Mad Men: “The Benefactor”

Wow – Mad Men‘s getting dark again, isn’t it? It really is starting to live up to its tagline: “Where the truth lies”.

This episode begins with comedian “Jimmy Barrett” filming a commercial for Utz potato chips. Barrett – a pastiche of Don Rickles, Jackie Mason, and\or Gene Saks – has had a few drinks, and when Utz owners Mr and Mrs Schilling enter the room, Barrett launches a verbal assault on Mrs Schilling and her considerable girth. The Schillings are understandably offended, and Barrett is too drunk to care. A fiasco thus ensues for Sterling Cooper.

Unfortunately for the agency, Don is at the movies, looking for meaning (again)… this time in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte. When he gets back to the office, the agency is in crisis mode. Don angrily fires Lois and vows to take matters into his own hands.

Meanwhile, two big things have happened: Arthur and Betty have more conversations at the stables, and Henry opens Ken’s paycheck and finds out that he makes $100 a week less than Ken. This causes Henry to call a friend at CBS to see if any jobs are available there. There aren’t, but his friend does mention that he desperately needs advertisers for an upcoming episode of The Defenders.  Why? The episode is about abortion, and none of his regular advertisers will touch it with a 10-foot pole. Henry thinks that he can sell the ad space to a Sterling Cooper client for pennies on the dollar, and comes up with a plan to sell it to his bosses. Most touching about this scene: the fact that Henry calls his wife for advice about his money situation, and that Jennifer actually gives him good advice. Henry and Jennifer are, more than any other couple on Mad Men, a “team”. They’re husband and wife in the “modern” sense, and it’s cute to see them together.

But then… everything gets dark. Don goes to meet Bobbie Barrett (Jimmy’s wife), to see what it will take to get Jimmy to apologize to Mrs Schilling:

Bobbie don’t play. She takes on Don at every turn, and at one point she suggests that Jimmy will apologize only if Don lets Jimmy have sex with Betty! Negotiations are at an impasse. Don offers to give her a ride home… when a hailstorm breaks out… and Bobbie kisses Don in the car! What happens next isn’t clear: several blogs have talked about how “Don slept with Bobbie”, but the official AMC recap only mentions the kiss. Personally, I’m not sure. I think he only kissed her, but I’m not sure about that.

At home, Sally asks Don if she can ride with Mom on Saturday. Don tells her no. Betty then gives Don his watch, which she’d taken to get repaired (and engraved as a special treat). Don looks at the engraving, says “Awww, Bets!” and kisses her.

Saturday rolls around, and Betty goes to the stables to ride. She, of course, runs in to Arthur. They have a long conversation, which ends with Arthur trying to kiss Betty. She refuses his advances, and in doing so looks absolutely beautiful. January Jones is one of those people that looks much better on TV than she does in real life. Which is a pity, because when she’s all dolled up as Betty Draper, she’s totally a modern day Grace Kelly:

Anyway, while Betty is at the stables, Don calls Bobbie to arrange a dinner between her and Jimmy, Don and Betty, and the Schillings. When Betty comes home, Don asks her how she feels about going to Lutece on Monday night. Betty is initially excited, but then she finds out that it’s a “business thing”. Betty asks if “this is one where I talk, or where I don’t talk?” Don gives her one of his trademark lines: “I need you to be shiny and bright. I need a better half.” She complains about the short notice and having nothing to wear. Don, seeing that she’s really complaining about not spending time with her husband, tells her that they’ll go alone sometime. He then calls her “Birdie” (for those of you keeping up with his nicknames). Hmmm..

On Monday, the crowd at Sterling Cooper pitches the Defender opportunity to a representative from the Belle Jolie cosmetics company (the same guy that hit on Sal in season 1). The rep refuses, saying the episode is too controversial for his company to be associated with.

Roger nevertheless thanks Henry for his initiative. Henry asks Roger to create a television department, as many other ad agencies have them now. Roger agrees. He also asks for a $110 a week raise. Roger disagrees, saying that no one even makes close to that amount of money (a lie). He offers Henry a $25 a week raise instead, which Henry accepts. Roger then tells Henry that he drives a hard bargain. Snerk.

Sooooo. Monday night. The big dinner between the Edith and Hunt Schilling, the Drapers, and the Barretts. Jimmy and Bobbie are late, and when they do show up, Jimmy ignores the Schillings to shamelessly flirt with Betty. Don sees everything going downhill, so when Bobbie excuses herself to go to the ladies room, Don waits a couple of moments, then follows her. He meets up with her in an antechamber, and Bobbie is her usual greedy, vicious self. Don puts up with it for a few moments… and then he sticks his hand under her skirt:

With his hands on her private parts, Don slowly and carefully tells Bobbie: “Believe me… I will ruin him. Do what I say.”

What a fucking badass!

Back at the table, Bobbie makes Jimmy apologize to Edith and Hunt. Although the apology is not exactly dripping with contrition, the Schillings nevertheless accept his apology. The Schillings say that they’re famished, Don calls a waiter over, and everything is back to normal.

Except that, on the way home, Betty starts crying. She tells Don that she’s just so happy, and that “when I said I wanted to be part of your life, this is what I meant. We make a great team”. I just don’t get what’s up with Don and Betty’s relationship. I guess we’re not supposed to know that yet. We’ll just have to see what happens next week.


– Peggy’s painful moment when the Belle Jolie rep asks her if women will watch a TV show about abortion.

– No Pete? No way!

– The several movie references in this episode. For example, at the dinner, Jimmy tells Don that he “loved you in Gentlemen’s Agreement“. Presumably, Jimmy’s referring to Don’s good looks, like Gregory Peck in that movie. But the plot of the film is this: a Gentile reporter pretends to be Jewish to write a story about anti-Semitism, only to discover that it sucked being a Jew in America. It’s yet another allusion to Don pretending to be someone he’s not.

– Will Sal and the Belle Jolie rep hook up at some point? Will we find out of Sal’s “girlfriend” (or “wife”) is “in” on his secret, or will she be crushed?

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