Mad Men – “Marriage of Figaro” (S1.E3)

peggy looking fondly at pete rachel lowers her height for Donvlcsnap-00038 guardian of the teddy bears

“The Marriage of Figaro” is about the marriage club, who wants to stay in (the women) and protect the club at any cost, even cruelty to those recently kicked out, and who wants to reluctantly stay in, and still order off-the-menu (the men). Pete just joined (‘wait, Don, you’re in the club too!’), which pushes Peggy away (‘i’ll take erotic literature as substitute for romantic relationship for $200’). Don’s membership keeps him (temporarily) from his latest conquest (‘I’ll beer my way through this domestic bliss’). Harry has a slippery definition of off-the-menu (‘I enjoy various interactions with female humans’). Sally’s birthday party is a microcosm of mostly bad marriages and one cheesy but caring couple (‘that was a mean joke, let’s make-out’).

Our Misoginy Comes with a Side Order of Hypocrisy

  • Dirty Books: The Ad Bros talk openly about the Volkswagon ad in a Playboy in their update meeting, which Don was (probably) reading on the train. Joan returns the “erotic literature” (Lady Chatterly’s Lover) to Marge quietly in the staff lounge, purse to purse, with a warning not to read it on the train to avoid creepers.
  • Dead wife jokes: One without wives present, and one with wives present to wince.
  • Pete breaks up with Peggy at the beginning of the day and after learning that it’s ok, picks her back up again on his way to home-cooked dinner (“you look nice”). Don stares at the Rachel Cufflinks before he gets his home-cooked breakfast.
  • Francie checks out and flirts with Don openly with Betty. Francie’s hubby Carlton’s hides and shushes his aw-shucks play for The Poor Divorcee (who pins it back on him, in a nice twist).
  • Don. See next section.
  • The married women peck/attack Helen Bishop The Poor Divorcee about her money, divorce, habits, because she’s not in the club, therefore a threat to the club. (“I saw you walking? I was driving in my CAR?”).
  • The married women blow off steam with each other about their lunkhead husbands and worries about kids. The married men blow off steam drinking.
  • Dads sing “for he’s a jolly good fellow” to Sally, who, as it turns out, is a little girl.

Keep Don Sympathetic

In every episode Don is a shmuck in new and exciting ways. His vulnerability and shame about his past and the often heroically schmucky actions of other characters help him break even. This is sometimes just Pete keeping the balance steady. Don just has to be less worse than combined terribleness of everyone else. Let’s add them up:

  • Pete: Committed to marriage and new life: +1. Peggy breakup: -1 (could be neutral, theoretically, he’s turning over a new leaf and staying faithful, ‘cept he’s so cold about it she literally shudders in pain after he walks past). The way he says “it’s the lay of the land”: -1. Being surprised at wife cooking dinner: +1. Coming back on to Peggy at the end: -1. Whiny excuse to Rachel about not seeing the store: -1.  Total: -2.
  • Harry Crane. Dead Wife Joke #1: -1. Slippery off-the-menu definition: -1. Draper/Batman line: +1. Total: -1.
  • Dead Wife Joke Husband. Dead Wife Joke #2: -1. Midget joke: -1. Truth-telling about Don: +1. Total: -1.
  • Nerd Dad. Smacks kid: -1. Tells kid to get wife to clean up broken glass: -1. Total: -2.
  • Carlton. Play at Helen Bishop: -1. Total: -1.
  • In my CAR lady. Insinuating Helen Bishop is hitting on Don when they’re outside after she just turned down Carlton: -1.

For a grand total of: -7.

Let’s see how that stacks up against Don:

  • Spooked on train by Friend From The Past: +1 (sympathy vote). Jerk to Pete when Pete apparently sincere: -1. Deliberate cufflink ploy: -1. Throwing Ad Bros under bus: -1. Clever line about heads of teddy bears: +1. Cut The Crap Let’s Kiss put-down: -1. Saying he’s married after the kiss: -1. Let her be the bad guy: -1. Appear conflicted about cufflinks: neutral. Nice to Sally: +1. Builds playhouse: +1. Normal nice to Helen’s kid: +1. Blows off party, embarrasses Betty: -1. Stares at train possibly suicidally: +1 (sympathy vote). Buys Sally dog: +1, to make up for the fact he knows he’s sometimes a crap dad: -1.

For a grand total of: -1.

Episode goes to Don.

Rachel Menken likes DonDon’s Dame

Rachel Menken. The beautiful, bright, powerful owner of Menken’s department store. She’s Jewish. She’s attracted to Don’s Perceptive Nihilism in the previous episode. Don’s attracted to her attractiveness, smarts, confidence, and she is also a woman, a type of person Don is fond of. Like lots of Don’s conquests she seems pretty put together. Her opening up to him, and how he takes advantage of it, painful.

Memable Line

14:38 "Draper, who knows anything about that guy. No one's ever lifted that rock. He could be Batman for all we know."

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