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Jews Watching Mad Men: “Hey Ladies!”

This week, the wrtiers of Mad Men, showed us their unmatched ability to slyly tug at our heart strings when we least expect it.  This episode brought us this season’s equivalent of the lawn mower incident from the previous one.  When people were riding a lawnmower around the Sterling Cooper offices last season, we didn’t think much of it,until someone’s foot was turned into bloody gazpacho.  This season, Ms. Blankenship sits at her desk in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed.  Don says to her, "I don’t want to hear it," and walks off. Soon after, Peggy notices her staring up at the ceiling motionless, presumably sleeping.  A nudge results in Ms. B’s head on the desk with a thump and the realization that she’s dead. Peggy wipes her hand on her dress to get rid of the death germs — this was mind you, before Purell. 

When Don is called out of a meeting for the second time to deal with the dead old lady situation, the viewer expects him to deal with it quickly and coldly, but instead we get a soft moment from Don as he says in a heartened voice, "Poor thing."  However, the real "waaah"moment came from Burt Cooper, who earlier in the episode sat beside Ms. B doing a crossword, as though they were an old married couple. Roger and Burt try to come up with an obit for Mrs. Blankenship, too troubled by their own mortality to think.  Roger uses this as an opportunity to call on Joan (more on this later) who enters with a few generic sentiments.  That’s when Burt speaksup.  On his way out he says, not in a "write this down," kind of way, but as a genuine proclamation: "She was bornin 1898 in a barn.  She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut."  This, at first, seems funny, a subtle crack, but it only takes seconds for thatfeeling in your throat to sink in, and make your realize that it’s much more.  Ms. Blankenship is the first of the "Beautiful Women" this episode’s title refers to.

Peggy is reintroduced by her lesbian friend (David Mamet’s daughter) to the beatnik she kissed in a closet in the village a few episodes ago. The beatnik likes Peggy so he tries to club her over the head with liberal politics because this approach has probably worked for him in the past.  Peggy becomes offended and leaves and the beatnik keeps trying, bringing an essay he wrote for her into the office.  "I’m not a political person," she tells him, wearing the cutest outfit she’s worn all season.  Funny, since she represents the major strides toward equality that are happening in the world of Mad Men.  In the end lesbian extraordinaire, Zosia Mamet explains thatmen are soup who expect women to be their bowl and that women have to eitherfind the best possible soup or lez it out.  Not the best analogy Mad Men has put out there, but decent.

Joan’s rapey husband has been called to Vietnam and so Joan starts wearing a bullet necklace.  Rogertries to console her by sending a massage and pedicure.  A defensive Joan is lulled into having dinner with Roger, who lets her know that he accepts that nothing will happen between them, but that he’s realized while writing his memoirs, that the best times of his life were with her. Walking home from dinner, they’re robbed.  The gun-toting dude in the bad part of town takes everything, including Joan’s wedding ring.  (MEN!  Pay attention!  If you are ever on a date and mugged, handle it exactly as Roger did in this episode.  Keep your head down and run your shit.  When it’s over, touch her face softly.)

Of course, a sex kitten like Joan, married to her creepy, nam-bound husband, in anear death experience equals, hot, crazy boning.  Joan and Roger proceed to go at it right there in thestreet, leaning against a building. Okay, I get that they were in a bad neighborhood, but can you reallybone on the street in New York City anywhere?  Could you in 1964? All in all, I love Joan and Rogertogether, and I think the audience is with me here.  There’s myriad reasons why — hatred toward both their spouses, chemistry between the two actors, watching Joan being pampered by Roger — but the bottom line for me is the idea that I could possibly end upold enough that I’m worried about dying, and making love to Joanie.  Plus, we’ve got Viagra now.

Doc Faye is another of the beauties this episode focuses on.  She and Don have started sleeping together but there isn’t anything too important that happens with there thisepisode.  But, she sets Don up forthe best line of the episode.  Donand Faye, have wild sex and knock over a lamp during climax.  Afterwards, Don goes to pick up lamp.

Faye: Is it broken?

Don: The lamp?

The last of beauties, is little Salamander who’s slimming down by the episode and becoming more rebellious. (If the show took place now, Sally would be reachingher, bumming smokes outside the mall, listening to Skinny Puppy phase.)  Sally hops a train on her own for NYC to see her dad, and of course, Don is pissed at first, but they make the most of it, going to a museum and eating French toast.  When he can’t watch Sally, Don asks his new boning partner, Doc Faye, to watch her.  When Betty finally comes to pick her up, Sally losses her shit, screaming and running away.  This scene feels almost parallel to the death of Ms. B in its sort of subterfuge pathos.  Sally, running away, falls to floor and cries into the arms of Don’s new secretary, who is confusingly moved to tears by the interaction.  When Sally is handed over to Betts the entire office of women is compelled to watch.  This is one of the moments that makes you want to write an outline, the kind of richness other TV writers don’t dare attempt.

Inorder to throw it off, we get an on the nose moment, of watching Sally leave theoffice and cross paths with Zosia. 

Our final view is of Peggy, Faye and Joan standing in an elevator together. It’s simple, this last shot. They all look beautiful, and yet there’s so much more going on, so much, that to hone in on what’s right there on the surface is enough

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