Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mad Men, "The Inheritance": When I grow up to be a man (or woman)

Spoilers for "Mad Men" season 2, episode 10, coming up just as soon as I reclaim my jardiniere...

"You're supposed to take care of your husband and your beautiful children now. They're yours. You'll see: the minute you leave, you'll remember him exactly the way he used to be. It's all good outside that door." -Viola

In a commentary track on the "Mad Men" season one DVD, January Jones makes a joke about how she's spending more time with Vincent Kartheiser watching this episode than she usually does in a given week on the set. If Betty Draper and Pete Campbell were to ever really cross paths, they'd find out they have a lot of familiar things to talk about, and those points in common are brought to the forefront in "The Inheritance."

Betty and Pete are the overgrown kids of the "Mad Men" ensemble. Betty has been diagnosed by a shrink as having the emotions of a child, and we've seen Pete respond to much of his life with the petulance of a child (remember him sticking out his bottom lip a few weeks back after finding out Don and Duck were getting together outside of work without him?). Both have been shaped -- scarred, really -- by psychologically cruel and dismissive parents, and have had to deal with ambivalent feelings after those parents died.

In "The Inheritance," both are faced with the metaphorical, if not literal, death of their surviving parents. Betty's father has a stroke and, despite the protestations of everyone else in the Hofstadt family, is clearly sliding further and further into a state of dementia. Pete's mother is healthy physically, but not so much financially. (And to a blue blood like Mrs. Campbell, money is everything.)

The episode's title doesn't refer to any literal inheritances. There's nothing left of the Dyckman Trust, or of most of the Dyckman/Campbell properties for Pete to get even if his mother didn't disapprove of him, and Betty's stepmother seems determined to get rid of any reminder of Betty's late mother, not even telling Betty what she's giving away and when. But the two of them have clearly inherited unfortunate traits from the parents they disdain. Betty is quick to judge her son and even quicker to give her daughter a body complex just like the one her mother gave her, while Pete can be just as cold and cutting as his mother or father. (His "I don't like you like this" line to a happy Peggy last season was at least as devastating as anything we've heard his father or mother say to him.)

But as each of them witness their remaining parent's fade from relevance, they're forced to grow up in one way or another.

The visit to see her father Gene is a horror show, with everyone trying their best to pretend nothing's the matter, even after Gene repeatedly mistakes Betty for her mother and even cops a feel and invites her to go upstairs and get frisky. After getting a talking-to by Viola -- the housekeeper who appears to have raised Betty just as much as Carla is raising Sally and Bobby -- Betty starts to gain in strength. Where before she might have allowed herself to take Don back after he was there for her in this moment of crisis, now she's clear-eyed enough to recognize that nothing has changed.

The real moment of maturity, though, comes after a long and surreal interlude in which Glen Bishop (played, as usual, by Matthew Weiner's son Marten) runs away from home and comes to see Betty for the first time in the nearly two years that have passed since "The Wheel." Because Glen is the only person Betty has ever really connected with (they're roughly the same age emotionally), she invites him into her house, gives him one of her husband's undershirts, feeds him a meal and lets him talk her into eating when Don couldn't, and even sits dutifully on the couch with him to watch cartoons, like a macabre parody of a real courtship. Betty doesn't recognize how inappropriate this all is until Glen takes her hand and solemnly explains that he came here to "rescue" her. That statement, coupled with the timely return of Betty's children (Sally not that much younger than Glen) shocks Betty back into adulthood. She calls Helen Bishop to take back Glen and understands and isn't hurt when Glen insists he now hates her (for ruining his own romantic fantasies).

And when Helen returns after seeing to Glen, Betty's able to have a real, adult conversation with her, first about the state of Helen's own relationship with Glen (in a non-judgmental way that allows Helen to admit she's been a lousy mother), then about the state of Betty's own marriage. Betty's able to open up because Helen's the only divorcee she knows, but also because after the events of the episode -- after the awful role reversal with her father, then the realization of how she was behaving with Glen -- Betty appears to have stopped being such a child. Since Weiner spent a long time on "The Sopranos" writing about how human beings are incapable of changing, I don't know if this is a genuine shift for the character or simply a brief moment of clarity, but it was bracing to see Betty be human and honest.

Betty at least had what seems like a loving father once upon a time, where both of Pete's parents disapproved of him throughout his life. Pete's role reversal is far more pleasurable to him than Betty's was for her, as he gets to tells his mother that she's broke, but even that can't salve his moment of drunken self-awareness when he recognizes that his parents raised him and Bud to be cretins. (Seriously, laughing about killing your mom while citing Hitchcock's "Rope"?) We find out that his resistance to the idea of adoption comes entirely from his mother, and when confronted once again with the fact that nothing he ever does will be good enough to please her, he starts to realize that maybe going outside the Campbell/Dyckman bloodline might be an improvement for everyone. ("Like Bud and I turned out so great. Who's to say (adoption) wouldn't be better? So it's not yours. That could be good.")

Pete being Pete, he inevitably returns to his usual entitled, resentful behavior when he accuses Peggy -- who, unbeknownst to him, bore Pete's biological child and then apparently gave it away -- of having a life where everything comes easily.

"The Inheritance," written by Weiner in tandem with Marti Noxon and Lisa Albert, is one of the more oddly-structured "Mad Men" episodes to date. We spend very little time at the Sterling Cooper office; that's happened before, but here the longest interlude is in the middle of the episode (Harry's drunken baby shower) rather than the beginning or end, and after spending all that time on Betty's father, the episode appears to take a sharp right turn with Glen's arrival. Other than a brief glimpse of Paul and Sheila on a bus to Mississippi and the final scene with Don and a blindfolded Pete preparing for takeoff, the last 10 minutes of the episode is entirely about Betty and Glen.

I can't think of another episode where Don was absent for such a long stretch, or where he was so secondary to the proceedings. (At worst, Don's at least the central figure of the B storyline, and usually dominates each hour.) Still, he had his arc. He goes back to playing dutiful husband, but it's an act that even Betty's father can see through his dementia; Gene doesn't have a more clear-headed moment in the episode than when he tears into Don for not appreciating Betty. ("Nobody has what you have! You act like it's nothing! My daughter's a princess, you know that!") After their surprising late-night roll on the floor, Don assumes that all is forgiven from Betty, not understanding that she simply needed distraction and comfort from a horrific situation. So after she kicks him out of the house again -- and after Don gets a glimpse at Harry's baby shower, yet another reminder of the kind of regular family life he's been barred from -- he decides it's hobo time, even temporarily, and bigfoots his way into Paul's spot on the California trip.

Will he only be gone for a week, or is this his attempt to get away for good from a life where he no longer seems to fit? And will Betty's newfound strength make her more or less happy with his absence?

Some other thoughts on "The Inheritance":

• It took me a minute to place the face because of the '60s hairstyle, but Viola's voice should have been unmistakable to me as that of Aloma Wright, best known as gossipy nurse Laverne on "Scrubs."

• I'm not sure this episode helps answer the question of what Peggy's new status at Sterling Cooper is. At the end of last week's show, Duck looked to Peggy to approve one of Paul's ideas, but here, it's Paul who's supposed to go to the "rocket fair," and when Don refers to the idea of sending Peggy, it's in a dismissive, "You guys are so incompetent that I might actually resort to sending the girl" way. Admittedly, a woman probably wouldn't fit in well at a testosterone-fest like this convention sounds like, but I'm still not clear on where our gal stands in the pecking order.

• Many people remarked on how "Six Month Leave" gave increased prominence to the black characters in this predominantly white world. Hollis the elevator operator remarked on Marilyn Monroe's death, Carla offered Betty some advice on dealing with her depression, and Roger even mentioned a rival ad agency hiring a "colored kid" to work for them. That trend continues this week, not only with Viola talking some sense into Betty, but with Paul getting into trouble with girlfriend Sheila when he tries to bail on a voter registration trip to Mississippi so he can go to the rocket convention. In typical "Mad Men" (and "Sopranos") fashion, Paul makes up with her by pretending that he chose Mississippi over California, when in fact Don took his spot. Assuming season three sticks with the pattern and takes place in 1964, I wonder how much more prominent civil rights and integration will become on the show.

• The other interesting thing about the Paul/Sheila storyline is trying to figure out exactly how much he actually likes her and how much is -- as Joan suggested -- Paul trying to prove how hip and progressive he is. I don't doubt that he enjoys her company, but you can also see him constantly trying to show off in front of other black characters, whether it's him insisting that Hollis call him "Paul" instead of "Mr. Kinsey" or his lecture on the bus about how advertising is color-blind.

• We're reminded again that Pete, like Don, is an imitation human; he has to be told by Bud that adoption is something that people do. Another Don/Pete parallel: we learn that Pete's nickname for his wife (usually to be deployed when he's being patronizing) is "Tweety," just as Don calls Betty "Birdie" when he's trying to sound affectionate. (And Betty has by now figured this out; hence her telling him he doesn't need to pretend like that anymore.)

• I loved the sound design on the sequence of Don and Betty getting undressed after a long and excruciating day at her father's house. The clothes are more formal and complicated than what we're used to now, and we could hear every strain of Don's belt, click of the cufflinks, etc. It was the soundtrack of all that day's strain aching for relief.

• Though Harry's marriage survived his one-night tryst with Pete's secretary Hildy, they still have the awkward situation of having to see each other in the office every day. On a day like the one with the shower, with everyone drunk and with Harry's happy family being shoved in her face, you can't blame Hildy for giving Harry a particularly sloppy hug, can you?

• We know Joan's potential is being squandered after seeing her in the television department a few weeks back, but her brief screentime here was a nice reminder of what a good secretary she is. She anticipates Don's needs, immediately understands and executes his requests and doesn't ask unnecessary questions. Meanwhile, you could cut the tension between Don, Joan and Roger with a knife. She could barely stand to look at him, and Don was only slightly more cordial. And without realizing it, Don gave Joan an outlet for her frustration by telling her to tell Paul about the California trip. She couldn't get back at Roger for hooking up with the hated Jane, but she could at least hurt her other disliked office ex by humiliating Paul in front of the others by giving the bad news in person rather than drafting a memo. You do not mess with Joan Holloway.

• It's been a big week for "Generation Kill" alumni showing up elsewhere on TV. Iceman's the head vampire on "True Blood," Espera was Busy Philipps baby daddy on "Terminator," Capt. Patterson had a raygun on "Fringe," and here we have Chaffin (aka Eric Ladin) as Betty's brother William. I look forward to Salvatore inevitably hanging out with Fruity Rudy.

• Speaking of William, I can't let go of the image of him entering the study through the window, in full suit and tie, having just returned from hiding out in the treehouse -- yet I'm not sure I liked it. It felt very much like the detail you might read in a short story by Fitzgerald or Cheever or one of the other many literary "Mad Men" influences, but it also called attention to itself in a way that the show usually doesn't. Or maybe it's just the formal wardrobe thing again; so many scenes in "Mad Men" feel so strange because people are so over-dressed for them. This exact scenario 36 years later would have played out with William in a t-shirt and cargo pants. (Oh, and he probably would have gone into the basement to play video games instead of hiding in a treehouse.)

What did everybody else think?

125 comments:

Stef said...

This episode didn't grab me as much as I'm used to, and I think you've hit on it with the structure comments. I liked Betty and Pete both in this episode a lot more than I normally do, since we actually got to see them go through experiences that help explain their personalities. But I couldn't help really missing Roger, Joan, and even a stronger Don.

The scenes with Betty's father were horrifying, because they seemed so real.

Do you think there is a parallel between William in the treehouse and Glen in the backyard playhouse?

The Alden said...

Liked the episode, but I miss more when I watch it on TV and get distracted by commericals than when I watch it on the computer...

Also, was it just me, or were there two 'Judy's? I though William's wife (?) and Paul's brother's wife were both referred to as Judy, which made me quite confused. Anyone able to clear that up for me?

Nicole said...

I couldn't help but be creeped out for the entirety of the scene with Betty and Glen. I know she snapped out of it, but I have to wonder how lonely she is if her substitute "husband" is a pre-pubescent boy. I was surprised that she revealed the separation to Helen, but I don't think it will mean that much right now. I think she will only change when Don leaves her permanently because then she will have to.

The formal attire of the characters if meant to be historically accurate, would probably only apply to people in a certain class. We haven't seen very many working class people in this series and they wouldn't be wearing suits except for weddings, funeral and church.

Anthony Foglia said...

[Betty and Pete] have clearly inherited unfortunate traits from the parents they disdain.

Pete obviously hates his parents, but if anything Betty doesn't hate them enough. She still wants to be there for her father. She doesn't want her mother's existence erased by her step-mother. When she starts hating them, and realizing how warped the made her, then she'll start making progress.

Anonymous said...

who knew that betty's dad was john mccain?

Jennifer J. said...

After the brilliance of last week's episode which I only got to watch last night this episode really did have me on uneven footing.

I was so utterly horrified at Betty's Dad feeling her up (thinking she's his first wife) that I couldn't even get to feeling sad for him if I tried and I *really* tried.

I loved the tension in the scene between Don, Joan and Roger. I think Roger's a schmuck. I'm a huge Joan fan.

I wasn't horrified at Betty with Glen, more stupified. I was truly glad that she and Helen were able to honestly talk with one another. Betty really needed that.

Thrilled to see Viola and hear that familiar voice once again. :)

Many people often mention the cutting put down that Pete had for Peggy last season. Does anyone have any thoughts why he keeps gravitating towards her?

My take on Peggy in the hierarchy is that in their office she's now quite high (say in Freddie's old spot), but I'm sure she's not paid the same. It seemed to me she was higher because of Don's disgust that the other men who are her peers did not even bother to read everything she worked on for that meeting/L.A. trip. I imagine they couldn't send her on the trip because of "just the way things were done" back then. They want to be progressive just not too progressive. Honestly, it will only lose them money.

I wonder at Paul. I think his Joan and writing rejections have a wall around him. I really look forward to seeing if they show any footage of him at this voter reg. drive. *Very* much wanting to see the civil rights movement and all of that coming into play.

A very rich time in history coming very soon. I imagine MW will make it all worth our while.

Thank you for another great MM post, Alan. :)

datkid72 said...

John McCain!!! I was thinking the SAME exact thing.

Another great ep, wow I really thought that they were going to go there with Betty and Glen. That along with Betty's dad groping her had me turning my eyes from the screen. Weiner and Co. sure do know how to do the creepy.

Nicole said...

I have to third the John McCain resemblance of Betty's father.
As for his accidental groping of Betty, at first I wasn't sure who he had confused her with and thought maybe there was inappropriateness when she was younger. Thankfully they didn't go there, but add that in with Tweety's comment to Pete that "they aren't related but love each other", (?) and there was a weird incest vibe in this week's episode.

HollyMartins said...

I've never been totally convinced that Betty really DOES have the emotions of a child... I mean, yes, we heard that from her shrink -- but he was a condescending schmuck who ignored ethical standards to report to Don on her private sessions. Should we really take his word on that?

I'm on record as not feeling as much sympathy for Betty as I know I should, but on reflection I think that's more because she's just so depressed, understandably so, that she's a hard character for me to spend much time with. (This is the problem with realistically portraying depression in movies or TV shows: it's no fun to watch). But for all Betty's issues, I'm not sure I see her as especially childlike.

Kensington said...

"who knew that betty's dad was john mccain?"

Yup, the strong, smart older guy who sees right through the young flashy phoney who fools so many others.

I saw it, too!

The episode was excruciating, in the best possible way, and I could hardly keep from squirming through the scenes with Betty and Glen.

I sense that Don is getting closer and closer to just jettisoning the whole marriage and heading for the hills. Especially given his confession to Roger last week that his primary feeling over the separation is "relief." Perhaps that, too, will be a big part of the cultural shifts that are likely to continue in future seasons. Who really believes that they'll still be married by 1970?

Of course, that will depend on whether Don goes hippie or more reactionary as the decade wears on. Honestly, I can see either possibility.

Tim said...

Don and Pete are totally going to mug Lauren Bacall aren't they.

Mark said...

The actor who plays Betty's father is destined to play the lead in "Maverick: The John McCain Story". I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought there was a resemblance.

Nicole: I had the same thought about Betty having possibly been abused as a child. I don't think there have been any signs pointing in that direction. If true, it would shed a new light on Betty's strange relationship with Glen.

Anonymous said...

@ kensington: Please do us all a favor and keep the present-day politics out of this. It's completely inappropriate. Everybody else was talking about a visual resemblance.

JoeE said...

I really do not think there was any sexual abuse during Betty's childhood. Viola probably would have known about it if it were the case, but the advice she gave Betty near the end of the episode ("leave now and it'll be just as you remember it") seemed to imply that there was no abuse. Suggesting that she think back to her childhood would be truly awful advice to give to a child molestation victim, in any case.

Kensington said...

"Please do us all a favor and keep the present-day politics out of this. It's completely inappropriate. Everybody else was talking about a visual resemblance."

If that's so, then certainly I apologize. I did not observe the resemblance that so many others seem to have and thought that people were taking a dig at the old man with the stroke.

That, too, would have been completely inappropriate, and I'm heartened to learn that I was wrong.

garnet said...

I'd love to keep contemporary politics out of it, but there was so much McCain stuff in the depiction of Betty's dad -- his hair and general look, the blonde second wife, and much more -- that it made me cringe. It felt like a wink to the 2008 viewer, and (to me) one that was offputtingly broad.

Andrew said...

Don and Pete are totally going to mug Lauren Bacall aren't they.

HAH!

cgeye said...

Yep, Nicole, the lying everyone did around that table after Betty's dad's assault on her made me flash pronto on whether Betty was too pretty for her mother to stand, and too attractive for her dad to resist.

Don's lack of anger, especially, made me fume. Wouldn't a decent husband at least say, "Excuse me, but we're leaving, sorry we couldn't stay longer"? His empathic uselessness extends past his lack of ability to grieve; it goes all the way to *any* compassion Betty might need, just because he lives that hobo code where he should be ready to bug out at a moment's notice.

No wonder Betty gets weak enough to jump him, then not wake him up in time for breakfast, then kicks him back out of the house when they return home. Yes, Betty was on the uber-weird and uber-bitchy wavelength this week but goddamn can you blame her?

And Betty's not so grown up that she can't confide (and blame) her, um, mammy for not saving her family from itself. Look at Viola's speech again. That's not comfort; that's a condemnation. Betty left the family she had, and is looking in the past when she should be looking forward to her own family. Combine with the Wise Negro advice of Carla (dig yourself out of that pity hole, and see everything's right where you left it), Betty's being told not only to grow up, but to recognize the cost of her privileges -- she has *time* to brood over her life, instead of having to work for her family and spend time comforting people who see you as less than human. Paul's bus ride is the reminder; even white people, especially well-intentioned ones, get killed just as dead as coloreds when they cross the Jim Crow line.

*That* is the message of the episode for me (what little I saw, due to a failing signal). In the halls of very privileged people, their inheritance grows smaller and smaller, as the less-privileged people surrounding them tell them, hurry up, please, it's time. Peggy would be telling that news, too, if she were allowed to get on the plane with the big boys, instead of crafting their words for them....

And as for Glen? Him I didn't see, but it sounds all kinda David Lynch icky weird glossy, so I'll wait for the repeats gladly.

And are we sure now that it's Jane Roger left Mona for? I know Joan's pissed, but it could have been Roger using her as the excuse, and her refusing to play.

bonitobroth said...

Nice use of "Telstar" in last scene/closing credits.

Nicole said...

I'm pretty sure Don won't mug Bacall, but he will definitely hook up with a star or two.
Pete on the other hand will probably get lost on a tour of a Hollywood set.

The Rush Blog said...

"Betty and Pete are the overgrown kids of the "Mad Men" ensemble. Betty has been diagnosed by a shrink as having the emotions of a child, and we've seen Pete respond to much of his life with the petulance of a child (remember him sticking out his bottom lip a few weeks back after finding out Don and Duck were getting together outside of work without him?)."


It's amazing how many have readily accepted that shrink's diagnosis that Betty is childish. And yet . . . the man she is married to is just as immature in his own. They're all immature. And that includes Joan Holloway, who has a nasty habit of being vindictive toward those she feel has wronged her. I still have not forgotten her reaction to her discovery that Paul was dating Sheila.

Fernando said...

Being a huge Wire fan and from Maryland, I get a little hometown joy that Betty is from Bawlmer aka Bodymore, lol. I was trying think of who her family would "know" from The Wire world, only person I could come up with would be maybe running into a young Valchick.

Was I the only one that thought the incident between Betty and her father might have been more than him mistaking her from his wife? I got the feeling that maybe he had touch Betty as a child, maybe stunting her growth (i.e. emotions of a child), but I could be reading it wrong.

Glen is the creepiest kid in the world.

stacy said...

I just found this blog last week and I love it. I am so interested in reading everyones take on each MM episode.

The Betty/Glen interaction this week creeped me out (in a good way). I was completely preparing myself for some kind of inappropriate action between them (not that the hand holding wasn't inappropriate as it was). Thankfully the kids came home just in time.

Myles said...

To be honest, I felt like they tried to do too much with Betty here: it felt like them lining up the pieces for future episodes, and in the process having to rush Betty through the entire ordeal with her father and then, as if to seal the deal, throw Glen back into the equation to demonstrate through a practical example who she's changed (or not changed) her ways. It felt very inorganic, something that usually isn't a problem for the show.

That being said, I think it's an episode that will play better when viewed as part of the entire season: for example, the parallels between Glen and Betty on the couch and Arthur and Betty at the country club, with the kids being the disruptive force in both examples. Little things like that felt like this episode is going to play better with future viewings.

One small note: I loved the little beat where Don walks into Sterling Cooper calling the receptionist Allison, and then she corrects him with "I'm Dawn." If I remember the scene correctly, it's a neat little thing that Don can't even remember the girl at the front desk's name when it's his own.

Craig said...

Just like Fernando, I got some hometown pride out the episode when Tweety mentioned going to her folks' place in Rehoboth. That's Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Yay.
Time's running out to find out who the recipient of Don's book of poetry was. Only a couple of episodes left.
Please tell me the whole McCain thing was unintentional.

arrabbiata said...

The pacing of this episode was a bit odd, and, as far as I can recall, lacked any moments of humor. If I was trying to convert someone to watching Mad Men, this would not be the episode to show them.

Still, lots of interesting things. I'm of the opinion that Betty's Dad groping her was all about confusing her with his wife, and not reading any evidence of childhood sexual abuse into it.

Dad's not completely out of it yet. In that puzzle scene, he accurately assesses Don as being too much of a mystery ("Who knows what he does and why he does it?...You can't trust a person like that.")

And he's not the only one showing confusion. Don calls one of the office girls by the wrong name. Cooper mistakes the baby shower for a birthday party. Glen thinks he's in a relationship with Betty.

Paul likes to show off his hipness in front of the other black characters, but then again he likes to show off in front of all the white characters, too. The receptionist that brings Shiela back to him in the office gives them a look when they kiss. At first I thought it was disapproval at the interracial couple, but now I wonder if it's more a disdain for what might be interpreted as Paul flaunting the situation.

Anonymous said...

On a lighter note:

Cooper's "I just wanted to say happy birthday" pop-in-and-out, followed by absolutely zero reaction from anyone, had me laughing pretty hard.

dylanfan said...

Is it possible the whole sex on the floor scene was Don's dream? His look when he woke up and the pan of his clothes still on the bed ... I've watched it twice more and tried to view in that context and I think it's possible.

Thanks, Alan -- I've been hooked on you since the Sopranos and so happy that you love this show (and The Office)!

Anonymous said...

OMG! Thank you, guys.
I immediately thought McCain!

I had just read that Rollingstones article and watched the Keating video.

good...now i don't feel so crazy.

Mo Ryan said...

I look forward to Salvatore inevitably hanging out with Fruity Rudy.

Hiiii-larious. LOL, as they say.

Also:

Don and Pete are totally going to mug Lauren Bacall aren't they.

Gotta say, you guys are slaying me tonight. Despite this episode being not particularly funny and heavy on the creepy!

That scene with Glen on the couch -- uggguh. Totally creeped me out too. I think it proved that Betty has the emotions of a 10 year old at best. And yes, I flashed on possible incest with her dad too. That might be one explanation for her rage, her depression, her need to have a perfect persona to show the world.

Do you think there is a parallel between William in the treehouse and Glen in the backyard playhouse?

absolutely. And not an especially subtle one. Didn't the brother also make a remark about Don and Betty being able to afford to build a house for dad in her back yard?

Yet instead of creepy Dad in the backyard, she's got creepy Glen. And to both, she's a "princess."

Betty could keep the entire East Coast psychotherapy industry in business, all on her own. Her and Pete, though I think Pete is sadly more far gone.

How'd the brother turn out not so psychopath-ish? I wonder.

Thanks for telling me who played Viola. She was brilliant by the way. And thanks for the food for thought regarding the black characters. Yeah, it does seem that both Viola and Carla are telling Betty: "Face reality. A lot of people don't have the luxury of brooding about their problems. Get over it and grow up."

As Peggy said, "It's not easy for anyone." Sometimes she seems like the only adult on the show.

Anonymous said...

I find it offensive that people are comparing Betty's father to John McCain. I don't think it would be appropriate to compare Obama to Hollis the elevator operator, either. Please leave the offensive remarks out.

Mo Ryan said...

Oh, when I said, "How'd the brother turn out not so psychopath-ish?" I was referring to Pete's brother. Whom I'm pretty sure hasn't contemplating strangling mom and stuffing her in a trunk.

But I guess the statement could apply to Betty's brother too, who clearly didn't get half as much attention as Betty (and is probably semi-normal as a result).

LA said...

When Glen was sitting on the sofa with Betty, wearing Don's T-shirt, I thought he was deliberately styled to look like a child-like Don. Betty sat there happy and smiling and coquettish with a "Don" who was, finally, her emotional equal.

Creepy in a brilliant way.

Anonymous said...

Anon@2:28: people were sharing their reaction to a physical resemblance.
that is all. And there clearly is one.

Arthur1 said...

Interesting, though not gripping episode, that seems more necessary to flesh out or add a few more layers to certain characters I guess are going to be more active ahead.

I just wanted to add to the McCain- reference discussion, if it's like other HBO series I don't think the episode was shot (and certainly not written) near enough in time to be so relevant to what's going on in the heat of the campaign now. Probably was cast before the convention even. And in repeat viewing years later on DVD won't matter, so I doubt director / author would make that effort. Maybe someone in casting got some dig in with a McCain-styled figure, but really, a white haired old man is sort of generic more than specific, and offers alot of possibilities for projection.

That said, after this episode with all the naive lack of boundaries in force, Betty does seem destined to rediscover the psychiatrist.

Bobman said...

Just two thoughts :
1. I'm surprised by all the accusations of physical abuse because of the mix-up with Betty's dad. Don't get me wrong, it was horrifically uncomfortable, but I tend to think no one here has ever known someone with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia. I can't count the number of times my grandfather called me Joseph (his son) because we looked vaguely alike, and it only got worse as he got older. I know it's a far cry from a daughter being groped as if she were the wife, but it's mental instability and totally common, I don't think they were trying to hint at abuse at all. Nor do I think Don should have been outraged and whisked Betty away from a confused old man.

Granted, the future may prove me wrong, as physical abuse would certainly explain a lot of Betty's stunted emotional development.

As for those who discount the psychologist's assessment of Betty... wasn't everyone saying she was emotionally childlike LONG before the psychiatrist said the same? The guy was an unethical jackass but he still hit the nail on the head with Betty. THe writers have spent significant time showing her lack of emotional maturity.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Several points about the McCain thing, and then I want us to be done talking about it, because, as others have said, bringing contemporary politics into this discussion rarely does anyone any good, especially since:

1)The actor does look a bit like John McCain, and I'm sure that the physical resemblance was all that people were remarking on.

2)As we were reminded in the previouslies, we saw Betty's dad in a season one episode, which aired long before (and was filmed even longer before) much of anything had happened in this presidential race. (He didn't even announce his candidacy until April '07, so when casting was done, he was at most one of many, many candidates on either side.)

mj said...

I think January Jones is just about perfection playing the role of Betty. She adds depth and layering to an already complex character. A likely reason why it is unclear if the unethical psychiatrist’s assessment is accurate is because Jones can so convincingly play the emotions of a child (which manifests in little touches like the way she drank the soda with the straw) but at the same time is able to transform seamlessly into the role of her husband’s harshest critic or a bitter stepdaughter/stunned daughter/concerned sister/loved mother/manipulative friend/creepy-lady-down-the-street, inter alia, without losing any sense of believability.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Being a huge Wire fan and from Maryland, I get a little hometown joy that Betty is from Bawlmer aka Bodymore, lol.

Actually, I believe they live in the Main Line suburbs outside of Philadelphia. There were a couple of Philly references last year when Betty was talking about her dad, and the Philly-to-NY drive time would allow Don and Betty to spend time at dad's house that morning, make it back up to Ossining and still give Don time to get back into the city before the end of a Sterling Cooper work day.

Alan Sepinwall said...

he was a condescending schmuck who ignored ethical standards to report to Don on her private sessions. Should we really take his word on that?

If it was just the shrink's word, then no. But we've had ample evidence of Betty taking a childlike view on lots of things, not least of which is her relationship with Glen.

Melissa169a said...

I'm missing the reference to Salvatore/Rudy. What does it mean?

kathy said...

The scene with Don, Roger and Joan in Don's office was deliciously awful and uncomfortable. I can't wait til next week.

Agreed this was a different kind of episode for the show. And for the most part, I was OK with the non-SC focus but I have to say, I am finding Paul's romantic/Freedom Rider sub-plot very ho-hum and forced.

And also inauthentic -- this is 1963, and while having an interracial affair wouldn't necessarily derail your career if it was completely outside the office, bringing your GF into the office and kissing her sure would. There's just no way that would have happened in that time period without repurcussions. And boring -we get it, Paul's a pretentious doofus. Enough.

Re: Betty being a princess that any man would be lucky to get...uhm, sure, on the outside. She's absoutely gorgeous. But -- and I'm not saying Don's any prize either -- she's also 100% batshit crazy and needs a team of therapists working around the clock. In Vienna.

Kara said...

I agree with the location of Betty's hometown, Alan -- I live on the Main Line and we flipped out when we heard them reference Elkins Park Hospital and several other area spots.

Daryl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think the father's actions are more consistent with brain damage from the stroke than abuse. One of my friends worked as an aide at a nursing home. Some of the patients who were more gone mentally used to do things like expose themselves, but it was more just that they'd lost the self-censor mechanism. Before the breakfast scene, when they first get there, he calls her by her mom's name & asks her to see if anyone wants coffee. While it's awful & horrible for Betty to go through, it is the brain damage talking, not her dad, or at least that's how I see it. And she's trying to reconcile this behavior to the father she knew & loved.

Count me in the I loved Cooper's confused well wishes camp. That kind of cracked me up. And I love that they gave the kid Lucky Strikes as a present.

I thought the Don/Betty episode in her old room was a dream too, but from watching the Inside Mad Men clip on AMC, I don't think so.

One thing this episoded highlighted for me was the way she treats Bobby. It contrasts really strangely with the way she treats Glenn.

Anonymous said...

PS re: the point upthread about the receptionist/secretary giving Paul & Sheila a look, might have been racism, or as has been pointed out, may have been that it's partially about image for Paul. What tends to make me think it's at least partially about image for Paul was the scene with the elevator operator. If they were on a first name basis, why the need for the "call me Paul" in front of his girlfriend.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Don mentions that he and Betty could stay at the "William Penn," which could be the William Penn Inn just outside Philly. And Betty's family seems to display that peculiarly Philadelphian pathology of viewing Philly as some sort of world capital of art, commerce, and politics.

Ken Cosgrove's casual kiss-on-the-cheek greeting of Sheila was a nice little moment.

Brian said...

I thought the Betty-Don tryst was a dream. Seemed like she was wearing different clothes in it than when she went to bed.

Colette said...

"I find it offensive that people are comparing Betty's father to John McCain. I don't think it would be appropriate to compare Obama to Hollis the elevator operator, either. Please leave the offensive remarks out."

Ha, it looked AND sounded just like him. Get a grip, will you!

I didn't find the Glen and Betty scene creepy at all. I found it sad because in that brief moment, Betty was 10 years-old, just like Glen. I love their scenes together, and they speak volumes about Betty's child-like personality.

And whoever brought up the theory that Betty was sexually abused by her father missed the point of his dementia, altogether. He mistook her for his deceased wife (Betty's mother).

Interesting theory that Don dreamed Betty getting on top of him and making love to him.
I loved this episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What did I say about no more political comments? Behave, people.

Elaine said...

Love this show! This week, we are taken out of the office and more into the character's lives.

Alan is right in commenting that Don wasn't the focus this week, but he did very well in playing the backup character. Not only in the weird Philly trip, but also in the background of the CA trip. That is, until he came forefront when he decided to go to CA. In that split second decision, he showed everyone who is BOSS. He wants to go to CA, get the tickets and passes from Paul, pronto!

Viola's short appearance in the episode was so worthwhile. She knows Betty and how to talk to her. She is the one who raised this woman and knows all about her. Betty hasn't cried much (at all?) in this series. It took this trusted woman to give her the chance to totally grieve the life she lives.

I didn't think Don should have whisked Betty out of the house when her father touched her, I think everyone in that room knew why that happened. Credit to Betty, for realizing it immediately and after composing herself, coming back to ask "so, Daddy, what do you want to do today?" She knows her father doesn't really know who she is at times, but still needs him to be her Daddy. Sad.

This episode was off kilter, but that's what keeps us coming back for more!

Libby said...

I agree with the "overdressed" thing. That struck me in a major way at the breakfast table scene. I mean, who has stumbled down to breakfast lately at the family manse in a suit and tie? Lol!

Redsmom said...

Love the column/blog. Peggy couldn't go on the LA trip for the reasons cited (male-dominated aerospace convention) and because, as I learned from an older woman in business, a single woman was not allowed to check into a (nice) hotel without a husband or some type of chaperone in those days. My acqaintance said they would give her a really hard time when she tried to check into hotels when she traveled with the men(accountants, in her case) and kept asking, "But where's your husband?"

Here's a comment that goes a few episodes back, but did anybody notice how nasty Peggy's mother is as well? She was borderline rude to the priest in saying, in response to his informal prayer, "That was nice, are you going to say grace now?"

The Glen stuff is just way creepy. I'm not surprised, though as Marti Noxon was a co-writer on the episode. She usually includes sexual situations to make you squirm in her writing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Glen stuff is just way creepy. I'm not surprised, though as Marti Noxon was a co-writer on the episode. She usually includes sexual situations to make you squirm in her writing.

Given that Weiner's name was also on the script, I'm going to assume he either wrote or heavily re-wrote all the Glen scenes, since it's his little boy playing Glen.

Maura said...

Actually, I believe they live in the Main Line suburbs outside of Philadelphia.

Betty made a reference to growing up in Upper Merion a few weeks ago, which is, I believe, on the Main Line. At any rate, it's a very toney section of suburban Philadelphia.

RE: Betty's behavior. Betty does act sometimes like a child, but I don't see it as constant behavior. In the same episode ("the Hobo Code"?) in which the psychiatrist tells Don that Betty has the emotions of a child, Betty stands up to Don like a grown woman when he blames her for Roger making a pass at her. She behaved like a grown woman last week when she refused to let Don come back home, and again in this episode, when it would have been so easy to forgive Don, after he left work and made sure she got to her father's house safely. He could have easily told her to take the train. Don might have done that because he knows that's what "people do" in this type of situation. But Betty could have fooled herself into thinking it meant everything was OK again. She was smart enough, and adult enough, to know that letting him come back home would be a mistake. She's also adult enough to admit that her marriage might not be over.

Considering that her father still refers to her as a princess, it's no wonder she acts like a child sometimes. I don't think she's had the tools to become an adult just because she's chronologically all grown up now. Until recently, she's been coddled and protected all her life. Her collapsing marriage, and her father's illness, are what will force her into becoming an adult. But that doesn't happen overnight. It's still baby steps, so to speak.

Betty's father clearly referred to her as Ruthie when she and Don got to the house, so I think it's safe to say that he continued to confuse Betty with is dead wife throughout the visit. I assume Ruthie is her mother's name. Otherwise, everyone would have looked at each other like "Who's Ruthie?".

Maura said...

I see other posters beat me to some of my points. I did read all the comments, but it took me forever to write that long-ass post.

Redsmom said...

Can anybody explain all that talk about Pasadena, TB and Salvatore's joke about the space rocket in Don's office? Sal said something like, "Don't kid yourself, its our dream, too." What did that mean?

Redsmom said...

And I'm almost done... agree with the poster who said Paul is pretentious and a show-off in front of Sheila with Hollis. She immediately called Paul out about really going down south and if you watch his expression, Hollis thoroughly enjoyed that. Excellent acting!

Love the blog, Alan, keep it up!!

Bob in SA said...

Don's decision to go to California did not show he was the boss near as much as it showed that the hobo code was kicking in. The idylic California promo item Don looked at before making his decision was hobo at its best--this is a bad place, time to move along.

Think we are playing too much therapist when we start looking at Betty's father as abuser instead of dementia and possible Alzheimer's.

Having said that, just because Betty's shrink is unethical doesn't make his diagnosis any less correct. We've seen way too much of Betty's emotional immaturity to think she desn't have the emotions of a 10-year old. and if that scene on the couch didn't prove that, I don't know what will. Betty's only chance of growing up is if she is "forced" to grow up, such as Don abandoning her and leaving her to deal with the reality of no money.

However, Glen and Pete are the creepiest. people. ever.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sal said something like, "Don't kid yourself, its our dream, too." What did that mean?

That Paul wasn't the only guy in the room who fantasized about going into space. Remember: this was the early '60s, when astronauts were treated like gods and when science fiction was the closest it's ever been to being treated as respectable literature.

Justin said...

Sal said something like, "Don't kid yourself, its our dream, too." What did that mean?

I took it to mean that they had all envisioned sending Paul into space. I think Sal was just telling a joke.

Anonymous said...

No women wouldn't go to the conventions, they were completely set up as male gatherings with all that implies. Remember Pete didn't want his wife to go either. It's playtime for the boys and not even golf for the girl (no mixed foursomes at the country clubs). Very hard for women to make contacts in business, not just a glass ceiling but cement. In addition, Paul wanted to go because it makes HIM one of the guys, he's being excluded also.
Yes you did dress for the day. With the exception of very young children, you got dressed before breakfast. Wandering around the house in your pjs was a real clue to Betty's collapse. Although my family was lower middle class at the time, you were expected to take life seriously, not casually. even in dress.
Also, regarding the query of last week, did women really cry when MM died? Yes, even women who did not admire her, teared up and felt a connection to a woman who was not treated well and died young.

Kate said...

One of the hallmarks of dementia is loss of inhibition. Betty doesn't act like someone who was abused by her father, and it was pretty clear that he mistook her for his wife--AGAIN--when he groped her. I think that they gave us the earlier slip where he thought Betty was her mother to set up the much more horrifying slip later--the confusion combined with the loss of inhibition. I have always gotten the feeling that most of Betty's issues are due to emotional abuse by her mother more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, the prohibition on the discussion of politics will be lifted when the narrative reaches the 1964 election, which it inevitably will. AuH20!

Mo Ryan said...

Just as Battlestar Galactica turned "airlock" into a verb, it looks as though we're reaching critical mass with "hobo." As in, in the world of "Mad Men," "hobo" is now a verb. As in, "Don's going to hobo to L.A."

Agreed that Betty's father's behavior is plausibly explained by his dementia/strokes. In any event, losing his praise and attention -- being treated as a princess and not as her mother -- has got to be devastating for Betty. It's the one thing that she could count on -- look how she glowed when he first walked into the living room. Losing that "princess" status -- and realizing that Glen's fantasy of "rescuing" her is just that -- may indeed be the only things that shock Betty into adulthood. Maybe.

It's sad to see someone with so few emotional resources plunged into these very deep waters. I get the sense that Pete is too far gone to be saved. Yet Betty could be -- but it's going to be very hard. She's got a lot of growing up to do.

Mo Ryan said...

Forgot to note one of my favorite lines. Something along these lines from Paul: "It's a convention. I can't talk about it." Like he'd be getting top-secret intelligence or something.

Karen said...

I really loved this episode. (Didn't see the McCain resemblance; I think it would have ruined it by taking me out of the moment if I had.)

I agree with Anonymous at 10.07 AM that the contrast between Betty's relationship with Glen and her relationship with her own son Bobby is quite striking. Made even more so by how clearly she was able to convey to Helen Bishop that she (Helen) wasn't being a good mother to Glen. I thought her response of "I know" to Glen's "I hate you" was quite moving: she gets that her betrayal of him feels to him like Don's betrayal of her feels to her (if you can parse all those pronouns).

I also loved the use of "Telstar" at the closing, and the way that the sun rose on Don's face in those closing seconds as the plane brought him closer to the Golden West, and to his own escape from the darkness at home. Very appropriate that, at the time, Pete was hidden behind a sleep mask. He really is oblivious.

Peggy's patience with Pete is also quite amazing. She doesn't let him get away with anything ("It's not easy for anyone") but she doesn't strike out at him when he's so clueless and hurtful.

Kinsey's pomposity on the bus to Mississippi was pretty amusing, as Sheila looked up at him admiringly, and the other people on the bus just ignored him. He reminded me of the Doonesbury character, the Reverend Scot Sloan, who initially always introduced himself as "the fighting your priest who can talk to the young." Kinsey really believes his own hype.

Wordnerd said...

I caught the McCain physical resemblance as well.

Poor Betty -- groped at by her dad and hit on by a kid -- I can't decide which creeped me out more.

I loved the final shot with Telstar playing and Don staring out the window. For a man supposedly at the top of his game, he looked incredibly lost.

Great post, Alan.

Juanita's Journal said...

"As Peggy said, "It's not easy for anyone." Sometimes she seems like the only adult on the show."


Considering Peggy's inability to face the reality that she is the mother of a child that is almost two years old, I wouldn't exactly call her an adult.


Of course, this could be a reflection that all adult human beings are not as mature as we like to believe.

Mo Ryan said...

For all we know, Peggy has privately faced and dealt with the situation involving her child. Just because we haven't seen her publicly deal with it, that's not to say that she hasn't processed it, or begun to process it, internally.

That's not to say she still has a ways to go on that front. Whether or not the child was hers, the look on her face when she held her sister's youngest "son" (if that's who he is) in church early in the season is indicative that she is not really comfortable around kids, or even the subject of kids.

Anonymous said...

As someone who watched her father's strokes and Alzheimer's progress for ten years, I assure you that Gene's groping of Betty was nothing more sinister than the natural progression of his dementia.

JustJoan said...


Paul likes to show off his hipness in front of the other black characters, but then again he likes to show off in front of all the white characters, too. The receptionist that brings Shiela back to him in the office gives them a look when they kiss. At first I thought it was disapproval at the interracial couple, but now I wonder if it's more a disdain for what might be interpreted as Paul flaunting the situation.


There was a nanosecond there when Paul became aware that Sheila had caught sight of Joan standing dangerously nearby. I laughed to see him whisk Sheila into the elevator to avoid another disastrous encounter, only to find himself uncomfortably playing the role of talking filling in a visual Oreo cookie. What an inopportune time to point out the disparity between his job and hers (she can always get another retail job, he thinks, but he, as A Writer, needs to keep his.)

Anonymous said...

I also wasn't as horrified as some were by Betty's dad's actions. I put it down to him thinking that the blond woman in the room was his wife and he was having some of the problems that went along with senility, strokes, and possibly dementia. I was saddened, not horrified.

Betty's "date" with Glen (as she's not senile or demented, and knows that that's a 10 year old kid), was horrifying and creepy. I also didn't want to take the psychiatrist's word at first - but if I needed a label for Betty's weird behavior "still a child" might work. Maybe depression, too. But there's something else there that isn't just depression. Also, Helen & Betty's conversation was just odd to me. Beginning with the semi-accusatory, "This has to stop." First, Helen didn't know what happened or what had to stop, and then really, it had stopped for two years straight. Third, Helen could stop it all on her own. And finally, after that - why did she come inside for cigarettes & coffee? (The lighting of each other's smokes was also weird. Isn't that something people usually do for themselves?) The whole scene was a big fat HUH? for me.

cgeye said...

"And also inauthentic -- this is 1963, and while having an interracial affair wouldn't necessarily derail your career if it was completely outside the office, bringing your GF into the office and kissing her sure would. There's just no way that would have happened in that time period without repurcussions."

Damn skippy. It could lead to job loss *now*, depending on where you work, solely if you're a man kissing his girlfriend on the job. Paul was doing it for show, again, and being blithely clueless about how it could affect his girlfriend's life -- black people have networks that shame, as well, and an interracial love affair when the black woman has no job security could lead to disaster.

That's why for Sheila going down South is a good move -- if she survives it, she gains more contacts and political influence. For Paul, it just might break the shell of pretension that let him think Joan was a sophisticated or compassionate woman. What if, after this, he gets real and starts not caring about Joan at all? That that wider world has a claim on him? Joan would lose all her captive admirers, wouldn't she?

Susan said...

What I found so interesting in Betty's interaction with Glen is that while she eventually did the right thing - in calling Helen - she did it with a child's perspective. When Glen said "I hate you!" Betty first said "I know," then said "I'm sorry" - which struck me as something most adults wouldn't say, at least with such sincerity. But to Betty, she knew that in Glen's eyes, she ratted him out to his mother - something that as his equal, was something to apologize for.

Also, when Betty was talking to Helen in her kitchen and she said Glen was lonely, Helen asked if Glen said anything, and Betty said no - although Glen said quite a bit about his mom and her boyfriends. While Betty could have just been being polite (not repeating the "boyfriends" comment and embarrassing her) it seemed to me that she wanted to protect Glen's confidence.

And to add to the theme, Betty played the whole maturity/childish thing to the hilt in her father's house, with the bit about the vase (jardineire?) that her brother took, throwing a fit about it and then acting as if it didn't matter when she got what she wanted.

And on another note, completely agreed about how great it is to see how really good Joan is at her job. She moves about quietly, never making a big deal, but helping her boss get exactly what he needs (like encouraging Don to take a nap). No wonder she keeps ending up back on Don's desk - no one else is up to it.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I love Alan's blogs. There are several people in my office (ironically I work in an ad agency) that read them and share them religiously!

I thought that this episode was another great one! Yes, Betty may have the emotions of a child but eventually all children grow up and her family situations are her Catalysts for change. I liked that she was able to sit down with Helen, Glen's mom and be honest about her marriage. Especially when she spoke about Don keeping her grounded. I think that Betty is reconsidering that relationship...but then so is Don.

I'm surprised that no one commented on the last scene when Don's face became showered in sunlight through the plane's window. It was like he saw the light - whether briefly or permanently, whether it was the light of the hobo code or the light of his real feelings for his family...only time in California will tell. All while Pete's eyes were in the dark behind his eye mask. Not only in life but even in business Don knows what's going on and Pete is in the dark. Roger even spoke about "holding his hand" through 30 or so phone calls. It will be interesting to see what happens in California.

I'd also like to say that I love Joan! She is very good at her job and is stepping in again to be Don's secretary. She is really the perfect secretary for Don as they do share something in common. They have both been betrayed by Roger's Indiscretion with Jane. Don was betrayed by the two of them talking about Don behind his back (which we all know he hates) and Joan because she has been hurt by Roger on more than one occasion. One when he usurped Joan's role as office manager by not backing her when she fired Jane and in this episode there was also the reminder of the gift at the baby shower that was from Jane but was really from Roger and Jane.

This show is really compelling on so many levels. I can't wait for next week.

LA said...

Surpised nobody's mentioned this, but does anyone else have a very bad feeling that Don's casual decision to enact the "hobo code" and displace Paul on his trip to California is going to have devastating consequences for Paul. The juxtaposition of Paul on the bus and Don on the plane gave me a chill.

WestCoastFan said...

"I'm surprised that no one commented on the last scene when Don's face became showered in sunlight through the plane's window. It was like he saw the light - whether briefly or permanently, whether it was the light of the hobo code or the light of his real feelings for his family...only time in California will tell."


Anaymous - I thought the light rising on Don's face meant a new day dawning. A new day, a new life.

WestCoastFan said...

Sorry, Anonymous, misspelled your name.

Also...love this blog. I am amazed at how quickly you get it out. It is great for my instant gratification needs!

Anonymous said...

Alan Sepinwall mentioned, "Main Line Suburbs."

I'm not familiar with this term, "Main Line." Forgive but I live in the Midwest, what does this mean?

Also why is it that all of these characters are so emotionally damaged, yet Don seems to be the most functional? I know its television and in no way is reality but why is this so compelling?

Jay Welch said...

Another small inheritance in the episode is that Peggy asked Pete to get an autograph for Peggy's nephew--that is, without knowing it, Pete will be getting an autograph to pass along to his own son.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jay, unless we're interpreting the flashback of Peggy's sister being very pregnant at the time of Pete Jr's birth, than we have to assume that sis' baby is not Peggy and Pete's, and that the whereabouts of Pete Jr. are still a mystery.

Willow said...

" Also, when Betty was talking to Helen in her kitchen and she said Glen was lonely, Helen asked if Glen said anything, and Betty said no - although Glen said quite a bit about his mom and her boyfriends. While Betty could have just been being polite (not repeating the "boyfriends" comment and embarrassing her) it seemed to me that she wanted to protect Glen's confidence."

That's what I thought too, and to me it showed she wasn't being quite as grown-up as some have said she was being. A true Mom-to-Mom talk would have included Betty mentioning that Glen felt ignored by his Mom having boyfriends and not liking his stepmother. Instead she kept it all quiet, like she and Glen were still confidants.

And that vase! I'm sure I wasn't the only one to think--what an ugly piece of pottery. And that's what Betty wants to put in her home?

Paul Worthington said...

The crucial moment for me was Pete drunkenly realizing that perhaps his in-bred selfish genes shouldn't be reproduced -- and thinking this out loud to the woman who has in fact born him a son. If this had been overtly hammered home in the script it would have felt like a scene from a bad soap opera but instead it lingered with subtle irony.
'The Inheritance' is bad genes and bad parenting leaving lasting impact on Pete, Betty -- and their children.

-- Paul

Anonymous said...

I agree with two of the previous comments - The last scene was the most telling, the sunlight rising up in Don's face as the plane taxied indicates either a new beginning or the light finally coming on and, of course, Pete's obliviousness with his mask. I also found it interesting that at the baby shower Pete was given the first piece of cake from - Peggy.

Kendra said...

Actually, they were dressed very appropriately for the times and their implied status in society.

It is clear they lived on the Main Line (to the person who asked the Main Line is a collection of affluent neighborhoods outside Philadelphia that was named after the Main Line of the PA Railroad) to give you an idea we are talking of families like Campbell's Soup, some of the current towns are some of the wealthiest in the country. It is known for it multi-million dollar stone homes.

Of growing up in that environment, you would be expected to be dressed and properly for all meals including breakfast.

My grandfather owned a steel company just outside of Philadelphia and did a lot of custom iron work on the Main Line houses and would be invited to the parties in the 50's and 60's, they were always black tie and evening gowns. And my grandmother would have an entire wardrobe for weekend gatherings. She said you would change 3-4 times a day depending on the circumstance. You would have your breakfast outfit and would wear that usually through lunch, then you would change into an afternoon tea outfit and then dinner was always formal, even if it was only for 4-6 people.

emeraldliz said...

I am mostly touched by the Glen/Betty plotline because it just seems too real to me- it's SO unfair what Betty has allowed and encouraged in Glen. He should NOT carry that burden or hope when she cannot follow through. Bad enough what they are doing to their own kids.

Anonymous said...

In the Betty and Glen scenes, I noticed, for the first time in several episodes, Betty was not drinking alcohol. Is this because she feels comfortable with Glenn or her sadness is lifted when she is around him? I think this is significant because so much focus has been on her drinking this season. For example, her brother said she was drunk when they had the discussion about her mother's missing things.

Anonymous said...

That 'ugly' pottery is very valuable now. My grandmother had one of those jardineres - Betty can have mine if i can find it.

Anonymous said...

There's some fantastic Mad Men art here.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I didn't notice LaVerne at all, until I saw her name in the closing credits, andthen I had to go back and watch the whole scene again.

I did notice Marti in the opening credits.

There was one other thing that struck me, last night at 1am but by today... I'd have to watch it again to figure out what it was.

Paul and his girlfriend remind me of a Scott Bakula movie, from Showtime, where he was always trying to convince himself that he wasn't prejudiced, cause he had a Puerto Rican girlfriend (although in his case, he never let them be seen together in public).
It's like if you say "I'm not prejudiced: I have black friends." Until you stop noticing they're "black" friends, you're not quite there. It's like you're superior cause you can be friends with someone who's black.
Of course in Paul's case, he's... well he *is* trying to be superior. Most people are just trying to not be inferior. (which sounds sort of contrary or oxymoronish, but it's the best I can do).

My father was a bigot. I can see where that's wrong (and I fought with him, cause I believed it was wrong), but having grown up in that, to some extent, it still (oh pardon the unintended pun) colors things.

I don't want to be like my father, but sometimes people who are different from me are *still* different. I hope someday to even be able to stop noticing.

This also reminds me of a little person I saw on a show a few weeks ago who went to a meeting of other "little" mothers. She said she never wanted to be around little people before. It was one of those "i'm not like 'them'" things. Maybe it's the corollary.

Anonymous said...

random note:
i love scrubs!!
so i didn't even have to see the face before i screamed: "Laverne!!!!

i hope to see her again on MM (or other shows).

after betty's scenes with her father and Glen, i felt so uncomfortable that i couldn't even watch the MM encore. and i struggling to resolve why the writers would put us in that emotional situation.

Karen said...

One other thing I noticed in the closing credits, by the way--Helen Bishop refers to her husband Dan ("when Dan left"), and Dan Bishop is the name of the show's production designer.

And because I am petty and self-aggrandizing, I will point out that I made the comment about the sun on Don's face and Pete's face in his mask a good two hours before the commenter who said no one had commented on it!

Yes, thanks, I DO feel better.

Anthony Foglia said...

Anonymous said "The last scene was the most telling, the sunlight rising up in Don's face as the plane taxied indicates either a new beginning or the light finally coming on and, of course, Pete's obliviousness with his mask."

I feel I should point out the plane had just taken off, not taxiing. Smoking on airplanes... another way the 60s were a different time.

Pamela Jaye said...

thank you bonitobroth. that wwas the other thing! Telstar.
Recently (okay, in April or so) it was a reply on Jeopardy (the satellite, not the song) and i thought of the song. I remember it as the theme song to movies on TV whhen i was a kid. NBC Monday night at the movies, perhaps? (anyone remember?)

Pamela Jaye said...

what's The Main Line?
(i'm from Boston)

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, the prohibition on the discussion of politics will be lifted when the narrative reaches the 1964 election, which it inevitably will.

Yup, that blasted Goldwater! If he wins, we're in for a war!

(the only thing I want out of this - or any other - presidential election is for it to be over. it's all just people spending lots of money to get elected so they can spend lots of money, and any altruism anyone may have started out with is crushed by the system they have to fo thru to get elected.)

That said, John McCain sure looks a lot like Betty's dad! (and likewise, has 30 Rock returned yet?)

(did we "get to" talk about politics in Kennedy vs Nixon? otwas it a moot point because of Watergate?)

I've been thinking of climbing into a hole for the next month actually. But then I'd miss SNL lampooning them all, and I do love parody)

Also, when I was a lower to mid middle class child, my mother did not dress like Donna Reed to clean the house. (but I do really love the poofed-out skirts Betty and Peggy wear)

Mad Man said...

I'm at the stage with Mad Men when if the episode doesn't grab me I think it's my fault for not keeping up. But this was as rich as any. And Betty as the original MILF!

Kendra said...

For those asking, The Main Line is affluent suburbs of Philadelphia that stretch along what was once the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The communities are known for there multi-million dollar stone houses and also host several prominent universities such as Villanova, Bryn Mar, St. Joseph's.

Some of the communities are listed in the top twenty wealthiest towns of America. With quite a few in the top ten.

The movie Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn is a depiction of Main Line society.

Anonymous said...

I thought William coming in the window, and that whole scene in the library, was a reference to Hithcock's "Rebecca". George Sanders comes in through the window, painting of dead woman who is "haunting" everyone", concern about what happened to the dead woman's ceramic knicknack, etc.

Brian said...

I enjoyed the Ray Bradbury reference in discussion of the "rocket fair" at the beginning of the episode, not least because I'm currently reading the seasonally appropriate Bradbury collection "The October Country." But it indicated that Bradbury was something of a major celebrity at the time, which is interesting.

The Betty-Glen scene was one of those "Mad Men" parts that make you go "hey, this really isn't like any other TV show, is it?" That's a feeling that I first had when Betty shot the pigeons last season, and also when we got the hobo flashbacks. But this took it to a new level: a long, protracted piece of surreal creepiness with no connection to the episode's main stories. Absolutely unsettling. I'm still struggling with what it meant, though. The line that really gets me is Glen's proclamation of being there to "rescue" Betty. Does that mean he's able to sense her feminine-mystique life of quiet desperation? If so, he'd be just about the only character on the show to grasp it, including Betty herself.

Have we seen the last of Glen? I wouldn't be surprised if something seriously inappropriate goes down between him and Betty at some point in the future. If Glen is the key to Betty's self-awareness (as his weirdness this week ultimately made her act in an adult fashion), then things are probably going to get weirder with him before Betty can permanently change.

dylanfan said...

Anonymous said ...

I thought William coming in the window, and that whole scene in the library, was a reference to Hithcock's "Rebecca". George Sanders comes in through the window, painting of dead woman who is "haunting" everyone", concern about what happened to the dead woman's ceramic knicknack, etc.

Oh wow, what an insightful comment. I can hardly wait to watch this scene again with this in mind.

Chris said...

Line of the episode for me was from Roger when he walked into Don's office and said "How was the family emergency?"

It felt so full of false concern and growing distrust on the part of Roger towards Don. It made me wonder how Betty would have reacted to the car crash earlier in the season if it took place now that they are separated. Would she be there for Don like he was for her in this episode, or would she act like Roger?

Tom said...

If this were a Victorian melodrama, Pete would end up adopting his own child....

This was nice odd little episode. Like a Philip Barry drawing room comedy only with cringe-worthy inappropriate sexuality coursing through it.

Dennis said...

I echo everyone's compliments on this blog and the comments. It's so great to have a TV show that provokes so much thought and discussion.

I wonder if anyone else is worried about the show steadily losing some of its style and interest as the 60s progress. Part of the lure of the era is the strict gender role-playing, the hats on men, the dresses on women, the formality -- all of the things that are pretty much lost by the end of the 1960s. When I was watching Swingtown this summer it was clear that this wasn't nearly as "interesting" an era as the early 60s, but if Mad Men continues onward it's going to have to lose all that very special atmosphere.

Karen said...

@Brian--re Ray Bradbury as a '60s celebrity: check out this commercial for prunes starring one and the same:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5NxG_rr5aU

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I thought William coming in the window, and that whole scene in the library, was a reference to Hithcock's "Rebecca". George Sanders comes in through the window, painting of dead woman who is "haunting" everyone", concern about what happened to the dead woman's ceramic knicknack, etc.


Wow is right. Paired with the other verbal reference to "Rope"!!

Good catch.

The Rush Blog said...

"There was a nanosecond there when Paul became aware that Sheila had caught sight of Joan standing dangerously nearby. I laughed to see him whisk Sheila into the elevator to avoid another disastrous encounter, only to find himself uncomfortably playing the role of talking filling in a visual Oreo cookie."


Why did Joan even bother to point out Paul's pretentiousness after discovering that he was dating Sheila? Why was she catty to Sheila in the first place?

Fans keep pointing out how Joan exposed Paul's phoniness. Yet, they also keep ignoring what led Joan to act the way she did back in "Flight 1".

Suzanne said...

I think only Tom mentioned this.... when are we going to have the crossing point of Pete finding out that his biological child is out there? Do we think that Don knows that Pete is the father of the Peggy's baby? Will Don get drunk in CA and let it slip? Then Pete come home to claim?

Steve Pick said...

Brian - I took Glen's rescue comment to have been developed from the comic books he was reading. In 1962, Glen could have been picking up the early issues of the Fantastic Four, and seeing altruistic superheroes who bickered. Instead, he had the first or second appearance of the Metal Men (before they developed more bickering personalities, and if it was the first one, in which they seemed to have been destroyed by the end) and an issue of Superman. Glen wanted to be the knight in shining armor - he thought Don had left her, and she needed a man to save her.

Dennis,

While actually I liked Swingtown more than Alan did, it's not fair to compare the eras just by watching these two shows. Mad Men is so much better written - if this creative team had tackled 1976 suburbia, I bet they could have come up with something decidedly less moralistic and soapy, and considerably more complex. I lived through the Bicentennial - those were interesting times.

Joshua said...

When they were at Betty's father's house, the dialogue took this weird turn and sounded like something out of Arthur Miller. The line, and I'm paraphrasing, "He's got no people. How can you trust someone with no people behind him?" made me think of All My Sons.

John I said...

After Glen's line about rescuing her, I half expected Betty to say, "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?"

Carlos said...

Don't know if anyone's still readying, but, Alan, I love your analysis in general, but I think you've too easily accepted the shrink's diagnosis that Betty is "emotionally a child." That diagnosis is one of the thousand of misogynistic, sexist and condescending ways in which almost all the men on the show treat almost all the women. Whereas you take the shrink's comment as an accurate diagnosis, I take it as the kind of obtuse comment made by a bored sexist in the days just before The Feminine Mystique is published.

Try reevaluating your read on Betty assuming the diagnosis is WRONG, and she comes off much better and more sympathetic -- essentially a trapped, bored but educated, articulate and (usually) caring person who is bullied by her husband and has had anything interesting (modeling, etc.) taken away from her by Don's and society's definition of her role.

Jimmy said...

Jay, unless we're interpreting the flashback of Peggy's sister being very pregnant at the time of Pete Jr's birth, than we have to assume that sis' baby is not Peggy and Pete's, and that the whereabouts of Pete Jr. are still a mystery.

Of course! Pete is thinking of adopting a "stranger" while unbeknownst to him his own son was presumably adopted by a "stranger."

Anonymous said...

Tonight's episode had Betty showing more emotion on her face than I remember seeing in 2 seasons.

The lack of facial expression and her deadpan tone of voice just drive me crazy, but from the visit home (where her dad says something like "she always has her brow knotted") to the kitchen table conversation with the divorced mom, she actually used her facial muscles!

And on a different aspect...
>>Of course, this could be a reflection that all adult human beings are not as mature as we like to believe.<<

I think this is a very good thought, since in the early 60s, adults were still assumed to be "grown-up". They dressed grown-up, talked grown-up and acted grown-up. Even if they were a mess inside, as a kid at least, you seldom saw them in any way other than in control.

Now a few years later, of course, they were wearing jeans and using slang, smoking dope and generally acting just like teenagers did.

Come to think of it, in the early 60s, kids dressed like grown-ups and by the late 60s, grown-ups dressed like kids!

Rottin' in Denmark said...

Maybe this thread is nearing its expiration date, but I have to ask something of the people that were alive during this period, or close to it.

I'm sure the clothes are painstakingly chosen for this show, but is it realistic that they are so tight on the women? Peggy and Joan are positively bursting out of their work-dresses, and even Carla and Viola are straining their daywear. Is this something the show is doing to amp up the 'It's fabulous!' factor among viewers, or did women really dress in skintight, albeit nonrevealing, clothes at the office?

If this is realistic, I have trouble with the frequent lament that 'women these days dress too revealingly' that you often hear from Boomers and WWII Generationers. There might have been less cleavage back then, but it's not like they were leaving significantly more to the imagination.

Henry said...

While Don and Betty were undressing to get into bed (and Don on the floor), I was thinking of one of your previous episode reviews where each character has to remove the "armor" of clothing they have to show the world. It took an excruciatingly long time for them to get into their bed clothing and I really thought Betty had forgiven Don ever so slightly when she snuggled up to him in the middle of the night. Only to be rebuffed the next morning. The show continues to surprise me.

dez said...

A true Mom-to-Mom talk would have included Betty mentioning that Glen felt ignored by his Mom having boyfriends and not liking his stepmother. Instead she kept it all quiet, like she and Glen were still confidants.

I saw it more as Betty realizing Glen has been hurt enough without her revealing his thoughts about his mom (not to mention the punishment he might have received for talking about his mom's many boyfriends with the neighbors). Plus, she was able to get Helen to see her point (that Helen is being a bad mother) without Glen's exact words, so there was no need to reveal any confidences.

tck1219 said...

As despicable as I find Pete, I loved his foot-in-mouth moment in front of Paul and Sheila. He was completely oblivious to Sheila's reaction about Paul's trip and just kept blathering on. I also loved Ken's comment, "C'mon Pete, let's see what else we can put in your mouth." (or something like that, I don't remember it exactly.)

deering said...

"The pacing of this episode was a bit odd, and, as far as I can recall, lacked any moments of humor."

Oh, Don's "Geesh, what a geek" reaction to Kinsey's enthusiasm about JPS and possibly meeting Bradbury was funny. And maybe it's just me, but I find Don's attempts to come back home grimly amusing in a "No, your butt has been kicked to the curb, period." way. He's played every emotional heartstring in the book and Betty is not only not giving in, she's not believing a thing he says. The "great Persuader" can't even persuade his own wife, and that's pretty frickin' sad. :)

2) "The crucial moment for me was Pete drunkenly realizing that perhaps his in-bred selfish genes shouldn't be reproduced..."

The only time I've ever really liked Pete is when he wondered why having kids was such an all-fired big deal, especially since married folks were having them because they felt they had to, not because they really wanted to. He was dead-on, and that's about the only time he's ever been ahead of the societal curve on this show.

3) "Why did Joan even bother to point out Paul's pretentiousness after discovering that he was dating Sheila? Why was she catty to Sheila in the first place?"

Because Joan is racist, and there are few things more insulting to racist white women than to find that a man they are/were after prefers black women. To them, it's a major slap in the face that a "good" man could prefer someone so..."low-down/street/animal/promiscuous" instead of their "pure, unsullied" beauty. Paul's preferring Sheila hits Joan where she lives--in the idea she's utterly irresistible--and Joan is at her nastiest when anyone threatens that.

cgeye said...

"Paul's preferring Sheila hits Joan where she lives--in the idea she's utterly irresistible--and Joan is at her nastiest when anyone threatens that."

And the craaziest part of all that nasty is that Sheila's merely a decent person. I think Joan's go after *any* woman she doesn't consider to be in her class in terms of beauty (=redhaired Caucasian goddess). Even if a woman surpassed Joan in beauty, intelligence and va-voom, Joan woud still snipe -- she knows no other way to keep control than be critical. It's a Mean Girl thing.

Juanita's Journal said...

"And the craaziest part of all that nasty is that Sheila's merely a decent person. I think Joan's go after *any* woman she doesn't consider to be in her class in terms of beauty (=redhaired Caucasian goddess). Even if a woman surpassed Joan in beauty, intelligence and va-voom, Joan woud still snipe -- she knows no other way to keep control than be critical. It's a Mean Girl thing."


It's more than a Mean Girl thing. It was racism on Joan's part.

Back in Season 1, she had suspected Peggy of pursuing Paul. Instead of being catty about it, she expressed surprise that Peggy was never interested in Paul after all. She never treated Peggy with the same cattiness that she did Sheila - except in the matter of Peggy ignoring her advice.

When it came to Sheila, it was all about racism and ego.

Juanita's Journal said...

It's interesting how so many readily accept the shrink's assessment of Betty as being childlike. I remember when Don accused her of that in "Red in the Face". Yet, while Don was accusing Betty of being a child, he was actually acting like one. And the other characters proved that they can be just as childish.

Anonymous said...

>>If this is realistic, I have trouble with the frequent lament that 'women these days dress too revealingly' that you often hear from Boomers and WWII Generationers. There might have been less cleavage back then, but it's not like they were leaving significantly more to the imagination.<<

Keep in mind that those "skin-tight" clothes were underlayered with bras, girdles, panties, slips, etc. And the clothing was constructed of fairly substantial fabric, both in quantity and thickness.

Yes, they were tight, but nothing jiggled (vulgar!!) or was visible. You didn't see bra straps, or underwear, or the actual shape of actual body parts, so I'm not sure how revealing clothing was compared to today.

(And yes, they're exaggerating the tightness to some extent, but only a bit. And notice how Betty dresses almost the opposite -- flouncy skirts with YARDS of netting. Damn, that stuff was scratchy!!)

Anonymous said...

I don't think Don is going hobo... I think Betty will take off, leaving Don with the kids. The 60s/70s became an era where women like Betty felt they had to leave in order to "find themselves" (at least in movies -- "Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More", "Kramer vs Kramer", etc.).