Mad Men Recap: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
Something Wicked This Way Comes, And Its Name Is Betty Draper
I’m stepping in for your regular Mad Men guide Grace this week, so be gentle in comment land.
The episode begins with Don getting a little payback for his caddish ways via a decrepit and incompetent secretary who hasn’t quite mastered the art of holding phone calls and being discrete.
You reap what you sow, and this one’s a doozy. Don impatiently tells the old broad that he does not need to be buzzed to ask if he wants a coffee refill, but it would be advisable to buzz him when he recieves a business call.
She loudly announces that a reporter from The Times is on the line. Don takes the call, and is informed that a competing firm landed the Clearasil account. Don feigns ignorance, saying he doesn’t keep track of companies after they resign an account.
The reporter then taunts Don with a tidbit about nemesis Ted Shaw, explaining that Shaw says Don sees him every time he looks in his rear view mirror. Don lies and says he has never heard of Shaw.
The firm holds a meeting, with Joan presiding. Roger makes a few off color remarks about a laxative company that make everyone a little uncomfortable. That’s nothing. Just you wait.
Pete enthusiastically explains that Honda is taking meetings to represent their motorcycle division, which boasts 50% of the market share. It’s a big opportunity for the firm. Everyone is excited, then Roger goes off on a tirade about how they are not doing business with the Japanese, too many of his friends were killed by Pete’s “yellow buddies.” Everyone is shocked by his vehement speech. Roger storms out of the room.
The rest of the group decide to proceed as planned with Honda, and are advised to keep Roger “out of the loop” by Burt. Pete suggests that everyone bone up on their Japanese business knowledge by reading a book called The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
A little quick research divulged that this book’s complete title is The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture. The book was published in 1946 by an Anthropologist named Ruth Benedict, and was written solely to use Japanese culture contradictions to predict behavior during WW ll.
On one hand, it seemed nice that Pete was making an effort to find out more about their culture, but then, when you find out what the book was truly about, it seems a little more sinister, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, Don has somehow talked his sweet neighbor, Phoebe into babysitting his kids while he takes Bethany to Benihana’s, no doubt hoping to run into the Japanese businessmen. Bethany is none too pleased that they are in a decidedly non-intimate Hibachi restaurant. Don is annoyed to see Ted Shaw. I really wanted him to snarl and say “Shaw,” like Seinfeld used to say “Newman.”
Back home, Sally point blank asks Phoebe if she and Don are doin’ it. She knows that men “pee” into women. I’ve got to admit, that is a first for me, but bonus points for originality, Sally. Phoebe is shocked and somewhat taken aback.
A few moments later, Sally emerges from the bathroom with newly shorn locks. Her brother guffaws, while poor Phoebe is terrified about getting in trouble, which indeed she does. A horrified Don throws some money at her, “Consider it severance, ” he tersely says. It’s telling that his first and only concern is the grief he will catch from Betty.
When Betty sees the haircut (which isn’t all that bad), she slaps Sally. You would think the girl was caught torturing animals or commiting arson. We really get to see how absorbed Betty is with appearances. She is so, so cold, even more so than in past seasons. Her behavior is completely unwarranted, as her husband points it out, much to Betty’s chagrin. Betty says she wants Don dead. Yikes.
Back at the office, Pete is hurriedly transporting Chrysanthemums out of the office, muttering about mixed messages and how they symbolize death to the Japanese. The Honda team is taken on a tour of the office, and poor Joan can’t get a break from anyone. The men flat-out gawk at her figure, transfixed by her breasts, which does not go unnoticed by her.
Pete gleefully doles out hand-picked gifts to the men, who seem to be embarrassed by the gesture. To make matters worse, Roger crashes the party. Seems he was intentionally otherwise occupied, and was furious to find out the men were meeting with the team. He is rude and insulting, telling the men “We don’t want any of your Jap crap. ”
Afterward, Pete comes in shouting “Christ on a cracker! It has been twenty years.” He then goes on to accuse Roger of fabricating a campaign against the Japanese in order to keep his Lucky Strike account more valuable. The men nearly come to blows. It seems that Pete has hit a nerve. Don backs up Pete, a rare happening.
Despite all this, the team is given a chance to come up with a campaign for Honda, with some very strict rules-no final product (completed ad), and $3,000 to do accomplish their pitch.
Sally is having a sleepover at a friend’s house, and her friend is sleeping while Sally is watching a show (sorry, didn’t recognize it.) The mother of the household is horrified (and I mean horrified) to find Sally diddling herself, and promptly escorts Sally home. She confronts Betty, and tells her she will not have that sort of behavior in her house. Betty is humiliated.
Did anyone else notice that Betty was actually interrupted during the act of sex to tend to this matter? The irony runs thick. Obviously,this is immediate grounds for a psychiatrist, which was quite scandalous during this era.
Poor Sally is sent off to the therapist, but mom Betty meets with her first. Guess what? Betty ends up talking to her most of the time. However, Betty refuses to admit that she might need help,and Sally is carted off to the therapist by the long-suffering housekeeper.
I don’t think that we can ever call Mad Men carefree or fun, but watching the office come up with a scheme to defeat their competition was quite fun. They decide to trick the competitors into thinking they shot a commercial. Anyone else love seeing Peggy putt about an empty lot on a motorcycle?
The competition fell for it, and was ultimately disqualified, after Don gave a dog and pony show about resigning due to the rules being broken. It was a nice touch of whimsy in a fairly dour hour.
Finally, Don fires on Dr. Miller, to no avail. He quickly fills her cocktail when he finds out she only wears her ring for effect. My favorite line tonight, besides “Christ on a cracker,” was, ” I don’t know how you people drink like that around here. I’d fall asleep.” No kidding, sister.
So, what did you think of the episode? Is Betty truly wicked, or am I overreacting? Did Pete hit a nerve with Roger? And will Dr. Miller succumb to Don’s advances?
You can read our previous Mad Men recaps here.