Observations of “MAD MEN”: (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”

I usually do not write article about an entire episode of ”MAD MEN”. Why, I do not know. But after watching the latest episode, (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”, I found myself compelled to post several observations about it. 

Observations of ”MAD MEN”: (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”

In ”Seven Twenty-Three”, famous hotelier Conrad Hilton, whom Don Draper had first met in ”(3.03) “My Old Kentucky Home”, paid a visit to Don’s office and revealed his intent to hire Sterling Cooper to handle the promotion of his New York hotels. This piece of good news turned sour when Lane Pryce, Roger Sterling and Bert Cooper revealed that Hilton’s attorneys refused to go ahead with the deal unless Don sign an official contract with his employers. Naturally, Don was reluctant to sign a contract. He had been living under an assumed name for the past thirteen years, when he switched identities with his Army commanding officer (the real Don Draper). Nor did he want to be bound or obliged to anyone without having the power and opportunity to walk away whenever the opportunity might arise. After Don had a confrontation with Betty over his refusal to sign a contract, he left the house to go joyriding in the countryside. There, he picked up a young couple, who claimed they were on their way to get married at Niagara Falls. As it turned out, they were a pair of scam artists who fed Don some pills, took him to a cheap motel, knocked him out and stole his money.

The episode also featured a subplot for Betty Draper. After joining the Tarrytown chapter of Junior League, she received a request to find someone with political ties to prevent the construction of a giant water tank that they feared would ruin the scenic view. Betty contacted Henry Francis, one of Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s aides, whom she had first met in ”My Old Kentucky Home”. The two met at a local bakery in Ossing for drinks and pastries. And although Francis hinted that he might not be able to help the Junior League prevent the water tank’s construction, he made it obvious that he was just as attracted to Betty, as she was to him. Francis had also pointed out a chaise lounge that Betty later purchased for her living room. A chaise lounge that her decorator obviously disliked. By the way, the scene featuring Betty’s telephone call with Henry Francis nearly had me rolling in the aisles. Although I have no children, I have experienced a similar situation in which someone had hung up the telephone before I could pick up the extension. Very frustrating.

Peggy Olson’s storyline in this episode began in (3.05) “The Fog”, in which she was contacted by former Sterling Cooper employee, Duck Phillips. In that episode, he had tried to recruit both Peggy and Pete to the agency he now works for – Gray. Peggy had contemplated his offer, but refused. When Peggy asked Don for a raise in the same episode, the latter refused her request. In Seven Twenty-Three”, Duck continued his wooing of Peggy and Pete with gifts. When Pete pointed out that Duck’s wooing might be an attempt for the older man to get back at Don for snowballing him in the Season Two finale, (2.13) “Mediations in an Emergency”, Peggy became determined to return the gift. Which she did after leaving work. However, her visit to Duck’s hotel suite also led to an evening of some very enjoyable sex for them both.

*Betty Draper

Betty’s story arc did not provide any jaw dropping moments for me. But I did notice a few things. One, she must be seriously attracted to Henry Francis. I found it interesting that not only did she remember him from Roger’s Kentucky Derby garden party, she also seemed to be in a slight state of heat around him. This especially seemed obvious when Henry shielded her eyes from the sun during an eclipse. But more importantly, she went ahead and purchased the Victorian chaise lounge that Henry had earlier pointed out to her when they passed an antique store. Many saw the chaise lounge as an example of Betty’s desire to be some “helpless damsel in distress” that occasionally fainted. I found that image hard to accept. Despite the ladylike persona that Betty tends to project, she never struck me as that kind of woman. However, I had noticed how she caressed her body in a suggestive manner – especially in the very spot where Henry had touched her, when she was still pregnant with Eugene. I also noticed that Betty has become more assertive in her attitude toward Don. After all, audiences had first received a whiff of this trait back in (2.04) “Three Sundays”, when she ordered Don to take Sally to work with him during Bobby’s small medical emergency. Yet, Betty’s assertiveness has become increasingly obvious this past season. This was certainly apparent in her refusal to cave in to Don’s disapproval over their new son’s name in (3.06) “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”; and in their confrontation over Don’s refusal to sign a contract with Sterling Cooper. I had always suspected that underneath the girlish and shallow exterior lurked a formidable woman. I wonder how Betty would react if she ever discovered the truth about his fake identity.

*Peggy Olson

Peggy may think that she knows a lot about Don Draper. But I rather doubt it. The worst she knows is that he is an adulterer, thanks to her rescue of both him and Bobbie Barrett in Season Two’s (2.05) “The New Girl”. In ”Seven Twenty-Three”, she discovered that he can be incredibly cruel. Season Three has not been particularly kind to Peggy. Following her revelation about their child, Pete Campbell has become hostile toward her. And despite being the first copywriter to acquire a private office following Freddie Rumsen’s departure, Peggy has not been receiving the respect she believes that she deserves. Don had ignored her misgivings about the Patio commercial in (3.02) “Love Among the Ruins”. In (3.05) “The Fog”, Peggy asked for a raise after discovering that she was the firm’s least paid copywriter and Don rejected her request. And when she asked to work on the Hilton account, Don (who was already in a foul mood after learning that Sterling Cooper wants him to sign a contract) rejected her request in the cruelest means possible. He accused Peggy of using his coattails to rise up in Sterling Cooper’s Creative ranks. His accusation and manner left Peggy shocked and speechless.

When Peggy appeared at Duck’s hotel room to return his gift, I doubt that she had any intention of having sex with him. Did Duck plan to sexually seduce Peggy? I do not know. And since I have no idea of Duck’s intention, I am not going to pretend that I do or speculate. I do have to wonder if the prevalent negative attitude toward Duck has led many fans to believe that he had intended to seduce her. I do recall Peggy complimenting Duck’s turtleneck sweater when they first met in ”The Fog”. I also noticed something else. Once Peggy and Duck were in bed together, they seemed turned on by each other.

A good number of viewers have expressed disgust at Peggy’s sexual tryst with Duck. These viewers have claimed their age difference. But Joan Harris and Roger Sterling were (and still are) nearly twenty years apart in age during their affair. Even back then, Joan was slightly older and more experienced during her affair with Roger. But Peggy is not some blushing virgin. She was already sexually experienced and had given birth to Pete’s son in (1.13) “The Wheel”. She even managed to seduce some college kid in ”Love Among the Ruins” as a test of her sexuality. Yet, not only are many fans expressing disgust at her tryst with Duck; they are labeling her as some sexually naïve woman who found herself seduced and manipulated by an older man. I must be honest. I found that perception of Peggy a little insulting. Peggy may be young and probably upset over Don’s outburst; but as I had stated earlier, she was not that naïve. I suspect that Peggy had simply used Duck’s offer of great sex to derive some kind of pleasure following her disastrous meeting with Don. Many fans have also been predicting disastrous consequences from Peggy and Duck’s tryst. Perhaps she might experience a fallout from the affair. Perhaps not. But a nagging part of me fear that Peggy might end up paying the consequences for failing to accept Duck’s offer of a position at Gray’s.

*Don Draper

I never understood this need to divide the series’ main character into two personas. There is only one Dick Whitman, after all. He is both the rural-born offspring of a dead prostitute and a crude farmer . . . and the brilliant creative advertising executive. The reason why Dick (or should I say Don) can emotionally connect with some people and barely at all with others might be due to the fact that he had assumed another man’s name by fraudulent means. It is not surprising that he has only been willing to reveal some of his true nature to those he believe he may never see again . . . or in the case of Rachel Mencken, someone with whom he thought he could connect. It is also natural that Don had never bothered to sign an official contract with Sterling Cooper. No contract had allowed him to be a free agent even though he has decided to remain at Sterling Cooper. It also meant that Don would be able to bolt without any legal redress, if needed. Well, Don’s years as a free agent at Sterling Cooper ended in ”Seven Twenty-Three”.

The odd thing is that Don’s encounter with another self-made man who had risen from poverty had led him to being finally bound to a contract. It led to a final breach (so far) with Roger Sterling. It damaged his close relationship with Peggy. It made him realize (for the second or third time) that his wife might be a lot more formidable than he had probably imagined. Don’s argument with Betty led him to commit one of his more destructive maneuvers when things got rough . . . he took off. Unlike his trip to California last season, Don did not go very far. Instead, he picked up a hitchhiking couple claiming to be on their way to Niagara Falls in order to elope. But instead of eloping, they fed Don some pills and later clocked and robbed him inside a cheap motel. As his dad, Archie Whitman, had indicated in his hallucination, Don has become slightly soft. This seemed even more apparent when Bert Cooper blackmailed him into finally signing a contract. When Cooper had dismissed Pete Campbell’s exposure of Don as a fraud in Season One’s (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy”, I bet Don never thought the old man would eventually use those allegations against him. And yet . . . while signing that contract, Don demanded that Roger Sterling stay away from him. How interesting. Roger tried to use Betty to coerce him into signing the contract. Cooper sunk even lower and used Don’s secrets to blackmail him and succeed. Perhaps Don realized that Roger (given his questionable standing in the firm with the British owners) made an easier target for his wrath than two powerful men like Conrad Hilton and Bert Cooper. If so, it does not say very much about Don.

Some believe that Don’s new contract is a sign of his eventual downfall. I cannot say that I agree with this. In fact, I have no idea what this contract will symbolize for Don. Every time he has faced a personal crisis in the past – Pete Campbell and Bert Cooper’s discovery of his secret in Season One, and his estrangement from Betty and Duck’s takeover plans – Don has managed to survive or come on top.  By the finale, his marriage to Betty finally ended.  But not everything bad happened to Don by the end of Season Three.  His professional career, on the other hand, embarked on a new path.

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