Season 4, Episode 5: The Parent Trap
My favorite image was the glimpse of Peggy riding her red motor scooter in circles in white space on a sound stage. The episode's director, Lesli Linka Glatter, certainly has a way with women on wheels: she also shot secretary Lois' notorious, ankle-bludgeoning, blood-spewing, John-Deere-riding office mow-down. This peek at Peggy mid-swirl was blank and balletic, like a combination of the fantasy image of the female ice skater in "Carnal Knowledge" mixed with the Wicked Witch of the West's mad peddling of her bicycle avec Toto in the basket.
While Honda indeed started as a bicycle company and was here selling motorcycles by the early 1960s, the reality was that Japanese car makers worked with West Coast agencies back then. Honda was a client of Chiat/Day in L.A. (Jay Chiat & Associates, founded in 1962, merged with Guy Day of Faust/Day Advertising in 1968. Honda accounted for three quarters of the agency billings when it left Chiat/Day in 1975.) Meanwhile, the Japanese electronics guys were in New York; Jerry Della Femina, the author of the famous 1971 ad biz book "From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor," took the title from a jokey faux slogan he brainstormed for Panasonic in the 1960s.
There was a charming, zippy motor scooter being promoted at that time, but it was an Italian Vespa. ("Maybe your second car shouldn't be a car," was the tagline created by New York based Carl Ally Inc.) Perhaps the odd spelling/ pronunciation disconnect of the surname of Ted Chaogh, the obnoxious jai alai- and Clearasil-stealing predator, refers to Jay Chiat, the pronunciation of whose name was similarly hard to figure out (Shy-At.) Or perhaps the writers are invoking "Mr. Shawn," the legendary editor of The New Yorker, who Anglicized the spelling of his name -- he was born "Chon" (to Russian Jews.)
As for Roger's acting out, Japan was China in terms of growth then, and most agencies, filled with WWII vets, were only too happy to get in on accounts like Sony, and hope for seismic growth. (Is it possible that Roger would now be diagnosed with PTSD? And that all the drinking is to medicate the trauma?) What Pete told him, about wanting to be the big man on the big account, to the detriment of the agency, was true.
And then there are the shrinks. "A man is shamed by being openly ridiculed and rejected," Don reads from his Chrysanthemum book. (An actual primer based on States-side interviews with Japanese interred in camps in California during WW II. ) "It requires an audience." Just as last week episode explored the public vs. the private, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" was about guilt vs. shame. (We have a guilty society; Japan is a shame society.)
Dr. Faye is like a shape-shifter -- she looks and acts different in each episode. I loved the scene in the office kitchen. Like a true married couple, she and Don stand talking over the sink, after a long day. She's kicked off her high heels. And he seems more in touch with reality than ever before -- even admitting, publicly, that his personal life is not working. He jokes about her "fake dinner plans with her fake husband," but perhaps it's dawning on him that that's what he's been all along: a fake husband.
Meanwhile, Betty sees Dr. Edna, (as opposed to Don's secretary, Dame Edna.) Even though she's ostensibly there for Sally, she's immediately brought back to childhood with a nice warm Mommy figure -- as opposed to that cold, vicious Freudian who reported back to Don. Betty actually had a better grasp on what was going in on with Sally than I'd thought -- or perhaps she was again showing a public face to the psychiatrist; narcissists are very good at that.
But the doctor gets her number. Betty stares at the doll house longingly at the end of the session-she too, wants to play house, and redo her life to her liking. (And who knew Henry would be the savior of the family? What Betty told Dr. Edna about his bringing stability is true -- it's just that the move was done entirely on her own narcissistic terms, and she never acknowledged or considered any of Sally's needs. In fact, at one point she says to Dr. Edna that she wonders whether Sally's doing this "to punish me.")
The anatomy of reaction to the hair cutting was telling. The babysitter worries not about Sally, but how Don will react. Don worries not about Sally, but what Betty will do. Betty worries not about Sally, but "Picture Day." (I actually liked the layered results of the butchering. Had noted stylist Sally Hershberger cut it, it would have looked similar -- for a price of $800 or so. The fix-up gives Sally the same Breck-girl haircut as her mom.)
Betty is a prisoner of her own upbringing with a cold, critical, punishing mother -- and possibly a father who molested her? I know that Matthew Weiner attributed the moves Gene made to dementia, but had he also molested the new light of his life -- his granddaughter -- that would also explain Sally's public act of sexuality.
After her grandfather died, she was sent to the den, alone, to watch that monk burn himself on a pyre on television. This time, at Don's house, before her brother and the sitter watched "Topcat" on the subject of love, she saw something on the news about a killing of a minister in the south. ( It's interesting that Betty called Don's apartment a "bachelor pad." In fact, it doesn't seem very Hefnerian. No bar stools, or grotto. Just puke-green walls -- and a nurse installed as babysitter.)
Sally has violence, death, divorce, separation, and sex all mixed up in her head. (And also a crush on the black-turtle-necked Illya Kuryakin, who appealed to most girls at the time.)
I actually heard the same story about the man peeing in a woman when I was in sixth grade. Except that my in-the-know, "fast" friend said she read about it and that it had to happen in a car. I pictured two people sitting up front in bucket seats. (I guess that image is similar to the current Cialis commercial, in which the couple sit side by side in separate tubs.)
Betty's mother crucified her brother for bringing home a "nudist magazine." Betty was "mortified" by the shame of the neighbor bringing Sally home in the middle of the night. She told poor Sally that if she did it again she'd "cut off her hands." Betty told Dr. Edna that "I was private and mostly outgrew it," but she did have a stimulating session with her Maytag, if you recall. And the reason she went to a shrink in the first place was because her hands were numb. (More psycho-limb-o Matthew Weiner theater!)
Of course, Don's holier-than-thou ruse of resigning from the Honda account, "I don't want to be a part of a competition like that," was a stunt, really no better than Pete and Peggy's unseemly thing with the ham, which he threatened to fire them over. But faking out the competition is more of a mind game than setting up a publicity stunt, and he did win, even if was by default.
This time, Pete was the one who seemed to have his parental responsibilities straight. "I'm going to be a father!" he says to Roger. The Japanese call Roger "white hair." And it seems that in this episode, all the white and yellow hairs were the crazy ones.
Poor Sally gets taken to her psychiatrist appointment (and doesn't four times a week seem excessive?) by Carla the housekeeper, and not her mom. More banishing. Let's see what playing house with a doctor does.