Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 3: The Benefactor

“I don’t want to do this,” says Don.
“It doesn’t feel that way,” says Bobbie Barrett, with a crotch grab the likes of which we haven’t seen since the beginning of Pretty Woman. (Except that I totally missed it watching it the first time.)

“You’re profoundly sad,” says Arthur.
“No, it’s just that my people are Nordic,” says Betty. (LOLWUT?) And then Arthur tries to kiss her after she says no; he says he always gets what he wants, except one slender gloved hand stops him and it turns out he doesn’t. Betty and Don are really being thrown against each other as characters (not really in conflict). The Season 2 suspense for me at this moment is which side of Betty will prevail when the crisis between them arises (whatever the crisis turns out to be).

Don is ugly in this one. That scene in the restaurant, where he groped/penetrated her… This is some game. She sexed him up first, and probably thought she was in a position of power, but he showed her. Of course, I didn’t really like the actress when she was on Journeyman, so I can’t shake this tiny buried feeling that she had it coming and that the bitch probably even liked it. You know, because she met her match and he tamed the shrew. (I don’t think she’s actually a bitch on this show–those are just malicious, soap opera-inspired cliched thoughts.) She’s the predecessor to Joan and then Peggy; it is interesting to see three “generations” of women “making it” (or not) in a man’s world. That Bobbie Barrett uses an ambiguous first name is not a coincidence; it got her into business meetings to which no one would have invited Roberta. Her telephone conversation with Don seems like a racy, “let’s have an affair” affair, but I think sleeping with Don really was part of her work day. She really does enjoy relaxing at home when she’s home. Just like Don really doesn’t seem impatient or annoyed when he’s with his kids. It’s irritating to me that he called her, though. Maybe this isn’t a new low–I do tend to forget details of programs–but coming off of firing Lois, even though she probably didn’t belong there, he was just coming off like a Class-A Prick in this episode.

The argument could be made that he’s always been a Class-A Prick. Just compare how he handles Bobbie in the restaurant to how Betty handles Arthur in the stables. Betty says strange things and lashes out when she is in a position of subordination, but she is graceful and assertive from her seat of power when she assumes it, and ends conflicts with panache. (I still love that scene of her with the gun and the pigeons from Season 1.) Don comes off petty and cocky–haha! I said cock!–and not really in charge. Of all the people at that table, Don did the least to make the meeting successful. It wasn’t really even his idea. I mean, yes, it was, but the ugly incident had to be brought to his attention in the first place. He can’t even competently choose an appropriate secretary.

Sorry for all the phallus puns.

TANGENT: I know more than a year has gone by, but once-a-switchboard-operator Lois seemed too inexperienced to ever have been placed at Don’s desk. I know that Peggy was placed there probably in her first job out of secretary school, but she had formal training. If Lois came up through the secretarial pool to Don’s desk, that is telling. Either the company can no longer attract good secretaries or there’s something remarkably awful about working for Don Draper. He is getting spacey and taking great liberties lately–maybe no one else was willing to try. END TANGENT

Sorry. Segueing from Bobbie to Joan. Joan is a younger woman who also may have slept her way to the top, although probably less overtly. Joan isn’t Roger’s secretary, after all. I think she must have worked for Don for a while and then stepped into her current role; he seems important enough to have a secretary skilled enough to take over the department. Of course, Don could have been much lower on the totem pole ten years ago (and Joan’s probably been there more than ten years); maybe she did sleep with Roger when she was his secretary or something and then he put her in charge of the women. But I don’t think so. I think Joan really did like Roger, if only because she was the Chieftress and he was Partner and the only appropriate match. That fling with what’s-his-name bearded guy from last episode (totally blanking, too lazy to check) seemed like a romantic impulse. He certainly hasn’t demonstrated that he was rising like cream and I don’t think that interlude had any professional motives. I’m just going on hunches here.

But from Joan to Peggy! So Peggy is this secretary sleeping with a higher-up, but it is completely independent of her job. When she turned to him, it was for advice on work she was doing–not to ask him for favors. Peggy earned her position as a writer by writing. If she advances, it’s because she’s got talent. I don’t know that the writers were aiming to provide a picture of Woman in Transition, but we’ve got three nice little snapshots of women making it after all. Ten years later, Mary Richards from the Mary Tyler Moore Show is glamorous but not really far-fetched. I think it’s far to say that Joan:Peggy::Peggy:Mary.

Really, though–that was a horrific apology. I have no doubt that Mr. Utz gave Mrs. Utz the equivalent of the speech that Don gave to Betty before that dinner. Everyone was acting fake and going through the motions to save face. The only difference is that Mrs. Utz probably had clothes already on hand. She was resplendent. Analyzing her wearing cream as the innocent victim and Betty wearing pink as the tramp/accomplice is probably taking the scene too far.

The Harry Crane stuff was interesting in a cultural/chronological perspective kind of way. I’m not that interested in his raise for its own sake, but the television show/television division development shows that at least Sterling Cooper has an idea that it is behind the times. I thought the Crane Marriage and the Crane Wife presented an interesting counterpart to the Barretts and the Drapers; Crane Wife seemed like a bossy harpy at first, but she was right: it would have been foolish for Harry to not even try to stick up for himself. I really get the feeling that she’s a partner, not a showpiece, a subterfuge, a client, a mother, or a punching bag. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s the wife with her own career. That it was an abortion episode was just cultural placement, and the Peggy watching the abortion stuff kind of obvious and kind of whatever. I guess they don’t want us to forget the baby. I found it heavy-handed.

Either that Nordic explanation from Betty means she’s on a completely different plane of existence than everyone else in the show or it refers to some Viking mythology thing that everyone well-bred knew about 45 years ago. Maybe in opera form. Shamefully, what little I know about Norse myths I learned from the etymology of the days of the week, The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and Maelstrom Adventure Cruise, the ride at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot Center that has you chased by trolls and spits you out under a reproduction of an off-shore oil drilling platform.

Profound sadness hasn’t really entered into it for me before now, except when I have thought about just how expensive it is to eat at one of those fondue restaurants and just how bland and disappointing boiled meat is–especially when you have to boil it yourself.

(Paul Kinsey is The Pretentious Bearded One! And I wonder if Ken Cosgrove is making all that money because he’s a published author. It does give one a certain cachet…)

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Comments

  • Rosie  On August 22, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Don is ugly in this one. That scene in the restaurant, where he groped/penetrated her… This is some game. She sexed him up first, and probably thought she was in a position of power, but he showed her. Of course, I didn’t really like the actress when she was on Journeyman, so I can’t shake this tiny buried feeling that she had it coming and that the bitch probably even liked it.

    And Bobbie was the ugly one when she grabbed at Don’s crotch, inside his car during the hailstorm.

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