“The New Girl” Review
“Always Crashing in the Same Car”
Don Draper doesn’t really much care for Bobbie Barrett. She’s cold, calculated and conniving, and she’s married to one of his clients. But that doesn’t stop Don from sleeping with her anyways. He even takes her on an impromptu seaside getaway. But they never make it to the beach house, as an intoxicated Don crashes the car.
Mad Men doesn’t usually rely on plot twists, but this newest development is the closest we’ve come to an unexpected turn of events. All of a sudden, Don’s personal and professional lives are (once again) turned upside down. He ends up in the drunk tank without any cash, while Mrs. Barrett suffers a concussion and a bruised face. If anyone were to find out the truth, it would mean the end for both of them.
Perhaps the even bigger plot twist is that Peggy Olson is the one Don calls upon for aid.
Peggy is the only person whom Don entrusts in this situation. She bails him out of jail and allows Bobbie to spend the night at her apartment. But why does she do it? At first, Peggy’s unfriendly demeanor seems unjustified. Sure, she’s covering up for her boss’ adulterous affairs, but does she have to be such a bitch about it? She even goes so far as to make me sympathize with Bobbie Barrett, which is something I never thought I’d say.
Despite sharing very little in common, Peggy and Bobbie share a remarkable onscreen chemistry. Eventually, they also come to share a mutual respect. Both of them are strong-willed businesswomen trying to make it in a man’s world. And as someone who’s already found success, Bobbie is able to offer some encouraging advice:
“You can’t be a man. Don’t even try. Be a woman. It’s powerful business when done correctly.”
Whatever her reason might be for helping Don get out of trouble, Peggy needs to stop viewing him as a boss and instead view him as an equal. She starts off with a minor victory at the end of the episode: calling him “Don” instead of “Mr. Draper” for the first time all series.
But the real reason Peggy helps Don is for the same reason Don asked for Peggy’s help in the first place — they share a connection that goes far beyond boss/employee.
In one of the show’s most revealing flashbacks, we find out the truth surrounding last season’s surprise pregnancy. Come to find out that Don was the only one who visited Peggy in the hospital, thus making him the only one to know about her child, and therefore making him the only man bold enough to tell Peggy what she needed to hear:
“Get out of here, and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”
As someone who had already abandoned his previous life, Don understood Peggy’s situation better than anyone, and so he advised her to do the same — put the baby up for adoption, get back to her new job as a copywriter, don’t tell anyone, forget about it and move on. Which is exactly what she did.
It’s a strikingly magnificent scene, made all the more impactful when we consider that this is Dick Whitman talking, not Donald Draper. Sometimes, leaving behind everything is the only way you can truly get ahead. As a result, the flashback makes us retroactively appreciate Peggy’s character even more. Everything she’s done this season — including her storyline in “Three Sundays,” the way she behaves toward Bobbie and every interaction she’s shared with Don — suddenly takes on a new meaning.
Then again, you can only sweep your mistakes under the rug for so long. Don conveniently forgot to mention the immense pain that comes with abandoning your past. Even though it might be out of sight, it’s not out of mind.
“The New Girl” director, Jennifer Getzinger, is one of the most talented women working in TV, and her work on Mad Men has always highlighted the series’ refined elegance. Even in the face of ugly circumstances, her meticulously framed sequences bring out a cultivated sense of style, which comes across as scathingly ironic given the episode’s subject matter.
Take, for instance, the scene in which Rachel Katz (née Menken) happens upon Don and Bobbie eating lunch at a restaurant. The setting is high-class, and the conversation is polite, but the emotions between them are anything but. Without having to say much at all, Rachel coolly exposes Don’s fraudulence. She’s seen this song and dance before.
And then there’s the long car ride in the dark between Don and Bobbie, in which Getzinger takes influence from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Utilizing a faux-backdrop and faux-intellectual conversation (Don references the works of Michelangelo Antonioni), Getzinger turns a sophisticated scene into one undercut with tragedy … and that’s before Don drives off the road. Not only are Don and Bobbie terrible people who cheat on their spouses; they’re also completely incompatible with each other.
There are several characters throughout “The New Girl” that the title may refer to — Bobbie, Joan, Peggy, Betty, Rachel, etc. — but perhaps the most deserving is Getzinger herself. She shapes the episode into a brilliant pastiche and will go on to direct some of the best installments of the series.
In an episode concerned with sweeping things under the rug, Getzinger makes sure that we don’t look away.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
- At the end of the episode, Don gets off scot free … although it seems that Jimmy Barrett (and maybe even Betty) suspects that something’s amiss. The final scene features Don returning to a home-cooked meal of collard greens, which Betty has prepared because of Don’s high blood pressure (his excuse for crashing the car). “Why can’t Daddy have salt?” Sally asks. “Because we love him,” Betty replies.
- There are plenty of “new girls” featured in “The New Girl” — Bobbie Barrett, Don’s newest mistress; the sexy Jane Siegel, Don’s newest secretary; the newly-engaged Joan Holloway, soon to be Mrs. Joan Harris; and even Rachel Menken and Betty Draper were once considered Don’s “new girls.” Peggy, too, introduced herself as “the new girl” in the first episode of the series.
- Trudy Campbell can also lay claim to being “the new girl.” In a small sub-plot, Pete and Trudy find out that her womb might be barren. It’s devastating for Trudy but secretly a source of relief for Pete, who didn’t really want a child in the first place.
- Also: Trudy Campbell, played by Alison Brie, is probably Mad Men‘s most underrated character. It’s no wonder she came in at #8 in the Top 10 Mad Men Season 1 Characters despite her limited screentime.
- It appears that Rachel Menken has done the one thing she aspired never to do — marry a Jewish man. In season one, she prided herself on becoming more than “just her father’s daughter.” Although she seems happy, she also seems to have settled for less.
- In Peggy’s flashback, we see that she was in complete psychological denial of her child. Although it’s still one of the more far-fetched storylines of the series, her actions make sense (a baby would destroy her chances of becoming a successful businesswoman in early-’60s America).
- The “car conversation” scene has been a cinematic staple ever since the 1950s. There’s an indescribable magic to it — just look at this Alfred Hitchcock/Cary Grant compilation for proof. Mad Men pays homage to this nostalgic staple several times throughout the series, always with great results.
- During Don’s car conversation with Bobbie, he expresses his admiration for La Notte. I prefer L’Avventura (and Blow-Up), but it’s no surprise that Don is attracted to Antonioni’s moody brand of arthouse cinema. As a matter of fact, he fits right in with the bored, wealthy and unemotional characters that Antonioni makes the subject of his films.
- “The New Girl” was written by Robin Veith and directed by Jennifer Getzinger
- “Are you two aware of the principles of conception, how the sperm meets the egg?”
- “This is America — pick a job and become the person that does it.”
- “I never expect him to be any other way than what he is.”
- “I guess when you try and forget something, you have to forget everything.”