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Mad Men Recap: “The Beautiful Girls”

September 20, 2010
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Don Draper’s Very Bad Day

The Parting Shot

Well, so much for my theory that Don might abstaining from sex for a bit.  In the opening moments we hear the sounds of some wild tryst, followed by a crash.  It’s Don and Faye, who were going at it so urgently that the lamp on the night table was knocked over.  The two look mighty comfortable together in bed, so clearly this is not their first coupling.

At the office, Roger is on the phone, trying to push his “memoir” book.  Doesn’t sound like the publisher is biting.  Joan comes in to have Roger sign some documents, and as usual, he propositions her.  She is terse with him, spins on her heel and leaves the office.  She definitely is in  a snit.

We quickly learn why.  One of the secretaries tells Roger that everyone has been walking on eggshells around Joan, because her husband will be shipped off to Vietnam immediately following basic training.  So Joan’s worst-case-scenario has become a reality.

Roger feels horrible when he hears the news.

Don arrives at the office, and although Peggy greets him with a pile of work she needs him to sign off on, Don announces that he had a long lunch, and he will be taking a nap.  Don’t you just love it?

Mrs. Blankenship drops one of her pearls of wisdom on Peggy, “It’s a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.”

Peggy’s progressive lesbian friend Joyce stops by to ask Peggy to meet for a drink after work.  Abe Drexler shows up, and Peggy looks really excited.  The two begin some awkward flirting, but as the evening goes on, Abe’s liberal political agenda makes a stronger appearance.  Peggy appears to be a bit overwhelmed, and a little horrified when Abe reveals that one of her clients does not hire “Negroes.”

Peggy tries to explain that they are not in the business of judging people, but you can tell this little bit of information has started the wheels turning in her head.   She points out that many of the things that Negroes aren’t allowed to do hold true for her as well, and no one seems to care.  For instance, she is not allowed to step foot into many of the golfing and tennis clubs, places where business takes place between men.  She is essentially shut out.

Abe is amused by this, and belittles her concerns about women’s rights. Peggy ends the evening right then and there, despite Abe’s apologies. I was cheering, how about you?  That self-righteous crap really ticks me off.

That night, Joan is home in her pj’s  when her doorbell rings.  It is two women who have been sent to give her a massage, manicure and pedicure, right there in her apartment.  It is a sweet gesture on the part of an apologetic Roger.

Joan thanks Roger the next morning for being so thoughtful.  He asks her out to dinner, and she flatly turns him down, disgusted that he would expect something in return for his gift.

When Peggy arrives at work, she sees Abe waiting for her, looking a little lovesick.  He has brought her something he has written.  It is called “Nuremberg on Madison Avenue,” and he has written it for the op-ed page of the newspaper.

Peggy is furious after she reads it because it is an indictment of Filmore auto parts, and she will lose her job if it is published. She tears it up. Abe is disappointed, and believes he read Peggy wrong. “You looked so earnest,” he says.

On her way back to her office, Peggy notices that Mrs. Blankenship is sleeping.  Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, she is dead.  She died right there at her desk while everyone went about their work.

Faye is giving a presentation for the Filmore auto parts company. Don is interrupted with an urgent message  and promptly leaves the meeting.  In his office, an elderly woman is sitting with Sally, his daughter.  Vivien (the lady) explains that she found Sally on the train, trying to avoid the conductor, because she didn’t have enough money.

Don thanks the woman, and tries to pay her.  She wants none of it, and lectures Don about keeping track of his daughter.  ”You’re right, I didn’t know,” he says.  Her reply is golden, “Men never know what is going on.”

Sally tells Don that she just wanted to see him, and didn’t want to have to wait another weekend.  Don calls Betty, who basically didn’t give a crap, saying that Sally needs to learn responsibility.  She refuses to pick up Sally, and tells Don she will get her tomorrow, when she is in the city.  Don is incensed.  He tells Sally to stay put in his office.

Don is once again removed from the meeting, this time to be told about Mrs. Blankenship’s passing. He cannot believe it.  Several of the secretaries are huddled around her desk, gently sobbing.

Don does not want to freak out the clients who are in the boardroom surrounded by glass walls. If they even turn around, they will see everything. Joan tells Don she will tend to Mrs. Blankenship, and he goes back into the meeting and puffs on a cigarette like his life depends on it.

Behind the backs of the clients, we can see everyone trying to move Mrs. Blankenship’s body.  It is like a scene out of a bad sitcom.

Don is in panic, and asks Faye to take Sally to his apartment and sit with her.  Faye is extremely awkward with Sally.  You can tell she has not been around many children.

Roger takes Mrs. Blankenship’s death particularly hard, not because he cared about her, but because of what it represents.  First and foremost, it is a reminder of his own fragile mortality, and he fears he will someday die in the office.  The whole matter has made him depressed.  Joan pours a drink for both of them. Joan finally agrees to go out with Roger.

Don leaves work early and goes to relieve Faye of her Sally-sitting duties.  Later the two are waiting on a pizza, and Sally quizzes Don about the true nature of his relationship with Faye. “She knew you had peanut butter,” Sally says.  She is precocious.  How many kids would pick up on that?

Sally asks Don if she can live with him.  It is a very sweet moment between the two.  The next morning Sally makes french toast for breakfast.  Don is surprised she can cook.  She says that Carla taught her how (we all know it was not Betty didn’t.)

Roger and Joan seem to fall into their old cadence quickly over cherry cheesecake.  I can’t help it, I love these two.  I feel like Joan is Roger’s one true love, the one who makes him want to be a better person.  He is awfully sweet to her, and treats her like the exquisite creature she is.   When they are discussing his memoirs, he laments that he couldn’t have a chapter entitled “Joan.”

“That’s the problem-when I look back all the good stuff was with you, ”  he says.

When they are walking home from one of their old haunts, they get held up at gunpoint.  The robber takes everything, including Joan’s rings.  This is the last straw for the frayed woman’s nerves, and she and Roger seek solace in the comfort of one another’s arms once again.

My immediate reaction was that this was a one time deal, just brought on by two frightened individuals who went through a harrowing experience together.

However, the next day Joan comes into Roger’s office to help Bert write an obit for Mrs. Blankenship, because he is frustrated that they are not doing her life justice.  Bert says, “She was born in a barn, and died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper.  She’s an astronaut.”

After Bert leaves the room, Roger apologizes to Joan for the night before, but she surprises him by saying she is not sorry, but she is married.

In the boardroom, Peggy finally asks why they are working with a company like Filmore, who doesn’t hire Negroes.  Don explains it is not their job to convince Filmore to do so.

Sally has a complete meltdown when it is time to go home with her mother.  Makes you wonder just what goes on at that house.  Sally reeeeally hates it.  Faye tries to talk to her.  Sally runs away down the hall and does a face-plant in front of everyone.  Megan comforts her.

Then there is an uncomfortable handoff between Don and Betty, while the entire office watches.

Faye lays into Don for having her talk to the girl and put her in that position.  She seems to think it was a test that Don put her through a test.  I think she is overly defensive and self centered.  I don’t think Don even thought about it.  When he sent her home with Sally, he had no one else.  As he said, “I would have my secretary do it, but she is dead.”

It was not a calculated move on his part, it was a desperate one.

Joyce drops by to see Peggy, who is cocktailing in her office.  Joyce talks to Peggy about Abe.

A beautiful ending shot shows Joan, Peggy and Faye on the elevator.  The three women all have pained expressions, and though they are standing next to one another, they could not be further apart.  The emotional distance comes across, loud and clear.

Best line of the evening regarding Mrs. Blankenship: “She died as lived-surrounded by the people she answered phones for”-Roger

You can read our previous recaps here.

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8 Responses to “ Mad Men Recap: “The Beautiful Girls” ”

  1. Ally on September 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    It’s odd that few recaps mention the “men are soup, women are containers” metaphor at the end of the episode. For me, the elevator shot represented three women in relatively thankless roles, ‘containing’ men who got most of the glory and adulation (in the Mad Men world and among viewers of the show).

    As to Sally, in the episode where she cut her hair, she made it pretty clear that she wanted to look like Don’s “other women”. She basically feels that she can only interest her father in emotional terms by resembling and trying to act like the women he chases after. It’s creepy and sad. Another thing that a surprising few viewers seem to notice, but bashing Betty and praising Don does take up a lot of time and brainspace. (Betty may be a dreadful mother, but Don has always been an absentee father & is giving Sally a pretty screwy sense of male-female relationships, too.)

  2. Maya on September 20, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    This episode was a little too complicated for me. I had to watch it twice, and I didn’t even notice the background hijicks surrounding the removal of Ms. Blankenship’s body till the second viewing.

    I knew for sure that I enjoyed Sally’s role here. I was happy to see that Don was a little fun and took Sally to the zoo/park. My dad used to take me to get shave ice (Hawaiian snow cones) and fishing. I wish he would take her in. (I know it probably wouldn’t work.)

    Joan and Roger are a great couple, I agree. I have a confession to make though…I didn’t watch most of season 3 so although saw many Jane episodes, I feel like I’m missing something–why did Roger marry Jane? Just because she was the hit on the most of all the secretaries? I know he divorced Mona, has his grown-up daughter (now married, right), and I think there’s an episode where Jane gets drunk at the daughter’s wedding–an episode I missed. I should try to watch those episodes.

    Anyway good recap! I hope Peggy and Abe fall in love somehow, and I believe that Don might marry Faye, though the writers really need to convince me what is so special about their relationship.

  3. Shannon on September 21, 2010 at 4:23 am

    @Maya I had to watch it twice as well, which is why it did not go up until Monday. Sally was great. Good little actress. You didn’t miss much with the Jane stuff. It was very random. I took it that Roger had a mid-life crisis, and he had lost Joan, so he married some arm candy. They never did (and still don’t) appear to have any connection or chemistry.

    Totally not loving Faye. Blah.

  4. Shannon on September 21, 2010 at 4:31 am

    @Ally Yeah, I thought the soup and containers story was interesting, but was quite frankly exhausted by that point. So much happened during this episode.
    To me, the women looked exhausted, sad and lonely. I was pretty astounded by how well all three actresses got that across. Great photo.

    Sally is, without a doubt, heartbreaking. She is a little girl lost, and she will be all kinds of messed up as an adult. There is no doubt that Don is a shitty father, but I liked his time with Sally in this episode.

  5. Ally on September 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Other than the end-shot of season 1, where after making time to see his mistress, Don comes home after his children are asleep, the emblematic father moment for Don (in my view) is that weekend when he builds the playhouse for Sally, and has to go through a sixpack to get through the ordeal (and then runs away in his car from the party, again returning after the kids are asleep, if memory serves).

    It seems like neither Don nor Betty especially wanted children, but had them because it was expected and/or unavoidable. Betty gets bashed for having to deal with the consequences, when Don would be sixpacking it through fatherhood if he had to stay home with the kids. It’s the sad truth that the absentee parent always wins, and a lot of viewers seem to project this on the show.

    /rantover, and more of a reaction to thoughtlessness & amnesia in comments elsewhere. Thanks for taking the time to engage in back&forth, Shannon — love your recaps.

  6. Ally on September 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I meant end-shot of episode 1 of season 1.

  7. Shannon on September 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    @Ally. Thanks, that is awful nice of you. I find recaps really frustrating, because my long term memory is so bad. For instance, I have seen every episode of Mad Men, and I have no recollection of the playhouse. I had the same trouble with Breaking Bad when I recapped it. I think it is because I watch so many things a week. I have a superb short term memory, but super crappy long term one. Big hindrance.

    I appreciate your feedback, and actually tried to email you today. If you ever want to write for us, get in touch. THere is an email under “Contact” on the home page. You are clearly very astute and have great insight into the show.

    Take care. I am going to a film festival this week, so Grace will be filling in. Give her some love next week.

  8. Maya on October 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Haha Shannon, I’m glad I didn’t miss much with the Jane-Roger relationship. Thanks for explaining it to me. I also do not like Faye, well, I don’t really get her.

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