Mad Men’s “The Beautiful Girls” follows two dynamite episodes, and wriggles its way through with the usual dramatic turns and a healthy hint of humor.
Sex, thy name is Don Draper. Hunger, thy name is Roger Sterling.
Don and Faye are an item, frolicking in bed and having a rousing time of it. Their relationship seems easy and comfortable – enough independence for each, and sharing the same professional drive, they understand each other.
Roger’s still flirting with Joan, who is increasingly raw now that hubby Greg has been called up, and will be heading to Vietnam. But Roger’s attempts to lighten her mood are rebuked. He sends a pair of blonde Swedes to her home – his gift – massage, manicure, pedicure. Mmmm. Good move, Roger. You know your target audience.
Joan thanks Roger; we witness their familiarity and friendship. Roger may swim in glib much of the time, but he’s more earnest with her, and his hankering for juicy Joanie is far from a thing of the past.
Don’s Day (Part 1)
While Joan and Roger have a few challenging moments in store, can we agree that it isn’t Don’s day? He may have started the morning with an energizing love fest, but his first meeting with Filmore Brothers Auto Parts quickly takes a turn.
The brothers squabble (and stutter), secretary Megan interrupts as daughter Sally shows up – apparently having run away from her mother, taken the train with no money, and is brought to Don’s office by a kindly middle-aged woman who nonetheless scolds Don for his callous and “clueless” parenting.
Don calls an equally clueless Betty who insists Don keep the child for the next 36 hours.
Don’s Day (Part 2)
Peggy happens upon Don’s secretary, Blankenship – she is sitting straight up at her desk, in her ridiculous green goggles, mouth agape.
“Blankenship,” says Peggy.
“Blankenship, are you alright?”
Peggy touches the older woman’s shoulder and she keels over, face down, dead on the desk!
Flash to a near slapstick scene with Peggy opening Don’s door to see Sally sitting at his desk, another interruption of Don’s meeting to discreetly inform him his secretary is dead, a panicked and perplexed gathering around the body as only Joan seems to know what to do next.
“I’ll tend to it,” she says, as what ensues offers a touch of sitcom in our weekly dose of Mad Men – “My mother made that blanket” whines Harry as they cover poor dead Ida, sneaking her past a nervous Don in his client meeting.
Corporate copywriter’s conundrum?
Peggy’s day may be less explosive than her boss’s, but an admirer (Abe) gets into it with her over the “Negro boycott” of client Filmore Brothers Auto Parts. Try as she might to justify her job and her role, Abe gets the better of her briefly, in a bit of verbal sparring that shows the growing gap between men and women and offers signs of things to come:
In advertising we don’t really judge people. . . but if it’s true [their discriminatory practices] it’s not good for their business.
Civil rights isn’t something to be fixed with a PR campaign.
Most of the things Negroes can’t do, I can’t do either and no one seems to care.
Abe’s snarky response:
Alright Peggy, we’ll have a civil rights march for women.
Are you listening, Bella? Are you on the move, Gloria?
Horizontal mambo? Nope. Vertical.
Roger: “I wish you would talk to me about things.”
Joan: “My husband doesn’t like it.”
Roger: “He signed up. You had to expect this.”
Joan: “He didn’t consult me.”
Roger: “You have to be kidding.”
Joan (sarcastically): “Because you and Janie share everything.”
Strolling back from the deli, the duo are surprised by a mugger who pulls a gun, gets their goods, but thanks to Roger’s quick thinking they aren’t hurt. The mugging moment slips into a sexy exterior encounter behind some stairs.
As for the consequences of that little act – and with hubby Greg away at Basic Training? Dare we imagine?
The next day, Roger apologizes and Joan, with aplomb, clarifies that she has no regrets, but reminds him: “I’m married, and so are you.”
Don’s Day (Part 3)
Later she argues with Don over his assumptions (you go, girl!) – and the fact that he dumped Sally on her and expected her to handle it. As for Don and Sally, we’re treated to another rapid fire exchange, but this time the beautiful girl running the show is a child. But she’s Betty and Don’s child – smart and aware.
Sally: “Is she your girlfriend?”
Sally: “She had your keys.”
Don: “I gave her the keys.”
Sally: “She knew you had peanut butter.”
Don: “Everyone has peanut butter.”
Sally: “She said she wanted to meet me. Why would she want to meet me?”
Don: “We work together and I talk about you a lot.”
Quite the interrogation! That evening, exhausted, Don sits to write in his journal, and is too worn out to form words on the page.
More onslaught, great lines
So much to say! (Too little time. . .)
Peggy is panicked over something written by amorous Abe. Sally mortifies Don with a pitiful, wild tantrum just before he hands her off to Betty – all in front of Peggy, Joan, Faye, and stand-in secretary Megan.
We have a series of great lines throughout this episode (a few cracks in the bedroom, some in the board room), Roger’s remark that Blankenship “died like she lived – surrounded by the people she answered phones for.” And of course, we have Burt Cooper’s summation of her life:
She was born in 1898 in a barn and she died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.
All about these colorful, evolving women of the times
Again, Mad Men’s writers showcase their women – each beautiful, each learning, each pushing their boundaries.
Faye won’t be pigeon-holed by Don. She demands his respect. Joan continues to demonstrate her strength, her flaws, and her exquisite vulnerability. Peggy’s youthful idealism propels her – “Why are we doing business with someone who won’t hire Negroes?”
As for Blankenship, she was one bold and saucy broad. An amusing character who called it like she saw it. The perfect foil to the glam environment, we’ll miss her sarcastic one-liners.
And hats off to costuming for their saturated hues, appropriate to the women. This episode lit the screen with Joan’s solid, brilliant red dress, color of passion – and danger. Even Blankenship wears bright purple on her last day (may she rest). Megan wears a youthful minty green, the stranger who helps Sally on the train is strident in a vivid shade of (warm and friendly) orange. Fay (dare I say it) “dons” a pattern, but so slight, that all we’re aware of is a cloud of golden yellow.
In contrast, Peggy’s outfits are darker and more manly – a navy vest with gold buttons, a tailored blouse underneath, and a plaid skirt.
Clashes to come?
We see a full-on clash of colors, clashes of conscience, the coming of women standing up for themselves. In a delicious final scene, Joan, Faye, and Peggy each walk out to the elevator bank, apparently the last to leave the office. We’re offered a final shot of the reception area at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – its couches of bright red, blue, and yellow.
Beautiful girls? Vital, vibrant, and capable women.