Their Dorothea Lange Faces
by KARA VANDERBIJL
creator Matthew Weiner
Neither Sylvia nor I have worn actual clothes for at least three episodes, which is perhaps why I felt a deep kinship with her this week. My excuse is infectious mononucleosis but she's just fed up with her husband, who recently quit his job as a heart surgeon because he is one of the most overdeveloped underdeveloped characters in television history.
When she cries to him that he hasn't been taking care of her, only himself, I bet she isn't thinking, gee, I'd really like to be locked in a hotel room as Don's sex slave for the next 48 hours. That would get me to put on my pantyhose this morning. When you're handed what you think you want on a silver platter, you should send it back roughly 90% of the time.
It wasn't troubling to me that Sylvia enjoyed the first half of the tryst. That Don assumes a woman wants to be cared for by being told that she exists for his pleasure is mildly offensive, but that Sylvia initially laps it up is her prerogative. I don't have the right to tell the woman what she does or does not want. Neither does Don, but his real mistake is to believe that the game can go on forever, that he can take a fantasy and impose it on her long after she has tired of it.
This way of thinking created real problems for Don this week, as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler, Gleason & Chaough merge on geographical and personal levels. Ted Chaough isn't thrilled about Don's frequent disappearances, and Don's remedy is to get him stinking drunk while they brainstorm about margarine.
Both Ted and Don love the business. They love it more than they love either of their respective companies or clients. They love it in the same way that Chevy loves cars: when the old methods or designs are getting tired or boring, it's time to move forward and make something new. Nobody really knows how it's going to work out practically but up until this point (almost) everyone has been going along with it because Ted and Don are visionaries and visionaries are fun and exciting to follow.
The only problem is that a. it's incredibly difficult to put two visionaries in one room (or airplane) without eventually causing a massive power struggle and b. very few people are willing to keep on the rose-colored glasses anymore. Pete's a dick, but his continual discontent with Don has been the mercury measuring the mood of the rest of the office. As Pete's anger grows, it begins to spread to farther reaches of the board room.
It didn't take much for Joan to lose faith in Don after he lost the Jaguar account, for obvious reasons that become less obvious when you think about how no longer having to deal with Jaguar should have actually made her feel better. Peggy returns to SCDP with the same indulgent disapproval of Don that she's always had, except now she has a major crush on Ted Chaough. I'd make a list of the members of the creative department and whose side they'll surely fall on when lines are drawn, except Ted already fed them margarine toast so it seems like overkill.
I'm really enjoying Bob Benson's miniature subplots with each of the partners: he is sneaking his way in, although his purposes remain unknown. He got Joan to stand up for him in an operations meeting just by accompanying her to urgent care and by bringing her baby an age-inappropriate gift. I don't know what it is about him that makes all the sirens in my head go off but at least we know he's not very smart. He started by attempting to butter (margarine?) up the male partners when he should have just started with Joan in the first place, and no, not because she's a woman, but because she fucking runs the place.
The only black character we've seen since the MLK episode was, in Pete's words, "a two-hundred pound Negro prostitute", which... well, doesn't give Weiner much of a vote of confidence in that department. Even Dawn, Don's secretary who is secretly the next Joan, only gets mentioned briefly by Peggy. I know an episode is only forty-five minutes long, but really, do we have to see so many shots of Sylvia's pajamas? Even I've been getting dressed in the morning.
Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about the blue line. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.
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