Early on in Mad Men 7.12, Lost Horizon, Jim Hobart ostensibly rolls out the red carpet as Don enters his office. He gushes about McCann-Erickson getting Miller Beer for Don and rattles off a litany of other accounts. Hobart tells Don, “You’re my white whale.” This is an interesting statement, given that it casts Hobart as Herman Melville’s obsessed whale hunter, Ahab, to Don’s Moby Dick (without realizing the irony that “Dick” is Don’s real name). In one of the most memorable exchanges from Melville’s novel, Ahab characterizes his feelings about the titular mammal this way:
He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.
Hobart has Don demonstrate his new introduction, “I’m Don Draper from MccCann-Erickson,” in manner that feels less like flattery and more like Hobart treating Don as a trophy. Later, when Don goes missing, Hobart contentiously asks Meredith if Don’s “on another bender” as if that sort of behavior by Don was a given.
It would be interesting to see if Freud has anything to say in the book Betty is reading about Hobart’s single-minded motivation to snare Don since Season One. Maybe it was anger over losing business to SC&P, an agency Hobart feels beneath McCann-Erickson. Perhaps Hobart doesn’t approve of Don’s work ethic. Maybe Hobart is jealous of Don’s talent. Based on the episode, one thing would seem clear: Deep down, Hobart hates Don. And always has.