Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 6: Maidenform

Well, this episode was profoundly depressing to me, and I really have no interest in watching it again for a while, so I am going totally off memory without even DVR to fact check. I will probably get stuff wrong and for that I apologize.

First, how sucky is it that Peggy showed up in Peter Pan collars when I had convinced myself that she was done with them? It is small comfort, too, that she shows up at the Tom Tom all glammed out, because she really doesn’t know what it means to be an adult. She can look gorgeous and ten years more sophisticated (but not older), but she ends up all giggly in the client’s lap just like one of the strippers. I was happy to hear Joan give Peggy Bobbie’s advice (but bluntly) but Peggy still isn’t hearing it. She is hardly going to be taken seriously rubbing her fanny in the laps of her accounts. I really, really thought she was learning about business, but all she can do is repeat that she has a good ear for slogans and a good eye for models. Which she probably does, but talent is never enough. You have to supplement that with ambition, or savvy, or personal connections, and until she does something proactive she’s going to stay a worker bee. You kind of get a sense now for part of her sister’s frustration with/about her after seeing her move through this episode sort of like a spoiled brat. She does have some expectations that people will automatically recognize her importance without her having to speak up, and when she does speak up, it’s to Joan, who really can’t help her with the office part of it but who has the kindness to make what suggestions she can, however snappy her tone. Peggy is exasperating, though. Even I wanted to smack her for that gray jumper combo. It doesn’t help that she is a woman (overlookable) who used to work as a secretary (overlookable) for the 1960s men who are really (quite innocently) forgetting that they work with her.

On the other hand, how interesting were Peggy and Pete? Pete is another guy who sort of seems disappointed that people don’t automatically understand how talented he is, but perhaps it’s because he’s from some kind of prestige or position and perhaps because he enjoys White Male Privilege and perhaps because he is Pete but he doesn’t fail to step up and seize opportunities when they arrive and make them when they do not. What’s weird, and what I don’t fully understand, is why Pete needs Peggy to be infantilized or prudish and why Peggy cares. I still can’t shake this feeling that they know each other from before (and I still worry what’s going to happen to Peggy’s baby when Pete finds out about it).

Duck was a huge disappointment. I don’t take any pleasure out of seeing someone hit rock bottom–again. At least he does it with his eyes wide ope en and with full cognizance. I can’t bring myself to write about more than that.

Now, Don. Where does Don get off lecturing Betty, who looked absolutely adorable in her tennis outfit and in her bikini? Betty is not desperate. Don is projecting. Don is a prick. Don is driven by his prick and Don deserved to find out that Bobbie has been using him for sex because all the gals she’s in with talked him up good. When Don sort of crumples onto the toilet seat while shaving, I had the fleeting thought that it was the REAL Don Draper with the reputation at Random House, but of course that doesn’t make any sense. Don has just had his ego shattered and I think that it’s not entirely undeserved. It’s true–if Bobbie had kept her mouth shut like Don had told her to, then she wouldn’t be in some sort of Gerald’s Game scenario, but if she had kept her mouth shut Don wouldn’t have learned just what women are saying about him. Clearly he’s been around, and women think of him as some stud, and he’s the one that pretty much seems desperate now. I mean, the audience has clued into the fact that he is searching for something he has lost or never had but wants, but that’s not something Don is admitting to other people. And for Bobbie to bring it up in such a casual way at such a moment… it was like a perfect storm of psychological confrontation. But being Don, with Don’s tricks and talents, I’m sure he forgot all about it by the time he got home. That is, until his daughter brought it all back. To his credit, all he did was ask her to leave the bathroom, but that last scene of Don naked and slumped on a toilet without any energy to shut the door and make his breakdown private… that is a downer if I ever saw one.

I am hoping that this is about as low as the season gets. We are at the halfway point; maybe, if I’m lucky, episode seven will be the one where the fallen reassess themselves and their situation and the next six episodes will climb to a high note. I am also hoping that Betty wore her bikini to the pool anyway.

I guess there’s multiple layers of significance to this title, too. Here’s my cursory analysis, to make up in quantity what I lack this time in enthusiasm. Obviously Maidenform represents a goal and a transformation; the client was Playtex but they were kicking around the idea of shedding their image to pursue another one. Maidenform also refers to underwear in general, and the public selves that we hide beneath our public ones. It was also a good excuse to open the show with shots of three different beautiful women in their unmentionables, before having all the men at the office mention it to them. The title also refers to the form that Peggy will adopt for herself; will she choose Marilyn or Jackie or will she actually be able to pull off an Irene Dunne, an actress who did some very interesting and powerful things. Peggy will have to find her sense of humor first.

Peggy, Don, Duck… Pah! All of you. You made me sad.

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