“Mad Men”: Episode 7, “The Gold Violin”


Lots of intrigue, if not a whole lot of action, in this Mad Men seg, “The Gold Violin.”

For all the plot seeds that appear to have been planted in this hour, the one image that really stuck with me in this seg — penned by the quartet of Jane Anderson, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton and Matthew Weiner and helmed by Andrew Bernstein — was the shot of the Drapers packing up from their picnic. Litterbugs! Miscreants! Eco-terrorists!

It was one of those moments that  that took advantage of “Mad Men” being a period drama to get us to thinking about how far we’ve come in our attitudes about how we treat Mother Earth. It was bad enough that Don crumples up his beer can and pitches it as far as he can into the bucolic setting where this increasingly estranged family has stopped for a respite.

But when Betty shakes out their picnic blanket, letting the paper and food trash hit the grass without even giving it a second thought — I shuddered. Yes, I know, the mind-set was very different back then — interesting to note that Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was published in 1962, same year as we’re in on “Mad Men.”

Still, I gotta believe plenty of people back then would’ve naturally been inclined to tidy up after themselves, if only because it’s the right thing to do. I think trashing the countryside is a sign of Betty’s growing detachment from reality. Certainly, she’s becoming the ice queen as far as her children are concerned — she seems to treat them more like a nuisance. It’s quite a 180 from the picture-perfect mom she was striving to be in season one.

But let’s back up a bit. I think the overarching theme of this seg is about materialism and the moral decay that conspicuous consumption represents.

Don buys his Cadillac and seems to worship it like a lover because he thinks it signals he’s arrived. Bertram Cooper shells out $10,000 for a Rothko painting, not because he likes the red “smudgy squares,” as new-girl Jane puts, but because he thinks it’ll double its value in just a few years.

Ken Cosgrove, in his “Far From Heaven”-esque visit to Salvatore and Kitty’s home for dinner, spells it out during their discussion the inspiration for his latest short story, and the title of this episode. “It was perfect in every way, except it couldn’t make music,” Ken tells them of the gilded fiddle he saw on display as an objet d’arte the Metropolitan Museum of Art.