Men (and Women) Behaving Badly

Bad behavior was on the agenda for the boys and girls of Mad Men this week.   Don was outraged to discover Lois, his secretary, hadn’t properly covered for him when he ducked out of the office for a daytime matinee. Who knew Don liked foreign cinema? Lois was promptly sent back to the switchboard with Joan taking over Don’s affairs. Meanwhile, Don headed off to fix the mess that was made on a commercial set.

The commercial’s star, comic Jimmy Barrett, (a devilish Patrick Fischer) ruffled plenty of feathers when he insults Mrs. Schilling, the wife of the CEO, calling her a whale on a set full of people.  Don is sent to smooth things over. He encounters Bobbie, Jimmy’s wife, manager and mouthpiece who does her best to put Don in his place. Don expects an apology but Bobbie‘s angling for something else.  I can’t say I was surprised to see Don give in to his baser desires but the image of Don coming home to a smiling Betty and washing up made me feel a little less warmth for the man I normally root for.

Betty though isn‘t content either. While her horseback riding gets her out of the house and away from the kids, her interest in Arthur, a fellow rider, keeps her coming back. While Betty knows the boundaries and won’t step out of them, she seems to revel in his attention.  When Arthur  says, “You are so profoundly sad,” it brings back memories of last season’s finale when she was so desperate for someone to listen to her, she confides her sadness to a child. Perhaps in Arthur, she’s found someone who will listen.

When Betty returns from riding, Don asks if she’d like to go to Lutece. Betty’s excitement quickly wanes when she learns that this is no romantic dinner for two but a business dinner.  Don needs Betty to help smooth out the situation between Jimmy and the Schillings. Ever the team player, Betty dazzles (almost too much for Don) who seems nervous that Jimmy may not come through. My favorite line was when Jimmy asks if the happy couple were sold separately. The outer perfection certainly masks their relationship’s imperfection.

The one scene that unnerved me was Don’s encounter with Bobbie in the powder room. Mad Men always walks the line but I found it was more crass than necessary.  In the end though, it served his purpose. Bobbie got Jimmy back on track and he managed to woo Mrs. Schilling and keep Don’s reputation intact as the man who gets things done. Betty was pleased with her own performance and tearfully told Don that they made a good team. It didn’t sound like she really believed that but she was trying to.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Harry accidentally opened Ken Cosgrove’s paycheck and learns he’s being seriously underpaid. In a moment of weakness, he calls his wife (a Betty look -alike) who tells him it’s time to step up and ask for what he’s worth.  Harry does just that, introducing a controversial TV program to their big client Belle Jolie. It’s a gutsy move and one that earns Harry a raise and an opportunity to run the TV division.

This episode touched on relationships and its secrets and lies. The one truly tender moment (and only relationship that didn’t seem doomed) was Harry, who in a world where wives are treated as second class citizens. Harry (after last season’s infidelity) seems to truly value his wife as an equal.  And despite the sometimes distasteful moments, it’s the mistakes and character flaws that keep making me tune in.

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