Mad Men episode 109: “Shoot”

Don is courted by a much larger rival advertising agency. Betty considers working outside the home and temporarily goes back to modeling. Meanwhile, Peggy is gaining more confidence as a writer. Pete and Harry stumble upon a plan to help out the Nixon campaign, by buying up airtime for Secor Laxatives, preventing the Kennedy campaign from advertising in several key states.

“Shoot” is somewhat of a standalone episode by Mad Men standards. A lot of Mad Men episodes, particularly this late in the season, would be starting to bring existing plot threads together. Instead, it’s an episode that could have aired really any time during the show’s early run, with a self-contained story that has a beginning, middle and end.

Other than its iconic final closing shot of Betty, with rifle in hand and cigarette dangling out of her mouth, “Shoot”‘s most important contribution to the Mad Men story is the introduction of the McCann Erickson advertising agency and its leader, Jim Hobart. McCann will pop up here and there throughout the series, often as a contrast to Sterling Cooper. Although we’re told that the Sterling Cooper crew is “the finest ad men in New York” in the pilot episode, making us viewers think the agency must be a big deal, “Shoot” gives us perspective on the actual truth. Sterling Cooper is a “mom and pop shop,” as Hobart calls it. McCann is one of the largest ad agencies in the world, something Hobart mentions over and over as he tries to woo Don to join the firm.

The episode begins at an opera, during intermission. Here, we see Don meet up with Hobart in the lobby. Betty and Hobart’s wife, Adele, join them right before the show starts up again. It’s clear that Hobart admires Don’s work and he thinks Don is wasting his time at a small organization like Sterling Cooper. McCann can easily pay Don a larger salary, but Hobart also points out the fringe benefits that come with working at such a large agency with clout: an international presence, mixing in with the upper crust of society, thrilling international adventure.

Hobart is ready to pull out all the stops in recruiting Don. Betty was a model when she met Don, and Hobart flatters her vanity, saying she should try out for a Coca-Cola modeling spot, saying they need a “Grace Kelly type.” Don would rather have Betty at home, playing the dutiful housewife, rather than going back to work. And he can see that Hobart’s interest in Betty is more about his interest in getting Don to leave Sterling Cooper for McCann.

Betty has a successful photo shoot or two for the Coca-Cola spot. She likes the idea of going back to work a few days a week. Don softens on the idea–at least verbally to Betty. After using Hobart’s tactics to get a healthy raise, with no contract, from Roger, Don finally refuses the McCann offer. This has the side effect of Hobart dropping Betty as a model, putting her back in the role of housewife. Don knows about Hobart’s machinations, but he lets Betty preserve her dignity by saying she quit, deciding that she wants to take care of her family full-time rather than go back to modeling.

Although this is mostly a self-contained episode, the Betty storyline allows the show to examine the start of second-wave feminism. Women were becoming bored and tired of being housewives, being subservient to their husbands. Betty tries to break away from the patriarchy, but in the end, she’s manipulated by both Don and Hobart, and ends up right back where she was. It’s what she says she wants but we, the audience, can tell that she wants more out of life. She wants to be her own person, rather than being someone’s wife or mother.

This pent-up rage leads us to the aforementioned iconic closing shot. Earlier in the episode, Sally’s dog Polly chased and injured one of the pigeons that are kept as pets by the Drapers’ neighbor. The neighbor, Ross, makes a threat against the dog that upsets Sally. If Betty is going to be stuck at home as a mom, she’s going to stand her ground for her kids, and take out some of her frustration at the same time, by shooting some of Ross’ pigeons. This also gives double meaning to the episode title: Betty went on a photo shoot, and ends the hour taking a shot of a very different kind.


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