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
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The Wife:

The past two weeks’ worth of Mad Men have been full of “Holy Shit” moments, some major, some minor. Let’s list them:

Minor:

  • Holy shit! Joan is actually leaving Sterling-Cooper? This will not do!
  • Holy shit! Can Ken Cosgrove ride into every scene atop a John Deere? That’s officially the most awesome thing he’s ever done.
  • Holy shit! Did Betty just touch herself a little bit?
  • Holy shit! Is that Don passed out on the floor?

Major:

  • Holy shit! Is that Peggy in bed with Duck?
  • HOLY MOTHERFUCKING SHIT THAT SECRETARY JUST MANGLED THAT LIMEY’S FOOT WITH A FUCKING JOHN DEERE! ZOMG!

As far as that business with the John Deere is concerned, the British honchos from PPL invade Sterling-Cooper, appropriately, over 4th of July weekend to announce their plan to restructure. Cooper has convinced Don that this may be advantageous for him, possibly changing his job to head of creative for both branches of the company, which means he could relocate his family to London if he so chose. (Betty is as excited as Betty gets about anything in regards to a possible move: “I could get a proper nanny and a pram.”) But when the Brits arrive, things do not go as expected. The grand restructuring plan, lead by upstart ad man Guy McKendrick (who reminds me of British version of Pete Campbell), leaves Don basically where he was, with Guy getting the promotion Don desired. Roger Sterling, whose name is in the name of the company, gets left off the list entirely, and Pete is relegated to being subject to Ken as head of accounts “for the time being.” Lane Pryce is told, via a plastic snake in a basket, that he’s done such a good job whipping Sterling-Cooper into financial shape that he’s to be shipped off to Bombay to do the same thing to PPL’s Indian holdings. In short, the only person to come out on top of this deal is Harry Crane, who gets a promotion to head of Television and Media Development.

Although Joan’s final day at S-C has been usurped by the British, she makes a good go of things by making sure that the office is running in tip-top shape, instructing her cadre of secretaries to schedule all deliveries for the morning so that the office looks busy while the Brits are around. Hooker and the girls attempted to plan a surprise for Joan’s departure, ruined, of course, by Hooker’s giant idiot mouth. But her final days at S-C are, of course, bittersweet. Her husband, Dr. Greg, did not make chief resident, a fact I cannot believe he was not aware of at that dinner party. It was pretty obvious that he wasn’t going to make chief resident, especially with all the chatter between his colleague (who did receive chief resident) and their boss. But Greg, being so sure of his own ambition, asked Joan to quit her job, erroneously thinking that he would, for some reason, get the job over someone with smarter fingers. After spending the day drinking, he asks Joan to get her job back, but she knows she can’t. What’s done is done.

So on her final day at Sterling-Cooper, Guy McKendrick is big enough to turn the day into a farewell party for Joan, wishing her the best things he can think of that start with the letter C: champagne, caviar and children. This causes Joan to burst into tears. People get trashed and ride the John Deere across the floor . . . leading to Guy’s unfortunate encounter with the out-of-control tractor, which mangles his foot and sends a splatter of blood onto the crisp, white shirts of Kinsey et al. Truly, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen on Mad Men. So grotesque. So amazing.

Fortunately for Guy, Joan dried her tears and rushed to his side to create a tourniquet. Thanks to her quick actions (no doubt Hooker would have passed out at the very sight of blood), the young ad man didn’t bleed to death on the floor of Sterling-Cooper. But despite that, he still loses his foot. Don, who had skipped the party to meet with Conrad Hilton (who was, for some reason, bartending at Roger’s country club the other week, which I still find to be totally weird), waits with Joan at the hospital and the two share a moment of levity and some Dr. Pepper, despite the rough day they’ve both had.

What really interested me here, since I work on embodiments, is the way Guy’s superiors treated him upon learning he’d lost his foot. Rather than noting his physical pain and, now deformity, they are concerned that he’ll never be able to golf again, which means he has become useless to them and should be cast aside. If he can’t golf, he can’t schmooze clients. And if you can’t make money for PPL, you have no value. You may as well be dead.

These questions of value arise again in “Seven Twenty Three,” in which Pryce, who gets to stay at S-C due to McKendrick’s accident, tries to lock Don into a three-year contract — especially since Don simply being Don managed to attract Conrad Hilton’s business to S-C. Don is inherently valuable, and S-C needs to own that value in order to assure they’re own success. However, the idea of the contract is presented not as an option to someone who, last year, essentially made partner, but as an ultimatum. Sign, or work elsewhere.

Don hesitates, and so Roger goes behind his back and tries to wheedle Betty into getting Don to sign the contract. Though both are offended by Roger’s actions, Betty still does what Roger wanted her to do and urges Don to sign, pointing out how ridiculous it is to think that he’d be anywhere but where he is in three years. As he does anytime he is questioned by Betty, Don walks out and ends up picking up a couple of kids hitching to Niagara to get married so they can escape the Vietnam draft. The two dope Don up on barbiturates, punch him out and rob him. They are, however, kind enough to leave a note and his car.

Betty, trying to find something to occupy herself, gets the living room redone and gets involved in the local Jr. League’s efforts to bar construction on a water tower in town. Using Don’s connections, she lunches with Henry Francis, whom she had met at Roger and Jane Sterling’s Kentucky Derby fete and shared an intense few words. Though Henry ultimately can do nothing about the water tower, he does keep her from fainting when she (naively? intentionally? defiantly?) looks into the eclipse. He playfully suggests that she get herself a fainting couch, and so she does, placing it in front of the hearth, despite the advice of her decorator. This piece of furniture makes Betty happier than we’ve ever seen her, running her hands down her body as she lies there, caressing her thighs like Manet’s Olympia, or practically any other French impressionist painting of a prostitute or harem girl.

The episode opened with images of Don passed out, Betty enraptured on that divan and Peggy in bed with a man, and we were asked to make sense of these images, following each character to that end point of them in repose. Though Betty in repose reminded me of a Manet painting, there’s something to the fact that her choice of furniture is old and clashes with the modernity of the room. She’s like that couch, a thing out of joint with the time. And yet, somehow, she, Manet’s Olympia and that fainting couch harken back to a time of repressed, yet blossoming, sexuality. The Victorians always had an undercurrent of sex and naughtiness, and I think we all know that Betty does, too. (Like when she totally fucked Captain Awesome in a bathroom last season.) The idea of placing her and that divan next to the hearth speaks to a Victorian conceit that a woman should be the Angel in the House, and, like that hearth, should be the seat and soul of the family.

There’s a lot to be said there, about Betty and femininity and sex and couches, but that requires a lot more thought than I am presently willing to put into a massive post on two episodes of Mad Men.

Girl on the make.

Girl on the make.

It’s interesting that I read the image of Betty in repose as similar to a prostitute, because I clearly should be reading Peggy’s in repose shot that way. It turns out that Duck is still trying to court Mr. Campbell and Ms. Olsen to join Grey, sending them Cuban cigars and Hermes scarves. Pete pleads with Peggy not to go (especially after his desire to join the Hilton account is shot down by Don), but she defies him. She has no intention to tell him her plans, but insists that she should keep the gift, as it is a really nice scarf. Later, Peggy herself is shot down by Don when she asks about the Hilton account. He is angry that she has such a perceived sense of entitlement and reminds her that she was once his secretary and should work for what she wants like the rest of them, not simply ask for it. “You’re good,” he tells her. “Get better. Stop asking for things.” And with that, Peggy makes a fateful call to Duck to say that she’ll be returning the scarf. He coerces her to return it in person so she can meet the Hermes people at Duck’s hotel room — his preferred place of business because he is a smarmy d-bag. Only a few very icky, very lusty words later and Peggy and Duck are in bed, doing things I’d rather not think about because, well, it’s Duck. I can’t decide if this is an upgrade from her usual manchild attraction, of if Duck is just the most extreme example of the kind of manchildren Peggy is into.

Stray thoughts:

  • Chicken salad and Ritz crackers: dinner of champions.
  • Bert Cooper really likes pudding. You know what would be an awesome crossover episode/spin-off back-door pilot? If Jared Harris’ Lane Pryce crossed over to an alternate dimension, tracked down Fringe’s Walter Bishop and imported him to the Mad Men universe so that Cooper and Bishop could share their love of custardy desserts and, perhaps, abandon their mutual jobs altogether and start a pastry shop.
  • “Can I pet him?” — Bobby Draper, misunderstanding that babies are not cats.
  • “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” had a lot of references to lights: Edison, Sally’s nightlight, Joan asking Greg to let her turn on the light, Don staring up at the light fixtures when he’s unable to rest. These things all point to a sense of illumination in the future: Don rethinking his position at S-C, Joan rethinking her marriage to that dbag, Sally growing up and setting aside childhood.
  • “Babies get fairies to do things. You know that.” — Betty, attempting to make Sally more comfortable with her little brother by giving her a Barbie from Eugene. She’s right. Babies totally do get fairies to do stuff for them.
  • I’ve glossed over Don’s conversation with Miss Farrell here, but I wonder why she’s even trying to put on a good face when she’s the one who called him the other week, drunk and blowsy.
  • Picking up on “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” and its light references, here we have an eclipse. Betty and Don choose to both look directly at it. Are they staring into the penumbras that obscure their own illumination? Or does looking into the eclipse achieve the illumination on its own?
  • By the way, Don’s barbiturate-fueled visions of his father were totally creepy.
  • “It’s a beautiful night. It smells good. But then everything smells good when you’re high.” — Stoner Girl
  • “I was an anthropology major. Imagine that.” — Betty, who I really didn’t think attended college at all, let alone Bryn Mawr.

The Wife:

Clearly, I’ve grown up in a post-feminist world. I write a lot about alternative empowerment on this blog, in relation to this show in particular and spend a lot of time looking at Joan as such a figure, pinning my hopes for the advancement of the sex on Peggy (just as her secretary once did) and often being completely horrified by Betty.

Last night, I was completely horrified by the depiction of birth in the 1960s. I live in a world where pregnancy and maternity is celebrated as a holistic and spiritual experience. I am aware that there are those who don’t see midwives and doulas and who choose to give birth under the cold hard glare of hospital lights, but even those hospital lights are a lot more friendly now than they used to be. Betty’s birth experience, even on her third child, is so clouded by “pain-reducing” drugs that she is not even mentally present in the experience. There’s a part of me that can only see the nurse in these scenes as a torturer, drugging Betty and instructing her to think “of the beauty salon,” only to wake hours later from her delusions, swearing at her philandering husband and then, finally, to wake, seemingly unphased, with a tiny boy in her arms, as though none of that unpleasantness had ever occurred.

Not quite liking what she sees.

Not quite liking what she sees.

Her drug-induced fantasies seem to be connected to an earlier event in the episode in which Sally’s teacher, Miss Farrell, by whom Don was so entranced as she danced around the maypole, calls the Drapers in to discuss Sally’s recent behavior. Ever the charmer, little Sally pushed a fat girl into a water fountain, and then got into a supremely violent girl fight. She’s also been very distressed about the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evars. When Betty informs Miss Farrell of Grandpa Gene’s death, the teacher shows her sympathies a little too forwardly and, later that day before Don and Betty head to the hospital, calls to apologize for projecting her feelings about the loss of her father when she was eight onto the Drapers, which is also too forward for Don’s liking.

Betty’s first delusion lowers a caterpillar on a string into her hand, the colors of spring popping fresh around her and off her blouse. But even though she admires the caterpillar, she can’t help but close her hand around it. I’m choosing to read the caterpillar as an analogy for change and growth, as caterpillars eventually become butterflies, and though Betty is curious about this caterpillar, her gut instinct is to squash it, removing the possibility as music that reminds me very much of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg swirls around her. I’m sure there are dozens of other ways to read that scene, and I’d love you to share yours with me in the comments, but I like this “resistance to change” notion because it maps well onto Betty’s emotional distance and insistence on putting her father’s death behind her.

In her second delusion, she sees her father mopping up blood in the hospital, dressed as a janitor. She calls out to him, but can’t get his attention until her third delusion, in which she wanders into her kitchen and sees him there with her mother, who is soaking up the blood of Medgar Evars’ wound. (I should note here that in the description of Sally’s schoolyard fight, there is a brief insert of the child smearing blood across her face.) Just as Betty childishly squashes the caterpillar, she announces to her parents that she left her lunch pail on the school bus and she’s having a baby. Her mother coolly tends to the wound and says, “Do you see what happens to people who speak up?” If that’s not a way to ask someone to stay in the domestic prison of their own making, I don’t know what is. Her father then reasserts this fact as he encapsulates Betty’s own vision of herself. “You’re a housecat,” he says. “You’re very important and have little to do.”

What these scenes reveal to me is just how much Betty is like her daughter. Though she is a mother, she never really stopped being a child, squashing that caterpillar before it could make its metamorphosis, if you will. The death of Medgar Evars weighs heavy on both of their minds, and the presence of blood (from schoolyard fights, Evars or birth) in both Betty and Sally’s fantasy sequences speaks to both girls need for visceral experiences (which are being denied to Betty as she’s hopped up on whatever pharmaceuticals they’re giving her at the hospital), as well as the imminence of real changes taking place on the cultural landscape — changes which Sally seems willing to acknowledge, but Betty will continue to deny. When they arrive home with new baby Eugene, Francine (Hi, Cutthroat Bitch!) asks Betty what her birth was like and she replies, “It was all a fog.”

Not only is Betty’s birthing experience a fog, but so is her entire life. Some bloggers have noted that when she wakes from her slumber, she’s brought back to reality by the cries of baby Eugene. I think that’s a very generous reading to Betty, because I can’t ignore the fact that, over those cries, we hear the Umbrellas of Cherbourg music of her drug-induced labor fantasies as she floats down the hallway to the nursery, almost as if Spike Lee were directing her.

Those changes on the cultural landscape that affect the Draper ladies so are also affecting things at Sterling-Cooper. Medgar Evars fought for integration in schools and lost his life for it. It is so odd to me that, of all the folks at Sterling-Cooper, the one to take up the cause of integration would be Pete Campbell. But, always the opportunist, Pete is determined to make good on the accounts he’s been given, even though Kenny Cosgrove allegedly got all the good ones. He attempts to do some impromptu market research with elevator operate Hollis to find out why Hollis chose to buy the television he has, but Hollis is suspicious of the man and shuts down the conversation. (Interestingly, Hollis does not own a color TV . . . how do I read this?)

Pete presents his client, Admiral, with the intriguing thought that they should actually create an integrated ad campaign, with specific ads for black magazines like Ebony and Jet, and another set for white magazines. As Admiral currently has the worst TV sales amongst white people, but the highest sales in predominately black cities such as Detroit and Oakland, they could double their sales in those areas simply by actually advertising. Admiral, however, is deeply offended by Pete’s suggestion and he takes some heat from the S-C brass for it. To quote Roger Sterling, “Let me put it in account terms: Do you know how many handjobs I’m going to have to give?” That is, until Mr. Pryce realizes that integration in advertising would actually make the company more money, and money is always his bottom line.

I think, very soon, that money will also become Peggy’s bottom line, as it seems she’s seriously considering Duck’s offer to join him at Grey. Pete is less interested, as he won’t be wooed for a job at a lunch with someone else. I’m not sure he appreciated Duck’s acknowledgement of the relationship Pete and Peggy once had, either, but it clearly got Peggy thinking. The scene in which Peggy brings Don a baby gift and professes that she wants everything Don has was played beautifully. Fondling those tiny leather booties, it’s clear Peggy longs for both a successful career and a family, but that as long as she’s at Sterling-Cooper that might not be possible as Pryce has put the kibosh on salary increases, in violation with the recently enacted equal pay legislation.

Stray thoughts:

  • The nurse that speaks to Sing-Sing Dennis and Don in the solarium is Yeardly Smith. For those of you who’ve never seen her face before, that’s the voice of Lisa Simpson. And seeing her weirds me out a little bit.
  • Why, no, Dennis, I don’t have nightmares about finding my way into Sing-Sing because it is remarkably easy to stay out of jail. But I can see why Don would have this nightmare, as, you know, he’s an identity thief.
  • Really, Don? Just let Betty name that kid after her father. Stop being a dick.
  • Peggy’s drink of choice is a Bloody Mary.
  • Duck is back, and he’s into turtlenecks now. How modern!
  • But what I really want to know, Duck, is where the hell is Chauncey?
  • Two great callbacks in this episode. One: Don quoting Sal quoting Balzac to Dennis in the solarium: “Our worst fears lie in anticipation.” Two: Don quoting Peggy to Pryce when questioned about movie receipts. “I’ve seen everything. You have my ticket stubs.” Everything, of course, except Bye Bye, Birdie, which surprised Peggy so much the other week.

The Wife:

“I could really do something.”

“You could really do something.”

“You’re gonna do great.”

“You can do better.”

Different permutations of those four quotes, said at different points by different characters, appear throughout this episode, and each very neatly comprises an aspect of the episode’s chief theme. “The Arrangements” was an episode about these characters’ potential and possibilities, and the things, either internal or external, that hold them back.

Pete is all set to snag a new client, a friend from Dartmouth who’s just crazy about jai alai, which he wishes to make the next great American pasttime and is willing to sink a lot of money into. “I could really do something.” But Campbell’s friend also happens to be the son of one of Bert Cooper’s friends, and Don isn’t about to let S-C family sink it’s money into something that could be potentially foolhardy. When Don confronts the investor’s father about this, he reiterates that his son has great potential with his fortune, but that he would appreciate it if his efforts were directed into an investment that could really do something. But Campbell’s friend cannot be dissuade, so certain is he of his own potential that he tells both Don and Pete that if jai alai fails, it will be the fault of Sterling-Cooper.

The proper arrangement.

The proper arrangement.

I actually felt a great amount of empathy with little Sally Draper this week. Unlike her parents who basically ignore her, spending time with her grandfather has given her a renewed sense of self-worth and encouragement. Though Gene feels its too late for his own daughter, commanding her to cease washing dishes because “I don’t want to watch you commit suicide,” he takes little Sally out for a spin in the Lincoln and tells her not to grow up like her mother, urging her, “You could really do something.” Though I was immediately worried for the kind of trouble little Sally could get into, learning to drive at her young age, I also remember driving with my grandfather. He wouldn’t take me out on the street, as we lived on a large hill, but Ed would let me practice driving within the confines of my grandmother’s large driveway.

But the memories we form as children with our grandparents are rather fleeting, and had little Sally only known that Grandpa Gene had given Betty a guide for his funeral arrangements, she perhaps would have been more prepared for him to not pick her up for ballet lessons, fresh peaches waiting for her on the ride over. When the policeman arrived at the Draper house to announce Gene’s death, I certainly felt more connected to Sally’s cry of disbelief than Betty’s affected swoon. In the ensuing discussion of Gene’s life and the arrangements to be made, I was with Sally. As an adult, I understand that we deal with loss by doing what needs to be done, remembering the good things about those we’ve lost and trying to move on as best we can. But yet, I also understand how Sally feels, the way she doesn’t understand her family’s reaction and her outburst about how everyone should be just as sad as she is. Of course, Betty is just as sad as her daughter, defiantly eating that overripe peach, simply because it was the last thing her father touched.

I’d like to think, in some small way, that the news program Sally watches about the monk who self-immolated in protest colors her view of her grandfather’s death. I wonder if she will look at that, too, as an act of protest, and view this event as a catalyst for whatever she may be able to do in the future, rather than let her mother’s path hold her back. I think it’s what Grandpa Gene would have wanted.

Peggy, of course, has already done a great many things with her life, but living in Brooklyn, her family holds her back from ever really having her own life. So here, she makes arrangements to find a roommate so she can move to Manhattan, thereby removing two hours of commute time from her daily routine. (For the record, this move to Seattle marks the first time in my life I’ve lived in an actual city, and I am so thankful that I will no longer spend 2.5 hours of every day getting in and out of San Francisco.) Unfortunately, Peggy also seems to prevent herself from “doing something” by posting an overly conservative and fastidious roommate ad on the memo board at Sterling-Cooper. This prompts her copywriter colleagues to have one of their secretaries prank call her, pretending to be a girl from a tannery with severe facial burns looking for a roommate. (It’s not all that funny, and I can’t tell if the joke itself was meant to be cruel or collegial, but I’m betting Kinsey wrote the copy for it. It just seems like it was his style.) Joan, further establishing herself as Peggy’s spiritual guide to femininity, instructs her on how to write a better ad and where to post it, and, lo, Peggy instantly finds a roommate in Carla Gallo, who is all over my TV lately and, apparently, only has one kind of boy she doesn’t like: sailors. (That’s absurd.)

And then there’s Sal, who gets handed the opportunity of a lifetime to direct the Patio commercial when the original director quits due to a scheduling conflict. Knowing that his job as an illustrator is falling by the wayside due to a rising demand for photographic images, Sal is distracted by work and fears that if he doesn’t do well, he’ll be left in the dust. This is the excuse he gives Kitty, who purrs beside him in her new green nighty, sad that Sal hasn’t touched her in six months and proclaiming that she, too, needs “tending.” When he explains his upcoming big project to her, Kitty says she doesn’t really remember the beginning of Bye Bye, Birdie so Sal, in his silk pajamas, performs the entire thing for her. At first, it’s clear that Kitty finds this delightful. She’s thrilled about this thing — this commercial, this opportunity — that makes her husband happy, but by the end, when he’s throwing himself at her with all the girlishness of Ann-Margret, she seems shocked, like she doesn’t know what to make of what she’s just witnessed. All she can say, with a nervous laugh, is: “You’re gonna do great.”

And Sal does, but ultimately, the product is awful. He followed client instructions and the shot to a T, but the product is wholly unsatisfactory and the client walks away. (Psst! I think it’s the awful lyrics! And the fact that the girl can’t sing!) Don assures Sal that he did nothing wrong and that the most important thing to come out of this bum deal is that Sal can now officially call himself a commercial director. It’s clear enough to say that Sal’s repressed sexuality is holding him back from “doing something,” but I hope that, just as Peggy’s new roommate and new apartment will move her forward, so, too, will the change in title.

Stray thoughts:

  • So the short version of my essay on theme is this: everyone’s family is holding them back. Or trying to.
  • Those old school wicker jai alai gloves remind me of Prawn hands.
  • Speaking of which, I am thankful that jai alai never really caught on.
  • “Don, look at this. Victory Medal. France. I should have another for beating the clap.” — Grandpa Gene, making a joke that is definitely appropriate to make in front of your grandson
  • What do we make of the scene where Joanie kills all the ants in the broken S-C ant farm?
  • I just watched Undeclared this summer, and am currently watching the last season of Californication, where Carla Gallo plays a porn star named Daisy (which is also her character’s name on Bones). So I’m ODing a little on Carla Gallo, so much so, in fact, that when she appeared on Mad Men this week, all I heard in my head was, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Vaginatown.”

The Wife:

This move has proven to be more challenging than we had anticipated in a number of ways, but perhaps the most salient challenge has been the loss of one of our cats. Calliope got out through a faulty screen in our new home no fewer than ten hours after she’d arrived here and we’ve yet to find her. We’ve flyered the entirety of our neighborhood, and keep checking the shelters every other day, hoping she’ll be brought in. It’s hard to watch television in the same way when you don’t have the kitty bookends you’re used to on either side of your couch. We remain confident that we will find her, and I hope that, for the time being, she’s being fed and has found a dry place to sleep. It does rain here. And I’m sure she’s not fond of that.

So because of this, it’s taken us a little bit to get back into our television watching/writing groove.

It does work out, though, that I’m pairing “Love Among the Ruins” and “My Old Kentucky Home” together. At least for Peggy, these two episodes contain another natural progression of her ever-evolving character. Lest we forget that Peggy worked her way up from secretary to copy writer with only a degree from Miss Deaver’s Secretarial College, these two episodes have her looking further forward, culturally, by emulating two of her peers.

In “Love Among the Ruins,” Peggy and the team are asked to create an ad for Pepsi’s new diet drink, Patio, which is to be shot-for-shot like the opening of Bye Bye, Birdie in which Ann-Margaret throws herself desperately at the camera. Peggy struggles with the idea, finding Ann-Margaret herself to be shrill and unappealing, but she immediately recognizes the driving force behind the campaign in her male colleague’s excitement. Ever the budding feminist, it inherently bothers Peggy that a product for women is being sold to men:

Peggy: I understand why you like this. But it’s not for you. I’m the one who’ll be buying Patio.

Harry: Oh, you’re not fat anymore.

Peggy recognizes the age old adage that sex sells, and sees Joan as a living embodiment thereof. Joan entertains some executives in the office with a casual icebreaker about how crowded the elevator was that it was like riding the subway. Peggy watches as the executives coo over Joanie and utter their disbelief that a woman like her would ever ride the subway. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t. “Well, my husband won’t let me,” Joan purrs. “It’s a figure of speech.”

Shes got a lot of living to do.

She's got a lot of living to do.

Later, Peggy tests out both of these models of forward sexuality, revealing her own desperation as she stands before her bedroom mirror, brushing her hair and bursting out into her own sad rendition of the Bye Bye, Birdie title song. Just as soon as she began crooning, she stops, and goes right back to brushing her hair. She later heads out to a college bar and tries out Joanie’s subway icebreaker, to a less generous response. Still, she catches the attention of a completely infantile man — another Pete Campbell type — and makes it the plan of her evening to seduce him. I honestly can’t decide which part I find more sad: Peggy’s ridiculously poor taste in men, or the fact that she has to dumb herself down to snag such a doucheface. I usually watch Mad Men with a reserved curiosity, sometimes with awe, but rarely do I feel the need to grab a character by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. I did, however, desperately want to do that when Peggy didn’t bother to correct this mini-Pete about the nature of her job when he asininely assumed she was merely part of the steno pool. She’s too good for this tool, isn’t she?

But Peggy doesn’t care if she’s clearly too good for this tool, as the goal of the evening is to be sexy. Borrowing a move from my playbook, she snags his burger and takes a bite, which also secures her a place in his bed, even if he’s too dense to realize the direction the evening’s taking and his friends when his friends goad him about cab fare. At his home, Peggy appears to have learned at least one lesson from fucking Pete Campbell and she refuses to have sex with mini-Pete sans condom, but they do spend their evening doing other sexy things. Peggy then wins back any respect I had lost for her by trying to sneak out while mini-Pete slept. Even though he wakes, she says her goodbyes to this manchild she never intends to see again with a completely insincere assertion that they should do this again sometime.

What’s most striking for me about Peggy’s sexual tryst is the fact that she walks into the office the next day with barely a hint that anything had happened the night before at all. The minute Don walks in, she approaches him and gets straight to work. Somehow, enacting a certain type of femininity — the type of femininity Peggy somewhat disdains — has enabled Peggy to be one of the boys. Now she, too, has her private dalliances, and she can push them aside entirely without attaching any emotion to them at all. I’d say that’s definitely following Don’s advice to “leave some tools in your toolbox.”

In the following episode, Peggy, Kinsey and some brand-new copywriter, Smitty, are stuck working on a Bacardi Rum campaign over the weekend while the rest of the office heads out to Long Island for a soiree (“work disguised as a good time”) hosted by Roger and Jane Sterling. Perhaps I missed it, but I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be an anniversary party for Roger and Jane, just some silly Kentucky Derby-themed event or if it was somehow tied to Roger’s daughter’s wedding. I guess it’s not really that important, as it ended up being a work event for the S-C employees in attendance, anyway. But back at the office, Peggy’s new secretary, Olive, has also joined them for the weekend. Olive is much older than most secretaries and much more strict about her job. But she’s also fiercely loyal to Peggy, proud, in some way, to be a woman’s secretary, because she pins all her hopes for her sex onto Miss Olson.

But while Peggy is busy working, Kinsey and Smitty and busy hooking up with Kinsey’s dealer to buy some weed in order to get their creative juices flowing. Of course Kinsey, that symbol of the counterculture who dates black girls and goes on freedom rides and loves cardigan sweaters and beat poets and fought so hard against tearing down Penn Station to build Madison Square Garden in “Love Among the Ruins” before the deal fell through altogether, has a dealer. Kinsey’s dealer is an old college buddy from Princeton, who, throughout the day they spend high in the Sterling-Cooper offices reveals some hidden hatred for Paul, especially the fact that Kinsey didn’t attend Princeton on old money, but on a need-based scholarship. And moreso the fact that Kinsey has used his Ivy-League education to erase his “Pure Jersey” roots.

Despite Olive’s protestations, Peggy returns to work with Kinsey and Smitty and declares that she, too, would be interested in getting her creative juices flowing. “I’m Peggy Olson,” she declares, “and I wanna smoke some marijuana.” What follows is an amazing discussion of Paul’s past, failed brainstorming that is both punny and heavy and terrifying. I think my favorite thing uttered during this weed-fueled work retreat is this line from Kinsey, which reveals a particular dark cloud that still looms over the culture at large:

“I keep thinking about rum and I keep thinking about Cuba and I keep thinking about how we’re all going to die.”

Eventually, Peggy hits upon the right idea and excuses Kinsey and Smitty from work. She also excuses Olive, who chastises her for joining in on such illicit activities. Olive sees Peggy toking up as instantly destroying her future — a future Olive wishes she’d had an opportunity for. But Peggy, still rapturously high, takes Olive’s face in her hands and assures her, “I’m going to be fine.” And I, too, am confident that she will be.

As for Betty, she learns from her brother that their father’s dementia is getting worse and that his live-in girlfriend, Gloria, has left him. So Betty schemes to get her brother and his wife to bring Daddy down to the Draper house for a weekend in order for her to regain her place as good daughter and caretaker. William, it seems, would rather put the old man in a home so he can inherit the house. Betty spends the entire weekend pouting until Don enables her to get her way by commanding that William leave their father at the Drapers, along with the Lincoln, and that William, Judy and the kids high-tail it to the train station so they can get back home. Unfortunately, living with a man with dementia proves harder than the Draper’s anticipated when they catch him up at night, pouring all of their booze down the sink because he thinks he’s at a raid during Prohibition. (That’s why people with dementia live in care facilities, Betty! So they don’t throw out your boozahol!)

In “My Old Kentucky Home,” Grandpa Gene has another complicated adventure at the Draper house while Don and Betty head off to Roger’s party. When he finds $5 missing from his money clip, he goes on a tear throughout the house, assuming it’s been stolen. Don tries to pacify him before they leave by handing him $5 to replace what was lost, but Gene won’t have it. Everyone assumes that this is simply another one of his episodes and that he’s merely misplaced his money, but, for once, Grandpa Gene is right. His money was stolen by everyone’s favorite little fuck-up, Sally Draper. I actually hadn’t thought until just now that Sally’s actions might have been motivated out of sheer opportunism. I had thought that she’d taken the fiver the way we all steal money from our parents’ purses and wallets when we’re little. What’s $5? They go to work every day and make money. How would they ever notice that $5 is gone? I thought it was done out of innocence, which naturally turned into a way for Sally to seek affection from someone who paid attention to her when she heroically “found” the missing money and returned it to her grandfather. But now I think there was a hint of cruelty in this, too. Little Sally may be a massive fuck-up, but she’s clearly an observant creature. Surely she thought that, of all the people to steal from, Grandpa Gene would be the least likely to notice because sometimes he thinks he’s at a Prohibition-era raid. It’s different than taking $5 from Betty’s purse because to steal from her mother’s icy neglect isn’t preying on her disease to get what you want. I now think that Little Sally is little better than Betty’s brother, or Betty herself, in terms of manipulating her relationship with her family members to suit her needs.

Cest magnifique!

C'est magnifique!

Although many things happen during an episode (or two!) of Mad Men, the last plot I’d like to discuss is Joanie’s dinner party. I’m obviously very sad to hear that she’s actually married to her fiancé-doctor-rapist, because that guy’s a tool, but I was happy to see that Joanie has completely taken the reins in their relationship in the same undermining way she handles the boys at Sterling-Cooper. When throwing a dinner party for some of Greg’s colleagues, Joan discusses the seating arrangements with her husband, only to have him throw a fit about where guests expect to be seated versus where they are actually seated. Joan insists that her arrangements follow Emily Post’s rules of etiquette for formal dinner parties, but Greg will have none of it.

Greg: I don’t want to have a fight right now.

Joan: Then stop talking.

She diffuses the situation by suggesting that they make dinner a buffet, allowing the guests to sit wherever they want. This seems to be a skill only Joan has: the ability to diffuse situations without losing any of her upper hand, and providing solutions that allow the other combatant to feel like they’d made that decision themselves.

But for all of the power I see in Joan’s subtlety, there’s something very darkly wrong in her happy hostess game, true. There’s only so much of it that’s her will before it becomes what pleases Greg: Joanie, playing her squeezebox like an organ grinder’s monkey, and singing “C’est Magnifique,” performing the kind of femininity she’s always been so good at performing, but without any sense of power or authenticity behind it.

Other things:

  • Gee, that Pete Campbell is one swell dancer!
  • Harry’s wife complimenting Betty on her pregnancy. Cut to Trudy, trying very hard not to cry because she’s barren.
  • Another excellent cut to: Harry telling Peggy she’s not fat anymore, then cut to Don telling Betty to eat some oatmeal lest baby #3 be super fat.
  • “I just walked backwards all the way from the living room!” — Sally Draper, continuing to be super fucking weird.
  • I never want to see John Slattery in blackface ever again.
  • I loved the icy exchange of greetings between Joanie and Jane. I also loved Jane’s enormous hat.
  • Don Draper used to piss in people’s trunks.
  • As I’m currently outfitting my home in mid-century modern furniture, I proclaim that Roger Sterling’s green sofa shall one day be mine!
  • Pete Campbell, the sniveling bastard at his finest: “My great grandfather Sylas Dykeman would have turned his boat around if he’d known he’d be founding a city full of crybabies.” This, followed by his crybabyish announcement to Kinsey that “I’m going to have to tell Don about this.”
  • “My Old Kentucky Home” really made me want a mint julep.