Miss Blankenship's parting shot: "It's a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are."
I didn't love this episode, "The Beautiful Girls." I found it heavy-handed and speechy in ways that "Mad Men" is usually deft about avoiding, e.g. Peggy's friend Joyce's bit about men being vegetable soup and women being soup pots. That kinda made me choke. This was clearly the Women with Issues edition of "Mad Men."
I'll sleep on it but I think it's the weakest of the season run so far. There were some poignant moments, courtesy of the immensely talented Kiernan Shipka. For me, the highest and lowest moments of the episode, written by Dahvi Waller and Matthew Weiner and directed by Michael Uppendahl, came close together at the end.
After Sally has already torn our hearts out by playing out her Daddy-romance fantasy, right down to making rum-soaked French toast for breakfast while wearing one of his T-shirts, she just kills it all over again with her freak out in Don's office.
The sight of Sally running down the hall, running for her freedom, running to get her dad's undivided attention, and then falling face first -- pass the tissues. Finally, somebody figures out that the kid needs a hug, and I suspect it helped to calm Sally that the woman who picked her up, Megan, was a tall brunette who looks nothing like her mother.
The powerful moment comes in the following scene, when Sally is taken to Betty in the lobby, and Joan and other women in the office come out to watch the handover as if they were human rights observers. I'm convinced Betty was only halfway human to Sally in that moment because all of those female eyes were boring into her. At least Don mostly rose to the occasion when confronted with an 100-decibel cry for help.
The weakest moment of the whole seg for me was the closing shot with Joan, Peggy and Faye in the elevator. It seemed extremely cliched, especially for this show which has not in the past had trouble finding arresting, compelling closing sequences. Oh well, they can't all be home runs.
We had a fair amount of plot development but I don't think we learned a whole lot about our characters, other than Sally and perhaps Peggy. I found it interesting that Don at one point went to his journal but couldn't seem to focus enough to write, and interesting that Don hesitated before gulping down some whiskey-courage in the wake of Sally's grand exit.
I like the Faye character and am glad that we're going deeper into who she is. She was right to give Don grief about putting her in an impossible situation with his daughter -- and probably making it tougher on all of them should their relationship get serious.
She was also right, of course, to refuse to give Don dish about the goings-on of another ad agency she's working for. Faye is smart, strong-willed and supremely independent. She's not man-hungry in the same vein as Bobbie Barrett and to a lesser degree, Rachel Menken. Nor is Faye as needy as the schoolteacher whatshername that Don had the affair with last season.
There's more to ponder but I'm beat. Although this seg had some choppy parts, there were a few great lines, including Bert's obituary for his former lover. "She was born in a barn in 1898. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She's an astronaut."
Blankenship's passing made them all wrestle with the mystery of mortality, none more so than Roger, Bert and Joan. This episode seemed to set in motion some events and some thought processes in our major characters that should bear interesting fruit in the three (I think) episodes that we have left.
I once did the same thing Sally did -- pop up at my dad's office unexpectedly when I was supposed to be in school.
But I was a lot older (9th grade), we didn't live apart and I only had to take buses from the north end of Pasadena to Occidental College in Eagle Rock. I was pretty miserable for most of my short tenure in high school, and one day I convinced myself that the goal of surprising my father was a reasonable excuse for bailing out of school for the day.
Dr. Littleton didn't agree, naturally, but as I recall he was pretty understanding about the intrusion. His modest-sized office in the sociology/anthropology department was lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that were overflowing, and he had two beat-up blue stuffed chairs in one corner. I recall curling up with a few books for the afternoon until we went home together. With all those books, I always felt smart just being in that office.
-- Cynthia Littleton