Mad Men S2 Ep05 Review "The New Girl"

As episode 5 opens, we find Pete Campbell and wife Trudy reluctantly answering their infertility doctor's questions about their sex life. Dr. Stone uncomfortably probes Pete alone further to discover concerns about a dissatisfying job, his father's recent death, a good amount of self-loathing, and seemingly depressive state. The entire scene is reminiscent of a therapy session and leaves Pete pondering "Maybe I'm the end of the line?" Ultimately, we find that Pete is fertile, a fact we already know, and he smugly lays blame upon the apologetic Trudy. Can she accept a life without children?

Don's day at the office starts with a phone call from Bobbi Barrett, wife and manager to office talent Jimmy Barrett, who invites him to celebrate Jimmy's new TV pilot "Grin and Barrett". Don endeavors to draw the line between work and play but soon gives into temptation. Bobbi and Don drink, alot, and of course end up going home together. As the inebriated Don drives he confesses sadly, "I don't feel a thing". We've watched Don become more numb each week to the uncontrolled influences in his life...high blood pressure, loss of power and prestige, sex addiction that is quickly spiraling out of control, a deteriorating marriage, and a lack of coping skills which is affecting his own parenting. As he closes his eyes to the road, I wonder if the writers were presenting us with a suicide attempt as he ultimately swerves out of control and rolls his vehicle. Landing himself in jail now, Don is faced with two options: pay or stay. With inadequate funds, he calls on Peggy to bail him out.

Peggy, who's unable to control much in her own life, efficiently takes care of both Don and Bobbi, arranging their cover and lending Bobbi a place of refuge while her injuries heal. Over the course of several exchanges we find the two are actually very similar; Bobbi already functions successfully in a man's world and Peggy's stumbling yet learning to play men's games. I think Peggy reminds Bobbi of her younger self and thus offers Peggy some advice. In a maternal exchange, Bobbi warns Peggy that she will never get anywhere until she can treat Don as an equal and encourages her to use her feminine side as a tool to climb her way up the ladder of success. But why would Peggy go to such lengths to help her boss? We find out over the course of two flashback scenes. In the first we find a heavy-faced Peggy unable to explain to her doctors why she is in the hospital after having given birth. In the second, Peggy awakes to find none other than Don sitting by her bed. He knows why she is there and instructs Peggy, "Do what they say, get out of here, and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened". Lesson #1: Denial.

Who is the new girl, which in literal terms introduced us to Don's new secretary. Peggy, Bobbi, Rachel and Trudy are dedicated to uncertain new paths. I was left with the impression that the women don't recognize themselves anymore. I can't help but wonder if male advice/influence/motives won't serve as deep wells of regret and self hatred. We are learning negative coping skills...a drink, an affair, dismissal of mistakes, cover-ups, emotional decision making...push it down down down. As Don's regrets start to bubble to the surface, I find myself fearful that the entire office will follow in his footsteps, doomed to eventual numbness.

An interesting gender point, Sunday's episode added deliberate context, development, and emphasis to the Mad Men women setting an ominous tone of what's to come. Aside from Don and Pete's involvement, the women of Mad Men were given center stage, albeit crammed into one episode, to signal the changing direction of the wind. I never expect any of the Mad Men to be any other way than what they are, but are the women destined to grin and bear it?




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Aug 27, 2008 2:19PM EDT

Great review! This was arguably one of the best episodes I think. Interesting note you make about Don's car accident possibly being a suicide attempt - I hadn't thought of that, but I think it could be a possibility since he's pretty out of control and really in over his head in so many ways.
What I love about this show is that the characters will do these outrageously inappropriate things, but then when all is said and done, they still put their pride and reputation before their own life and well-being. Really makes for riveting material!

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Aug 27, 2008 11:49PM EDT

"Are the women destined to grin and bear it?"I couldn't have said it better!
I think your suicide hypothesis could actually be true, especially since he saw Rachel before the accident (and I think he was more than just in lust with her. There is also that part in episode ? when he mailed a book to 'someone'... I assumed it was Rachel.)I think you're right, he is giving up on life (kind of.)

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Sep 1, 2008 4:16PM EDT

I watched this episode on AMC on Demand and would just like to comment that the entire episode was sponsored by Viagra. Funny, no?Great review, Jackie! I too had not considered that suicide-attempt angle, but I think that's a really great hypothesis.Do we all agree that the most jaw dropping moment of the episode was the Don/Peggy interaction/connection in the hospital? Wow!Can't wait for this week's review.

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