Detective Sally and the mystery of the Mad Men

Sally Draper books are always interesting.

Sally is always interesting.

Sally, more than perhaps any (Peggy, Peter aside perhaps) is forced to navigate the era, adapt and grow. She does this by constantly listening, watching and learning. Her outbursts drive her mother crazy because she hits on exactly what is going on and Betty fuggin’ hates this.

It is always awkward to have a child see truth and comment on it.

Her books as well are a journey. As she advances, grows and becomes more and more wise, so do the books she’s reading.

The first Sally book was Nursery Friends From France, read by her mom when she was little and a princess who felt her father hung the moon.

Now, she’s reading Nancy Drew: The Clue of the Black Keys, Carolyn Keene.

Here’s the synopsis of the 28th book in the Nancy Drew series:

Terry Scott, a young archaeology professor, seeks Nancy’s help in unearthing a secret of antiquity which can only be unlocked by three black keys. While on an archaeological expedition in Mexico, Terry and Dr. Joshua Pitt came across a clue to buried treasure. The clue was a cipher carved on a stone tablet. Before the professor had time to translate the cipher, the tablet disappeared – along with Dr. Pitt! Terry tells Nancy of his suspicions of the Tinos, a Mexican couple posing as scientists who vanished the same night as Dr. Pitt. Nancy and her friends follow a tangled trail of clues that lead to the Florida Keys and finally to Mexico in this suspense-filled story that will thrill readers.

I had not read a Nancy Drew book before this one. They’re very fun. Like Anne of Green Gables, which I finally read as an adult, I get why they are popular and you girls get obsessed with them. I have a niece I intend to read these to when she old enough not to rip the pages and, you know, get it.

Back to Sally.

She sneaks onto a train in S4E09 (The Beautiful Girls) and is found by a lady avoiding the conductor.

“I didn’t have enough money,” said Sally to her incensed father.

“Men never know what’s going on,” the lady says to Don.

Sally wants to see her dad and doesn’t want to wait. Don freaks, makes her stay in the office then Faye Miller takes her to his place as his secretary – Miss Blankenship – dies. Dang! Some people just have a day, right?

Sally then starts investigating. Who is Faye? Why does she have her dad’s keys?

“Why did she know you have peanut butter Dad?”

Sally Draper

At first, things are charming, but as the mystery of her absent father is discovered, things change for Sally. Things will continue to change for Sally.

What’s charming turns real, and this is the first time she really feels it. No, she can’t stay with her dad. No, her dad is not the gallant knight she believed. Yes, he will let her down. He will always let her down.

The title of the episode plays into Sally’s choice of book: the detective novel. Sally is not the only one doing detective work.

The beautiful girls (Faye, Peggy, Joan, Megan and Sally) are all investigating, detecting, navigating and learning.

Peggy learns that all the social justice warrior ethic in the world can’t trump a man’s need to be a man and save a woman. Ugh, Abe Drexler is just so punchable.

Joan gets mugged at gunpoint, has sex with Roger on the street, and makes a quick decision by analyzing the facts. She has already learned this lesson. She regrets nothing, but is married and that is that. Sorry, Roger. You’re a child.

Speaking of children, Faye learns who Don is and that’s all for her. Ciao doctor.

Miss Blankenship has already learned.

“She was born in 1989 in a barn, she died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper; she’s an astronaut.”

– Bert Cooper

Remember the astronaut reference for later.

There is a moment in this episode worth mentioning. It’s one of the moments that make you remember that this may be one of the best shows ever written.

Sally falls when running away from her father in anger.

It is Megan who picks her up. It is Megan who knows what to say to her. It is Megan who solves the mystery.

“I fall all the time,” says Megan.

The following scene is Don and all the beautiful girls.

Megan at the desk, Faye, Peggy, and Joan stand near the door while Betty and Sally chat.


Of diamonds and escaping and hot air balloons and masturbation, enter Sally Draper

The first book that shows up in season four of Mad Men in S4E05 (The Chrysanthemum and the Sword) is the first book that Sally is reading on her own: The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois.

The story is about professor William Waterman Sherman and his attempt to fly across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon only to land on the volcanic secret island of Krakatoa with its cave full of diamonds, that fund the residents’ luxury lifestyle.

It’s a decent fantasy children’s book and something Sally would, no doubt, be drawn to for it’s plot of running away to hide by herself on a balloon or island away from Betty and Henry and her brothers (especially Gene), and maybe even her dad.

How many female characters in Mad Men want to run away? Want to hide?

The episode in question is a very important Sally episode, and hints at some of these adventures that she wants to go and exploring she wants to do.

It’s really the first full-on Sally episode where other characters react to her throughout. The hot air balloon is a nice metaphor here.

Here’s what Sally gets up to:

First, she sneaks off to cut her hair when she’s at Don’s being babysat, and gets slapped by Betty when she sees her shorn locks (even though Betty has almost the exact same hair length). Classic Betty. Does she hate the herself she sees in Sally or is it Don staring back at her?

Then, Sally gets caught about to “play with herself” when she’s at a sleepover.

Betty, naturally, is full of rage and resentment. Her icy stares are straight up terrifying.

“She was masturbating Don, in front of a friend. Does that seem normal to you?”

– Betty

Betty wants to send her to a psychiatrist to stop her from becoming a “fast girl.” Fast like her father?

Mad Men does an excellent job of exploring the concept of therapy throughout the series. Betty had her sessions in the first season, and now we’re about to enter Sally’s go round. There are moments where Don is clearly doing therapeutic work, and Roger winds up on a couch later.

It’s interesting to see how the practice was in the ’50s-’70s, and what each visit tells us about the character in question.

If Betty is full of resentment towards Sally and Don, Sally is certainly resentful of her mother.

Sally’s resentment began last season when Don left, and Sally and Betty are headed for some epic mother-daughter battles.

Wait a second. Back to the book. A secret mine full of diamonds.

Where have we heard that before?

Betty read Fitzgerald and Sally reads Du Bois. Both are reading about hidden caves of diamonds.

The interwoven daughter-mother relationship in sometimes obvious (Sally cuts her hair to be the same as her mother), but sometimes subtle.

Betty and Sally are both looking for diamonds to hold in secret. Both look to be like diamonds. Both want perfection inside and out, but both are just too damaged to get there.

Neither can bear for others to see what they are inside.

A scene in S4E05 is perfect and worth noting. Betty stares at a dollhouse in Sally’s therapist’s office. The music, far off gaze, and smile say it all.

She wants perfection. The dollhouse’s perfection makes her happy. If only she could stay there.

Sally wants this too, but for Sally it’s not in a dollhouse. It’s in her house.

It’s a world where her mom and dad are together in one house and Henry is nowhere to be seen.

Sally also wants escape and adventure. She’s a kid after all. We’ll see this moving forward.

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