We were thrilled when people started responding to these Mad Style posts. When it comes to TV reviewing, if you don’t establish a strong voice and a decent hook to your work, you’re going to get lost in the crowd; especially when the crowd is as large as the one recapping and reviewing Mad Men. We’ve always felt like, with these posts, we were jumping into the conversation and offering the fashion and critical analysis that could only come when two gay men, one with a fashion background and one with a film degree, get together to talk about the show on their predominantly fashion-oriented site.
We’re telling you this because with this week’s episode, we’re feeling a call to arms to be the big ol’ mouthy gays that we are; a call to help give a little inside perspective on the question that seems to be plaguing all of mankind this week.
Just what the hell is going on with that Bob Benson guy?
(Note to the newbies: “Mad Style” is normally a look at the costuming and art direction of the show, and this post will get into that after the long Bob Benson diversion. If you got sent here to read the Bob part, don’t be confused when we switch modes and suddenly start talking about dress colors.)
After almost an entire season of popping up in the background or suddenly showing up to offer help to various members of the SC&P family, Bob disappointed a whole bunch of people who were hoping he was any of a number of wild things, from Don’s illegitimate son to an actual government spy, by revealing the mundane truth of himself: he’s gay and he’s hot for Pete Campbell.
Or is he?
Well… yes, actually. We look around at many of our fellow reviewers and recappers, as well as the online fans, many of whom are still asking this week if Bob Benson is really gay, and it seems to us that a whole lot of people – possibly most of the ones who watch the show – are kind of missing the point. Despite one of the most open declarations of love and desire ever depicted in the entire 6 seasons of the show, people are theorizing that Bob is anything from a sociopath to someone who’s just putting Pete on, pretending to hit on him in order to further some scheme. To all that we would like to say this:
In 1968, homosexuality was a recognized mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. A gay man in 1968 could not only be fired, he could be jailed, institutionalized, subjected to electro-shock therapy and even chemically castrated. The idea that any man in 1968 would pretend to be gay is akin to the idea of someone pretending to be a Jew in latter Weimar Germany. It just doesn’t scan. The stakes are entirely too high for anyone to fool around with that sort of stuff. It is virtually impossible to conceive of any sane straight person doing such a thing. It’s like pretending to be a pedophile for ulterior motives, in today’s terms. That’s how it would have been seen at the time. Some men tried it to get out of serving in Vietnam, but even then, it wasn’t a common tactic, even with stakes that high. No, as shocking and hard to accept as it may have been, Bob Benson really was hitting on Pete Campbell, and now we’re going to tell you why.
Since there has been an insane amount of wild speculation regarding Bob, we decided to sit down and watch every scene he appeared in, taking notes as to where he was, who he spoke to, and what he said. If anyone wants citations, we can provide them in the comments section.
Here is what we know about Bob Benson: He went to Beloit and then got his MBA from Wharton. He worked in finance for a year, he hated it, and his family has worked for the same financial company for three generations (since this is all so easily checked by the people he told it to – Don and Pete – we’re going on the safe assumption that it’s accurate). He talks about sports or uses sports metaphors frequently. He listens to self-help, power-of-positive-thinking, Dale Carnegie-esque salesman porn and espouses the expected self-help platitudes left and right about being in the right place and being the kind of man he knows he can be. In typical Carnegie style, he goes out of his way to be available and helpful to all people, all the time. He makes a habit of handing out coffee to co-workers; Pete most often. He sent a deli tray to Roger’s mother’s funeral and when Ken reprimanded him for it, he claimed that “It seemed the right thing to do.” He secures a nurse for Pete’s mother. He rescues Joan in the middle of a health crisis and tells her he has “nowhere to go.” He hangs around the creative area frequently, claiming that he loves it down there. We know that he has a fairly good relationship with Stan and a very good one with Ginsberg, to the point that he was the only one able to talk Ginsberg down from whatever mental health crisis he was having.
He hangs around outside Pete’s office frequently. When questioned on it, he claims he loves the light. When we actually see his office, it’s tiny, dark and windowless, which tends to back up his excuse. He visits a whorehouse with Pete and stands outside in the hallway while Pete gets his rocks off. When the prostitute comes out, he offers to pay for Pete. There is no indication he had sex with any of the prostitutes. It’s implied he waited there the whole time. He has happily gone to the store to get Pete toilet paper. He brings Pete up in conversation frequently (“Doesn’t Pete Campbell have a beach house?”) and claims to be very interested in his well-being (“He’s a very generous person and I think he’s going through a rough time.”). He constantly flatters Pete and speaks highly of him. He stays at the office later than most of the employees. He is friendly with a gay man and wasn’t shy about admitting it in the office. He claims that this gay man just nursed his father back to health but he earlier told Ken that his father died. He has developed what looks like a fairly close platonic relationship with Joan (a woman not prone to close platonic relationships); to the point that he jokes about her mother being at the track and thinks nothing of offering to handle Kevin for her. When Joan’s mother tried to suggest a romantic relationship, Joan said knowingly, “He’s not interested.” Joan figured out Sal was gay just by playfully kissing him once. Joan absolutely knows when a man is or isn’t interested in her and she is highly unlikely to admit to her mother that a viable man isn’t interested in her. She once got testy and competitive with her mother over a plumber she admitted she found disgusting – and this was just a couple weeks post-partum.
Here is what we surmise about Bob Benson, based on the above: He’s an upper-middle class over-achiever from a family of them but he’s more than likely estranged from them because he’s gay, which partially explains why he doesn’t work for the family firm and also explains why he can be so flexible about whether his father is alive or not. Like a lot of gay men, he is fascinated by people who work in a creative field, even if he’s not creative himself. Like a lot of well-closeted gay men, he is a smooth liar from years of experience; very good at fooling the eye with distractions and cover stories. But because he’s constantly spinning tales he can’t always keep track of them and a close observer can occasionally pick up inconsistencies. Like a lot of over-achieving well-closeted gay men, Bob is operating under “Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome, a term which comes from the seminal coming-out autobiography of the same name, published in 1973, and so well describes a certain type of middle-to-upper-class gay man that it’s considered an honest-to-god measurable syndrome today.
Basically, it comes down to this: there is a certain strain of gay men who have an overwhelming urge to be over-achievers in all areas of their lives. In school, they are A-students and members of every club and organization that will have them. They are athletic, scholarly, friendly, and helpful to everyone around them, constantly seeking excellence and popularity in order to deflect any questions as to why they don’t date. They are always extremely clean-cut, if not downright conservative in appearance. They quite often stay in school to get advanced degrees because the atmosphere allows them to continue to put off any questions about their personal lives or plans outside their education or careers. After school, they throw themselves into their careers with the same fervency. If a gay man is both a Best Little Boy and estranged from his family, he is more than likely an extremely lonely person; possibly even someone who’s bad at reading personal cues and engaging in emotional intimacy. These types of gay men still exist, but there were far more of them back in the days when staying in the closet was less of a personal choice and more of a necessity.
But Bob’s life doesn’t necessarily have to be one completely without companionship or sex. New York City was (and in many ways still is) one of the best places to be in the country for young gay men with no family ties. There was a burgeoning gay social scene at this time. There almost always had been one in New York City, but in the years following the war, the numbers of detached men and women who migrated to the city and joined what would later come to be called the “gay community” expanded tremendously. This is largely why the Stonewall Riots of 1969 happened when they did; because the gay community finally had the numbers and the communally-fed anger needed to do something about the institutionalized harassment they were receiving from the police.
By the way, the Stonewall Riots will be happening practically in Joan’s backyard. Having lived in the Village the entire decade of the sixties, Joan has probably come across more gay people in her day-to-day life than anyone else in the Mad Men story. It makes perfect sense that she would befriend a good-looking young gay man who works with her.
Anyway, we made a point in our initial review of this episode that Bob comes across “culturally gay,” which is to say, he’s closeted in work and in many areas of his life, but he likely has some form of gay social life, given that he knows Manolo well enough to recommend him for jobs. If you’d like some sense of what this gay social scene was like and how someone like Bob Benson would have fit into it, we highly recommend seeing the film version of “The Boys in the Band.” The play opened off-Broadway in April of 1968 and offers a near-perfect snapshot of bitchy, self-loathing, pre-Stonewall middle-class Manhattan gay male socializing. The entire film is available on YouTube. It’s quite the artifact. We would also highly recommend Edmund White’s “A Boy’s Own Story” and “The Beautiful Room is Empty” for an extremely detailed and well-drawn depiction of white gay male life in NYC prior to and around this period.
The idea that Bob might be socializing and having some form of gay life, however limited that may be by today’s standards, sets him drastically apart from the show’s other notable gay male character, Sal Romano, who was such a deeply entrenched good Italian Catholic boy that he was living with his mother and apparently a virgin (he ran like hell from that Belle Jolie guy like he was on fire) well into his middle age. We think it’s safe to say that Sal had no gay friends and had never set foot in a gay bar in his life.
This doesn’t seem to be referred to much anymore, but back in the Sal Romano days, you frequently heard reviewers and recappers talk about how obviously gay he was and how hard it was sometimes to believe that no one around him ever suspected. For our parts, we weren’t particularly happy with the famous scene where his wife Kitty figured it out, arguing that no man who had been as deeply closeted as Sal would ever start camping it up in front of his wife like that so freely and un-self-consciously. He is a very fondly remembered character but the one consistent criticism leveled at him was that they may have oversold the gayness in his mannerisms and speech a bit too much. However, since this was a period where men like Charles Nelson Reilly, Paul Lynde and even Liberace could get millions of people to not question their heterosexuality (although plenty of people did), we don’t think it was completely out of the realm of possibility. Anyway, our point is, looking over the whole Bob Benson storyline, we get the distinct impression that he was designed to correct that “mistake.” He was deliberately designed to throw the viewer off and not immediately get them to guess that he was gay, in total opposition to Sal, who loudly signaled his gayness to the 21st Century audience the first time he opened his mouth.
Bob also serves to allow the show to continue its examination of the changing status of gays, much in the same way Dawn replaced Carla, the Drapers’ maid in Ossining, who was the primary African-American character on the show for the first three years. This change in character illustrated the ways in which African-American visibility and interactions with middle-class whites changed; as they moved from the servant class to the professional class. Many fans of the show have clamored for Sal’s return but we have never been among them. Sal’s story, such as it is, is done. The likelihood of a man of his generation leaving his wife and coming out of the closet in middle age is almost nil. If Mad Men truly wanted to examine the changing status of gays, even if it’s done in a very limited way (as with Dawn) then they were going to have to introduce a new, younger gay character to the cast. For a time, Peggy’s friend Joyce seemed to be the likely candidate to fill the role (and a likely candidate to actually be at a place like the Stonewall in 1969), but she was limited as a character in a lot of ways and can’t provide the stark contrast that someone like Bob can. And cute gay Kurt, who gave Peggy her first makeover, was a casualty of the SC crackup and never seen again.
As for why Bob would ever fall for, or be attracted to Pete, we don’t even think it rates a question. A succession of very attractive women of varying degrees of intelligence and sanity have gotten it on with Pete; from Trudy to Peggy to Beth Dawes, to that model he followed home, to that crazy neighbor lady who broke up his marriage. In fact, if you want to be a little crude about it, Pete’s probably the Number 3 swordsman on the show, behind Don and Roger. He hasn’t done badly for himself at all and he’s not nearly as unattractive to certain people in the story as he is to us, the viewers. Bob doesn’t know all the various ways in which Pete has been an utter shit the last 6 seasons, from raping that nanny to shitting all over Peggy’s self-esteem, to petulantly blowing up his marriage because he was mad at his Father-in-law. To Bob Benson, Pete is a fussy, droll, highly emotional, well-dressed, slightly effete, old-money WASP who left his wife, frets over his mother, and just recently started smoking pot. It’s the Niles Crane effect. Combine that with his being a junior partner at the agency, and he becomes irresistible to a go-getting guy like Bob. Making his move now – even after hearing him use the word “degenerate” – made a certain amount of sense to him, even if it didn’t to the audience.
And as to the question of whether a closeted gay man would do what Bob did, risking what he’s risking, we’d just answer with: they did. Gay men did, in fact, do this sort of thing and do, in fact, still do this sort of thing; risking the closet based on very deep infatuations (or even dangerous obsessions) or just an obsessively close reading of another man to see if he’s sending out signals. It was insanely risky on his part, but you can read the stories of countless men in Bob’s generation who fell in love with bosses or dorm roommates or teachers and eventually either made a successful move or made a fool of themselves – or worse. It looks and sounds crazy to us in this day and age, but like we said, Bob is almost certainly extremely stunted emotionally and very bad at intimacy. He’s all surface because he’s spent his entire life being all surface in order to deflect questions.
In addition, you have to remember that culturally gay people at this time had virtually no way of picking up on normal romantic and sexual cues. It was actually illegal for gay people to socialize with each other, which is at least partially why so many gay male assignations at the time happened in back alleys and tea rooms and why complicated signaling like Polari and the hanky code were used to communicate everything from sexual position and act preferences to basic gay social concepts (“butch,” “drag,” and “queen” are all Polari slang). Having never really been taught how to read whether a man is interested in them, many gay men of this period suffered serious crushes on the straight men around them and totally misunderstood any forms of friendliness or affection as sexual attraction. Also: while the camera lingered on their knees in this scene, such moves were in fact very common among gay men in order to non-verbally signal to each other that they were like-minded (like toe-tapping in tea rooms). They worked and were devised because it was something that was quite easy to deflect or ignore if signals got misread. People bump their knees all the time, right? No big deal. Pete obviously picked up on it, but it never quite goes so far that he needs to leap out of his seat in disgust. This move was very much part of the gay male playbook of the day, which was almost entirely about trying to figure out just who the hell around you was also gay and reaching out to them in a way that didn’t get you killed or arrested.
There is some question as to whether or not Pete reacted with as much repugnance as one might have assumed, which is notable since his mother tells him outright that he’s unlovable and here’s this person he likes and relies on declaring their love for him. We’ve delved enough into the personal politics of this scene. We’ll leave it to others to theorize as to whether Pete might be open to the idea of something less heterosexual in his life.
There. That’s what we see when we look at the story of Bob Benson, knowing what we know about gay men of this period. He’s not a sociopath or even a schemer of any great note. He’s an obsessively go-getting, emotionally damaged gay Golden Boy type who has lousy taste in men and is so bad at social cues that he’ll declare his love for someone who’s currently worrying that his mother has been raped. This doesn’t preclude Bob from doing something nefarious down the line in the story, nor does it totally negate the idea that he’s bisexual or not entirely gay (which is how Matthew Weiner coyly put it – “not gay, necessarily” – in the “Inside Mad Men” video this week, but he has a history of being not entirely trustworthy when talking about ongoing storylines).
We tend to believe that he’s gay, though; because bisexual men in 1968 were for the most part not hanging around in gay bars or socializing with gay men in that way. Again: the stakes were too high for anyone who had options outside gay life at this time. If anything, bisexual men were even more furtive about their same-sex attractions than gay men were. The only non-gay people who surfaced in the scene at this time were motherly fag hags (of which Joan, by the way, would make a near perfect example). Anyway, we don’t predict where the story of Bob is going, but we’re fairly sure we’re close to knowing what his story has been so far. If you have the episodes DVR’d, we recommend fast-forwarding through everything and watching just the Bob Benson scenes, one right after another. It all becomes a lot clearer and a whole lot less ominous than many theories would have you believe. He’s been infatuated with Pete all season.
Now, to bring this back to style and costuming, we want to note that Pete is quite a snappy dresser and always has been. His shiny, electric-blue suits of the early ’60s were youthful and showed that he cared about fashion. He and Trudy were always a quite fashionable, well-dressed couple, especially when they lived in the city together. While we wouldn’t call his three-piece suit here youthful, it’s still a more stylish version than Roger’s 1920s-style 3-piece. That very short, cropped vest was popular in the late ’60s partially based on the Edwardian and military styles which were inspiring fashion from top to bottom. His bright blue tie and matching pocket square speak of a slight dandy-ism that sets him apart from a lot of men on the show. Basically, Pete puts thought and effort into his outfits and he tries to come up with a distinct look for himself, another reason for Bob to mistakenly think he might be gayer than he appears. Bob is all youth and All-American college grad in his style. Almost all of his ties look like prep school ties and he frequently pairs them with pin-striped shirts, just to give his look a slightly more textural feel to it. He and Pete are speaking to each other in tones of grey and blue here, but not quite matching up.
Allright. Enough of these two. Let’s move on to the rest of the costuming.
It’s cute that gingham appears to be Dawn’s thing the way plaids are/were Peggy’s and florals are Joan’s. She’s worn a pink gingham summer dress more than once this season. One of the things we love about the way Janie dresses working class people is that the quality of their outfits vary from day to day, which is very true for all working people, most of the time. This is clearly one of Dawn’s “nice’ outfits.
And this is clearly her laundry day outfit. Not only do the top and skirt not really match, but as you can see from the back, the quality of that blouse isn’t high. Several of Dawn’s outfits look home sewn to us, which would make perfect sense for her character, the thrifty, low-key good girl who thinks the women in her church are a bunch of harlots.
Dawn is the only woman on the show to sport hoop earrings. This isn’t the first time she’s worn them. They clearly signal her otherness in this setting and call back to her African-American heritage with great subtlety. Virtually all the white women wear the button-style earrings that were popular for them at the time.
We feel bad that we haven’t highlighted more of Clara’s costumes this season. Janie Bryant’s been doing some fantastic work with her, giving her some scene-stealing looks.
We’re sorry, but we burst out laughing at both of Dorothy’s looks this episode. All season long she’s been depicted rather drably, showing the dementia that plagues her through her costuming. Even back in the day, when her husband was still alive, she was depicted as a typical old-money WASP. Her style was preppy and unadorned, like most of the women of her type. But here, and later in the episode, she is dolled up like a drag queen; hat and gloves; coordinated purse and shoes, an impeccable suit, perfectly applied makeup and quite a bit of jewelry. Why? MANOLO, of course. She’s got herself a gay gigolo-nurse willing to dress her up like a doll and make her feel prettier than she ever has.
Just look at her. She’s positively dripping with expensive jewelry. And since she more than likely needs help putting it on, it means she’s giving Manolo free access to her no-doubt considerably stuffed jewelry box (no pun intended). Pete actually had good reason to want Manolo gone. There was, and in some respects, still is a long tradition of elderly Manhattan socialites cavorting with gay gigolos.
She’s not only dripping with jewels, she looks almost literally ice-encrusted, which works quite well for a scene in which she’s cruelly cold to Pete. Manolo is quite hilariously playing a part, right down to the ascot. He ditched that getup for a tight sailor shirt the minute he got out of there and hit the village for some cruising. Allegedly.
Janie will do this at times; render two figures starkly, in similar silhouettes and styles but in wildly different solid colors. It turns them into figures in the scene; the green one vs. the pink one. Dorothy is all in pink as she talks about the tingling of her loins and the pleasures denied her so long. Peggy is in a more mercenary, business-like money-green, trying desperately to keep the conversation on anything but this. She’s also got touches of blue, which make this look yet another entry in the blue-and-green motif of season 6. We’ll see why in a bit.
Love that shot of Manolo checking out Pete’s ass. We wonder if Bob’s been telling him all about how dreamy he finds his boss. On the one hand, Manolo’s laquered hair and mustache are very Euro-trash for the time, but they also are heavily forecasting what will come to be known as the “clone look” in the gay male community of the ’70s and ’80s; very short hair, a mustache and a muscular body. It pretty much becomes the standard urban gay male uniform look for two decades post-Stonewall but it was already popular in the underground gay community at this time.
The major season 6 color motifs of green, yellow and blue facing off in one scene. The yellow-and-blue combo has been absolutely consistently applied in scenes where characters were failing to connect with each other. Betty is far more put together around the house than she was as recently as 8 or 9 months ago. That is some seriously set hair and face. We wouldn’t be surprised if Sally’s style changes very soon in light of the events of this episode. It seemed to us that her clothes this episode were more childlike than normal. As we’ve said before, this was a period in fashion where infantilized clothing for grown women was all the rage, but even so. It tended to be more popular with adult women than with young girls desperate to get away from those dresses. We suspect after this we won’t be seeing so many knee-hi socks and good-girl dresses in Sally’s rotation. She’s ripe for some rebellion and we think Janie deliberately dressed her as conservatively upper middle class as possible in this episode.
Janie also quite often dresses several woman in the same color throughout an episode, so Sally’s green dress binds her somehow with Peggy and Dawn.
Demonstrating impeccable timing, Janie chose this season as the one where blue jeans started becoming more prominent. It was the late ’60s when jeans shifted from something relegated to blue-collar workers and rebellious teenagers to the ubiquitous article of clothing it is today. It’s not that everyone in 1968 started wearing them; it’s that people like Don (who, if he ever wears them, won’t do so for another decade at least) found themselves surrounded by them more often than ever.
Megan is red and black and as we’ll see, this is a color motif that surround Mitchell this episode.
First, Arnie shows up sporting the two colors, utterly beside himself with emotion. It’s notable that Don is not sporting these colors and is the one who remains, for now at least, removed from the emotions of the scenario, unlike Megan.
And then later it repeats in the lobby scene with Sylvia. Basically, everyone who’s worried about Mitchell’s fate is bound together in these two ominous colors, which often evoke blood and death.
We also want to note that Sylvia has worn a LOT of black this season (more than any single character, in a season where a lot of ladies wore black) and that Arnie has often been depicted wearing grey and black with touches of red. If this family had a banner, it’d be red and black.
It was interesting how her romantic history, past, present, and possible future, were laid out in this scene. But since these three are also embodying the major color motif of BGY, let’s break this down. Ted’s in blue and yellow, signaling a lack of connection. He and Peggy are not hooking up here and in fact it’s Peggy and Pete who do the major emotional connecting. When Ted comes back to find them laughing over Pete’s mother, he’s completely left out of the conversation. It’s also notable here that Pete’s in a green tie. What’s even more interesting is that his green clashes with Peggy’s. They have a history, but they’re not on the same page anymore. And since Peggy is infatuated with the married Ted (and vice versa) she’s in the adultery-signaling BG combo.
Like Betty and Don a couple episodes back, when they were doing their whole reminiscing tour, Pete and Peggy never looked quite so attractive all season as they do here; the lighting perfectly working on both their faces, even though they’re sweaty and drunk, unlike Betty and Don who can’t help but look glamorous together.
We don’t know what it is about Nan, but something about her look reads as totally 100% period accurate to us. In short, she looks like a bazillion suburban moms of the late ‘60s and all the way through the ‘70s.
Because Ted wants HIS juice, dammit, his story tends to revolve around red and oranges, reflecting the cranberry vs. orange war he’s currently waging with Don.
Jesus, is that a hideous bedroom, though? Perfectly, groovily of the period. Yellow, orange and avocado green are going to dominate home decor for about the next ten years. This bedroom is actually a bit trendy, except for the knotty pine, which is a pure ’50s holdover, probably dating to when their house was built.
Once again, all the partners are wearing either yellow or blue ties, but Don, who’s the least involved of all them, has a strong strain of red in his. This mimics the way they were all dressed for their first partner’s meeting and indicates not only that they’re not connecting with each other, but that they’ve made not the slightest progress on that front.
Again, Pete’s more stylish than we tend to give him credit for. That’s a perfect ’70s executive look, right down to the blue shirt. Note the differences between his vest and Roger’s more old-fashioned one.
“I don’t want his juice, I want my juice!” And he is surrounded by swirls and stripes of orange and red to go with his temper tantrum.
Still, we dig his groovy ankle boots. And speaking of groovy…
You’re soaking in it.
When Peggy famously gave a handjob to that guy in the movie theater, we noted that his striped pants were so groovy that half the teenagers in America would be asking for them within a year. Mitchell’s wearing the 1968 version. It should be noted that Mitchell, despite how he looks to us, comes across at this time like the spoiled rich kid he is. No one but grownups would ever think this look was counter-culture. He’s no more a hippie than Sally and Julie are.
Sally’s wild pattern and general color scheme tie herself closely to Mitchell but not because they’re romantically destined for each other like troublemaking Julie hopes, but because their parents had an affair. Julie is completely outside this scenario, both in style and in reality.
Both girls were dressed in that child-like manner, but Julie’s costuming was even more ironic than Sally’s on that front, since first, her costumes were slightly more ridiculous, like here; and second, she’s such a manipulator and troublemaker, belying the sickly sweet, Bad Seed persona she puts out.
It seems to us that Janie puts Megan in these simple monochromatic looks when she seems to be unaware of what’s going on around her, like the fact that Julie is running downstairs to slip a note under the Rosen’s back door. Interestingly, she wore this same outfit the last time she encountered teenage girls with flower patterns and seemed somewhat oblivious to her surroundings.
Ah, remember when breakfast cereals actually had “SUGAR” in their names? Good times. Part of a wholesome breakfast.
It couldn’t be simpler. After failing to connect all season, they are both finally matching, in shades of yellow and black. They’re also perfectly reversed; Don’s solid black jacket and patterned tie vs. Ted’s solid black tie and patterned jacket. They’re on the same page but they’re also still themselves.
This outfit is meant not only to remind us of the outfit Sylvia wore when she dumped Don, but it also ties her directly to her kitchen, something Jane tends to do very often with housewife characters. It should also be noted that Sylvia is most definitely NOT getting the Betty Draper glamour lighting in this scene and in fact, has been shot to look worse and worse as the season has progressed. She was out of fashion but still quite beautiful when we met her on New Year’s Eve. She’s shot, lit, dressed, and made up to look harsh and frumpy here.
Like the Chaough bedroom, the oranges, yellows and greens in this kitchen are simply not going to go away for quite some time, permanently scarring a generation of children before finally fading in popularity. The heavy orange tones throughout this scene and the next one also serve to remind us of Don and Ted’s juice war, because every time there’s an abundance of orange in a scene this episode…
A little cranberry must always be added to the mix.
Again, we think we’re witnessing the death knell of Sally’s little girl looks, which is why this and the last dress she wore are so over the top in that regard.
Yellow and orange dominated these scenes thoroughly, making Sally stand out all the more as someone who just shouldn’t be where she is.
With the day over and the the war finally settled, Ted returns home to a loving reunion with his family, like so many lucky soldiers.
While Don, ever the mess, returns to yet another war zone for him.
Couple things here: We love how Nan is napping in her knee-hi’s. No way in hell she’s walking around her house barefoot like a hippie. We also love how Megan looks more stylish and trendy than either of the two teenage girls at the table, both of whom look like they were dressed by their mothers.
Kiernan Shipka knocked it out of the park in this scene. The wincing look of pain at the sight of her father was beautifully done; knife-to-the-heart. Sally and Don are never really going to have the same relationship again, sadly.
In the end, this particular story, with its endlessly repeating motifs, like fractal images…
Is partially about how family dysfunction sometimes passes itself on from generation to generation, despite the best (or in this case, the worst) efforts on the part of the elders. Patterns repeat; mistakes re-occur.
And a privileged east coast girl in the late 1960s can find herself in danger of winding up just like the screwed-up, poverty-stricken Appalachian son-of-a-whore who’s failing to raise her, because sometimes you just can’t get away from your family history.
It’s kind of funny. After years of Betty being vilified by the show’s viewers for being a cold, sometimes terrible mother, we’re all kind of rooting for her to save Sally from being totally screwed up now, aren’t we? On the other hand, we’d all probably cheer if Sally put on her bell bottoms and hit the road.
We’re thinking “Ralph” for the cat.
We love how uneasy these two are with each other. She is so not impressed with the men in her life right now and he is so not impressed with this lady who keeps hogging the couch.
By the way, both Peggy and the Chaough boys are watching Hawaii 5-0, which just debuted.