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Posted at 08:23 AM ET, 05/14/2012

‘Mad Men’: Look on their behavior, ye mighty, and despair


Don Draper: Snoball winner and Ginsberg blocker. (AMC)
Everyone behaved badly in this week’s episode of “Mad Men.” Everyone.

Roger Sterling made numerous anti-Semitic comments and selfishly insisted on making love to his soon-to-be ex-wife Jane in her new apartment, despite her efforts to find a comfortable living space free of silver foxy memories.

Pete Campbell got way too braggy about being mentioned in a New York Times article and made an unnecessarily rude comment to Harold Dawes about having sex with his wife, but fortunately Harold was way too clueless to realize Pete was not in any way kidding.

Megan acted petty and snobby about her friend Julia’s desire to score a part in an episode of “Dark Shadows,” even though Julia can clearly foresee that “Dark Shadows” will be an enduring cult classic that eventually inspires another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration. Although, that Burton/Depp collaboration wasn’t very good and didn’t do very well at the box office. So maybe Megan actually is right here?

As unsavory as all of these judgment calls may have been, the worst choices — like the devilish, and not in a clever, Snoball ad sort of way — were reserved for Betty and Don.

Let’s start with Betty’s less-than-angelic actions. Because, you know, we just celebrated Mother’s Day and all.

Betty Francis — Weight Watcher, calorie counter and excessive masticator — is still unhappy that Don married Megan. It just bugs her, so much so that after picking up her kids at Don’s and Megan’s apartment and seeing how fab the place is, how fab Megan’s bod is and that Don actually leaves charming little notes for his new wife, she decided to drop a bomb on Sally.

“Don’t forget your father’s first wife,” she matter-of-factly said, informing Sally of the existence of Anna Draper as she tried to construct a family tree for a school project.

“I’m surprised he didn’t tell you that,” she added as she crunched compulsively on a piece of celery, a consumption improvement over her initial squirt-and-binge whipped cream response to the Megan-apartment incident. (By the way, nice touch having Betty eat that as opposed to Cool Whip, that perfectly delicious substitute for whipped cream that elicited such delightful banter between Megan and Don.) When Sally pressed for details, Betty advised her to ask Megan about it.

Basically, what Betty did here is the equivalent of what those promos for the 10 o’clock news do almost every night: tease and withhold. “Your dad had a whole other life you didn’t know about. Should you be concerned? Catch up with Megan tonight at 10 to find out.”

The difference is that Betty did this to her own child, out of jealousy and spite.

Naturally, Sally got mad at Megan and her dad for not sharing this information, and then Don got mad at Megan for offering an explanation to Sally, and then Don threatened to call Betty, at which point Megan said: “If you call her, you’re giving her exactly what she wanted: the thrill of having poisoned us from 50 miles away.”

Upon overhearing Megan’s words, Sally — who, let’s face it, has inherited a healthy dose of schadenfreude tendencies from her mother — realized what Bety had done and subsequently took great pleasure in telling her mom that Don and Megan spoke “fondly” of Anna. She made it sound as if they all sat around joyfully thumbing through a photo album with the words “That Time I Stole Someone’s Identity and Married His Wife” printed on the cover, when what actually happened was that her dad gave her an extremely brief summary of his first marriage while looking annoyed and wearing pajamas.

As much as I want to totally condemn Betty for the sheer, typical Betty-ness of all this behavior, I can’t. She’s just too sad to criticize at this point. I mean, this woman’s daily to-do list consists of plans to spend too much time chewing pieces of grapefruit, listening to her current husband tell her that she “bet on the wrong horse” by marrying him and going to Weight Watchers meetings that remind her how long it takes to shed more than half a pound. She’s already living in a hell in which, indeed, there doesn’t seem to be a snoball’s change of her finding lasting satisfaction.

Besides, Sally has us covered in the snarky comment department. During Thanksgiving dinner, when Betty could barely hold back from digging into her plate, Sally made a point of ruefully noting how “hungry” her mother was. Methinks this is a bit of revenge for that whole forcefeeding of sweet potatoes incident from Thanksgiving Day 1964. I knew that episode would not be forgotten.

What has been forgotten, however, is Don’s ability to come up with good ideas. The Oldy McOlderson of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has lost his touch, taking an entire long night to come up with a single pitch for the Snoball campaign, one that, let’s face it, wasn’t nearly as good as Ginsberg’s idea. (Also, for the record, I thought Peggy’s was better, too.)

Don knows this Ginsberg kid — who has become the agency’s equivalent of Bugs Bunny playing baseball at every position — is more inventive than he is. But like his ex-wife who can’t stand to be beaten, he won’t be vanquished. Which is why, on the way to the Snoball pitch meeting, Don “accidentally” left Ginsbgerg’s sketches in the cab.

To quote Don’t own words back to Don: who’s being the child here? Well, Don is. But he doesn’t care because the Snoball people bought into his devil campaign and they won the account.

“I feel bad for you,” Ginsberg said.

“I don’t think about you at all,” Don replied. But we know that’s not true. And we also know that Ginsberg should tread a bit more lightly.

“Look on my work, ye mighty, and despair,” Ginsberg told Stan and Peggy, arrogantly quoting Shelley.

“You should read the rest of that poem, you boob,” Stan advised.

Indeed, it’s a poem about how easily the mighty can fall, especially when the mighty — the Dons and Bettys of this world — wish for nothing more than the blessing our former Mrs. Draper counted for herself on Thanksgiving Day: “I’m thankful that I have everything I want and that no one else has anything better.”

By  |  08:23 AM ET, 05/14/2012

Tags:  Mad Men

 
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