Mad Men

Mad Men Round Table: Season 2, Episode 7 – “The Golden Violinl” (Sept 9)


I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to tie something about this episode in to the gold violin on an early episode of Futurama. Sadly, I didn’t come up with anything. Still, I gave it a shot, and that’s all that matters.

Is there any show that can end an episode on a hilarious vomit joke and still remain classy like Mad Men? I submit that there is not. And this was a good episode for Betty Draper all around. January Jones, despite having a porno name, is a really good actress, and she’s been visiting some interesting places this season. Notice the way she perks up a little every time Don drops a little nugget about his past. It usually happens when he’s talking to the kids, but Betty focuses in every time. And look at the way she balances being flattered with being a little bit creeped out when she’s talking to Jimmy Barrett.

A nice assortment of supporting characters join us this time out. Duck actually did a good job with an account, and he’s already living or dying on Don’s approval. Still, I can’t forgive him for his treatment of Chauncey. My favorite, Harry, got some screen time this week. I liked the way he and Cooper bonded just a little.

I think maybe Cooper found a willing ear for a lecture on Objectivism – Poor Harry’s going to get a copy of Atlas Shrugged in the near future.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an authority on Randian philosophy, but I found it interesting that Cooper only cared about the Rothko painting as an investment. He’s just the sort of person who was portrayed as weak and soulless in The Fountainhead. Recently I read about cartoonist Steve Ditko, a long-time objectivist. In his 80’s now, he could get rich by selling his original art. Instead, his interpretation of Rand leads him to believe that such an action is morally wrong, so he lives on social security. It seems to me that Bert Cooper is doing essentially the opposite here. Is this supposed to mean that Cooper doesn’t actually understand the philosophy he espouses? If so, that was a really important scene. If not, that means Steve Ditko is living out his old age in poverty because of a misunderstanding, and that makes me sad.

We haven’t seen much of Salvatore this season, so this was a nice outing for him. (Pun not intended.) I sort of thought he invited Ken to dinner solely out of friendship. Maybe he’d found a kindred spirit, and he’s never really let himself have male friends before, for fear that he would somehow expose himself.  Let’s face it, the way he actually treated Ken is approximately the same way that I would treat Jon Hamm if I were to meet him. But then he picked up that cigarette lighter Ken left behind, and we were back in crush territory.

My heart breaks for poor Kitty, but in all fairness to Sal, he treats her much better than Pete treats his wife. Poor Kitty is a prop, but so is Betty, in her way. It’s a sad situation, but at least Sal treats her with basic decency. I think on some level he knows that what he’s doing is wrong, and it’s going to tear him apart. Again, not quite like Pete, who will be awful to his wife forever and never think twice about it.

We’re pushing ever closer to an honest-to-God lady fight here. Jane’s got a backbone on her. What I love is that there really wasn’t any indication that Roger actually talked to Joan about her firing. It was simply enough for Jane to invoke his name. I love the way Jane is so dismissive of the men in the office. If there were gold medals for rejecting Ken, she’d be Michael Phelps! She even managed to shut down Roger Sterling, right up until she needed him. She’s a force to be reckoned with, though I’m not sure anybody can win against Joan.

And speaking of Joan’s enmity, how did poor Paul end up getting named as one of the break-in crew? The one guy who backed out, and his name made the list. Unless Joan tweaked the rumor to make sure both of her nemeses were in play.

Jimmy Barrett is a creepy, creepy man. I didn’t give him credit for being smart enough to put the pieces together, though. Unless he’s kind of simple and he can spot his wife’s infidelity through bitter experience. This is another good performance – he’s not really funny, and I feel like we’re supposed to recognize that his career didn’t really go anywhere. It’s not that we’ve never heard of him because he’s fictitious; we’ve never heard of him because he was briefly popular and then forgotten. (Yes, I realize that I’m letting Mad Men bleed over into the real world a bit too much.) I liked his confrontation with Don, because he had the air of a man who deeply hates himself. He can say that he thinks Don’s pathetic, but all of that contempt is really just turned inward. He’s a sad man.

And you know what? Don totally had that passenger seat puke storm coming. Yeah, I said it.

Next week, it looks like somebody’s getting fired. Tell me you’re not on edge about that. That’s right, you can’t.


I love, love, love the way this show evokes the 1960s on so many fronts.  The costumes this time out were superior.  Let me just get all girly for a sec and say that I coveted  Kitty’s dress, Betty’s dress at the party and Jane’s outfit upon her triumphant return to work.  Those were all things that were so quintessentially early 60s, yet would totally work today with minor updates.
There were other reminders that this show is set about 45 years ago, and it was an entirely different world.  The meeting to discuss the ad campaign for Pampers was worth a few laughs.  It was interesting to see people, even people who don’t have kids and therefore no real idea how much disposable diapers save time and sanity, realizing the impact this product would have on the world.  Amazing to think about being at the forefront of such change…almost like being in broadcast media buying when people are shifting more and more of their budgets into digital and “new” media.

The picnic scene with the Draper family showed another interesting contrast in eras as well.  Don and Betty were meticulous in checking the hands of their children to insure they didn’t get the new Cadillac’s leather smudged, but they thought nothing of telling Bobby to pee on the tree, or of littering in a major way; leaving every can, wrapper and napkin on the grass without hesitation.  Wait until the seventies come and they see that crying Indian!  They’ll feel bad then!  Oh sure, the “Keep American Beautiful” campaign was founded in 1953 but it really kicked into high gear when Iron Eyes Cody shed a tear and a voice over told us “People start pollution, people can stop it” in that legendary public service announcement.  That’s right–public awareness about the evils of littering was raised by this and other slogans like “Don’t be a Litterbug” and “Pitch In!”  It’s the magic and, furthermore, the importance, of advertising.

I can’t completely figure out Jane.  Is she truly manipulative or just full of healthy ambition and trying to get ahead? I feel like she’ll be a major player as time goes on…maybe even vie for the office manager position if Joan contemplates leaving SC after she’s married.

Another intriguing situation is the one brewing between Sal, Ken and Sal’s wife, Kitty.  It makes perfect sense for Ken and Sal to be friends, based on their interests.  Too bad Ken doesn’t quite know he has become one of Sal’s interests as well.  I really couldn’t decide if Ken got a vibe or not, even though it was obvious to us in the audience, when Sal asked Ken to taste the sauce, light his cigarette and virtually shut his wife out of the dinner conversation.  Then again, given the times, that last bit wasn’t unheard of, was it?  The bigger question is what does Kitty suspect? Does she just feel neglected and under appreciated or does she know, deep down, that this man doesn’t love her as a man is supposed to love a wife, and why?  I’d be fascinated to find out and watch this one unfold.

Then there was the whole Don, Bobbi, Betty and Jimmy situation.  I figured there was something fishy when Jimmy called Don’s home.  Of course, it wasn’t until he tracked her down at the party and paid one too many fawning compliments to Betty that I decided Jimmy knew the real deal.  My guess is that this happens a lot.  I agree with EJ’s assessment that Jimmy is no Don Rickles or Joey Bishop; this guy’s going to be washed up and hitting the old game show circuit pretty hard in ten years.  At least he got a good dig in at Don by calling him out.  You could tell it cut him to the quick when Jimmy reminded him that Bobbi was someone’s wife, no matter how culpable she is in the whole scenario.  The other interesting, seemingly throwaway line of the scene between Betty and Jimmy was her insult of “you people”.  Don’t forget that Jimmy is Jewish and I’m fairly certain Betty is aware of this.  So, on top of everything else, Betty’s a bit of an anti-semite.

Don (not Draper)

Sometimes viewers try to draw too much symbolism from things.  There’s a yearning to discover and unlock a mystery, to make sense from something random, and to find another layer.  Hollywood, both in television and cinema, has trained its audience.  To find meaning in something obscure is empowering.  Challenging.  For many, this is called “high art.”  The simpletons can watch their sit-coms, their buddy-films, action adventure flix, and UFC.  The enlightened viewers, however, will contemplate what “Rosebud” means, how they’ll unravel the mysteries of Lost, and try and figure out where Mad Men is taking us.

Will a type writer ever just be a “type writer” on this show?  Should I be reading into Jane’s (Don Draper’s hot secretary) independence as a symbol of the turbulent late-60s and the impending march of the Baby Boomers?  Are the two know-it-all college grads with the catchy coffee song, who don’t wear ties and don’t march in line with the “greatest generation”, similarly cast with Jane as an end to Joan’s, Don Draper’s, Roger Sterling’s, and Bert Cooper’s world?  (To think, the Baby Boomers were once rabble-rousers who bucked the system and challenged authority, and now they resist change, elect Republicans, and listen to Rush Limbaugh).  The trash in the park left behind by the Draper family?  Is that symbolic of our ability to throw out our garbage and leave it behind, and to make a clean start? I would bet the disposable diapers my Boomer parents used on me still persist in some lifeless landfill. Or does the Draper family’s behavior represent the flaws of “the greatest generation” and the myth we believe.

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