Mad Men Memos: The Benefactor
Strangely, we see none of Pete in this episode, and hardly any Peggy. Maybe those crazy kids were off somewhere making some more life-ruining babies.
Instead, the unlikely mad man at the forefront of this installment is Harry Crane, a quintessential office nice guy who’s usually no more than a tertiary character.
When he’s delivered Ken Cosgrove’s paycheck by mistake, Harry can’t resist the siren song of a nearby letter opener, and discovers that Ken makes $100 more a week (that’s $37 million in today’s dollars – look it up) than he does. Harry phones his pregnant wife to let her know he’s underpaid, which seems like the sort of information you’d be ashamed to impart to your spouse. He goes on to question his role at the agency, and even ponders quitting before the missus jumps in front of his wah-mbulance with instructions to man up and ask for a raise.
Instead, Harry phones a friend in the marketing department at CBS to ask if they’re hiring. (They aren’t.) His buddy does, however, take a moment to complain about some sponsors who are pulling their ads from a prime-time TV show set to address the then-verboten topic of abortion. Sensing an opportunity, Harry tries marketing the courtroom drama to cosmetics company (and Sterling Cooper client since Season 1) Belle Jolie to see if they’ll sponsor it. They pass, BUT, the gutsy move and eloquent pitch alone earn Harry a raise from Roger. Meanwhile, on the way out, the Belle Jolie exec who made a pass at Sal last season delivers his failed conquest a knowing glance, making Sal visibly uncomfortable.
Elsewhere (chronologically), at a commercial shoot for Utz potato chips, an inebriated insult comic named Jimmy Barrett (think a skinny Don Rickles with the grey-winged hair of Professor Impossible from “The Venture Brothers”) goes a little too far with a string of fat jokes aimed at the CEO’s wife.
“LLLLLLET’S GET READY TO GRUDGINGLY-APOLOGIZE-AT-THE-BEHEST-OF-MY-EMPLOYYYYYYYYYER!!”
When it’s revealed that Don wasn’t around to keep the Utzes off set, he is tasked with arranging a dinner to smooth things over. The reason for Don’s midday absence, you ask? A bubbly, Bohemian brunette? A wealthy Jewess? Try flying solo at the movies. WTF, Don.
So he makes arrangements with Jimmy’s wife/manager Bobbi, who responds by aggressively seducing him. So, yeah – that happened. Just when Don seemed to be on the way to fidelity, he ends up having sex with Bobbi in a car parked RIGHT ON THE STREET… after all, who walks down Madison Avenue? Afterward, she agrees to get Jimmy to apologize to the Utzes, and dinner, unlike her underwear, is on.
“It’s not really cheating if I can’t see you well enough to know you’re NOT my wife.”
Betty, meanwhile, is at the stables where her fellow equestrian hobbyist Arthur Case makes it clear that he wants her to try riding something else. His methods of seduction are sort of strange (they consist of telling Betty repeatedly how “profoundly sad” she looks), and the fact that she is completely unreceptive doesn’t stop him from lunging in for a kiss. Surprisingly, considering her behavior back in episiode one, Betty keeps him at bay. But rest assured, it won’t be the last time this season he tries.
It’s later that night, and dinner so far = Don and Betty and the Utzes. Jimmy and his strumpet of a wife are late, and when they finally show, the comic is far more interested in flattering Betty than casting a glance toward the walking whale to whom he’s supposed to be apologizing.
Sensing the Utzes’ growing frustration, Don follows Barrett’s wife to the bathroom, where she informs him that Jimmy has changed his mind about that whole apology thing. Don then changes his mind about not grabbing her by the vagina.
In the strangest assertion of dominance since Richie Aprile held a gun to Janice Soprano’s head mid-coitus, Don coerces Mrs. Barrett into rethinking Jimmy’s decision by pulling her hair with one hand and hoisting her by the…. petard in the other. Though an undeniably bizarre tactic, it apparently has the desired effect. Back from the bathroom, Bobbi promps the unfunny funnyman to deliver a halfhearted mea culpa, which seems to be enough for Mrs. Utz. She knew insults were his style, she says, but just “doesn’t have the stomach” to hear them directed at her. Jimmy eats his fist to avoid saying something else.
On the way home, Betty spontaneously breaks into tears. When Don asks why she’s having such a strange, ridiculously unprovoked emotion (weird that he still sees the novelty in it), she says they’re tears of joy – because she and Don “make such a good team.” Uhwha?
– So, after all that build-up depicting Don’s new Daddy Dearest persona amid Betty flirtation with the dark side, the writers pull a big fast one on us (and on Mrs. Barrett) by having exactly the opposite happen. Don’s tryst, however, seems to be solely business-based this time around, which is really good timing, considering his reputation at Sterling-Coop has seen better days.
– The many nuances of Betty’s neuroses are endlessly compelling. Numb, shaky hands, bizarre diatribes about her children, uncomfortable sexual tension with the most random people, and now this sudden crying jag… I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Betty, after Arthur accuses her of looking “profoundly sad.”
“No, my people are just Nordic.”