Don Tasks Him

 Posted by on May 6, 2015 at 9:06 am  Mad Men, Season 7
May 062015

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.


  78 Responses to “Don Tasks Him”

  1. “Keep your friends close …” – great observations here, Matt.

    When Jim solicits Don for his introduction, it felt the way feels when you see a man instruct a woman to “turn around and let me see what you look like” … complete, soulless objectification.

    Additionally it would have fit perfectly within “My Old Kentucky Home,” with all the command performances that took place in that episode.

    • If Hobart knew Don better, he’d know Don had one of many bull$#!t faces on.

      I’d like to see Don face Hobart one more time – one of many possible tie ups to come.

    • No one has quite mentioned Don’s moment in the conference room. The Researcher asks ” what is your brand”. Don’s is NOT faceless creative guy.

      He can’t work there, and neither can Joan. She got a pile for sleeping with a guy and gave back a pile for refusing to do it again.

  2. Wonderful and provocative post!

    I vote for jealousy and revenge.

    Hobart is jealous of everything about Don — his talent, looks. success in the ad game — and if Hobart can’t be Don, then he must control and own Don.

    That is Hobart’s manipulative MO — he wooed Betty as a model for a Coke ad to lure Don over to McCann-Erikson. McCann-Erikson is a sausage factory and Don never wanted any part of it — pure rejection of Jim Hobart.

    Hobart wants revenge for when McCann-Erikson bought Sterling Cooper and PPL, but that “sale” didn’t include Don who was fired along with the other partners– Hobart was burned big time in that transaction, and we know from the firing of Kenny, that Hobart and McCann-Erikson is big on payback!

    • Jealousy, revenge – AND – a secret.

      Hobart is hiding something and it’s what drives his obsession and, for lack of a better term, his “acting out.” McCann is the anti-Shangri-la and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Hobart is the anti-Don, perhaps even, the anti-Dick.

      We’re headed for a showdown at high noon, in the middle of a dusty street, between Don and Hobart. And while I’m in an Old West frame of mind, I’m also flashing on Dr Faye Miller’s observation about the Glo-Coat commercial, “Billy the Kid,” that won SCDP a Clio, clearly having been about someone’s childhood. I’m not sure how it all connects. I just sense that there’s some deep dynamic present, in the psyche of both men, that calls for a showdown and resolution.

      • I love this! I also love how MW has strung us along all of these years, letting Hobart show his fin above the surface every now and then: trying to draw Don in by wooing Betty, trying to pull in SC with the PPH merger, Ken’s entire character arc, now what Hobart thinks is his ultimate victory.
        Who knew that McCann would figure so prominently in the endgame?

        • Exactly! Glimpses of a fin slicing silently through the surface of the water. We aren’t even sure we actually saw it and then, it’s gone.

    • Polly Draper,

      “Hobart is jealous of everything about Don — his talent, looks. success in the ad game — and if Hobart can’t be Don, then he must control and own Don.”

      Great analysis! Interestingly, Hobart’s modus operandi is casebook for the personality disordered, specifically covert narcissist who are fueled by their main emotion, envy.

      They usually take either of two routes. One is Hobart’s. Basically pretend to be the friend of the object of envy to get them close. Then internalize as much of the traits that they envy as much as they can, while slowly destroying the victim without their knowledge. Once they have internalized as much as they can, they completely destroy the victim and discard them, since once they have “become” the object of their envy in their own eyes they then have to destroy the object of envy because “it” is proof that the narcissist isn’t the object of envy.

      In the narcissist cannot get close to the victim and fool it, then they usually destroy the things they envy about the victim through smear campaigns, basically using rumors to make the victim sound like the opposite of what they actually are.

  3. LOVING (as you might imagine) all this Moby-Dick talk! 🙂

    “That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate”

    Of the Great American Fictional Characters, I’ve compared Don to Gatsby and Huck Finn, never before thinking of Moby Dick, but this quote about The White Whale is utterly Don Draper. From the very first he’s a mystery, not only to us, but to everyone around him, his co-workers ( As Paul says at the beginning “he could be Batman for all we know.”), his wife, his mistresses. And that mystery, that inscrutable thing, is what draws us, angers us, fascinates us.

    In the book’s greatest chapter, #42 “The Whiteness of the Whale,” my namesake, the great Herman, tries to come to grips with that inscrutableness, Ishmael says that the thing that most “appalls” him is the whale’s whiteness, and Melville meditates at length on the profound “blankness, full of meaning” in the color/non-color white, before giving up at the bottomless impossibility of the task.

    Hobart, like Ahab, figures if he can put his harpoon through Don, it will solve the mystery. And clearly, he never read the book, or, if he did, he misunderstood it. As I said on an earlier thread, The White Whale is the book’s hero! In the end (*spoiler alert*), the whale wins! Thinking about it this way, it gives me a lot of hope for Don swimming free at the series end.

    • Sir,
      I too like the tie in to the obsession between hunter and prey and the fact that it has played out lo these many years between Hobart and Draper.

      But I ask we go beyond the literary ending; that Ahab/Hobart lose and that the white whale/Draper win.

      How does Hobart win?

      After all, we have been told “McCann is vindictive” and have seen that behavior first hand with Betty and Kenny.

      To answer the question: “How does Hobart destroy Don Draper for walking out on his senior director’s Miller Beer?” – may be to answer the question asked everywhere how does Mad Men end?


    • The fact that Hobart doesn’t understand the implications of his statement is yet another example of how strong the writing on Mad Men is. I can’t tell you how many really smart business people I’ve heard mix their metaphors or use literary references while completely misapprehending their meaning. All while being bombastically self-assured. Perfect characterization.

  4. The fact that we have this conversation about Moby Dick, that last season we discussed Dante…DAMN, I love this blog. Thank you guys for being the best readers on the whole Internet.

  5. There is something else about Jim Hobart that I have noticed since season one: He does not recognize women as human beings.

    The way he treated Betty, in her brief engagement as a McCann model — literally having jewelry removed from around her neck on set, having just fired her after he “lost” Don — told us everything we need to know about how things will go for the women of SC&P in this transition. It’s back to being called “girls” (worse: “sweetheart”) for all of them, even powerhouse Peggy.

    Yes, the man who calls McCann “my company” hates Don. (To Don’s eternal credit, he’s understood this since he compared Betty to “an angel” in Shoot.) But he also hates women.

    As you know, Matt: I consider this more general hatred considerably worse.

    Great post, my astute friend. 🙂

    • I took the jewelry removal as a standard thing for models finishing up a job – you know – job’s over, gotta make sure we get back all our props and costumes. But if I recall, Hobart’s brother-in-law let her keep something else, right? A dress, maybe? And he said, “I don’t do that for just everybody.” And he could see that Betty was upset about the job ending and he was quick to assure her that these things happen and she shouldn’t take it too personally.

      Not that this takes away for Hobart being a tool, of course. I just remember the brother-in-law and I liked him and he seemed to have kindness and affection towards Betty.

      • Betty was told she could keep the dress and the hairdo. Betty told her psychiatrist about having to give back the fur coat at the end of the photo shoot when she first met Don. She said the hardest part of modeling was giving the stuff back. January Jones played the scene at the end of her Coke modeling gig magnificently. To capture the evil essence of Hobart, I’ve been revisiting all his old scenes. What.a powerful display of total douchery!

  6. Jim Hobart is Captain Ahab and this is all about obsession and revenge. Jim Hobart tried to harpoon Don in season one and extracted his revenge on Don through Betty. Now that he thinks he has landed Don Draper again, he wants to extract his revenge. But Don Draper has disappeared again, sorry Jim. The ones that will reap the whirlwind of McCann are Peggy, Pete and Harry. It appears that Ted Chaough wasn’t buying the presentation of the guy from Milwaukee either he might be long gone too. Hobart has no problem lowering the boom on Joan. Buying out her contract is nothing more than the cost of doing business for him. I have no doubt that Peggy was not given an office by McCann because they never intended to employ her. She and Don Draper are bonded at the hip Hobart thinks. Don, now Dick Whitman, has Hobart right where he wants him. It is payback time. Don Draper/ Dick Whitman is a mystery and an enigma all wrapped up. Hobart doesn’t stand a chance. He will suffer the same fate as Ahab.

    • Ted may not have been buying the presentation, but it seems to me that he’s happily settling into the role of a company man and simply going with the flow.

      • I thought so too. Ted seemed excited that that meeting only had half the creative directors in it. Don looked revolted at the idea.

      • Ted has literally said that he wants “to let someone else drive.”

        He’s in the tired part of unhappiness now. He doesn’t want to do anything. He wouldn’t be the first man in history to see a life of doing nothing and still collecting a paycheck as kind of a wonderful idea.

        • He may professionally unhappy, marking time, but he’s rekindled an old flame. Even Don expressed some envy: “how do you find that?”

      • He has a no compete clause and fat check for his percentage of the sale of SC&P

        …and he attends Vogue parties in the Village

      • At this point, we’ve seen all of the Ted Chaough story – I think this Sunday was the denouement for the character.

        He wanted someone else to drive. Now he’s in the passenger seat. Divorced. He’s happy as he’s going to be.

        The character’s usefulness kind of peaked once SCDP and CGC merged, which is a shame considering how wonderful it is to watch Kevin Rahm.

  7. It’s like Hobart sees Don as a woman, and Hobart doesn’t like women. He wooed Don for a decade, ate PPL in order to get him indirectly, and finally succeeded with Roger’s deal. Lies about the acquisition of another company solely to get the beer account for Don (a wedding gift), has Don do a “twirl” ( I’m Don Draper from McCann Ericson) before patting him on his perky but and sending him into a room full of Don Drapers just as the ink is drying on the marriage license. To show him that for all his white-whaleitude, he’s not special. Not anymore, now that he’s been had. For Hobart, HE’S the star, and as far as Draper goes, it was more about the getting than the having.

    • It’s like those guys who have to sleep with you and have to sleep with you and HAVE TO SLEEP WITH YOU and then, the minute they sleep with you, they lose interest. They either dump you or they keep you and cheat.

    • He does see Don like a woman; it is all about conquest and subservience. Hobart feels that now he controls Don Draper. He sees Don as dependent on McCann for his paycheck and his work. Hobart, I bet feels that he has his wife dependent on him too. Hobart and the other guys at McCann don’t hate women per se, but they do hate women they cannot control. They don’t like women who are not secretaries, housewives, or Playboy centerfolds. The women working at McCann are under the control of men and that won’t change. I sincerely hope that Peggy will not work at the sausage factory. Mad Men Writers, don’t write that fairy tale. Peggy blossomed when she worked with Don Draper, she will wither on the vine at McCann. She won’t change anything either. Peggy take the painting and run!

      • Peggy will not be absorbed into the McCann Borg. Just don’t see it. I see a possible radical change for Peg. Just for fun I looked up when Ms. magazine started. 1971.
        Hey. I wonder what Joyce is up to?

        • Peggy would go to Ms. in heartbeat. Do you think she would tell Joan?

          • When Allison left, she told Don she was going to work at a magazine run by a woman. I don’t believe it was ever identified, but this would’ve been too early for it to be Ms. Now, we’re at the point when Peggy could join that publication, in it’s early stages, perhaps heading their in-house advertising efforts, if she wanted to. Personally, I think she’ll stay at McCann for a few years, if only to make her stand there by doing very well. As for telling Joan, I don’t see why she wouldn’t. Joan will now be in a financial position to do as she wishes and I could see her running their office or even helping to finance its launch – or both.

            • It was likely Cosmopolitan, which became Helen Gurley Brown’s to run in 1966.

    • I want someone to make this comment, Comment #7, into a song, so that I can hear it on the radio and turn it up and GET MY LIFE.

  8. Moby Dick is also a story of revenge. Will this aspect play out too? Hobart is mad that the SCP people are not working which he states when he finally sees Roger; asked if Don was on a bender (is that because Don has a reputation or just a lucky guess?) and is unhappy Don missed all of the meetings; and beyond mad at Joan. What will Ahab, I mean Jim Hobart do now?

  9. Don Draper: At last. Something beautiful you can truly own.


  10. Just want to add too that McCann has never been presented on Mad Men as the place to be. Peggy’s recent headhunter told her it was the best bet for her, but other than that…

    -Don’s never wanted to be there, he considered it a factory

    -At the end of Season 3, we saw a lot of the Sterling Cooper employees (everyone that wasn’t invited to go the “new” agency) standing around looking bewildered. Alison was crying (of course as we know Don later recruited her for the new place)

    So it was assumed they would all go to McCann. Yet Ken told Pete (in Season 4) that he hated it there, it was a place for “the retarded,” so he had gone to work at Geyer. Smitty was working for Cutler, Gleason & Chaough in Season 4. It’s possible he just thought they would be a better fit for him (and unlike Ken, he might not have hated McCann) but…he didn’t stay at McCann.

  11. But doesn’t the white whale have a fatal wound even as he swims away to freedom?

  12. Ahab is an apt comparison to Hobart. Hobart rules in his version of hell and Ahab was the mad, obsessed dictator of the Pequod and often compared to the devil. Both men are obsessed and both are vengeful. Money and even power are secondary to winning at any cost. One of the great opening lines in all of literature is “Call me Ishmael.” We don’t know if this is his real name and we don’t know if his story is true. Like Don Draper Ishmael is an unreliable narrator.

    The still mysterious, unknowable Don Draper / [Moby] Dick Whitman is like the whale too. He sure remains a mystery to Hobart.

    But then again look at all of us obsessing over who Don is and what MM means – we don’t know and won’t know even at the end but maybe that is the point.

  13. For what it’s worth, continuing with the whale symbolism, in “Dark Shadows,” there’s the scene in the kitchen where Betty finds Bobby’s drawing of a harpooned (white) whale. Betty sees it as a comment on her weight gain; she’s also wrestling with Don’s marriage with Megan (and his love note to Megan on the back of the drawing), their fabulous apartment. She reacts and takes revenge by spilling the beans to Sally (who’s working on her family tree project) about Anna.

    But the whale…there are three arrows, a bit of blood, and a smile on its face. “I don’t know why he’s smiling,” Betty says to Bobby.

  14. Hobart is the proverbial scorpion who stings you after you’ve carried him across the river. He is what he is. There’s no real action to take against him because his nature is set and his behavior, in the long run, is very predictable. I do hope the final two episodes do not become a power struggle between Don, or anyone from SC&P, against Hobart. Frankly, I would find that boring.

    • Agree 100% B. Setting up some kind of revenge thing now would be a total waste of time. The best “revenge” against Hobart is summed up by the great Don Draper line, “I don’t think about you at all.”

      • Good one, DDD. I’m no writer, but the line could go something like.

        “On the road I didn’t think of you at all, Jim, why start now?”

        Maybe he could work in:

        “that’s what the money is for”

        but with serene indifference.

  15. Revenge, vindictiveness and spite has become a common theme throughout S7 Part Deux

    -Ken and his choice to work at Dow and sack SC&P. He got sacked because Ferg wanted him gone because he left McCann a few years before with Birds Eye
    -Peggy and Joan’s spat in the elevator at McCann – Joan wants to burn the place down (McCann), Peggy spits a Joan she filthy rich
    -Diana left her husband (and children) and travelled across multiple states because she didn’t care anymore
    – Pima Ryan claims that Stan will ‘cut up her work’
    – Roger is still sore about Jane ‘thwarting her career, she’s a consumer’ (the lowest of the lows in the Advertising world. The schmucks that ‘buy’ our bullshit!)
    -Marie hates Don for divorcing her daughter and will take his furniture
    – Marie-France and Megan’s sibling rivalry

    Then Pete’s great line:

    “They want to punish you, and then you get mad and you want to punish them but you know its your fault”

    (Im only up to S709…)

    • Marie will also only pay $200 – not a penny more!

      Even the removalists are coping it!!

    • Great summary! Hadn’t seen this as a theme but this is a terrific analysis.

      • Thanks Deb…

        Its interesting, many of us picked up early on the “White Whale” reference from Jim Hobart and started to explore the subtext. Matt has done a great job here and it did get me thinking that revenge and vindictiveness had already become a recurring theme throughout.

        It doesnt bode well for our final two eps??

  16. I wrote this in another thread, but Hobart has wasted a lot of McCann resources to get Don. He’s now bought two “rotten apple” agencies, and they were never in any competition to McCann. The big firm they were always up against for the big clients was J Walter Thompson.

    McCann can’t be taken down, but Hobart can.

    He’s got a board and shareholders he’s beholden to. Don doesn’t. His needs are actually pretty small.

    I think much of Dons needing to work in s7a was mostly about pride, trying to fix having been fired. To get back in good graces. I think he could leave advertising, if it’s on his own terms, now.

    It could end up that Hobart spent a whole lot of money to hire a burned out creative. And maybe an account man.even if Peggy and Roger stayed, we know they aren’t valued by the company. (Nursing home, no office and female respectively)

    Harry can’t be of much value to a powerhouse media buyer like McCann.

    Yep, he bpught a rotten apple and the axe can still fall.

  17. When I was watching the episode I kept wondering about the art in this scene… Now not so much.

    I could not get imgur to put the images in order from first to last. So check the album last image to first, it follows the scene better.

  18. After finding the abstract bloody white whale image on one side of the conference room, I realized that directly opposite the painting is the McCann Logo: Truth Told Well. making me think of that other Whale Tale.

    Now having gone to catholic school I don’t know a lot about the tale of Jonah (either I wasn’t paying attention, or it isn’t covered with much emphasis in Catholicism) so I looked for some background information and found this from here

    I believe that we read the Book of Jonah on Yom Kippur afternoon to remind us that sometimes we are Jonah. We run, we are swallowed up, and we are spit out. We have times when the responsibility of the world is thrust upon our shoulders and we have times when we feel very much alone. Sometimes, just like Jonah, we feel that life is too much for us. Who wouldn’t want to book a cruise, get on a ship, and run away from such burdens? Perhaps, we are more like Jonah than we even want to admit.


    Jonah wasn’t doing “nothing” for three days and three nights. I believe he was taking time to reflect and examine his thoughts and actions. That is not nothing. With time to think, Jonah was forced to confront his fears, his loneliness, his mistakes, and his God.

    In the Season 6 finale, Don remembers the preacher from his childhood who said: the only unforgivable sin is believing you are unforgivable. Don goes on to tell the truth in the Hershey pitch, and then to his children.

    Diana’s husband tells him to ask Jesus for help, just before we see him pick up a stranger and head to St Paul.

    • Great catch on the painting. It does remind me of a bloody whale.

      Chapter 9 of Moby-Dick

      is a sermon on the Book of Jonah, and it emphasizes the same thing: Jonah the fugitive, attempting to flee westward to escape all his responsibilities.

      That’s the same thing Don is doing, in the same direction, for the same reason.

      • Thank you! I downloaded it! I’m going to check that out.

        I feel less embarrassed that I never read (or finished if I started, I don’t remember) after someone said ‘nobody finishes Moby Dick! 🙂

        I do remember at the age of when I should have been reading it not wanting to read it because of the brutality and killing of whales and the desperate hard lives and deaths of the workers (whaling sailors). It was overwhelming, I remember.

        • Oh, I realize that I’m an exception. When I was a high school junior, when we got to Moby-Dick, the teacher assigned us the first ten chapters for the first day. I started reading … and read all night! I finished the whole thing in two nights. She was so stunned at my enthusiasm that she suggested extra readings for me (critical analysis and the like). I’ve been a Melvillian ever since (hence my name).

    • I hadn’t even thought about Jonah and the Great Fish (whale). As I recall the story, the Lord had a task for Jonah, which he resisted doing and fled from. He ends up being swallowed by the whale. After three days, he’s ejected from the whale and, I believe, he wound up at exactly the place he had avoided from the start.

      Okay. Jim Hobart views Don as Moby Dick and fancies himself as the determined pursuer of him in that tale. But what has Don’s relationship to the whale been, all these seasons?

      Could it be this? Dick Whitman is swallowed (or otherwise taken in) by the great white (hope?) himself, Don Draper. It would make sense, that Dick will ultimately be cast forth from the whale. But where will he then find himself? In childhood, his mission was to flee from both the Whitman homestead and from Uncle Mack’s brothel. Has Mad Men given any clues as to any other goals or dreams young Dick may have had?

      About the only one I can think of was his hope to somehow make it to Milton Hershey’s home for orphans and rejected or abused boys. If that where this is going, don’t know how something like that could be portrayed in the show or even some version of that being represented, in these last two episodes.

      It couldn’t be a matter of Don becoming a farmer or running a whorehouse. So if it’s not that, what is it?

      • In the essay on Jonah and Yom Kippur that I linked it mentions that we don’t know the end of Jonah’s story. That sounds very Mad Men to me 🙂

      • There are a couple of things that I’ve been drawn to for a couple of years:

        His statement to Roger after he first declines McCann: if I leave advertising it will be for living a life

        And his writing. MW says Don is a writer. You can be a writer outside of advertising.

        In advertising he has used his life as grist for the dream factory mill. Idealizing it.

        Now he might want to stop doing that and tell the truth. He can use his life for truthful writing now.

        • I just remember in The Summer Man (?) Don writing in his journal that he has never written more than 250 words in his life. Hard to believe he could suddenly become a novelist.

          • He was kicking himself for being lazy.

            But the journal itself is evidence of great writing ability.

            Then he threw it away.

            Keeping with the Biblical theme, Don keeps throwing away Gods gifts to him.

    • Quo Vadis?

  19. Artist Matt Kish published a book illustrating EVERY page (552) of Moby Dick (Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page)

    See 60 images here:

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