Mad Men s4e9: The Beautiful Girls

“It’s a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.”

This episode rattles me every damn time I watch it. Seeing Joan, Peggy, Faye and Sally all struggle with being put in a box and told what to do is infuriating and sad.. yet entirely too relatable even as a modern lady. Oof.

Like a tiny hobo, Sally hitches a train to the city to see Don; it does not go well. A kind judgmental stranger pops her to SCDP, and in a panic, Don shoves Faye in her direction. Turns out she’s not good with kids, much to Don’s chagrin.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Women in this era were made to feel like horrible people and general failures for choosing not to have kids, and especially for not being good with kids. Hell, women today still get the same sort of shite judgement but it comes in more insidious forms masquerading as Encouraging(TM); “you’ll change your mind”, “you’ll be maternal when you have a baby”, “it’s different when it’s yours”, “what kind of guy would want to stay with a girl who doesn’t want a baby?”. Fun fact: these are real life sentences said to me by real life men (and women), all of whom I swiftly told to fuck off.

Anyhoo!

“These domesticated suburbanites still have a primitive desire to get their hands dirty, but they have become so removed from nature that they can’t. They don’t know how to hunt, or swing a hammer, or fix their cars.”

“You mean like these two!”

“Actually, no.. I’m from Vermont, and Don’s a competitive fly fisherman.”

“What our findings show is that this demographic will spend a good amount of money for the satisfaction of being useful with their hands. Ladies love a man who’s good with his hands..”

There’s a nice splash of irony when Don is meeting with the Fillmore Auto Parts guys. Faye is rattling off research about how men want to feel like they’re Real Men(TM), getting their hands dirty and all that junk, since the suits we know don’t tend to do that often. Just as she’s not a Real Lady for not being great with kids, men can be viewed as lesser than for not being able to fix shit. However with the dudes it’s more of a joking context, versus the reality of women being judged pretty harshly.

Sally is super unhappy at home, and who could blame her? She doesn’t get along with Betty in the least, she misses her father, things just aren’t right. Don has no idea how to really connect with her, and popping Faye into that Woman(TM) mould doesn’t really work.

It’s striking how much Don is using Faye, and it really hit me over the head watching it now. Back when this initially aired, everyone on the damn internet was ALL UP ONS Faye and Don ending up together, and I remained as indifferent and skeptical as Sally. The way he treats Faye is absurd. Watch my kid, make me a drink. What’s going on at that other ad agency? Tell me. It’s pillowtalk subtle, but it’s definitely undermining what she does professionally and he still, a tiny bit, doesn’t take her seriously.

Speaking of disrespectful trash, Peggy gets a drink with Joyce and hey, Abe pops in! Good god, Abe. He’s a journalist, an opinionated know-it-all type, and admonishes Peggy’s very real concerns about equality for women versus the Civil Rights movement. Pegs isn’t one to take it on the chin, and puts him in his place for trying to tell her how she should feel.. cause fuck that noise.

Granted, I feel a lot of this Abe guy is just being awkward and jamming both feet in his mouth in the process but nonetheless, Pegs splits. He tries to apologise (somehow) by writing a literal fucking manifesto; Peggy is mortified, since it’s taking down her profession. In the days following, Abe is clearly on her mind, radical nonsense and all; has she met her opinionated, overconfident match?

At least he’s got better bone structure than Mark.

But man, the fact that Faye doesn’t magically “fix” Sally’s outbursts or offer any insight cements the idea that she’s nothing more than a fling for Don, and she rightfully calls him on it at the end of the episode. Woof. Don definitely needs someone to help him understand his kids better since he seems to be quite shit at it on his own.

Oh yeah, and during Sally’s surprise visit, Miss Blankenship fucking DIES. Jesus Christ.. and she dies at her desk. It’s a bittersweet scene with some good comedic punch, but Bert and Roger are clearly upset. Roger had a bang with her way back when, Bert knew her for most of his life.. very sad.

“She was born in 1898 in a barn, she died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper.. she’s an astronaut.”

image courtesy of ONTD

Ah, poor Ida. Feeling the immediate pang of life being too short, Joan agrees to have dinner with Roger at their old out of the way place which doesn’t seem so nice anymore since the Bowery’s turned into a toilet. After getting mugged, they have a filthy alley fuck high on adrenaline. It’s a good distraction for them both, at least. Roger is evidently bored in his marriage to Jane, and Joan’s shithusband is about to be popped off to Vietnam. She doesn’t regret the bang, but she wants to respect her marriage. Fair enough.

But man, do I love their banter.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Megan steps it up and works hard to cover Don’s desk as well as reception. When faced with the reality of returning home to Betty, Sally has a horrifying meltdown causing everyone to come running; faceplanting in the process, she hugs Megan and tearfully admits that she knows things won’t be OK. Ugh, heartbreaking and unnerving. Sally’s sadness and helplessness is palpable, radiating to everyone within earshot.

As the elevator doors close, we see the faces of Joan, Faye, and Peggy. It’s like the curtain closing on a play; who are these women in the office versus their real lives? What do they really want at the end of the day? They all want more out of life, that’s for damn sure.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

“Men never know what’s going on.”

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Mad Men s4e6: Waldorf Stories

“Make it simple, but significant.”

Ever wanted to see a drunk fucked out version of the iconic Carousel pitch? Welcome to Life Cereal and the Clios. We get a peek at Don’s advertising origin story, the introduction of the nude Stan Rizzo, Roger’s writing a book, and.. Don is back to being a human landfill. Ah, shit.

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“I GOT DIS” || image courtesy of Giphy

Everyone’s seeking out some sort of credit. Don laments that it’s been so long since Glo-Coat premiered that it feels like he didn’t even do it anymore.. and apparently this is a half-truth. Turns out Peggy came up with the initial idea and Don slapped the old west gimmick on it to make it Iconography(TM), and she’s feeling forgotten. Granted, that’s what he literally does as a Creative Director, but Peggy still wants a nod.

Eternal chip-on-shoulder newbie Art Director Stan complains that his last agency didn’t give anyone credit where credit was due. And of course, Pete Campbell worries that everything he’s worked his ass off to build at SCDP will be eclipsed by the return of Kenny and his haircut.

And then there’s Roger, who wants credit for discovering Don all those years ago at the bottom of a box of furs– though that’s not entirely true, either. Roger writing his memoirs is pretty great, because he likely knows the book may be shit. He doesn’t even have anything particularly profound to write about, no real story to tell; he’s just seeking validation that he offers some kind of value.

We all wish we could rewrite history to suit our own narrative, but shit doesn’t always pan out that way.

“Donald Draper”, a persona invented by Dick Whitman, is rapidly disintegrating in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of booze. What we saw in the “I got this” apocalypse Life Cereal meeting was Dick himself handling a pitch; his sweaty, overtly keen cockiness can be seen shining through the shattered fragments of Don Draper’s Mysterious & Suave(TM) persona.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

 Drunk mess Don, high on the Clio win and a million old fashioneds, jacks an idea that idiot Danny came up with.. though Danny actually ripped it from Alka Seltzer. Cure for the common ‘insert word here’. I mean, it’s way better than “Enjoy the rest of your Life….. Cereal!”, but it’s certainly not as hilarious. What a fucking gauche mess; Don is lightyears away from his more masterful pitches.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

After ordering Stan and Peggy to be sequestered to a hotel room all weekend to work, it’s time to head back out and celebrate. Don’s bender starts off sort of hilariously (and with a patriotic blowjob), but rapidly devolves into sad mess territory. He fucks it up by blacking out for what appears to be an entire day and sleeps through to when he’s supposed to pick up the kids in Ossining, waking up to an understandably pissed off phone call from Betty. And he’s in bed with a rando lady he doesn’t recognise.

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“I’ve made a huge mistake.” || image courtesy of Fanpop

This Don Draper, cowering from a lady he boned in his goddamned bathroom, is not the guy we know. But then again, he’s been incredibly off his game. The mystery diner waitress even calls him Dick.. Christ on a cracker.

Lord knows things get stuck in my head all the time, and I don’t know from whence in the fresh hell it came; Peggy strikes that creative chord with Don when she finally reaches him at his Hiroshima apartment regarding The Cure for The Common Breakfast.

Don does not acknowledge Peggy’s work on Glo-Coat; but then again, we only have her version of how it went down and it’s entirely possible that she’s blowing out her role just as much as Roger does when yapping about how Don came to be at Sterling Cooper. At the end of the episode, Don does let her talk to him like he’s the subordinate re:Danny cockup, and she gets to enjoy having the power position with Stan. So, Peggy’s making strides bit by bit.

Grown-ass men acting like children, and the ladies have gotta keep em in line. TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIME. Look at the way Peggy handles Stan and calls him on his shit; working nude in a hotel room just to call his bluff, but at the same time, they bond and he learns to respect her a little more and be less of a dick. Look at how Joan sarcastically calls out Roger’s mopey mood; miles away from the gleeful girl who was so impressed with him and his Mink.

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image courtesy of Todoseries

During his bender, turns out Don lost his damn Clio at the bar. Roger retrieves it, and wants Don to admit that he couldn’t have done it all without him. Don doesn’t even say that, but vaguely acknowledges Roger’s role in the whole thing.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Just like young enthusiastic Don bugging Roger like a fly on shit, Danny is overeager and eerily persistent in getting what he wants. And just like Roger back in the day, Don can’t recall ever being that outwardly tacky or hungry to grab an opportunity.. though we know better. It’s also funny to see the tonedeaf Don of yore with Roger, completely shit at reading his audience when he innocently inquires if he ever needed to be cut a break.

Both Don and Danny snag their jobs because the man they’re trying to impress gets too fucking blotto to realize what in the hell they’re doing. Up, up, up the ladder of success!

“Award or no award, you’re still Don Draper.”

“Whatever that means.”

Mad Men s4e5: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

“Christ on a cracker, where do you get off??”

This is one of those episodes that seems light on the outside, but there’s so much to dig into. Oof. Realistically, just how long can you hold onto a grudge? How long can you continue to define yourself by something that happened literal ages ago? How long can you use those prehistoric events to justify trash actions today? What does that garbage do to a person? Taking a closer look at Roger and Betty in this episode, this sort of shit is all on display.

Let’s take a moment for Miss Blankenship, because I love her in general, but also because she’s an excellent foil to Don. The guy treats people so fucking poorly sometimes; showing him tolerating generally harmless gaffes by this hapless bat he’s been saddled with humanises him a touch. He can’t just fuck off to California every week. Miss Blankenship’s weird hidden talent of transforming the guy from Don to Dick for a hot second is pretty great.

Roger Sterling has always been shown as a guy who doesn’t take life (or himself) too seriously, the life of the party and the guy who knows everyone and loves to schmooze and joke around. Apparently, the notable exception to this rule is World War II. When Pete brings up that he’s landed a meeting with Honda, a Japanese company, it’s meltdown city. Roger wholly rejects the idea of doing business with them, and almost fucks their chances entirely by acting like an asshole in the meeting to boot. Awkward.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

But hey, it’s nice to see Bert Cooper take an active role in something besides preserving the carpets. His extremely intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and customs contrasted well with his confusion over the march on Selma.. “They got what they wanted. Why aren’t they happy?”

There are tons o’reasons a guy like Cooper would grow fascinated with Japanese culture while generally shrugging off vast portions of his own culture. Remember that Cooper is an Objectivist; a large part of it may be due to that adoration of authority and order at the centre of so many of those guys and gals.

Through that, a theme of the episode emerges as well; utter goddamned frustration when someone is unable to force one’s will onto the people around them. Roger hits the fucking ceiling when Don and Pete decide to follow the Honda exec’s orders and not his own. Betty is absolutely livid when Sally asserts her independence and cries out for attention by cutting her own hair. Don is pissed when dear sweet Teddy Chaough grabs control of the narrative Don is building with SCDP.

That confrontation with Roger and Pete is intense, with Don in the middle. It was fun to see Pete echo Don’s sentiment from the s3 finale in this episode: “The rest of us are trying to build something.” Don knows Pete’s in the right. Lashing out and “wrapping himself in the flag” of Lucky Strike providing most of the company’s cashflow, Roger wants to cut Pete down for bringing in new business and shifting the importance off of him ever so slightly.

He’s gonna have to get over that bullshit real quick if he wants to keep the lights on.

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image courtesy of NYTimes

As Betty finds a shrink for Sally, she connects with Dr. Edna– an older woman who obviously sees through Betty’s façade. Betty smiling at the dollhouse says so much; here’s this perfect little life in this perfect little house, a husband and wife with 3 kids, a life that she still yearns for on some level though she knows it ain’t real.

Sally craves her father’s attention desperately, and has no clue how to get it; and she probably needs attention in general, to be acknowledged. What Sally feels matters, and Betty is perhaps starting to get that; the effect of the divorce on her matters. Sadly, Betty was more of a prize to her mother who paraded her for show; she’s still got a lot of anger and resentment there. Slowly but surely, Betty is trying to evolve.

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image courtesy of AVClub

At home, Henry is helping her with her transformation, but the vibe is sort of bizarre. Sometimes his interactions with her sound more father/daughter than husband/wife. When he helped settle the fight between Betty and Sally it sounded as if he could have been talking with two siblings about getting along. It’s almost as if Henry has stepped in as a faux father to the whole bunch, Betty included.

While many dislike Betty as a character, she is such a significant illustration of the consequences of the position women were put in at the time. I’ve written about it before, but with no real options open to Betty other than becoming a mother and housewife, she (obvi not happy with either) turns bitter and spiteful as she struggles under those limitations. Remember how free and herself she felt in Rome? Sadly, not reality.

To this point, Betty has not been able to garner a foothold in any world outside the home that has been slowly suffocating her. It’s way too easy to blame her for not going out and forging her own shit, but we’re in a super different world today; the constraints on her along with so many women of that time are vast. The expectations for ladies like Betty are super fucking problematic and sky-high, and the people around her get hurt as a result when she lashes out against said expectations.

Similarly clueless on how to help Sally, Don reveals a tiny bit about his situation to Dr. Faye Miller.

“Well, I can’t say there’s any evidence to support this, but I’m pretty sure that if you love her and she knows it, she’ll be fine.”

And that kitchen discussion between Don and Faye is damned impressive to watch. Take a look at the timing of when Don chooses to open up to her.. he offers absolutely fuckall about his personal life until he’s poked into hers, and discovered that she’s living her own faux life with the fauxgagement ring to discourage dudes from hitting on her.

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image courtesy of MadMenWikia

And Don is in enough of a personal crisis that even he needs to talk to someone about it, even if he doesn’t directly come out and say what’s happening to a T. He wants to be a good father to his kids, but has no earthly idea where to start. Shit’s complicated. But ironically, this is the most on point we’ve seen Don this season to date, craftily out-maneuvering indecently handsome Ted Chaough of CGC for the Honda account. Capery and all!

“Please tell me I missed everything.”

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image courtesy of Junkee

Mad Men s4e4: The Rejected

“You can’t tell how people are going to behave by how they have behaved.”

ATTENTION! I have an urgent and horrifying news story: Don continues to be entirely obtuse. More on that at 11.

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Lucky Strike call realness. || image courtesy of Imgur

During a particularly prickly conference call with Lee Garner Jr, Don receives a letter with a photo from Anna and relaxes for a hot second. Note how Don now has photos on his desk, a callback to Conrad Hilton’s criticism from Season 3.

This episode focuses a lot on Peggy and Pete, and how wildly their paths have diverged. These days, Peggy is largely confident and happy with who she is; she gave up Pete’s baby and that life she’s ‘supposed’ to want to pursue something she actually wants — a life of her very own. She’s an influential part of SCDP, works hard and has a lot to show for it. She’s in a place where her confidence and earnestness are revered, and finds fulfillment in her career. Sure, her new friend Joyce seems “pretentious” according to SCDP receptionist Megan, but Peggy dreamily responds with admiration to that remark.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

That Kool-Aid is powerful, though. Even with all of this good shit, she still tries on Faye’s engagement ring while the focus group is in full swing (to Don’s amusement). And when she hears Trudy and Pete are gonna blow out a baby, it understandably throws her for a bit of a loop. Her mixed feelings aren’t regret or ~feelings~ per se, but rather just a lot of emotion that came back to the surface after being dormant for so long. It’s complicated. Et cetera. It’s like when an old ex gets engaged, and you pause for a beat. You don’t give a damn about that guy, but it’s still dissonant for a second.

Trudy’s pregnancy takes Pete entirely by surprise, especially since he got the news dropped on him by the father in law when he was supposed to be firing Clearasil. Pete had no interest in adoption, and wasn’t sure he wanted a kid in general –- probably due in part to his own dysfunctional WASPy upbringing, and a tinge of the betrayal he felt from Peggy’s confession in Meditations in an Emergency –- but when he learns that he’s knocked up Trudy, he realises that, like the wife he truly needs and learned to love, it is indeed something he yearns for in his life.

Pete and Pegs may work in the same place, but they are in two distinctly different worlds. That shot of them catching each other’s gaze from different worlds through the glass SCDP doors is weighty; she’s heading out with her fun, colourful bohemian friends, he’s with the old money crowd in suits. Gotta live your truth.

In the focus group for Pond’s, there’s a fucking enormous meltdown of entirely too many lady feelings. Faye tries valiantly to get the girls to yap about the ritual and treating yourself to prove that Peggy’s pitch is the right way to go, but it all goes right back to Freddy’s hysterically dated marriage-centric idea. The only one who responds to Peggy’s idea is Megan, who shares a story about her mother’s AM routine.

And when Allison eventually cracks, Don squirms in his seat.

Good god, that man is fucking obtuse. Finally admitting they had a bang after Allison backed him into a corner, she states that she’s going to resign her position, requesting a letter of recommendation. And being the world class shithead that he is, Don tells her to write one herself on his letterhead and he’ll sign it; now, this ain’t an uncommon practice, but GOOD LORD, Draper, can’t you see that she’s desperately trying to get you to recognise her value in some capacity? Allison responds by hurling an object across the room at him in anger.

“I don’t say this easily.. but you are not a good person.”

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image courtesy of Celebuzz

This explosion of emotion and noise is another symptom of a Don who ain’t very good at being Don Draper right now; he’s full on human mess edition, sitting alone at the office until the soothing hum of the floor waxer lulls him home. When he gets to his apartment, he begins typing a letter to Allison, apologising and saying “my life is very”.. stopping dead. Very what? A raging tire fire? Mortifying? A dumpster apocalypse? Oof.

Whatever his life may be at this moment in time, and the important people in it, is very much not something he had planned to be living when we see him in the pilot.

Ah, Miss Blankenship! A bright spot in this episode. As always, Joan reads between the lines and understand exactly what Don needs and gives him an hysterical older lady secretary to replace Allison. 

The research has come in, and sure enough.. Pond’s should be linked to matrimony. Sigh. Don brings up a good point arguing for Peggy’s vision for the Pond’s campaign over Freddie’s. Maybe this is a campaign so new and bold that people don’t yet have a context for it; there are women who feel this way and they’re simply not being reached.

(But hey, look at Megan from that focus group! She not only kept her shit together the whole time, she also related to the idea, showing that Peggy’s pitch and Don defense of it are on to something.)

“Why are you being so hostile? You think I’ve never had this argument before?”

“Because you go in there and you stick your finger in people’s brains and they just start talking just to be heard. And you know what? Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, but it’s nobody’s business!”

Christ.. way to dropkick a hornet’s nest, Faye. Don is such an intensely private weirdo who won’t share jack shit about himself on principle, so he’s lashing out. He doesn’t like his creative process being fucked with, he doesn’t want anyone knowing a damn thing about him, and he certainly believes that past behaviour is not always predictive of future behaviour, implying he’s living proof.

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I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. || image courtesy of ONTD 

But.. it’s true when it comes to Peggy, Pete, and Ken, and most of the other significant characters in this episode. They have changed and evolved, right along with the world here. They do some shit in 1965 that their 1960 selves would definitely not have ever believed. They’ve rejected parts of themselves from before, whether for better (a more adult Pete, a bolder more confident Peggy) or worse (a drunk sad sack Don, a stressed out Kenny). The evolution of these characters is equal parts fascinating and true to life.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

Peggy heading out to the warehouse art haus video party in Washington Market and snogging new guy Abe in a closet during a police raid is absolutely NOT something 1960 Peggy would have done.

In the closing scene with the elderly couple in the hallway, Don pauses before closing his door. The wife is ambling up the hallway to her husband in their door, emphatically asking if she got pears. This is a life Don doesn’t think he’ll have a shot at anymore, that bizarre sort of intimacy and deep connection with another person. I mean, he deffo won’t if he keeps up this convoy of drunken mayhem and getting slapped by hookers. It’s no way to learn how to be actually intimate with anyone.

“Hello, 1925. I’m not gonna do that.”