Mad Men: “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

This episode begins with an amusing scene: Don is in a meeting when his phone rings. He picks up the phone, but no one is there. The phone on the table by the sofa starts ringing, but no one is there, either. Ms. Blankenship walks in the office and tells Don that he has a phone call, but she didn’t know if she should tell him about it or not. Don, exasperated, tells her it’s okay to tell him about phone calls, but not to keep asking if he wants coffee after he’s said no once already.

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Don finally gets his phone call. Walter Hoffman, who writes the advertising column for the New York Times is on the phone, and he wants a comment from Don about rival firm Cutler Gleason and Chaough taking the Clearasil and jai alai accounts. Don says that he doesn’t talk about old accounts, and when Hoffman mentions a snarky quote from Ted Chaough about Don “looking in his rearview mirror and seeing me”, Don says that he’s never heard of him.

Don then goes to a partner’s lunch, where Pete announces that his has gotten the interest of Honda, who is looking to change agencies for their motorcycles advertising. Lane mentions that it’s a $3 million account at present, and that the company wants to expand into automobiles. Roger kills the fun by saying that SCDP will not do business with the Japanese. Pete starts to object, but Roger cuts him off, saying that he used to have a lot of friends, but those friends were killed by Pete’s new “yellow buddies”. Bert cuts him off, and Roger storms out of the room. The remaining partners tell Pete to go ahead, and he says that he’s been advised to read The Chrysanthemum and the Sword to learn about Japanese business culture. Don tells Joan to get everyone a copy of the book.

Later that night we see Sally and Bobby watching TV while Don prepares for a date. His neighbor Phoebe arrives to watch the children. Some time passes, and we see Phoebe sitting with Bobby on the sofa watching a cartoon. We hear the toilet flush, and see Sally walk out of the bathroom. She has decided to cut her hair, and it’s a disaster. Phoebe is terrified of what Don will say when he gets home, but Sally says that she has short hair on Don likes it. She then asks Phoebe if she and Don are “doing it”.

Meanwhile, Don and Bethany are at Benihana, where Bethany appears to be having less than a good time. Before Don can address it, Ted Chaough walks up and introduces himself and his wife, Nan, to the couple. Ted antagonizes Don by saying that his agency will beat SCDP for the Honda account. After Ted walks away, Don describes him as “a fly he keeps swatting away” to Bethany. He then sees her using chopsticks, and asks her to teach him how to use them.

Back at home, Phoebe nervously waits for Don to get home. When he walks through the door she apologizes, but when Don finds out what happened, he talks about the “river of shit” Betty will give him for this. He gives her some money, which she initially refuses, until Don tells her it’s “severance pay”.

We then see Don dropping the kids off at home. Betty hugs Bobby and smiles. Her face then turns cold and stern and she orders Sally to take her knit cap off. Betty first accuses Don of cutting her hair, but when Sally says that she did it herself, Betty slaps her across the face. Don and Henry both object, but Betty orders Sally to her room. Don affectionately rubs her head and tells her that everything will be OK. After the kids leave, Don tells Betty that she didn’t have to slap Sally, and Betty agrees “because it doesn’t do anything”. She screams up the stairs that school picture day is coming up, and that Sally is forbidden from going to a sleepover. Don tries to calm her down with a “kids will be kids” line, but when Betty hears that a sitter was involved, she says she doesn’t want to know about it. Don tells her to take her to the hairdresser and then storms out. Betty says she wants Don dead; Henry agrees, and mentions was a great father he was, but softly tells her that Don is right.

The next day, all the principals (save Roger) meet with two executives from Honda and their translator. The men are given a tour of the office, where we see how bad the translator is, and we see the Honda men make a rude comment about Joan. We then see the end of the meeting, where Pete given them gifts. Just then, however, Roger walks in the room and makes several rude comments to their Japanese guests. The meeting continues on uncomfortably, and Kamura explains the rules of the contest between agencies: they are to have a maximum budget of $3000 and no one is to submit completed work.

After the meeting, Don storms in to Roger’s office. Don says that Roger has no right to kill off a potential account, and he points about the the Japanese love design and he would love to work for them. Roger again says that his friends died fighting the Japanese. Pete then walks into the office, and tells Roger that the world has moved on. He then says that he knows what Roger is up to: by keeping other large clients away, Roger keeps his friend Lee Garner Jr. (and Lucky Strike) very important to the agency, thus increasing his own importance. Roger lunges at Pete, but Don stops him. Roger orders Pete out of his office. Pete says that the rest of them are trying to “build something” with SCDP. After Pete leaves, Don turns to Roger and says that Pete is right. He then leaves.

Later that night, we see Sally at the sleepover at Laura’s house. Laura sleeps on the sofa while Sally watches TV. We see her slowly lift up her nightgown and begin masturbating. She’s suddenly interrupted by Laura’s mother, who asks her what she’s doing. Laura’s mother then drives Sally home. Henry goes downstairs to see what’s wrong, but Jean (Laura’s mom) insists on speaking with Betty alone.

After Jean leaves, Betty goes upstairs and rudely tells Sally that you “don’t do those things… especially in public”. Sally says she wasn’t doing anything, and Betty threatens to cut her fingers off for lying. Alone with Henry in the bedroom, Betty tells him what happened, and Henry suggests that she see a child psychologist. Betty mentions that she went to a psychologist once and feels that it didn’t work.

The next morning, Pete and Lane visit Don in his office to tell him that they think they’re still “on” with Honda, as Lane received a phone call requesting a time for SCDP’s presentation to Honda. Don thinks that there might be someone like Roger at every firm, but just as he finishes saying that, Bert and Roger walk into his office. Bert has apparently had a talk with Roger, who now says that the firm will have his full support. When Pete mentions the follow-up call to schedule the presentation, Bert says that it’s all over, that the Honda people will expect them to resign. Pete disagrees, but Bert asks if they’ve received a gift from Honda. Don buzzes Ms. Blankenship, who says that he did, in fact, receive a gift. But when the card is read, it’s a taunting note from Ted Chaough. When Bert observes that there’s no gift, Roger instantly launches in to an anti-Japanese rant. Pete cuts him off, and Don wearily notes that they’ve lost another account to Chaough. He then decides to go all-out by shooting a TV commercial, which Lane objects to for multiple financial reasons, and Bert for cultural ones.

That night, we see Don alone in his apartment, sitting on the bed reading The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. The phone rings. It’s Betty. She says that “they” want to send Sally to a psychiatrist. Don notes the “they” bit and asks if it’s about her cutting her hair. Betty says it’s more serious, that she was caught masturbating at a friend’s house. Betty says they’ve already found a good doctor, and Don asks why they’re even bothering to call him if they’re so far along already. The two snipe at each other, with Betty saying that she might have picked it up from Don’s many liaisons. Don is incredulous:

“You brought another man into your bed into her house, you don’t think she’s noticed that?”

The next morning, Don walks into the office and immediately calls Peggy, Pete and Joan into his office. Once everyone’s there, he quotes from The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: “A man is shamed by being openly ridiculed and rejected. It requires an audience.” Don says that making a commercial would bankrupt the agency. Pete chimes in that it would break the rules, too. Don notes that Cutler Gleason and Chaough is about the same size as SCDP, and doing a TV commercial would bankrupt them, too. Don says that he plans on making CGC think he’s making a commercial. This will not only make Chaough look bad to the Japanese, it will ruin the rival agency. Peggy asks what SCDP pitch will be. Don says that there won’t be one.

To the sound of jazz music, we see Joan meeting with the director of CGC’s Clearasil commercial. She tries to hire him away by promising an ever more elaborate budget for the ad. Don knocks on the door of her office. He apologizes for interrupting her, and says that he thought he could put the red Honda bike he’s holding up in her office. When the director finds out that it was “the Don Draper”, he gets even more excited.

The director tells Chaough about the commercial, who doesn’t understand how SCDP can afford to make a commercial on spec. Chaough asks his secretary to call for former Sterling Cooper employee Smitty. While waiting for him, Chaough describes an incredibly elaborate ad. Smitty walks in with nothing but glowing words for Don; he even calls him a “genius”. Chaough, offended, banishes Smitty from the office.

We then see Peggy and Joey holding a motorcycle outside a studio. When someone from the CGC shoot in the next building walks out of the door, Peggy and Joey push their cycle into the studio next door. Some time passes, and Chaough’s men try to walk in the studio SCDP has rented, but are turned away. Little do they know that inside Peggy is just driving the motorcycle in circles:

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Later that evening, we see Don at his desk. He gets up and walks into the break room, where he sees Dr Miller. He opens the “gift” Chaough sent over, which turns out to be sake. He pours a glasses for the both of them, then asks why people “need to talk about everything”. She says that whatever the reason, people feel better after they’ve talked. Don asks her if she has any kids, and what her husband does. Faye says that she’s not married, and that she only pretends to be to avoid “distractions”. She asks about his situation – married? kids? – and Don eventually admits to feeling like an inadequate parent, and then says that Sally might end up seeing a shrink. Faye offers him some words of encouragement, then says she must go. Don asks if she’s having fake dinner with her fake husband.

We then see Betty meeting with Dr. Edna, the child psychologist. Betty talks about what’s happened to the children this past year, and Dr. Edna says that she will want to meet with both Betty and Don. Betty says that she doubts Edna will meet Don because “that’s his level of interest” in the kids. Edna kind of frowns, then asks if the “masturbating incident” is the reason why Betty called her. Betty doesn’t answer, and instead says that she knows the divorce has been hard on Sally, as was the death of her father, Gene, with whom Sally was so close. Betty looks at the floor and swallows after saying this, and Dr. Edna looks at her closely. Betty says that she wishes her father could have met Henry, as they would have gotten along well. Betty then starts talking about her mother, and an incident where her brother bought a “nudist magazine”. “What about you?”, Dr. Edna asks. The two arrange sessions for Sally, and Dr. Edna suggests that Betty talk to someone too.

Don sits, waiting to meet with the Honda executives. Teddy Chaough emerges from the meeting room, crowing to Don about CGC’s slick new commercial for Honda. Don insists that they didn’t make a commercial.

Meeting with the Honda men, Don embarrasses them for not following their own rules and allowing CGC to make a commercial. He saves SCDP’s “honor” by withdrawing from the competition and writing the men a personal check for $3,000. He politely hands Mr. Kamura the check, thanks them for thinking of SCDP, bows slightly, and leaves.

Back at the office, Joan walks in to Roger’s office to deliver a message. He invites her in for a drink, and she refuses, saying that she won’t let him feel sorry for himself. He says that Don is “surrendering” to the Japanese right now, and starts telling a war story about one of his friends. Joan cuts him off:

“Roger, I know it was awful, and I know it’ll never seem like it was that long ago. But you fought to make the world a safer place and you won and now it is.”

We then see Don returning to the office. He goes to pour himself a drink, but Pete and Lane walk in… with good news! Lane has spoken with Mr Saito, and it seems that Honda was never going to leave Grey, and that Don impressed them the most. SCDP is now first in line for the account for Honda’s new car. Lane also says that CGC is “out of the running”. Lane then calls Don’s “stunt” unseemly, and he only let Don go through with it because he realized that SCDP’s future depended on CGC’s failure.

We then see Sally, with Carla, sitting in Dr. Edna’s waiting room. The door to her office opens and a little boy comes out. Dr. Edna invites her in, and closes the door behind her.

OTHER STUFF

– Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture is a book by American anthropologist Ruth Benedict, released in 1946. Benedict wrote the book as a natural extension of a large study she did for the US government during the war. American prisoners-of-war (POWs) most often wanted to contact their families to let them know they were OK, but would refuse to give any information about troop movements and resupply missions to their captors. Japanese POWs were the exact opposite: they’d freely give any military information their American captors wanted, but refused to contact their families. The U.S. Army wanted to know why this was, along with many other Japanese “quirks”, and Benedict was tasked at finding out why. Benedict’s work has since been harshly criticized for failing to meet modern academic standards, and for being written “at a distance” (by using Japanese newspaper articles, films and books rather than by visiting Japan itself). It’s interesting that her work is marginally more popular in Japan than it is in the United States.

– Side note: Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Benedict began giving lectures at Bryn Mawr, and continued to teach there until her death on September 17, 1948. I haven’t done the math to figure out the dates, but it’s possible that Betty, who went to Bryn Mawr, could have had her for a professor or attended one of her lectures.

– “Walter Hoffman” was a pseudonym for Nino Lo Bello, an American journalist who moved to Rome to report on the Vatican. For eight years he was the main Italian correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, which ceased publication in 1966. Lo Bello is mainly remembered for his tell-all book The Vatican Papers, released in 1978. He died of a heart attack in 1997.

– Selma, Alabama was ground zero for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Interesting fact: although Selma was more than 50% black, only 1% of its black citizens were registered to vote. This was due to threats of violence from the local police, the White Citizens’ Council and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the fact that the voter registration office was only open two days a month, and workers arrived there late and took very long lunches. At the time, literacy tests were also used to keep blacks from registering. Read more about the literacy tests here and Selma’s role in the Civil Rights Movement here.

– Bill Bernbach, mentioned several times in Mad Men, was the creative genius behind Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach (now known as DDB). According to a 2008 study by Advertising Age, DDB has the highest revenue of any ad agency in the world, at $12.69 billion a year. Bernbach, a Jew, was the man behind the wildly successful “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagen, which Advertising Age named the best advertising campaign of all time back in 1999 (read more about VW’s 1960s advertising here). He was also the creator of the “Mikey” campaign for Life Cereal and “We Try Harder” for Avis Car Rental. DDB was also behind the controversial “Daisy” commercial for the 1964 LBJ campaign, a move that later landed one of the agency’s partners on Richard Nixon’s infamous enemies list:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8NFb-2umvQ

Many Bernbach quotes sound exactly like something Don Draper would say, like “good advertising builds sales; great advertising builds factories” and “a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something”.

– At the end of the first Honda meeting, Roger, seemingly out of the blue, mentions a “Dr. Lyle Evans”. Pete then asks who that is. I can tell you right now… he doesn’t exist. I’m not entirely sure why the writers threw his name out, but it appears to be an exercise in viral marketing. Google only returns a single person with that name, a public school teacher in Saskatchewan. However, people searching for the name after the episode aired sent “Lyle Evans” to the top of Google’s Hot Trend list. What I’m not clear on is whether this is supposed to be advertising itself, some sort of test of Mad Men viewer’s Internet acumen, or whether the folks behind Mad Men are using the Hot Trend spike as a ploy to get more money from advertisers or what. Read more about the mysterious Dr. Lyle Evans here.

– Just after the Honda meeting, we see Sally reading and Bobby coloring while the news is heard in the background. The story is about the death of James Reeb, a Unitarian minister who had joined Martin Luther King in his Civil Rights Marches. On March 9, 1965, Reeb and two other white ministers were attacked outside the Silver Moon Café, a known gathering spot for segregationist whites. The local hospital refused to treat Reeb, and so he was taken to University Hospital in Birmingham, two hours away, He died on March 11 from his injuries. Although many blacks in the area mourned Reeb’s death, many were angry that the national media took such an interest in the incident, whereas they were largely silent when it came to the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, an unarmed black protester whose death at the hands of an Alabama State Trooper became the basis for the Selma to Montgomery marches in the first place.

– Thanks to Reeb’s death, we can date this episode to around March 15, 1965. I can’t find the exact date Reeb was cremated (as mentioned in the news clip shown in this episode), but March 15 is the date of his funeral, where Martin Luther King delivered this eulogy.

Benihana is, of course, a famous chain of Japanese restaurants. The first was opened in 1964 at West 56th Street in New York by then 25 year-old Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki. Aoki, a wrestler who qualified for (but did not attend) the 1960 Olympics, opened the restaurant after saving $10,000 from his Harlem ice cream truck route. He named the restaurant after his parent’s coffee shop of the same name in Tokyo. To give another New York Herald Tribune reference, the first Benihana restaurant did not do well until 1965, when Clementine Paddleford of the paper gave it a rave review. Celebrities then began appearing regularly at the restaurant, cementing its popularity. It would have been considered exotic and expensive when Don took Bethany there.

– The cartoon the kids watch with Phoebe is Top Cat.

– Where did Phoebe’s accent come from? And why did it seem to come and go so much? It’s like she has a normal “American TV” accent until she says certain words – like “hayer”, in which case she sounds like she just got to New York from the tiniest hill town in Tennessee. What gives?

– “The man pees inside the woman”. Is this the universal misunderstanding of sexual reproduction for 4-9 year old kids?

Hayley Mills is a British actress who appeared in several Disney films after Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, saw her performance in Tiger Bay, a 1959 British film (and also the title of a 1994 album by one of my favorite bands, Saint Etienne). Her most famous role is probably from The Parent Trap, a 1961 Disney film in which she played twins scheming to get their divorced parents back together. Foreshadowing, maybe? At the time of this episode, Mills would have been 18.

– I don’t think white chrysanthemums actually symbolize “death” in Japan, but rather grief and sorrow (which, admittedly are often associated with death, but aren’t the same thing) The flower, introduced into Japan some time in the 8th century AD, quickly became the official symbol of the Japanese emperor. The flower is prominently featured on the emperor’s official seal, and his official title is “The Chrysanthemum Throne”. “The Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum” is the name of one of the highest awards given out in Japan, and there is a “Festival of Happiness” celebrating Chrysanthemums every year. Chrysanthemums are also, supposedly, a metaphor for homosexuality in Japan, as the flower somewhat resembles the anus.

– When she first meets the men from Honda, Joan says “I hope no one’s taken you to Benihana”. I’m not absolutely sure, but I believe that it’s considered bad etiquette to take a foreign businessman to a restaurant of his native cuisine. Or maybe it’s just Japanese businessmen.

– “How does she not fall over?” Bwhahahahahaha!!

– It was nice to see Pete almost follow Japanese business etiquette when giving the Honda men gifts. He made sure the gifts were not wrapped in white paper (a symbol of death in Japanese culture), he used both hands to give the head Honda man his gift (he should have used both hands to give each of the other men their gifts, though), he allowed the Japanese man to politely refuse the gift a couple times, and he also said that the gift was a “small token” (you’re not supposed to make them feel bad by giving them an expensive gift, even if it is expensive). He even thought of appropriate gifts; Japanese custom says that such gifts should be something consumable (exotic fruit, chocolate or liquor), or something that can be taken home and admired. However, such gifts should be opened later, outside the presence of the giver, as Bert strongly hinted to Pete.

– The Honda executives are Ichiro Kamura and Hachi Saito. The translator is Akira Takahashi. The older executive (Kamura) is played by Sab Shimono, who once played a Japanese TV executive on Seinfeld (“The Checks”). And I don’t guess it’s a coincidence that Akira Takahashi is also the name of an anime director of note.

– The $3,000 limit for the Honda proposal is almost $21,000 in 2009 dollars.

– Sally was watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E. when she started masturbating. That was a spy series which ran on NBC from September 22, 1964 to January 15, 1968 and starred Scottish actor David McCallum as Russian agent Illya Kuriakin. The series was originally conceived by Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, and was originally to be called Ian Fleming’s Solo (after Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo character). But fans liked Kuriakin so much that “solo” became a “duo”. Oh, and “U.N.C.L.E.” stood for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement”. The specific episode Sally was watching was entitled “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair” (Asian connection!), which actually aired on March 15, 1965.

– Of course, I wasn’t around in 1965, but weren’t people’s attitudes about masturbation really loosening up by then? I can imagine being sent to an insane asylum for getting caught masturbating in 1935, but I thought people were generally more enlightened about it by 1965. (And yeah, I know masturbating in “public” is different.)

Loved Ms. Blankenship’s line about “Misters Peter and Price here to see you”. She just doesn’t get that Pete’s a partner, does she?

– Pete calls the Honda meeting a “Margaret Dumont size disaster”. Born in Brooklyn on October 20, 1882, Dumont had a short career in silent films before being paired with the Marx Brothers for some of their best known comedies. By the end of her life, she’d become quite large. She was probably on Pete’s mind because she died of a heart attack on March 6, 1965, just nine days prior to this episode.

– Ted Chaough’s “Help Me Honda” note is a reference to the Beach Boys song “Help Me, Ronda”, which was included on the The Beach Boys Today! album, released on March 8, 1965. The song wasn’t meant to be a single, but when it became popular with radio DJs it was re-recorded and released as “Help Me Rhonda” (note the change in spelling) on April 5, 1965. The recording session for “Ronda” is famous among Beach Boys fans as it was interrupted by Murray Wilson, father of band members Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson, and uncle of Mike Love and an early manager of the band. According to Wikipedia, “Murry… openly criticized the Boys’ enthusiasm. His criticisms drove Brian Wilson to breaking point and Brian screamed an expletive, removed his headphones and confronted his father. Shortly after defending his actions, Murry Wilson left the studio and The Beach Boys continued with the session. The recording reel continued to roll and recorded the entire confrontation which circulates among fans.”

– “Help Me Honda” would actually be used in a real-life Honda ad campaign in the 1990s.

– The toy seen at SCDP after Don and Betty have their heated phone conversation about Sally is called a “drinking bird”. If you want to learn how it works, hit the Wiki link and read more. What I find interesting about it is that it was invented by Miles V. Sullivan and co-developed by George H. Shackley in 1945. It was given U.S. Patent number 2,402,463 the following year. The toy was considered an instant success at the time and was featured in a 1951 Merrie Melodies cartoon called “Putty Tat Trouble”. I don’t think the toy would be considered “new” or “novel” in New York in 1965. Am I wrong here?

– The child psychiatrist is Dr. Edna Keener. She’s played by Patricia Bethune, currently also seen on True Blood.

– Thanks to the check he gave to the Japanese, we know that Don lives at 104 Waverly Place, Apt. 3B. We also know that he banks at Chemical Bank (then the third largest bank in the United States), and that the meeting took place on March 23, 1965. The check number was 172:

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– Honda was founded by Soichiro Honda, a mechanic and self-taught engineer. He developed a piston design which he hoped to sell to Toyota; when the design was rejected he went back to school and even pawned his wife’s jewelry to make ends meet. He eventually perfected his design, sold it to Toyota, and built a factory to make the pistons. During World War II, severe gas shortages led him to tinkering with putting small motors on bicycles. This attracted much curiosity, and after the war he called on the nation’s 18,000 bicycle retailers to do their patriotic duty and help him rebuild the country’s manufacturing sector. With this, he was able to raise enough capital to begin manufacturing his first motorcycle, the Honda Cub. By 1964, Honda had become the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles.

Unfortunately for SCDP, Honda wouldn’t begin selling cars in North America until 1970, when the N600 arrived:

Honda n600

As hinted at in this episode, the car was first seen as something of a joke by many Americans. It was tiny, even for a small car (the Ford Pinto, by contrast, was over three feet longer and 700 pounds heaver than the N600). The car had a laughably small 36hp engine with a 0-60 time of 23.4 seconds. It had a 3 cubic foot trunk, which is about the size of a medium moving box (18″ x 18″ x 16″). Although the car wasn’t a smashing success, it allowed Honda to set up a dealer network, and it taught Honda about the American automobile market. When the Oil Crisis of 1973 came around, fuel-efficient Japanese cars, once laughed at, became big sellers… and Honda was ready.

– The song used in the closing credits is “I Enjoy Being a Girl”, from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song. The song, which is about the “traditional values” of womanhood, was considered hopelessly out-of-date by the late 1960s, thanks to the women’s movement:

I’m a girl, and by me that’s only great!
I am proud that my silhouette is curvy,
That I walk with a sweet and girlish gait
With my hips kind of swivelly and swervy.

I adore being dressed in something frilly
When my date comes to get me at my place.
Out I go with my Joe or John or Billy,
Like a filly who is ready for the race!

When I have a brand new hairdo
With my eyelashes all in curl,
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a girl!

When men say I’m cute and funny
And my teeth aren’t teeth, but pearl,
I just lap it up like honey
I enjoy being a girl!

If the song is sung at all these days, it’s usually as a parody. The only people who seem to take the song somewhat seriously are… drag queens, with whom the song still has some appeal. Interesting, though, that it would close out this episode (what, with Sally and Betty and all).

MY THOUGHTS

Wow! What an episode! There was so much going on that I really just don’t even know where to start!

I guess the first thing would be to say that I was excited to see actual, you know, advertising work going on this week. I love Mad Men almost unconditionally, but I really enjoy it when they show business going on. And it was all the better that Ted Chaough was “hoisted by his own petard”, as Shakespeare would say.

To change gears a bit, why did Don get mad at Phoebe and Betty get mad at Don about her cutting her hair? I mean, Sally disappeared into the bathroom and came out a few minutes later with her hair chopped off. What was Phoebe supposed to do… follow her into the bathroom? I get why everyone’s mad, I just don’t get why they’re directing their anger at the wrong place. And yes, I did something stupid like that (my mom was giving me a haircut when the phone rang, and I cut a big chunk of my hair off while she was gone). Didn’t most kids? I found it telling, though, that Sally preferred to talk to Phoebe about sex instead of Betty. Thinking back to my childhood, I might have preferred talking to a “stranger” about sex myself, but I wonder if Sally’s refusal to talk to Betty is just another sign of a deeper problem.

Speaking of problems, I wonder if it means anything that Don’s call to California went unanswered. I’m assuming he was calling Anna, and am thinking that perhaps she’s gone to the hospital for her final days. That’s gonna be so sad.

Did anyone else find it amusing that Don asked Dr. Miller why people “feel the need to talk”… and almost immediately he began talking to her about his problems?

Which brings up another point…who do you want to see Don with? Personally, I’m all for Faye Miller. Bethany is annoying and needs to go away. I obviously wasn’t of dating age in 1965, but I imagine that Benihana would be a cool, exotic place to go back then. But instead, Bethany whines about how her hair will smell like chicken. Phoebe is OK, but not especially inspiring. Dr. Miller, on the other hand, is pretty and very much Don’s intellectual equal. She also seems “liberated enough” to be the kind of strong woman that Don is attracted to. However, it’s hard to tell. A lot of men marry doormats and have affairs with dominatrices, and Don is a prime example of that.

Am I the only one who hopes that Ms. Blankenship becomes Don’s permanent secretary? I know she’s a bit over the top, and adds a bit too much “slapstick” at times… but man, if her character funny or what? I love how confused she appears to be by technology, and how she announced Cooper and Sterling over the buzzer… several seconds after they were already there! And her screaming about Sally’s psychiatrist was priceless!

And so… speaking of… Dr. Edna. The pivotal scene in this episode was Betty talking to Dr. Edna. It seems to me that Edna saw through Betty almost instantly, given the looks she gave Betty even before quietly suggesting that she see a shrink of her own. And how fitting is it that Betty would end up talking to a child psychologist? It says a lot about Betty! And, on a side note, let me just say that I don’t hate Henry Francis. Sure, he’s kind of a wooden stick in the mud, but how many times have we seen Don complain about this or that, Betty pitch a fit about it, and Henry end up comforting her, and gently saying that Don is right. Don talks to Betty like a wife (albeit too angrily at times, I’ll admit), but Henry talks to her like she’s a woman-child. “I want him dead“, she petulantly complains after Don leaves. How could the kids have not heard that.

Oh, and while I’m talking about Henry, this is the second time we’ve seen him “impotent” in the Draper house. You think the guy wants to move or what?

And how much does it say that Carla, not Betty, took Sally to her first appointment? I also want to take a second to praise Deborah Lacey (Carla). The poor woman doesn’t get a lot of lines in this show, but she can say more with one facial expression than January Jones can with 30 seconds of screen time. And I say that as a fan of January Jones, mind you.

I feel like there’s so much more to say… but I’ll just end it here. Because next Sunday is just around the corner!

8 Replies to “Mad Men: “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword””

  1. You always do an excellent job of research following each episode and I look forward to your blog post each week. Why do you think Kamura says “David Ogilvy” as a response to Joan saying “I hope no one’s taken you to Benihana”. I assume Kamura was implying Ogilvy, who was known as “the Father of Advertising” and was known for his research, had taken them to Benihana. Seems contradictory – maybe that was the point. And yes it was, and is, considered, at least, inconsiderate, to take a foreign business man to a restaurant in the US serving (supposedly) cuisine from their home country. Having worked with an Austrian company at one point, the last thing they wanted here was Wienerschnitzel. It was very accurate of Joan to say that she could suggest a “good Steak House.”.

  2. This is driving me nuts! Ted Chaough describes his commercial. A Honda racing through the city and going up s flight of stairs. The motorcycle stops. The rider removes the helmet and it is a woman. I remember that commercial! It did exist but I’ll be darned if I can find it on the Web. Anyone remember it? I am not even sure it was for Honda. Could have been another motorcycle.

  3. @Carner York: It’s familiar to me, too!

    @Jim (nice name!): I think he was joking, or maybe it was a joke for us viewers?

  4. I wasn’t joking and I still cannot find the commercial. I have talked to 5 other people who remember it so I am more confident than ever that it did indeed exist. Maybe not exactly as Chaough described it but similar. Mad Men makes a ton of references to real people and events from that era. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was their little joke on the viewers. I’ll keep researching.

  5. “where we see how bad the translator is”
    I read these scenes a different way … I had the definite impression that the interpreter was being judicious at various points, since in many spots he translated quite accurately. Often interpreters are put in the position of, “Shall I translate this joke they’re unlikely to get?” or “Shall I translate this un-diplomatic comment?” In real life, I believe they usually do, but often in art, the writer prefers the dramatic device of having the interpreter “clean up” offensive material. One of my favorite “Doonesbury” cartoons was one in which Ambassador Duke’s Chinese interpreter, Honey, is translating his speech correctly right up until he starts into a lame joke about Mao’s little red book. At that point, she says to the audience, “I think he’s about to make a joke …” and then when the obnoxious punch line is uttered, she tells them, “The joke has been made, and he will be expecting you to laugh at it. Go wild.” Needless to say, Duke is thrilled with his reception.

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