LadyGhosts of TV Past

Mad Men: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes in Every Bar in Manhattan, Remember When?

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to witness the union of two of my greatest loves: Netflix Instant and Mad Men. While we’re all waiting impatiently for the new season to air next year, I’ll be here on Mondays recapping all the clever word play, the sexual repression, the forays into psychotherapy and shotgun ownership, and the beautiful love shared by Don and Roger. Does everyone have their adult beverage of choice, their cigarette, their conspicuous consumption? Do you feel the change blowin’ in the wind? Spectacular. Please be seated.

We start with the credits and opening theme that I still love, and that my neighbors are probably already tired of hearing. Whatever, jerks. I listen to you moving your furniture at all hours of the night.

“MAD MEN,” appears in white italics, “A term coined in the late 1950s to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.” A line break for dramatic pause. “They coined it.” So we know from the start that these men have it going on. They have the power to forge a name for themselves, which is an ability, we’ll quickly learn, that not a whole lot of people in the world they inhabit are privileged enough to have.

We pan across a crowded bar, smoke wafting about and presumably getting in people’s eyes, and approach a dark-haired man from the back. Don motherfucking Draper, ladies and gentlemen. He is scribbling on a napkin, so we know he is a Man With Ideas. He is played by John Hamm, so we know he is fine as hell. He asks a black waiter for a light, and the waiter obliges. He notices the brand on the cigarette package the man is holding, Old Gold, and remarks that he is a Lucky Strike man himself. Don starts, “Can I ask you a question,” and without waiting for an answer proceeds, “why do you smoke Old Golds?”

In swoops a white man in the same uniform of white coat and black bowtie, maybe a supervisor, maybe just an asshole coworker, either way the already wary face of the black waiter, whose name we learn is Sam when Bowtie Asshole spits, “Is Sam bothering you? He can get a bit chatty,” locks into defensive position immediately. Don, however, corrects that they were just having a conversation and dismisses Bowtie Asshole to make him another drink in the way that only the rich can. Bye, Bowtie Asshole. It’s hard to be truly superior in a uniform that includes a bow tie. I know; I worked catering.

Back to the matter at hand, Don warms up his research subject by acknowledging that the guy works for a total dick and probably needs to relax, and asks again, why the Old Golds? He rattles off a bunch of features: low tar, filters, etc. but Sam says he doesn’t really know– he started smoking them when he got them for free in the military. Don posits that he couldn’t get him to try another brand, even if all the Old Gold tobacco in the world died. Sam: “That’s a sad story.” Don, with wide eyes and just enough sarcasm to make me fall in love with him a little: “A real tragedy.” Sam shrugs and says he loves smoking. Don repeats that line back to him and scribbles furiously. Sam says his wife hates it, and that Reader’s Digest says it’ll kill you and laughs, “Ladies love their magazines.” Don smiles.

Welcome to New York City, 1960. Reader’s Digest says smoking will kill you, but it isn’t banned in bars yet. Don Draper runs the world. White guys in bowties are assholes. We all know ladies be trippin’.

We get a close up of Don’s Napkin of Important Thoughts and he contemplates the smoke filled room as the music swells and fades. Bowtie Asshole is taking a hell of a long time to make that drink.

Don knocks on an apartment door and a pretty woman answers and points out that he wasn’t particularly worried about waking her, but it’s okay because she’s up working on some new Hallmark holiday cards drawing puppies. Apparently she is a freelance artist. The tone with which she says “puppies” lets us know that she’s kind of awesome, compounded by the fact that when Don says he wants to run some ideas past her she asks if that means what she thinks because, “I’m familiar with most of your “˜ideas.’” Sassy.

Don explains the origins of his furrowed brow, telling her that the government has put the official kibosh on cigarette ad health claims. She says she knows; she reads Reader’s Digest. Ladies love their magazines, am I right? She pours herself a drink without offering Don one while Don complains that all he has is a crush-proof box and “four out of five dead guys smoke your brand.” Sassy Lady– who, by the way, is wearing skinny pants and a men’s button down shirt in the way that every girl wishes she could wear a men’s button down shirt, not to mention that in all probability said shirt belongs to Don Draper– asks if this is the part where she says, “Don Draper is the greatest ad man ever and his big strong brain will find a way to lead the sheep to the slaughterhouse.” Sassy Lady is sassy. Also, Don Draper is clearly one of those First Name Last Name kind of people whose names people can’t help but relish saying.

Sassy Lady, whose name we learn is Midge, reclines on the bed while Don whines that he doesn’t want to go to school tomorrow and the next time she sees him he’ll be carrion for a bunch of young executives (*cough* Pete Campbell *cough*). Midge has had about enough of his “poor me with my handsome furrowed brow and my cast off men’s button downs and my puppy eyes” routine and asks, “Are you going to pitch to me or not?” while leaning back on the bed suggestively. Heh. Don starts to take the hint that maybe she’d rather engage with some of his “ideas” rather than his lack of ideas, and asks her what her secret is. She replies, “Nine different ways to say, “˜I love you, Grandma,’” which has to be one of the least sexy sentences ever written, but she’s unbuttoning her White Button Down of My Jealous Dreams to display a lacy black bra, so no one is complaining, least of all Don Draper.

In the bluish early morning light that generally signals the beginning of someone’s walk of shame– and I’ll take a moment here to say that I am always impressed by the lighting on this show– Don rests his head on Midge’s chest, and his brow seems significantly less furrowed. He suggests that they just get married, and she wonders if he thinks she’d make a good ex-wife. He lists her appealing qualities, which apparently amount to: independence, general tolerance of his presence (call me, Don Draper!), and asks what size Cadillac she takes. She puts a stop to his slightly less than romantic musings by dangling his watch in front of his face (people remove their watches to bang? I guess that’s smart) and reminding him that she doesn’t make plans and she doesn’t make breakfast. Sassy.

Don goes back to worrying about his meeting with the tobacco bigwigs and Midge echoes Sam’s earlier thoughts that people love smoking and they’re probably not going to stop until it kills them no matter what Reader’s Digest says. Don responds that there’s “a kid” who eyes his office every day (*cough* Pete Campbell *cough*), and Midge asks if this kid is handsome. Unfortunately for you, Midge, I think Pete’s shirts might be too small for your taste. I don’t think it’s going to work out. You could probably share pants, though.

Shots from the top of an office building, and of people walking with purpose through revolving doors. I always enjoy these shots because I enjoy imagining the director giving the extras directions like, “You are busy office people with a purpose! Walk through these revolving doors with purpose!”

In an elevator, some smarmy dudes discuss a friend’s bachelor party, or, according to one of them, the events preceding “when they hang an anchor around his neck,” and sexually harass a girl in a jaunty cap and yellow sweater. You know, like you do on your way to work.

The smarmy dudes continue their conversation though the halls of an office, one of them, though no less smarmy, admonishes the others for the sexual harassment positing that it might make it awkward if jaunty cap and yellow sweater girl is assigned to one of them. The smarmiest of the Smarmies is like pssh, whatever, man, “You’ve got to let them know what kind of guy you are so they’ll know what kind of girl to be!” This man thinks yelling, “NICE TITS” is foreplay, y’all. One of the smarmy sidekicks notes that he doubts they’ll be tying any kind of anchor around Nice Tits’s neck any time soon. For the sake of anchors everywhere I certainly hope not.

All the Smarmies are making their way (with purpose!) into an office. When a red-headed secretary asks them if “he” is expecting them, Nice Tits smirks, “He’s not expecting anything!”

Pete Campbell (Pete Campbell!), Smarmy Extraordinaire and soon-to-be anchor recipient, is putting the moves on some female person over the phone. There are a lot of “honeys” and other less than reassuring reassurances going on. He suggests that instead of worrying about his bachelor party the woman on the phone, presumably his fiancée, “go shopping or something,” or take her mother to lunch and tell her it was his idea. Smarmy Number Two is impressed by this display of insincerity, er, I mean chivalry? Pete says he doesn’t know what the Smarmies have planned but, “based on the creative brain power around here we’ll probably end up seeing My Fair Lady.” Nice Tits waves a card at him showing a very fair lady indeed, and this one is selling more than flowers, though she might be looking for a room somewhere, if you know what I mean. No. Just kidding. Strippers are not necessarily prostitutes, you guys. This has been a PSA.

Pete says he’ll come by his fiancée’s place afterward so his mother can check under his fingernails– Glasses Smarmy thinks this is hilarious– and of course he loves her, “I’m giving up my life to be with you, aren’t I?” Quite the charmer, this Pete Campbell. The Smarmies chuckle that yeah, this fiancée is “a great gal” and “her old man’s loaded.” Yes, but can she wear your shirt? Spoiler alert: Allison Brie plays Pete’s fiancé and no, she can probably not wear his shirt because her breasts defy clothing.

Speaking of defiant breasts, elsewhere a redhead with probably the most clothing-defiant and well-loved breasts of our generation (Hey, gurl, hey, Christina Hendricks!) shows Jaunty Cap and Yellow Sweater Girl, no longer wearing her jaunty cap, the office. Yellow Sweater is carrying a cardboard box of things, which in my opinion is pretty bold. I’ve been working at my current job two months and am only bringing in some personal photos this week after being instructed by my boss that it’s weird to have nothing but a cactus named Horace on my desk and since they haven’t fired me I should probably bring in some other stuff. Horace is yellow and clearly this girl likes yellow and this story is totally relevant, okay?! I’m sorry; I’ve had too much coffee.

Anyway, Defiant Breasts says that if Yellow Sweater follows her lead she can probably avoid repeating some of the same mistakes. She sort of suspiciously touches her stomach here, which I guess is only suspicious to me because I’ve seen the rest of the show, so ignore me, she’s probably talking about the sandwiches from the office food cart. Smarmy Number Two passes her and greets her with a, “Hi, Joan,” and she identifies him as one of her mistakes that do not bear repeating. Heh.

She also counsels her new employee that with the right moves in couple of years she can cut down on her train commute and come live in Manhattan, but if she really makes the right moves she’ll be living in the country and won’t have to work at all. Feminism, guys! Women helping women!

Turns out that the new girl is going to be Don Draper’s secretary, and while Joan doesn’t know what her “goals” are, she shouldn’t overdo it with the perfume, she should keep a fifth of rye around as well as some aspirin, Band-Aids, and a needle and thread. Joan gets one of my favorite lines of the series, and one that will prove true over and over and over again: “He may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they’re looking for someone between a mother and a waitress, and the rest of the time, well”¦” Well, they want to “run some ideas” past you is what I’m guessing. In order to be the “well”¦” that the men are looking for, Joan suggests that her charge “go home, put a paper bag over your head, and really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. And be honest.” Poor little naïve Yellow Sweater quietly asserts that she always tries to be honest. Joan, with no small amount of pity: “Good for you.” Oh, Joan.

They cover the overwhelming technology– “simple enough for a woman,” guys!– and Joan leaves the girl with a couple more suggestions: pick up some gift items during her lunch hour, show off her ankles, and “men loves scarves.” Well, Chuck Bass does. Oh, scarves on women? Okay, I guess. In come “Mr. Sterling” and Don Draper. While his new secretary looks apprehensive outside the door, Don treats us to a change of shirt. In fact, he accuses Roger Sterling of showing up just to watch him change, immediately provoking debate over whether Don/Roger is slash or canon, but Roger says he just came to make sure Don actually showed up for their meeting with Lucky Strike. Yeah, right, Roger. Keep telling yourself that.

Roger turns to walk away before a complete non sequitur, “How do I put this”¦ have we ever hired any Jews?” Don says, jokingly but not really in the way that most racist jokes by people who should know better are, “Not on my watch.” Roger says that isn’t what he meant, and Don offers up their Italian art director. Not quite. Apparently they have an appointment with Menken’s department store and would like to put a Jewish face in the room to not appear racist make them feel comfortable. Don offers to “run down to the deli and grab somebody,” but Roger declines. I dunno, Roger. I, for one, never pass up an opportunity to send someone to get me bagels.

And Don could probably use some carbs in his stomach as he drops two Alka-Seltzer into a glass of water. He rifles through his desk for an exercise band and accidentally knocks out a box. In it we see a Purple Heart medal, and on the back of the box the inscription: Lt. Donald Francis Draper. Iiinteresting. He only regards the box for a second before putting it back in his desk and returning to his chest muscle exercise type things. I don’t work out, so I have no idea of such exercises have some kind of name.

In pops another man with, “Hello, Gidget! Still trying to fill out that bikini?” Heh. This, though we aren’t introduced to him by name yet, is the aforementioned Italian art director, who says that without the medical claims for their tobacco ads all they are left with is an illustration of a man smoking shirtless in a hammock. “My neighbor posed for that; he always looks very relaxed.” Spoiler alert, though I don’t believe that this was a spoiler for anyone with a barely functioning gaydar: the Italian art director is gayer than sunshine. He smoothes the illustration lovingly. It’s not calling to Don in quite the same way, though, and he demands more sex appeal. He suggests adding a sexy girl to the picture and sells the idea by saying it would give them a chance to get a real, live model. Sal, which is the Italian art director’s name, growls, er, overcompensates that he loves his work and changes the subject to Pete’s bachelor party. Don’s not into that kind of thing, and Sal sighs that he’s not either, but adds, unnecessarily but that’s how these things go, that if a girl is going to “shake it” in his face he’d rather be alone so he can “do something.” Something like”¦ have a heartfelt chat about her self esteem level and how big a tool (no, not that kind) Pete Campbell is?

Sal drives the conversation back to a topic that everyone is comfortable with, alcohol, by asking if they should drink before the meeting, after, or both? Silly Sal, the answer is always both. Don thinks it’s pretty sucky that all they have is a half-naked dude smoking in a hammock and with the word “Relax!” hovering over his head. Sal points out that he’s only in charge of finding excuses to draw half-naked men, I mean, the art, and that Don is the one who is supposed to put the whole thing together.

Don’s new secretary’s first official duty is to buzz in someone whose name I can’t make out, and Sal sighs that he isn’t super thrilled to be there to hear from “our man in research.” In walks a woman in a steel grey suit who I assume was displaced by the Third Reich as Reigning Queen of Bitchface and decided to move to America and go into market research instead. She admonishes the men for seeming pretty chill about the fact that they’re all about to go down in flames in this meeting. She and Don agree that medical claims are dead, no pun intended. Queen of Bitchface says, “We must police ourselves.” Sal, between sips of whiskey: “There’s your slogan.” Well, you’d know, Sal.

Queen of Bitchface suggests that they switch their focus to the idea that danger is an appealing part of American life, citing Freud’s concept of “the death wish.” Don: “Freud. What agency is he with?” Sal can’t believe that people are living one way and secretly wishing to do the exact opposite, “That’s ridiculous!” Well, Sal, I can’t believe that you can’t believe that. I am so glad I made the executive decision to tell you all that Sal is gay because it makes everything he says in this scene Important and Symbolic instead of superfluous, but honestly I hope you would have figured it out after he says, “We can put a skull and crossbones on the label. I love it!” while fluttering his eyes skyward.

Don doesn’t give two hoots about psychology and wants the Queen of Bitchface out of his office. He takes the report, which the Queen thinks he will find “very convincing,” he says he’s sure of it since she’s the one who found all of the medical testimony saying cigarettes were safe (oooh, burn!), and throws it in the trash after affirming that he is the only person who has seen it. He calls the Queen perverse, and she saunters out of his office wishing him good luck at the meeting, “I’m sure it vill be a qvick vone.” Ooh, burn right back! I’m surprised Don doesn’t like this woman very much, given the preference he’s displayed for sass and lots of it.

But maybe he’s all sassed out as he naps on his couch to faint sounds of explosions in his post-traumatic mind. Let’s take a moment, now at the start of the series, to raise a glass to the unsung heroes of the show: the office couches. Don thinks he’s seen battle? Well, these couches will have a thing or two to say about that by the end.

Someone is quietly poking Don and apologizing for waking him, but Mr. Campell is waiting outside. Don takes a minute to confirm that Pete doesn’t know that he’s sleeping before being like, uh, who the hell are you, Yellow Sweater? Yellow Sweater is Peggy Olson. Well, Peggy Olsen, Don would like you to entertain Pete while he gets his shit together and rubs the shell-shocked haze out of his eyes. Peggy says that she knows it’s her first day and she doesn’t want to be uncooperative, but, “Do I have to?” Don totally feels that, and is appreciative of Peggy’s offer of aspirin and water. Waitressing: check.

Peggy opens the door to Pete, who is and always will be a repository for all of the world’s most overused bon mots, and who demonstrates this by greeting Don with, “You look like a hundred bucks.” He sexually harasses Peggy some more. Peggy can’t wait to get the fuck out of there. Don apologizes for Pete’s general level of asshattery, and Pete, who clearly did not ever get a lesson on when to stop, continues to act like a douchebag about Peggy all the way to their next meeting. Don, while he bets “the whole world looks like one brassiere strap waiting to be snapped,” to 26-year-old Pete, suggests that he stuff it if he wants to be liked and respected. Pete has gotten this far in life without being liked or respected, so this advice is kind of lost on him.

As such, Pete is apparently going to be the man on the Menken’s department store account if they decide to do business with the firm. Don saunters into the room and introduces himself to the most Jewish looking dude he sees, a tall guy in glasses who looks hilariously confused as Don shakes his hand and the woman next to him corrects Don that she, in fact, is the Menken’s representative. She is Rachel Menken, the store founder’s daughter, and her father was expecting her to be a man too, so no worries. Don is like, uh, sorry? So who is this guy? Apparently the Jewish dude is “David Cohen from the art department,” Don is all, “Oh, yeah! David Cohen! Definitely!” but isn’t terribly convincing about it. Rachel Menken’s mother didn’t raise no stupid children, but she lets it slide. Roger whispers, “I had to go all the way to the mail room, but I found one!” Oh, Roger.

Jazzy music plays as we get an establishing shot of the Midtown Medical Building, where Peggy is sitting in one of those horrible doctor’s office gowns reading a pamphlet on what to expect on your wedding night. Guys, I’ll probably be mentioning this a lot? But I am so glad I wasn’t a woman in the ’60s. A doctor comes in and makes small talk about their mutual acquaintance Joan while Peggy is like yeah, you’re about to stick stuff up my hoo ha? So let’s not get chummy? He tells her to make herself comfortable and they establish that Peggy has come to get, duhn duhn duhhhhn: The Pill. Even though she is not married! The doctor says not to worry, Joan recommended him because he’s not judgy, and there’s no reason for women not to be practical about these things and instructs Peggy to spread her knees while expressing his hope that this won’t turn her into a “strumpet.” The doctor waxes on about how it’s for her own good that she’s got these non-judgmental men around to control her sexuality while Peggy zones the fuck out at a generic landscape calendar picture on the wall establishing that it is March, 1960, and I thank my stars once again for my birth date in the ’80s.

The clattering of the speculum on the tray brings Peggy back and she assures the doctor that she’s “a very responsible person” and the doctor is like, “Oh, I’m sure you’re not that kind of girl, now Joan! Oh, I’m kidding,” but, you know”¦ not. He asks her not to go out and become “the town pump” just to get her $11/a month worth out of her birth control prescription. Peggy can’t wait to put her clothes on.

Back in the offices of If You Have a Vagina You’d Better Show Your Ankles and Have Birth Control & No Jews Work Here, Rachel Menken fiddles with her cigarette holder. Okay, I don’t smoke except sometimes when I’m drunk, but it is my dearest wish to be a person who has a cigarette holder with which to fiddle. Don and Roger are plowing through their presentation about increasing awareness through a variety of media and blah blah blah, clearly this isn’t the world’s most groundbreaking ad campaign. They suggest a coupon in ladies magazines. Rachel Menken is unimpressed. She’s all, uh, dude? We share a wall with Tiffany’s. A coupon is not going to cut it. Don thinks this bitch, as all other bitches, be trippin’, and asserts that coupons work. Pete, always tactful, asks why she is there when she could go to a Jewish firm, though he doesn’t say it like that. Rachel says that if she wanted some old dude from the same village as her father to tell her what to do she would indeed go to a Jewish firm; “Their research favors coupons, too.” She wants the people like Don Draper to come to the store because it’s expensive, not in search of deals. Don still thinks this bitch be trippin’ and starts to throw a giant hissy fit spits, “Menken’s is not Chanel,” and Pete, ever helpful, manages to insult his client, while Don pouts that a woman isn’t going to talk to him like that and stomps out. Rachel suggests that Roger may have been mistaken when he told her that she would be charmed by their service.

“David Cohen from the art department” seizes the opportunity to help himself to the Bloody Mary pitcher, but a look from Roger stops him. Out in the hallway, Pete tries to get on Don’s good side by saying that money and education “doesn’t take the rude edge out of people,” Pete smarms that he just wants Don to help him slime his way to the top, and makes a reference to Don’s military service. Don would really like Pete to stop trying to take him behind the middle school and get him pregnant, and the conversation is over. Pete makes the same face and shoulder shake that my cats do when they’ve fallen off something ungracefully and they’re hoping no one saw.

Peggy, back from her lunchtime slut shamer appointment and clearly having bought the gifts as instructed, follows Joan through the offices while Joan lives up to her reputation as probably “that kind of girl” by gossiping about the doctor’s beach house. She leads Peggy into the control center of the office instructing her to treat the people she’s about to meet as if her job depends on it because it does. And here we are in the switchboard room where three women completely ignore their presence until Peggy mentions that she brought presents. Heh. Apparently Don’s last secretary “moved on,” Joan says, “Mr. Draper wasn’t interested,” in a way that makes Peggy look apprehensively thoughtful not for the first time that day, but the operators think it was probably because they didn’t put her calls through, “the rude little thing.”

Don, Roger, and Pete are in their tobacco meeting, which we can ascertain because the room is full of smoke and some old Southern gentleman is complaining about “government interlopers.” They’re discussing what we’ve already heard: no more health claims. Roger is very carefully skirts saying “cancer” and turns the meeting over to Don, who has been “thinking quite a bit about this,” but can’t seem to come up with anything to say about it. There’s a lot of awkward smoke-filled silence, until Pete decides to step in it, not for the first time that day, and bring up the research that the Reigning Queen of Bitchface presented to Don earlier. The tobacco people are like well, we’d be down with this whole death concept except for the part where we don’t want our product linked with death, asshole? Pete doesn’t know when to stop, and Don puts his head in his hands as the tobacco people shoot the whole thing down and stand to leave. The younger Southern gentleman says at least they know that all their competitors are having the same problem, which gives Don an Idea.

“Gentlemen, before you leave can I just say something?” he starts. Roger’s like, NOW WOULD BE THE BEST TIME, DON. Don thinks that the prohibition on health claims gives them the freedom to say anything they want. He asks the tobacco men how their product is made, and the younger doesn’t know. Old Southern Gentleman says “shame on you!” in a way that makes me want to download it as a ringtone and starts explaining their process. One word stands out to Don: toasted. Young Southern Gentleman wonders how they’re supposed to sell that when everyone’s tobacco is toasted. Don says no, everyone else’s tobacco is poisonous and cancer-causing, but theirs is “toasted” and wholesome.

Roger lets it sink in for a moment before telling the Gentlemen Southern that he doesn’t need to tell them what they just witnessed, but Young Southern Gentleman would like it explained anyway, leaving Don to explain the entire purpose of the industry and one of the main themes of the season:

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay; you are okay.”

Old Southern Gentleman likes it, and Roger tries hard not to cream himself from happiness. Donger: slash or canon; you decide.

Don and Roger drink to not going down in cancerous smoke while Roger wonders if Don was drunk, or not drunk. Don thanks heaven, but Roger suggests looking the other direction. They banter about a presidential campaign for a “young, handsome Navy hero” who turns out to be Richard Nixon. Heh.

Oh, hey! Here come the Smarmies. Pete, who never ever learns where to draw the line, gushes that Don was amazing, and Roger, recognizing the privileges that being the boss affords him, decides that he doesn’t want to engage in “mid-level camaraderie” and wanders off to swim in his pool of money with some hookers, or something. Don’s not particularly interested either and suggests that the Smarmies look elsewhere for drinking grounds. Pete really, really wants Don to come to his party with the same desperation with which you wanted Suzy Jenkins who had all the best Barbies and the prettiest hair to come to your ninth birthday.

Don, however, after the other Smarmies wander off to accost some poor secretaries or whatever it is they do when off screen, wants to confront Pete about the research he a) totally stole, and b) shouldn’t have used. Pete, zero for eighteen million on reading rooms today, doesn’t want to apologize, so Don sends him away with halfhearted congratulations on his impending marriage to a very lucky lady, I’m sure.

In comes Peggy of the darling ankles to thank Don for “a great first day.” I’ve got to say, Peggy, I’ve had some shitty jobs, but none of them have involved a gynecological exam on my first day, so I’m just thinking you should probably raise the bar. She awkwardly thanks him for standing up to Pete for her, and even more awkwardly puts her hand on his. Oh, sweetie. Don likes them a lot less earnest and a lot more sassy from what we’ve seen. Don corrects that he is her boss, not her boyfriend, and that he’ll fire her ass if she ever lets Pete Campbell rifle through his trash again. Great first day, huh, Pegs? Her eyes tear up a little as Don softens and tells her to “go home, put some curlers in,” and start over tomorrow, but first he needs her to place a call.

We cut to a smoky bar (is there any other kind?) where a Marilyn Monroe type slides off her long black gloves. Is it weird that the first time I saw this I was really thrilled to see a woman with some actual fat on her body getting naked on television? What a sad thing, you know? That I am like YAY, LOOK, A STRIPPER WITH ACTUAL TITS AND ASS, HOW AFFIRMING! Anyway, this appears to be one of the fair ladies of the institution that the Smarmies have chosen for Pete’s bachelor party. One of them asks Sal if he has a girlfriend, and Sal says that he’s Italian. If that’s what the kids are calling it these days, then okay.

A few ladies on the hunt for free drinks stop by their table and ask if there’s a party. Girls, it’s not worth it, really. The Smarmies smarm a bit, and one of the girls says, “I love this place: it’s hot, loud, and full of men,” Sal says, “I know what you mean!” and the girl wises up that she might be barking up a tree that likes other, uh, trees. On the other side of the table Pete is getting inappropriately– even for the location and occasion– handsy with one of the girls. Some more sexual harassment and self aggrandizement while the stripper makes me happy by finishing up her act by shaking a small amount of actual fat around on stage and leaves me pondering the sad state of things and wondering when it was that swinging tassels by one’s breasts went out of style because it seems like a very useful talent. She’s also wearing some kick ass red nail polish.

Don seems to have decided to ply Rachel Menken with drinks and convince her she’s made a terrible mistake, which is a ploy that she pretty quickly identifies, though I see it hasn’t stopped her from ordering one of the biggest umbrella drinks I’ve ever seen. You get yours, girl. Don apologizes for losing his temper and she accepts. It turns out she found it refreshing to hear someone say all the things she knows everyone thinks. I guess that was probably the case in the era rivaling the Victorian for emotional repression, but I think I prefer men who want to throw hissy fits about my authority to keep it to themselves.

Don wants to ask her a personal question, but Rachel wants another drink first. What he really wants to know is why she even bothers with dealing with assholes like him when she could be married. I’m reminded of Joan telling Peggy that if she works hard and does the right things she could be married in the country with a view like the generic scenery in the doctor’s office calendar. She points out that men don’t have to choose between fulfilling work and romantic happiness, and they also don’t have to get called stupid sluts by “non-judgmental” doctors who are sticking metal contraptions in their parts. Okay, so she doesn’t say that last part. She is blowing smoke elegantly from her fancy cigarette holder, making kind of a substantial argument for being the gender that gets to hold shiny things a lot– or maybe that’s just me. She also says that honestly she’s never been in love. Don thinks he’s dropping some knowledge by informing her that love was invented by men like him to sell pantyhose. “You’re born alone and you die alone and the world just drops a bunch of rules on you to make you forget those facts, but I never do.” In his haste to drop some knowledge on this uppity female, Don has in fact dropped some knowledge about himself. Rachel looks at him pityingly, and shares that she knows what it feels like to be out of place. She agrees to give him the Menken’s account.

Don helps her with her completely gorgeous wrap and looks officially intrigued. Oh, Don Draper. Never lose your totally predictable fascination with independent, authoritative women.

Far, far away in Brooklyn, Pete, looking significantly the worse for wear, is banging on a door that turns out to be Peggy’s. He couldn’t stop thinking about her, it seems. Run, Peggy! Peggy, whether because of her rejection by Don or a desire to prove that she can be “that kind of girl,” rather hilariously announces, “I’m going to bed!” to her roommate, and leads Pete into the apartment. Oh, sweetie. I’ve been in Brooklyn apartments. The walls aren’t that thick. You’re not fooling anyone.

A car pulls into a driveway, and Don walks into a beautiful house. There, in a wealthy suburb, the man who slept with one sassy woman today and declared to another than love doesn’t exist, crawls in bed to kiss a blonde woman straight out of both Hitler and Norman Rockwell’s fantasies, then walks across the hall to gaze adoringly at two sleeping children while his wife gazes adoringly at him and “The Street Where You Live” from the My Fair Lady production that doesn’t involve nipple tassels plays us to black.

Stay tuned! Next week: it sucks to be a lady in 1960; it might be hard for men, too, particularly those leading convoluted lives and lies; another excruciatingly long recap!

By (e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

5 replies on “Mad Men: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes in Every Bar in Manhattan, Remember When?”

I’m re-watching them all, too! I adore seeing all of the foundations there — Sal being ZOMG SO VERY STRAIGHT. And the way they set up the entire episode to make you think Don is single, and then the giant lie is revealed at the end. I so wish Rachel Menken had stuck around. She’s a fantastic mix of worldly and tough but not in Don’s league of grown-up fuckery.

Gosh, this was such an amazing first episode. Reading this makes me want to go back and rewatch the whole series.

I’m so with you, both on feeling validated by the curvy stripper in the bar, and feeling ambivalent about feeling validated. I was watching this episode with a friend one time and she exclaimed, “I love the idea of people paying to see someone who looks like me naked!” and then we laughed about how effed up that is. No amount of feminist thinking fully protects me from thoughts like that. Patriarchy & beauty standards & basing our self-worth on external validation, it’s all such complex mess.

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