Mad Men, Season 4

Week 5: The Great Honda Caper
Talking television.
Aug. 23 2010 4:38 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 5: The Great Honda Caper

Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) and Betty Draper (January Jones). Click image to expand.
Henry Francis and Betty Draper

Michael, I'm surprised you call Mad Men's portrayal of psychiatry "ominous." I agree the talking cure seemed rather nefarious back in Season 1, when Betty spilled her heart out to Dr. Tattle-Tale. But last night Henry made a compelling case for how seeing a therapist helped his daughter after his divorce. And Dr. Edna seems good at what she does. She notices at once what we in the TV Club have discussed before, that Betty herself is in many ways still a child—naive, petulant, capable of being transported by the sight of a dollhouse. (She even treats Betty like a child, asking her to call her what the kids do.) Realizing that mother and daughter's problems are not unrelated, Dr. Edna proposes regular sessions with Betty. That seems like a wise move, not a particularly ominous one.

That said, I wish you the best of luck, Dr. Edna—I think you're going to need it. Betty was at her most unlikeable this episode. Her solipsism is breathtaking. Her main concern after Sally comes home from the sleepover is that her neighbor will squawk about the incident. "I'm mortified," she tells Henry. She's less worried about her daughter than about her own reputation around Ossining.

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Thank goodness for Henry Francis, progressive-parenting pioneer. He persuades Betty that what Sally needs is her mother's love, not her wrath. And maybe a visit or three to Playland. (Faye Miller offered a similar message to Don over sake—as long as Sally knows Don loves her, she'll turn out all right.) I wonder how long Henry will counsel leniency though—this is the second time this season that Sally's misbehavior has prevented Hank from "doing it" with Betty. Poor guy can't even get a proper belly rub in without Sally interrupting.

Like you guys, I heartily enjoyed the ruse that Don came up with to outmaneuver Ted Chaough for the Honda account. Director Lesli Linka Glatter—who helmed last season's amazing lawn-mower episode—is great at taking the series into new, unexpected places without deviating too far from the look and feel we've come to expect. In the John Deere episode, she brought to Mad Men a shocking, hilarious Tarantino moment. This time around, she slipped the show into upbeat-caper mode—a dash of Oceans 11. As you noted, Julia, we didn't see a new ad campaign. But the Honda ruse tapped into the set of skills Don developed by assuming a new identity and juggling a wife with a never-ending train of mistresses. Did anyone doubt that a man so good at creating fictions would succeed in duping the self-satisfied Ted Chaough?

(A side note: When Don learns that Ted's outfit is also making a presentation to Honda, he complains to Pete: "This guy is drafting off us." Is Don a race fan?)

I hope SCDP's motorcycles-with-doors campaign ends up being more compelling than the ads for Honda that aired during last night's broadcast. I find their Mr. Opportunity mascot annoying, though I suppose it was novel to hear Honda Clearance Event sung in operatic Italian.

How does she not fall over?
John

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John Swansburg is Slate's editorial director. Follow him on Twitter.