The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Get that girl a counselor!

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Sally Draper walks in

Dear Natalie,

How many times is poor Sally going to walk in on adulterous sex? She may not have made it to second base herself yet, but if there were a category in the Model UN on various sexual acts and positions, she’d be on the Security Council. It hardly helps her budding sexuality that each encounter is so loaded with lies, shame, and deceit. Or at least it didn’t seem to help the young Dick Whitman’s ideas of sex. Can someone please call Dr. Edna?

Let’s back up a minute, shall we. Did you think that Don was saving Mitchell Rosen from sure front-line duty all to get back into Sylvia’s pants? Because I did not.  Call me a sucker, but I believe that he was really affected by Arnold’s panic and near tears and I really enjoyed seeing the budding male friendship with Don and Arnie as they hash out Mitchell’s fate. It’s Sylvia who assumes that this is all about her, and Don is enough of a cad to go along with it if it means they can have one more roll in the guest bed (you can see him switch into seducer mode when he shifts the telephone on his ear and lights his cigarette). I get why Sylvia feels like she owes him a carnal expression of gratitude, but the irony of it is that for once Don was just doing the right thing and there is no where good that rekindle flame can lead. And that is true prior to Sally’s unfortunate B&E to retrieve the false love letter. All the effort and negotiations that went into saving Mitchell now result in one more loaded, inappropriate secret Sally has to bear and one more huge knock to her already fragile sense that adults are people worth trusting. Not to mention, how insulting to be treated like a four year old who didn’t understand what she really saw! I am willing to bet that Sally has enough Don in her to hold her tongue, unless she turns out to have a bit more Betty and let her secret slip, oh, I don’t know, to Betty, which would be a priceless and complicated form of revenge.

As Don buttons up his pants and his panic, he has ostensibly signed a binding “no more war” agreement with Ted. But since Don didn’t seem to actually realize that Ted thought they were at war, I am not sure how that is going to go. And what happened to the “all business is your business” team-spirit Ted? I guess OceanSpray can turn anyone’s head.

There were many other juicy subplots that I will leave to you, except to say that I really hope Peggy does not become a cat lady. I was surprisingly moved by the tenderness between her and Pete – their chemistry has always been such a treat – and it was gratifying to see the look of surprise on Ted’s face as he watches them reveal, just barely, their more complicated emotional history. I would also be happy to see a Stan and Peggy fling. I will leave Bob Benson’s ambiguous sexuality to you. Though I have to say that Bob has been growing in my mind as a mysterious and powerful figure and if his big secret is just that he’s gay, I wonder what new ground the show can tread that it didn’t already cover with the barely remembered Sal? And what do you think? Is Manolo an all-service nurse or just really good at feeding illusions?

I have waited long enough to experience the physical pleasures of love.

Kathryn

—————————

Dear Kathryn,

I see what you’re saying about Don and Sylvia, although my sense of that scene was that he had a complex set of competing motivations crashing into each other in that moment. He seemed genuinely sad when he thought Sylvia was saying that she didn’t love him, and my sense was that they then had sex not only out of her gratitude for the favor, but also so that he could prove to himself that there was something there for her beyond carnal desire (which I’m increasingly convinced is all there really was for her). At the same time, yes – the friendship with Arnold also seemed to drive his desire to help out Mitchell. I loved the scene between them in the bar – did you notice how the entire wall behind them was covered in old-timey pictures of boxers? So as Don is failing to recognize he’s in battle with Ted at work (at least in the way in which Ted is recognizing it), the scene behind this budding friendship reminded us of the complexity to these neighbor relations – Don is drawn to Arnold in friendship, even as he competes with him over his wife. And I don’t think that the sense that he might be trying to one-up Dr. Rosen in Sylvia’s eyes by saving the day undercuts his desire to be friends with Arnold either. Don’s desires simply are that convoluted. Finally, I think in a strange way, he was helping out Mitchell for Megan too. Their politics have seemed somewhat mis-aligned on this case, even as Don clearly disagrees with the war. And in helping the boy who sought out Megan for guidance, this felt like a rare instance in which Don had his new wife’s back. While then sleeping with Sylvia might undermine that somewhat, I continue to think all these motivations were swirling around for him and at play in the complex world that is Don Draper!

Sally, though, as you point out, was the highlight of this story! And it think it’s worth mentioning that in addition to seeing the trauma she keeps experiencing, this was the first episode in a while where we’ve really seen what a wonderful young woman Sally can be, despite some of her parents’ best attempts to screw her up! To be one of the only two girls in the model UN, and to be doing the extra-curricular activity seemingly out of an interest in the knowledge (not the boys, as her friend and Betty both seemed inclined to think) indicates a strength of character I’m not sure we’ve really seen with her so far. I was intrigued about this studious young woman, and wanted to know more about how her intelligence might fit her into the new ways of being a woman we see constantly being developed in the Mad Men universe.

As for the other plotlines, it’s definitely the Bob Benson one that stands out to me the most. I’m with you in that I too would be pretty disappointed if BB’s big secret was that he was gay…and in love with PETE?!? I’m not sure how else to read that scene, though – it’s certainly not the case that Bob was faking attraction because he would have thought Pete was asking for it. It seems he really is into our jr. exec. But what disappoints me about this revelation (besides the fact that it’s kind of boring), is that Bob has been building all season as somewhat of a sinister, creepy character. If the payoff of that build is same-sex desire, then I have to wonder just what Mad Men is up to in its dominantly hetero-world. I’m reminded of Grandma Ida from a few weeks ago, and the ways in which Mad Men just fails with some of their identity moves. The show is fantastic about exploring sexist understandings of woman-ness, for example. But when it comes to their forays into race and, in seems, homosexuality, they come across as, well, a bit racist and homophobic – or, at least, somewhat blind to the problems in their portrayals, rather than hyper-conscious of and intentional with them, as they are with issues around sexism. At least Sal was a somewhat complex, loveable, layered character. But Bob has been built up as a caricature, and we’ve just been wondering all season what he’s a caricature of. If there’s not a bigger payoff than this, then it’s difficult for me to see what the show is trying to say here besides, “gay dudes can be sort of socially creepy” – and that would not be ok at all!

As for Manolo and Pete’s mum – well, I’m sure that’s just her delusions, but I am intrigued how everything she says about everything gets dismissed as delusional, but as soon as she’s talking about her own sexual activity, alarm bells go off. Of course, I’m all for vigilance around the possibility of elder-abuse. But my sense is that the old lady is enjoying an active fantasy life based on the fact that a man is actually being kind to her (something it seems her husband and Pete have never bothered to consider trying).

Imagine if every time Ginger Rogers jumped in the air, Fred Astaire punched her in the face –
Natalie

Written by themothchase

June 11, 2013 at 11:07 am

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