Monday, August 11, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: The Benefactor

*Warning: Spoilers from the recent episode of Mad Men ahead.*

Of course. The first Monday I decide to blog about Mad Men there has to be a controversial scene. It figures. But I think we're up for the challenge of discussing it. Here's a round-up of a couple storylines I found intriguing:

Betty Says 'No'

This episode featured an icy, Arctically cool Betty Draper -- bored suburban mom of two -- politely but firmly fending off an aggressive come-on from a young equestrian who bestowed upon her bouquets of compliments and then accurately observed of her, "You're so profoundly sad." (Recall last season's scene, Betty in the grocery store parking lot -- after learning that her therapist had violated her confidence by telling her husband Don what went on in their sessions, and after acknowledging Don's infidelities -- confiding in a child that not only did she have no one to talk to, but that she was desperately unhappy.)

Instead of looking empowered and happy to be desired by this attractive young rider who said he wanted her (during the first episode of this season the wildly unfaithful Don wasn't . . . how shall I put this . . . uh . . . able to become intimate with her on Valentine's Day), Betty looked rattled by the verbalization of the man's affections as she walked away and lit up a smoke.

While Betty did later seem thrilled to be the focus of bad boy comedian Jimmy Barrett's attention at the awkward business dinner at the end of the episode, she curiously burst into tears on the way home in the car as she thanked Don for including her in his world, the world of business. Betty confounded me in this particular Mad Men installment.

Harry Demands a Raise

I loved the fact that this episode spent time on Harry Crane, who, last season, had a one-night-stand with a secretary which resulted in him sleeping in the office for a while until his wife Jennifer allowed him to return home. In this episode, Harry opened an unmarried colleague's paycheck and learned that he is making substantially less than the single guy. After telling Jennifer about the pay difference, she insisted that he man-up and do something about it, given that they're expecting a baby. Harry, typically a quiet nice guy, figured out a way to bring home some more cash, by trying to convince one of Sterling Cooper's clients to sponsor a controversial episode of a popular TV show, an episode about an abortion. (Remember, it's 1962. The Supreme Court ruled on Roe vs. Wade in 1973.)

What I found interesting about Harry's storyline, was how emotional Harry became when he watched the unaired TV show, as well as the scene where he told Jennifer, when she asked what the episode was about, "You wouldn't like it," and then put his head in her lap, next to her pregnant belly. (He'd forcefully argued to the clients that women would be extremely interested in watching the show.)

Don . . . Well . . . Don Just Creeped Me Out

I'll admit, I have a soft-spot for the haunted, unfaithful cad that is Don Draper, for a multitude of reasons. But this episode unnerved me. I'm obviously referring to THE scene in the restaurant when Jimmy Barrett's wife/manager Bobbie threatened to destroy, for a second time, a big potato chip account of Don's. His response was to pull her head back by the hair with one hand and shove his other hand up her skirt as he reciprocated the threat.

My mouth agape, I told The Spouse I couldn't believe what we'd just seen. He then accurately pointed out that sexual blackmail, accompanied by a physical invasion of privacy, was exactly what Bobbi Barrett had done to Don in the earlier scene in the car, when, after he refused her advances twice -- including Don plainly saying, "I don't want to do this" -- she (we can only assume because much of the action was off-camera) shoved her hand down his pants and threatened the deal with the potato chip account if he didn't sleep with her right there in the car on the street.

While Bobbi was reprehensible, so was he (even more so because he's physically stronger than she) when he responded in kind. Don's response provided a sinister glimpse at the violent, cut-throat personality (this is the severely damaged guy who stole someone else's identity) that lies beneath his polished, movie star veneer. And it was unsettling, particularly as he returned to the restaurant table to sit next to his Grace Kelly-All-American wife, the mother of his two kids.

The creator of the show expounded on what he was trying to do with this episode in the video below.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Were you shocked by Don? Surprised by Harry's reaction to the unaired TV show? To Betty's tears?


Tatyana said...

Draper's actions were reprehensible! No matter what the circumstances, threatening a woman as he did should never be allowed. We have a word for it: rape. I would hope that we have moved beyond this type of behavior, but unfortunately too often, we have not.

Kenny G. said...

Don Draper gave exactly what he got. He was threatened sexually; he had to perform or would lose his account. Later, when blackmailed for money, he responded the only way his opponent would recognize; with sexual force. As they say, "If you play with fire, you're going to get burned."

Juanita's Journal said...

How creepy! We saw two scenes of sexual assault - one by a woman and the other by a man. We're a sad species.

Anonymous said...

"While Bobbi was reprehensible, so was he (even more so because he's physically stronger than she) when he responded in kind."

I don't think that Don's actions were more reprehensible than Bobbie's. I think the actions of the both of them should equally be considered reprehensible . . . regardless of gender or strength.