The Wife:

Because Sal is one of my favorite characters, his storyline in “Wee Small Hours” stood out the most to me, and seemed almost like a separate, isolated event when compared to Betty’s continued flirtation with Henry Francis and Don’s late-night rendezvous with Miss Farrell and Connie Hilton, all of which seemed last week to be building toward a massive fallout — a bomb which indeed dropped all over Draperville with this week’s installment, “The Color Blue.”

Do you remember how happy we all were just a few episodes ago when Sal was promoted to Sterling-Cooper’s commercial director and finally able to feel somewhat secure with himself in this changing world — a world where knowing the opening sequence of a popular musical beat-by-beat might not be so horrible? Well, all of those dreams for a potentially gay future have come crashing down . . . all because Sal wouldn’t fuck Lee Garner, Jr. in the editing room. Sal’s rejection of Lee’s admittedly rape-y advances earned a late-night call to Harry Crane to can Sal, which lead to a big mess for Don that could only be cleaned up with the very thing Lee Garner, Jr. had asked for: the removal of Sal from Sterling-Cooper.

But Im married!

But I'm married!

The idea of Garner attempting to take advantage of Sal was revolting enough, but the abuse of power was even more so. Can’t a gay man on the down low catch a break on this show? All I can say is that I hope Mad Men jumps forward in time enough to see Stonewall happen, because I desperately want Sal to be able to be Sal (and free Kitty from the chains of her beard-dom). Worse, even, than Garner’s abuse of power was Don’s hate-fueled firing of Sal. When Sal was called in to explain the situation, he tried to do so as delicately as possible without making himself or Mr. Garner look bad. But in Don’s eyes, Lee Garner, Jr. isn’t queer; Sal, however, is. And Don knows it because he’s seen it. He creates a vision of Sal as a lecher, implying that something more must have occurred than what Sal told him. My stomach churns when I hear Don spout, “You people” at Sal, reinforcing the cultural norm of homosexuality as a dirty, marginal position.

And so Don pushes Sal out onto those margins, booting him and his turtlenecks from Sterling-Cooper, after which Sal makes himself into exactly the kind of gay man Don thought he was as he calls Kitty from a payphone in Central Park to tell her he would be home late, just before he sets out to troll for some strange. As a person who has taken exactly one class in gay literature, let me tell you something about anonymous park sex: it never ends well. I fear for Sal. I really do.

Don, meanwhile, is incredibly restless. Connie Hilton has him on retainer for ideas at any given hour, and Don is already having trouble sleeping. He goes on an early-morning drive and spies Miss Farrell, Bowdoin Grad, jogging along the road. After a fateful conversation in the car about MLK and the changing face of the world, he drops her home, but goes out looking for her again another morning. Eventually, Don finds his way to Miss Farrell’s bed, fulfilling the expectations we’ve had for him ever since he watched her dance around the Maypole and he touched the earth upon which she trod.

Don’s work for Hilton provides a nice cover to the night he spends in Miss Farrell’s over-the-garage apartment, making love to a woman who, unlike his wife, is loud in bed and likes to be on top from time to time. Unfortunately, one of their lovemaking sessions is interrupted by Miss Farrell’s brother. She wants Don to meet him, but Don would much rather slip out the back unnoticed. Part of the fun of an affair, after all, is that no one knows. And Miss Farrell’s brother can easily see how uncomfortable Don is with the situation. It’s obvious to him that guys like Don prefer to keep a public face and a private face, but Miss Farrell insists Don isn’t like that at all.

It’s clear then that even though she thinks he knows him, she only knows him about as well as Betty does. Don has a secret drawer in his desk at home where he’s been squirreling away all of his cash bonuses, as well as all evidence of his former life as Dick Whitman. And its an unfortunate accident that Don’s carelessness — interrupted by Eugene’s cries as he stashed his latest bonus away — made him leave his secret keys in his bathrobe, which Betty later found tumbling around in the dryer on laundry day. As I think any curious person would do, she opened the drawer and found the money and a box of items belonging to a man she absolutely doesn’t know. Photos. Dog tags. Divorce certificates. Deeds. Each item dissolving her image of Don further and further into nothingness. Her first instinct seems to be fear, instructing Carla to take the children out of the house as though she had just discovered Don was a serial killer and her family had to be protected during the confrontation. But when Don didn’t return and instead returned to the arms of his lover, her fear and confusion turned to rage, which she tried to mask when Don called her from work the next morning, donning one of his stash of fresh white shirts and instructing her to be ready to be the perfect accessory for his arm at the Sterling-Cooper anniversary party that evening.

We dont like you very much either, Don.

We don't like you very much either, Don.

I don’t know how this show has done it, but I really don’t like Don very much anymore. Suddenly, I hate him as much as Betty does. I, too, would be nearly unable to move in that icy sheath, preparing to put on a face to meet the faces that I’d meet, had I found out my husband was not at all the man I thought I knew. The image of Don and Betty as that couple on top the wedding cake is not simply beginning to show cracks in its foundation, but has completely fallen down. Though they sit together at the anniversary party, there is nothing about them that seems whole or connected, and there’s a part of you that wishes Betty hadn’t given up on her affair with Henry Francis because then, in some way, she and Don would be a bit more level.

Meanwhile, at Sterling-Cooper, Paul and Peggy are competing for jobs. Kinsey is angry that Don doesn’t like his writerly idea to sell Aquanet, fearing that with each “And then” the ladies at home will misunderstand. Peggy distills Paul’s idea into its essence, a pithy version of his narrative made for the short attention span of a television viewer. And Kinsey, ever jealous, hates her for this. The two work late, but separately, on Western Union, Peggy speaking off-the-cuff into her Dictaphone while Paul gets soused and distracted from work by jacking off to the Maidenform ad. (I’d like to add here that the version of the Maidenform ad he pulls from his desk is the Dyna Moe rendering. She’s the awesome lady who helped you all MadMenYourself prior to this season.) Unable to concentrate, Paul strikes up a conversation with Achilles the janitor and happens upon the best idea of his career . . . only he gets too drunk, falls asleep and fails to write it down, losing the idea forever because the “faintest ink is better than the fondest memory.”

Before their meeting with Don, Peggy sympathizes with Paul’s plight and encourages him to tell Don what happened. When indeed he does, Don isn’t upset. He understands what it’s like to lose an idea. And it’s here that Peggy spins her magic. She remembers the Chinese saying and posits that a telegram is something you can save, unlike a phone call, which is so temporal that it disappears from existence the minute it’s finished. Paul is stunned at her quick wit, and realizes that she really is this good and her gender hasn’t unfairly endeared her to Don as he previously supposed. Don likes the idea, too, and urges the two to keep working on it.

All this in the midst of a massive change at Sterling-Cooper: the Brits are putting the 40-year-old ad agency up for sale, which means Lane Pryce might get to give his shrewish wife her wish to return to London. Maybe Betty can go with them. She can get a real nanny and a pram there.

Stray thoughts:

  • Why is Don being such a dick these days? He’s so mean to everyone at Sterling-Cooper that it’s become a point of mirth in my house.
  • “There is no deadline. Give me work as you think of it. I need more ideas to reject.” — Don
  • “America is wherever you look, wherever we’re going to be.” — Hilton
  • “Your work is good, but when I say I want the moon, I’ll get the moon.” — Hilton
  • Don has had an awful lot of fateful conversations with people in cars: the grifters who rob him, Miss Farrell, her epileptic brother . . . it feels very Kerouac.
  • “There was nothing and then there was it and then there was nothing again.” — Kinsey providing us with one of Mad Men’s most existential lines
  • I really, really, really enjoy Roger’s mom. Truly.
  • I feel like these two lines from the people cheating on Betty bear some weight on her situation:
    “The truth is that some people may see things differently, but they don’t really want to.” — Don
    “People are ignorant. They’re scared of things they don’t understand.” — Miss Farrell

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.9 “Sold A Guy A Lemon Car”

The title says it all. When Earl gets a new neighbor in room 230 – after getting Catalina to move a boring, talky tenant to another part of the motel where “when it’s windy, you can get HBO” – he and Randy become very suspicious of all the mechanical noises next door, starting to believe that a terrorist has moved in and he is making a bomb.

Turns out, Earl was directly responsible for turning this man sour. Years earlier, he and Joy did a con where bought a shitty car for a very low price and made it look all spiffy (including writing “Air Bag” in sharpie on the driver’s wheel), found a house that was unoccupied during the day and sold a nice young man the car with which he can explore America (complete with the Simon & Garfunkle tune). By the time the car broke down, the Hickeys had left and, since the man didn’t realize they did not live there, he never found them again.

Now, however, this man, Lloyd, does not want Earl to save him because he is content with his view of the world that everybody is scum.

“You don’t owe me anything. You showed me the way of the world.” – Lloyd

Earl attempts to teach him the moral that not everybody is scum and so he tries to track the long line of people who were sold the car in question. Unfortunately, as each sucker was conned, they then turned around and conned the next person, so Earl gets Darnell to step in as “Pookie Johnson,” another one of the car-buying suckers, and try to convince Lloyd that “Pookie” didn’t sell the car but instead melted it down and built playgrounds for sick children. Lloyd sees through the lies, though, and declares his project is nearing completion.

Goodbye, cruel world!

Goodbye, cruel world!

Worried about the safety of all of Camden, Earl breaks into the motel room, only to see that Lloyd isn’t building a bomb at all, but a rocket that will blast him into space. Lloyd realizes that Earl actually risked his life to save other people, so Earl accidentally proves his point, thus getting Lloyd to focus on the good things in life, give up his rocket and do the cross-country trip he always planned.
Meanwhile, Joy wants the $500 prize in the local children’s science fair in order to get a Jane Seymour-advertised diamond necklace, so she needs to come up with something to do herself and foist upon Earl, Jr. She has a vision, complete with Jane Seymour doing a cameo showing up in Joy’s mirror, that even though science is not one of Joy’s strong suits…

“First time I ever used birth control, I put them inside me.”

…she should look into evolving as a person. Joy mistakes Seymour’s words as telling her to prove that evolution is actually false, so Joy grabs a small fish from the motel pool and puts it in a tank, saying if it doesn’t grow legs, she wins. Unfortunately, that small fish was a tadpole, so of course it was going to sprout legs in order to become a turtle.

“Stupid fish-frog!” – Joy

I hate amphibious things!

I hate amphibious things!

In the end, Joy receives Lloyd’s rocket and uses it in the competition, only to discover that the $500 prize is simply a certificate. Luckily, Darnell is a good guy and has already bought her the diamond necklace.
I keep on saying it this season for this show, and I’m not sure how many times I’m going to have to repeat it, but Earl works best when it finds a nice, laid-back rhythm and goes about its business while infusing moments of very dark and absurd humor, it’s a small gem of a show, and this week did exactly that. Lloyd did come into his moral a bit too abruptly, but I’m glad the show is beginning to feel the need to mix up its endings again after stumbling out the gates at the beginning of this season.

The Office 5.6 “Customer Survey”

In a solid, top-notch half-hour – directed by one of the two creators of the original UK show, Stephen Merchant – it’s time once again for Dunder Mifflin’s annual customer survey report. Everything seems to be okay except for Dwight’s reports (he is considered “aggressive, hostile and difficult) and, oddly enough, Jim’s (“smudge [sic] and arrogant”). Jim tries to convince Dwight to not be so incessantly rude over the phone, leading to this jewel of a conversation.

Dwight: You’re an idiot.

Jim: There’s that charm.

The whole time, Jim is on the phone with Pam. How? Since they can’t technically give up so many of their work hours to talk to each other, Pam has found two of the tiniest Bluetooth devices available, fitting snugly and secretly inside their ears. In fact, the entire episode is spent with them on the phone with each other.

John Krasinskis unaired guest appearance on Chuck.

John Krasinski's unaired guest appearance on Chuck.

Michael decides to take matters into his own hands and do a two-on-one session regarding customer service with the two, but that only opens the door for Jim to torment Dwight as well as he can (including posing as a customer by the name of Bill Buttlicker).
Dwight is sure that there is an inside-the-office conspiracy to sully his name, so he confronts Kelly, who gathered the reports, and demands that she admits to her crime.

Kelly: Dwight, get out of my nook!

Pam: [Over the phone, more excited than she has ever been before] That’s what she said that’s what she said that’s what she said!

I will defend this nook to the death!

I will defend this nook to the death!

Jim begins to believe Dwight’s paranoia, though, when he discovers that everyone in the office has a personalized coffee mug with their face on them…except for Jim and Dwight. Turns out they were party favors at Kelly’s recent America’s Got Talent finale party, which neither Jim nor Dwight attended, and as Jim calls around to all of his clients, they have nothing but good things to say about him and his over-the-phone protocol.
They bring this information up to Michael – who spent the earlier part of the day trying to convince people that he and Holly were engaged, which Darryl was delighted to point out was completely not true – and they have a meeting with Kelly, who quickly understands that she has been found out. Her solution? Blame somebody else.

Kelly: I was raped!

Michael: You can’t say you were raped and think that it will solve all your problems. Not again.

In the AA world (“AA” meaning “Andy and Angela”), they are fighting over their wedding and the use of a tent during the ceremony. Angela relents, but demands, slyly, that Andy must find a hand-cropped field on which to put the tent. The only farm like this in a 6-8 mile radius? Dwight’s family’s beet farm. I’ve been a little confused about Angela and Dwight’s on-again-off-again love affair, but I guess that this intentionally transparent setup is pretty much the final word that they are really into each other again, and this time hopefully forever.

As far as Jim and Pam go, Pam is surprised at work when her art school buddy (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer looking all young and cute) comes into her office and takes her aside to talk about something important. Jim, on the Bluetooth, quietly demands to talk to him, but Pam ignores Jim and listens to what we all believe is going to be a profession of love. But that’s not what it is…not exactly. Rich (forgot his character’s name) wants Pam to reconsider moving back to Scranton when she’s done with art school, because nobody can entirely “do New York” in only three short months, and that she should consider staying in the city. Jim, as we learn from this episode, is saving his money so he can buy his parents’ house in Scranton, so we once again are approached as viewers with trying to figure out how best this wonderful couple can get through their very important (and realistic) problems.

It’s true, both should live in New York, but where does that leave Jim as a bread-winner, considering that Pam will without question have to struggle to make money as an artist for some time? The long-distance thing just doesn’t seem like it can work out for too much longer between the two of them, so I fear that they may be taking a break from each other by the end of this season.

Sad face.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim
1.5: “Dating”

Soooo . . . I guess Ginger the Rottweiler is no longer pregnant with mutt-puppies? Because Craig is busy putting her in doggy day-care and still choosing his dog over Kim (at least that’s how Kim thinks of it). I get the feeling that Kath & Kim is never really going to have a through storyline for Kim, instead choosing to let her stew in her own idiocy and allow Kath to have a single, non-dynamic throughline about her relationship with Phil. Craig and Kim are never going to get back together, and they’re always going to have episodic plots that ultimately amount to nothing, which is a shame. I was pretty sure television wasn’t really like that anymore, but apparently Kath & Kim has proven me wrong. It’s lucky it’s wedged between all of NBC’s good Thursday shows so that it will at least survive the season. Without that, I don’t think it would stand much of a chance.

Let me give you a quick summary of this episodes two plots:

1. Kath hides her strawberry allergy from Phil, which leads her to question how much she really knows about him once she discovers that he cultivates rare orchids for fun. Phil takes her to his old neighborhood and gives her a tour of his past. They make out in his convertible and almost get arrested for public indecency. There was nothing about this plot that was funny.

[Husband Note: I did think Phil’s ad-lib about his nose was funny, but that’s about it.]

All this stirring just doesnt seem to get me anywhere.

All this stirring just doesn't seem to get me anywhere.

2. Kim, still mad at Craig about Ginger, has made up with hairstylist Tina and the two decide to go speed dating together in order to make Craig jealous. Tina hooks up with a tree trimmer and Craig tries to ban Kim from speed dating, which drives her to make a second trip to Sarasota in order to do so. Tina’s car breaks down on the way and Kim busses to Sarasota by herself, only to realize that she doesn’t want any of the guys she meets at speed dating because Craig is her boo. She calls him to come pick her up and she has to share the front seat with Ginger, to her chagrin.

The return of Melissa Rauch was the best part of this episode for me, as I am a big fan of hers. She also had two of the best lines of this episode:

  • “Wow, what happened to your face? Nothing personal, but it makes me sick to look at it.” – To Kath in regards to her strawberry-induced rash.
  • “Once I sold some of my eggs to buy a guy a Playstation.” – On the crazy things we do for love.

And a good one from Craig:

Selma really has that look of disdain down, doesnt she?

Selma really has that look of disdain down, doesn't she?

“I’ve checked with my other friends, Kim, and none of their wives go speed dating!”

Finally, a solipsism from Kim about how little her mom knows about Phil:

“He could be evil in carnage!”

You’re just treading water, Kath & Kim, and I’m really beginning to feel like you’re a waste of your actors’ talent. I do still get a few good laughs out of you, though, no matter how much I hate your stagnant plots.

30 Rock 3.2: “Believe in the Stars”

This week’s 30 Rock had three really-well honed plots tonight that offered various levels of amusement.

1. Jack reveals that we faked several Olympic events in order for Americans to win more medals in events such as Tetherball, Synchronized Running and Octuples Tennis. Tyler Brody, a tetherball finalist robbed of the Gold by another American tetherballer, wants to go public with the news, until Jack bribes him not to. Through this, Kenneth unfortunately discovers the Tetherball hoax and loses his faith in Jack and his respect for the man. Jack tries to explain the point of the hoax to Kenneth via a hypothetical situation in which there is only enough food for 8 people, so a ninth person must die in order for the others to survive.

“I don’t believe in hypothetical situations, Mr. Donnaghey. That’s like lying to your brain.” –Kenneth Parcell

Jack ultimately tests Kenneth’s morals by creating such a hypothetical in an elevator, but Kenneth chooses to sacrifice himself rather than another passenger. Ultimately, Jack rewards Kenneth with a brand new plasma screen TV (one of the two things Kenneth loves in this world is television), but no cable, effectively giving Kenneth the moral dilemma he faced in his youth: to steal cable, or not to steal cable?

2. Liz Lemon has to go to jury duty back home in Chicago, which she apparently always does dressed in a Princess Leia costume to guarantee that she will never be selected for jury service. Jack insists that she should fly under the influence because:

“Nobody flies without medication anymore. Why shouldn’t you have the same comforts as a dog?”

Are these dog tranquilizers?

Are these dog tranquilizers?

The flight over on her shiny new meds is fairly uneventful, but on the flight back, Liz is so high that she hallucinates Oprah Winfrey is her single-serving friend for the flight. “Oprah” acts as a therapist to Liz, advising her on the situation that has developed between Tracy and Jenna (Plot #3), as well as sharing her various new “favorite things” (including sweater capes and salt water taffy). “Oprah” agrees to come to 30Rock and help Liz with the Tracy/Jenna situation.

Back home, Liz prepares for Oprah’s arrival and the ladies on staff treat her as though she just encountered Jesus, with Jenna bowing to kiss the hands and feet of the woman who fell asleep in Oprah’s lap on a plane. However, when Oprah arrives, she isn’t Oprah at all, but a “spunky tween” with all the confidence of someone who lives Oprah’s mission.

The next in line for the Oprah throne.

The next in line for the Oprah throne.

3. Tracy and Jenna are still battling it out for appropriate compensation for Jenna’s porno voice work in Tracy’s porn video game. Liz hires a mediator from the company to help settle the dispute, but the dispute turns into an argument between Tracy and Jenna about who is more oppressed: black men or white women. (The mediator suggests that overweight transgenders are actually more oppressed, and I would tend to agree.) They dare each other to spend a day in one another’s shoes, which leads to Tracy donning a knock-off White Chicks outfit and being covered in clown white makeup . . . except for the monster claw he’s wearing as a hand because the makeup department ran out of white due to the fact that he insisted they make-up his ass. That monster claw was the funniest part of the evening for me. Any sight gag involving a monster claw is well worth the five-minute giggle-spree it spawns.

Teehee! I have a tiny dog in my purse!

Teehee! I have a tiny dog in my purse!

Jenna counters Tracy’s White Chicks act by dressing up in black face as James Brown (and imitating his signature dance moves). Liz gets back from Chicago just in time to stop these two from leaving the building and keep them out of Jack’s sight, but not to de-escalate the argument.

Is it just me, or is Jane Krakowski actually not a bad looking black man?

Is it just me, or is Jane Krakowski actually not a bad looking black man?

When Spunky Tween “Oprah” arrives, she actually manages to settle the dispute the way the real Oprah probably would.

Liz is mortified that “Oprah” is not Oprah, but Jack assures her that mistaken celebrity hallucinations happen to the best of us, revealing that he met his assistant when stoned on a plane, thinking the assistant was M. Night Shyamalan.