'Mad Men': Don Draper, hot for teacher, desperate for a daddy

mad men.Jon.Hamm_l

Don’t worry, you have a full Mad Men TV Watch recap from Cracklin’ Karen Valby, and I’ll leave to Karen the close readings of the latest office politics and all things Betty – from Bets’ risky business with the curiously wan Republican of her dreams to the continuing presence of that gigantic, clammy-looking fainting couch. I, though, am obsessed with the Draper known as Don, and can’t resist a few observations about last night’s foray into daddy-issues, threatened heterosexuality, and bouncing Bowdoin T-shirts. Yes, it was all about masculinity for Don this week.

In one of those dark-hued, dream-like moments so prevalent on Mad Men this season, Don took a wide-awake pre-dawn car cruise. Driving along in his automobile (to quote Chuck Berry, the first verse of whose “No Particular Place To Go,” which will be released a year later, in 1964, describes this scene perfectly), Don is thinking about what his new father figure, Conrad Hilton wants of him. He came upon that pert, impertinent teacher, Suzanne Farrell. She’s jogging before it was fashionable to jog, looking no less comely in a sweatshirt than she does in her gingham-y schoolmarm dresses.

(Do you think the Bowdoin shirt is former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner’s little shout-out to one of the greatest Sopranos episodes ever, the first season’s “College,” the one in which Tony killed a guy while taking Meadow on a college tour?)

Their attraction eventually led to Don’s own frisky business, which was cruel on Don’s part: This can only end badly for her, even though Miss Farrell acknowledges that (“I know exactly how it ends”) and willingly smooches and succumbs, nay, nearly swoons in the manly Don-embrace.

Just as interesting was Don’s reaction to the mess Sal found himself in when he rebuffed that crude client who was hoping to make a Lucky Strike of his own with our pal Sal. Unlike a few weeks ago, when Don not only kept mum about catching Sal with the bellboy but implicitly communicated that he understood the man’s urges, this time around, Don assumed those same urges were what got Sal into trouble, and he couldn’t divest himself of Sal fast enough. Sneeringly referring to gays as “you people” – now that’s the reaction I was waiting for from Don, because that’s what a socially conservative, guy’s-guy like Don would have done during this era. I was glad to see that Mad Men wasn’t making Don a dapper paragon of tolerance.

As for the Conrad Hilton affair, this was where Don’s eternal search for a father figure ran aground. After that early one-on-one meeting in which Connie comes right out and says, “You’re like a son,” and Don nearly chokes in responding, “Thank you; I mean it,” it was all downhill from there. Mostly because it turned out that the older man who was taking him under his paternalistic wing proved to be a little nuts. Or as they say about the very wealthy, eccentric. He compared himself to King Midas; I’d say he’s closer to Citizen Kane, shut off from the real world yet arrogantly thinking he knows what’s best for it. “I want the moon”? Could there be a more impossible request, both literally in the cleverly earth-grounded ad campaign Don and his company created for Connie, and figuratively, in setting an expectation of Don that Draper cannot possibly meet?

Once again, the world has failed Don. In this case, the world and beyond. I suppose Don might have tried to save himself with Hilton by turning it all into a joke and quote The Honeymooners – “To the moon, Alice!” That’s what Roger Sterling would have done, I’ll bet. But then, that’s another problem Don has: No sense of humor.

What’d you think of our hero’s behavior this week?

For more on Mad Men:

‘Mad Men': Affairs of the Heart

‘Mad Men’ fires writer Kater Gordon

Comments (36 total) Add your comment
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  • jeremy dc

    Best episode of the season.

  • DruggyBear

    best season so far. but poor salvatore!

  • DT

    I liked it a lot. I’m not sure what the big showdown will be yet. In season 1, it was Don vs. Pete. Season 2 was Don vs. Duck. Here, he could either be going head to head with Roger or even Connie. In past seasons, it seemed like the firm could cut loose clients they deemed inconvenient or small-time. This season, it looks like the clients have the upper hand and S-C aren’t the masters of the universe anymore.

    The teacher is HOT! I just wanted to say that, though it relates to nothing in the above paragraph.

    • Donnabee

      Roger. Definitely…

  • Elizabeth

    After last week, I was pretty ticked off at both Don & Betty, but that’s why its a good show.
    I am growing tired of Don’s flailing when he’s faced with adversity. Things suck at work – go cheat on my wife. I guess I have formed a higher opinion of him than I should have. I think Miss Farrell ranks right behind Bobbie on my list of least favorite characters. I liked Rachel.
    I did feel bad for Sal – and that last scene in the park was disappointing too. I wonder if he’ll end up working for Duck. Right now I can’t think of any previous issues between the two of them off the top of my head.

  • Custom T-shirts

    What a nice blog you have..thanks for all this information

  • Brad

    It could be that Don misconstrued the relationship he had with Connie. It seems he didn’t dive into his work as hard as he could’ve. Notice how throughout the episode, Connie was calling and interrupting his sleep. Almost to Don’s convenience. Then, when Hilton didn’t call, he fell back on his old instincts, lying about a call and going to see Miss Farrell. Poor form for a so-called reformer.

    • Shawn

      When has Don ever called himself a reformer?

    • EEKstl

      Don has never been a social reformer. He is about as stuck in the old ways as is possible, though I contend that as the 60’s begin to explode around him full-swing he might take the opportunity to be less Don Draper and more Dick Whitman. As for Connie, he is working his butt off for him. Connie is one of those amazingly successful businessmen who thinks of work 24/7 and whose down-home folksiness (“I’m not one of them because I came from nothing”) is just a cover for what got him so successful in the first place: He is a brilliant, ruthless taskmaster who wants the moon and expects everyone who works for him to jump at his every command. Trust me – Don is working PLENTY hard for this account. But he also likes Connie and does see him as a father figure, which is why Connie’s (probably temporary) rejection at the end was hurtful.

  • Victoria

    Where did the Brits go? Did I miss something? They haven’t been in the last two episodes.

  • Shawn

    Please tell me we’re still going to get a real recap, Valby-style.

    • Shawn

      And … that’s what I get for posting without reading!

  • Why?

    I hate to be critical, because I love the show so much. This season has been so choppy and all over the place. In previous seasons each episode would focus more on certain characters, but it would keep a flow. This season is disjointed, people disappearing here and there for episodes at a time: the British bossman, Sterling, Cooper, Joan, The Three Musketeers, Sal. I know shows do that sometimes to save money, that’s ok. But Mad Men can do better than this.

    • diana


      • Disagreed

        For the love of God, STOP WATCHING! There’s plenty else to do on Sunday nights.

  • jenn

    I can’t wait for Karen’s recap, but I’m glad I had Ken’s to tide me over.
    Can I say how disappointed I am in Don this week? That’s entirely my bad because I know what a philanderer he is, but the way he handled Sal…damn him to hell. I’m still missing Joan, and now there’s no Sal, either? If they have him commit suicide, a la Don’s brother, I’m going to be pissed. Although, like Ken, I am glad they didn’t make Don uber-tolerant because that’s not realistic. But watching Don break Sal’s heart broke MY heart. And Betty! Damn, if Don’s going to cheat on her she needs to bite the bullet and get busy with Henry. For all Don’t cheating, I don’t think he would like Betty getting hers very much.
    Also, I wish Suzanne wouldn’t act like she’s on some sort of moral highground if she’s still going to screw a married man. Why all the posturing? Don spooning Suzanne has got to be one of the most hurtful images ever from the show. If Don and Betty don’t love each other enough to cuddle like that, and they don’t, they should end it, once and for all. I really can’t take any more of his cheating. Speaking of the Sopranos, they remind me of Tony and Carmela.

    • jenn

      doh, “Don’t” should be “of Don’s”.

    • EEKstl

      I think you’re looking at this episode through 2009 glasses. Remember, this is old school. Many successful businessmen cheated in the city (or down the road) while their families were safely tucked in the suburbs. It was not only tolerated, it was expected. Now, not everyone did it of course (and I’m sure there were many women who did too), but remember, Don’s first response when his well-constructed world crashes down around him is to seek solice with women other than his wife. I’m not condoning it, but the era sure did. As for his response to Sal – that is also very much in keeping with the times. First off, Don was a lot more tolerant than you think – remember in the first episode he saw Sal and the bellhop through the window and said nothing; in a weird way he was very understanding in that he himself has so many secrets that he can’t share. But when it bled over into his livlihood, that’s when Don the Creative Director came out. Don doesn’t know that Sal has never acted on his instincts except that one night, he has no idea that Sal was scared to death, and frankly he can’t understand why Sal wouldn’t whore himself out for the client. Harsh? Absolutely – very. But that’s Don. He is a character with much to redeem him but even more to damn him.

  • Jenn

    Sal is the only character on that show that I really feel sorry for. I was so mad at Don last night.

  • beth

    By Golly, Don drove me crazy this epi. Does Betty really think she didn’t hear the phone ring? Does she care what Don does? I would like to retitle this one “Failed Expectations” for all parties involved.

  • Bill

    Sal, please don’t do anything rash. Everything will be fine.

  • EEKstl

    I feel SO sorry for Sal. He was put in an impossible position and that scene with Don, so harsh and unyielding even when he had earlier proved himself to be a champion of Sal’s secret, was tough to watch. I love that the brilliant writing on this show makes Don as much of an a–hole as a charasmatic and somewhat sympathetic character. What a great episode!

  • jfms777

    When the show sticks to the ad agency it is superior. Thank God
    we had the Sal story. But the Hilton thing is getting tired. And now Don has bedded one more woman.
    Yawn. And where is Peggy this season? A lot of good Margaret Moss’ Emmy nod got her.

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