Mad Men 4.9 – Here’s to you, Mrs. Blankenship…

Another week, another great episode of “Mad Men.” The show has really settled into a solid groove of awesomeness over the course of the past several weeks. Not that it isn’t always pretty darned awesome, but ever since Episode 4.6, it’s been mindbogglingly good.

Given the title of this blog, I feel obliged to start things off by discussing the late, great Mrs. Ida Blankenship. I’ve spent much of this season under the presumption that Bert Cooper would be the one to die in the saddle at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Not that I’m rooting for Robert Morse to leave the show, but it just seemed like we hadn’t been seeing a whole lot of him this year, so I thought that perhaps that Bert’s days were numbered…and maybe they still are, but I certainly never expected that Mrs. Blankenship would beat him to the punch.

Of Mrs. Blankenship’s death, Roger quipped, “She died as she lived: surrounded by the people she answered phones for.” Similarly, the character departed in much the same way that she existed: as a punchline. There was some straight-up “Weekend at Bernie’s” schtick going on in the background as Don desperately tried to maintain his meeting with the gentlemen from Fillmore Auto Parts, and even though that isn’t necessarily the sort of thing that I expect when I tune in to “Mad Men,” it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. If I laugh harder at a Don Draper line this season than “I’d have my secretary do it, but she’s dead,” I’ll be very surprised. Still, Mrs. Blankenship’s demise did also lead to a sad, sweet moment from Bert, when he poetically described her as “an astronaut,” and it served to remind Roger of his mortality, which ultimately found him living life to the fullest…but we’ll get to that.

Don’s relationship with his hot blonde doctor has obviously progressed rather well since the end of last episode. Back then, he wasn’t willing to take things beyond the back seat of the cab, but now they’re indulging in a bit of early afternoon delightful at his place. There’s a lot of flirting going on, but the depth of the conversation remains relatively limited, as evidenced by her refusal to be as open with her goings-on as he is with his. I have to admit, though, that as soon as she made reference to a Chinese wall, this is the first thing that leaped into my mind:

I wasn’t terribly surprised to discover that Sally had essentially run away from Betty, seeking solace in the arms of her father. She’s always felt closer to Don, and as Betty has become progressively more evil toward her, it was only inevitable that she’d press the issue about living with him. Having her there during the whole Mrs. Blankenship saga only added a further element of silliness to those goings-on, but things got more serious as the episode progressed. It’s clear that, aside from Don’s dalliances with the opposite sex, he and Sally get along very well together, and she’s clearly doing her best to win her daddy over with her cooking (the bit with her accidentally using the rum as pancake syrup was priceless). Indeed, I’d guess one of the primary reasons for her explosion in his office was less to do with Faye trying to interact with her and more to do with the frustration of not knowing what else she could possibly do to show Don that she wouldn’t be any problem if she lived with him. Watching all of the women congregate in the doorway as Betty prepared to take Sally away was one of the most depressing shots in the show’s history, and I kept waiting for Don to say something about maybe having Sally live with him full time…but it never happened. Damn you, Don Draper…

Speaking of Faye, I was surprised both at Faye’s reaction to the Sally situation and at Don’s tenderness toward her. Despite the fact that Faye’s made it sound as though she and Don aren’t exclusive, it’s clear that both are taking this relationship rather seriously, even if neither of them are necessarily willing to commit to it 100% quite yet.

The Roger / Joan storyline this week was extremely interesting. I laughed at poor, deluded Roger trying to defend his book’s quality in his first scene of the episode, and his delusional state continued as he unabashedly flirted with Joan when she came into his office. She wasn’t having it, though, and we soon discovered that at least part of the reason for her tepid reaction was that she’d just learned of her husband’s imminent departure to Vietnam. It was a sweet gesture on Roger’s part to gift her with a massage, but, again, she went frosty when he dared to ask her to dinner. It isn’t until after Mrs. Blankenship’s death and the obvious affect it has on him that she finally agrees to go out for a meal, and they have a pleasant enough time together, though you’d have to be a fool to think that he really meant it when he said that he didn’t expect anything to happen.

Similarly, though, it’s not like they could’ve predicted that they’d be mugged after leaving the restaurant, resulting in such a tremendous surge of adrenaline that they’d succumb to their passions once more. I liked the way how, come the morning, Joan was willing to concede that there was a moment. If she’s willing to admit that much to Roger, then it was clearly more than just a moment. She knows him well enough to know that, by even acknowledging that there was one, he’s never going to give up on trying to capture that moment again…and again and again and again.

All told, I found Peggy’s storyline the least gripping of the episode, but it did serve to once again remind us that, although she doesn’t suffer fools gladly when it comes to her romantic relationships, she does learn from her mistakes: even though Abe may have put his big, fat foot in his mouth when he mocked her premise that sexism and racism were inherently similar problems in the workplace, he still managed to open her eyes to the issue with Fillmore Auto Parts and try to do something about it. I still don’t know what to make of her new lesbian buddy. Peggy definitely doesn’t seem interested in crossing over to that side of the street, but it’s hard to imagine that they’re just bringing her around to show that Peggy’s open-minded.

It was, as I said at the beginning, another great episode. What were your thoughts about the teaser for next week? I have this sneaking suspicion that Betty’s having Sally institutionalized…but maybe that’s just me.

  

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