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Mad Men Open Thread: Seven Twenty Three


Hello. kdiddy here, filling in for Sweetney for this week's Mad Men open thread.

I am pleased that no limbs were lost during this week's episode. However, the general WTF theme of this season was going strong.

There are two overall things that I want to address before we get into the meat of this episode...

The first would be Don's dialogue this season. Am I imagining it or is it especially fantastic? He is blunt, as always, but now his bluntness is seasoned with extra harsh or extra funny. There have been multiple instances in every episode this season where I have been cramping with laughter at something he said or covering my mouth and saying, "Ohhhh SNAP!" after one of his patented smackdowns. During his conversation with Conrad Hilton, when Hilton chastises him for not having family photos or a Bible on his desk and for coming into work at the unseemly hour of 9:30 a.m., Don responds, "Maybe I was at home with my family, reading the Bible." We had to rewind a few seconds because we were laughing so hard and missed what happened next. I feel like, in an alternate reality, Don enters every scene with a microphone in his hand and after delivering his zingers, he spikes the mic and throws his hands in the air, "WHAT NOW, SON? DRAPER OUT!" then grabs his crotch and saunters out. Also, is there anything that Don isn't just naturally good at? I'm thinking specifically of the scene where Betty asks for his input on the new living room decor and he pauses for a microsecond before saying, "Move the end table and the lamp to the other side of the couch," and the interior decorator is like, "Holy shit YES!" as Don leaves to conquer the rest of the world and their petty interior design needs.


The other would be the lack of Joan. I felt a twinge of concern after her exit in last week's episode. You don't think that they would POSSIBLY write her off the show, right? I mean, the complications in her life are but fodder for further interesting developments in the overall plot, right? With the upheaval of the 1960s practically the main character of the show, it wouldn't make sense to just drop a developing storyline that follows a strong-willed woman realizing that she was too quick to buy into the pressure to get married and have babies, right? Because I will seriously throw such a fit all over these internets if Joan Holloway goes away. But I think I'm just being paranoid. But please reassure me. Give me the Don Draper treatment; the, "Everything is fine. Cut it out."


This episode employed the non-linear time device, which confused me for a few seconds when they opened with Don getting up from a motel room floor, bloody face and all. Did I miss something? Oh, no, here are some flashbacks. Whew. The device seemed to have something to do with the solar eclipse that was part of the scenery for the show. I'm having trouble making the symbolic connection, though. I think maybe it had to do with many of the main characters making some pretty definitive decisions, decisions that they can't really talk about with anyone just yet.


Let's start with Peggy. When we first see her waking up next to a man in what looks like a hotel room, it's not too alarming. I think we've all come to terms with the fact that Peggy is poised to become the ultimate New Woman, sexually liberated and upwardly mobile. I didn't even worry too much about who the guy was...until it become obvious that it was Duck. Then I thought, "This doesn't seem like this will end well." I can't tell if their tryst was yet another tactic that Duck employed to get Peggy and Pete in his pocket (and therefore out of Don's) or if he really did just want to hit that, professional allegiances notwithstanding.

Also, Don's smackdown on Peggy was upsetting. Peggy is absolutely doing everything right. She's putting herself out there and trying to make sure that she doesn't get passed over. However, Don, who up until now was Peggy's advocate, suddenly pulls back, shaming Peggy for wanting too much, especially since there are MEN who wants what she wants and obviously they should get first crack at it. Don is right when he tells her, "You're good. Get better." She's still very new in the industry. But it's not like Peggy swung in here on Don's coattails. She proved herself to clients all on her own. She's just as talented and hardworking as the guys in the creative department. Don suddenly clipping her wings was harsh and seemed to be more about him than her.

Since I brought him up, let's go ahead and talk about Don. After bringing in the humongous Hilton deal with the greatest of ease, as only he can, Don finds himself at a crossroads as far as his autonomy goes with Sterling Cooper. The stakes are high for both Hilton and Sterling Cooper's British overlords and this means that Don needs to either sign the dreaded contract or find a new job. As Bert Cooper points out, he won't get far on his own, especially not with Hilton and Sterling Cooper on his bad side. Plus, there's the little matter of Bert knowing Don's little secret. It was a pretty intense moment when Don realized that he needed to sign or risk being ruined. For all of the products that he has so brilliantly sold over the years, his greatest sale has been himself as Don Draper, All-American Man. Don, or rather, Dick, knows all too well that the perfect man does not exist but he seems to understand that admitting that and letting other people realize it would be disastrous for him and for, well, society in general. What Don doesn't know is that the world waits for no man, and the extent to which men (and women) are flawed will soon be an unavoidable fact.

His odd little encounters with Sally's teacher are puzzling. Miss Farrell, like Paul Kinsey and Peggy, is a hint at the changes that will come to every corner of picture-perfect suburbia. She makes it clear that she is not wooed by Don and his fellow Misters. However, her defensive measures against what she perceived as Don's moves toward her were almost charmingly naive. She may have the other guys pegged, but she has no idea what she's dealing with when it comes to Don. When she preemptively brushed him off, I said, "Honey, if Don Draper really wanted you, you would know it. In fact, you wouldn't even have time to talk about it because he would have pulled you aside and grabbed you by the vagina. Just ask Bobbie Barrett."


Don and Betty continue to drift further into choppy waters. After Betty finds out about Don's contract woes via Roger, she confronts him and points out that Don's unwillingness to commit to Don Draper, Bound Employee of Sterling Cooper, says something about their marriage. Does he not know where he's going to be in three years? Well, no, probably not. Don is constantly ready to bail, to flee, if things get too hot. The fact that he hasn't had to yet is just a testament to how slick he is. Completely offended by his wife's desire to know what the fuck is up, Don grabs his hat and his drink and takes off. When he passes some hitchhikers eloping to Niagara Falls to avoid the rumored Vietnam draft, he is well past the point of giving a fuck about anything, and takes the barbiturates that they offer him. Later, at a motel, the couple wait for him to pass out so that they can rob him, not realizing that barbiturates and booze are no match for Don's level of not-giving-a-fuck. Before the couple take matters into their own hands and punch him in the back of the head, Don has a rather messed up hallucination about his Dad. Truly, Don's daddy issues are some next level shit.

Betty. Betty Betty Betty Betty. I think she, more than any other character, is a total enigma to me. On a basic level, she's a suburban queen who is realizing that having everything that she should want isn't making her happy. So on that level, I feel for her. At the same time, I'm having an increasingly tough time defending her. I suppose that she was brought up in a school of parenting that subscribed at least somewhat to the "children should be seen and not heard" theory. Her disinterest in her children as people is upsetting, to say the least. I can't bring myself to believe that Betty is just a very shallow person. Don's complicated view of her hasn't had the most beneficial effect on her as a young wife and mother. She desires the attention and devotion of a strong and powerful man and she desires the attention of everyone noticing how desirable she is. I think. Her eagerness to meet with Henry Francis, he of the belly fondling, to discuss the water tower, an issue that she seems only passively interested in, was yet another opportunity for her to test her abilities to draw a man in and then push him away. (Bonus social issue hint: the Junior League namedropping Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in what I assume was a nod to the burgeoning environmental movement.) We've seen her do this before, with the air conditioning salesman and the anonymous guy in the bar during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but this seems more serious.


Then there's the fainting couch that she purchased on a whim after spotting it in the window after her lunch date with Henry. Henry does some over-expository stuff explaining the purpose of such a couch: catching Victorian women who fainted from their tight corsets. It seems worth noting that Betty is back to her teeny figure after birthing her THIRD child, presumably with the help of some pretty serious foundation garments, and pigged out on a whole slice of pie. She makes the aesthetically unpleasing decision to place the couch right in front of her fireplace in the living room, which horrifies her interior decorator, who told Betty that the fireplace must remain empty as the soul of their home. Oh, hello there, Weighted Statement, dripping with metaphor! I think maybe Betty intends to place herself as the center of attention in the hopes of getting whatever it is that she needs from Don. I have a feeling that she'll have to fight Sally for it, though.

So...your thoughts?

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I wouldn't say she's right back to her figure; Sally was still in school when the baby was born and it's now late July.

My mom (who I watch Mad Men with, and who was born in the early 50s and is about Sally's age, oddly enough) says Don probably had phenobarbital for his blood pressure medication anyway, perhaps explaining why he can take two and not go quite out.

Joan needs a job- she should start working for Duck. Lots of plot for everyone and more Joan for us!


I agree that I am consistently surprised at Betty's attitude towards her kids. I really think you nailed it when you said she doesn't recognize them as people.

There is no way in hell they are going to get rid of Joan. We will riot in the streets before we allow such a thing.

Amy C

Great recap. I find Betty fascinating and frustrating. Her flat affect could result from Valium or some other "mother's little helper." I love that she's one of the worst mothers on T.V. when she lives in the era of the most idealized T.V. mothers. I see her in many ways as the ultimate example of Friedan's "Feminine Mystique," which was published in 1963 -- not a coincidence!

Suzy Q

Great recap. You know what I saw at a furniture store yesterday? A fainting couch! I lay back on it and thought of Betty.

I agree that Don seems a bit...biploar? of late. I was shocked at his dressing-down of Peggy. It just seemed so unnecessary, but it put her right back in her place, all subservient-like, so I guess it served its purpose. Don really has a hair up his ass about Roger, too.

Your mention of Peggy as a New Woman made me remember the '80s magazine of the same name. I had a subscription. What? It was way better than Cosmo.

I love this show with all its nuances and subtext (that I usually miss until reading this recap and the comments).


I didn't even worry too much about who the guy was...until it become obvious that it was Duck. Then I thought, "This doesn't seem like this will end well." I can't tell if their tryst was yet another tactic that Duck employed to get Peggy and Pete in his pocket (and therefore out of Don's) or if he really did just want to hit that, professional allegiances notwithstanding.

I think that Duck simply wanted to hit that . . . and Peggy wanted to be hit. She's not a blushing virgin. I don't see anything omnimous about their tryst. However, I fear that Peggy will end up regretting that she didn't accept Duck's offer in the first place.


I agree that I am consistently surprised at Betty's attitude towards her kids. I really think you nailed it when you said she doesn't recognize them as people.

Sally and Bobby may be people, but they're also children. You don't treat children like adults.


Someone had speculated that Betty may have been brought up to believe that children should be seen, not heard.

Well . . . yes, she was. I think her brief glimpses into her childhood has made that clear. I would say that most of them were brought up in that manner. I don't understand the criticisms directed at Betty over her childrearing skills. It seems as if viewers expect her to rear children, as we do in the early 21st century. I don't understand that.

Washington "What Does It All Mean" Cube

I think Betty's indifference to her children is still spot on for that period of time. It wasn't until the youth revolution and the children being born of it that children from the 1970's onward were enthroned and all revolved around them.

Don's snapping at Peggy had more to do with Don feeling like a cornered animal and lashing at anyone in his path. Peggy is talented, so perhaps also a whiff of defending his male dominated turf.

I thought the engagement between Don and his fantasy father was interesting. It shows you just has far Don has come from such crass, hillbilly overall wearin' jug swiggin' roots. That ribald joke put Dad a half step into a jail cell with a cellmate missing his teeth. "Give Daddy some loving." Don has had to learn to facade and multi-layer to become Don Draper.

I don't see Duck's attempts anymore than control and power playing over Don; using the underlings like pawns.

Joan will be back, of that I'm certain. She's too pivotal a character to dismiss.

I knew the minute Don picked up those hitchhickers with a sloshing highball glass in his hand that trouble was a comin." He got off lightly. Twenty years later and Natural Born Killers on the loose, and he would have been found in that motel with his throat slit and a butt plug up his ass.

The teacher is a question mark. During that Maypole scene in an earlier episode, there was a whiff of her being the next generation up: flower power, hippies, nature girl, rejecting Don's world. That may still be there in her, but...her calling Don (obviously a come on) with her then rejecting him and making it clear she's hit on all the time...that mixed signal business is a question mark...or some losing it neurosis down the road. He may have slapped a shot on her with his putdown of him not being those other men, but she got him back a good one about his Daddy plaid shirt for the weekend.


"I don't see Duck's attempts anymore than control and power playing over Don; using the underlings like pawns."

I don't see how that's going to work, when Peggy is refusing his job offer. Frankly, I think she should take it. I don't think that Sterling Cooper has much to offer her anymore.

Washington "What Does It All Mean" Cube

I don't think Duck's manipulations will work, Rosie, but I think there is some "get back at them" manipulations going on in his head...viz simply stealing talent. Trust me, I am rooting for Peggy AND Joan. I loved it when Peggy spoke honestly (and what great communication) when the men were acting like schoolboys over that Ann Margret footage from Bye Bye Birdie and she's basically saying, "It's insipid and stupid. Women buy this product. We should focus on them, not what men want." The nice touch in all of that was that Patio Cola was a real product of it's time.

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