; please elaborate.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, I did not understand the reference to Richie Aprile in Sepinwall's analysis. I have seen all the Sopranos episodes, but do not see in what way Duck compares to him. I'm sure many of you do; please elaborate.

On The Sopranos, David Chase would bring in a new opponent who would threaten Tony's power. First Richie, then Ralphie, then Johnny Sack, then Phil Leotardo, etc. It got to the point where, in one of the final seasons, an actor was hired without anybody in the cast being told what role he'd be playing in that season, and as they were filming his first scene, the actor(*) confessed to James Gandolfini that even he had no idea who he was playing. Gandolfini shrugged and said, "Maybe you're the new Richie Aprile, the guy we yell at for nine months."

(*) The actor in question was Lenny Venito, who turned out to be playing Murmur, Christopher's AA sponsor and sometime sidekick in the final two seasons.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My point being, I should add, that the Don/Duck antagonism in the early episodes suggested to some people that he had been brought in as the Mad Men equivalent of the new Richie Aprile.

Ryan said...

Something that I caught (and forgive me if this was posted by another commentor as I didn't read them all) was that when Don enters Duck's office, he makes a face when he sees the ducks on the wall. Duck says something like, "you wouldn't believe the sort of stuff people give me". Anyway, it leads me to the belief that Don had never visited Duck's office during Duck's entire 18-month tenure at Sterline Cooper. Quite odd, but typical Don...

Girl Detective said...

Learning about Don's string of conquests put his book-sending scene from the first ep of the season in a different light--he could have been sending it to anybody. We'd only met Midge and Rachel, so we assumed it was either of them, or a mysterious third woman--not one of many possible women.

ACyclcUniverse said...

Something I took away from the shaving scene:

When Sally says she won't talk so that he won't cut himself, it's a direct analogy to the way Don maintains his affairs with a relatively clear conscience. As long as he forgets his family and children during his escapades, Don has no issue with sleeping around; but as soon as he is reminded of his double life, guilt and distress creep in to contradict the Hobo Code.

By Sally agreeing to remain silent while he shaves, (symbolic of shedding the extra-marital activity he had just come from) Don realizes that he has been hitting the mute button on his home-life for many years now, and he begins to wonder if he still thinks it's right.

God, I love this show and it's intricate metaphors to the flawed characters that inhabit it. I only wish I would have caught on sooner.

Four episodes to finish before tomorrows airing!