Arts & Culture

Jews Watching Mad Men: It’s my Wife, It’s my Life

"I bet I could get a date with your mother right now," says the Hinez vinegar and beans guy as he leaves Don high and dry at the restaurant, marking the trenchant and massive theme of this week’s episode, Desperation.  … Read More

By / October 11, 2010

"I bet I could get a date with your mother right now," says the Hinez vinegar and beans guy as he leaves Don high and dry at the restaurant, marking the trenchant and massive theme of this week’s episode, Desperation.  Last week we learned that Faye risked her job and general sense of ethics to help Don, by getting him a meeting with the Hines bean guy.  So, we begin with Don, sitting across the table from the Hines guy, but end with Don chasing after a tiny bone: the promise of potential future work.  Don’s desperation is emanating from him like tiny squiggly lines indicating that a cartoon character is smelly.

 

"You’re a certain kind of girl and tobacco is your ideal boyfriend."   This is the advice given to the partners, in their meeting of desperation.  Marlboro is introducing a new brand for the ladies and SCDP needs to go after it.  Without a big account, all of the partners will have to put in a large sum of their own money to float the company, anybody that can’t do it, loses their partnership and we quickly learn that Pete just doesn’t have the money.  SCDP needs tobacco like…well, lets hold off on that simile for minute.

"You want one?" says young water sports enthusiast, Glen, offering Sally a smoke.  The two of them sit in a wide-open grassy space, discuss shrinks, moms, and life while enjoy some cold glass bottle Coca Cola’s.  Glen, played by Mathew Weiner’s son, lies on his side wearing a football uniform; his helmet on the ground beside him and the scene starts to resemble a cross between an Abercrombie ad and a Larry Clark photo set.  At home, Sally expresses interest to her mom in having Dinner with her step-dad, which makes Betty happy, gives her the sense that Sally is getting better.

Sally’s therapist agrees.  They sit in a session together in the next scene, playing go fish.   The shrink tells Sally that she’s proud of her for controlling her anger toward her mom, even when her mom is giving her a hard time: "Your mom acts that way because she has stresses, not because you’re bad or you did anything wrong."

Sally is doing so well, the shrink decides she only needs to see her once a week.  Betty, upon hearing this won’t accept it.  She starts scramble saying, "her life is chaotic!"  In response, the shrink recommends that Betty, not Sally, go see her colleague for her own sessions to which Betty says, her voice full of desperation, "Why can’t I talk to you?" 

This is when we get a taste of brilliant Mad Men camera work as the shrink says, "Betty, you can talk to me," the camera panning out to show the wall behind her which is brightly painted with a picture of a bear and a bunny having a tea party, "but you know, I’m a child psychiatrist."  The issue is resolved, with the decision that Sally needs to continue to see the psychiatrist, and of course, Betty needs to keep seeing her discuss Sally’s progress.

Then we see Midge.  Remember Midge?  In Season One she was Don’s first mistress.  An artsy beatnik, played by Rosemary Dewitt (United States of Tara.)  Midge once provided the sexual glue that kept Don’s life interesting until Don essentially wrote her a check, to sever their relationship.  Now, they just happen to run into each other in Don’s office building’s lobby.  Quickly, Midge wants Don to come back to her apartment with her.  Her declines until she says, "Not even to meet my husband?" and then quickly adding, "We only married for the bread."

In case you missed that, it went, sex on the table, sex off the table, sex back on the table.  They arrive at Midge’s place, her husband, quickly ushering Don into their bedroom to show him one of Midge’s paintings.  He tells Don how excited she was to have "tracked him down."  He tells Don that they have an open relationship and that Midge would do petty much anything for him if he bought a painting.  Suspicious, since Midge claimed she was on Madison Ave for freelance work, Don gives the husband ten bucks to get him out of the apartment so he can have a word alone with Midge.  Something’s suspicious about their marriage, their apartment, and most of all their desperation.

"It’s like drinking a hundred bottles of whisky while someone licks your tits." 

Turns out Midge, has taken the H-Train to Brown Town, to dance with Mister Brownstone and have a Naked Lunch (i.e. heroin).  Don then asks her what it feels like, to which she replies with the whisky drinking, tit licking comment, which sounded a bit sub par to me, but I’ve never been that into having my boobs licked myself.  For a moment we become worried that Don, in his own desperation is too curious.  "I know it’s bad for me," Midge says. "But it’s Heroin, Don."

Lucky for us, not wanting to watch a season of "Requiem for a well-dressed dream," Don pays Midge for her painting, first with a check, which she can’t cash (junkies never can) and then with half that amount in cash, and leaves. 

Back at the office, Don paces back and fourth in his office, desperately saying, "Red leather, yellow leather" over and over Ron Burgandy style preparing for the cigarette meeting, which gets cancelled, adding a crushing blow to SCDP.  Pete, freaks out about his inability to pay his share to remain partner.  Pete’s wife–the super hot in Community and yet super repellent in Mad Men-played by Allison Brie, forbids him to put up the $50,000, a moment which above all, makes us think that Pete must still yearn for Peggy.  Peggy, tries to inspire Don to action, but she underestimates how desperate Don actually is, and his response to her is this episodes best line and perhaps one of the season’s best.

"We’re creative, the least important most important thing there is."

Don goes home, and immediately goes to throw the painting that he bought from Midge into the dumpster, but he doesn’t, he stares deeply at it instead, and then proceeds to write in his man-diary, first ripping out everything he’d written beforehand.  Instead of writing one of his usually man-diary entries, he writes a diatribe, "Why I’m quitting Tobacco," in which he explains his reasons for not wanting to rep tobacco anymore.  He claims that it’s so "sleep at night knowing that he doesn’t represent a product that kills its customers."  The next day, Don’s diatribe appears as a full page ad in the Times.

The next morning at SCDP, the underlings look at Don like he’s a Che Guevara-type god.  The partners want him dead.  Burt Cooper asks for his shoes, and leaves, saying he doesn’t want to be a part of the company anymore.  On the other hand, the phone is ringing off the hook.  Most interestingly, a call comes from, according to the secretary, Robert Kennedy.  This quiets the partners who were yelling at Don up to this point, and he takes the call on speaker. 

I have to admit, I was fooled.  I thought that this was the classic Mad Men move, making us think the ship is going to sink completely, and then throwing us a raft in the form of a huge piece of history, one that becomes a part of the narrative and saves the firm.  SCDP would handle those amazing "RFK for President" ads with the kid walking up the courthouse steps.  Turns out, the call was a prank from Ted Chaugh.

The aftermath is a bunch of underlings being fired, but nobody of too much note.  Betts sees Sally walking into the field to meet Glen and drags her home, forbidding her from seeing him and announcing that they will finally move out of the old house.  The anti smoking ads (three words that in themselves are a hysterical joke to Roger) come calling to SCDP.  Doc Faye goes to the office with the news that she’s no longer working with SCDP, her company concerned about jeopardizing their relationship with the tobacco companies.  The episode up to this point has been filled with coy shots of Don with Faye, and Meagan looming in the background.  As it happens, Faye is happy to leave SCDP because now she and Don can have their relationship in the open, beginning with dinner that evening.  Peggy expresses her admiration for Faye as she’s leaving and we get the sense that one day the two will be in cahoots.  Don also pays Pete’s $50,000.  Pete thanks Don with a manly nod, and Don looks down the hall at circle of people standing around, holding boxes full of their belongings, commiserating together on the loss of their jobs.  He takes a deep breath, before turning away, and heading into his office and the credits roll, giving you ample time to think about what it all means.  If you’re creative, and desperate enough, you might figure it out.