Mad Men’s Bob Benson: Liar, Liar.

We don’t know much about Mad Men’s Bob Benson. Most of the show’s characters are similarly in the dark as demonstrated by their need for second introductions and frequent name-butchering (Roger Sterling jokingly refers to him as “Bob Bun-son”).

Here are some things we do know:

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  1. His weapon of choice at the office is coffee. An extra cup of caffeine is his strategy to get closer to the partners.
  2. He shares a name with Don’s son (as does most of Bobby’s camp).
  3. People on Twitter are really into his short shorts.

That’s about it.

The mystery of Benson’s character has caused many viewers to become suspicious of his intentions. Where did he come from? What does he want and why is he so darn helpful? Is he trying to get ahead at work or is there something else motivating him? Could he really just be a genuinely nice guy?

During last night’s episode of Mad Men, we learned something new about Bob Benson. He is too good to be true. He told a pretty significant lie.  Benson reveals this aspect of his character upon recommending a nurse to Pete Campbell; one who supposedly, and rather conveniently, has just become available after having helped restore Benson’s father back to full health from some unknown ailment.  The timing is oddly perfect and even more unbelievable is that fact that the nurse has a miraculous power: the ability to bring people back to life.

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BENSON: I’ve really debated whether to bring this up to you because I don’t want to put you in a strange position… and in the end it’s probably just gossip. It has come to my attention that you may be in need of a nurse for your mother.

CAMPBELL: Joan had no right to tell you that.

BENSON: His name is Manolo Cologne. He’s an army trained, registered nurse and available now only because he’s brought my father back to full health.

CAMPBELL: Is he Spanish from Spain? Because otherwise, mother will refuse.

BENSON: He’s very well bred. And don’t blame Joan, she was concerned about you and had exhausted her resources and is well aware your wellbeing is also an interest of mine.

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In an earlier episode this season (The Doorway Part 2), we’re told that Benson’s father is dead. Roger Sterlings’ mother has passed and a food platter from Benson arrives at the funeral.  There, Ken Cosgrove (Mad Men’s original Mr. Nice Guy) notices the somewhat inappropriate gesture. Cosgrove confronts Benson about the gift at work the next day:

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COSGROVE: What are you doing out here? You have a meeting with someone important?

BENSON: No, but are you looking for me? I’ll drop everything. I just came out here to enjoy the light.

COSGROVE: I thought maybe you were out here greeting customers for your catering business.

BENSON: What are you talking about?

COSGROVE: You know exactly.

BENSON: I’m sorry, are you cross with me?

COSGROVE: Someone sent a royal spread to Sterlings’. It had a card on it with your name.

BENSON: Oh that. It just seemed the thing to do.

COSGROVE: Well it was too much. It was almost like you were invited. But you weren’t.

BENSON: I guess I was just remembering when my father died. Any gesture meant something to me. There wasn’t supposed to be a card.

Why did Benson admit his father was dead in 6.02 but later claim him as healthy in 6.09? Discuss.

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3 thoughts on “Mad Men’s Bob Benson: Liar, Liar.

  1. Maybe he has….wait for it…. two dads! If that’s not the case, this would make for a very interesting plot point – good catch. I’ve read theories that Bob is just a homeless guy that dresses up in a suit and pretends to work at SCDP and since everyone is so preoccupied with their own personal lives, they just put him to work doing whatever they need him to do. Hoping for some more explanations in the coming episodes!

    • True, he could have two fathers! Although I think it would be much more satisfying to find out he’s lying about his past–that we’ve discovered the chink in his armor… after all, what sort of consequence would there be to Bob having two fathers? If we discover he was raised by a gay couple what would that story line look like? He’s not a major character at this point so I’m not sure how significant it would be to the story as a whole or if enough attention could even be given to that scenario since it wouldn’t directly affect the other characters on the show.

      However, if he does have just one father then we did catch him in a lie and it’ll be interesting to find out who he lied to: Ken or Pete? If he lied to Ken then it’s just a white lie… we can rationalize it as a means to excuse Bob from an uncomfortable confrontation at work. It’s understandable but not very interesting. In fact, it would make me wonder if the writers slipped up.

      That’s why I think it’s more likely he lied to Pete. Here are all the questions that situation raises:

      1. Why did Bob choose to tell Pete his father was sick? Why did Bob voluntarily put himself in this potentially sticky situation after having told Ken otherwise?
      Answer: Because we are supposed to be alarmed by the discrepancy in Bob’s story. This is a clue we’re being given. Bob could have just as easily said any number of things to recommend a nurse to Pete such as “I have a friend I’d like to recommend” or, if the whole thing is a lie anyway, that his mother was recently nursed back to health… he didn’t because if he had there wouldn’t be any reason for suspicion. The writers are laying the groundwork for a bigger story; there’s purpose in contradiction (I hope).

      2. How does Bob know Dr. Cologne if Bob’s father never used him? Who is Dr. Cologne? Is he really a nurse? If so, what’s his connection to the army in relation to Don’s past? Why does Bob want him in Pete’s home? Why is Dr. Cologne available now?
      Answer: Don’t know! It does make the Bob Benson as spy, government agent or investigative reporter more plausible. Dr. Cologne could be a colleague Bob wants to plant close to Pete and the other partners to gather info. Lucky that he’s available at Pete’s convenience or suspicious that he’s available at Bob’s…

      Excited to find out!

    • “Bob is just a homeless guy that dresses up in a suit and pretends to work at SCDP”

      ^Hah! He would be the best dressed homeless guy in the history of ever…

      Bob was supposed to report to Burt Peterson but Roger fired him so who does he report to now…? Ken? The fact that he doesn’t seem to have any actual work (other than the work he gives himself) is a good point. He doesn’t volunteer ideas or have demonstrated knowledge of advertising. He hangs around soaking information in but never contributes.

      I’ve only seen him:
      • Take notes in the Jaguar meeting
      • Listen in on the creatives (“What’s project K?”)
      • Try to pay for Pete’s prostitute (at which point Pete asks “What’s your fake name again? Curious George?”)
      • Get coffee for partners (He isn’t even asked to do this–he does it on his own!)

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