Sunday, April 27, 2014


Mad Men, Season Seven, Episode Three, "Field Trip"

Poor Bobby Draper. During last week's episode, his sister took a "field trip" with their father, learned a lot (as kids on field trips are supposed to do), and got back to school with a much improved image of, and relationship with, Don. This week, Bobby is so excited--and surprised--that Betty agrees to go on his class' field trip to the farm (after the housekeeper/babysitter nudges her toward it); while on the bus, he is actually getting his mother to listen to him talk about the different kinds of monsters he's aware of and tells his teacher, "We're having a conversation!" Yes, Mrs. "Maybe I'm old fashioned" dons her best farm-visiting peach suit, nylons, and mom heels so she what? Is she feeling inadequate after her lunch with Francine, now the successful travel agent? Does she need to prove that her kids really are the "reward" she needs, as she tells Francine, who had told Betty that she "needed the challenge" of work? Does Betty need the accolades of the teacher and to prove something to her about her parenting? Her "Bobby asked and I couldn't say no" seemed a bit too forced and cheerful. Yet once there at the farm, she proves that she's still just the child she's always been: standing outside the barn sharing a smoke and snarky comments about the teacher with another mom, understandably being annoyed with Bobby for trading away her sandwich for some candy, but then not being able to let it go. The number of times the boy repeated "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" to her is indicative that he habitually sees himself as inadequate in her eyes. The fact that she still holds a grudge about the damn sandwich that evening, ridiculously refusing to eat dinner to punish him ("I was hungry, but now I'm not." Really, Betty?!) reveals that she's not learned anything about how to be a grown-up or a parent. "It was a perfect day and he ruined it," she whines to Henry. I find the lack of development of her character over the years to be disappointing. It's okay if she doesn't end up having the "Feminine Mystique" type awakening of her "problem with no name," but it would be nice if she would evolve a bit as a wife and mother if that's what she's committed to being. Instead she's predictably infuriating in the ways that she is quite the crappy mother. I wish Henry would pick up some of Don's new-found honesty medicine and the next time she throws herself a pity party and whimpers, "Do you think I'm a good mother?" he'd let her have some truth.

Don takes a couple of "field trips" of his own this week: one to California, where he learns that his telling the story of why he lied about his job doesn't go over as well with Megan as it did with Sally, and one back to SC&P. Where his and Megan's marriage will end up after his revelations is unclear, but he was--it seems--attempting to be honest. And, even though I'm not crazy about Megan, I admire how she can stand up to him and express herself. When he tells her he hasn't been sleeping around and hasn't been drinking much, she spits out, "So with a clear head, you got up every day and decided you didn't want to be with me." Later, when he calls her from New York, he asks that she just listen to him (as he wanted Sally to do last week). She tells him to "stop pushing me away with both hands." She knows what he does with his emotional damage, but since he also seems willing to learn about himself now, who knows? Maybe things will change with them.

Peggy, on the other hand, seems genuinely stuck. She's in the office the whole episode (no field trips of any kind for her). She can't get past her resentment at Don for what he did with Johnson and Johnson and to Ted; she claims not to care about awards, but is clearly upset--and justifiably so--that Lou did not submit her and Ted's Rosemary's Baby ad for consideration for the award, while Ginsberg has been nominated; and she clearly is still stuck on Ted. It all just leads her to be mean again.

Then there's Don's last field trip of the episode, back to the office. While at the end of last season, the partners were in a tableaux of Roger, Bert, and Jim with Joan a little off to the side as they put Don on leave, this time Bert, Joan, and Jim are all arrayed on one side of the table, while Roger is with Don on the other. Each of the three opposed to Don direct a stipulation at him, the kinds of stipulations that the brilliant Don Draper should say 'no' to. But instead, he gives them a calculating stare, then pulls a face and shrugs "okay." He's called their bluff. It will be interesting to watch what he does as time goes on to try to "fix" things.

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