Mad Men

Drinking with Draper

Mad Men Episode 8: A kiss is much more than just a kiss. Plus we attempt to redeem beer and riesling.

By Jessica Voelker October 5, 2009

It’s the dog days of August in Mad Men world, and everyone’s up to something. Don and Betty escape to Rome for a business trip, where Betty plays the part of the languid Italian seductress whom Don would have slept with had she stayed home with the kids.

Francine, meanwhile, drops off her children Ernie and Jessica at the Drapers. When Carla the housekeeper isn’t looking, Sally kisses Ernie; Bobby Draper witnesses the assault and starts to tease his sister. Sally then pins him to the ground and punches her little brother with that impressive aggression she’s been cultivating all season. When the Drapers return from their trip, Carla expresses her concern over Sally’s temper. But Betty, it seems, is more worried about the kiss.

“The first kiss is very special” she tells her daughter. “It’s where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone, and every kiss with him after that is a shadow of that kiss.”

“And you don’t kiss boys,” continues the queen of ennui. “Boys kiss you.” In a few years Sally will probably be making the first move at lesbian orgies all over the squatters flats of Haight-Ashbury, but no matter. For today she is properly chastised. Betty, meanwhile, has experienced a first kiss of her own from Henry, the PR man who is helping her and her fellow junior leaguers save the reservoir. It is after Henry kisses her that Betty decides to go to Rome with Don, where she seduces her husband with a beehive hairdo that looks like something you might glaze with egg whites and serve at Easter brunch.

Pete, meanwhile, is left at home while wife Trudy traipses off to the beach with her parents. When he encounters the neighbor’s German au pair in the building’s garbage room, he instantly gets funny ideas. The nanny is attempting to trash a dress she surreptitiously borrowed from her boss and then ruined with a wine stain. (Remember the movie Can’t Buy Me Love? Like that, only the dress is tulle rather than white leather with fringe.)

Pete plays the hero, offering to replace the dress for the au pair. He does—along the way discovering that Joanie is now managing a department store. He returns to the apartment building to turn over the new dress expecting, just as Henry did, a reward for his troubles. But the au pair rejects Pete’s invitation to join him for “beer, Riesling, or Schnapps,” citing a boyfriend. Pete returns a little later, drunk, and insists.

In many ways, this episode is about the limited options available to women at the time, and how different women manage them. Betty must enlist her feminine wiles to attract a man who will be taken seriously at the meeting, but Henry clearly expects to reap a sexual reward for his trouble. She escapes the situation by leaving the country. Her lesson to her daughter, meanwhile, is that you can’t choose to kiss someone, but you can work to make the right boys attempt to kiss you. When Trudy returns from vacation, Pete tacitly reveals his indiscretion; the betrayal is resolved when he asks her not to leave him alone again. Trudy agrees: her options are stay home, or suffer her husband’s infidelity.

But is the au pair who learns the limitations of her options most poignantly: she thought she could receive a favor from Pete and still chose not to engage sexually with him, but she is ultimately powerless against his rapey advances. The only choice she had was one of beverage: “beer, riesling, or schnapps.”

Dark stuff. Fortunately for us, women (and men) now have many more choices when it comes to German-style drinking. For reasons that should be obvious, I’ll eliminate Schnapps from the equation altogether, however, and stick to those other two delicacies: beer and riesling. If you haven’t been, I suggest you stop by the amazing Pike Street Beer and Wine, where you’ll find a lovingly curated collection of the world’s beer, including a nice little German section. If you’re looking for local beers brewed in the German style, try anything from Baron Brewing. And if you want to drink German beer out of a massive stein, there’s Feierebend.

While Germany makes some of the world’s finest rieslings, I’m finding Washington’s homegrown whites most exciting these days. The Poet’s Leap from Longshadows (available at Pike and Western) seems to get better and better. Pacific Rim’s 2007 Dry Riesling and 2007 Kung Fu Girl from Charles Smith, meanwhile, are both highly affordable weekday wines that will make Thai takeout sing.


Find more Mad Men recaps here.

Filed under
Show Comments