Sociable

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Mad Men" recap: Booty calls of all sorts


On this week's "Mad Men," we saw late night (or, in Betty's case, clandestine) rendez vous have major consequences for several of our characters. I have to say, even after last week's Creepy Pete plot and the Peggy-Duck hook-up of the week before, I was not prepared for the heartbreak I felt following a particular scene in this week's episode. It was a scene so devastating, I actually felt my heart drop. In fact, I'd like to start this week's recap with the circumstances leading up to this scene and its aftermath.
Spoilers below
OK, so now that the spoiler-phobes have left, I can tell you the scene I was referring to: The firing of Salvatore Romano. After last week's episode, in which Don came off relatively well, I felt my goodwill toward him returning, even with his horrifying dressing-down of Peggy the week before. But this week, that goodwill was all squandered in that single moment when he totally sells Sal out. But let's start at the beginning of this plot thread, shall we?
Sal is now officially a commercial director, and is working on a commercial for Lucky Strike, one of The Coop's most important clients. Lee Garner Jr., of Lucky Strike, is on hand at the shoot, and takes issue with Sal's decision to have the actor stare into the distance during the commercial. It's an artistic decision, Sal says. Lee doesn't like it. He wants the actor staring directly into the camera. Harry, weasel that he is, backs Lee up, saying the client is always right. Those words will come back to haunt him.
Later, Sal and Lee are in the editing room. Lee admits to having had a long "wet" dinner. Then, as Sal's looking at his commercial footage, Lee comes up behind him and starts groping him. Unlike with the bellboy, or even the Belle Jolie rep, Sal totally shuts him down. I'm married, he says. So am I, replies Lee. Sal stammers about being uncomfortable, and Lee says he understands and leaves.
Well, of course Lee doesn't understand. His pride is wounded and he drunkenly calls Harry, demanding that Sal be fired. Why me? asks Harry. I have no power. I have to tell Roger. No, Lee replies. I want this between us. OK, this isn't spelled out, but I'm guessing Lee saw Harry as an ally after Mr. Bow Tie backed Lee about the commercial shot.
At any rate, a befuddled Harry opts to ignore the call. After all, Lee's drunk and the whole thing will likely blow over. Kinsey, who's in the room when Harry gets the call, agrees. See, Harry -- that was your first sign that this was the wrong move. Kinsey AGREED with you! No good can come of Beardy McBeard's approval.
Sure enough, when Roger and co. gather to watch the commercial footage, Lee comes in the room...and walks out as soon as he sees Sal. Everyone is aghast. A stammering Harry fills them in. A furious Roger fires Sal, and hands the whole thing off to Don.
Now, when Sal came to Don I foolishly thought that Don might be sympathetic upon hearing the real reason Sal was fired. After all, he helped Peggy conceal her childbirth. And, so far, Don has kept mum about what he saw in that Baltimore hotel room.
But, when Sal recounts how Lee "cornered" him, and Sal rejected his advances, Don is totally unsympathetic. Lucky Strike is an important account, an angry Don replies. They could "shut our lights off" if The Coop can't win Lee back. Translation: Sal should have just given Lee Garner Jr. what he wanted.
Sal is appalled. What if it was a girl Lee was hitting on, Sal asks? It depends on the girl, Don replies.
Then, Don proceeds to back up Roger's firing and sends a shocked, miserable Sal on his way. What? We now have a Sterling Cooper with no Joan and no Sal???? Sorry, folks, this simply doesn't work for me.
And why was Don so angry and so cruel to Sal, when he had previously been at least grudgingly sympathetic? Don has already implied that he's willing to keep Sal's sexuality a secret as long as Sal himself keeps it under wraps. And Sal, in rejecting Lee Garner Jr.'s advances, was just following orders (also, Lee Garner Jr. is kind of gross and creepy. I'm pretty sure anyone of any gender would reject him).
But, I guess Sal isn't supposed to repress his sexuality if, say, pimping himself out to a cigarette magnate is good for business. Oh, Don. I thought you were better than that. It's one thing to ask Sal to hide who he is. That's wrong, but it's something Sal's been doing himself for some time. But to ask him to exploit the homosexuality that you usually ask him to ignore to curry favor with a client? Sigh. Don, I hate to say this, but that makes you no better than someone like Pete Campbell.
Poor Sal, completely disgraced, is last seen calling his wife from a some shady-looking place (a park? a highway rest stop?), and pretending he's working late.
Sigh. This just all makes me so sad, I'm not even sure I have the energy to write about the rest of the episode.
I guess I have to but make no mistake, Don Draper -- it will take me a long time to forgive you for this one!
Well, anyway, the episode actually starts with a dream sequence, featuring Betty lying on the hideous fainting couch, as a man gently caresses her. Right before Betty wakes up, we see that the man of her dreams is Henry Francis. So much for her assertion last week that her association with Henry is over. Betty and Don are both awakened by a call from Connie. Connie excitedly announces that he wants to spread Hilton's empire all over the world -- even to the moon. Can Don help him with that? Don concurs, apparently thinking Connie is joking about the whole moon thing.
While Don talks to Hilton, Betty feeds baby Gene. After Don hangs up, Betty muses that their infant and the hotel magnate operate on the same principle: "I want what I want when I want it."
At any rate, Don can't sleep and drives into the office in the middle of the night. On his way, he sees Sally's former teacher, Miss Farrell, out for a pre-dawn run. He offers her a ride home. She points out that this rather defeats the purpose of going out for a run, but agrees. They flirt and chat as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech plays on the radio. Miss Farrell tells Don that, once school starts, she's reading a copy of the speech to the children, claiming that they need to hear these words coming from an adult they trust. Don sort of laughs at her, and tells her that he's not sure whether she's pure or just dumb. Or, Don, it could be that she's part of a new breed of people who want the world to change and want to pass a message of equality onto the youth of America. But you wouldn't know about that, would you, you big Sal-firing jerk!
Sigh. OK, I've collected myself now. Let's return to the recap.
At the office, Don is feverishly working on the Hilton campaign, and rejecting nearly every idea that Peggy, Smitty and Kurt come up with. Peggy is obviously wounded, but has learned her lesson about whining to Don, so she plugs on.
Meanwhile, Connie continues his late night phone calls and, one night, invites Don to a late night drink. Don pulls himself out of bed and goes.
During their chat, Connie opens up about his loneliness and his sadness. He says that he thinks of Don as a son -- no, Don's more than a son. Unlike Connie's children, Don came from nothing, like Connie, so he better understands the pitfalls of a hard-won rise to the top.
Don leaves the talk feeling pretty good. He also feels good about the campaign he presents to Connie, which emphasizes the universality of the Hilton name. Or, as the tag line puts it: Hilton -- it's the same in every language.
Hilton seems to like it at first, then asks: what about the moon? I specifically told you I wanted a Hilton on the moon. A befuddled Don tells Hilton he can add the moon into the campaign, but Hilton isn't impressed. When I ask for the moon, I want the moon, Hilton says. Don is aghast. The campaign is good and this nut rejects it because of the damn moon? Why are my daddies always disappointing me? Well, he doesn't REALLY say that, but he might as well have.
To make matters worse, he gets a dressing down from his arch-nemesis, Roger Sterling, who informs Don that, if he's not careful, disappointing clients is what The Coop will be known for. Well, "that and some guy getting his foot run over with a lawn mower." Hee hee. Even during a smackdown, Roger is hilarious.
That night, a shattered Don can't sleep and wakes Betty. He pretends that Hilton has called, and he's going into work. Really, he goes off to see Miss Farrell who, once again is doing her whole come-here-go-away dance. Though she's clearly kind of psycho, Don makes his move and they make the beast with two backs. And I quietly marinate in my overwhelming revulsion and disappointment with Don.
Sigh.
Anyway, let's talk about the Betty plot, which, once again, just isn't as good as the rest of the episode. However, it does give us a nice dose of the ever-perceptive, ever-wise Carla. Betty, inflamed by her dreams of Henry Francis, starts sending him letters. Henry, likewise inflamed, charges over to her house one afternoon, and grabs her hands, clearly on the way to a passionate embrace. But Betty hears Carla enter and they stop. When Carla walks by them, Henry pretends that he and Betty are discussing a potential fund raiser to be held in the Draper family home.
Carla, of course, isn't fooled, but says nothing. Betty, in an attempt to cover up for Carla, actually goes through with the fund raiser, and is devastated when Henry doesn't show up. She charges into his office and starts throwing things. That Betty -- always a mature one.
Henry points out that, if they're going to have an affair, Betty has to come to him. You know -- 'cuz she's married and all. Betty calms down and they start making out. But she stops him. She doesn't want to make love on his office sofa with the door locked. He agrees and offers to get a hotel room. No, she says. That would be tawdry.
Oh really, Betty? Would it be more tawdry than hooking up with some random in the back room of bar?
Henry is understandably confused. "I don't know what you want," he says.
Oh, Henry. Get in line.
Anyway, here are a few more thoughts on this week's episode.
* OK, let's give it up for Bryan Batt, who was so great as Sal. From the editing room meltdown, to his gobsmacked reaction when Don betrays him, he totally brought it this episode. Let's hope the show isn't totally done with Sal, and that, at some point, he'll resurface as a window dress for Bonwit Teller. Oh, what great gossipy lunches he and Joan will share!
* There was little Peggy in this episode, but I love any scene that allows Elisabeth Moss to give loaded sidelong glances to Jon Hamm. You could write a whole book on the subtext of these glances. For instance, this week, as she leaves the moon meeting with Connie, she gives Don a look that clearly says: "Whatever happens, this isn't my fault. I hope you'll understand that, and remember that this is a good campaign."
And she conveys all that in about five seconds. What an actress.
* Well, if we weren't sure that Harry Crane was a useless sack of crap before this episode, we know it now. He completely mishandles the Lucky Strike situation and, though I'm not giving anyone a pass in Sal's firing, his ineptitude is really what put The Coop at odds with Lee Garner Jr. If Harry had told someone right away, they could have possibly come up with some other way to appease Garner. Maybe. Sigh. I don't know. Nothing makes sense anymore.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

fantastic recap! Betty is about as mature as her pre-teen kids. Don let me down this week too with Sal. Heartbreaking to see Sal scurry out of Don's office.

Bill Scurry said...

Between Joan and Sal being shown the door, there goes much of the Sterling-Cooper electricity we've come to know and love. Srsleh -- minus the two of them, plus never featuring Roger anymore, what do you have? "The Betty Draper Chronicles"?