"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mad Men: The Benefactor

Last week I mused that the soul of Pete Campbell was being set up as a battleground for the competing forces at Sterling Cooper, but I may have been a little premature, as Pete was nowhere to be seen in the latest episode of Mad Men. Boo. Even though Pete can be slimy and repulsive, that's a heck of a lot more interesting to watch than, say, Harry angling for a raise. Joan was also pretty much MIA, which only added to a sense of wanting this episode to be over so that I can get back to the good characters next episode.

That said, this episode was not without its fair share of slime, although the target of my revulsion came as a bit of surprise to me. Plus, I got a lot more Betty, which means I'm inching closer to knowing what happened between her and Don during the break between seasons — and also means I'm probably closer to her ilicit affair with the horse guy (at least that's what I'm hoping for).

Don Draper: Whoa! All this time spent practicing restraint and staying loyal to his wife and he throws it all away in . . . the front of a car? With someone who is not Rachel Menken or my other favorite lover-of-Don, Midge Daniels the bohemian? I was not happy with that but also wasn't surprised to see Don back to his cheating ways. The biggest ick moment of the night for me came from how violently Don treated his new mistress, Bobbie Barrett, at Lutece. His manhandling of her after she threatened him on behalf of her "client" was uncomfortably sexual and made me a bit fearful of Don (has he ever treated Betty that way?).

Betty Draper: Betty had quite the episode, starting with her little moment with Arthur, the horse rider all the ladies have a crush on (do you find him all that dashing? I don't). He comes onto Betty by telling her she's beautiful and his fiancee is jealous of her. He also observes several times how "profoundly sad" she is, which turns out to be quite intuitive because after attending the business dinner at Lutece, in which she fulfilled Don's request that she be "shiny and bright," she breaks down in tears on the drive home. She tells Don they are tears of joy because she really enjoyed being a part of his life, being on the same "team." I feel like poor Betty is heading for an emotional implosion, and yet I can't completely guess what that will look like.

A couple more thoughts:

One of the biggest cringeworthy moments for me was when Betty asked Don, "Is this one where I talk or don't talk?" after he invites her to a business dinner in the city. Can you even imagine asking that of your husband one day? Ugh.

There was definitely a body-shaming theme woven through last night's episode as well. Betty's horse riding friend casually refers to her own daughter as fat (with a twinge of remorse and bitterness in her voice) and the whole episode's dramatic arc kicked off with a comedian comparing the overweight wife of one of Don's clients to the Hindenburg. In regard to a certain standard of beauty for women and girls, I wonder how far we've truly come since then.

Harry and his wife were actually pretty adorable. I loved her coaching him on how to get a raise, although it struck me that she was far more savvy about how these things work than he is and probably would be better in the corporate world!

How did you feel about Don firing his secretary? That poor girl was doomed from the start, but I'm unclear what purpose her tiny subplot has served other than showing us how tough it was to make it as someone's "girl" in the office, especially since they were practically asked to read minds and cover their male bosses when they slipped out to cheat on their wives and/or watch French movies. Who knows, maybe I haven't seen the last of this girl.

And I just have to say that I totally love Roger Sterling and laughed out loud during his scene with Harry discussing the raise. The cavalier way he speaks is often a welcome relief from how stilted and repressed the rest of the cast can be.

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