Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mad Men, "The Benefactor": Hey you, get your damn hands off her!

Spoilers for "Mad Men" coming up just as soon as I enjoy some Utz...
"Just pull up on the reins, straighten her out. You can't let her do that." -Betty Draper
"And you don't for a minute think you might be hurting her?" -Arthur Case
"She needs to be told what to do." -Betty Draper
For the first couple of episodes of season two, Don hasn't seemed quite himself. If he hasn't quite reverted back to his cowardly Dick Whitman persona, he's still been adrift, and almost distressingly passive. At home, he walks on eggshells around Betty, and can't even perform sexually on Valentine's Day. At work, he barely seems to realize how Duck Phillips seems determined to cut his legs out from under him. And where before we would see him skip out of the office for trysts with Midge or Rachel, now he's reduced to sitting in art house cinemas, trying to look interested in the latest French film import.

Even his rainy day front-seat adventure with Bobbie Barrett wasn't the Don we're used to. This was Don in the stereotypical female role, with his mouth saying no while Bobbie insisted his eyes said yes, and Don reluctantly whoring himself out to this attractive but abrasive woman(*) in order to save the account and his own skin. It's only when he realizes that it didn't work -- that Bobbie will just keep laughing at him and wrapping him around her little finger -- that he wakes up and does what Betty told Arthur to do to his rebellious horse.

(*) Bobbie superficially fits Don's type as an independent, outspoken woman, but she has a cruel streak that neither Midge nor Rachel possessed. Yet as much as Don obviously dislikes her, a part of him has to be turned on by her to perform in the car, no?

Don's power move -- grabbing Bobbie by the, um, reins and telling her, "Believe me: I will ruin him. Do what I say." -- is at once shocking, hilarious, fist-pumping and stomach-churning. There is so much wrong with what he's doing there, and yet Bobbie's been depicted so awfully, and their brief relationship depicted so bleakly, and our natural tendency at this point in the series is to root for Don to succeed in solving whatever problem's put in front of him, that on some level it plays as the triumphant moment we've been waiting for from Don for three episodes. Once again, Matt Weiner studied well at the feet of David Chase; this is the sort of thing Tony Soprano might have done, in a way that made him more likable, not less.

But Don solving the Jimmy Barrett/Utz problem comes at a personal cost. We still don't know all the details of the emotional negotiations that went on between Mr. & Mrs. Draper after the end of season one, but two deal points seem clear by now: 1)That, as Betty puts it in the car ride home from Lutece, Don try harder to involve her in his life; and 2)That Don cut out the cheating, immediately. Don seemed sincere in his desire to stick to the latter point -- check out the haunted look on his face (beautifully played by Jon Hamm) after Betty gives him the engraved watch -- and yet I have a feeling that this incident with Bobbie was like a dam bursting, and that the distance between the Drapers is going to grow ever-wider as this season moves along.

Which isn't to say things were all Leave It To Beaver even before Don and Bobbie got trapped by the hailstorm. We've seen how cold and controlling Betty has been towards Don and the kids over the last few episodes, and we've now seen two different incidences -- first with the tow truck driver, now with Arthur -- where Betty walked all the way up to the precipice of adultery before pulling back at the last minute. If we continue with the psychiatrist's theory that Betty has the mind of a child, then this makes sense. She's hurt by Don's cheating, and wants to both punish him in kind and experience the thrill of an affair, but really all she wants is the idea of an affair. The real thing is too scary and gross for her. She's having a swell time flirting with Arthur at the stables until he has to go and make an overt play for her; that's when she tries to shut him down by telling him not to ruin the way things are.

And because Betty's not used to men speaking to her candidly, she's not prepared to be told, quite rightly, that she looks "profoundly sad." "No, it's just my people are Nordic" is a funny line and a decent cover, and Arthur undermines his point by using it as a come-on, but he's got her nailed, and it's that as much as his sexual advances that brings back the return of Betty's shaking hands (last seen early in season one) as she struggles to light her cigarette. As Betty sits in that car at episode's end, reflecting on another night of her husband using her as window dressing for a deal -- or, in this case, worse: bait for the leering of a famous drunk -- she can't hide from it anymore. She plays to Don like she's happy to be part of his life, but she's crying because she realizes that, yes, she is profoundly sad, and has no idea how to go about improving this state of things.

The episode's B-story involves the other man at Sterling-Cooper whose wife found out about his adultery at the end of season one, and who cut some kind of deal in between seasons to keep his marriage going: bespectacled, nebbishy Harry Crane. As with Don and Betty, we still don't know all the details of how Harry patched things up with Jennifer, but he does mention that "You told me you wanted me to tell you if I was upset." (Maybe he blamed the one-night stand with Hildy on being depressed over Kennedy beating Nixon?)

Whatever went down, Harry's story here shows us what life is like on the lower rungs of the Sterling-Cooper corporate ladder. Because Harry usually appears in a group with Pete and Ken and Paul, there's this assumption that they're all on the same level, but that's obviously not the case. Ken no doubt got some favorable attention from the bosses after his Atlantic story was published, and beyond that he seems a much more confident and slicker (not to mention more blatantly sexual harassment-y) operator than Harry. Harry's initial reaction to learning of the salary discrepancy is almost like how Pete acted last year about the open head of accounts job: he just assumes he deserves to make more, regardless of what he's producing. But after some sarcastic prodding from Salvatore (who was channeling his inner Joan in that scene) and a fortuitous chat with a buddy at CBS, Harry stumbles on a situation that helps him get attention and a promotion, if not a raise to Ken's level. (And, really, once Roger lied about the salary scale, how could Harry call his bluff without getting into trouble in some way?)

"The Defenders" was a real TV show of the early '60s -- co-starring Robert Reed, a decade before he'd be dispensing homilies to Bobby and Cindy on "The Brady Bunch" -- and "The Benefactor" was an actual, and very controversial episode, that aired on in the spring of 1962 (I have conflicting dates of March 28 and April 28 from and IMDb, neither of them that reliable about old TV, but either way it was within a couple of months after American Flight 1 crashed into Jamaica Bay). In real life, the episode aired with minimal sponsorship, and CBS claimed that viewer response was 90% positive. Is it that Americans were more open-minded than we would think in 1962, or just that political forces were less well-organized? Either way, a TV show talking bluntly about abortion, and featuring its heroes making an argument for its legalization, was yet another sign of the impending cultural/sexual revolution.

Some other thoughts on "The Benefactor":

• Bobbie is played by Hey! It's That Girl! Melinda McGraw, whom you may remember from such projects as "The Dark Knight" (as Jim Gordon's wife), "Desperate Housewives" (as a personal/professional rival of Lynnette's) or "The X-Files" (as Scully's sister), among others.

• You have to admire Matt Weiner's willingness to proceed at his own pace. After last week's episode set so many balls in motion, this one didn't feature even a glimpse of Pete or Paul, gave Peggy only one line (although the look on her face when she watches "The Defenders" episode spoke volumes about what she might have done about her pregnancy with 20/20 hindsight), and the only hint about the American Airlines story was the shot of Salvatore erasing the Mohawk logo from an ad mockup. Again, anywhere from a few weeks to two months have passed since the events of the previous episode, so Sterling-Cooper could already be in business with American, or Salvatore could just be working on a sales pitch, but either way, Weiner's less concerned with plotting than he is with character.

• The story that Arthur invokes when describing his fiancee's wealth is "The Diamond As Big as the Ritz," an early F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a college student who crosses paths with an impossibly wealthy man who will stop at nothing to protect the secret of his riches. You can read it here.

• Adjusted for inflation, Ken's $300/week salary in 1962 would be about $2000/week in 2007 dollars, while in modern terms Harry negotiates himself a raise from about $1300 to $1500 a week.

• The Belle Jolie exec who reluctantly turns down Harry's "Defenders" pitch is Elliot Lawrence, who invited Salvatore to dinner -- and then up to his hotel room -- in one of the best scenes in season one. Now that Salvatore has burrowed deep into the closet, note how cold he is to Elliot's innocuous question about how he's doing. Note also Elliot lamenting the fact that he doesn't work for a more progressive company; he's overtly talking about the abortion episode, but there are surely other ways in which Belle Jolie could be a friendlier place for him to work.

• Great throwaway joke/character moment: Roger, post-heart attack, refuses to carry his own cigarettes but thinks nothing of bumming one off of Ken.

• A part of me wishes that they had shown us Don and Bobbie's meeting entirely in that gorgeous two-shot, with both of them in silhouette and the bar set from the Utz commercial looking minimalist, almost black-and-white, as if they were two characters in a Broadway show.

• On the one hand, it's unfair that part of Lois' job description involves lying for the boss when he plays hooky. On the other hand, that is part of her job description, and it was one of many parts that Lois seemed to be terrible at. Plus, this creates the delightful scenario of Joan as Don's interim secretary. Joan already knows things about Don that she shouldn't courtesy of Peggy's big mouth early in season one, and it's not like she has a moral objection to covering for adultery, but it'll be interesting to see how Don interacts with an assistant who's as tough and plugged in to office politics as he is, if not moreso.

• Also interesting that Don complains to Joan about Peggy being good at the secretary job but not wanting it. He seems perfectly happy with her as his copywriting protege, so is this just him telling Joan what she wants to hear, or does a part of him wish Peggy hadn't been so upwardly mobile?

• Did Roger get a new office between seasons? I haven't done a frame-by-frame comparison between the scene where Harry gets his promotion and the seduction of the twins sequence from "The Long Weekend," but this place looked lighter and more cavernous than the old one. It could be the lighting, I suppose. Also, I thought it was a nice touch that Roger either had no idea who Harry was, or at least pretended that he didn't. Either way seems very Roger.

• This is two shows in the same weekend where I find myself discussing Utz chips (admittedly, the other one is an episode of "The Wire" that originally aired six years ago). As with many real brands, "Mad Men" has fictionalized things a bit, as the company was owned and run by the Utz family, not someone named Schilling.

What did everybody else think?


Question Mark said...

I loved the little detail of Jimmy quickly sticking his fist in his mouth after Mrs. Schilling made the 'I don't have the stomach for it' comment.

It's awesome that Harry and his wife seem to get along far better than any other couple on the show. It only makes his cheating last year even more jarring.

R.A. Porter said...

Maybe it was nothing, but on this show I don't buy that...when Don got back to the table, he deliberately wiped his hand clean with his napkin. But only the hand holding the, um, "top rein".

Anonymous said...

This felt very much like a Sopranos with a touch of lightness due to the Harry b-story.

Don's "taking the reins" with Bobbie was one of the most disturbing scenes I have seen in quite some time. There is an animal in Don and, it appears, that he might be capable of more menace and violence than I thought possible. It's as hypnotic as it is upsetting. Thank you Mr Chase and Mr Weiner.

I also really appreciated the writing of the Arthur character. That scene with Betsy had the sensibility and pacing of many a Fitzgerald scene. Sadness was a practically a fetish in Fitzgerald's world. Arthur strikes me as profoundly affected, quite a counterweight to the mechanic.

R.A. Porter said...

Also, I thought it was telling that Jimmy said he like Don in Gentleman's Agreement. Sure Don's got a Gregory Peck-like squareness about him, but there were movies a lot more current than a 15-year-old movie about Jews passing for Gentiles.

Jimmy, as any good comedian, sees clearly that Don's playing a role.

Bobman said...

I definitely got a Tony Soprano vibe from the scene where Don manhandled Bobbie. Such a revolting act that somehow seems cathartic and like a victory. It's so odd how we root for the hero in the show no matter what.

One other thing - it's so strange to me (as a relatively young person) to hear of "illegal abortion" - to the point that I actually had to look up the date of Roe v. Wade (1973). I know it's one of many little "time machine" details from the show but it was one that really jumped out because it's just never really thought of.

Anonymous said...

According to dialogue in the preview, next week's episode takes place on Palm Sunday. Easter in 1962 was on the 22nd of April, and so Palm Sunday would have been the previous week, April 15th. So this week's episode wouldn't be almost two months after the events of "Flight 1", but maybe a few weeks afterwards.

Myles said...

I think that Betty's attempts to play Don's role has a lot to do with that child-like naivete that you speak of, Alan, in reference to her time with the psychologist. She's trying to be like Don, in one sense, living a life more secretive (note how she lies to him about it being all Mothers, and refuses the kids' attendance) and "dangerous." Of course, she doesn't understand any of that world, and doesn't have Don's capacity to do it.

But when she gets into the situation with Arthur, she is becoming like the women he was with; I never know how far to take things with Betty considering the child-like state of things, but she could realize that she is being like Midge or Rachel, the other woman of sorts. She seems to want to derive power from that, but she can't do it; is it because she is having to stare an alternate version of her husband's former behaviour in the process, or is fear enough to cause her hands to shake as bad as Kenneth "I'm a real good sex person" Parcell?

Loved the little moment with Peggy, and even the less obvious sense that Harry's interest in the abortion story went beyond advertising interest to a last resort potential solution to his financial issues.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a prude or anything, but I didn't read Don's manhandling of Bobby as even slightly triumphant or victorious. I saw it as nothing more than a vicious, deplorable act. Maybe it's simply because I don't like Don all that much. Whenever I watch a show, I tend to look for reasons to root against the hero (I'm funny like that). Or maybe it's just because I didn't feel anything Bobbie said or did was that awful. She was a manager defending her client. When she said that those two ought to get some thick skin, I agreed with her. And for having the nerve to be good at her job, Don saw fit to physically abuse her. Sorry, I don't see the victory.

Brandon Nowalk said...

I agree that the "taking the reins" scene shocked/horrified me to the exclusion of all other emotion. Now I'm afraid to see how far Don can go.

Also, someone above noted how the Betty/Arthur scene played like Fitzgerald wrote it. Interestingly, I felt like the Don/Bobbie scenes played like French New Wave films, especially the silhouette shot at their first encounter and when they're standing in front of that baroque mirror at the end. That mirror shot seemed straight out of Last Year at Marienbad.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, but while we are in agreement that there are many parallels between Tony Soprano and Don Draper, does anyone else notice the similarities between Carmella and Betty? Remember how long she flirted with the Furio, seeing how far she could push the envelope, or with many other men during the course of the show? Maybe Mr. Weiner will be taking a similar course with Betty?

Anonymous said...

What Don did was ass, but in the most blatant way I've seen yet on American TV this season, Bobbie was asking for it.

Hear me out. Every sentence Bobbie uttered was as a challenge to Don. Any other Sterling Cooper man would have walked out in a huff cause a broad talked to them that way, even if SC lost the Utz account and got sued by Bobbie and Jimmy.

If she wanted to really set the stage for a bonus for her husband, she could have told Don about the iron-clad contract at their first meeting. (Of course she knows that contract backwards, and reviewed it before she met Don -- she's the manager and wife to a functional sociopath who always acts out -- you think she made sure there's no such thing as a morals clause in any contract he signs?)

She could have been the professional and got what she needed from the Schillings without adding sex play, but she probably was bored, and was willing to walk away from the endorsement contract, and get Jimmy something better with someone else, even if that did mean a lawsuit. Seems like they both like stirring shit up.

She manages a *working, successful* sociopath -- she must be doing something right, and she must be OK with tolerating his open, crass flirtation of anyone in a skirt. Bobbie is a foul piece of work, and Don was figuring out how to play her. Despite his vow not to stray, he let Bobbie sexually assault him (even though he is sexually compulsive, do all of his 'nos' in the car not count?)

When he thinks that was enough, Bobbie brings in Jimmy, late, unrepentant, and high on the chance of insulting everyone in the goddamn restaurant, because she hasn't reined *him* in. Note the one sentence she said before he apologized -- she didn't take him aside, she just had that cue to tell him that negotiations had failed. Every potentiality was planned for, and they knew what they could get away with, and what they could ultimately live with.

Instead of calling the police, calling Draper out to his wife about the car *and* the hallway grope, instead of busting up the joint by telling Jimmy what Don did, she decided to make Jimmy do what he was told, and apologize. Her pleasure cost her client, her husband, $25,000.

Yes, Don was a sleaze, but a tactical one. And Bobbie was a hard negotiator, but also a girl with an illicit rough sex jones. She and Jimmy are a hell of a team -- and I bet the dynamics in their home are such that she'll tell Jimmy, at the perfect intimate moment, just what Don did.

(Why do I all of a sudden get a vision of Jimmy and Bobbie in 1968, with the op art colors, sideburns and thing, meeting up with Don and asking if he'd like a threeway at their Malibu pad?)

Nicole said...

At first I didn't realize what Don was doing, but when I did, it disturbed me greatly. This seems like something Tony Soprano would do, and while the misogyny fit that character, I don't think Don Draper would or should have gone that far. He could have grabbed her somewhere else and still made his point. I think the excessive misogyny in the Sopranos rubbed off on Weiner a little too much, because the more I think of it, the more I think it crossed a line where I will find it hard to root for Don, as the narrative wants me to. What happened in the car was not the same and Bobbie was not so horrible that she deserved what would in today's terms would be sexual assault. {Not that anyone deserves it, but that's another argument} And while certain behaviour on the show can be excused for "what happened in the 1960s" this cannot be viewed that way, especially by me, a woman who works in the professional field and has to deal with subtle sexism as it is.

Don is a real creep for doing this, and this episode soured my "escape from reality" with this despicable act.

R.A. Porter said...

@nicole, I have to wonder if Weiner *wants* a good portion of the audience to stop rooting for Don. TheWife had the same reaction as you, and I suspect it won't be an unusual one.

I still find Don compelling, even if this is another reason I don't find him likable, but I imagine many people will just hate him going forward.

Maybe we're *not* supposed to like or feel allied with Don at all. It just doesn't seem likely Weiner would have screwed up that badly.

Nicole said...

Maybe we're not supposed to root for Don anymore, but I don't buy that a guy in his position would have actually done that back then. If Don had been established as someone with a criminal background or a mobster, then it would fit, otherwise, this is just Tony Soprano set in the 60s, and
it gets tiresome when writers use extreme misogyny as character "development". I don't want to go on a feminist rant, but I seriously wonder if there are female writers on Mad Men and doubt they would have viewed this the way Weiner intended. I hope this is the last we see of this extreme behaviour from Don, because it's not necessary, and is frankly a somewhat lazy way to demonstrate that Don has the sexual power in his relationships with women.

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman, and believe it or not, and I'm 100 percent with cgeye. Bobbie's a ballbuster, so he busted her, ahem, "balls" right back. He tried every other method of negotiation, and she openly mocked him. Love or hate what Don did, it ultimately worked.

This show never ceases to surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, anonymous gets it right. I've read every single word of Fitzgerald's except the unfinished Tycoon novel. You can definitely see F. Scott's influence upon Mad Men or maybe I was reading too much into that thought last season. So, I was tickled pink with tonight's direct reference. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz is a great read. It's The Great Gatsby meets Cruel Intentions meets Hotel California. I had fully expected the Ritz to have been adapted in the '90s into one of those teens-as-adults soundtrack movies.

mad woman, the physics of Don taking the reins had me thinking Bobbie was a Bobby. :) IOW, it just didn't look like Don had his hand all that high. Although that could have been Hamm being considerate of his scene's opposite.

Anonymous said...

If Don had grabbed Jimmy's um... cajones... and said, "Appologize or I will ruin you," would it be less deplorable?

I think it would. Which as a woman makes me wonder about my own double standards.

Still, really creepy. Even if it demonstrated Don had reached his breaking point.

Anonymous said...

Was the film Don was watching "Hiroshima Mon Amour"? Sounded like it but couldn't tell.

Anonymous said...

Was Jimmy supposed to be a version of Rickles?

Anonymous said...

Alan, I do wish you'd give the other writers on the writing staff credit along with Weiner (or the blame if warranted.)

While he is the lead creative force behind the show, writing for TV is a collaboration. And yet, you never mention the other writers. Nor have I seen it mentioned that some of the writers who wrote the most memorable episodes of last season were not asked back. We shall see how it effects the quality of the show (sure didn't help the O.C. or countless other shows that had amazing first seasons.)

Also, it's worth noting that unless I'm mistaken no script this season has aired without Weiner's name on it as at least co-writer. As I understand it, that's usually that's the sign of a raging ego (i.e. Sorkin, Lorre, etc.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, I do wish you'd give the other writers on the writing staff credit along with Weiner (or the blame if warranted.)

I mentioned the co-writer in last week's review. I only mentioned Weiner here because in both contexts where the writing came up -- discussing the thematic links to Sopranos and the pacing of the season -- it was in a way that really only applies to him.

Anonymous said...

If Don had grabbed Jimmy's um... cajones... and said, "Appologize or I will ruin you," would it be less deplorable?

I think it would. Which as a woman makes me wonder about my own double standards.

I don't think you should worry about double standards. Grabbing of balls would likely be done over clothing; Don went up Bobbie's skirt and penetrated an orifice. (It seems some people do not think he did, but I do.)

Unknown said...

As far as Don going up Bobbie's skirt, I had the same reaction as Alan, shock, excitement, horror etc. But moreover, I found myself wondering, and who is this guy and how far will he go?

All in all, it makes perfect sense; Don's in a corner. Roger told him in no uncertain terms to take care of a situation that would not have happened had Don been in the office, instead of at the movies. Duck is breathing down his neck, and to top all that off, he cheated on his wife after he promised that he wouldn't. Don HAS to get this apology and now she's asking for $25K. He had to do something, and fast.

Anonymous said...

"The Defenders" episode aired April 28, 1962 according to the NY Times TV listings for that day. Show aired Saturday nights from 8:30 to 9:30 EST. March 28 was a Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

There were deliberate shots of Don washing his hands post Bobbie--at the sink the first time, and wiping the napkin (confirming how far he went) in the restaurant.

I saw the scene as Don taking the reins back. He's the rider, not the horse, which is how Betty has been treating him, and how Bobbie was treating him. He responded in kind, treating her as an equal--asserting himself on her sexually as she did to him in the car.

The final shot of Betty snuggled up to Don in the car looked like a movie poster, but it's not of Gentleman's Agreement.

Anonymous said...

Another hint at the Sopranos was that last night's episode included cruel jokes at the expense of an overweight woman who happened to be married to an important man, stirring up all kinds of trouble. It made me immediately think of Johnny Sack's wife Ginny and Ralphie's 95-pound mole joke.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see other people commenting on this...they are going down the same old road they went down with the Sopranos...beating us over the head with sex...

This show was terrific with early 60's innuendo and flirty suggestion and the "cigarette afterward" it's reduced to a disgusting "Tony in the Monkey Room at the Zoo scene" and it looks like they'll ruin this great show the same way.

Anonymous said...

I think "disturbed" best describes my reaction during and after that scene. And that's my reaction to some of the comments on this post.

I'm sorry, but *nothing* Bobbie did would make what Don did to her justifiable in any way, shape, or form. It was sexual assault! Saying she "deserved it" or was "asking for it" or is a horrendous thing to say.

Pirate Alice said...

I think the whole interaction between Bobbie & Don showed us that we have no idea how far Don will go if pushed. And yes, it did make me lose what little bit of respect I had for him. No one "deserves" to be assaulted, no one "asks" for it. We need to stop blaming the victim. Bobbie was right, they had a contract. Yes what Jimmy said was mean and horrible and wrong. You don't talk that way to the person paying you, even if you are talent. But legally you can't do anything to someone for being an ignorant jerk.
What Don did was extremely disturbing. But still in character, we really don't KNOW him or what he is capable of, no one does.

Anonymous said...

Not even sure as to how to phrase this.... Originally I thought that Don was checking to see if Bobby was sexually aroused by their word play, I didn't take it as agressive as some. Once he found out that she was, and knowing that she's already referred to herself as "bad", he began treating her this way. Although, with the amount of undergarments for the period, you gotta wonder what she was wearing?
Sorry If that was indelicate.

Karen said...

I'm not sure anyone is saying that Bobbie was "asking for it." I agree completely with mad woman and Girl Detective and say that Don found himself in a tight corner--a corner with Duck's smirking face looking fown on him--and he did what he had to do.

I think he chose that method of intimidation because Bobbie and he had only connected sexually; he didn't really know how else to relate to her. And I think that their sexual connection in the hailstorm had more to do with a woman who wasn't causing him impotence than anything else: he was very good until Bobbie pointed out that it was only his lips saying no, and after the terrible Valentine's experience--and how many others like it?--he gave in.

I'm not excusing his behavior. I'm saying I understand it. Don is not a man who fundamentally respects women--despite not wanting other men to speak crudely in the presence of a lady on an elevator--and, given that a) the nature of their relationship was sexual and b) Bobbie had his back up against a wall, I'm just not surprised that he assaulted her in that way. I didn't realize what he was doing at first, and I didn't realize she wasn't enjoying it, frankly, but I gasped when I realized what was going on. With horror and with delight: Don found a method to get his way.

I agree with mark p, too--LOVED Jimmy biting his fist afet Edith's "I don't have the stomach for it."

I was struck by the commercial Jimmy was in, as well. After Don had been so careful to show his disdain for the VW "Lemon" ad, and his devotion to traditional advertising with the Mohawk campaign, the Utz commercial seemed a little edgy for something he was connected with. Or was that all Ken Cosgrove? Wouldn't Don still have had to sign off on it? Jimmy seemed a kind of cross between Lenny Bruce and Don Rickles, and I'm not sure I can really picture him in commercials in 1962. It felt like a commercial from a good 3 or 4 more years down the road.

Anonymous said...

@ Karen:

'm not sure anyone is saying that Bobbie was "asking for it."

See commenter cyegye, above: "Bobbie was asking for it."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, so nobody's crossed a line. Bt given the subject matter, I can see it happening soon. So let me remind you all that this blog is a place where we should feel safe to discuss anything even tangentially-related to the shows I write about, but with one cardinal rule: Play nice with each other. Disagreements are cool; attacking other posters for their opinions (which, again, hasn't happened yet) is not.

Anonymous said...

This is a much darker show than I think a core of its fans understand it to be. The episodes I tend not to enjoy are the ones that play like a stylized soap opera, while the ones I enjoy more have a darker center to them, say like the episode last year where Rogers has a heart attack.

Dom's "sexual essence" has been reined in for two episodes, but its an unnatural existence for him. His "return to form" is his disgusting act on a woman who "thought she was safe" to paraphrase one of the Marines from a recent Generation Kill episode. Tip of the iceberg moment that could define the history of this show.

A scene that is being overshadowed is Betty's flirtation with the young buck at the riding school. She, like Bobbie, has been asserting herself sexually within a false sense of security (think back to the mechanic scene). Potentially disturbing forshadowing.

Again, while I find this situation stimulating as art, this could turn part of the show's audience who's looking for tamer "welcome to the sexy early 60s" fare. But then, in a world where "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Wire" are both under the "hour-long drama" label, these things happen.

Nicole said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who views Don's actions at the end as sexual assault because Bobbie was assertive with the contract. Other boards have responded to this with a "Don is back!" and this bothers me since Don was never portrayed as this despicable in the first season.

I was never a huge fan of the Sopranos because it was very hard to overlook the fact that all women on that show were sexual objects and treated as lower class citizens, they were either strippers, or girlfriends/wives who turned a blind eye to the murders around them for monetary gain, so in essence they prostituted themselves. As someone mentioned above, Mad Men seems to be going down this path, and I think it's a huge mistake because it isn't accurate for the era, and macho cool will only be tolerated for so long by a portion of the audience.
Bobbie was essentially branded as a crass whore in this episode and thus it was okay that he did this. It was not. And if Don doesn't get a sort of comeuppance for it in later episodes, I don't know if I will want to continue watching. Pete and Roger would never do this, and yet the show portrays them as the skeezeballs.

For Don to freak out in the elevator a few weeks ago over dirty talk and yet turn around and do this is hypocrisy to the nth degree and certainly demonstrates that he is no gallant knight.

Alan, perhaps you could get Weiner to elaborate on why he decided to have Don do this because this seems to me akin to the Rescue Me "rape" scene of last year, where the writers thought they were conveying one thing, but something else was perceived by the audience?

Anonymous said...

I personally felt this episode was a lot weaker than "Flight 1". Maybe because Betty is my least favorite character (yet, I know that she's the one I most resemble... minus the red hair) and I found the Utz storyline to be stupid.

The "Grabbing Hold of the Reins" thing confused me at first. I thought for a second he was going to have sex with her again.

But mainly? Can I say damn you Weiner and your pacing? I miss seeing Pete and Paul and all the storylines the last episode set up. But good for him, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not you're offended by what Don did is one thing. But if you say it was out of character, or something that would not have really happened in 1962, I feel you either haven’t been watching the show that closely or you’re just a touch naïve. Go back and take another look at “Hobo Code” and see the environment Don was raised in. He has clearly been scarred by many things in his past (it’s the reason why he adopted a new identity in the first place), and this has left him capable of doing a lot of shocking things, I’m sure. In fact, grabbing a woman by her you-know-what may be mild compared to some of the other things of which he’s capable. And although we see the 1960s as a progressive era today, that culture hadn’t even *begun* to bloom by 1962-- keep in mind that JFK is still alive and in the White House; man is seven years away from walking on the moon; and the Beatles were an obscure British club band at this time. So it’s totally believable (to me) that Don could do that to a woman and fear no repercussions like sexual harassment and such. The women’s rights movement was still a long way off.

Anonymous said...

Then I need to ask those who disagree with what Don did, and what I believed were the motivations behind it, one question:

Do words matter?

Especially these words:
"Ken, you’ll realize in your private life that at a certain point seduction is over, and force is actually being requested."

Those were the first words I remembered after that scene.

And these, said by Midge:
"I want you to pull my hair, ravish me, and leave me for dead."

Not the leaving for dead thing.
The hair-pulling thing.
As if that actually happened, and Midge liked it.

I understand how most people with consciences see what Don did as sexual assault. But what about the women who existed then as now, who liked dominant men and rough sex?

Has Don ever *not* been a sexually violent man with women he is sexually open with? We saw aftermaths, but what did we really know about the details of his affairs with mistresses?

This violence, I think, was there all along; we just thought the words were hyperbole, instead of his truth.

Betty spoke in therapy about Don having sex with her that felt like sex other women liked. There would no clearer indicator of that than Don having to disengage himself from anything dominant or rough, to pace himself to Betty's needs -- which, since they don't communicate well, ends up dissatisfying them both. Also, Don sees Betty as primarily a mother, the perfect one he never had -- would he ever show his true sexual self to her, even if it were vanilla?

Bobman said...

I know I personally would never say that what Don did was right or justified, but that doesn't mean it doesn't fit with his character enough and certainly wasn't out of left field considering what we know (and don't know) about him.

There's an awful lot of hyperbole being thrown about, and a lot of people assuming the direction of the show because of one scene or episode. There are comparisons to be drawn to the Sopranos, but I'd say both sides of the gender pool could have qualms; the women of Sopranos, and much less so Mad Men, may be seen as weak and "lower class citizens" as someone said, but in both shows the men who were the "strong" heroes were shown to be deplorable, miserable and often childishly insecure or immature.

Just reading these comments it almost feels like some of you think the creators of Mad Men are endorsing or glamorizing Don's behavior with Bobbie, whereas in reality I think they wanted to show what a monster he could be, and they found a shocking way to portray that.

Nicole said...

I have never been under the illusion that the 60s were a progressive era, my parents were teens back then and it was not a great time for women, or anyone not waspy white. In fact, the women's movement and feminism barely made a difference in the 1970s if you lived outside of an urban area. However, if Weiner is going to try to suggest that Don's behaviour with Bobbie was normal for all men of that era, then that's where I say working on the Sopranos has warped his brain. I will buy that Don's behaviour is the product of the abuse as a child, and that there is clearly a lot of darkness hidden beneath that gentleman's facade.

Karen said...

I agree with dave that people who are shocked by Don's behavior may not have been watching the show that carefully. In addition to cgeye's very revealing quotes, this is a guy who, when faced with a comrade-in-arms with a face shot to pieces, decides to steal his identity. This is a guy who, when he sees his family meeting his coffin on the train platform, impassively watches, then turns away and moves on to his new life.

He wanted to run last time he felt cornered, when Pete discovered his past life, and Rachel put the kibosh on that. This time he felt cornered again, and running was no longer an option. It doesn't surprise me in the least that he would choose a sexually vulgar and threatening way to regain the upper hand and his security. Saying that I understand his character doing it, however, in no way means I agree with his having done it. I'm just saying it's perfectly in character.

And, Rachel, I apologize for my blanket dismissal. I should rather have said, "Most people aren't saying that Bobbie was asking for it." At any rate, I'm not saying she was asking for it!

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself on this, and I will try to be brief.

Again, I was disturbed by the scene, but I think it "justified" in the context of the show. But in the abstract, I don't think you can justify it.

I second what another commenter said -- I would be curious to hear Weiner's thoughts on that scene.

Anonymous said...

I think all of the accusations of Don's misogyny are off base, as is chalking up his encounter with Bobbie to an expression of that misogyny. While no one would ever claim Don as a champion of gender eqality, in a world characterized by an epic level of sexism, his attitude towards women is far more "progressive" than that of the men who surround him.

Putting aside his marriage to Betty, which serves as a necessary adjunct to his created persona, the women he's drawn to are all independent, intelligent women who are capable of pushing and challenging him. Most of the men of the show treat women as interchangeable and disposable - Don doesn't. People keep fixating on the scene in the elevator with the man and his hat as evidence of the surface quality of Don's respect for women - but that scene was really about a generational difference in manners and mores, not gender. Far more germane is his treatment of Peggy - he respects her, recognizes her talent, and promotes her, all in a corporate culture that seeks to remind women of their insignificance at every opportunity.

As for the Bobbie encounter, sure, I was a little taken aback, but I wasn't horrified. It's not that Bobbie was portrayed as craven and promiscuous and thus "deserved it" - I think Don's action was in reaction to her asserting dominance over him, first in a business context, then sexually (which, depending on how you view Don't protests, could also be considered assault).

She's the one who framed their negotiation in sexual terms. And when his attempts to reason with her failed, he was simply responding using the, um, negotiating tactics, she would respond to.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not you're offended by what Don did is one thing.
It is - but what I want to know is whether or not the writers are offended by what Don did.

One of the reasons I could go along with the Sopranos and couldn't with Rescue Me is that the Soprano's producers and writers seemed to know that their protagonists did bad, awful, evil things and Rescue Me's did not.

I don't need karmic retribution. It doesn't always happen in real life, I don't need it to happen on TV. I especially don't expect a sexual harrassment-lesson learned storyline. That's not appropriate for the time period. But I want some sort of acknowledgement that there's a difference between the thread and the threat accompanied by sexual assault.

I also realize that maybe that's happening in the way that Bobbie and Betty are both playing at the same game - and so far, Betty is lucky that she hasn't gotten called on it. (Or maybe the comparison is to be made between Don & the mechanic and Arthur - and that they're both better men than he)

Anonymous said...


I agree. I stopped watching RESCUE ME not because of the marital rape.

I stopped because the writers depicted the *characters* -- nuanced people, aware of the world and how people fuck up -- as so ignorant about their own feelings that *they* didn't know if it was marital rape, or not. But the humor of the show demands these characters be somewhat knowing and absolutist about their own natures; the comedy occurs when their desires and natures conflict.

Those firemen had done some amazingly unforgivable things, all wrapped up in the blanket of post-9/11 trauma. But Tommy's rape happened after a lot of silly 'counting coup' incidents with his wife and brother. My disagreement with that plotline was that the rape became another joke, that the characters weren't allowed to feel what they felt, in order to keep that rape a joke.

They became nasty cutout paper dolls. If I want teh nasty sexx without remorse or compunction, I'd wait for NIP/TUCK to come on, and wallow in the filthy soap opera atmo. RESCUE ME tried in the beginning to be more than that.

Anonymous said...

While we don't get to see what went on in the car betwixt Don and Bobbie, we do see Don washing his hands at home that night. The "clean hands" connection is reason enough for people to consider lessening their level of shock to the dinner scene. Precedent was set. Who know what Bobbie did in the car to get him to go there?

Anonymous said...

And, may I say, thank God for Harry?

Even though he championed a show for personal, crass, ass-saving reasons, he ended up getting respect by doing the right thing -- even down to not mentioning the topic of abortion to his pregnant, suffering wife.

I needed that good egg, to stomach the sulfur coming off Don's dirty hands.

Mo Ryan said...

That final scene with Don and Betty was maybe even more ambiguous than I would have wished. It seemed clear that Betty was crying because she was indeed very sad. But could it be that she was happy to be shown off as a "bright and shiny" object that Don possesses? I mean, the gross Jimmy paid attention to her all night. Could it be that that's all she wanted? Attention from a man (even if he's a horrible person)?

And could Don really be taken in by what she said, that her tears were the result of happiness? He can't be that clueless. Can he?

It was a slightly weird episode, but it certainly had its moments. Patrick Fischler was terrific as Jimmy, that's for sure.

I was back to wishing that January Jones could hit more notes, as I wished for much of Season 1. I felt like her scene with Arthur was a missed opportunity -- not in the writing, but in how she played it. She just didn't give Betty any subtext or other layers. There are times on this show where I can see another actress taking the Betty scenes and knocking them out of the park, while Jones (who has improved since the start of Season 1) occasionally just hits singles with that kind of great material.

The Bobbie thing was shocking, but sick as this may sound, Don knew Bobbie was pushing him and secretly wanted him to do something just like that. She was pushing him to his limit to see if he'd take the bait, so to speak. He did, but in a way that solves the problem for him and probably turns her on as well (both Bobbie and Jimmy are seriously messed up pieces of work. Let's hope they don't have kids!)

I loved that we saw more Harry this episode. But was it me, or did we get a lot of very cold, ruthless women in this episode? Not just Bobbie being so aggressively obnoxious, but Harry's wife being somewhat mean to him, especially at first, and then Betty was really cold and condescending to Arthur.

Dunno, that just struck me a little this time around.

Anonymous said...

I don’t mean to speak for Mr. Weiner, but I’m sure it was not his intention that Don would represent “normal” behavior for men of that era. In the abstract, it’s certainly understandable that anyone might be disturbed by the scene in question-- it certainly is shocking when you first see it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what movie Don was watching, but the narrator in the movie was reciting a poem by Francois Villon called "Ballade des dames de temps jadis" (Ballad of women from ancient times). The stanza recited was this one:

"Queen Blanche, like a lily
Who sang with a mermaid's voice
Bertha Bigfoot, Beatrice, Alis,
Arembourg, heiress to the Maine,
And Joan, the maid of Lorraine
Whom the English burned at Rouen
Where are they, where, o sovereign Virgin?
And where are the snows of yesteryear?"

Does anyone know what movie Don was watching? And why was he at the movies in the middle of the day?

Don's exploration of women is fascinating to me--from laying the madonna/angel mantle on Betsy a few episodes ago, to his search for a dark haired woman who is free with him (an attempt to redefine his stepmother?), to his support of Peggy, to his defense of the conventional show of respect for women in the elevator, to his views of his wife as his property.

Don's brutal scene with Bobbie was shocking to me but, as with the Sopranos, I think Mad Men is more an exploration of characters and the human condition than an attempt at a realistic depiction of peoples' daily lives.

Love this show.

Pirate Alice said...

Mo Ryan said: And could Don really be taken in by what she said, that her tears were the result of happiness? He can't be that clueless. Can he?

Actually, yes, I believe someone as selfish as Don could be that clueless. I experienced it in person, although, the person I was with didn't even notice that I was crying...that's how clueless and self absorbed he was.

So yes, I can see Don being that clueless. It's easier to believe her than it is to question her.

KendraWM said...

I think she knew he would follow her, why else would she be primping herself in the hallway mirror as opposed to the ladies room mirror, and I think she might have been hoping for a little quick action, nothing say danger like the chance of getting caught.

I think Don is reaching his tipping point, he was made a fool of in the office when he asked why they went to the studio without seeing him first, only to find out that they did and he was not there. Sterling, handed him his hat with the orders to basically fix the mess you made by not being here.

Bobbie, was in no way going to roll over and help him, she wanted him, knew she would get him and then try to turn the table on him.

His wife has turned him into the babysitter and then giving him grief and acting put out when he tells her about the dinner.

Duck, who he hired and brought in is at every turn undermining his position in the company.

Clearly this is a man who worked hard at getting the life that would look perfect to the outside world and I think will do anything to hold onto this life.

As for the elevator scene a few episodes back, there is no doubt in my mind that his reaction was not because of the women, but because of his disdain for having to bring in the new younger group for interviews. And the utter disgust he feels towards them. Or more so toward Duck for making him do this.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice that this episode, at the beginning, had a warning about strong adult themes and one of the subplots of the episode dealt with a television show that had strong adult themes. The consultants at S&C recommended putting a warning at the beginning because, I seem to remember, people like crossing barriers? Very funny, subtle stuff.

The episode builds Bobbie up to be the bad guy. You want bad things to happen to her. You certainly don’t want her to get $50,000 for her husband being an ass. You want Don to win. Before you know it, he is taking her by the reins and everything works out the way you want it. I think the episode is set up to make the viewer into an accomplice. Amazing stuff, by far the highlight of the episode (whether you agree with it or not, it was the focus and what we are all talking about).

Anonymous said...

How about Lois getting fired for doing what exactly I still don't know. Not being a good enough liar to cover for her boss I suppose. Meanwhile the drunk S.C. exec who was sleeping on set instead of doing his job barely gets a slap on the wrist. Okay granted Lois didn't seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I still found the disparity quite astonishing.

Anonymous said...

The film was Antonioni's "La Notte", about the decline of a passionless marriage. The line we kept hearing was "Où sont les neiges d'antan?", which is odd, seeing as that's French but "La Notte" is Italian...

Anonymous said...

Alan, thanks for personally answering my complaining about your not mentioning the other writers. You do make an effort, and I was mistaken.

Keep up the amazing reviews!

(Although when you have time to sleep with all this TV watching is a bigger mystery than any on "Lost.")

Anonymous said...

A part of her job is to keep Don looking good. As well as answering the phone and typing and filing, she's supposed to manage Don's image which includes handling other people and when warranted handling Don. (Did you notice, when Joan said she was taking over the job temporarily, Don started to tell her to do something, and she informed him that no, instead they would be doing his correspondance. Lois needed to do that. And then to keep the wolves at bay.)

We saw Lois fail spectacularly at that part of her job, at least 2 or 3 times. We also saw both Peggy & Joan try to get the point across to her (admittedly, they weren't really clear) and Lois still didn't get the hint.

Also, if I understood the conversation, she wasn't so much fired as demoted. She's back to the telephone operators' room.

Dennis said...

I think Don gave her the fi**er, as it were;) because he thought this was the only way to take back control of the situation.

She established early on that she was a hard case and and even went so far to suggest phone sex when Don called her from his study. So, he knows she lusts after him after their front seat encounter and when faced with no other option, he decides to take control and I think his intent wasn't a threat of violence as much as it was to illustrate to her how "good" the sex could be if she made Jimmy dance and everything was smoothed over.

I think it was Don showing what could be in her future if she made Jimmy play ball. If he keeps hooking up with her, I think we'll see that was the intent.

Anonymous said...

As for Lois, Don said her job was to specifically "manage expectations". In short, do more than lie for him; she's to create the image of him as competent and busy, even when he's staring into space while asking to be undisturbed.

Lois can barely manage her own story, let alone Don's -- and if anyone's surprised that Rumsen's drunken sottedness didn't get him fired, yet Lois' honesty and earnestness got her demoted, well, we haven't been paying attention, have we? Secretaries are sacrifical lambs in this environment -- they cry for a reason. If they were needed just for typing, there'd be a typing pool. These girls are used as the expression of executive's power, and nothing more. Peggy still expresses Don's power, just in a different way, and that's why he backs her, and she backs him.

And Joan's worked for Don before, and, obviously, he can keep a secret, and she can tell him what to do. Just a data point....

Amy said...

Interesting that no one has mentioned the fact "the incident" between Don and Bobbie happened with Betty a short walk away where she could have easily stumbled upon trying to escape Bobbie's horrible husband.

I think the hand washing will come back at some point, I felt it was a sign of guilt at least, or that Betty has confronted him on the smell of other women.

I was shocked and horrified by Don's actions and still am, but agree that it was a way of showing how dangerous he can be.

Unknown said...

The reason Lois got fired was not so much for her inability to lie for Don as it was for her tendency to overshare. For instance, episode 1, instead of saying that Don was just out and she didn't know when he would be back; she say's "He's at the movies, He said he was seeing Pinocchio ." TMI. Had she just told Roger that Don was out, he wouldn't have told Don to talk to her.

Not to mention, she wasn't too bright "Ben Cosgrove".

Anonymous said...

Alan, Mo, a technical question:

Howcum Harry asked for a Television Dept. to be created at SC, when the only way the ad agencies got their products on the air was to completely sponsor a show?

Since 1948, ad agencies had to have a department in charge of creation of shows for networks. The networks switched to a 'magazine' model of diverse spot advertising only after the quiz show scandals made network heads eager to use the new Federal laws as an excuse to take power away from the ad agencies.

Was Sterling Cooper so uncompetitive and second-rate that they neither developed shows nor wrangled networks for their clients? What in the hell did they do during the radio era?

amy, I thought I covered that under the 'Don is a sexual compulsive' bit, but it needs stressing that he did take a big risk along with his humiliation of Bobbie -- not just Betty but Jimmy would make his life hell, if he was caught.

Tom said...

For the record, I'm pretty sure the Jimmy Barrett character is based on Jerry Lewis, who was apparently a total SOB and control freak on the set. It's good to see Patrick Fischler, who played Jimmy, get such a plum part. To date, the most memorable thing I've seen him do is the incredible dumpster scene in Mulholland Drive. (As we're on the topic of intense misogynistic dramas...)

This show just gets better and better.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca, you said it better than I. All I could think while reading everyone's comments was, "Come on! Get over your turn-of-the-century-PC-selves!"

Dennis said...

On the the point of Betty reacting to the smell of other women: wasn't there a part of her post finding-out-that-don-speaks-to-her-shrink
"confession" to the shrink where she's talking about Don coming home late and she talks about smells of perfume and says something like, 'sometimes even worse."?

Anyone else remember anything like that?

Anyway, no one called me on it but I just wanted to clarify that I didn't agree with what Don did to Bobbie but I thought it was his way of understanding how he could hold power over her.

Anonymous said...

I think it's hardly a coincidence that they named the Utz head Schilling/"shilling," since that's what all of our Mad Men do for a living.

Anonymous said...

Remember last season when all the mad men sat in Draper's office discussing the merits of the Volkswagen ad? Don said something to the effect of, "whether or not you like the ad, they've succeeded in getting us to talk about it for 15 minutes."

I think The Benefactor is Matthew Weiner's Volkswagen ad.

pgillan said...

Heh, I just got the title to this entry.

Anonymous said...

As for the Jimmy closeness to Lewis, if they featured video playback in the commercial, Lewis could legitimately sue, since he was such a control freak he created the concept of video playback as he directed himself in films. But yes, the smooth playboy/re-creation of himself after Martin & Lewis broke up fits the Barrett character exactly. The only difference is there was no Bobbie or wife-as-negotiator around.

Anonymous said...

I loved the scene between Harry and Roger, since we don't usually see anyone interact with Sterling one-on-one besides Don (and sometimes Cooper) and it was great to see how terrified Harry was when walking into his office.

Amy said...

Denis - you are 100% right about Betty saying that to the shrink (how Don comes home smelling). Good call.

justjoan123 said...

"Also, someone above noted how the Betty/Arthur scene played like Fitzgerald wrote it. Interestingly, I felt like the Don/Bobbie scenes played like French New Wave films, especially the silhouette shot at their first encounter and when they're standing in front of that baroque mirror at the end. That mirror shot seemed straight out of Last Year at Marienbad."

Interesting that you would say that, because I got a distinct Marienbad vibe from Betty's scene in the stables with Arthur. She was very Delphine Seyrig-ish in letting Arthur get very close physically while holding him off with a "Laissez-moi être -- Laissez-moi tranquil."

And, speaking of Marienbad, I was transfixed to see Don's choice of hooky-playing venue. I spent a great part of the early 60s in art houses, soaking in the New Wave films. Although I took Spanish in school, I lived for a year in France, and all the dialog from all of those movies stood me in good stead. So I rather expected Don to attempt to order something in French, given they were at Lutece.

Andrew Johnston said...

As to the issue of Roger's office, the end of season one gave us the impression that Don "inherited" it when Roger left to tend to his health. However, this season it seems as if Don has the same office he did last year. I'm thinking maybe Don decided to hold onto the old office to be closer to his troops, then let Duck have Roger's old office. When Roger came back, then, he'd have the new extra-cavernous one one, which maybe a converted conference room or something like that.

Mrglass said...

- I'm not sad, my people are just Nordic.

Helene H. said...

He's no gentleman, but he did get an agreement...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Heh, I just got the title to this entry.

I aim to please.

Anonymous said...

I loved that we saw more Harry this episode. But was it me, or did we get a lot of very cold, ruthless women in this episode? Not just Bobbie being so aggressively obnoxious, but Harry's wife being somewhat mean to him, especially at first

I don't think Jennifer was being cold and ruthless towards Harry. She just knows that sometimes you have to give your partner a little kick in the butt. The scene with them in the bedroom indicated to me that they've gone through something awful and come out the other side. Earlier, he said to her "you wanted me to tell you when I'm upset", so it seems they actually talk to each other. Compare them to Francine and Carlton. He's as much of a schmuck as he ever was, and Francine is seething with anger. I doubt those two have had a real conversation since before they said "I do".

Harry has always been ahead of his time regarding his wife, certainly in comparison to the other men at SC, most of whom think that having sex with other women is their God-given right. On the other hand, Harry's infidelity crushed him almost as much as it did Jennifer.

I do love me some Harry. He's a sensitive, new age guy.

Susan said...

"Even though he championed a show for personal, crass, ass-saving reasons, he ended up getting respect by doing the right thing -- even down to not mentioning the topic of abortion to his pregnant, suffering wife."

Actually, I don't think Harry ever said the show was about abortion. He said something like, "just some tv show" and never told her the specifics - letting himself look like the hero (standing up for something, getting the new title and raise) without having to bring up something to his wife that would possibly offend her.

"But could it be that she was happy to be shown off as a "bright and shiny" object that Don possesses?"

I think Betty actually wasn't completely lying in the last scene, about being happy to be a part of Don's wife. Not knowing what happened in the hallway with Bobbie, and knowing that Don needed her to charm the comedian, I think Betty takes a lot of the credit in her own mind for the apology Jimmy offers. She charmed him (apparently by talking about horses and looking pretty), and in her mind, this leads to him offering the apology. She helped, she saved the day.

I really loved the way t his episode played with the ideas of control and power - who has it, and who REALLY has it. Harry thinks he has a bargaining chip when he goes for the raise, but Sterling really has the power. Bobbie tries to get one up on Don, but Don asserts his control and wins their game in the end. Betty toys with Arthur until he goes too far for her liking, and then she has to backtrack to get the upper hand. And in a room full of men, the Belle Jolie guy looks to Peggy to confirm what a woman will think.

justjoan123 said...

I was interested to see how readily the identification was made of Jimmy=Jerry Lewis. My feeling was that he was a combination of Don Rickles and Joey Bishop. Rickles for the insults and Bishop for the drinking and the sycophantic Sinatra references. Lewis could be nasty, in his cups, but I never thought he would be gratuitously insulting to a sponsor (and certainly any strangers brought into a taping by the account representative must be easily identified as VIP to the "talent.") Rickles, of course, built his career on being gratuitously insulting, and no overweight woman would have been exempt, sponsor or no.

Anonymous said...

I think as a man 61 years old and having worked in an office situation very close to the one depicted on Mad Men, you have keep in mind that things were SO DIFFERENT in those days. What Don did and what others do on the show was the norm, there was no sexual harrasment,no HR Department. Also do not overlook Don was groped in the car first, which also was OK back then...also this is a TV show...a good one !

Anonymous said...

When Don washed his hands after the car tryst w/Bobbie, did anyone else see him also rinse out his mouth w/that dish soap; spit it out; wipe his face on a towel? Then, I almost fell off of the couch when Betty asked if he was hungry and he said, "I already ate."

I thought the foreign film, deep look when he gets in the car w/Bobbie had to do with whomever he sent that package to at the end of the first episode of the second season.

Nicole Marie said...

I totally read Harry not telling his wife about the topic of the show differently. To me, it seemed like Harry's reaction showed that he was ambivalent about having a baby, and that was why he didn't tell his wife the topic of the show.

Harry did not seem happy at all during the episode, and if one of the themes was about control, i.e., taking the reins, it seemed that Harry's wife definitely holds the reins in that relationship.

Nicole Marie said...

Sorry, I meant to say his reaction to the abortion show in general, not just his reaction of not telling his wife the show's topic. Like Peggy, Harry had a pretty strong reaction to the show, and maybe it's as simple as being worried about having a baby with as little money as they have, but it certainly brought up some strong feelings for him. (I read one recapper who made a gigantic leap and assumed his reaction was because Hildy must have had an abortion, but I don't know where she got that idea.)

Tom said...

@JustJoan re: Barrett...

I suppose the insult humor was more Rickles than Jerry Lewis. And, true, Lewis was never in the Rat Pack like Joey Bishop. But Barrett's schtick of eating the chips straight from the bag was pure Lewis. As was his obsessive attention to detail. As was his catchprase. ("Take it from a nut!...") And the names..."Jimmy Barrett"/"Jerry Lewis." No exact correlation was intended, I'm sure, but it seemed a pretty straightforward 80% Lewis, 20% others to me.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about the true New Yorkers we've seen so far, and I have to say the worker bees of SC aren't in that set.

Peggy's mom, her sister, Bobbie and Jimmy, *those* people remind me of the people shoving their way on buses and cabs, getting the good rump roast at the butcher's, not hurrying home on the commuter train when the ball drops, but spending the night at a favorite bar or club, where the after-hours curfew is ignored a bit.

I see most of the SC crew as being happy in any metropolis. Give them adequate jet and commuter train travel, and a generous relocation budget and/or language training, and the execs would make their way anywhere they were assigned. Bobbie and Jimmy would die before leaving NYC permanently, even if their sunny summer homes tempted. Peggy's family would struggle leaving their neighborhood behind, simply because moving costs money.

I wonder if the association of B/J with crassness was the writers' way of clueing us in that the old way of being bound to the city was also going away, a foreshadowing of the stresses NYC would face in later years and the globalization that would allow corporations to consider anywhere but NYC to be their next headquarters....

... just wanted to get my head clear from the bobbing for Bobbie thing....

Anonymous said...

I too am with cgeye. I didn't see the banter going on between Bobbie and Don as anything that had to do with sex but more so about power. She kept trying to tell Don how it was going to be with Jimmy, and even when they were in the car and she put the moves on him: she didn't take "no" for an answer.

So when he grabbed her (maybe he was looking for the cojones she acted like she owned??), it was shocking, but not really so because of how their "relationship" had been developing. Power! I say "Tit for Tat" (no pun intended)

pixelwax said...

amy: Betty a short walk away where she could have easily stumbled upon trying to escape Bobbie's horrible husband.

No way would Betty have left Jimmy alone at the table with the Schillings.

dennis: On the the point of Betty reacting to the smell of other women: wasn't there a part of her post finding-out-that-don-speaks-to-her-shrink

Confession in quotes is right. I think she suspected Don of affairs and had been chalking up any smells of perfume on him to greeting-goodbye hugs. Even in repeated viewing of that scene I don't get the impression from her she knew for certain let alone smelled sex on him. If anything, it looks as if she thought she was exaggerating to her shrink to drive her point home and ensure Don heard it from the psychiatrist.

Anonymous said...

About Peggy watching The Defenders - When the scene Harry was watching earlier involved the trial and the number of time the word "abortion" was used to the horror of anyone skittish of the word. The presentation scene that Peggy saw was the one she more likely lived a similar version of; where the father of the girl who had the abortion berates her, saying that he used to feel sorry for other girls who got pregnant without wanting to but is positively repulsed that his daughter would put herself in that position. Last weeks scenes with her family were more tense then dramatic, but it makes you think of what that Thanksgiving must have been like at the Olson home.

Mo Ryan said...

@portiaslegacy -- good point. I think the Defenders ep touched on a lot of things going on with Peggy. I can imagine she got a similar reception from her family when she had the baby. And thus, her family may have "control" over her -- they pull on her reins every chance they get.

@andrew johnston:

wasn't there some casual remark about Pete's "new" office earlier in the season? but then we saw him in his old office in Flight 1. There's something hinky about the office, I think there must have been some office shuffle in that year we didn't see. We'll find out at some point, I'd guess.

Patrick Fischler has also done some great stuff in the Middleman and Burn Notice this summer.

One last thought -- I can't wait to see Don and Joan interacting more. Wonder if she'll be a permanent replacement for Lois? Otherwise Joan just sort of floats around the office, it might make it easier to bring her into scenes if she's outside Don's office...

Mo Ryan said...

oh, and cgeye, I'm not savvy enough about the advertising industry of the era to know if SC not having a television dept meant it was behind the times. I'd bet the agency was behind the times in that respect, just based on other stuff we've seen on the show. They seem to be sort of slow about that sort of stuff.

Hope Harry's promotion means we see a lot more of him in coming episodes seasons.

I still don't like his wife, Jennifer, much. I guess given how much I like Harry I was predisposed to like her too. Something about her put me off.

Anonymous said...

Pete's in his same office, but when he mentioned there was plenty of room in his office in Ep 1, I think it was a reference to the fact that he's not doubling up like a lot of the others are now, Harry included. Harry had his own office last season (when he got with Hildy), and this week we see him sharing.

Steve said...

I am surprised people get offended by Don Draper's behaviour. The writers and director have been painting a picture since the first episode of a rather cold, manipulative individual who uses people and lies to them. He turned away his own brother, you will recall, and that's pretty cold. I think the idea is that Draper's good looks and charm hide or disguise his flaws, just like advertising tricks people. They don't want us to like Don, they want us to be fascinated by him. After all, good-looking flawed characters are more interesting that good-looking sensitive characters.

Barbara said...

To the person who suggested that the film was La Notte. I too thought it was La Notte or La'avvenutura but I checked the ending neither of them end with the hand in the air as it did in the film Don was watching.

Someone in another group said that they checked and that It was Last Year at Marienbad.

pixelwax said...

mo, yes, SC is behind the times. ad agencies were writing TV programs in the 50s. networks needed programming, agencies needed programs to place advertising.

it's hard to tell (and i'm beginning to think i missed some episodes in season one now) how big SC is, they have several floors at least in their building, but they still are what i'd consider a small- to mid-sized agency of that era.

Anonymous said...

*That's* why it felt off regarding the derision SC boys made about those who wanted to be writers, or those who watched and followed TV series.

In any other large agency, Paul wouldn't be derided; he would have been serving his apprenticeship under other experienced radio/TV packagers, to one day head up his own version of an anthology series, with sponsor-friendly topics and a NYC cast, if he could keep the costs down.

It's as if Weiner didn't want to tackle 60s TV that much, because he knows that eyeballs go to the screen, rather than the people behind the screen -- a mistake that THE SOPRANOS might have fallen into, with Christophuh's excursions into Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed this from Da Mayor of Television, in reference to this episode:

"If something Don does in Sunday's show surprises you, wait 'til next week."

Oh, my.

Anonymous said...

Well, I really want to read all the cogent comments that must be making Weiner cream his jeans in glee that this many people love his writing this much...

but all I have time for tonight is this:

where *did* they get that clean a print of that show? It wasn't shot on IO or iconoscope; it was clearly film, and that print is equally clearly not a kine; did they get a print from the Museum, or hunt down the original archives?

The DVDs I see on Google are certainly boots, right?

Anonymous said...

Do we know for certain that Bobbie is Jimmy's wife? In scene where she's bringing the tuxedo, Don expresses surprise that she's there, and that he thought she was Jimmy's wife, not his manager. I don't remember Bobbie saying definitively that she's Jimmy's wife, but got the impression she lied to bein on the previous business meeting.

So I took her as just pretending to be Jimmy's wife in order to be better accepted as his manager.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, did not read Harry's comment to his wife as evidence of heightened sensitivity. During the meeting with Belle Jolie wherein he attempts to sell the controversial television show about abortion, Harry states something to the effect that many women "today" (meaning, of course, "thenday") are modern and intelligent, and would surely enjoy watching a television show that made them think.

Alas, I do not think it merely coincidental, then, that Harry goes home and tells his wife that she would not be interested in such a show. She is pregnant, certainly, but I believe it is all too important to note that also, in Mad Men, wives are not supposed to "think."

Given my film studies background, I tend to assess the show with a radical feminist critic's eye, and I am often of the opinion that, at heart, Mad Men can be read as being a show about patriarchy-on-parade. Week after week, the show offers its viewers a well-written, self-aware, very dark -- and very stark -- picture of what men can do when they are at their most insidiously (and even quietly) despicable state.

Kudos to shows that make us think -- women, men, and indeed, everyone.

Anonymous said...

Rewatch "The Benefactor".
Clues dropped all over the place (from Jimmy's opening commercial monologue referring to "putting your face in a plate of nuts"; Don rinsing out his mouth when he comes home, before kissing Bettty; the crotch grab at the end -- how Don says to Bobbie threateningly at that point "I will ruin him." How that threat trumps Bobbie's effort to extract 50k from Don ...) I think Bobbie is a man. Don is grabbing him by the balls at the end and reminding him that if he leaks the information, Jimmy'career could be over. that explains why Bobbie, and in turn Jimmy, capitulate so quickly in making the apology Don wants.

R.A. Porter said..., no. It's *possible* that Bobbie is Jimmy's beard and he puts on a show of being a ladykiller, but she's a woman, baby.

Anonymous said...

r.a. porter:

Why are you so certain of Bobbie's gender? Doesn't her stereotypically "male" behavior (direct eye contact, strong business savvy, very aggressive, very bold in initiating sex, used to having her way, dismissive, controlling, confident that she can make Jimmy do what she wants) seem out of place in 1962? And in very strong contrast to the other "true women" in Don's life?

R.A. Porter said...

@anon, beyond the fact that I saw tonight's episode?

Men who can pass as women without surgical or hormone assistance (or even with it) are almost non-existent.

chris said...

I'm new to the show but having just read the comments - I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the Bobbie / Don scene as a homage to Al Swearengen and Deadwood.

mommacharbear said...

Was I the only one who was more shocked and awed by Don bee-lining it to the sink to, erm, wash his hand (hand, singular, kids) after his tryst with Bobbie than by Don sticking his hand up her dress at the dinner?