I’m reviewing all the episodes of Mad Men before the last seven episodes premiere in the Spring of 2015. If you want to see an overview of the episodes I’ve written about so far, click HERE.
Strictly speaking, the “New Girl” of the title is Don’s new secretary Jane Siegel, who gets a lot of attention from the men at the office. But Jane’s screentime is very limited. I don’t even know if her hiring would qualify as the D or E plot of the episode. The title, as is to be expected from Mad Men, is kind of a metaphor. Who is the title referring to, then, if not to the actual new female employee of Sterling Cooper?
First of all, it refers to Bobbie Barrett. This becomes pretty clear in the scene where Don and Bobbie are having dinner and they run into Rachel Menken, who is married now. Don brushes it off saying it is all business, but Rachel knows what they’re really doing. She has been there before. Rachel is the old girl, and Bobbie is just the new one. Bobbie is a very important character in season two, but she is also very divisive and problematic. I remember unapologetically hating Bobbie when I first watched this season, and in hindsight, I’m still not sure if I like her. What I do know is that I’ve gained a lot of sympathy for her as the years have gone by, and I have been able to meditate about the situation she is in. Because the reason why Bobbie is an unlikable character doesn’t really have to do much with herself. She is a strong woman trying to make her way in a world overwhelmingly dominated by men, which I think first the description of what should be a very sympathetic character. The reason why Bobbie can be so unappealing is because she seems to bring out the worst in Don, and being the protagonist of the show, we want Don to be a better person than he is, even if that sometimes feels like a fool’s errand.
Just in their second encounter, in “The Benefactor“, Don cornered Bobbie and threatened her while holding her crotch. See, not the best behavior. It’s also very unclear if Don actually likes Bobbie, or if he gravitates towards her because of other factors. I mentioned in my review of “The Benefactor” that Don seems to be attracted to Bobbie’s apparent power, and read his behavior in the encounter I just mentioned as a way of him asserting his strength, showing her he is more powerful than her. I was thinking Don’s attraction to Bobbie might be connected to some kind of challenge in “owning” a woman that seems, on first glance, so powerful. But at this point in his life, Don is much more conflicted than ever about having an affair. The season started with him trying to make it work with Betty, and yet, he has failed miserably. He gets into a car accident with Bobbie (more about this later), and lies to Betty about it saying it was related to his blood pressure. At the end of the episode he sits in the kitchen eating unsalted dinner with his family. “Why can’t daddy have salt?” asks Sally. “Because we love him” Betty answers. At this point, a somewhat tender scene at the Draper household after Don has cheated on Betty has become somewhat of a Mad Men staple, but this one in particular seems very tongue-in-cheek, with the lack of salt becoming a simple symbol of the kind of trouble Don is so close to get into.
But let’s go back to Bobbie. One of the most memorable images of the episode comes after she and Don have their car accident. Someone has to come so they can make bail, and Don doesn’t have anyone to call to except… Peggy Olson. The sight of a drunk Don and a very drunk Bobbie riding in Peggy’s car is priceless, but it is much more than just a fun sight, it makes for surprisingly thoughtful drama. The fact that Don calls Peggy to get him out of jail is initially very surprising. We have seen Don be somewhat of an advocate for Peggy’s talent in the past, but this seems a little too much for their relationship. That is until we learn, in flashback, that Don actually visited Peggy at the hospital after she had her baby. Not only that, but he also gave her a very chilling piece of advice: to give away the baby, saying “It will shock you how much it never happened”. It’s a powerful moment, probably the most powerful in the episode. One that says as much about Don as it does about his relationship to Peggy, and one that will definitely color said relationship going into the future.
Another moment that will color their relationship going forward is not only that Peggy got Don and his mistress out of jail, but that Bobbie ended up crashing at her place. It is an incredibly uncomfortable day. Especially for Peggy, who tries to be as accommodating as possible so as to not put her job in jeopardy. Bobbie, who doesn’t know much about the relationship between Don and Peggy makes a lot of questions, wondering if Peggy is also Don’s lover, or if they have ever been romantically involved. The answer to that is, obviously, no, but just as Don did when he sat by her hospital bed, Bobbie gives Peggy a very important piece of advice. Advice about “living the life of the person you want to be”. Bobbie has fought hard to be a successful businesswoman, and she sees that Peggy might have similar aspirations. “Treat Don as an equal” she says, and by the end of the episode, instead of her traditional “Mr. Draper”, Peggy, for the first time ever, calls him “Don”.
Peggy, like Jane, was the “new girl” when we met her. Also in that first episode, when she put her hand on Don’s, she came relatively close of becoming the “new girl” in the sense in which Bobbie is the “new girl”. Now, she is not the “new girl”, but she is definitely a new Peggy. She is an ambitious girl, she has a goal in mind, and only time will tell if she gets to realize it.
- I mentioned in my review that “Nixon vs. Kennedy” was Rachel Menken’s last appearance. I was wrong, but only in a way. We definitely see her here in “The New Girl”, but she barely gets to do anything, and she technically isn’t Rachel Menken anymore, she is now Rachel Katz.
- The “Theme from A Summer Place“, which plays in the car right before the accident, was a pretty big hit back in the early 60s. It is kind of baffling now to think that a purely instrumental piece of music could become a massive hit.
- Things Don likes: the ocean, bridges, and sexy foreign movies, like La Notte.
- Don is over the legal alcohol limit for drinking and driving, which is 1.5%. Nowadays the limit in the State of New York is 0.08%
- We see Bobbie reading Confidential magazine, which is, of course, the magazine that inspired the novel that in turn inspired the movie L.A. Confidential.
- One of the important elements in clearing up the fact that the baby living at Peggy’s sister is not Peggy’s is the fact that said sister is pregnant in the flashback.
- This episode cuts from Pete masturbating into Roger playing with a paddleball. Whether or not you find that funny is up to you.
- It’s also up to you whether or not Freddy interrupting Kenny’s attempt to flirt with Jane by running out of his office playing Mozart with his pants’ zipper is funny.
- This is the first episode we see Jane, and I think she doesn’t share a single scene with Roger.
- Jane also says she is clairvoyant, and that Joan is going to be very happily married. We, of course, know that she couldn’t be more wrong.