SAD MEN Wives don't figure into Roger's and Don's existential crises
The death of an icon hovers over the ad men and women as a career and a marriage come to an end| Published Sep 29, 2008
"To Monday morning, it'll come sooner than you think." So said poor sodden Freddy Rumsen, after whiz dribbled down his leg before an important pitch meeting and he got the boot from not just his job, but also his very identity. This was an episode of existential crises flying fast and furious, as men wondered whether it was worth it to stay married and women worried over their very worth. Hanging over everyone's head was the breaking news of Marilyn Monroe's apparent suicide.
Don and Peggy, always fighting so hard to deny their swollen hearts, were a study in detachment in the elevator up to Sterling Cooper. The only one in that airless box with any sense of empathy was Hollis. "You hear about Marilyn? Poor thing," he asked the duo. "It's very upsetting," bleeped Peggy, sounding like Hal from 2001. Don, in the same voice one would use to read off the price of peas, allowed himself only to say that, "Suicide is disturbing." Hollis, in answer to Peggy's careless question of what a movie star could possibly have to be upset about, delivered a character study of his passengers with this one line: "Some people just hide in plain sight." Okay, so maybe that sums up our hero and heroine in too pat a fashion, but Mad Men so rarely indulges in cliché that the scene still had real oomph. Hollis has it in him to be thinking about what another person, in this case Joe DiMaggio, is going through, while Peggy, under Don's approving gaze, could only think about the woman's death in relation to the Playtex account.
While the secretaries huddled in sniveling pods — and one narcissistically declared that she's "never even taken pills, even when I had a headache," — Joan sought private refuge for her grief on Roger's couch, thinking the boss man was gone on cocktail hour. "What's wrong, Red?" Roger said when he walked in on her. "You miss me?" (It's always about him with this guy.) After Roger tsked her for mourning Marilyn's death, Joan sadly teased that "Yes, I'm just another frivolous secretary." But she didn't apologize for her tears. "This world destroyed her," she said, as Roger gripped her wrist like a vise and reminded the curvy bombshell that she was nothing like Marilyn, except maybe in the measurements department. Joan coolly withdrew herself from his hold and, like a specter out of a Charles Dickens story, told Roger that one day he would experience real loss and finally understand what it means to be in pain.
If Joan knows her way around matters of grief and loss, Jane can only playact at such depth. Oozing self-entitlement, she sat in Don's office and announced that his daughter had called wondering when her Daddy would be getting home from his business trip. She batted her lashes and, like a boob, told Don she was there for him if he ever needed a bony shoulder to cry on. First Don dumbly explained away his marital discord — "Mrs. Draper is working on some things" — and then he coldly reminded Jane that he did not know her at all and she'd better back off with the concerned doe eyes.
NEXT: Home sweet home