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A death rocks the SCDP office, while the 'beautiful girls' of 'Mad Men' struggle to find their paths to happiness

By Karen Valby
Updated September 20, 2010 at 01:14 AM EDT
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Credit: AMC
S4 E9

“She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.”

Thus was Bert Cooper’s loving eulogy to Miss Blankenship, who died with her mouth open, cataract glasses trained on the ceiling. It was a lovely image, this notion of a woman shooting to the moon, even if the rest of episode dealt with the way Mad Women can chase their tails tending to the men in their lives.

Maybe it’s because of the little we heard on Roger’s tape of Miss B.’s wilder days, or maybe it’s because of the cozy scene of her and Mr. Cooper doing their crossword puzzles together. They looked like an old married couple at the kitchen table, half-cross and wonderfully intimate as he leaned on her for the answers. When Blankenship’s head thwomped down on her desk blotter, Peggy let out a great there’s-a-mouse-in-the-house scream. Don, that willful atheist, could only gasp for “Jesus” while his runaway daughter sat innocently behind closed door at his desk. Joan, in no state to confront death now that Greg had been called up to duty, looked ready to dissolve into a puddle. “Megan, get a man. And we’ll need a blanket,” she said, her voice quavery. Poor Megan, who I found moving and delightful from start to finish last night, managed to come up with a huffing and puffing Pete. He struggled mightily to move Miss Blankenship while Harry kvetched on the perimeter that his mother had made special the blanket covering the lifeless woman’s body.

Bert looked stunned by the loss. Am I the only one who wondered if Miss Blankenship was perhaps Mr. Cooper’s Joan in younger days? What’s a four letter word for a flightless bird? Oh, Joan. Joan, this is not going to end well. Roger felt lousy about pushing his “hard time” on his former flame, not realizing that she was reeling from news that her new husband would soon find himself in the jungle. So Roger sent over his best masseuse and pedicure team to Joanie’s house to give her a little pampering, a scene mostly notable for the fact that we got to see the woman rock a pair of sexy specs. As rattled as Joan was by Miss Blankenship’s death, she immediately went into caretaker mode. “Roger!” she murmured as if he’d lost his first puppy, chasing after him into his office. Roger’s scared of dying. Roger’s scared of dying at work. Roger’s scared of nobody publishing his memoirs and so being forgotten in death. “If it looks like I’m going, open a window,” he pleaded. “I’d rather flatten the top of a cab.” Of course he was being melodramatic to get Joan to split a piece of cherry cheesecake with him. And yet it’s always Roger I imagine pinwheeling his arms during the opening credits. “I’m going to kill myself,” he insisted dramatically. “No you’re not,” Joan sighed with affection.

Next: Misty, midtown hotel memories…

Roger likes to pine for Joan. He’s both hopelessly sweet and undeniably insincere with her, always goosing her with innuendo. I think he genuinely likes her, and not just her measurements. I even believe that he even loves her, in Roger’s limited, egomaniac manner. (“Did you read my memoirs?”) And yet that doesn’t erase the fact that when he finally left his wife it was not for Joan, but for some twit of a chick who made him feel young. “Stop it, everything can be replaced,” he told Joan after the two were mugged. A woman died at work. Greg is going to war. Her wedding ring was stolen. If there was ever a time to self-sabotage… So Joan dove in for a kiss and the two relived some Midtown hotel memories. Joan is about to get a lot curvier.

In midtown, that dollface Abe popped back up in Peggy’s life. He wore a ridiculous yellow turtleneck and needed Peggy’s help getting his drink at the bar. She went a little blanky-faced as he launched into a breathless rant about corporate America. “Are you from Brooklyn?” she interrupted. Abe is young and passionate. He wants to talk politics. He wants discourse! Peggy is young and smart, and in many ways a child when it comes to matters outside of her own narrow world. She has a job and she does it well, no questions asked. Besides, those are family companies whose products she’s selling. Fillmore Auto, good bunch of folks. “I’m sure they’re perfectly nice for racists, you know,” smirked Abe, not unkindly. Peggy doesn’t want to be made to feel dumb so she gave a short-sighted speech about how if she could fight her way into the copywriting ranks so could any negro with gumption. Abe shot back with a condescending suggestion that Americans ought to have a civil rights march for women, as if that would just be the silliest thing. Not the first date either of these two were hoping for, and yet I still find them a compelling couple. Leather jacket showed up at work the next day, bearing his version of a love letter. “Nuremberg on Madison Avenue” didn’t send Peggy’s heart afluttering like he’d hoped. Abe dumbly insisted that she was too earnest, and too good, to be a corporate congregant. She claimed she wasn’t political, and wasn’t sorry for the fact, only to later pitch Harry Belafonte for the Fillmore jingle. It’s like watching a baby rouse from a comfortable slumber.

Downtown, Don and Faye got it on during their lunch break while their tuna subs went uneaten. Faye is a lamp breaker, and she’s just as eager to get back to the office as him. Don really likes Dr. Miller, and yet he employed her in the same fashion as he does all the women in his life. He needed her to watch his kid. Kiernan Shipka, you continue to amaze. Of all these roiling women, it was Sally who gave real voice to her pain and confusion. She showed up at Daddy’s office, high on the thrill of escape. If he wasn’t going to ride into Westchester on a white horse ,then she would take her rescue into her own hands. “She looks so chubby in the pictures,” marveled Miss B. (I miss you already!)

Next: “She knew you have peanut butter.”

Everyone wanted to protect Sally from the fact of her Daddy’s secretary’s death, as if the young girl doesn’t already have the battle scars of life experience. Don enlisted Faye as a babysitter. (“Hello! My name is Faye!”) Sally looked so pleased when Faye, primly drinking her sody from lunch, vamoosed and left her alone with her Daddy. She tried to suss out the significance of Faye in her father’s life the way Betty might have once nosed around about possible affairs. “She knew you have peanut butter,” Sally said like a little detective. Don, still so quick on his feet, replied “Everyone has peanut butter.” Sally wants Don to herself, and worked hard to convince him that she was the only girl he needed in his life. Looking heartbreakingly vulnerable in his Hanes, she made him french toast with rum. She convinced him to take her out on a date. She read her Nancy Drew (!) book quietly in his office. So of course she was so betrayed when he said he was kicking her back into her mother’s rigid arms.

Now Don doesn’t much like dealing with women’s feelings, especially those of his daughter. So when she started hollering that she wasn’t going, Don yanked Dr. Faye into the office to deal with that nonsense. Sally told the obsequious woman to shut up, insisting that she and her Daddy didn’t need her stinkin’ help. That was a terribly sad scene when Sally took off running down the agency’s hallway, splattering spectacularly to the ground. It was Megan who picked her up and Sally clung to her desperately. “It’s going to be alright,” the simpler woman assured. Sally, so young, so world weary, looked resigned to her fate. “No,” she insisted. “It’s not.” Megan wouldn’t hear of it. “I fall all the time.” Such sad eyes on this one. Megan had many great moments last night, from holding out Miss Blankenship’s blotter like it was a sack of kitty litter to laying the woman’s hand bag on her corpse like a bouquet.

The women of SCDP? They fall all the time. It was a poignant moment to watch them crowded around as Sally was sent off to slaughter. (“I was worried about you,” Betty said in reception for their benefit, her white gloves so menacing as they rubbed at Sally’s puffy face and unbrushed hair.) In the end, Joan had to go home to an empty apartment. Peggy turned down a drink with Joyce so she could make sense of Abe’s effect on her. Faye tried to get mad at Don. “You shouldn’t have put me in that position,” she insisted. I found myself cheering at home: “Give him hell!” I figured she was about to let loose on him for foisting his parental responsibility on her simply because she’s the current skirt in his life, but then it turned out she was defending her decision not to have kids. Hold up, hold up, how did this conversation end with Don saying “It doesn’t matter, I mean it” and giving his new squeeze a comforting hug. Cheers to Faye for wresting back some control on her way out. “We can have dinner this weekend,” she said curtly. “I’ll pick the place.” After she left his office, Don pressed his mouth on the lipstick stain of her abandoned glass like a kiss.

Next: Sadists, masochists, bear claws.

Joan, Peggy, and Faye took their places in the elevator. Three women going down. Each of them so boxed up—such lovely packages!—in their private angst. Three beautiful women, beautiful girls as the episode was titled. Three women in the 1960s who are not raising children. Three women fending for themselves as best they know how. “It’s a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.” Goodbye Miss Blankenship, who delivered all the best lines of this best season.

Two other lines worth mentioning:

Don: I would have my secretary do it but she’s dead.

Joan: I brought bear claws.

Roger: Caroline will only let me have one if it’s on the end of a bear.

Is there any significance to Sally leaving reception just as Joyce entered? Is Joyce future Sally? Do you think there’s something real to Don and Faye? Will we meet Abe again? What was your favorite seeming throwaway moment of the night? I’m torn between Abe witnessing Don try to pay off the woman who rescued Sally rather than get a lecture, and Miss B.’s wondering if Don was off to the toilet. As much as I’ve been charmed by Roger and Joan’s banter, is anyone else depressed by their coupling? Is anyone else enamored with Elisabeth Moss’ skin? Anybody else desperately miss their childhood bookshelves after last night’s episode? I had one shelf for my Nancy Drews, and one for my plastic horses.

Episode Recaps

Thanks to costume designer Janie Bryant , Hamm's '60s ad man single-handedly revived an interest in the classic two-button suit.

Mad Men

Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper in the Emmy-winning ’60s-set drama

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 7
rating
status
  • In Season
network
  • AMC
stream service

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