When I’m watchin’ my TV
and a man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be.
Well he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
the same cigarettes as me.
I had never before listened to the lyrics of the Rolling Stones’ I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, other than the all-too-familiar refrain. But what a perfect verse to play near the top of last night’s stellar installment of Mad Men.
Last night’s episode was a mixed bag, part major contemplation by Don, part minor breakdown by Betty and some killer office politics. Let’s start with Don, as did the episode. Our hero has taken up swimming and writing in a journal as a way to get his life back on track. I was worried last week that Don’s blackout didn’t alarm him as much as it should have, but there was a real sense of relief last night watching Don tell Mrs. Blankenship to take away the four bottles of alcohol she lugged in from the liquor store.
I mentioned last week my dislike of the Anna apparition, as it seemed out of place. Last night’s voiceover by Don, which corresponded to his journal entries, while unusual for the series, really worked for me. This is, after all, Don’s story. I think we’re unlikely to see many more flashbacks of his childhood, now that his Dad is dead, so this was a different kind of insight into the man behind the ad. “I’ve never written more than 250 words, not even in high school. 5 paragraphs, 50 words a piece. God I was so lazy.”
It’s Don’s night on the town with the young Bethany that sets Betty off when she and Henry run into the couple at a restaurant. As she later tells Francine, she “misbehaved” by getting drunk and ruining the evening. Nobody can understand why she lets Don bother her so, and she can’t understand why nobody understands. All Betty wanted was to be the center of Don’s attention, and she’s still pissed that she’s not, even with the doting Henry by her side.
I find Bethany to be pointless. So off the mark for Don. She’s too young and insecure for him, and when she becomes aggressively needy, I think he starts to get that. He’s not that into her anyway, but he keeps calling her because he knows nothing will really come of it. When he asks out Dr. Faye, properly this time, while sober, and she accepts, we know progress has been made. Faye is a working girl and that’s the kind Don likes. Strong, independent and smart. This relationship could actually go somewhere and I’m all right with that.
Back in the office, Joan is fighting with the resident Neanderthals in an attempt to get them to behave. Joey is “particularly disrespectful” and tapes a pornographic drawing to her window. Already upset that her husband is leaving for basic training, she tells the gang in a vicious and retaliatory speech that she can’t wait until they’re in Vietnam next year.
Peggy takes the drawing to Don, who tells her to take command of the situation, and reprimand or fire Joey herself. The news that she can fire someone is exciting to Peggy and, when Joey tells her he doesn’t like working with women because they don’t have a sense of humor, she does fire him. She’s pretty proud of herself and thinks Joan will be too, but boy is she in for a surprise. Joan lets her know the act was selfish and self-aggrandizing, and made Joan look like a meaningless secretary and Peggy like another humorless bitch. Ouch.
But Joan is right. No matter how much power the women have, the men can just make another drawing. (Say what you will, I’m not convinced office politics have changed that much in the last 50 years, particularly in places where people must be creative.) Peggy knows that Joan is smart but Peggy forgets that Joan doesn’t want to be her and isn’t proud of her. I think Joan is annoyed that Peggy commands more respect than her at the office, but Joan is more manager than creative and she prefers it that way. Peggy’s firing of Joey will likely have repercussions. Though taunted by the men she works with, Peggy did command some sort of respect from them and that may now be in jeopardy.
There were a few funny lines in a mostly serious episode last night. In the midst of the vending machine destruction, Pete comes out in the hallway and says, “When did we get a vending machine?” When Mrs. Blankenship mistakenly thinks it’s Bobby’s birthday and Don tells her it’s Gene’s birthday, she says, “Would you like me to get him or her a present?” And Francine tells an upset Betty, “You have terrible luck with entertaining.” True dat.
But the line I want to end with is one from the voiceover near the end which must speak for itself, despite what accolades I could heap upon it.
“We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”