'Mad Men' Recap: Bob Benson, Revealed
Plus, the Real Juice on Ocean Spray and Sunkist in 1968By: Matthew Creamer, Published: Jun 10, 2013
If there's been one hope for the legacy of Don Draper, it's that his children will somehow be spared his bespoke brand of destroyer-of-worlds je ne sais quoi. Don's is a rare case where absenteeism has probably been an effective fathering tool, as Sally, Bobby and Gene Draper appear to be blessedly sealed off from their dad's dark influence and all the better for it.
Until last night's episode, at least.
In an episode titled "Favors," as in "do me no," Sally gets a good look at who her father really is. Accompanied by a friend, the Draper daughter comes down to the city for a Model U.N. event. She stays in Don and Megan's Park Ave. pad over the objections of her mother, who knows the nothingness that is there.
"You hate that Daddy supports my dreams," Sally balks, rather ridiculously. "He doesn't think that I'm just a pain in the ass." Betty responds with sarcasm: "Your father is a hero."
Hero is a particularly loaded term given the introduction of Mitchell Rosen, son of Don's ex-lover, who is in town after a stay in a sexually and politically explosive Paris. Young Mitchell immediately sets Sally's heart aflutter and creates a new challenge for Don: helping his lover's son dodge his imminent shipping off to Vietnam. Mitchell's draft card protest has earned him a re-classification as 1-A, government-speak for pack your bags.
Don, we're reminded again, is against the war and, working through Ted Chaough, is able to get a George W. Bush-esque Get Out of War Free Card for Mitchell in the form of a potential lead with the Air National Guard. The Rosens, needless to say, are grateful. Arnie brings Mitchell upstairs to shake Don's hand. Sylvia brings Don downstairs to shake his, well, you know. They're in the middle of things when Sally lets herself into the Rosens' apartment to retrieve a highly embarrassing note earmarked for Mitchell. Instead, she gets an eyeful of her father in his natural state. (It's worth noting that this is the second time that Sally has walked in on a sex act, the first being Roger Sterling in a compromising position with Megan's mom.)
This is a full-circle moment. Don has effectively given Sally a version of the image that has haunted him since his childhood: his pregnant prostitute stepmother being violated by creepy Uncle Mac. Trade out the brothel for a Park Ave. high-rise, put Don on top and -- voila! -- a lifetime of nightmares for poor Sally. Don's crisis control strategy is to get wildly drunk and talk to her through her closed bedroom door. The episode ends with Sally bawling and Don staggering into his bedroom and closing the door after a mournful look back.
Suffice it to say, "La La Means I Love You" is not playing over the credits, one of the relatively few episodes that isn't escorted out by a popular song of the day.
Who is Bob Benson?
We know he's a lover of coffee, a listener of self-help records, a short shorts-wearing friend to Joan, a Chevy account man, and, crucially it turns out, a provider of a nurse to Pete Campbell's mother. But who is Bob really?
This might be anti-climactic.
It appears that Bob is gay and he has really bad taste in men. Like Pete "sour little man" Campbell bad. We find this out after Pete tells Bob that the male nurse he hired is shagging his mom. This, of course, is not the case, but it opens the door for Bob to take a peek out of the closet. With his knee touching Pete's, he delivers a sweet little speech about how "When there's true love it doesn't matter who it is."
I actually found this a moving display, which is saying something since I'm still bitter about Sal being written off the show. Manolo the nurse may have informed us that "Bob is a wonderful salesman" but his pitch comes up short. Pete rejects the advance and now has the ammunition to get Bob fired off the Chevy account, my guess for one of the season six's resolutions. This all assumes, of course, that Bob isn't some sort of master manipulator taking us all for a ride.
The folks at Sterling Cooper & Partners are chasing not one but two juice clients, a potential conflict resulting from the communication difficulties between the two sides of the agency. But what was going on with Sunkist and Ocean Spray back in the day?
Don indicates that Sunkist needs to get into TV, particularly color TV because, you know, oranges are orange. The client, he says, is "too cheap to get out of print."
At about that time, the real-life Sunkist was actually gearing up for a big push into TV. In 1969, the citrus-growers collective, having observed the just under 20 million color TV sets glowing in American living rooms, decided to spend its highest ad budget ever, $8 million, mainly on TV. Wrote The New York Times, "In the past, 75 per cent of the ad budget went to magazines and the rest to newspapers. Now 75 per cent is going to TV."
As Sunkist was making a media shift, it remained happy with its agency. At that point, Sunkist was in the 60th year of a very long relationship with Foote Cone & Belding, which had managed to survive what the Sunkist ad manager called in 1959 "an open-door policy" with creative shops. "Any agency that wants to talk with us will get a hearing," Russell Eller told The Times back in the day.
Ocean Spray, on the other hand, only just switched agencies at the beginning of 1968, moving the business from DDB to Ted Bates and Young & Rubicam, kicking off a heady few decades of growth. In the 1960s, Ocean Spray hit the juice market hard, inventing the concept of the juice blend with Crangrape and Cranapple, not to mention the Cranberry Juice Cocktail. In the early 1980s, the company invented the juice box and in 1985 began a decade on the Fortune 500.
Billings were reported at $5 million, so Jim Cutler was low-balling us when he said both juices were about $3 million.