Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

MAD MEN RECAP 8: DARK SHADOWS

Television
by Deborah Lipp
May 14, 2012 1:12 AM
17 Comments
  • |

A second, connected theme is secrecy, and people being outed. This is threaded throughout Dark Shadows: Secrets and the ability to expose secrets represent power, and power is what our characters compete for. Nothing is more insidious than Betty's "sweetly" mentioning Anna Draper to Sally (watch it below):

In Betty's version of self-revelation at her Weight Watchers' meeting, she's so vague as to border on meaningless: She says merely that she experienced something that upset her. What upset her was another person's happiness. Don and Megan have a magnificent apartment, and Megan has a young, beautiful body. Betty can barely contain how awful this makes her feel. Inadvertently finding a love note from Don to Megan puts her over the edge: It's simply not okay for them to be in love, for Don to be sweet to Megan, for the Draper apartment to be more beautiful than the Francis house. (By the way, Megan is wrong about the distance; it's 25 miles from Rye to 73rd and Park.)

Betty setting up Sally to ask just the right question to create havoc reminds me so much of Betty setting up Sara Beth in the Season 2 episode Six Month Leave (Betty has an Episode 9 pattern, I guess). She manages her feelings by making others suffer, this time in an episode where the Weight Watchers leader talks about stuffing the feelings you can't express using food. Betty wants to feel differently; swallowing the mouthful of canned whipped cream and then spitting it out is a perfect encapsulation of that YES NO YES NO feeling; wanting and not wanting, stuffing and letting it out. She offers just the right kind of support and wisdom to Henry even while spreading her poison.

So, Betty tries to use outing someone's secret as a weapon, and we get a sense of that with Jane and Ginsberg, too: Jewishness is a secret you have to keep in Roger's social circles, a secret Roger required Jane to keep. Now he expresses power over her by pushing that secret out of the shadows. Roger wants Ginsberg to keep a secret and he says no; Peggy kept a secret for Roger, and each was paid for it (although Peggy was paid a lot more). Whoever holds the reins to a secret is ahead in this "doggy dog world."

Some additional thoughts:

  • Henry wonders if he "bet on the wrong horse" for nothing. It seems like Betty is wondering the same, and Henry is that horse.
  • It looks like a senility plot might be in Bert Cooper's future. Correcting "hip" for "hep" makes him seem amusingly out of touch, but not knowing that Roger and Jane are divorcing could be a bad sign.
  • Betty really enjoys food this episode: Whether it's her meager breakfast, or a bit of steak, or a tiny bit of Thanksgiving dinner, she chews with gusto. In past seasons, when thin, she barely ate at all. Allowing herself or not allowing herself to experience pleasure is a whole motif with this character. At least chewing is some kind of start.
  • On the other hand, I feel like the chin appliance gets in the way of January Jones's ability to use her face expressively.
  • Okay, fine, I said I wouldn't, but I'll give quote of the week to this: Peggy: "You are not loyal. You only think about yourself." Roger: "Were we married? Because you’re thinking about yourself too. That’s the way it is, it’s every man for himself."

Deborah Lipp is the co-owner of Basket of Kisses, whose motto is "smart discussion about smart television." She is the author of six books, including "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book."

Watch Mad Men Moments, a series of videos on Mad Men, produced by Indiewire Press Play.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

17 Comments

  • kpely | May 15, 2012 11:46 PMReply

    Betty's thanksgiving statement at the end of the episode said it all for her character, and really, most characters in this episode: "I'm thankful that I have everything I want... and no one else has anything better."

  • Teresa | May 15, 2012 9:04 PMReply

    How about if we say we don't like the CHARACTER of Betty as created by Matthew Weiner?

  • KarinGal | May 14, 2012 5:59 PMReply

    I took the Burt comment, "Hep," to show exactly how aware and quick he still is.
    (Hip was a bastardization of hep - a term coined in Burt's day).

  • NamePatR | May 14, 2012 12:48 PMReply

    You were never in Weight Watchers in the '60s. One of their dictums was to chew each mouthful of food 15 or 20 times to make sure you got the "maximum enjoyment" of each bite. You can almost see her counting her chews.

    Love your insightful recaps.

  • Pryceisright | May 14, 2012 12:05 PMReply

    I thought this episode was the best so far in this maddeningly bewildering season. Betty is the classic, malcontent (malicious) wife-in-the-burbs. She's aging with predictable malevolence. Sally is becoming the assertive, precocious adolescent we all anticipated. Her adoration of her dad should keep her out of harm's way as the late '60 begin to take their toll on young people. At least I hope it does. Draper? Hey, dude's still Draper. But -- reality check -- NO WAY would a hot-shot, alpha-dog creative director have put up with Ginsberg's tiresome petulance. Little twerp would have been unemployed that very same day. I've witnessed it.

  • Stephanie | May 14, 2012 11:02 AMReply

    Todd, "doggy dog world" was one of Danny's many malapropisms (Danny was Jane's cousin who Don was forced to hire as a copy writer after he drunkenly stole Danny's idea).

  • Brandon | May 14, 2012 10:21 AMReply

    This season we're being treated to a kinder, gentler, and more enlightened Stan Rizzo. Recall that he ignores the large breasts of a wise-cracking art critic because he is obsessed by the idea of photography's supremacy over the man-made. Also recall that he sympathizes with Meghan's decision to quit the agency in favor of pursuing her artistic aspirations: "Reality got her. You work your ass off for months, bite your nails--for what? Heinz. Baked. Beans." And most recently, he instructs Ginzo, who quotes "Ozymandias" out of context, to reread his Shelley. Apparently, the misogynist and sophomoric jokester of season 4 was belying the sensitive artist who we're now coming to know in season 5. It's clear that like Ken and Meghan, he realizes the limitations of advertising in terms of artistic fulfillment, but I wonder if, like them, he's seeking his fulfillment elsewhere...

  • Todd | May 14, 2012 9:56 AMReply

    What is "doggy dog world" referencing? I followed the link, but didn't see any joke or reference to "doggy dog." Are you just using the quotation marks to let us know that you are being funny by writing "doggy dog world" instead of "dog-eat-dog world"? Maybe this is a joke from an earlier post, but it distracted me, obviously, from the point.

  • Deborah Lipp | May 14, 2012 7:03 PM

    I linked to the quotes page of the episode where the character Danny Siegel said "doggy dog world." I thought it would be a fun in-joke for fans, and I apologize if it fell flat for yoj.

  • rl1856 | May 14, 2012 9:34 AMReply

    I some of Betty's scenes, I thought she looked just like Sally.

    Betty's enjoyment of food and the associated chewing was due to Weight Watchers. They used to teach you to chew each bite a specific number of times as a way of slowing and then controlling ones food intake.

    Others have mentioned a possible advance to senility for Bert. But I thought his response to Roger and Jane's separation was sarcastic. Both the ironic tone of his voice and simultaneous glance at his watch communicated sarcasm to me. "Hep" for "Hip" should not be considered out of place for a man in is 70's/80's at that time. Recall earlier in the season when he consoled Roger by telling him that Nixon was waiting in the wings...very accurate at the time and prophetic. Bert will be around for a while.

  • Leslye | May 14, 2012 9:24 AMReply

    In the first scene I thought she was counting her chews. A common suggestion when dieting.

  • Deborah Lipp | May 14, 2012 7:03 PM

    I never would have figured that out. How annoying.

  • amdd | May 14, 2012 12:37 PM

    Yes, she was counting her chews each time they had her in close-up while eating.

  • Virginia | May 14, 2012 7:48 AMReply

    Oops! I meant I AM glad to have Betty...

  • Virginia | May 14, 2012 7:47 AMReply

    I need to watch this episode again -- I always have to watch the episodes more than once. However I wanted to say I for one and glad to have Betty with a sizable role this week. Whether I like Betty or not, January Jones is so perfectly cast that I wait for all her appearances. I feel the same way about John Slattery as Roger, he's always brilliant. The casting of Mad Men has always been one of its strengths and for me, these two are outstanding.

  • Tilden Katz | May 14, 2012 7:28 AMReply

    Thank you as always for your recap, Ms. Lipp! My own was just posted:

    http://scarylawyerguy.blogspot.com/2012/05/mad-men-season-five-green-eyed-monster.html

  • Nomi | May 14, 2012 3:49 AMReply

    "I also think seeing this kind of nastiness can be wearing; it feels petty and so you come away from it like Sally at the end of last episode; "Dirty." " Correct.

Follow Us

Latest Tweets

Follow us

Most "Liked"

  • How GROUNDHOG DAY and THE ONE I LOVE ...
  • The Cool of Science, from Bill Nye to ...
  • Why Whit Stillman's Work Endures After ...
  • VIDEO ESSAY: What Is Composition?