Monday, September 8, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: The Gold Violin

"You're garbage. And you know it."

That's what snarky comic Jimmy Barrett told the dark cloud known as Don Draper after he called Don on the fact that he's been sleeping with Jimmy's wife Bobbie.

The image of trash got a lot of play with the Drapers in the latest Mad Men episode, from Don being directly called trash, to the Draper family literally hurling trash around an idyllic park, polluting the area with beer cans and other litter. Just as Don is doing to his life with Betty, contaminating something that, from the outside, looks as picture perfect as a family picnicking on a red and white checked blanket, playing checkers, and his wife lounging in a lovely, flowery dress as music floats out of their light blue, brand, spankin' new Cadillac, the luxe executive-mobile of the early 1960s, a outward sign that Don has arrived.

The exquisite unraveling of the life of the man known as Don Draper is occurring slowly, in dribs and drabs. This week it was Jimmy Barrett who said out loud what you knew Betty has been thinking: That all was not right with Don and that he was steppin' out on Betty again. This confirmation later led to Betty throwing up in Don's pristine Caddie -- the one about which he was so paranoid about getting sullied that he made Betty check the kids' hands before they climbed back into the vehicle. The marital poison that is Don's infidelity was literally being regurgitated all over his new, perfect car.

Now that Betty's been shaken from her stupor by Jimmy, will she berate Don for starting to drag the family down with his shenanigans, even as he makes great strides at Sterling Cooper? I doubt it. I don't think that anything will shake Don out of this, whatever "this" is . . . a funk, a depression? Would coming clean about his life, about his identity cleanse the garbage and the trashy behavior out of Don? Maybe. But that would kill the suspense.

The other slowly evolving story is the tale of Sal Romano, Sterling Cooper's art director, the other man who's living a double life, posing as a happily married man when he's actually a closeted gay man. During an amusing scene where Sal, account exec Ken Kosgrove, media buyer Harry Crane and Draper secretary Jane snuck into Bert Cooper's office to look at his new $10,000 painting, Ken uttered eloquent observations about what Jane called a painting with "smudgy squares:" "I don't think it's supposed to be explained . . . Maybe you're just supposed to . . . feel something, like looking into something deep. You could fall in." This sent up a red flag to Sal, who, last season passed on the opportunity to be with a man to whom he was attracted. He's now married to a woman named Kitty.

Ken's dinner at Sal and Kitty's -- when Sal praised Ken's draft of his latest short story, "The Gold Violin," about a beautiful violin that was "perfect in every way except it couldn't make music" -- was drenched in longing. From Sal offering Ken a taste of his marinara sauce by holding the spoon up to Ken's mouth, to Ken lighting Sal's cigarette and to Sal's coveting of the cigarette lighter Ken left behind, Sal's sadness and desire was palpable, to everyone, it seemed, but Ken. (I'm positive Kitty, like Betty, knows that Sal's not really there, emotionally, with her, but is keeping up appearances.)

"You're not like everyone else around here," Ken said to Sal. But when it comes to Sterling Cooper and leading a double life, that isn't exactly true.

Your thoughts on the latest Mad Men? What do you think the show's writers were trying to do with the lingering shot of the Drapers dumping garbage all over the grass? Is this a garbage in-garbage out analogy?

Image credit: AMC.

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