By Bethany McHugh
When I asked my roommate tonight if it was all right to turn on the TV, she rolled her eyes at what I’d be watching. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me she thought the show was misogynistic. Thinking this might be a reason why the show lost over half it’s viewership between the first and second episodes, I tried to find reasons to back up her claim.
Fortunately, this episode really dealt with the perception of the Playboy Bunnies in a way both relevant to the time and to their reputation today. A new Bunny named Doris is hired, and during her training she asks all the girls what it’s like to be a Bunny. Brenda affirms that while it’s important to be “flirty” and “be the idea men want”, she insists that it’s empowering. Many of the other girls also affirm this, saying how fortunate they are to be not only employed, but to be making such a high wage. It’s hard to disagree with Brenda (it’s brought up multiple times that Bunnies make more money than the average white-collar male worker in the 60’s) but I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing individuality to be an “idea” just to make a good wage.
Doris, it turns out, is a reporter working on an “inside scoop” story, probably trying to expose the members of the mob who fraternize with the bunnies in the club. But what Doris digs up is more than just claims of female objectification: she discovers the connection between Nick, Maureen and Bruno Bianchi. Her story is going to run in two parts, with the promise to reveal a possible “Bunny Killer” in the second. She is found out by Carol-Lynne, but has enough information to run the first part of her story. Nick is able to the second part ever going to press.
Though Nick and Carol-Lynne start on good footing during “Duplicity,” it deteriorates when Alice’s gay husband, Sean (who has become Nick’s campaign manager) suggests to him that Nick publicly date the daughter of a wealthy Chicago man to promote Nick’s “image” and boost his campaign funds. Eventually, the relationship evokes Carol-Lynne’s jealousy, who doesn’t understand why she is not “presentable” enough to be a candidates’ wife. Yet, because of TV contrivances, it would be too soon for Carol-Lynne and Nick to break up (again), and they reconcile by the episode’s end.
After Janie’s confession to Max that she’s married, she spends the entire episode giving him an ultimatum (accept the facts about her past, or end things), and ignoring him, which is completely unjustified. Janie lied to Max, and the poor kid just wanted to marry her. In a scene that makes me question if any of the male writers have lived with women, the girls dance around the house in their underwear, but when the phone rings Janie forbids anyone from picking it up in fear it might be Max. Her stress becomes somewhat justified when we realize that she accidentally killed a man with her husband – an event for which he remains in jail after a convenience store robbery gone wrong.
When Doris comes to return her Bunny costume, she says that she came to the Playboy club looking for a deep story, and when Carol-Lynne tells her to write a story about girls just looking for a paycheck, Doris claims “that won’t sell papers.” I suppose the writers realized that they might have a split audience over the morality of the job, and they’re trying to have everyone justify it.
What should be the A-Story gets the least amount of attention, which for the second week makes me wonder if the writer’s really know what direction they want to take the show in. Maureen is the female protagonist, therefore Maureen’s story should always be getting the most amount of female driven scenes. Maureen is growing tired of the anticipation of getting found out by Bruno’s son, John. She tells Nick she’s going to confront John head-on. Nick-and the audience-believe this is a terrible idea for numerous reasons, mostly because he’s in the mob and could easily kill her. But she goes anyway, ending the episode getting into a car with him somewhere in downtown Chicago, with her fate to be decided next week.
When I turned off the TV, there was an awkward silence before I ask my roommate what she thought. She exhales, and says “I’d be surprised if it finishes the season.” I’m afraid I am too.
Bethany McHugh is a contributing writer. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org