“The Double Life of Don Draper”
By Colin Hart
8.9 / 10
There are two sides to Donald Draper — the man he wants to be, and the man he is. As much as he aspires to be an honorable family man, he can’t change the fact that he’s a liar, a cheater, a deserter and an insatiable adulterer.
When Betty wears a skimpy swimsuit, Don calls her “desperate”; when he attends a dinner in which all veterans and servicemen are asked to stand, he feels uneasy; and when Bobbie Draper tells him that his reputation as a virile lover precedes him, he ties her to the bed and leaves.
Worst of all, when his daughter, Sally, silently watches him shave, it reminds him of what a horrible piece of shit he really is. “Maidenform” poignantly ends with Don looking at his reflection in the mirror, contemplating the dual nature of his clandestine existence.
Just as there are two sides to Don Draper, there are also two sides to Sterling Cooper’s latest ad campaign for brassieres — every woman is either a Jackie Kennedy or a Marilyn Monroe. Of course, in the real world, things aren’t that simple.
Peggy Olson, feeling ostracized by her male co-workers, questions this shallow idea. After all, she was the one who previously said, “I don’t want to feel like one of a hundred colors in a box.” Yet against her better judgment, she joins the rest of the creative team for after-hours drinks at a gentleman’s club, pretending to be something she’s not. It’s painful for us to see her this way. Didn’t she learn anything from her time with Bobbie Draper?
Pete Campbell, too, has a hard time separating his dreams from his desires. He and his wife, Trudy, are still in the honeymoon stage of their marriage, but that doesn’t stop him from hooking up with a random girl on his way out of the office. Furthermore, he’s still clearly obsessed with Peggy, though they’re not likely to fuck in the office again anytime soon. When she shows up to the gentleman’s club, he gives her a condemning look, and it’s the rare occasion where you actually feel bad for both characters.
Yet no one is more deserving of our sorrow than Chauncey, the beautiful Irish Setter that Duck Phillips abandons at the end of the episode. We can only hope he found a good home, as he’s easily the most respectable character in the series. Not that Chauncey’s got much competition — the main goal of “Maidenform” is to show how terrible everyone at Sterling Cooper truly is.
In Duck Phillips’ first spotlight, we discover that his bland personality is actually a carefully-curated persona made to hide his self-destructive nature. He’s basically the anti-Don Draper. When his estranged family shows up in Manhattan to cut ties with him forever (and to drop off his dog), he reverts back to the alcoholism that tore his family apart in the first place.
Nobody likes Duck Phillips … except for Chauncey. But even Duck knows that he’s undeserving of such unconditional love, and so he sets the dog loose. The action is unforgivable, yet also understandable.
That’s why “Maidenform” works so well: named after a brand of woman’s underwear, the installment exposes the characters for what they are, but also helps us identify with what lies beneath.
It’s another beautifully-crafted episode of Mad Men, despite being full of ugly emotions.
Mergers & Acquisitions
- The episode opens with a montage of the Mad Men women — Joan, Peggy and Betty — getting dressed for work, putting on their underwear, set to “The Infanta” by the Decemberists.
- Mirrors are a constant theme throughout the episode. Many characters contemplate their reflections, and it seems that everyone now has a major secret. The duality of Don Draper is obvious, but Pete, Peggy and Duck also carry hidden guilt that weighs on their everyday decisions.
- Developing Duck Phillips’ character is absolutely necessary, as he’s now Don’s main foil at the agency. Even though he’s not all that likable, it’s always great to see Mad Men adding depth to its supporting cast. As a standalone, his storyline in this episode is essential. But abandoning Chauncey will make sure that he’ll forever be despised by viewers.
- When Peggy questions the Jackie/Marilyn dichotomy, Ken Cosgrove compares her to Gertrude Stein, whereas Don likens her to Irene Dunn.
- Don is furious at Bobbie, who has been talking to other women about Don’s reputation as a great lover. We’ve already seen he’s been sexually aggressive with her before, but tying her to the bed as a form of revenge reveals his darkest nature.
- Mad Men is at its best when it doesn’t force history down your face. I could do without the meaningless Bay of Pigs discussion.
- Pete Campbell’s review of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “It goes along for a while, and then it takes a turn, and then it ends up exactly where you thought it was going: John Wayne shot him.”
- “Everything reminds me of her” — Don stares longingly at a bag of Utz potato chips.
- “Maidenform” was written by series creator Matthew Weiner, and directed by Phil Abraham. According to IMDB, this is Weiner’s favorite episode of the series.
- “Well, Marilyn’s really a Joan, not the other way around.”
- “Dogs are better than wives. Never a problem communicating.”
- “I’m not gonna talk. I don’t want you to cut yourself.”