Don trades up in cars but gets a dressing down from Jimmy, while Sal develops an office crush, and Roger steamrolls over Joan to lend a hand to Jane
We opened onto what might as well have been a Sterling Cooper-designed commercial for the new Cadillac Coupe De Ville. Don’s shiny shoes circled the gleaming tires. The camera panned up to reveal our hunk of a man imagining himself sitting behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle, the open road stretched out invitingly before him. “Afraid you’ll fall in love?” said the elegant salesman, who purred with the seductive confidence of the Devil. It turns out that this new model “does everything but make breakfast,” he said, dismissing Don’s old car as “wonderful if you want to get somewhere.” Poor Betty. Why am I thinking she’s the Dodge in this equation?
“Look at you,” the salesman said, slim ribbons of smoke trailing out of his refined mouth. “I bet you’d be as comfortable in one of these as you would be in your own skin.” Wrong pitch, buddy! Don flashed back to 10 years prior, when he was nothing but an ambitious used-car salesman with a sherbet-colored tie and a puff of a pompadour. A woman who looked disconcertingly like a cross between January Jones and Rebecca De Mornay appeared in the shop, took a long, mournful look at the man, and declared the obvious. “You’re not Don Draper,” she said. I’m taking bets that she was the original Mrs. Draper and that it’s no great irony that the Don we’ve come to know and love/hate married a woman who looked exactly like her. Too corny? On with the show!
After Don landed the Martinson’s coffee account, with the help of Duck and the Smith and Smith boys, Mr. Cooper called him up to the big office. (Poor Duck was uninvited, left staring hungrily at Don’s cocktail cart.) Don had impressed the client so much that he’d been asked to join the board of the Museum of Early American Folk Art. Unimpressed at first, Don perked up when Mr. Cooper instructed him that “philanthropy is the gateway to power.” Apparently “whirligig” supporters wield untold influence and Don ought to get used to having his tuxedo always on the ready. As Cooper yammered on about carrots and curtains, I half-expected him to offer the younger man the gate code to the Eyes Wide Shut house. His boss reminded Don that he knew something of his past, but it was his future as a man of enormous social power that mattered.
Off to the dealership Don went to get his rightful throne. He gave his family some strict ground rules when it came to the new ride. No sex in the front seat, no Silly Putty in the back. And the kids’ hands had to be double-checked for stickiness before they scrabbled into the car after a family picnic. Don, a regular steward of the Earth, hurled his empty can into the wild blue yonder and Betty flapped her blanket in the wind, scattering trash onto the hill. What respect for the land — and you wonder why some of your parents and grandparents roll their eyes at threats of global warming!
NEXT: A man’s manNow I’ve always had an enormous soft spot for Roger. I think it’s got everything to do with the fact that he gets some of the best lines on the show — “Not to get too deep before the cocktail hour but do I need to remind you of the finite nature of life?” — and has the singular charm of the actor John Slattery. (I’ve been on a Sex and the City rerun kick of late and his mini-arc as Carrie’s smooth politician beau is a gem!) Roger is a simple man apparently free of demons, a dog that doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. He would be a terrible husband, a respectful one-night stand, and a helluva colleague. But he failed me terribly tonight, by failing Joan.
When she got wind that her underling Jane had snuck into the big man’s office with Sal, Ken, and Harry to sneak a peek at his Rothko, Joan brought the hammer down. The new girl was done. Joan would not stand for such casual disregard of office protocol and hierarchy. And then that little bitch, entitlement oozing from her invisible pores, had the nerve to tell my Joan to lighten up. “I’m 20 years old,” Jane said. “I don’t need another mother.” Joan should have thwapped the little upstart on the head with her scary submarine necklace charm, but instead she coolly advised her to scram. Well, little girl went running straight to Papa, crying to Mr. Sterling (“call me Roger”) that Joan was a big meanie. “Miss Holloway is going through a tough time,” Roger said, in another of his memorable zingers. “She’s engaged you know?” Then he went and undercut all of Joan’s hard-earned authority in the one arena of the office where she reigns supreme. He told the young girl to report back on Monday and pretend this whole silly episode never happened. I’ll never forgive him.
Sal was committing a wholly different kind of betrayal, against his adorable wife, Kitty. Ken made a West Side Story reference and then delivered a soulful assessment of the Rothko painting in Mr. Cooper’s office. And thus, another office crush was born. “You’re not like everyone else here,” Ken said after Sal complimented his maple syrup short story. Sal’s face went a little jiggly, as if the jig might be up. But Ken, needy and vain as writers tend to be, simply meant that he was a man with soul. Sal batted his Italian lashes and asked the bachelor over to his and Kitty’s home for dinner. At their darling apartment — no reason to move to a bigger place as these two won’t be having kids anytime soon — Sal bounced around getting Ken to taste his homemade spaghetti sauce while strong-arming Kitty out of the conversation. “How did you two meet?” Ken asked innocently. “Oh, it’s a boring story,” said Sal. “No it’s not!” she protested.
Kitty, who seems like a total doll, sat there staring sadly at her husband as he cooed over their guest throughout dinner. Ken went on a bit about his latest story, inspired by an exquisite gold violin that was perfect in every way except that it couldn’t make music. When Ken begged off at the end of the meal, Sal pocketed the lighter he left behind like it was a stolen kiss. When Kitty broke into tears and asked if her husband was even aware she was in the room, Sal looked sincerely devastated to have upset her. He would clean the kitchen, put her feet up, and bring her some pie. The perfect husband in every way but one. Would a golden flute joke here alienate anybody?
Some people soothe their wounded hearts with pie and needlework, while others use booze or cars or women. And then there are those who lash out at every perceived enemy in their midst. At the Stork Club, Jimmy saw blood in the water and started circling Betty, a mermaid in shimmering blue. He plied her with drink and his eager, rapid-fire flattery. As he glanced over at the power circle around Don and Bobbie at the bar, his smile started sliding downwards into a sneer. “Look at us,” he said “over here at the kids table.” Jimmy drank in Betty’s WASPy blondeness and marveled that a girl like her never would have noticed him back in high school. Funny how you never hear women moaning about the boys back in the day who never gave them a second look, but men can forever work themselves up about the uninterested cheerleader. Jimmy marveled once again at the blonde now at his side. “It’s hard to believe he can do better than you,” he said, before leaning in and telling Betty to take a good look at the snap and crackle passing back and forth between Don and Bobbie. Betty looked like a one-ply Kleenex getting stretched in two. “You people are…,” she sputtered, searching for her worst insults, “ugly and crude!” Jimmy reverted back to joking mode. “What people?” he yelled at her retreating back. “You mean comedians?”
While I imagine Betty spun in circles in the powder room, Don was sent to fetch her scarf from coat check. Jimmy once again pounced. The two men might have been dressed exactly the same, but he was the skunk-haired homunculus next to Don’s quarterback dreaminess. Jimmy ripped into the same routine of seduction and slaughter that he had just workshopped on Betty. “You know what I like about you?” he asked Don. “Nothing.” But he had Mr. Utz’s money, a promising TV show, and the glory of fame. “Thanks to you, I got everything I wanted,” he said, though there was agony and rage behind that cock-of-the-walk grin. “What did you get? Bobbie? Lots of people have had her.” Don got the same paralyzed expression he had in the flashback when his cover was blown. Jimmy told him that real men stepped out on their wives with, you know, whores, not married women. “You’re garbage,” he spat. “And you know it.” Betty wobbled up to the men, and Jimmy quickly pulled up the puppet strings of his smile. Jimmy was done — and he killed.
On the car ride home, husband and wife sat in silence, an ocean between them in the front seat, nicely mirroring the unbridgeable chasm separating poor Kitty and tortured Sal at home in front of the TV. And then the episode ended in an abrupt, brilliant kersplash! Watching her face in the seconds leading up to her upchuck, it looked like Betty was willing that third glass of champagne to make a reappearance. She didn’t rush to open the window or murmur for Don to pull over. She puked without remorse all over the front dash. Damn, that girl knows how to land a punch.
Am I nuts or was Ken actually kinda cute tonight? Will Joan take Roger to task for his betrayal, or would she find that conversation beneath her? At the risk of reigniting Chauncey fever, whatever happened to the Draper dog? How badly do you want to try a piece of that pine nut and pineapple pie?