Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mad Men, "The Fog": Waiting for my real life to begin

Spoilers for "Mad Men" season 3, episode 5, "The Fog," coming up just as soon as I steal a credenza...
"You have everything... and so much of it." -Peggy
I've been getting a sense from some critics and "Mad Men" fans that, while they've enjoyed season three in isolated moments, the lack of a major story arc akin to Duck vs. Don, or a secret to be revealed (Dick Whitman, Peggy's baby) has made this season feel oddly lacking compared to the first two.

I don't agree, but I at least understand where those complaints are coming from. And now that we've seen "The Fog" - an episode that had almost everything people have been asking for, and so much of it - it almost feels like the first four episodes were just an extended prologue, and the story of season three genuinely begins here.

In the space of an hour, we get the return of Duck and his attempt to woo Pete and/or Peggy away to a rival agency; more overt signals that Don is attracted to Sally's teacher (and, especially, vice versa); the conflict between Don and Lane Pryce coming to the forefront (and complicating the Peggy situation); and, of course, the birth of baby Eugene Scott Draper, whose arrival takes over the middle portion of the episode, in the same way he's about to take over Betty's life.

And with the birth of the new Gene (so soon after the death of the old one), the episode is as important for what doesn't happen as what does. Since the season began - really, since the final scene of season two - we've seen that Don and Betty are each making more of an effort at closeness in their marriage. Don's doing it because he realized in California he wanted to stop being a bystander in his own life. Betty, on the other hand, has been doing it for this baby. She doesn't want to be a single mother to an infant, and it's become increasingly clear over the past few episodes that Betty has convinced herself, as many expecting parents in problematic marriages do, that the kid is going to fix everything. But when she's under the influence of the anesthetic, she's able to articulate her true fears about Don: "He's never where you expect him to be!" And in director Phil Abraham's beautiful final shot of the episode, we see her stand in shadow in her bedroom, shoulders slumped, bracing herself to deal with a crying infant, and she realizes that nothing is better. (And with her father dead and Carla gone to be with her own family for a while, things will probably get worse; Gene may have been losing his marbles, but at least he was available to drive the kids to school when needed.)

Things will get particularly bad if Don acts on whatever is going on between himself and Sally's teacher, Suzanne Farrell. When Don stroked the grass while watching Miss Farrell dance barefoot on it at the end of "Love Among the Ruins," some of you speculated that he was attracted to her and trying to connect in the only way he could. I assumed that Don is too intensely private and compartmentalized to relieve himself where he eats, so to speak. But it's clear during their meeting at Sally's school (with Don managing to look anything but childlike while seated at a kid's desk), and especially during their phone conversation, that they have the same kind of connection Don had with Midge, and Rachel, and even Bobbi. Her proximity to his home life aside, Miss Farrell ticks all the boxes for Don - smart, independent and ahead of her time (she believes in a different, more nurturing model of childcare than what Don and Betty are familiar with) - and they both know what it's like to lose a parent (or in Don's case, two parents) at a very young age. And it's even clearer during that call that Miss Farrell wants to, and likely will, have a more private, clothing-optional parent-teacher conference with Don. What is it that Chekhov wrote? I think it went something like, "If you put a drunk woman with a half-buttoned blouse and a dangling bra strap on screen in episode five, she's going to have sex with Don Draper by episode nine." Right?

Because of the long birth sequence and the visit to Miss Farrell's classroom, we spend little time at Sterling Cooper this week, but Kater Gordon's script makes every second there count.

We knew from the MSG incident in "Love Among the Ruins" that Don and the Brits don't exactly see eye-to-eye, but the conflict becomes starker with Pryce's expense account witch hunt. Their refusal to do the MSG deal was absolutely penny-wise and pound foolish, and Pryce's "Pennies make pounds!" rant just confirms that they have no eye on the long-term, and that this will continue to cause problems between the two.

Yet this isn't a straight rehash of Don vs. Duck. For one thing, Don has become much more important at Sterling Cooper than ever before - work essentially stops while he's at the hospital, because too many decisions now require his approval - and Lane can only afford to fight the firm's star so much. For another, we see later in the episode that Lane (who, despite his background in finance, doesn't seem to resent Don's position in the same manner as Duck) isn't completely reactionary and inflexible, as he's willing to consider Pete's ideas about marketing across racial lines. As written, and as played by Jared Harris, Pryce still remains an enigma. While he could certainly turn out to be the Richie Aprile of this season, I hope Matt Weiner has something more complex - and, yes, long-term - in mind for the character.

But the tension over expenses in turn puts Don in a bad spot when Peggy comes to him to ask for a raise. (This is the second time this season where Peggy has unwittingly tried to get something from Don while his thoughts are occupied with a conflict with Pryce.) We know, of course, that everything Peggy says about equal pay for equal work is right - even as it's sadly amusing to hear her describe the concept as such a novelty - just as we know that Don doesn't have the juice right now to fight this battle for her. And what makes this scene - one of the best Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss have ever played together - sing is how well we understand each position, even as the characters are only somewhat aware of what the other is dealing with.

But the scene becomes more than just two characters talking past each other when Don catches Peggy's gaze lingering on the baby booties. Just as Peggy has seen the face of Dick Whitman, Don has seen Peggy suffering from post-partum delusions. These two know each other so well, and care about each other so much, that it hurts to see them at cross purposes like this. Though she doesn't intend to, Peggy cuts Don to his core when she points out how much she envies him - Don can't stand to hear that this life he finds empty seems so bountiful when viewed from the perspective of somebody who isn't really Dick Whitman - and Don in turn lets her down when he fails to make even a token attempt to get her more money.

And outside Don's office, Peggy comes face-to-face with Pete, another man she's wounded deeply, even if she doesn't understand how much she hurt him - or, for that matter, that Pete is capable of being so hurt. Though he's as petulant and childish with Peggy as he was with Duck when he stormed out of the recruiting lunch, when he says "Your decisions affect me," it speaks volumes. Now we understand why Pete and Peggy haven't had any significant one-on-one interaction this season, why Pete was so unhappy in the premiere to get so many accounts that Peggy works on, why he's so often working with Paul, and, for that matter, why he and Trudy suddenly seem like such a functional unit. Peggy had Pete's baby and gave it away, all without telling him, and while he likely wouldn't have been much help if she had told him, he feels betrayed. He wants no part of Peggy, which has driven him away from her at work and driven him towards Trudy at home.

I certainly can't imagine Pete going to work for Duck if Peggy's part of the deal, but given that meeting with Don, would Peggy go on her own? Knowing Duck, he's selling Peggy (and Pete) a bill of goods in order to hurt Don and Sterling Cooper (though if he had to poach two SC employees, these would be the right two). Should Peggy go to Grey, things likely wouldn't turn out to be any more enlightened than the frat house she'd be leaving. But it feels like she needs to leave the nest at some point, doesn't it?

Because most TV shows try to maintain the status quo at all costs, I could see some resistance to having Peggy or Pete jump ship to a rival firm. But if this season, and this series, are about showing how much things changed (and how much other things didn't) during the 60s, then does it really make sense to have all the same characters working at the same place for however much of the decade we cover? Isn't it only logical that someone like Peggy would try to branch out? Or that Ken would hop from agency to agency?

For that matter, wouldn't Don sooner or later get fed up with working under the authority of men who don't share his values and vision and consider opening his own shop? I don't know that you can plausibly bring everybody on board in that scenario, and I would hate to have to say goodbye to, say, Roger Sterling as a regular character. But Duck's attempt to sow discord at Sterling Cooper is just a reminder of how unlikely it is that all these characters will continue to work together for however long a period "Mad Men" ends up covering.

Because Weiner isn't generally in any kind of hurry to tell his stories, we'll get a few episodes a season where the plot is put aside for a long interlude, like the election party in "Nixon Vs. Kennedy," or Betty playing house with Glen Bishop in "The Inheritance," or the lengthy hospital sequence here. If "Mad Men" had been more plot-driven once upon a time, passages like these might feel self-indulgent, but from the start, the show has been as much about taking a snapshot of the era as it is about showing us the adventures of Don Draper, mad man.

The birth of the new Gene is important to the larger story of Don and Betty's marriage, but it's also a window into a very different time from the one we know. When my daughter was born, there wasn't even a question that I'd be in the delivery room to provide moral support (and snap a ton of photos once the baby came out). Don, on the other hand, is told "Your job's done" as soon as he drives Betty to the hospital, and he spends the entire birth getting drunk in the waiting room with prison guard Dennis Hobart, while Betty is left alone with a cheerfully condescending nurse who has no patience for the overgrown child in her delivery room. As Don was told by a nurse during Sally's birth, "Your wife's on a boat. You're on the shore."

Abraham's direction and January Jones' performance do a great job of capturing the fog of the title (which I initially assumed was referring to another trip to the London Fog plant in Baltimore). Cut off from her husband, under the influence of anesthesia, failing to get the sympathy of her own Nurse Ratched (or even to get a return call from her regular OB/GYN) as she experiences labor pains, Betty feels lost in a fog, disconnected from her body, and her life. Even after the baby comes, she's still mostly alone, forced to wave to the kids from the distance of her second-story hospital room window. And in the dream she has under the anesthesia's influence, she sees her late father, and her mother (comforting civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was murdered on June 12, the day after Grandpa Gene died in the "Mad Men" universe) and is again infantilized by them both. Gene tells her she's a housecat with little to do, while her mother points to Evers and warns Betty, "You see what happens to people who speak up? Be happy with what you have."

But Betty's not happy with what she has, and despite his best efforts, Don isn't, either. Jon Hamm is so terrific at showing how anxious, and ambivalent, Don is about all of this. As Dennis talks and talks about what he's going to do with his own child, you can see Don thinking of all the ways in which he's let his own kids (and his wife) down, and yet he's also still not sure this is the life he wants, no matter how much he tries to dedicate himself to it. He's noticeably uncomfortable when Dennis insists on telling him how little baby Hobart is going to change his life - "This is a fresh start. I don't know who's up there. I'm going to be better. I'm going to be a better man." - because Don know how often he's made those promises to himself, and how hard they are to live up to.

In many ways, "The Fog" is a fresh start to this third season. Until now, the characters have all been in a holding pattern. Betty's been hoping the baby's arrival will make everything better. Peggy has been working hard and assuming her effort and talent will allow her to keep rising. Pete's been avoiding the woman who gave away his son. Don and Lane have been trying to avoid locking horns. But by the end of this great episode, they all know none of that's possible. The baby can't fix the Draper marriage on his own, Peggy still has a glass ceiling to break through, Don's going to keep chafing under Lane's authority, etc., etc.

And now that everyone has had their own emotional fog lifted and can see clearly the position they're in, what are they going to do about it?

Some other thoughts on "The Fog":

• Pete proves himself worthy of Duck's interest with his attempt to convince the Admiral execs to market their TVs to the black community. It's easy to see why Hollis might take Pete for a bigot - he's snooty and class-conscious, and in the season one episode where he and Peggy had a morning quickie in his office, he acts annoyed when Hollis lets a black custodian board the elevator - but we also know that for all his faults, Pete is the most forward-thinking guy at Sterling Cooper. If there's money to be made by marketing to a new demographic, Pete has no problem trying to make that money. But it's interesting to see that even after Hollis drops his guard, he's still not all that interested in who made his TV or why he bought it. With Evers' murder so fresh in everyone's memory, it's not surprising Hollis might find it frivolous to think about "The Beverly Hillbillies." Pete's dream of a homogeneous, integrated America where blacks and whites can have the same lifestyle, and the same aspirations, isn't necessarily Hollis' dream. On the other hand, Pete's right that Hollis watches baseball; when Marilyn Monroe died last season, Hollis was the one to note, "I keep thinking about Joe DiMaggio."

• Don's midnight snack with Sally was another suggestion that Don and Miss Farrell will hook up (Sally: "That's what Miss Farrell said." Don: "Then I guess it must be true."), but it also showed what a good dad Don can be when he's both present and not busy trying to be supportive of Betty when she's having one of her moods.

• Is it unfair to Yeardley Smith (who played the nurse who kept updating Dennis) that she's the one "Simpsons" voice cast member who I can't see in another role without automatically envisioning her Springfield alter ego?

• The camera lingers on Betty's feet during her anesthetic fantasy. If Matt Weiner hadn't said in our interview that the image of Don's bare feet is "the story of the season, in a way" (suggesting the pained man underneath the impeccable suit), I might start wondering if he had hired Quentin Tarantino as his new director of photography.

• It's nice to have Mark Moses back as Duck, and I made sure to take note that Duck was having coffee while Peggy pondered her Bloody Mary. Also, Grey is still in business today. Judging by Pete's comment - "Two months at Grey and you're already having a nosh?" - Grey was a lot more friendly to Jews back in the day than Sterling Cooper.

• Dennis, like the car salesman last year, has no idea how to read Don. The salesman assumes Don is comfortable in his own skin, while Dennis, the alleged expert on criminals, stares at the identity thief in front of him and declares him to be an honest guy.

• Miss Farrell is played by Abigail Spencer, and it's been bugging me where I knew her from ever since she appeared in "Love Among the Ruins." Turns out I know her from a bunch of shows (including a Lifetime drama where she was the lead), but was thinking of her both as the Carrie Bradshaw stand-in from the "D-Bag in the City" episode of "My Boys," and as Ted's girlfriend Blah-Blah on "How I Met Your Mother."

Comments continue to mushroom, and again, I commend most of you for being both damn insightful and damn respectful of each other, but for the small few who need a reminder, here are the commenting rules. Read them. Know them. Then discuss "Mad Men." That is all.

What did everybody else think?


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Anonymous said...

Having a former neighbor with the famous ballerina name (no relation), that's what struck me, not the ballerina! I was born in the mid 60s. I can confirm what others have said about not being able to visit mothers/siblings in the hospital.

Also, getting back to the Miss Farrell scene, as others have said personal information wasn't shared so readily. And kids weren't expected to attend funerals. At least that's what I was told when my grandmother died in the mid 70s. I took one day off from day camp (middle of summer) and I think my parents just sent a note about a family emergency. One of my classmates got hit by a car in the early 70s, another died in a fall and another of cancer. They never sent in grief counselors or anything like that.

It was announced and when they could use it as a "teachable" moment they did. After that, you never heard about it. The poor kid who got hit by the car ran out in the middle of the street, so they used that to emphasize look both ways. The poor girl who died in a fall was using cooling off on a hot day by hydrant without a cap, so they told us to use caps.

Capcom said...

FWIW, I think you're spot on about Peggy's raise, Andy.

Very interesting thoughts about Hobart's actions, Anon.

And good points about Duck, other-Anon.


notfarmerville said...

Two notable Mad Men period details came when Don arrived home with Betty and baby Gene. When he got out of the car he took care in putting his hat on his head --- just to walk his wife to their front door. But then an even more jarring moment came when he opened Betty's door. She steps out from the front seat of the car after riding home from the hospital with her infant in her arms! This felt as shocking as the picnic scene when they left all their garbage strewn about in the park.

dez said...

I watched that scene with Hollis and Pete again, and this is what happened: Pete tries to be more familiar with Hollis by saying, "It's just us! It's just Hollis and--" and Hollis interrupts with a forceful "Mr. Campbell." To which Pete replies, "Do you think I'm a bigot?" I think Pete really did want to have an honest conversation with Hollis. Hollis, in turn, knows that's not such a good idea for himself and cuts Pete off.

Also, didn't see it mentioned, but I thought it was interesting and odd that Betty awoke from her dream with her baby in her arms. Interesting because it fits the theme of her dream, but odd that they would put a baby in a drugged-up woman's arms. The '60s were weird.

Donnsy said...

I don't think that Dennis Hobart's baby had died. The wife is in a nightgown and robe. She's still a patient. She had a breach birth, so she's probably being pampered a bit. Women in the early sixties were still spending a week in the hospital after the birth of a baby. I do think "the look" is one of embarassment for his earlier intimat "confessional" conversation with Don.

This episode brought back lots of memories for me. Giving birth in an Air Force hospital in 1968 was very similar. Dads in the waiting room. Abrupt, bossy nurses. Having a doctor you'd never seen before deliver your baby. Luckily, twilight sleep wasn't being used any more. We had spinal blocks.

Loved the scene of the kids outside the hospital gazing up at Mom. I definitely remember doing that when my sister was born in 1957.

AdamW said...

I haven't seen anyone mention what I thought was one of the nicest visual compositions of the episode, in the hospital where Don is visiting Betty. As he leans in to kiss her, her face is reflected in the mirror on the right hand side of the screen. Don appears in the mirror briefly as he kisses her, then leans back, leaving the viewer with two views of Betty -- one with a doting Don facing her and the other, alone, in the mirror.

Unknown said...

AdamW, I completely agree!

With so much already touched upon, both in comments and the article itself, I only have one further thought to share:

Throughout the seasons, this quote has often come to mind while watching Betty go about her daily misery... but the scene in which Betty and baby are waving to Don, Sally, and Bobby from the hospital window (regardless of period-correctness) seemed to be a visual articulation of it! My jaw hit the floor. Without further ado,

"A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space." -- Gloria Steinem

In my mind, it's definitely a prelude to what's coming Betty's way later in the decade.

Unknown said...

I tried to read every comment to avoid repeating (and with hopes that if I did it, a few people would karmically make it through 200+ takes before they got to my riff), but forgive me if I sound redundant.

I have a new theory about the "dour" look that Dennis gives Don (great way to describe it used by another commentor). This might be a reach, BUT ... there is that scene where Betty is on the hospital bed and she can clearly hear a woman screaming as she is giving birth. What if Dennis' wife can clearly hear Betty making disparaging remarks about Don while she is drugged up?

Dennis could have made small talk with his wife about spending time with Don in the waiting room, only to have his wife say, "Oh, he's a bastard. His beautiful blonde wife was cursing the day he was born last night in the delivery room."

This would explain Dennis averting eye contact and giving Don the freeze out because he was ashamed that he proclaimed that he was such a great judge of character.

Just a thought. I like Alan's explanation more, but this is the fun part of this show - actually having something to think about and apply our imaginations to.

A few other thoughts ...

What was the snack Don and Sally ate? One commentor said eggs and hash. I've never had that before. It looked like hamburger meat to me.

Why is everybody so impressed with Pete at Sterling Cooper? Duck calls him an "idea man" and a "risk taker" and the lunch, but is he really? I think he just dresses the part. Everybody around him has more talent. He's not genuinely charming or funny. He has low self-esteem about his abilities. I just don't get it.

The ups-and-downs joke I didn't find this corny, I actually found it true to life. Don't you come across people that have their go-to joke that when you hear it the first time you smile, but then you realize they probably make the same joke 10 times a day? My grandpop used to say to all of us grandkids, "you can call me grandpop, grandpa, grampy ... just don't call me late for dinner."

Dream sequence or on the verge of death? With Betty in a room full of dead people in a well-lit kitchen (evoking thoughts of 'don't go into the light'), did anybody else think she was precariously close to death in the delivery? Gene mopping up blood could have been how she saw the hospital janitor mopping up her own blood in her half-concious state.

Don and strangers There is some movie with the guy from Dawson's Creek in it and Jessica Biel too I think, but there's a quote in it that's like "the best conversation you'll ever have in your life will be with a stranger." I think it's a valid claim. Especially for Don because strangers don't know him as Don, or Dick or whoever. He's just a good looking guy with a good sense of humor that's easy to talk to.

Rich cast of characters No Salvatore, Joan or Mr. Hooker this week and you hardly notice

Thought from a previous episode I never posted it, but I figured I would get it out there now. I think it was the first or second episode this season where Don and Betty are sitting down to dinner with Lane Pryce and his wife. They are asked how long they've been together and Don says 10 years while Betty says 9 years. You think she discounted the year they spent separated and that's why there was the discrepancy in their answers?

Whiskey said...

so, 208 comments and no one's mentioned this: when the teacher found out that Betty's father had died, she reaches out to touch Betty's hand (which is resting on her belly) and Betty quite visibly recoils. It made me chuckle, such a contrast to her allowing that stranger, a man!, touch her in the 2nd ep and yet a gentle gesture of condolence from another woman isn't received well.

I loved this ep, to me Mad Men is like watching an excellent theater play, and there's a lot of references to the visual language of the stage that I take great delight in.

I don't remember anyone mentioning that when Don gave Pryce a glass of whiskey in his office, the Englishman barely took a drink from it (another cultural difference between the Brits at work and the Americans in the workplace?). Also, the whole "pennies make pounds" statement, as well as the situation with Admiral being reluctant to pursue a market opportunity that would've been profitable, reminded me of a blogpost I read yesterday over at Angry Bear discussing when it was that corporate America switched over to "a focus on making money from money", and which examines at length two differing economic theories that impacted the fate of companies like Zenith and Intel. For those interested in such things, it may make for interesting reading as a follow-up to this great episode. I think it may have some bearing also on the lingering question of why the British bought Sterling Cooper but now can't seem to bring themselves to allow the company to do what it's so good at. (some political opinions are expressed on this econ blog, so read at your own "risk")

Don was making corned beef hash (out of a can) for himself and Sally. My dad used to make that for the two of us, so I loved that scene. And to those who think Don isn't changing or making an effort: dude, he went to the school because Sally's teacher asked for a conference! She even remarked that fathers usually didn't come for these things. Whether he did it as a supportive husband, a concerned parent, or both can be debated. But he missed work to do this, to go to the school and do his bit, and I think he should get some credit for it.

This is the first ep of Mad Men where I've really felt for Betty. I do think she's becoming unhinged due to her dissatisfaction with her life & marriage, the death of her father, and the birth of her son (who she insisted was a girl throughout her pregnancy). Any one of these events could throw a person's sanity into a tailspin, so I believe dealing with all three will indeed make her grip on sanity "brittle". I also get a little annoyed that we are still having people make apologist statements for Betty as merely a product of her time & class. Her problems go beyond the standard upperclass housewife crap of the era, Weiner has been very clear that Betty is written as a character who was very childish in the first season and has been slowly growing up over the following seasons. Like Pete, there was some emotional & intellectual arrested development there and we're watching them evolve/mature, much later than their peers. I actually liked Pete a lot in this ep, and that's new for me as well.

Finally, I think that yes, TIME is a thematic element through every scene in this episode. Don and Betty waiting for the teacher, who comes in saying the other parents are late. Betty first says that Gene died last week, then corrects herself saying that it was a couple of weeks ago. As well as all the watch references, etc. Maybe because the times, they are a changin'?

Karen said...

@AdamW--yes! I loved that shot; it was so beautifully composed. Betty with Don in "real" life, and Betty alone in the mirror, after Don's withdrawal...Betty in a hallucinatory looking-glass land, like Alice. A marvellous, brief moment.

@Dave--you ask why Pete is considered so clever at SC. It's true that he's overambitious, bad-tempered, and has questionable social skills (especially for someone hired for his social connections). But he's extremely forward-looking, as has been shown continually over the three seasons, in an ad shop that is quite hidebound. I believe he was the one who wanted to use the Austrian psychologist's data in S1, which Don threw into the garbage. He got that Kennedy was the wave of the future when all the SC men, including Don, were backing Nixon. And now he gets the idea of marketing to a specific minority, which both SC execs and the client reject. If he were a better ad exec, like Don, he could have recovered from his shutdown by the Admiral TV clients, but he was left stammering. His strengths and his weaknesses, in a single scene.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that the black guy at the table in Betty's dream is Medgar Evers?

Rob Biesenbach said...

One additional layer to "the look" between Hobart and Don. I agree with the theory that it's embarrassment from having been so unnaturally open to another man, let alone a stranger. But one other thing I didn't see covered here.

On any other day of the week, there's not a chance a man like Don and a man like Hobart are going to have a conversation about anything beyond, "How 'bout those Yankees?" I think in the light of day (and sobriety), with Don cleaned up and suited and carting round his "perfect" wife, Hobart was reminded that they're from two different worlds, two different classes. His expression might even have been instinctual -- the kind of thing a person in his position might do every day round his "betters."

It reminds me of the elevator scene where the operator was very uncomfortable crossing lines with Pete Campbell. In both cases, normal societal and class boundaries were breached, and in both cases, the "lower-status" individual was the one who afterward stepped back into the more familiar and comfortable role. (Something that, a few years from then, they won't so readily do.)

Just another succinct little illustration of what's to come in society with race, class, and everything else. It's like these little leaks springing forth from the dyke and quickly being plugged just before all hell breaks loose.

Timmyhawken said...

@Dave: about the dish Don was cooking, I'm fairly certain it was corned beef hash. My dad used to make it for me and my brothers, it's just ground corned beef and diced potatoes, I think usually served with a fried egg on top, but it looked like Don mixed it in. Anyways, being in my twenties, I'm not certain of it, but I thought it was kind of a common dish that my dad grew up with.

Also, I did get the feeling to that Betty was close to death too, but not after reading the blog and comments. I didn't realize that women were given drugs like that during birth.

dez said...

dude, he went to the school because Sally's teacher asked for a conference! She even remarked that fathers usually didn't come for these things. Whether he did it as a supportive husband, a concerned parent, or both can be debated. But he missed work to do this, to go to the school and do his bit, and I think he should get some credit for it.

There's also the third possibility: He showed up because Sally's teacher is hot. This is Don we're talking about, after all :-)

@DangerBoy, I like your take on Don and Hobart's interaction. I would add that I think Hollis' reaction wasn't just about the class difference between himself and Pete, but possibly also fear that if he crossed the boundary and Pete turned on him, he could lose his job. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hollis in a few years participating in marches, but for now, he's staying in that elevator.

Maura said...

cristinel said: How do you know that the black guy at the table in Betty's dream is Medgar Evers?

Evers' murder was an ongoing subject throughout the episode. He had just recently been murdered, Sally's teacher mentioned that Sally had been asking questions about the murder, and there were newscasts in the background about it. It's certainly an inference, but I think it's a logical one.

Whew! said...

Comments in the 200+ range, so just one more possible thought I don't think mentioned:

Anyone else catch how Peggy asked Duck if it was "both of us" - a thought Pete found distasteful. But I think Duck had that in mind all along. Peggy's so quick (she does have to leave 'some tools in the toolbox' sometimes), she got it right away.

...and to that thought. In last episode, after the Patio people walked out, disappointed in the Ann Margret ad. Notice how Peggy looked at Don with a little "I told you so" look? Don knows she's good. Will be interesting to see how that continues with her request for a raise.

Finally, loved Roger's "50% of the time it comes down to they just don't like you!" (or something like that) quote. He's still relevant.

arrabbiata said...

regarding Don's presence at the teacher conference:

While I'd like to think that it comes out of concern for his children and/or for Betty's fragile mental state, I saw a more practical purpose- Betty is just days away from giving birth and may not be physically up to driving herself to the meeting.

I see the later scene where Don and Sally share some late night eggs and hash is a sign that Don is trying. I'm sure Betty would have just sent her back to bed.

Susan said...

I had no clue as to who the man was with Betty's mother. Then I read this blog and saw that it was Medgar Evans and that made perfect sense, since Sally's teacher had just brought that issue up.

I think it was typical early 60's parenting that Sally did not attend the funeral and the parents did not advise the school of her grandfather's death. Miss Farrell is very much ahead of her time and her opinions were her own and didn't reflect school policy. This helps put her in the same category as Midge, Rachel and Bobbie and makes me think she is a possible future "mistress" for Don.

Her touching Betty's hand in sympathy did make Betty recoil. Betty is very uncomfortable with affection. We see this in her interaction with her children, most recently when she returned home from the hospital and Sally ran up and hugged her and Betty could barely make herself respond. The man touching her stomach in an earlier episode was not affectionate. It was, imo, sexual.

Whiskey said...

another thought I didn't see mentioned: Don & Betty said "bullshit", and Roger used the word "handjobs" to refer to appeasing clients. Have we ever heard these characters use such vulgar words before? I don't remember this happening before and I was startled by it.

@ arrabiata: yes, it could be that he accompanied Betty because she was so heavily pregnant (she does go to the hospital less that same evening). But again, I doubt a busy professional man at the time wouldn't have just told his wife to have a friend drive her or whatever. I'm not ready to hand him an award for Best Husband & Father, far from it. But I do think that having Gene come live with them and many other little things we've seen him do this season (like going to the conference with the teacher) are definite signs that he's at least *trying*.

Oh, another thing: when Peggy brings her present and Don protests that she didn't have to, she insists she did because no one told her they were chipping in (to get a group present). I think this is yet another sign that Peggy is still not getting the respect she desires and deserves from the chipmunks. So my theory is that she will be the one to jump ship and either take Duck up on his offer, or shop herself around and see if she can get a job somewhere where people don't see her as a former secretary. I'm hoping that this will be temporary, mind you, because I really want Peggy to stay in the regular character rota. But I agree with Alan that at some point some of these characters will have to go because that's what happens in the workplace. And we know Peggy has the ambition, she is "one of those girls" and thinks this may be her time.


I used to work for an attorney who also had a Master's in psychology. We would frequently talk about dream interpretation as I had a recurring dream with my father and a family cat. He emphasized to me that whenever we dream, whatever we dream of, it is of ourselves. In my dream w/ my father and my cat, I am the cat.

Betty dreaming about the caterpillar is a dream about herself -- she crushes the caterpillar (although we don't see it) as she is crushing her ability to morph into something else. She has caused this inability to change by staying w/ Don and by having the baby (although in that era, she had few choices other than to have the baby).

Susan said...

Whiskey, good point about Peggy going somewhere where she is not a former secretary. I was thinking along the lines that it will be the same (sex discrimination and chipmunks are everywhere)anywhere she goes, but I agree that the fact that everyone knows she started out as a "girl" works to her disadvantage at Sterling Cooper. When Joan was talking to her about the roommate ad, she said "everyone here knows you." I have my doubts about Duck having any clout at Grey; I even wonder if he is actually employed there.

I really liked it that Peggy did not use the other job offer as leverage when she spoke to Don about a raise. That was very much in keeping with Peggy's character. It said to me that she asked for the raise because she knew she deserved it and it was the fair thing and that should stand alone. Pete assumed she had told Don about Duck, and that just shows how little he knows Peggy, even though he thinks (or thought) she's "perfect."

Another poster commented earlier that Peggy is unsure of herself when she asserts herself. And of course, she is. She is being very brazen for a young woman of that time to ask for a raise in such a direct way. It reminded me of the time she asked Roger Sterling for Freddie's office. He responded that it was "cute" because there were 30 men that didn't have the balls to ask him. Young women in 2009 can assume they will be treated as equals with men. They assume they can speak directly and ask for what they deserve. What a debt of gratitude they have toward women of Peggy's generation.

Anonymous said...

Yay, let's hear it for the hash and eggs with dad and the kids club! I still make it for myself sometimes on Sunday to remember dear ol' dad.

The hospital room mirror stuck out with me too, I'm glad that someone remembered to mention it! As it was shown, I too wondered if it was an intentional shot.

Young women today can assume that they can ask for the same treatment and recognition as men, but sadly it doesn't always happen that way. The Old Boys Club still exists in secret in many workplaces, I know from experience.

Good point about the office present. "Forgetting" to ask someone to chip into group gifts is often used as a separation device by workplace cliques and speaks volumes, as mentioned.

Roger's reaction to Don taking off time from work for the birth was very interesting, as it wasn't until the late 1980s (or early 90s?) that "personnel" departements began to give paternal time off for helping with the newborns, etc. I have no recollection of what my dad went through workwise to stay home with us so long while babies were being born.

Good catch about Peggy and "both of us". I haven't watched the ep again yet, but the first time around it seemed as if she was asking if the offer was extended to her singularly as well, even if Pete didn't take the job as a team.

dez said...

I have my doubts about Duck having any clout at Grey; I even wonder if he is actually employed there.

Upon second viewing, I was wondering whether that was an office at Grey or an office in his own apartment. The ducks could just as well be in his own home as at Grey's. I don't trust Duck, sober or not. I hope this doesn't blow up in Peggy's face (and I'm really hoping Don gets wind of Duck's poaching and puts a stop to it, for Peggy's sake if not Pete's).

Anonymous said...

Cults - do you think Mad Men will introduce that in their 60s reflection of contemporary zeitgeist too? At any rate, it seems the Scientology-central casting is working strong on the show. Honestly, to introduce Yeardley Smith in a role, when her voice is just SO recognizable and really, there are other actresses ... Mad Men is normally so strong with casting decisions, but this...

AdamW said...

Anon said:

"The hospital room mirror stuck out with me too, I'm glad that someone remembered to mention it! As it was shown, I too wondered if it was an intentional shot."

I don't think there are a lot of UNintentional shots in MM, but that one clearly was composed. It was the only shot from that perspective, and the mirror clearly had to be positioned precisely there to make it work (unless it was a special effect added later).

I also find myself wondering whether the editing/continuity error (assuming that's what it was) in the scene with the prison guard was a function of the number of new sets used in this episode. The hospital might have been used after Roger's heart attack and we might have seen the classroom before, but they're not 'standard sets' and anytime a show with a weekly production schedule uses additional locations or sets it multiplies the time pressure to get everything shot in time. I wonder if maybe they lacked camera coverage from certain angles or ran out of time to reshoot when a decision was made about how to sequence the scene.

Alan, do you know off the top of your head how many days per episode are in the MM shooting schedule? Seems to me 8 days is sort of the standard for some 13-ep cable series, but MM may need longer (or at least longer lead times) because of all the period detail they need to assemble...

7s Tim said...

a few more things:

Don/Dennis thing: perhaps two things conspired to cause confusion. One, the editing gaffe. Two, actor who played Dennis doesn't pull off "uncomfortable" as well as he pulls off "disturbed". He had the smiling bit down a second before, then gets all scowly. You had a baby, cheer up!

Betty's Delivery & Dreams: I liked the comments of a previous poster who noted the problems of mental and physical instability of Betty leading up to the birth. I also found it ironic that Betty was both right and wrong in calling "bullshit" on Don's presence in the waiting room. Wrong, he was there. But she didn't expect him to be there, so I guess he really is "never where you expect him to be".

And Pete is a multifaceted character, although sometimes that just comes across as hodgepodge. A whiny baby about getting what he wants, about being told what to do, about pretty much everything. But his attitude towards Hollis was surprisingly forward thinking, even as it betrayed his upper class nature. He didn't so much see the divide between them as one of color, but just that Pete has always been a "Have", and sees in the future the opportunity, The American Dream, for the "Have nots", like Hollis.

I also don't think Cooper camee across as a racist, but more someone who is wary of rocking boats, especially when the boat is the client. Race was and is a delicate topic. Best not to bring it up at all.

And this blog has an inappropriate number of posters with the name Tim. it's weird.

Anonymous said...

At any rate, it seems the Scientology-central casting is working strong on the show.

Who else is a clam besides Moss?

Mrs. H said...

"It was not uncommon for someone of Betty’s social strata to have worked for a year or 2 as a means of getting out in the world (the better to find a husband) or possibly to go to a strict 2-year college before marrying"

I remember from Betty discussing her sorority at BMC (an error b/c there are no sororities at BMC let alone the other 6 Seven Sisters) that she is a Bryn Mawr grad. It is also mentioned on the AMC profile of Betty which leads me to believe that the writers feel it is an important detail. She, like the men at BMCs brother college of Princeton, would probably have been 21 upon graduation. Then, some time as a model in NYC... She may have been as old as 25 when she married Don. That would make her a young 30 something.

Yes, she is a childish woman but not lacking progressive ideas. Remember her fashion gowns that she was lending a friend? The bikini she bought at the country club fashion show? (Small costuming error in that ep - women in cocktail dresses and men in polos with blazers. The men would have worn sport coats and ties.)

I also think Peggy is childish. That gripe about not being included in the group gift - get over it! And didn't Joan encourage her to change her hair? Okay, so no more pony tail but it's still so little girl!

Anonymous said...

An interesting note from the Trivia section of Elisabeth Moss' IMDB page:

"Studied ballet with Suzanne Farrell at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C."

cgeye said...

Hon, there are sororities and fraternities at the Seven Sisters; they're just housed at nearby colleges. Hazing goes on, but discreetly enough to not prohibit it fully.

cgeye said...

Um, fraternities at the Seven Sisters' partners in the Ivy League... oops.

Jessamyn said...

Re: Jane. I think she is neither bimbo nor disingenuous about her love, but Roger's emotional development seems to have been stuck since he was Jane's age. Although Jane is bright, there's a limit to how mature she can be if she fell in love with someone like that. I think she did fall in love, but as someone said, she will change. She's likely to grow up, and soon. She's only 20, for heaven's sake!

Re: the strange cuts this week (bloody daughter, waiting-room scenes, dream sequences). I think they were all of a piece , and I hope specific to this episode. I like that someone pointed out that Betty was losing it even before she was given drugs. And as someone who has spent A LOT of time in hospital waiting rooms herself, those strange cuts felt very realistic to me - I didn't question them at all, but welcomed them as describing the experience. There is this strange mixture of fear and boredom that does something to your perceptions in there. You try to read, and you look up and people are seated there that weren't before, or they disappear. You talk to someone for awhile, and then you get tired of it before they do and try pointedly to read your magazine. Time stops and speeds up and stretches, and you spend a lot of energy fighting with the vending machines--a bizarre mixture of the existential and the prosaic. I thought the editing was perfect.

And then apropros of nothing: The other day, I was thinking about how several commenters here had pointed out that various characters in the office we thought were new (secretaries, whatsisname who lost it when he lost his job at the beginning of the season, etc.) had all actually been seen in the background in previous episodes. And also in the DVD commentaries I think it's Christina Hendricks who points out that the actress playing Pete's secretary did such a good job of investing Hildy with ill-concealed loathing of him in the background of every scene that Weiner started writing bigger parts for her. Anyway, it just struck me that just as the people in the office of Sterling Cooper can hope to move up to better positions, so can those very same actors portraying them hope that they will be moving up to more conspicuous parts. I thought it was a neat convergence of fiction and reality that both companies (in both senses of "company") promote from within.

Susan said...

Regarding Betty's age...she was pregnant with Sally when she married. I don't think she worked as a model for long. Glen asked her how old she was and she said the same age as your mother; how old is your mother? He said 32 and Betty said she was 28. I got the impression she shaved a few years off and Betty would be the type to lie about her age. There are unofficial fraternities and sororities not sanctioned by the schools.

Jerry said...

I'm surprised no one has brought up the Marx underneath this episode (though I know doing so borders on violating the no politics rule)--starting with Paul's offhand praise of of the guy. With all the references to time and how it becomes increasingly measured as Sterling Cooper falls under the sway of its parent corporation, I was definitely reminded of the ways Marx talked about clock time and capitalism. Don's insistence that creative needs "non-productive" time shows some resistance to this pursuit of efficiency. Admiral's very clear boundary that the pursuit of profit stops at the race line is another similar rejection of market logic. Betty's labor time (in both the medical and economic sense of the term) is highly regulated by the medical industry--she has almost no control over the conditions under which she labors, despite her insistence that this is her third time and she knows what she's doing. Peggy's rebuff by Don--"it's not the time" vs. "what if it's my time?"--shows how gender determines the value of her time and labor, just as Betty's labor (including those 2 am baby calls) is completely unpaid, both monetarily and through appreciation/love from Don. Overall, I thought this episode was all about the ways that the demands of the marketplace shape time and its value for these characters.

gypsy howell said...

Regarding Betty's age...she was pregnant with Sally when she married.

I missed that tidbit. How did you know that? The "10 years/9 years" thing when they were at dinner with the Pryce's?

Jed said...

Other than being tired of the whole Don and Hollis discussion -- I vote for too much revealed and the Betty dream scene. I am interested in the Duck/Peggy/Pete scenes.

Duck's office and clean desk were commented in season 2 -- no body has a better secretary than Don as well as him indicating he would be in the middle at Grey....

I think he wants to hurt Don and SC and thinks Peggy and Pete are the way. Pete by stealing his accounts and Peggy by stealing someone close to Don. He does see things as he caught onto the "relationship" between Pete and Peggy. I get the Peggy thing, in that he sees that she is undervalued and althought I don't think she would be more valued at Grey but he could steal her away.

Duck would know that SC has finished their cuts and so now anyone who leaves is someone SC sees as valuable (even if they aren't paid much more than a sec). I also recall that Peggy was paid $35/week at the beginnins so she is making twice her secs salary (not enough but prespective). Since she was promoted by Don, getting her to move would lessen his loyal group at SC.

As for Pete, I don't get why Duck wants him unless it is to get his contacts. He knows that Pete is overly ambitious, so he can play this card to get him even if he doesn't really believe everything he said to lure him. Possibly only to hurt SC as even if they can't get Pete and his rolodex to move (i.e get his clients) the accounts may still move from SC even if not to Grey.

Both Pete and Peggy have qualities but they are both not there yet... Pete was suprised that Admrial knew where they sales were and who was buying. Like this was a relevation to them? At least he recovered but he shouldn't have had too. He might have saved the day by pointing out a way to market to blacks without seeming like marketing to blacks and loosing the whites unstead he just pushed where the client didn't want to go. But I really like the way he stood up to Duck -- It might have just been the Peggy thing but I think it would have happened if anyone from SC was there. Peggy should have left for the same reason, don't have a secrete meeting and invite others without telling me. I figure no matter what Duck's motivation is to stir up trouble at SC.

In terms of predictions, I wanted to comment last week that the baby would be fine or dead but not disabled as was wildly speculated. I only saw one comment this week that is still pushing toward the child having a problem. It would have made her more sympathetic not less which is where we seem to be headed, until she again stands up for herself. If you want my opinion on people leaving or Peggy, my guess is that she will be attacked with an attempted rape by some guy invited by her new roomate and she will stay at SC, but she will get a raise.

I also hope we see Connie again, wonder if Don will frown when he sees him?

Just some thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I love this blog, but am not as diligent as I should be about stopping by every week to read it. That said, I did read every single post from this week's episode and no one seems to be bringing up the possibility that the new baby is not Don's. Does the math work that it was nine months ago that Betty had that awkward, anonymous fling (if you can call it that) in the back office of a bar? My apologies if this has already been discussed and dismissed in the comments from a previous episode.

Susan said...

Hi gypsy, it wasn't as recent at this season that we learned Betty was pregnant when she and Don married. Off the top of my head, I don't recall the episode or even the context where this was revealed. I will do a little research and get back to you. Or maybe in the meantime, another poster will remember.

Susan said...

Anonymous, Betty had already learned at the doctor's office that she was pregnant before she had sex with the man at the bar. For verification, you could read the interview with Matther Weiner Alan posted. He speaks of it being the "witching hour" for Betty.

Susan said...

In response to gypsy's question, in Season 1, Episode 9, "Shoot," reveals that Betty was pregnant when she and Don got married. She told her psychiatrist Dr. Wayne that they got engaged, then she got pregnant, then they got married.

Lilithcat said...

A couple of commenters have suggested that the woman screaming in a delivery room was Dennis' wife, and that she might have overheard, and conveyed to her husband, Betty's drug-induced remarks about Don.

I see several problems with that theory. First of all, how would Mrs. Hobart know who was in the other room? Even if she did, how would she know that the guy walking down the hall was that woman's husband?

Too, if she's having a breech birth, and in such pain that she's screaming, is it really likely that she'd pay any attention to Betty's ramblings? And then she was probably drugged-up herself and in no condition to hear/understand/remember.

The simplest explanation is usually the right one (even for Mad Men! Hobart was simply embarrassed at having opened up emotionally to another man.

Paul Outlaw said...

- dude, he went to the school because Sally's teacher asked for a conference! She even remarked that fathers usually didn't come for these things. Whether he did it as a supportive husband, a concerned parent, or both can be debated. But he missed work to do this, to go to the school and do his bit, and I think he should get some credit for it.

- There's also the third possibility: He showed up because Sally's teacher is hot. This is Don we're talking about, after all :-)

Someone else mentioned Betty's condition requiring Don to drive as another possibility, and I think there's yet another: These days it seems like Don would welcome any excuse to escape being in the office...

Jessamyn said...

Jed, you want to talk about Duck, Peggy, and Pete? I don't think anyone has mentioned that Pete, in addition to being aghast at Peggy's particular presence at the lunch, would indeed have been angry to see anyone else there, not just because of the confidentiality issues but because this is the SECOND time he's walked into a meeting thinking he was singled out for greatness and found that he wasn't so unique after all. From his perspective, this was the Ken/Pete department-head debacle all over again, this time with the added knife-twisting of the thunder-stealer being the woman who treated him so cruelly (from his point of view. I don't have much sympathy for Pete in regard to any woman, emotional abuser that he is).

Dani In NC said...

I'm not a Simpsons fan, so seeing Yeardley Smith immediately brought back memories of "Legend of Billie Jean". That was one of the first movies I watched via VCR.

Anonymous said...

Mark S writes: Anyone catch the references/homages to Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby," including the sweaty overhead closeup of Betty in the maternity ward (shown at the top of this blog) and especially the ending shot where Betty walks down the corridor to the crying baby, just as Mia Farrow did in the 1968 film?

Deborah Newell said...

I have a couple of things I'd like to add to all these wonderful comments.

First, the use of descriptive, onomatopoeic, or referential names--i.e. Suzanne Farrell, whom we first meet when she's dancing in a school production, also referring to a real-life ballerina of the same name--is a Dickensian device. Sometimes a character's name simply calls to mind a certain mood or action; other times, it's "on-the-nose" obvious, as it was this time. Me, I like the way MM mixes up the subtle and the obvious, in this as well as in every aspect.

The smearing of blood onto a child's face is a first-blood/rite-of-passage ritual for hunters. Certainly its done in fox hunting, and a quick Google search turned up various stories of deer-hunting families smearing the blood of a child's first "kill" onto his or her face. As to how this relates to Sally's character development, I'm not absolutely certain, but I'll venture a guess: perhaps it's meant to indicate--or at least symbolize--Sally having moved away from the rigid and immaculate emotional architecture that is her relationship with her mother, and toward a more primal one in which she follows her own urges? We've seen her act on her impulses before (taking the money from Eugene's room; gobbling chocolate ice-cream before Betty arrived home). Now she's acted on an urge that many of us have felt, if we're honest: the irresistible Oh-boy-how-I'd-love-to-hit-this-annoying-person-right-this-minute urge.

Thank you, Juanita, for echoing my feelings about Betty. She's definitely a product of the times, and, more saliently, of her own mother ("Close your mouth--you'll catch flies". How that sent chills down my spine and made me suck in my stomach and sit up straight before I realized what I was doing!) Remember in Season 2, when she brushed off the concerns of her riding friend/admirer and cooly dismissed his impression that she was so very sad by saying, "My people are Nordic"? Betty not only doesn't know who she is, she doesn't know what it is to feel--certainly, she doesn't know how to process her own feelings. It's not surprising at all that she avoids dealing with her children's feelings other than to hand them off to Don ("Wait until your father gets home, Bobby") or shut them away (recall how she locked Sally in the hall closet as punishment).

I'm compelled to note that to this born-in-1960 woman, nothing Betty does or says strikes me as extraordinary or strange--that's how I remember most mothers behaving.

I, too, saw the vertical shadows in the final scene as suggestive of prison bars, a tidy parallel to the description Dennis gave of his job earlier in the episode.

Finally, I agree with the minority here that the waiting room scene was largely taking place in Don's mind. Don is a a creative director, a man who trades in ideas made flesh, or at least, made two-dimensional, like the aspirational car ad in the magazine. While waiting for time to pass, he is more than just an observer: his mind fills in the missing details with the paintbrush of his imagination, as writers are wont to do, as he has done with his own life.

As for dream sequences in general, well, I know most readers and viewers don't much care for them--a professor of mine even had a saying: "Tell a dream, lose a reader"--but I have to admit, I adore them. I think the membranes separating reality and imagination--or past, present, and future--are far thinner and more fragile than most of us realize. So I tend to enjoy exploring the possibility that a scene in might be real, imagined, or even, simultaneously, both. I loved Tony Soprano's dream sequences, to the chagrin of my family who refused to sit at the dinner table with me and discuss those metaphysical aspects of the show. Ah well.

I close my eyes and all the world drops dead;

I think I made you up inside my head.
--Sylvia Plath

Thank you for the extraordinary blog about an extraordinary work of televised theatre, Alan. What a treat!

Denis said...

I can see why the scene with Dennis Hobart might seem like a dream sequence. Hobart, to me, had the feel of a person from Dick Whitman's flashbacks -- the "Hobo" who came to the farm house and left the sign for "bad man" on the gate. In this case Hobart tells Don he is a good man.

My instinct for why Hobart averted his eyes is that there is big class difference. They were equals in the waiting room as expectant fathers -- but in the real world Don is too far above him for there to be a relationship.

Mrs. H said...

cgeye said...
Hon, there are sororities and fraternities at the Seven Sisters; they're just housed at nearby colleges. Hazing goes on, but discreetly enough to not prohibit it fully.

Okay, Shugg, maybe at Smith or Barnard but there are not nor have there ever been sororities at Bryn Mawr.

Hazing may have gone on then but it would not have been part of a sorority initiation. School sanctioned campus wide Hell Week comes to mind.

Maggie Siff is a BM alumna. Weiner mentioned in an article about the series how much of a chafe it was to him when she set him straight on the fact that Betty would not have been a sorority girl though she mentions a sorority in a phone conversation in season 1.

It would be a nice detail to have her class lantern show up at some point.

Rob Biesenbach said...

Juanita, LitBrit, and others -- thank you for your perspective on '60s parenting. I was born then. Betty is a dead ringer, behavior-wise, for my own mother, who had her four kids from 21 to 26-years-old. I think she had neither the training nor the inclination nor, let's face it, the TIME to indulge us the way some kids are these days.

I sometimes chuckle when I hear the moms coming down the street with their toddlers, conversing, reasoning, even negotiating with them. "One more block and you can get ice cream!"

It was definitely a different time then. We were supposed to be mostly seen and not heard. We didn't join in our parents' parties, but watched from the stairway. My parents regularly went out on Saturday night, leaving us with the babysitter. Excessive displays weren't indulged or encouraged, much less tolerated.

Betty is a very typical '60s-era suburban mom. Raised through a depression and war, her own upbringing was likely typically ... dour and oppressive. She's not Mom of the year, but she also doesn't know any better. And she definitely doesn't have a bookshelf full of parenting guides to help her.

Who knows? Maybe Betty's vague dissatisfaction will lead to some late-'60s awakening, like that of so many women of that era, including my Mom, who discovered there was something more for them out there.

gypsy howell said...

Imamarilyn - you are a goddess! (But you know that) I'll have to go back and rewatch that one.

shawna said...

Betty uses her maiden name of Elizabeth Hofstadt on the birth certificate (it also lists her age as 31, so it seems she was telling the truth about being 28 in season 1). I wonder why she doesn't say Elizabeth Draper?

Paul Outlaw said...

My mother's maiden name is also on my birth certificate.

Lilithcat said...

Mrs H said Okay, Shugg, maybe at Smith or Barnard but there are not nor have there ever been sororities at Bryn Mawr.

No sororities at Barnard, now or ever.

happyfeet said...

Fantastic blog and posters! I read them all! So much to comment so I'll stick to one aspect of the episode: the Don/Betty/Suzanne dynamic.

It is an interesting point, that the show would flag up Don being at the school as being odd through their own dialogue. So pondering that, as other posters have noted, how bizarre it is for Don to have taken time away from work to do this (accepting he does actually slope off all the time to the cinema, long lunches, secret trysts, Californian sojourns).

As the Miss Farrell said, Sally never gets into trouble and this is out of character. Being called may have worried Don. He is astutely sensitive to the emotional significance of what is going on around him and must have sensed Sally's bonding with Gene, her noticeable upset getting "hysterical" last week, and perhaps this drove him to go there.

I don't think there was an opportunistic plan to see Sally's teacher - but this may become a motivator in the future; especially now they have actually spoken and been intimate in their conversation. To confide that you may have lost someone loved as a child is incredibly open of Don to reveal - and actually, Suzanne only spilled her emotional history in the drunken phone call later. Don spilled his (for him), while sober in a classroom, as his wife had just stepped out - do you think he shares that with Betty?

As for the future Don-Suzanne relationship - it feels inevitable. I wonder though, that in the light of the separation from Betty last season, the new baby, his 'friend' Roger taking up with a new woman - an emotionally intimate relationship with another woman, so close to home may have very different consequences than seen previously.

Suzanne (from what little we have seen of her) certainly fits Don's type - as many others and Alan have said - but unusually, is also maternal and comforting as opposed to occupying a 'man's role' as his previous relationships have - Bobbi as agent, brokering deals and negotiating, Rachel as executive businesswoman, and Midge beatnik sexual freespirit. Suzanne perhaps more closely resembles a mix of what Don wants as a life partner.

I liked the comment that Betty and Don's sexual relationship is possibly inhibited by his placing her in the role of "mother I wanted to have" and has placed a distance between them, while preserving the great feeling of protective care he has towards her.

I'm interested to see the impact of Suzanne on their relationship.

Also, this episode for the first time made me feel desperately sad for Betty. She's so trapped and alone. Ill-equipped by her upbringing and society to cope with her upbringing and society.

laura v. said...

it's interesting that don's not able to pacify anyone, besides roger, with a drink anymore. both people he tried to pass off drinks to in an effort to steer them away from the subject at hand (lane, and then later, peggy) both handed him back their still full glasses. i saw that as the beginning of the decline of what everyone considered SC's "good old days."

Susan said...

happyfeet, great observations. It was hard to watch Betty in this episode. I have always felt very sad for her. Such a great portrait of a person totally out of touch with herself.

I don't believe Don shares things with Betty the way he did with Miss Farrell or Dennis or Connie, to name just a few of the more recent strangers in his life. He finds it easy to be intimate with strangers, while at the same time having virtually no intimacy with his wife.

Unknown said...

Laura V, that's an interesting point you bring up about the drinks Don offers going untouched. It reminds me of two instances, once with Sally and once with Peggy (and another poster mentioned one with, I believe, Betty) where Don tells them that "everything's going to be OK."

Of course, we know everything is likely not going to be OK. Perhaps the rejected drinks and empty words foretell Don's diminishing control in these changing times.

f l said...

I spent hours reading all these comments, and there were a lot of good ideas here. But one thing I haven't seen much talk about is how important Sally Draper is to this season.

They planted seeds early on, when she sabotaged Don's suitcase and we see that she's missing Don. Betty obviously isn't fulfilling her emotional needs and Don is usually absent.

Then they introduce Gene. And we think this is going to be first and foremost about Betty, or even about Gene himself (cringingly expecting from him something horribly inappropriate). But he dies and more than anything else, he was a vehicle for little Sally. Probably nobody else has ever heaped so much positive energy on her.

Her teacher might, though.

(Thought it was interesting how when Sally is upset about Gene's death, but Betty is busy at some kind of dinner party, she just sends Sally away. But now that there's some kind of trouble -- Oh, my father just died, and I'm pregnant, catch ya later.)

Her teacher already knew who Gene was and was very concerned about his dying. It's ultimately Sally that's driving (lol) the teacher into the story through her empathy for her. By the way, I don't think Don was protecting Betty when he said the phone call was "no one" -- I think he was protecting the teacher, since Betty might not tolerate her calling the home but Don knows where she's coming from. I'm not totally convinced those two will get involved romantically, but if they do, it's obviously going to take a more serious turn than his previous flings. His daughter is already involved.

Oh, even the newborn baby is tied back to Sally. Yes, it's his poor daughter Betty who wants to name him after Gene, but just as it was Betty who wanted him to move in, it's going to be Sally who bears the impact of that choice. Grandpa Gene's room, Grandpa Gene's name. I'm a little concerned how Sally will view the child.

Peace out.

jwl said...

I've been fascinated by comments and hope to follow this blog now. I think MM is historically careful and does a wonderful job in character development. I want to respond to the reactions to the fathers' waiting room scene, having just published a book on the subject (Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room). ( During the period when men were not allowed to be with their wives, they bonded in the waiting room in much the way Don and Dennis did in this episode--that is, sharing personal things in ways that might reveal a "feminine" side: showing introspection, making promises to improve and be responsible parents, and showing emotion and commitment to their families. They also wanted boys, and talked about that to one another and wrote about it journals from that period that I examined. Although this was a period when natural childbirth was becoming more popular and some couples were demanding to share labor together, most in 1963 were separated as Don and Betty were. To my mind there is no way Don's waiting room experience was a dream -- it is historically on the mark.

Susan said...

Sally is, as my grandma would have said, "a pistol." I loved her comment to the girl at the water fountain, "Save some for the fish." Hard to believe she came from Don and Betty.

Jennifer Lindsay said...

HUGE thank you to the 'Anonymous' who posted the link to Ebony magazine - I found so much there of interest in addition to the ads - three articles! Thanks again. The level of commenting here is impressive!

Anonymous said...

Don's summary of the inmates versus the Yankees is, "Everyone in stripes." Last scene of the episode shows Betty with stripes on her back. She, like Don, is in a prison of her own.

wildflowermaven said...

A couple of thoughts-was out of town so only saw the episode last night--
I thought Peggy's comment to Don "You have everything, and so much of it", and the bootie fingering indicated that she not only desire's Don's money and position, but also his family. That isn't often mentioned about Peggy, that although she chose to give up her child, she does want to be a mother. Perhaps she'd like to have a Mr. Mom, a concept that wouldn't come into being for a long time yet.

And I found it interesting that Betty recognized the name of the girl Sally pushed into the fountain and fought with. That she was the overweight child--the one the teacher said kids would stick pencils in her side as they thought she couldn't feel it. And Betty was relieved to hear Sally didn't do things like that. Both for reasons of decorum, and possibly as Betty can relate to the overweight girl, though she'd probably never admit it.

jenae said...

I hope I haven't been too unappreciative of Betty. I agree with imamarylin and others that she is despite everything very intelligent (e.g. her conversation is an art speach). She might embrace gender roles changes if she learned that was possible.

I think Pete would have said 'call me Pete" but he felt Hollis's effort to reestablish the boundary. He got thru the boundary gracefully by bringing up baseball, even made Hollis smile.

I think Don (Don) saying "No one" after a phone call was bound to make Betty suspicious--and with reason! What he said to S. Farrell was "You're fine" in a way that was simulataneously empathetic and also very subtly sexy. I first realized how amazing M.M. is when I noticed that don reminds me a the founder of a group I spent a very helpful year dropping in on: SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous--a good place to discuss relationship problems, even if you aren't an addict per se). the founder had not just sexual affairs but involving love affairs. that's Don all over, e.g. with Midge and Rachel. Now he's bonding over the experience of childhood grief with Suzzanne F., and simultaneously they are seducing one another. he's not just a guys who sleeps with women, he gets emotionally involved 9least of all with Bobby because he was trying to resist and also she lacked the soft spot and sense of depth he craves, which isn't to say she wasn't deep in her way--she gives wise advice to peggy kindly--but she and Don couldn't connect in the way that he finds most compelling. i agree that Don has some impressive "boxes" re; women, and yes I'm afraid S.F. fills them. If only he would take Betty off her pedestal, tell her who he actually is (no small thing, I know, he no doubt thinks she would run away indisgust if she knew) and actually relate to her (tell her 'what to do" for instance, that merry widow and garters she wore on V day makes it clear she wants to be a grown woman sexually).

Great comments.

Susan said...

wildflowermaven, I agree Peggy envies Don his family as well. She wants it all, but ir's 1963 and she doesn't know how to make that happen yet. She told Olive she was going to have everything Olive wanted for her. Some women might choose career over family, but ultimately Peggy will find a way to make it all work for her.

One of the barriers to intimacy in the Draper marriage is Don's secret. Jenae, I agree he fears Betty would be disgusted. I think after the initial shock wore off, she would accept him as Dick/Don. One of the few tender moments I saw from Betty is after she pressed Don to spank Bobby and Don told her why he wasn't going to do that, that his father beat him and caused him to fantasize about murdering him. She replied, "I didn't know that." and I saw a side of Betty we rarely glimpse. She pressures herself to be perfect and it woukd free her to know the truth about her husband.

happyfeet said...

imamarilyn, wildrflowermaven, I'm not sure Betty *would* accept Don if he told her the truth. I don't think she has the emotional maturity to handle the news beyond the fact that she was embarressed and humiliated. This was the main issue she had with Bobbi - that others knew about it.

She is very much about appearances and her place in society - as she was brought up to value those things. I also think that Betty would have a hard time accepting the flaws in her husband. Both she and Don have a need to idealise the other. An interesting question is how Don would feel if Betty disclosed her infidelities.

wildflowermaven said...

I agree that Betty most likely would not be able to get past the deception if she found out the truth--how would any of us feel if we had lived with someone for 10 years while they lied about who they are? If they had a great marriage in all other respects maybe, but not the way it is. My guess is that Don would be very upset when finding out about Betty's cheating, but in the end, he'd deal. He can't be too righteous about that.
And speaking of Peggy, one jarring note for me was when Peggy told Don her secretary didn't respect her as she didn't make that much more than her. I got the impression that Olive if anything thinks too much of Peggy, although maybe Peggy interpreted her mothering attitude as disrespect. Or maybe it was just a ploy to bolster her request for a raise.

Anonymous said...

I'm a member of Betty Draper's generation, but not someone who would have been admitted to the country club. I've thought about the comments people have made about her recoiling at the touch of the teacher. It wasn't just because the early sixties weren't a touchy feely time, I
think she could sense the teacher's attraction to her husband. Of course she would recoil.

Twilight sleep, that horrid concoction of scopalamine and morphine did not always work as advertised. When I was given it, it did not relieve pain just made me disoriented so I didn't know where I was and why I was in agony and obviously to this day I don't have amnesia about it.

Chip said...

What to make of the way Dennis treated Don in the hallway?

jenae said...

To chip:

I think dez and i both have it right: Dennis simply felt he'd opened up too much to Don. It will always be a bit of an enigma 9as being snubbed always is) but that seems the most likely explanation. The very common feeling of embarassment regarding emotional disclosure.

jenae said...

Imamarilyn wrote:

a) “I don't believe Don shares things with Betty the way he did with Miss Farrell or Dennis or Connie, to name just a few of the more recent strangers in his life. He finds it easy to be intimate with strangers, while at the same time having virtually no intimacy with his wife.”

b) “One of the barriers to intimacy in the Draper marriage is Don's secret. I think after the initial shock wore off, she would accept him as Dick/Don. One of the few tender moments I saw from Betty is after she pressed Don to spank Bobby and Don told her why he wasn't going to do that, that his father beat him and caused him to fantasize about murdering him. She replied, "I didn't know that." and I saw a side of Betty we rarely glimpse. She pressures herself to be perfect and it woukd free her to know the truth about her husband.”

Great (a) observation and (b) speculation. I'd like to think that it's true, that communicating would help this stunted and blocked couple. As you observed, Don does know how to open up, just not where is matters most. (And bye the bye, wasn't it insensitive of him to blow off Sally's feeling that the room is grandma Gene's room? He's not always the tuned in dad, only sometimes.

jenae said...

p.s. to imamarilyn: I meant good observations in both your comments (Betty's accepting and seeming to understand that's she learning something important about him reaction to don's disclosure of being beaten as a kid), and then a good theory that she would accept the real Don / Dick and in fact it would be a relief to her to give up, as a couple, the illusion of perfection she forces on herself.

There's too much good stuff on this blog and not enough time. I've got submissions to get in the mail, 9-5 housemates who dislike it when us stay at home folks compete with them for the laundry room weekends, and a sunny day that is passing me by, so that's all for now. Way too much good stuff on this blog to keep up. You could write paragraphs just about Hollis in that elevator scene and the ideas and emotions he conveyed.

greytone said...

Dave...(et al)

I am surprised no one has correctly identified the snack Don prepared and shared with Sally.

Don is from Pennsylvania (remember?) and so has probably prepared a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite: Scrapple.

I won't describe its ingredients, but it would certainly be a staple on a poor farm breakfast menu. I have included a link to the wiki page if you are of a mind to know more....

Susan said...

wildflowermaven, I agree that Olive does think very highly of Peggy. We saw this in their conversations in My Kentucky Home. I agree her maternal attitude toward Peggy could be interpreted as a lack of respect. There were some places in that episode where Olive did cross the line...offering opinions, suggesting what Peggy should do, etc. I think she meant it in a kind way, but it was a bit condescending and showed that Olive did not know her "place" as secretaries back in the day should. Peggy is her superior, and in spite of the age difference, Olive should defer more. BTW, I love the Olive character and hope to see more of her. As a former secretary myself, I enjoy the times when we get to see this women.

Susan said...

Anonymous, sorry to hear you were a victim of twilight sleep. It sounds awful and in your case the amnesia part didn't even work. I had often wondered why women of your generation would comment that they didn't remember the childbirth experience and this episode helped clarify that. The twilight sleep, isolation, shaving, enema, all just more examples of the very poor treatment of women back in the day.

Interesting point that Betty sensed the attraction between her husband and the teacher. She has said on more than one occasion that she "tries not to think" about "it." "It" referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis; she said that in the bar in that episode. Then when the stranger who ultimately touched her belly at the garden party, asked her how it felt to be pregnant and she said it again. So Betty tries not to think about certain things and in fact, seems to be pretty good at compartmentalizing, but she no doubt senses things even if she denies herself the luxury of thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

They call the lawnmower an "iron horse" in the first scene. That's the title of a Ginsberg poem about Vietnam. The phrase refers to trains. I think they also called the mower a "mastodon," the name of a famous train (thanks Wikipedia!). Not sure what to make of that, except that in Westerns trains symbolize the unstoppable and destructive onrush of modernity, etc.

jp said...

another small element that i felt underscored betty's ambivalence toward her family was how ready she was to hand over her new son to her neighbor/ friend (& former House cast member) - like all she wanted was for someone to 'take him off her hands'.

jenae said...

f_l you called it about Sally and baby Eugene. Amazing.

I completely understand Don’s revulsion and being reminded forever of the mutual animosity with Gene, yet it’s quite nice to see Betty putting her foot down for something she cares about. Does she have any regrets for harshly rebuffing her dad’s attempts to tell to her about his funeral arrangements? It would be like her to externalize any criticism.

I thought Don was more than a pretty good dad to Sally. Is it true that he isn’t sure he wants the role of husband and father? I think he feels more comfortable as father than husband. My husband disagrees with me on this but based, again, on the resemblance to the SLAA founder, I think Don is a sex and love addict of sorts. Being faithful to Betty is extremely hard for him. There's always the urge to fall in love with a new woman.

And of course he never tells Betty who he really is (disclosing the beatings and their effects is all we’ve seen him share) whereas he told Rachel that his mother was a prostitute. No wonder he was ready to run away with her, he could actually tell her something of who he really is, more than he’s ever told Betty. (I loved Rachel. I liked her not-standard-American beauty—Betty epitomizes all American beauty in a very vulnerably girlish mode; she’s extremely lovely too,in the opposite way—I liked that Rachel shared painful events from her past with Don right away. Her pain is part of her self-concept and part of her understanding of how intimacy evolves.)

What does: “where the chipmunks yell at Smitty” mean? Are the guys the chipmunks? I guess i should know, but who's last name is Smith (therefore Smitty)?

And since we now know that Connie is Connie Hilton, I guess that means he’s Paris Hilton’s ancestor?

Good comments on iron horse and mastadon. Thanks Anonymous.

And I agree with Alan, it’s not all bad between Betty and Don. That “lavender haze” he felt for her at first hasn’t gone completely. It’s the strain of secrecy and his urge toward infidelity, plus the lack of communication. But there is a connection in that they are both sexy, witty people and they both want desperately to make their marriage and family happy, but don’t know how.

Just reviewed the rules. Does no spoilers mean no predictions? I was so impressed with f_l’s insight into what would happen next with Sally, I’m tempted to share something that I predict might happen with a different character. But I will keep it to myself until someone clarifies whether predictions are spoilers.

jenae said...

Alan: Thanks for answering (!)

Didden said...

In the final shot, there is a subtle visual clue, to a clever theme that runs through this episode.

As Betty pauses on landing, the light through the banister railing, creates a set of bars on her back.

The way she pauses in that spot, and the careful nature of the shot, as well as the use of a Prison Guard in the episode, clearly allude to her feelings of being trapped in the marriage.

I also wonder why the Prison Guard drops his head as he later meets Don in the corridor. Is it because he doesn't want to be reminded of the promise he made in his drunken state?

Either way, this again, creates the sense that Don is visiting Betty in her Prison, and the shot of her waving to Don and Children from the window, seems to reinforce this subtle theme.

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