Don’t worry, you have a full Mad Men TV Watch recap from Cracklin’ Karen Valby, and I’ll leave to Karen the close readings of the latest office politics and all things Betty – from Bets’ risky business with the curiously wan Republican of her dreams to the continuing presence of that gigantic, clammy-looking fainting couch. I, though, am obsessed with the Draper known as Don, and can’t resist a few observations about last night’s foray into daddy-issues, threatened heterosexuality, and bouncing Bowdoin T-shirts. Yes, it was all about masculinity for Don this week.
In one of those dark-hued, dream-like moments so prevalent on Mad Men this season, Don took a wide-awake pre-dawn car cruise. Driving along in his automobile (to quote Chuck Berry, the first verse of whose “No Particular Place To Go,” which will be released a year later, in 1964, describes this scene perfectly), Don is thinking about what his new father figure, Conrad Hilton wants of him. He came upon that pert, impertinent teacher, Suzanne Farrell. She’s jogging before it was fashionable to jog, looking no less comely in a sweatshirt than she does in her gingham-y schoolmarm dresses.
(Do you think the Bowdoin shirt is former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner’s little shout-out to one of the greatest Sopranos episodes ever, the first season’s “College,” the one in which Tony killed a guy while taking Meadow on a college tour?)
Their attraction eventually led to Don’s own frisky business, which was cruel on Don’s part: This can only end badly for her, even though Miss Farrell acknowledges that (“I know exactly how it ends”) and willingly smooches and succumbs, nay, nearly swoons in the manly Don-embrace.
Just as interesting was Don’s reaction to the mess Sal found himself in when he rebuffed that crude client who was hoping to make a Lucky Strike of his own with our pal Sal. Unlike a few weeks ago, when Don not only kept mum about catching Sal with the bellboy but implicitly communicated that he understood the man’s urges, this time around, Don assumed those same urges were what got Sal into trouble, and he couldn’t divest himself of Sal fast enough. Sneeringly referring to gays as “you people” – now that’s the reaction I was waiting for from Don, because that’s what a socially conservative, guy’s-guy like Don would have done during this era. I was glad to see that Mad Men wasn’t making Don a dapper paragon of tolerance.
As for the Conrad Hilton affair, this was where Don’s eternal search for a father figure ran aground. After that early one-on-one meeting in which Connie comes right out and says, “You’re like a son,” and Don nearly chokes in responding, “Thank you; I mean it,” it was all downhill from there. Mostly because it turned out that the older man who was taking him under his paternalistic wing proved to be a little nuts. Or as they say about the very wealthy, eccentric. He compared himself to King Midas; I’d say he’s closer to Citizen Kane, shut off from the real world yet arrogantly thinking he knows what’s best for it. “I want the moon”? Could there be a more impossible request, both literally in the cleverly earth-grounded ad campaign Don and his company created for Connie, and figuratively, in setting an expectation of Don that Draper cannot possibly meet?
Once again, the world has failed Don. In this case, the world and beyond. I suppose Don might have tried to save himself with Hilton by turning it all into a joke and quote The Honeymooners – “To the moon, Alice!” That’s what Roger Sterling would have done, I’ll bet. But then, that’s another problem Don has: No sense of humor.
What’d you think of our hero’s behavior this week?
For more on Mad Men: