Mad Men, Season 5 Episode 1 & 2: “A Little Kiss”

First of all, let’s just discuss how fabulous it was to be back at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The clothes are a little bit gaudier since we’re heading into the late ’60s, but the emotional turmoil! The smoking indoors! The furtive looks! Megan popping her blouse open in the office! Okay, okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dive in!

Sally’s sexual development and ideas about sexuality is something that is constantly on my mind while I watch this show. When Sally was caught masturbating at a friend’s house last season, she was scolded by Betty and sent to a child therapist. Don was resistant to the idea. Now, Sally is caught between  two very conflicting roles of sexuality being presented to her by two very different women. Betty is very uptight and strict about the displays of affection she has shown to both Henry and Don – little pecks; very rarely anything beyond that. We never catch Betty out of her nightgown. Megan, on the other hand, is exceptionally free with her sexuality overall, particularly compared to Betty, lavishes affection on Don, and Sally catches a glimpse of her bare bottom sleeping on her father’s bed. What do you think is going on in her mind at such an impressionable age?

Now. Pete. Let’s talk about Pete and Trudy for just a second. On the one hand, Pete is an ambitious businessman and a communicative husband. On the other, he has conversations with his train buddy (who is a total jerk) about his wife’s post-baby body:

Pete: She’s getting back to herself.
Train Bud: How old’s the kid?
P: I thought it would be a little faster […] there was a time she wouldn’t leave the house in a robe.

Oh, I’m sorry, Pete, I didn’t know that the rate at which Trudy is losing the weight she gained having your baby wasn’t fast enough for you. I know this discussion is only indicative of the time period, and not fully a reflection on Pete – women were expected to be wives and mothers, and their beauty (aka weight – don’t even get me started on that one) means everything. It’s pretty clear what Pete thinks a role for a women is when he says “do I look like I’m wearing a skirt?” to Peggy when she tries to hand off Joan’s baby. Pete is all about playing by the rules, and to him, the rules are that women belong in the home or answering his phones.

To Pete’s credit, though, he does clearly value and love his wife and her opinion. She cheers him up when he talks about his dissatisfaction at work, and they are very caring towards each other. Plus, he doesn’t gossip at the office about Megan’s performance at Don’s surprise party.

SPEAKING of Zou Bisou Bisou and the birthday party that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – and 2012 viewers –  will clearly be talking about by the water cooler for the rest of the month, let’s break down Don’s 40th birthday bash and it’s aftermath:

  • This party reeks of Megan’s style and demeanor. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not very Don. Don is all about steak, cigarettes, sleeping with women, and deep dark secrets. Megan accepts and loves Don’s dark past – the opposite of Betty – but Megan is extremely different. She has friends that are not only black but gay, which makes the status quo from SCDP a little surprised and perhaps even uncomfortable at first. When Roger thanks Don for not inviting Joan (although I personally was devastated we weren’t treated to some party-Joan), Don says, “It wasn’t up to me. Can’t you tell?” and looks over at Megan laughing hysterically at her friends. Just an interesting shift from Betty’s style, which was much more along the lines of whatever she felt would most please Don.
  • Then there is the actual performance of Zou Bisou Bisou – Megan – in her short short short black dress, spreading her legs, hiking up her skirt, gesturing towards her crotch – shocks nearly everyone in the room. Harry shouts out “oui oui!” and claps; Roger turns to his wife and says “why don’t you sing to me like that?” (and her response is the best: “why don’t you look like him?” PLUS the conversation they have right at the very end of the episode at 5 AM – Jane: ‘what time is it?’ Roger: ‘shut up.’ Not very nice, but altogether hysterical).
  • After the party, Megan is thrilled with how it turned out and wants to chatter away with Don about it all night. Don asks her to not waste money like that again, and she says – which made me exceptionally happy – “it was my money, you don’t get to decide what I do with it.” HUZZAH! SOME ASPECTS OF FEMINISM ARE TRULY BREAKING THROUGH IN BOTH PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE! HIP HIP HOORAY! It made me think about how this show will move along going forward,  and I’m excited to see people’s – particularly women’s – attitudes change towards the workplace and the “women’s” jobs and the “men’s” jobs. I’m also looking forward to the relationships Megan forms with our favorite old characters – she is clearly a new kind of woman; particularly compared to the other ladies we know so well by now.
  • Harry and Roger both make fun of Zou Bisou Bisou – Roger to Don, who smacks him down back into his place – “we don’t make fun of each others’ wives here” – and Harry to Megan’s face, without his knowledge. Megan is clearly pretty taken aback and hurt by it, and snaps at Peggy, complaining that people at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are so stodgy and uptight and heads home. Harry seems to feel pretty bad, but it’s still a disgusting display of workplace sexual harassment.

Okay, now let’s just take a minute and talk about Megan and Don’s sex life:

  • Megan knows exactly how to keep Don interested. She is providing the mistress role for him; which he kept going back to over and over again in past seasons, bringing some spice into his sex life in the form of floor sex (that was vaguely reminiscent of rape for a second until you see that she really was into it). Megan’s even uninhibited in the workplace – popping open her blouse to give Don a peek on her way out of the office. However, Don seems to be letting his mind drift from work somewhat – which brings us to Peggy!

Peggy is clearly the hardest working person at SCDP, and that troubles her – because it used to be Don. She’s frustrated with Don’s lack of interest in pushing the client to dig their Heinz Beans ad idea. Peggy is clearly the person who knows Don best in the office, in their own weird 1960’s version of mentor/mentee. I did love that Peggy has her adorable journalist boyfriend now – it makes my heart soar. Not just because she’s not single, but because they seem to understand what the other is all about. I also loved that Peggy is wearing the same dress in one of the early scenes that she wore last season. Look at that – the employees of SCDP are real people!

As for  Joan – it was refreshing to see her in a different role here, and I relished every second of it. I found it fascinating to see more of her relationship with her mother (and wished I could punch her mom when she said “you’re not exactly at your fighting weight”). I loved her conversation with her mother about how Joan wants to continue working at SCDP,  because it revealed so much about Joan and her outlook on life and work that I’m interested to see play out over time and as society shifts over the next couple of years:

Mom: I had to [work]. Your husband’s a doctor.
Joan: I promised, and they need me.
Mom: He’s not going to allow you to work.
Joan: ALLOW me?
Mom: “Whither thou goes, I will go.”
Joan: And how did that work out for you?

Joan is challenging the old-world way her mother has of thinking about motherhood, being a wife, and working (yahoo!). I also loved Lane’s sweet conversation with Joan when she came to visit (overdressed in a tight cocktail dress, popping out – poor Joan. working so hard to impress). He was so kind to her, telling her how much she and her work had been missed at SCDP. I loved that he treated her somewhat like an equal. Which brings me to Lane…

Oh Lane, you and your love of seductive female voices. He was clearly smitten with Delores, and was desperate to meet her – which didn’t exactly work out for him. Lane is polite to women and knows his manners, but he’s still unable to resist a seductive voice. It seemed only fitting that Lane would collect the resumés of the African-American applicants pouring in after their “prank” ad in the Times; particularly since none of us will forget Lane’s little interlude with the black waitress from the Playboy Club. Lane is the most forward thinking of the bunch, and I’ll be interested to see how his British sensibilities mesh with the changing times and his more liberal attitude towards things like race.

Phew! I think I’ve hit all my major points of things to look at from Episodes 1 and 2 of this season. Look for an Episode 3 write-up soon!

Edit: Not sure how the video links got confused there, but they should be fixed now – feel free to watch Zou Bisou Bisou over and over again!