Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

We’re in the week before Thanksgiving, the season is moving along. I remember seasons past hitting Thanksgiving pretty hard, but this season it was more in the background. I had the sense that the first couple episodes were going a week or two weeks at a time, but the last couple episodes have jumped 6 weeks or more from the previous episode. Matt Weiner is committed to getting us out of the 60s.

-Betty’s back, Hi, Betty. It looks like she lost some weight, which I know was important to her, so I feel glad for her. And she’s in Weight Watchers. Incidentally, Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 and was owned by Heinz from 1978-1999. How’s that for a tie in? We’ve seen Betty’s nastiness before, but this was the first episode where we can say it was driven by hunger. In the first scene, she’s eating a piece of toast, a couple cubes of cheese, and a grapefruit in the dark. Realizing now that maybe she was eating late at night as opposed to early in the morning? She’d be doing this to count the meal on the next day’s points, like she did with the bite of Henry’s steak. (‘Bite of Henry’s steak’ not a euphemism.)

-Dark Shadows is the title of this episode, but I don’t think it refers to the new Johnny Depp movie, or even the 1960s TV show, which was something of a supernatural soap opera. There have been dark shadows on the proverbial horizon all season, all series, really. Some nods to the title in this episode, Betty eating in the dark, Don working in the dark, Betty eating in the dark again (shooting the whipped cream into her mouth and then spitting it out), Henry cooking in the dark, Roger and Jane kissing in the dark, the smog warning on Thanksgiving. Winter is coming. The smog warning seems especially important.

-“Look at all these voices, look at all this talent.” Don’s starting to feel threatened by Ginsberg in a way he’s not been threatened by Peggy or other copywriters. This is why he was working late and didn’t get Sally her dang colored pencils. From the “Shit I Have to do” folder, Don knew what Ginsberg was going to pitch and worked hard to come up with something to beat it. Don was only able to match Ginsberg’s idea, though, so he had to leave the Snowball-to-the-face in the cab. Obviously this burned Ginsberg, but no one will sympathize because they got the sale. The Ginsberg/Draper competition will be interesting here on out. (An aside, the pitches on the show continue to be mediocre. This episode it was reinforced when people laughed at the ideas for Snowball, twice. The ideas weren’t funny, and the laughter came off as hollow. The idea for Manischewitz of the wine boxes under the bus seats was pretty good though.)

-“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Ginsberg quotes this after his pitch has seemingly been chosen by the team to be shown to the client. It’s from the poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. While Ginsberg quotes the line correctly, it’s misused in this context, though, because of the theme of the poem. Stan reinforces this by telling him, “You should read the rest of that poem, you boob.” Ginsberg is saying, look how great my work is, while the poem is about how nothing lasts, even, and especially great and mighty things. Great and mighty things like America in the 50s, SCDP, Don Draper, etc, etc. Pretty bleak, and a perfect poetic reference for the show. The advisers think the poem was about the most important thing in the episode, and I tend to agree. The poem was referenced earlier in the episode by Peggy in her Snowball pitch.

-Sally’s family tree is another dark shadow looming. And now someone else knows a little more about Don’s past. So Betty’s been big for a while, but we still haven’t seen her and Don interact in person this season. We don’t know until Don says something about her fat face that he knows she’s fat. Betty’s obviously nervous about going up to get the kids and being seen. She’s also, apparently, curious about the apartment. What’s interesting is the kids weren’t brought down because Megan wanted to look good for Betty, too, and was changing. “Well, you’ve seen most of it,” Megan said coolly, though I’m not totally sure why she would mind so much. In any case, Betty saw the nice note Don wrote to Megan about light bulbs (“Lovely Megan, I went to go buy a light bulb. When I get back, I’ll see you better. Love, Don.” DARK SHADOWS) and needed to lash out about that and Megan looking good without a shirt and about having to eat celery, so she told Sally about Anna Draper. “Don’t forget your father’s first wife.”

-Did you notice Don and Megan have a color TV? I believe that’s the first we’ve seen on the show.

-Sally was a total B most of the episode, and Megan teaching her to fake cry on command is going to end up biting her in the ass. All Sally wants, though, is Don’s attention, and when she finally gets the story from him, she seems mollified. “Your mother doesn’t care about hurting you, she just wants to hurt us.” Remember, Betty is having a Thanksgiving dinner of a bite of stuffing, a schmoo of gravy, and one Brussels sprout. Cut her some slack.

-Don was angry about Betty telling Sally and was going to call Betty and Megan was prescient, she didn’t want to give Betty, “The thrill of having poisoned us from 50 miles away.” As much as Betty was a fairly predictable character, I continue to be impressed by Megan. I also liked Sally putting it back in Betty’s face. Betty was dying to know how her lashing out was received, and Sally played it perfectly.

-Roger continues to have comedic scenes, with Bert talking about selling Manischewitz without Pete, with Ginsberg asking for ideas. And he continues to use money to get what he needs. For the third time, he paid an employee at the office to get work done, and he bought Jane an apartment to get her to come to the Manishewitz dinner. At work, it’s to show how feckless he is. It’s a bit heavy-handed, though, that this has happened in a full third of the episodes this season after never having happened in the past. Roger did seem upset about christening Jane’s apartment, but I have a hard time taking her feelings seriously because she seems super shallow. “You get everything you want and you still had to do this.”

-Oh, Pete. You thought you had the New York Times Magazine all wrapped up and it was going to be so amazing Beth was going to come into the office naked. “I forgot you. And then I saw you in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.” Roger’s line when Pete was telling them about the profile was funny. “You shouldn’t start with the Mayflower.” “Don’t wake me up up and throw your failures in my face.”

-Other quotes, “Am I the only one who can drink and work around here?” “I feel bad for you.” “I don’t think about you at all.”

What’d I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 recap

2 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 recap

  1. Joe c says:

    You missed the actual reference to the TV show Fark Shadows in the show: it had just started airing around that time, and was the soap opera Megan’s friend was trying out for. (“Collingwood” is mentioned in her script.)


  2. NancyB says:

    I love your recaps! Once again, you have captured many nuances that others have not noted or have missed. I so enjoy CP’s weekly illustrations as well.


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