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Mad Men Through the Boomer Lens: This Week It's Shades of Fatal Attraction

Posted: 05/14/2012 5:39 pm

I gripped my Baby Boomer lens tightly this week as a succession of out-of-control Mad Men rivalries suddenly filled my mind with disturbing scenes from Fatal Attraction, the 1987 cautionary tale about infidelity. In particular, I kept flashing back to that horrific moment just after a desperate Michael Douglas had strangled and drowned crazed, knife-wielding stalker Glenn Close in the family bath tub.

(If you recall, Douglas had just let go and turned away when Close suddenly sprang up and lunged at him violently with her gleaming chef's knife. Earlier, she had "surprised him" and his wife by leaving the family's boiled pet rabbit simmering in a pot on the kitchen stove.) As unpleasant as the rabbit scene was, it is Close's surprise, homicidal bath-tub leap that still occasionally keeps me up nights.

Why did that particular scene trouble me so? Because its sudden, deadly intensity caught me completely by surprise. Like every other moviegoer, I knew something bad was about to happen. But I didn't know when.

I experienced a similar "wind up" during this week's episode as I found myself surrounded, at every turn, by feuding mad men and mad women who appeared to be running completely amok. Consider puffy Betty Draper's mounting jealousy over her ex's fondness for his hot, sleek trophy wife, not to mention Megan's growing connection to her children. Immediately upon her return from Don's apartment, Betty attempts to soothe her troubled soul by squirting a blast of whipped cream directly into her mouth. Moments later, she thinks better of it and spits the whipped cream into the sink in order to spare herself further embarrassment at the next Weight Watchers weigh-in.

What if the seething Betty-Don-Megan conflagration doesn't "do it" for you? Then, I suggest you turn your attention to Roger Sterling's continued attempts to one-up his disrespectful nemesis, Peter Campbell -- or that you focus on the implications of Campbell's own incredibly revealing commuter train outburst with Beth's unfaithful husband.

Turn again, and you'll find yourself confronted by Don Draper's effort to one-up Michael Ginsberg, the highly talented copywriting wunderkind, whose brilliant ad concepts have been doing laps around Don's own. Don's growing insecurity and competitive spirit compel him to return to the office over the weekend in order to best Ginsberg's concepts for the Sno-Ball account. The final showdown between these two in the elevator does not disappoint.

At some point during this week's "Dark Shadows" episode, I concluded that one of these dueling match-ups might be about to explode "big time" and that one of the combatants could get seriously hurt, with horrific results for SCDP or the Draper kids, for instance. Meanwhile, the attacks and reprisals continued to intensify.

To get back at Megan for enjoying a "happy" existence with Don, Betty sacrifices Sally's fleeting innocence by revealing that Don had a third wife, Anna. This is a secret Don has tried to protect Sally from.

Don, in a vindictive mood throughout the episode, exposes his own dark feelings before the cameras in his determined attempt to best Ginsberg. At the last minute, when he senses Ginsberg might still prevail, Don rigs the pitch by leaving Ginsberg's concept boards behind in the cab. He presents only his ideas to the client.

In yet another display of his unbridled arrogance, Peter Campbell attempts to hog the limelight when a New York Times reporter approaches him about featuring SCDP in a story about leading New York ad agencies. The result: the story runs without any mention of the firm. Reality comes crashing down, ending Peter's fantasy that his anticipated public recognition would inspire Beth to climb back in bed with him. Instead, it inspires Bert Cooper to join the fight against him. Cooper urges Sterling to show-up Campbell by landing the Manischewitz wine account without him.

One question now remains: Who, in the weeks to come, will see his bunny boiled, and who will be turning the burner to "high"? Things are really starting to cook on Mad Men.

 

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