Mad Men 4×05 “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” TV Review

I felt “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” was a lighter episode than the ones that came before it. (Lighter in depth of content, not in tone.) A step-up for the next several episodes as the week before ended several plotlines, particularly a couple coming to head in Don’s life. Not that there still isn’t room for the Golden Boy to fall down some more.

Mad Men 4x05 Peggy and John with the Honda motorcycle
Peggy and John fake a commercial. Peggy knows she has the best job ever.

Significant threads:

— Miss Blankenship has to be a wake-up call for Don about just how much he messed up with Allison. And how much he’s on Joan’s shitlist. I loved Miss Blakenship yelling about Sally’s therapy, not delivering packages, and interrupting when she shouldn’t, then not bringing messages when she should. Also not being able to figure out the phones and intercoms. A far cry from Allison. (Red herring: She also can’t connect to California. Meaning Don can’t get a hold of Anna.)

— Phoebe and Bethany are both clearly too young for Don, and he finds them both uninteresting in their own ways. When we first met Phoebe, we expected Don to hook up with her. Hell, even Sally did. But instead, she’s babysitting Sally and Bobby. Similarly, Bethany points out to Don that they’ve only gone on three dates in the last five months. She knows what’s up. He only calls her that night so he doesn’t have to eat alone while researching Japanese cuisine at Benihana’s, which had only been open for less than year. In fact, Faye is the one he really connects with and opens up to. Faye and her fake dinner plans with her fake husband.

Mad Men 4x05 Bethany and Don at Benihana's
Don takes Bethany on a research date to Benihana's.

— In no world would Ted Chaough even be near Don’s league, except that Don’s been slacking. Even Smitty, who’s now working for Ted realizes this. Ted is the type of guy a lot of marketing departments are filled with. They can talk the talk and sometimes bring in a few good ideas, but mostly, they’re fluff. When Don even uses half his brain, he tricks Ted into bankrupting his company by making a commercial for Honda.

— While we’ve seen some lip service to race relations in the ’60s, this is the first episode where a character was called out on being racist. Roger’s racist attitudes and behavior towards the Japanese owners of Honda makes everyone extremely embarrassed: even in the end, Roger. Alright, no one calls Roger racist because no one at SCDP is that progressive (well, maybe Peggy and John, but they weren’t there), but they do call his behavior out as inappropriate. I find it interesting that despite Cooper and Pete’s pleas concerning business, it takes Joan to finally calm Roger down and make him see that the war with the Japanese is over. And now, it’s time to get on with business. Good old capitalism only sees dollar bills, not race, in this case, anyway. This scene highlights both how out-of-touch Roger is becoming and his connection with Joan.

Mad Men 4x05 Sterling Cooper Drapper and Pryce and the Japanese business men from Honda
Roger is not having this East meets West moment. Everyone else is mortified, embarrassed, or insulted by his racism.
Mad Men 4x05 Joan and Roger
Joan talks Roger down and makes him realize the war is over.

— Then there’s little Sally Draper, that poor child. When she came out of Don’s bathroom with her hair cut, I knew keeping-up-appearances Betty would flip out. As a teen, I cut my hair (a little more drastically) and both my parents went the way of Betty’s freak-out. (Now my mom laughs and says it was just hair. She was not so amused at the time.) And then the poor girl gets a threat from Betty that if Sally even masturbates again, she’s going to cut her daughter’s fingers off. Which was illegal even in 1965. As Betty drags her daughter to therapy, it’s clear that Betty’s the one who needs the help, not Sally. Except that Sally will after Betty’s done with her. Thank god Henry seems to have a good head on his shoulders and Carla basically raises them anyway.

Mad Men 4x05 Betty with Sally's therapist
Anyone with half a brain knows Betty needs therapy way more than Sally.
Mad Men 4x05 Carla takes Sally to therapy
Because Betty's such a bad mother concerned about her appearances, Carla has to take Sally to therapy.

I’m looking forward to what bad secretary behavior they’ll have Miss Blakenship do next week. And I worry that Betty will only become a worse parent as time goes on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *