Mad Men: “The New Girl”

Mad Men is a funny ol’ show. I went outside for a smoke after last night’s episode, and I thought about how little “action” there was in this episode. Nevertheless, I was amazed at how much “stuff” was crammed in this single episode. And the more I thought about it, the more “stuff” I remembered. This episode reminded me of one of the “slow” episodes of Lost, but at the same time there was an entire season of “Lost answers” crammed into this one episode.

The episode begins with Pete and Trudy visiting a fertility doctor. Pete seems to be going along with it, but as the doctor probes him mentally, it becomes apparent that Pete isn’t ready to be a father. Things weigh on him. The Bomb. The economy. The world in general. It all makes Pete anxious, and I’m pretty sure that his concerns are real, and not something made up for the doctor’s amusement. I did love Pete’s response to the doctor asking him to talk to the nurse about scheduling a time when he can give a semen sample: “whenever she’s free…”

Back at the office, Joan shows off her new engagement ring, and Bobbie Barrett calls Don wanting to “party” because she’s just sold the Grin and Barrett pilot (aside: I like how Joan closed the door to Don’s office after putting Bobbie on hold. She’s a good secretary).

Although Don claims to be working, he eventually meets her at Sardi’s. He orders drinks and food for the couple, then spies Rachel Menken (now Katz). We meet Rachel’s new husband, Tilden, and find out that Menken’s is now with “Grey”, a rival advertising firm. It was a short exchange, but we learned a lot here. Don seemed to be more excited about seeing Rachel then she did him. In fact, she was downright frosty to Don. Whatever happened between those two wasn’t good. In fact, it was bad enough for Rachel to leave for a new firm. So… does that rule out Rachel as one of the people that Don sent the O’Hara book to?

Bobbie then suggests that they go out to her beach house on Long Island. She wants to feel “the cold sand on my back” and the “the surf pounding behind us”. Don and Bobbie keep the party going in the car on the way there, passing a whiskey bottle back and forth between them. Bobbie distracts Don with a kiss… which causes him to have a pretty bad accident. Don subsequently gets locked up for DUI, being over New York’s limit of .15! He needs $150 to pay the fine and get himself out of jail. Unfortunately, he only has $63 on him. He calls someone to help him out:

It’s PEGGY! She’s so awesome! She arrives with $110, then offers to put Bobbie up for the next couple of days (Bobbie got a black eye in the accident, and doesn’t want to have to explain it to Jimmy). Peggy even offers to pick up Bobbie’s clothes from the dry cleaners so she’ll have something to wear, and drive Don to the airport so he can rent a car. Damn! If I’m ever an executive like Don, I want a Peggy Olson in my office!

At home, Don sneaks in the house, only to find Betty waiting up for him in bed. She’s pretty pissed, but when Don explains that he was in an accident, has high blood pressure, and thinks that the booze and pills might have had an adverse reaction which contributed to the wreck… well, Betty goes crazy with worry. It’s the last thing that Don needs at the moment. He tells Betty that he “didn’t want to worry you”. Betty says that he could have at least called him. Frankly, I agree. Dude, your wife is HOT… what the hell is wrong with you?

At the office, the males are in heat because of Don’s new secretary:

When it comes to Mad Men, I usually check a few resources before typing up these things. One is the TV Squad recap. Another is the DVD Talk TV forum. The last is the “Café Society” section of the Straight Dope Message Board. In all of those places, male commenters seemed to drool all over Jane… and frankly, I don’t get it. Joan is way hotter than Jane, and Peggy could be too (Elizabeth Moss is one of those girls that can be really pretty or really average, depending on her makeup and dress). Oh well… different strokes and all that…

In any case, Don barely notices Jane. In fact, he tells Ken that he doesn’t even notice his secretaries any more until they’ve survived a month. Ken is in Don’s office because Jimmy Barrett called Ken and said that he wants to meet with Don as soon as possible. Don doesn’t know why, and he calls Bobbie to make sure their story is holding up. Bobbie swears that it is, so Don is all the more puzzled by Jimmy’s wanting to see him.

At Peggy’s place, Bobbie asks Peggy why she’s doing all this for Don. Peggy says that Don’s “done at lot for me”. We then see an important flashback of Peggy in the hospital. We learn that Peggy may (or may not) have mental issues. I’m not entirely clear as to what New York City hospitals would think of a pregnant single girl in 1960. The doctors and nurses seem to think that something is mentally wrong with Peggy, but we don’t know if its because she’s simply pregnant out of wedlock (which seems a stretch, even for 1960) or because she completely rejected her baby. We do know that they have her on tranquilizers and, most importantly, that Peggy’s sister was pregnant when Peggy was in the hospital. So the baby seen in previous episodes might not be Peggy’s at all. Maybe it is Peggy’s baby. Or maybe her niece or nephew simply reminds Peggy of her child. We just don’t know yet.

Back at the office, Roger and Joan have another (meaningless?) conversation about Joan’s engagement. It seems that Roger really cares about Joan, but he’s simply not in a position to marry her, which is what Joan really wants. I think that Roger would certainly marry her in a different universe. Joan then reprimands Jane for having her top buttons unbuttoned, and showing off her décolletage. Shortly after Joan gives Jane the whole “this is a professional office” speech, Fred Rumsen busts out of his office and plays the first movement of Eine Kliene Nachtmusik with his zipper. Pointless… but priceless!

Meanwhile, back at Peggy’s, Bobbie is giving Peggy an “I am woman, hear me roar” speech. Well, not exactly. But it’s as close as they get in 1962. She tells Peggy to treat Don as an equal, but to be a woman about it.

Pete and Trudy have a gigantic argument that night after she informs him that the “sperm test” showed that Pete’s lil’ swimmers were OK. Pete seems to revel in the “good news”, oblivious to the fact that what the test really revealed is that the problem is with Trudy. Pete remains an insensitive boor to his wife, although he did bring up the good point that is was, in fact, all her idea. Pete then asks if not having a child is so bad, that as a childless couple they could go on vacation or the movies any time they want… which causes Trudy to freak out and scream that she wouldn’t want her dreams to have a child interfere with Pete seeing Cape Fear for the third time. She stops off to the kitchen, and Pete orders her to come back. He’s still, apparently, treating her like a child.

Later that night, Peggy has another flashback… this time of Don visiting her in the hospital:

This is an interesting scene. Don apparently knows about Peggy’s “illness”. He tells her to”do what they say” in order to get out of the hospital. He tells her to “move forward”. He then says that “[t]his never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” Peggy then nods in understanding.

Peggy shows up late at the office the next day, where she reveals that she doesn’t have her work ready (since, ya know, she was taking care of Don’s latest floozy). Don chides her for it, and tells her that she’d better have her work ready on Monday. After Pete and Sal leave, she apologizes to “Mr Draper” for being unprepared, but says “Thank you, Don” when he gives her a portion of her $110 back. Don then gives her an odd look. From the looks of next week’s preview, the attempt for “equality” won’t go down well for Peggy. We’ll see.

The Barretts show up a little while later… where a sober and nice Jimmy thanks Don for getting the Utz people to let Jimmy do his show.

At home that night, Don comes home to find the family eating dinner (mmmm! meatloaf!) Don asks for the salt, and is told that he can’t have any. Sally asks why daddy can’t have salt… and Betty says it’s because we love him.

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