Monday, September 8, 2008

Mad Men is Appointment TV for Me

Last night's episode "The Gold Violin" revealed some more about main and minor characters, all having to do with facades versus ugly realities. As Ken Cosgrove said about the story he showed Sal, "It's (the gold violin he saw that inspired his short story) perfect in every way, but it can't play music." People and things look perfect in every way, but they can't fulfill their basic functions.

Don is being ushered into a greater realm of power with his invitation to join the Board of Directors of the new Museum of Early American Art, but he's an imposter. As we learn in the opening scene, Don started his new life as a used car salesman and a woman from the real Don Draper's past looks him up and bitterly realizes he is the not the man she is looking for. Significantly, this flashback is framed by Don debating about a new car in a Cadillac showroon; he decides against the car, as he apparently feels he doesn't have the right to it. It's only after Cooper spells out the advantages of Don's increased social position that Don returns to the dealership to buy the Caddy. Don looks like the epitome of a successful (possibly upper-class) white male with wealth and social prestige, but he knows it doesn't belong to him. He got to where he is by a lie, and, as we've seen in the past few episodes with Bobbie and Jimmy Barrett, through whoring himself out to Bobbie. Jimmy's angry reveal that he knows Don has been sleeping with Bobbie hits Don as hard as when he learned from Bobbie that he has a reputation for sleeping around.

Sal and Kitty's marriage is also perfect-looking in every way, except it lacks the sexual connection even bad marriages are based upon. Sal is genuinely kind to Kitty and you can see he has real guilt about her unhappiness about the dinner with Ken, but he just doesn't feel for her the way he is attracted to Ken. Sarah Drew as Kitty Romano is adorable; when Sal tries to comfort her, I really wanted him to cup her face between his hands and soothe her with kisses. All she gets is a kiss on the cheek. She's figuring out that something is wrong, but I don't think she has the worldliness to realize that her husband is gay. The next day, when Ken remarks that Sal and Kitty's marriage is something he pictures for himself, you can see Sal's discomfort and eagerness to end the conversation. He knows his marriage is a fake and the fact that he fooled someone else makes him miserable instead of pleased at how well he has hidden his real sexual interest.

Finally, poor Betty. She thought she had Don on a tight leash; she thought Jimmy called her at home to invite her to the shindig at the Stork Club because he liked looking at and flattering her with his blatant corny shtick. She didn't know he was planning to let her in on Bobbie and Don's affair and to get some jilted-partner revenge nookie. When she rejects him and his insinuations, it fuels Jimmy to confront Don and let him know that now that he has gotten Jimmy everything he wanted, he is done with him and calls him garbage for sleeping with another man's wife. To add insult to injury, Jimmy lets Don know that sleeping with Bobby is not a difficult feat. This was the first time in the Barrett storyline that I actually had some sympathy for Jimmy. When he told Betty that he had been standing behind guys like Don all his life, I got a glimpse into the short, nerdy, but viciously funny outsider he must have been as a teen.

Betty's final comment to Jimmy that "you people are crass and vulgar" has stirred up controversy about her intention on many message boards. Was she referring to Jews or "show people"? I believe she brilliantly used the phrase "you people" to have it both ways; Jimmy is touchy about anti-semitism, but Betty can deny that and say she meant comedians or show business people. Either way, it's a great dig that really hurts him.

Moment of high comedy: The conversation between Cooper and Harry about Cooper's new Rothko painting. Harry has agonized about the painting as a litmus test to reveal to Cooper whether he is a philistine or sychophant. He tries to get a feel for Cooper's response by asking, "What do you think it means?" Cooper states in a mock-touched voice, "I don't know. No one's ever asked me that before. . . maybe because it's none of their business!" Great moment. Then, when Cooper puts Harry in his place as a numbers man who shouldn't worry about aesthetics, he lets him in on the real secret: he bought the Rothko for its appreciation value.

Moment of hotness: John Slattery as Roger Sterling comforting the recently fired Jane. As he assures her that she can return to Sterling Cooper on Monday and everything will be okay, he stares at her. We all know he and Christine Hendricks, who plays his ex-mistress Joan, have great chemistry. But this gaze got me too. Frankly, John Slattery could stare at a stuffed animal and I'd have to fan at myself.


Nevis said...

Never seen the show but I've heard good things. My fav shows are Dexter, Entourage, Bones, Heros, House, CSI and anything on Foodnetwork!

enlightenmentgirl said...

Yes, FoodNetwork rules! It's like pornography for foodies.