Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mad Men, "The Grown-Ups": Watching too much television

Spoilers for the penultimate episode of "Mad Men" season three coming up just as soon as I take you to see "Singin' in the Rain"...
"The Kennedy assassination is very well-trod territory, and I just don't see myself adding (anything) new to that." -Matthew Weiner, at the end of season two
Weiner, like any artist, is allowed to change his mind, and so season three wound up not only including the Kennedy assassination, but confronting it head-on. But after seeing the finished product - the first episode of season three I've found truly disappointing - I can understand why he was initially reluctant to do it.

On the one hand, this is a series about the social change that came in the '60s, and so you can't not deal with Kennedy's death in some way. It would feel like either a cheat, or simply a glaring hole in the narrative. But on the other, Weiner was right that the assassination itself, and how people learned of and reacted to it, has been told so many times that there simply wasn't a lot that he (in a script co-written with Brett Johnson) could add to it.

With season one's episode about the Nixon vs. Kennedy election, or season two's Cuban Missile Crisis finale, the show took the approach of showing that even in the midst of a presidential election, or the potential end of the world, people were still caught up in the drama of their own lives. But even more than the Cuban Missile Crisis (which was an abstraction - the threat of something happening, rather than something actually happening), Kennedy's assassination was such an enormous event that it took over everyone's life for a little while. And many people spent those tumultuous days doing exactly what Pete and Trudy, and Betty, and the gang in the kitchen at the wedding - and characters in so many other JFK-era dramatizations - did, which was to sit in front of the television and try to process all of the bizarre, horrible things that were happening.

In the end, I don't know that Weiner had a choice, either about doing an episode about the assassination, or about showing the characters largely being passive, frustrated observers to it all.

But if it was necessary, it wasn't very satisfying to watch - watching a TV show about characters glued to their TV sets feels particularly slothful - and it felt even more unsatisfying coming on the heels of the astonishing second half of last week's "The Gypsy and the Hobo." "Mad Men" tends to go back and forth between telling larger stories of the '60s and smaller stories of the characters - and, at its best, stories that combine the two - and the shift from the important (to us) but (to the world at large) small moment where Betty learns the truth about Dick Whitman to the more sweeping yet (to our characters) remote story of JFK being killed was jarring. Since I realized when this season was set, and certainly since I saw the date of Margaret's wedding on the invitation(*), I've been waiting to see how "Mad Men" would deal with the assassination. But now that we're here, I find myself wishing they had pushed it off for a bit so we could have seen more of how Betty was dealing with this new information, and what the state of the Draper marriage was before Betty decided to end it.

(*) I'm not usually a good prognosticator, but I was pleased to see that I was right in assuming that Roger would stubbornly go through with the wedding, that it would be sparsely-attended, and that most of the guests would be miserable. Margaret's wailing, "It's all ruined!" reaction to the assassination was a nice reminder that not everyone was so devastated by the death itself.

Now, the fact that Betty's willing to walk away from Don (and into the arms of Henry Francis) should more or less tell you what the state of the marriage was. But we closed "The Gypsy and the Hobo" on a somewhat hopeful note: Betty hadn't asked Don to leave, wanted to go trick-or-treating with him and the kids, offered him the last bite of her sandwich, etc., while Don seemed relieved to have the burden of the secret lifted. Then the Drapers are largely invisible in this one at first (Don and Betty don't appear at all, alone or together for the first 10 minutes), and then they're dealing with reactions to Kennedy's death, and then Betty's eyeing Henry at the wedding. It's clear from their reactions to the kiss on the dance floor - Don looks hungrier for his wife than ever before, where Betty is lost in thought and a bit puzzled - that they're moving in different directions, but I think an opportunity was missed to show Betty going from Point A (interested in saving the marriage) to Point B (recognizing it as a lost cause).

Weiner apparently said in one of those "Inside Mad Men" features on AMC's website that Betty originally planned to move herself and the kids permanently to Philadelphia, and only went back to Don after the lawyer's advice was so depressing. In that light, Betty's emotional journey makes more sense - the Dick Whitman revelation was only a temporary blip in her desire to get the hell away from this man who's always been like a stranger to her - but in terms of what's been shown on the screen, rather than explained in an on-line footnote, I wanted more middle. I wanted to see how, if at all, Don and Betty's interaction changed after this news, to see how Betty viewed her husband now, how Don acted at home, etc., and aside from their brief moment in Gene's room in the middle of the night, there was no time for that with all the JFK drama unfolding.

And I wanted all of that because it feels like the relationship has now passed a point of no return, so we're never going to get a chance to see this in the future. Betty has now declared her desire to end the marriage twice, and while she took him back once, it would be tedious if the show kept breaking them up and putting them together again - especially since Betty only really took him back the last time because she was afraid to have the baby alone.

And that in turn raises a troubling question about what happens to Betty going forward. Betty has only ever figured into the story as she relates to Don, and we've seen this season with Joan and, especially, Sal, how easily characters who don't work at Sterling Cooper and/or don't have relationships with characters who work there can fall off the map. If Betty follows through on her plan to end the marriage, where does that leave her in the larger story? Will we have random, disconnected subplots about what Betty, Henry and the kids are up to? Or will the reality of Henry turn out to be so different from the fantasy of him that Betty will run screaming back to Don, and have Don (yawn) take her back?

I'm a little under the weather, so in the interests of both coherence and my health, I'm going straight to the bullet points to discuss everything else:

• Because Pete and Betty have so much in common as people (which I talked about at length in my review of season two's "The Inheritance"), their stories often tend to move in parallel. So in the same episode where Betty decides she's finally fed up with being Mrs. Don Draper, Pete has had enough of being at Sterling Cooper. I liked how Lane spelled out the difference between Ken and Pete's approaches, and how Pete - who always tries too hard at everything because he doesn't know how to be a real boy - doesn't understand why his approach is less appealing than Ken's. How do you suppose he'll react, though, to the idea of working with Duck should he find out that Duck is with Peggy?

• Whenever someone asks me if any character on this show is actually happy or well-adjusted, I always point to Kenny and his haircut (as Pete describes Mr. Cosgrove), but I guess the downside to that is that the writers don't have the time or interest in crafting stories about someone who isn't disappointed in his life or at any kind of personal or career cross-roads. Ken stories in the first two seasons were usually about how other characters reacted to him (Pete being jealous about the short story, Sal having a crush on him), and this year, we haven't even seen that much of our new Senior Vice President of Account Services.

• Carla Gallo makes her first appearance since the season's fourth episode as Peggy's roommate Karen, and it's clear from their conversation that the two are every bit the mismatched disaster they seemed back when Peggy was trying to sell herself as "fun" in their initial meeting. I liked Karen's confusion at learning that Duck was unmarried - "Oh. Then why are you with him?" - since to her (and, based on reactions to the first Peggy/Duck episode, to much of the audience) the relationship makes no sense if it's not a simple affair.

• And if I was Peggy, I would want to get as far away from Herman (Duck) Phillips as I possibly could. He's turned her into his new addiction - cajoling her to blow off Kurt and Smitty (his "a couple of homos" joke was half-right) for a nooner, inhaling cigarettes while waiting for her, and unplugging the TV so that news of Kennedy's shooting wouldn't get in the way of their sex. Fortunately, you could see alarm on Peggy's face when he put the TV back on - not only about the news itself, but about the realization that he tried to keep it from her until after he did his business.

• This week's episode was directed by Barbet Schroeder, probably best known for directing Jeremy Irons to an Oscar in "Reversal of Fortune" or, to lesser acclaim, sending Jennifer Jason Leigh after Bridget Fonda in "Single White Female" (another story of female roommates who probably shouldn't have been). I particularly liked the way he shot the moment where Betty emerges from the lady's room and sees both her husband her potential lover standing in front of her, as if both she and we aren't sure to whom she'll approach.

• I'll give Roger Sterling this: he may be selfish, and childish, and a boor, but the man gives a good speech. His introduction for Don at the 40th anniversary dinner was terrific, and his toast at the otherwise disastrous wedding reception was even better, finding a way to make the decision to go through with the ceremony seem noble, rather than stubborn.

• There was a lot of discussion after last week's episode about whether Roger, when dismissing Annabelle as The One, was thinking of Jane, or of Joan. I'm not sure it's either one - I think Roger's probably too cynical to believe in a greeting card concept like The One - and I still think he never would have been happy marrying Joan (she's too strong-willed and has too much baggage for him), but it was clear last week, and even more clear here, that she matters very much to him. She's the one he wants to talk to at the end of that awful day, not his drunken child bride (who, in one of the funnier lines of the episode, complains that she won't ever get to vote for Kennedy), nor his ex-wife (though it's clear from their phone call tag team on Margaret that they still can operate on the same wavelength from time to time), nor his drama queen daughter. And Joan still cares about him, too, just not enough to always indulge his neediness.

• While Walter Cronkite's reaction as he reports the official word of JFK's death is the most famous TV image from that day (and one of the most famous of all time), I thought it was a nice touch that the secretaries changed the channel in Harry's office from CBS to NBC, since Huntley/Brinkley were the more popular news team of the period.

• In his toast, Roger suggests that relative kids Margaret and Brooks are taking care of the adults, rather than the other way around, and while that's not really true (for Margaret, anyway), it was nice to see Sally immediately move to hug her mother upon news of the president's death. To a girl Sally's age, the death of a president isn't entirely real or relevant, but the pain of her mother was, and she reacted to that. Also, note how she (and, for that matter, Bobby) was painfully aware that her mother didn't in any way reaction to Don's presence in the kitchen on Monday morning?

• Don and Peggy, two peas in a pod: both wind up at the office because it's the only real home they have. And gold star to those of you who pointed out that the AquaNet commercial was supposed to evoke the Dallas motorcade, which the storyboard made very clear. Peggy's going to have a lot of rewriting to do over the next week.

Finally, I should warn you that this is the last episode of the season that I'm getting to see in advance. While AMC has sent out previous episodes for advance review to many critics, Weiner decided he wanted to keep the finale totally under wraps. So I'll be watching it live on Sunday night like the rest of you - and that, obviously, means that the review will not be posted right after the show ends on the East Coast the way it has all season. My plan is to do what I do for "Lost" finales, or for the later episodes of "The Sopranos" after David Chase also cut off the critics, and just stay up to write, but it may be a while. So don't lose any sleep waiting for it - and please don't send e-mails or post comments in other threads asking when the review will be done (or, worse, discussing the finale itself).

Keeping in mind the usual commenting rules (no spoilers, including talking about the previews, play nice with others, make an effort to read other people's comments so you're not asking the exact same question that's been answered six times already, etc.), what did everybody else think?

409 comments:

1 – 200 of 409   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Tonight's episode is pivotal in the series as it highlights the beginning of the cultural shift that was to come: Carla sitting on the sofa and smoking along with Betty, Roger's serious tone for once; Betty finally standing up and speaking her mind to Don; Pete no longer willing to conform and go along with the status quo as a company man and start looking out for himself. Even Jane spoke up to Roger....An interesting episode.

Rita said...

Betty kept asking "What does it mean?" and both Don and Henry replied "It will be all right." It felt like she was testing her own emotional reaction to their response.

Josh said...

I found the episode...maybe not disappointing, but frustrating, but for the appropriate reasons. The first 15 or so minutes were very cagey, in terms of not spelling out (at least, not to me) exactly when the show was taking place. Moreover, the various scenes occurring before it became clear that Peggy, Duck, Harry, Pete, Lane, Don, etc., were about to witness the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, were edited in such a way as to amp the tension...so much so that I wanted to know if we'd find any resolution to Don searching for a new art director, or Pete calling Duck, perhaps while he and Peggy are mid-coitus.

Then, there's the issue of Betty, so maddening, so confounding. On the one hand, she's absolutely right to push away from Don, but it's to the testament of Jon Hamm's performance tonight that I honestly felt bad for him. Here's a time when he's so actively involved, and she wants the older man to take her to see Gene Kelly. Betty's become something of a parallel to Jane; if she gets more involved with Henry, she, like Jane, goes to be with an older man, a silver-haired fox. Also, in this episode, her reactions are more aggressive, more childish (though who can blame someone for the reactions to JFK's death).

I wasn't as disappointed as you, Alan, but I'm curious to see how quickly the show focuses back onto the more character- and Sterling Cooper-based matters at hand in the finale.

CarolMR said...

This is neither here nor there, but wasn't it established in Season One that Don was a Nixon supporter?

Nicole said...

I don't know if Joan is the One for Roger, but I found that both she and his first wife are similar in their no-nonsense approach to dealing with difficult people. Roger clearly appreciates that characteristic, but would probably be horrified if he realized that Joan and Mona had something in common.

Despite everything that Don has done, I still can't help but feel for the guy when Betty announces that she doesn't love him anymore.

pantone290 said...

I thought that there was direct reference to how the assassination affected characters. Trudy does a complete 180 on her opinion of what Pete should do. I think Betty decides to tell Don she doesn't love him because Henry made her smile in such a dark time. That is not a minor thing.

Pete had some great lines- I loved the "I hope it was a hard decision." There was another when they were deciding not to go to the wedding, but I can't remember it.

When Sally turned to her mother in the kitchen on Monday morning, I said to my husband, "That's gonna lead to a 'you made daddy leave. It's all your fault' in a therapists office someday."

No, this ep wasn't as good as the last few. But I am still on tenterhooks waiting for next week.

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to throw this out there because I'm not sure how convinced of it I am. Are we supposed to see a parallel between the death of JFK and Betty's realization that Don Draper is nothing more than an elaborate set of lies?

Chris Littmann said...

As always, I learn something/catch something I missed. Good call on the AquaNet campaign. Totally missed that connection.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you found this episode disappointing. I thought it was fantastic and SO MUCH important stuff happened, though it did feel slow-moving (at one point I was sure the episode was over until I looked at the clock and realized it was only 10:30).

I thought it was brilliant because of the connection between the characters and us, the viewing audience at home: we were both sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, watching something horrible and fascinating unfold.

Anonymous said...

Although the finale hasn't aired, I think this season has given us both the best and worst episodes of any Mad Men season so far.

Cee said...

Anonymous @ 11:30 - absolutely. Betty has lost two heroes. And there's even a connection between Don and Jackie: both their worlds are crumbling.

Zack Smith said...

Alan, I'm surprised you disliked the episode as much as you did. I think it suffered a bit from too much soapiness, but it was interesting to see all the stories advance.

Interesting how, with the teacher, there seemed to be a situation where Don realized he didn't need Peggy. But Peggy, despite everything else, seems to be assuming some control. Will that last?

A note of continuity -- in the episode where Joan helped Harry, she mentioned AS THE WORLD TURNS as one of the shows for which they were buying commerical time. Notably, Harry is watching that show -- the only TV program that DIDN'T pre-empt when news of the assassination hits.

Boy, Pryce's ascot in the opening was kind of awesome.

I also like how the episode opened on Pete in the fetal position. How...appropriate.

Like the penultimate episodes in the last two seasons, this had a great deal of advancement, but there were no flashbacks to Don becoming Don this time. Unless there's something next week, perhaps we've seen all we need to see...?

Sort of liked the note of Carla smoking when she heard about JFK's death. It was as though she dropped a bit of the facade she maintains in the Draper household.

Nice how Jane parallels Margaret. Roger's traded one daughter for another.

Trudy seems like a good influence on Pete, and he finally realizes he doesn't need Sterling-Cooper's approval. But things could change in the next week...there's a sense he's about to get one more comeuppance. Surprised we've seen Trudy so much this season with Alison Bree on COMMUNITY.

Harry complains about being unnoticed. Why do you think that IS, Harry?

Speaking of Cranes, Jennifer was as annoying as ever at the wedding.

For some reason, I just like typing "Homophobic Duck." Peggy might not be inclined to work with him.

Not to discuss previews for next week -- it's just there weren't any! Anything could happen...

Cee said...

sorry, meant Anonymous @ 11:13!

gma said...

I was about Sally's age when Kennedy was assassinated, and I felt the show did a good job of showing how, like 9/11, the world kindof came to a stop. Adults were engrossed, kids got bored (though we got Monday off from school). Glad Weiner showed Jack Ruby killing Oswald, as that was a genuine shocker that everyone saw live.

That being said, Alan is right on target in pointing out that there is no "middle" ground for Don/Betty - suddenly he is showing affection for her? and Betty is ready to leave for Henry Francis, who says he will marry her (or is that just what she wants to hear?)

The Roger scenes -- with Mona, Jane and Joan - were all well written, making Roger less of a one-note than he was earlier in the season.

How will it all end? makes one wonder.

musicmajor said...

I loved a lot about this episode: Pete and his cocoa, Peggy getting over Duck (I'm inferring from the fact that she ended up at the office rather than with him at the end), Don making an effort, etc.

However, I was disappointed in a couple things that could have been much more subtle. Especially Betty's reaction to seeing Henry at the party, as well as the scene (that Alan mentioned having liked - sorry!) where Betty sees Don and Henry both looking at her. It reminded me of the Season 2 finale of Grey's Anatomy where Merideth is "choosing" between Derek and Finn. Yuck.

Also, I wouldn't assume that Betty has made up her mind to end their marriage. She didn't give Henry a definitive answer after all. Although I do think she was telling the truth when she said that she doesn't love Don anymore.

Another thing: Betty sought Don's embrace after learning that Kennedy was shot but pushed him away when LHO was. Thoughts on this, anyone? I haven't been able to figure out what it means.

CB said...

I wouldn't say I was as disapointed as you Alan,but there was something missing in this episode. And I'm not sure what. A show like Mad Men has such an intimacy to it. And when you take a moment in history that was so huge,it takes you right out of the story. At least that's how it felt to me. I didn't believe these were characters reacting to a historical event as much as actors acting like they were reacting to a historical event. Oh well.

Paul Worthington said...

I agree it was the least satisfying episode of the season. Yes, this show set in this time had to deal with the assassination -- but I kept hoping they'd jump forward a day or two or three past the event itself. It was a lot of emoting over something that had no resonance *in this story* -- I wanted to know more about the relationships of the characters I care about, not watch how distraught they are while watching TV.
And speaking of those relationships, the ending was very disappointing: last week's show ended on more than one hopeful note. This week just ignored that. I can see Betty being distant, but the series can't have her say she wants out again to have it back track again. [Or can it? Real relationships go back and forth a lot. Do TV stories have to be dramatic over realistic?]
Henry's suddenly saying he wanted to marry Betty would have raised alarms in anyone else but her. Have they even had a conversation? Were there off-screen moments? It seems to me they've been in person for less than a half hour, total, and she wrote him some letters... And on the basis of that, he wants to marry an already-married mother of three? He does not seem too stable himself now.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't disappointed. I was born after the JFK assassination and this episode touched me and made that moment in history feel more real to me than it ever had been before.

Anonymous said...

Great shows like the Wire got me so used to the next-to-last episodes of a season being climactic, that this felt like a letdown. It had to be done, but I wish it had been at a different point of the season, or early in the next season. As many people have mentioned, the assassination was a pivotal moment for the individual characters, but the effect is lessened by only having one immediate episode in succession where we can see how characters are changing. I imagine things will be radically different after the jump to season 4.

Anonymous said...

The scene where Sally is watching her mother cry at the JFK assasination, I thought for sure she would question that reaction. Especially after earlier episodes where Betty was not crying or grieving outwardly at the loss of her own father. I am surprised Sally would just hug mom, and not question the reason she is crying for JFK and not her own father.

Petite_Salope said...

This episode was absolutely phenomenal. I loved the way we see the Kennedy assassination affecting culture in such a poignant, yet not directly evident way. I was astonished at Pete's immediate skepticism and questioning of the event....what depth this adds to his character. So many character study parallels and yet, I'm just stunned after watching this episode the first time.

Wow.

Loretta said...

Small moment I noticed - Kinsey's teasing Peggy about her nooner with Duck was much more comrade-like than we've seen him be with her before. I guess the telegraph work from a couple weeks back really shifted his view of her. I definitely see more respect there than before--this was like the way he'd joke with "one of the guys," not his usual speaking down that he did with her.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed as well. So much of an anticipated crescendo. But on the other had, how could they have handled it?

BigTed said...

My first reaction to this episode was "why should we care how these self-centered people (and fictional characters, to boot) were affected by this momentous event?" But it's clear that this day, more than any other, sent the entire country hurtling toward the tumult that became known as "the '60s" -- and if the show is going to take us through the decade, then there was no way not to at least try to dramatize that turning point. And if the Drapers' marriage really is over, and Don's going to have his life turned upside down (and turn into what? a swinging single? a relic of an outdated time?), then it made sense to set it against that backdrop.

In fact, the image of Don hunched over in a chair, looking defeated -- and losing that world-conquering image, maybe temporarily, maybe for good -- might in itself be a pretty good metaphor for what the entire country started going through that day.

On a lesser note... yes, I think that if Betty goes off with Henry, it won't end up the way she's expecting. There's something weird about him proposing to a married woman, after only seeing her a few times -- either it'll turn out that there's something "off" about him that we don't know yet, or he'll be caught off guard when, as Don learned, Betty can't live up to her golden girl image any better than any other woman could.

Leguleius said...

Kennedy's death was the end of the fifties. Now it's a new world for everybody.

Matt said...

Interestingly, this was probably the most passive Don Draper has ever been. He doesn't appear for the first 10 minutes; he isnt up on the shooting with the office; he has not many lines, no big client meetings, no work--it's like with his secrets out he is neutered.

Anonymous said...

I was 12 when JFK was killed. I watched tonights episode feeling a lot like Sally Draper. I felt a lot like she looked like she was feeling- a little confused at the way these adults were behaving. I remember thinking that the sobbing adults in my family and our neighbors were feeling so much for someone they didn't even know. It felt odd to me, and when Henry said the lines " I am not in love with the tragedy of it all", ( referring to his romance with Betty of course) I laughed out loud because even at that young age I remember thinking that the people around me were enjoying the drama of the JFKs death a bit too much. But then I was a cynical kid. I thought the episode was amazing on many levels and that actually a lot of it was oddly funny. It even gave me goosebumps a few times. I am looking forward to a second viewing.

Stephen S Power said...

1. Ken on his knees getting the secretary's heater working while Pete scowls at him, is all anyone needs to know about why Ken has been moved up and Pete is likely moving out.

2. What the kids were reacting to in the kitchen at the end was not Betty's lack of reaction to Don's entrance, but his not giving her a kiss before his exit. It's the broken ritual that disturbs them.

3. Joba just gave up a home run to Feliz in the bottom of the 8th to tie up the game, and the World Series still isn't as compelling as Mad Men.

4. Don for once is like Pete: now he's trying to do everything right, such as getting up when the baby cries at night, but he's still not loved.

5. Good touch: the USMC tattoo on Duck's left arm.

6. How unfortunate was the cameraman's lens change just before Oswald was shot. He had the wide angle, which would have shown everything perfectly, then went to the close up which caught only the fleeting moment.

7. The best museum in America is the one in the book depository. For everyone born after Kennedy, for whom the assassination is just another piece of history, it really brings the awfulness of the moment to life.

Crystal said...

I too can't believe you didn't like this episode.
Although I wasn't alive when the assassination happened, I compared the characters' reactions to mine on 9/11 and found it all very similar - I called everyone I could, I stared at the TV and I wondered how many of my daily activities I should continue with.
I especially liked how people were so unaware of the history happening. Like when Don asked "What the hell is going on?" to a near-empty office. Or when Peggy was complaining about the hickey, mere seconds before learning the news.
Maybe I'm just too young to have seen this reaction to JFK getting shot done many times before on TV or in movies. Or maybe I just couldn't relate as well before experiencing 9/11 - but I thought the whole thing was unusually real here. And I’d like to think that my investment in these particular characters was what made this time so moving.
And not to defend Duck too much, but I kind of understood his choice to turn the TV off when Peggy got there. He was living HIS life at the time, and as far as he knew the president had merely been injured – news that could surly wait for later.
Also, does anyone know what the cold and hot office building issues at the beginning of the episode were meant to signify, if anything?

lactic said...

And you thought Duck could never top turning his dog loose on the streets of NYC...

Naggie said...

Alan, I would have to disagree with you on this. From the perspective of a historian, I felt the episode, with great dramatic economy demonstrated what scores of historians have written about: How the Kennedy assassination worked as a watershed cultural moment, propelling forward cracks in American society and trends to create the roaring 60s. Just by juxtaposing Betty's realization that nothing makes sense, the old rules, what kept things in place throughout the 50s, with her reaction to the Oswald killing ("What's going on?!"), they captured a reality in American history. The Kennedy assassination was not the Cuban missile crisis in that it was just not an important event. It was precisely what the episode demonstrated: It shook people out of the complacency of the old, it created the kind of nihilism that fed into the 60s as it did the idealism of the period. You see that brilliantly captured by the Campbells. The WASPY white couple, indignant at the superficiality of their friends and colleagues' reaction to the event.
At the end, this episode was about HOW america became politicized in a way it had never been before.

rhys said...

I agree that it was surprisingly weak. So much time was taken up showing people watching the coverage. I thought it was an OK representation of the event, showing some minutiae that was interesting. All the bars closed on a day of mourning, the cake not being made for the wedding, the church filled with people seeking religious solace. It was also interesting to see different character's reactions. Like how strongly Pete reacted to it, whereas Henry Francis (a Republican) seemed to blow it off.

Ultimately, I think they had to get it out of the way in order to set up the season finale without it hanging over everything. However, I too would've liked a clearer indication as to what made Betty finally snap to leave Don. It seems like the assassination, as well as Oswald's murder, put her over. But it's not really clear how. Perhaps because it represented innocence being shattered, like with Don's secret identity.

Interesting you mentioned Weiner is keeping the finale under wraps, because I noticed that there weren't any scenes from next week at the end like usual. Instead it was all scenes from previous episodes, like a recap.

Anonymous said...

I can't feel that this episode was just one huge setup for the finale next week. Obviously there was the Kennedy assassination, but it just planted some seeds for future storylines, nothing really came to fruition this week like the bombshell last week (altho few episodes could match up to last week).

I think frustrating is the right work, since there's absolutely nothing in terms of resolution in this episode, no "it" moment that'll make us remember this episode a few weeks months down the road (apart from JFK's killing). Obviously, there doesn't have to be a payoff for it to be a good episode. But still, I feel like it's one of those episodes where nothing really happens/no one does anything and you just end up dismissing it and looking forward to the next one...

t_song said...

Where do we all think Pete is going to take all of his clients? As the business culture moves away from the Sterling/Draper model to a Campbell/Peggy one (remember Pete's "You know who doesn't wear hats? Elvis" line), I wonder how will this evolve?

The show is called "The Grown-Ups," and this episode tries to foreshadow, irregardless of age, who is being run to and who is running.

Roger, despite his eloquence, is so drunk on his own needs that he can't understand the "grown-ups" watching the Oswald news coverage in the kitchen, ordering someone to get a cake. Then he has to run to Joan. Peggy, despite being young, complains of her mother praying "so hard" that she needs to escape to the office to feel something. As Alan pointed out, the children console the adults.

One of the aspects of MM I like is how it harkens back to the era of children idolizing their parents (remember Sally and Bobby in S2 sitting on the stairs). But post-Kennedy assasination, do we start seeing this shift of the children re-defining what "grown-up" means. And broader changes as well: Sexual Revolution, Civil Rights movement, Feminist Movement, etc.

Monica said...

Watching this episode a second time, I'm struck by how much Don seemed to want to bury his head in the sand when it came to news of the assassination.

He wanted Betty to turn off the TV so the kids don't watch, then he just had no misgiving at all about going to the wedding, whereas Betty and Pete were hesitant. Does he just not care?

I agree with Alan that there should've been more Don-Betty interactions after last week's big reveal. But in the writers' defense, major world events often turn into catalysts in peoples' personal lives. Maybe Betty finally realized that in a national crisis as big as the Kennedy assassination, when the world felt to her like it was crumbling, the man she wanted wasn't her husband -- therefore, she doesn't love him anymore.

Interesting that Don didn't call Suzanne during all this.

Graeme said...

I thought the episode was great. Not as spectacular as The Gypsy and the Hobo but this is the lull between that and the finale.

I love how they tease about where they're at in the timeline for the first act and then just move into the Kennedy Assassination so matter of factly-- I recognized the episode of As The World Turns playing in the background in Harry's office from watching the CBS assassination coverage on YouTube. I thought they caught that fast curve where everything in one's life seems so important and then becomes radically dwarfed by everything outside it beautifully.

And I think that's where the episode resonated more for me. The episode for me is about that relationship between enormous events and ordinary lives. The assassination events crystallize Don's neediness, Betty's loneliness, Roger's yearning for Joan, Pete and Trudy's resolve about Sterling Cooper... In fact one of the great things about the episode is that Don assumes everything Betty is going through is because of the big events transpiring when he just does not get Betty's ordinary life.

And I loved that when Pete walked out of his meeting about Ken's promotion, what does he see but Ken, affable as ever, hooking up a space heater for one of the secretary. Five minutes earlier, Pete had to apologize for chewing out his secretary for not getting real cocoa. Nice touch.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the pills Don took? They looked to be prescription for Betty but I don't recall her ever getting a prescription.

I thought the episode should have ended with Don in the bedroom, head down--it was strange to have it continue on.

Don, for all his prior sins, seems genuinely trying to be a better husband. He's smart, so he knows what Betty is up to--long, strange trips in the car alone to "clear her head" and furtive glances at the wedding. Would that bode poorly for Betty's custody of the children? Does she even want the children, as she seems so often distant from them?

Christopher Russo

Danger Boy said...

Am I crazy, or does there seem to be almost ZERO chemistry between Betty and Henry? Is it just that her character is so icy? Or is he just a father figure to her? A distraction? I do not get it. And I don't seem them together.

Joan and Roger had a really nice moment -- there was a line where she realized how serious he was because he wasn't joking or something. And Roger is just awful with Jane. It seems every time there's a prediction here that something's going to happen -- Don and the teacher getting together, Betty and Henry getting together, etc. -- we all poo-poo it. And then it happens. So now I'm figuring that Roger and Joan really will get together. Because these things we keep casting aside as unrealistic red herrings just keep happening anyway.

I agree that this was dissatisfying episode, and also agree that I can't imagine any other way to handle it. But it did give me a very sick, surreal feeling. The scene of Don in the office with all the phones ringing off the hook was straight out of the Twilight Zone -- the last man on earth. So maybe Weiner did his job in making us feel disoriented and unsettled by the assassination.

Finally, my mom has told the story that she was crying when Kennedy was killed and that my sister, who was three-and-a-half, started crying, too. She had no idea what was going on, but was upset because her mom was upset.

Anonymous said...

Harry Crane talking about being the head of television--interesting given how this would also change things for TV. Oswald's murder was on live TV, and on 9/11 we watched thousands more, but JFK's was not televised. For a post-assasination-born person growing up when everything is televised it's strange to think there were no moving images until much later.

Hyde said...

Crystal, I had some of the same thoughts about the comparison to 9/11. When that news broke, I was watching out of the corner of my eye and thought there had just been some sort of odd accident (compare to Harry and Pete not even paying attention to the now-iconic footage at first). The growing sense of dread and horror that these characters felt was very 9/11-like to me.

Very Sopranos-like of Weiner to have what many assumed would be the climactic historical event of Season 3, the Kennedy assassination, occur in the next-to-last episode.

I'm not really sure how else Weiner could have handled this. Begin the episode on the wedding day, and you miss the kind of scenes we've seen so many times before, but we miss the Pete plot developments (and it makes sense that Pete would have gotten news like that on a Friday). And my family had its own unavoidable drama on this particular weekend (my sister was born on the day of Margaret's wedding), so it was interesting to me in that respect.

This was the one time where Betty's tendency to let TV do the babysitting made some sense. You can't very well tell a school-age child not to pay attention to this kind of news.

Still not believing Peggy and Duck, or Duck and any female for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Everything in this epi was a little too on the nose, in regards to "The Day Everything Changed". That said, it was not bad.
Again, I found myself sympathizing with Pete, with Pete!
And several times, yelling at the screen when Don says its going to be alright. No, Don its not going to be alright, especially for you and the life you have bought into.
I think Weiner captured the bewilderment many felt that weekend and the crack in the trust of the status quo that would allow the variety of changes to occur later in the 60s, especially Betty's response to Oswald's assassination.

Puff

Cee said...

I also wanted to add that this was the first Mad Men episode that made me cry (and I'm the type who cries at anything, especially television episodes). I can't even put a finger on why it impacted me so much, but I was just feeling empathy for these characters so deeply. And I wasn't even born in the 60s.

Pamela Jaye said...

well, someone beat me to Meredith, Derek and Finn. I have to say it was odd. And everyone was dressed up. On Grey's, that happens rarely

Good call on the AquaNet campaign. Totally missed that connection.

I did as well. It was right in front of me and I didn't see it.

Henry - what is his plan? To take Betty or to notice that she has three kids too? When do we think he might notice this?

I was sad for Don - I could see in his face that he loved her, or wanted her, or needed something from her, or something yearning or vulnerable. Perhaps it's one of the few times I've liked him. Or found him at all attractive in his 60s hair.

In the beginning, I had no idea it was that far into November (I thought *next* ep) and was surprised to see (at least I saw *this*) the special bulletin in the background on the muted TV.

And all the phones ringing... I wonder who would call, but I guess relatives.

I can't remember just when American Dreams premiered (i'd guess Sept 2002) I just remember it starting right here. Everyone watching TV. Wish I'd labeled the tapes... or knew where they were.

Since I didn't realize it would be tonight, just before this I was watching a History Channel program on the JFK assassination.
Timing...

Anonymous said...

Agree that Betty should by all rights be seen as perfectly within her rights to look outside the marriage, and yet, because she's so petulant, I don't find myself feeling sympathetic towards her. Of course, with Don dutifully towing the line at home, Mr. Weiner is setting him up as the sympathetic figure. Telling too was Betty's reaction to Don and Henry both saying to her that things are going to be okay -- her reply to Don is how do you know they are; her reply to Henry is a reassured smile... Don't agree with you Alan that episode was problematic -- only 3 weeks have elapsed since Don's identity was revealed to Betty, and something as troubling as the Kennedy assassination would be a catalyst for seismic changes in a relationship like Don and Betty's. I speak from experience: my first marriage had be on the rocks for months, but my former wife and I were still attempting to function like a married couple. Then the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, and for some reason that was a catalyst for a lot of emotional discussions that began the full scale collapse of our relationship. Such jarring public events do cause one to re-examine things that have been kept beneath the surface...

Alex said...

I knew it would be very hard to top last week's episode.Some parts of this episode felt like exactly what I was expecting, and hence I, too can see why Weiner was reluctant to do this episode. However, certain parts felt just right for this show (Pete and Harry talking about Pete's demotion as Cronkite broke the news, Duck unplugging the TV, the reasons Pete refused to go to the wedding). What distinguished this for me as an important, seemingly not that cliched was the connections and parallels established. I hope this doesn't break Alan's "no politics" rule, but I now noticed the symbolic "death" of Don to the death of JFK. Though they've pushed the Draper marriage to the edge in both previous seasons it really does seem like the point of no return now; I noted desperation on Don's face as he offered to accompany Betty on her "drive". Then of course the irony in Don saying "it will all be the same" when nobody has any idea just how much their world will change in the coming years.

Pamela Jaye said...

oh, and Duck is an ass.

KcM said...

The JFK assassination notwithstanding, there was another big sixties moment in this episode: Well, I see Jane has got herself a brand-new leopard-skin pill box hat.

As for the rest of it...meh. This was an episode where some of the larger faults of the show came into crisp detail.

As Alan pointed out in his discussion of Ken Cosgrove, we're three seasons in now, and many of the main characters, particularly in and around the office, are still woefully underwritten.

Meanwhile, we're still belaboring the Don-and-Betty relationship, which has been spinning the same old wheels since the show began, getting soapier all the while. And the further we get from the office, the more the show gets stuck in the ditch.

Like I said last week, most folks here may think Suzanne is crazy, but I think she's a much better fit for Don, as was Rachel. So here's hoping Betty's out for real this time. Frankly, it's all gotten a bit dull, and -- the kids notwithstanding -- it's clear they'd both be happier. She can go have her Rockefeller Republican, and Don can finally settle down with one of his worldly brunettes.

Anyway, between Don-Betty on the rocks for real, Pete and possibly Peggy contemplating jumping ship, Roger thinking of Joan and vice versa, and Sterling-Cooper on the block, my guess is the show is set for a bigger great leap forward than usual for Season 4. I'm betting S4 begins no earlier than the '64 election, and could start as far ahead as '66 or '67.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes feel like I am a 100 years old when I read reviews and comments about Mad Men. This episode is called "The GrownUps" The idea has faded over the last few decades, but one way of viewing being a grown-up is to take it day to day and believe everything will be okay.

I thought this was an excellent episode. When Wiener said he couldn't add to the assassination of JFK I never thought that meant he wouldn't talk or show it. And really,he didn't add to our understanding of it. However he has used the tragedy to magnificently magnificently illustrate the mood of this era. Wiener and his MM crew are masters of mood and place. I was amazed.

Anonymous said...

I, too, was about Sally's age at the time. I was impressed with this episode - it manged to bring the events of that day back to me with startling clarity. I was interested to see each character's reaction to the tragedy, particularly Don's. He seemed to feel that through the power of his will he could wish away the days' events -- deflecting the feelings of those around him, refusing to let the horror touch him. His attempt to prevent his chidren from watching television was inexcusable. Everyone watched. For four days there was no regular programming and no commercials. Just a nation in mourning.

April said...

Sondheim, Assassins, "Something Just Broke" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2yH98Ulbc4

or http://tinyurl.com/yjja7rh

(at ASU -- first one I found, but felt I had to hear this after this episode).

Chuchundra said...

I know we're not supposed to talk about the previews, but I thought it was interesting that the preview for next week only had footage from previous episodes. Usually the Mad Men previews are cryptic and unhelpful anyway, often random jots of conversation strung together with out context.

But this week, he didn't even give us that. He didn't want us to see even one frame from the season finale.

Jon Koncak's Thighs said...

@ Paul Worthington: I also felt that it was intimated that perhaps Betty and Henry had seen each other, maybe even been intimate, in the time since we last saw them together. How else could you explain his "proposal"? That was downright bizarre if all they have shared is a meet-cute, lunch, stolen kiss, and thrown piggy bank!

Hillary said...

I'm trying to determine what the significance may be of Don missing both shootings and having to ask what was going on.

Perhaps another role-reversal for him, as now he is the one asking others, rather than dodging what others are asking?

I was waiting to hear Betty speak his name, to see who she might call him in what situation. Don it was...

Scott said...

I'd be interested to see what everyone thought of this episode based on whether they were alive and/or remembered the JFK assassination.

As someone born long after, I thought the episode was phenomenal.

Alex said...

I'm trying to determine what the significance may be of Don missing both shootings and having to ask what was going on. - Hillary

Seems to me like a fairly simple image of the world passing Don by and him not realizing it until it's too late.

Pamela Jaye said...

it's a silly little thing, but Trudy's blue dress. My mother had a dress a lot like that, which she wore to special things when my parents went out, when I was a kid. I think it was from a wedding she was in (probably my aunt's, as the other one I know she was in was the day before I was born). It was was very shiny and I think it was that shade of blue, and poufy like that one.
I may have tried it on once, way back when. I'm sure it didn't fit, as it was a size 12. (my mum weighed like 128 or something till my little brother was born).
Oh, and unlike Betty, my mother only had the one very fancy dress.
I have more than she had... maybe that's cause I don't have any kids who need clothing.

I hope they skip a year now, just for the sake of getting to see *my* historic memory - the night the lights went out - two years later. (and yet I don't, cause I want to see what happens with Don and Betty. and maybe Peggy, and possibly Pete).

It was nice to see Joan. I can only wonder what Sal is doing.
And I liked that Pete said hehoped it was a hard decision. I also enjoyed seeing Huntley and Brinkley. It was only years later that I knew which was which, but recent googling has shown me that I was not alone.

Jape77 said...

Alan, I too am curious you found it disappointing... Considering the admitted (and perceived) difficulties in taking on the assassination from a story telling point of view, I found the writers take on it brilliant:

First, it came bubbling up in the background, and there were 3 entire scenes were WE knew what was happening but the characters were oblivious. (Part way thru Harry and Pete's conversation I grabbed my wife's arm and said breathlessly 'oh my god this is it')

Second, yes, while sitting around watching TV of characters watch TV isn't interesting TV, it fits into the bigger theme of cultural change that TV itself had introduced that this show often touches upon. Would it be any less interesting for a show 40 years in the future to show people frantically emailing and blogging about 9/11? Certainly, but to do so would be to dishonestly ignore your story's environment

Finally, while I too found Betty's aboutface re: Don confusing, by setting that within the Kennedy shooting it was able to take advantage of transference and shift our disbelieve and depression onto the collapsing Draper marriage.*

I don't think they could have handled it more brilliantly than they did.


*The best example I've ever seen of this is the season finale of Rome, where the death of Caesar -- which we expected -- was given shock and horror by the sudden and unexpected suicide of Lucius' wife Niobe, with one scene cutting to other with the emotions intact.

evie said...

Like others said, to me Weiner was drawing clear comparisons between the assassination and 9/11, at least in terms of the trauma to the country.

The phones went out then, too. But they were landlines, and not cell phones. And people cried, went to church, and wondered if the world was coming to an end.

I'm surprised Alan didn't note the parallels at all.

I liked the way they showed NBC (or perhaps ABC) instead of the Cronkite standard. Others went with the AP story early. And I like the interviews with people on the street -- those are the kinds of moments missing in the clips. In fact, what was missing were the ubiquitous ones... Jackie and the dress, the motorcade over and over.

I also like how for some people, this event, like 9/11, did wake people up. Trudy doesn't want to just go along; Betty wants something better. We'll see how long these epiphanies last, but they feel real in the moment.

I was worried Weiner was going to gloss over the moment. I'm glad he didn't.

Susan said...

a few quick things - I was Sally's age too during the Kennedy assassination and I agree that the show set the tone of the time. I felt sadder the longer I watched it. Absorbing what everyone seemed to feel and react to. A very somber episode. (Although at Sally's age we mostly were grumpy that TV was off with funerals and all for so long).

Also, was Betty emboldened to tell Don that she was unhappy with him only AFTER she was proposed to (and given a financially secure option)? The lawyer was pretty grim about her chances, but Francis gives her a clear out (money wise, not necessarily child wise). I wish this wasn't the case and that she was stronger - but Betty is Betty.

Devin McCullen said...

Duck unplugging the TV (not even just turning it off) was really perfect. It's hard to be the sleaziest guy on this show, but he pulls it off.

To whomever was saying that Roger and Joan will get together, you may be right. I don't know if she really expected anything, but she did go out of her way to let Roger know that Greg wasn't around that night...

Like other folks, I was spending the first segment wondering what day it was supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

The fear I had about a Kennedy murder episode was that it would draw clear lines--"this was the end of the innocence, the stark line of demarcation that started The Sixties"--that nobody on Nov. 22 would have recognized, and that in reality probably don't exist to begin with. Vietnam was already underway (Oliver Stone aside, Kennedy was ready to escalate, not withdraw), the Pill had been approved by the FDA, MLK already had given his I Have a Dream Speech, and Bob Dylan had released Freewheelin', and so the Sixties proper were well underway and would have transpired just about the way they did had Oswald missed.

Tonight's treatment of what happened, I fear, is born of that kind of oversimplification. I guess for me it's in the same neighborhood as the more preachy, self-congratulatory, self-aware moments that seem to be the most criticized aspect of the show (see, most recently, the Schwartz piece in last month's Atlantic). I don't care much as it relates to historical analysis, but I do hope Weiner & Co. don't have the characters react drastically in a manner consistent with, and parallel to, this tectonic-shift theory of what happened in Dallas.

r said...

i thought the exchange in the beginning between a drunk roger and jane was really interesting.

she runs into the other room and locks the door and he goes after her in an almost abusive threatening manner yelling "don't you lock that door !" like this happens a lot.

furthermore, he asks about her trying to kill herself which could possibly mean she has had a suicide attempt or two. perhaps her immaturity coming out in a previous cry for attention - or perhaps her not getting her way.

interesting stuff.

a.e. said...

I enjoyed the episode. Like 11:21, I was born after the assassination (well after, early 80's actually) so I didn't experience it first-hand nor have I been inundated with coverage of the event.

Further, I thought the parallel between the end of the world as they knew it and the Draper marriage was interesting especially since it definitely blind-sided Don. To me, it seems that in the ensuing weeks, he has become a kinder, more family-oriented Don and as he was becoming comfortable in his way of life, a major sea-change occurs and he is unsure how to handle it. Note the way he timidly approaches the kitchen on his way to work. JFK's assassination rocked the nation, and while Don's reaction was muted, you can see Betty's proclamation has rocked his own world.

BTW, can anyone explain Roger's comment about his son-in-law's net worth dropping by half means? I think he was referring to his daughter now being entitled to half his estate, but that didn't seem to square with what Betty's lawyer told her about divorce in the last episode.

frabjous said...

I loved the way they introduced the assassination, in the background, on a TV with the volume turned down. It was exactly right. Since the episode aired I've been thinking about Auden's great poem "Musee des Beaux Arts," which begins

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along

I also thought, remembering back to 9/11, that it makes total sense that the characters can't bring themselves to do much beyond sit and watch, and yet some feel driven to do something to change their lives radically, whether it's considering leaving a marriage or a job. I also agree with the comment above that it's in some way a commentary of us, the viewers, and how we became a nation that is brought together by the TV.

And finally, I was struck by how much Dick Whitman was present in this episode - how vulnerable Don lets himself be throughout to Betty, how much more he's showing her of the man underneath in their interactions. He's still Don when he doesn't want to watch the news, and of course he puts on his armor when she tells him she doesn't love him anymore, but I don't think that awful moment of him grieving his loss of her would have been as powerful for me if I didn't read him as *trying* so hard (for him, admittedly) throughout much of the rest of the episode.

Shannon said...

I really liked the episode. I haven't seen many other stories about JFK's death, so it didn't feel like I'd seen it all before.

I was surprised at how upset I felt about the prospect of Betty leaving Don. Obviously, he deserves to be left after all the ways he's disrespected her and their marriage, and I don't really believe that he would change for good. Still, like others, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Don. Part of me hopes he will make some sort of last-ditch attempt at saving his marriage. I can't imagine what the show will be like with them separated.

Rhoda said...

You know we're always going: Who's the Jackie? Was it Joan? Was it Betty? Was it Jane?

But tonight made it very clear who the Jackie's of Mad Men are: It's Don. It's Peggy. It's Roger. It's Joan. They're the ones who kept moving in this episode. They're the ones who recognized that they have to keep moving.

I was watching and the scene that stayed with me was when Betty tells Don that she doesn't love him and then she tells him he's not hearing her and he says she's right and then him sitting in that room with his whole world gone.

Betty's been losing this life a little at a time from the first episode we watched. We've watched her physical and mental pain. We've watched her grow harder and stronger and become this new person. JFK hit Betty hard but it didn't take something away from her in this episode. She didn't lose something, she let something go.

Don lost his marriage and he lost his future. It was very much like Pete losing the future he had envisioned.

I'm very interested to see where the show goes from here.

I was also really interested to see Betty and Henry. I think that is very much like the mistake that Roger made with Jane. If that is the direction the show goes with her; it's going to be interesting.

I'm also really interested to see how the sale of Sterling Cooper shakes out.

I'm going to watch this again but I really enjoyed the show tonight. There was so much movement in the story IMO: from Peter, to Peggy and Duck, to the end of the Draper illusions. I'm just wild over the fact that there's just one more episode left. I can not wait for the next season already, lol.

Monica said...

Just wanted to add, again, thanks to the second viewing (Yay AMC!), that there is such a contrast in the way Don and Henry respond to Betty's anxiety.

Don said: "Everything will be okay."
Betty: "How do you know that?"
In response, Don kisses Betty, essentially saying with his kiss, "Look at all we've been through. I've revealed my biggest secret to you and we're still together. If we can still love each other, everything will be alright in this world."

That's not the answer Betty wanted to hear at all.

And then there was Henry and Betty:

Betty: What's going on?
Henry: Everything will be okay. We've lost presidents before. ... Have you ever thought that there could be different ways to live?

I have a feeling one of tonight's themes was about people doing what they think are the right thing to do, leading to disastrous consequences that are the opposite of the desired outcomes.

Pete trying too hard, Jane trying too hard, Don... trying too hard.

It struck me that Henry's practical, even-tempered, forward-looking response to Betty's anxiety was what the Don Draper of Season 1 would've said. But now that Don's finally ready to open himself up to Betty, she's just not having it.

Oh... I feel for Don sometimes.

Danger Boy said...

I'm also thinking Suzanne Farrell must be an absolute wreck. And was hoping Don would check in with her, like Roger did with Joan.

And back to red herrings coming true, I am also now convinced that Don will find a way to start his own shop, bringing Peggy and Sal and Joan and Pete along. And that Don and Peggy will get it on. Anything that's scarcely suggested in the show will come true.

compain87 said...

I agree with Scott

I'd be interested to see what everyone thought of this episode based on whether they were alive and/or remembered the JFK assassination.

I was born plenty after the tragedy but this reminded me of how 9/11 affected everyone and stopped everything.

When Carla sat down with Betty and we saw both these women cry it got to me. On one hand there was this ice cold women who is just childish most of the time. Then there was Carla who in this time of change has to simply bite her tongue around the Betty. In that moment though it just hurt everyone.

Jeff said...

I thought the episode was a little unusual, but great. It wasn't a typical episode of the series, but it was totally surreal and seems to have captured how people felt and acted during that bizarre weekend. (I wasn't alive then.)

I thought the unexpected three-week jump ahead worked very well. I'm sure we were all expecting that if the show were to deal with the assassination, it would happen next week, not this week, so we wound up being as surprised as the characters when it actually happened. When we saw the soap opera on the TV set, I started to get suspicious, and as soon as the bulletin appeared on the screen I recognized it. It was so jarring.

Alan, you write:

"I think an opportunity was missed to show Betty going from Point A (interested in saving the marriage) to Point B (recognizing it as a lost cause)."

But change doesn't always happen gradually. A surreal event can shock the senses. I remember that the whole experience of 9/11 felt so surreal, so disconnected from reality. When something shocking like that happens, you can wind up making strange, abrupt personal decisions. I guess it might have been nice to see some of the intervening three weeks, but I think Weiner wanted to shock the audience by bringing up the assassination so unexpectedly.

Oh, and I, too, want to know the significance of the extreme cold followed by the extreme heat. It made me think of that classic "Twilight Zone" episode, "The Midnight Sun" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Midnight_Sun), and I wondered if it had aired around that time -- but it actually aired in 1961. So I don't know what Weiner was trying to signify.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, Duck not only called Peggy "Pee Wee" but called her office as "Mr. Herman."

Alan Sepinwall said...

But change doesn't always happen gradually. A surreal event can shock the senses.

True. I'm not discounting that the assassinations (both of them, actually) wouldn't have jarred Betty into action. I just think a major opportunity was lost by not letting us spend even an episode on seeing the state of the Draper marriage post-confession.

Alan Sepinwall said...

If I'm not mistaken, Duck not only called Peggy "Pee Wee" but called her office as "Mr. Herman."

Herman is his real first name. It's the codename he's been using to call people at SC. He was Pete's "Uncle Herman."

evie said...

Rhoda -- great point about noting those who want to move forward and not just become immersed in the tragedy.

I'd add Trudy and Henry to your list. Besides wanting to go to the wedding initially, Trudy also tells Pete: "You'll stay home tomorrow, but you'll go in to work on Tuesday." And Henry basic message to Betty is, "Hey, stuff happens. Will you marry me?"

Scott J. said...

Sally: "What happened?"
Don: "Nothing."

It made me sick to my stomach to watch Don's repeated insistence that everything's going to be fine, nothing's wrong, everything's okay. "It felt for a second like everything was about to change," Pete said. I'm sure that's how Don felt about his marriage, having the weight of his lie finally lifted and the hope that Betty could still love him.

But the best she could muster was pity, and I doubt that would ever change. Henry and JFK only hastened the dissolution of their marriage. The baby couldn't fix it. The truth couldn't fix it. And it's painful to see the rug pulled out from under them now.

Of course, things will change, just not at all in the ways Pete or Don expected. I fear that Don will take all of this as confirmation that the real Dick could never be loved or accepted, driving him back, deeper into his facade than ever. Just when things were looking up...

Anonymous said...

I am glad the direct approach was taken to the JFK incident. It brought back the raw emotion I felt of that day/era--and it was important to show people glued to the TV since that's what we did. Things were cancelled left and right that weekend. And what you saw in the kids, that's how kids felt too. The story line is truly secondary, but I'm glad that it was done this way--as someone said, if you didn't live though it, this was just history, but here you see the history plus the raw emotion of that day that still resonates today.

Anonymous said...

Damn Roger had good taste in women. The trophy wife is annoying, but am I the only one who finds his ex wife beautiful? I could watch her all sixty minutes.

And of course Jane is the epitome of woman.

Lisa said...

The thing I loved about this episode is that with the exception of Carla, absolutely no one felt any genuine sense of loss at JFK's death. All we saw were selfish reactions to that surreal weekend, and Betty was at the forefront of that. Yes, she cried, but had she ever given a fig about Kennedy before? Remember back in S1 the divorcee down the street who was campaigning for JFK? Betty seemed suspicious of her and the candidate. And let's face it, Betty has chosen a Rockefeller man for her first serious affair.

Peter tried to hold up the assassination as a national outrage, but it was just a way to bury himself in self-pity over his demotion. Peggy couldn't get far enough from her Catholic family devastated by the loss. Don has so little connection to anything real in the world, he seemed to be skating on top of events the entire time.

No question why he and Peggy hit the office when it all got to be too much.

I was 4 years old when JFK died, and I remember some adults around me grumbling that the anchors were almost exhorting people to cry, to display emotion in a way that was almost unseemly at the time. I think Weiner & Co. captured that atmosphere beautifully.

The JFK assassination, like 9/11, or even like Princess Di's death, gave people something of an excuse to express naked emotion in ways not previously seen. Sometimes, the companion to that is reckless behavior. I think that's what's coming next episode, and at the very least, I think we might see Betty packing her bags for Philadelphia with the kids. That, on top of the news finally leaking out that SC is up for sale again.

Apple cart upset all the way around.

One last unrelated point. Pete's wife was a font of common sense this episode, wasn't she? Quite the little strategist. Wonder where that's heading.

Susan said...

Alan,
Did we really need to see more of the Draper marriage, post-confession? Last week's episode spoke volumes about, as someone noted, two people with an inability to trust each other. Betty at least was guarded; Don wanted to go on with the fantasy (but not really). The shock of the assassination (perhaps reminding Betty that it can all end without warning) and Henry's proposal (giving her the means, or at least the promise that her future is likely secure) jarred Betty into action. In short, there wasn't much to see that we didn't already have given to us. It was intense enough that I for one, am glad this week gave us a different intensity.

a.e. said...

Also wanted to add that it seemed that Betty explained the status of their marriage in the last three weeks during the "I don't love you anymore"-scene. It seems as if for the last three weeks she has been tamping down her feelings and not allowing herself to express her shock/rage/disappointment from Don's revelations because he has been acting like the perfect husband and making everything seem okay. As a woman who has been with a man who has severely disappointed her and continued with the relationship for some time, I know that reaction too well. The inability to act as if everything is anything but normal because he is now behaving as you had always wanted, yet the seeds of discontent remain and continue to grow.

Eric said...

During the episode I had to look up the Wikipedia article on the Zapruder film. Because to our modern sensibilities would expect the anchors to be showing footage of the assassination over and over again, the fact that it wasn't there was jarring. I knew it was many years before the film was shown on TV, I just wanted to know when (1975.) The detail in the article amazed me, and brought back to mind something I formulated about the Kennedy assassination back in my days as a conspiracy theorist: JFK was killed in Dallas, but so was consensus reality. After this event, no matter how many details and facts there were (are) about something, there's no agreement on what really happened - everything is politicized.

So here we have the characters in this show having their perspectives warped, viewing the same event with different eyes one side of the assassination or another: Betty looks at her marriage and sees nothing worth saving, while Don sees a new beginning. Trudy looks at how Sterling Cooper handled Pete, and does a 180 on how he should respond. Roger looks at Jane and now sees a child, which sends compels him to talk to Joan. And Peggy, I think now sees some of Duck's creepiness. (One jarring moment- when Peggy said "There was no room for anyone else to feel anything"- that's a very '90s, new agey/therapist construction.)

Anonymous said...

THis was not disappointing -- I am glad the direct approach was taken for the JFK incident. It brought back the raw emotion of the day as I felt on that day & weekend. Unlike other episodes, the story
line is truly secondary to history. Like someone said, if you
didn't live through this, it seems like pages of history, but this
episode - with the TV watching - that's what we did! The reaction
of the kids - that's what kids were like, we cared about what
happened, and kids were glued to TV's watching news for the first time with this incident, listening to their parents for clues
about what this meant. rdg1

MyFawny said...

Weiner apparently said in one of those "Inside Mad Men" features on AMC's website that Betty originally planned to move herself and the kids permanently to Philadelphia, and only went back to Don after the lawyer's advice was so depressing. In that light, Betty's emotional journey makes more sense
maybe it's a female point of view, but I immediately thought the reason Betty came back to deal with Don was because the Philly lawyer told her she was better off staying with him. I didn't mind them covering the Assassination, it somehow worked and made sense to me. One thing is for sure I am dying to see what Peggy decides to do about Duck. Yeah he's a jerk and I think she's beginning to see that, but I think she likes being able to get shagged regularly. I doubt it will be the love of her life, but still....

Jeff said...

Scott J. (12:24) writes,

"It made me sick to my stomach to watch Don's repeated insistence that everything's going to be fine, nothing's wrong, everything's okay."

I found it an interesting touch that, even now that JFK is dead and LBJ is president, on Monday morning Don STILL goes to the office wearing a hat. Not only does his hat survive the presidency of the man who almost singlehandedly killed haberdasheries: he's still wearing it into the Johnson administration. This man will never, ever catch up.

BigLittleWolf said...

For those of us with recollections of the Kennedy assassination, there was much that rang true. Moreover, that triggered our own recollections.

I was a young child, but in Kennedy territory. He was the Prince. I remember the scenes playing over and over on tv, the adults stunned, my mother unable to stop crying. I remember being taken to mass to say prayers for JFK, and we weren't Catholic.

Everything of our daily lives - even as a child - was smaller, dismissed, executed mechanically.

Weiner had to present the reality of what went on.

As for other aspects of the episode, in the wake of this larger event that seems to shout "everything could fall apart and nothing is stable" - of course Betty would make mistakes in judgment - including thinking she might have a future with Henry.

I don't think the marriage is done. I do wish we'd gotten more meat between the two main characters during the period between Halloween and the days just before the assassination.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Alan. This episode was disappointing, especially after last's week's episode, which I thought was the best in the entire series. If Betty could take Don back after Bobbie Barrett, couldn't she be a little bit understanding of why he lied to her about his past? I really felt for Don last week and this week.
I don't think I will be very interested in watching Betty and Henry's developing relationship, if that's the direction the show will be taking.

M.A.Peel said...

Great throwaway line at the reception: someone says to Roger at the main table, "I heard the church was packed," and Margaret says something like, "most of them weren't invited by us." Subtle reference to the world outside of the MM universe.

Pamela Jaye said...

I spent the first part wondering where we were physically. All the Sterlings were in places that looked to me to be hotels.
I don't know why. (nor why I would think they would need to be in a hotel for a wedding they were not traveling to)

As for my reactions based on whether I was alive. My reactions have already been mentioned (except that I noticed A LOT of TV footage. Stuff I wasn't used to seeing. That was unusual to me, although it's not odd. it *would* have been saved.* It's just stuff I've never seen.)

I was alive at the time, but I was 4 and a half, and I really don't remember it (despite the fact that there exists, a picture of me - somewhere - in front of the TV with the funeral going by (we still have the TV. it's a '56 Zenith, and no, it doesn't work, even before digital. It did, however, had an early remote, run by flashlight like remotes - until that day when the rising sun turned it on, turned it up full blast, and started changing our four local stations rapidly (with the noise of snow, in between). it was disabled after that. and yes, we were asleep))

I remember at least one thing that probably happened before. But it was just a commercial that scared me. Nothing time sensitive.

So it's sorta like the Cuban Missile Crisis to me - I'm always curious about it (I wasn't even aware of that one till I was much older) cause it was in my lifetime, but not my conscious lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Re Don's insistence that everything is going to be fine. Actually, he was right. The conventional wisdom is that the Kennedy assassination was the event that changed the world. I was alive then and grew up in the aftermath and I don't think that is true. Everything was fine, at least for a while, after JFK died. Johnson became President and continued Kennedy's policies on civil rights. He kept most of Kennedy's cabinet. He was elected in '64 in a landslide. I think the Beatles were the real catalysts of change at that time--and most of their fans were too young to truly have been affected by the Kennedy assassination. But the seeds of change were already there--the pill,
the war, the baby boom generation--all that was needed was the music.

disappearing atlanta said...

I enjoyed the "off-balance" feeling of this ep, snappy dialogue, and great vintage winter clothes.

What instrumental did the band play after Roger's speech? I remember it from "Casino."

"The End of the World" by the late Skeeter Davis, playing over the ending credits, was an inside tribute to Elisabeth Moss' small role in "Girl Interrupted" (where it played over another character's suicide). Fit the subject matter of this ep. There was at least one other tribute to GI (from season one. i.e., Pete: "I love the Torch").

Pamela Jaye said...

and of course there was the closing song (which this time, didn't get cut as harshly)

Pamela Jaye said...

sorry. random things keep occurring.

maybe it's just ny DVR but the cut to the breaking news isn't even a cut. It's a cross-fade.
I'm not sure if that's odd or not.

Anonymous said...

Betty's about face makes sense to me; she tentatively gave Don a chance to win back her trust, and then the assassination shatters her trust in society itself, and she can't stomach trying to face the aftermath with a liar and a fraud. Too little, too late.

I was skeptical about Henry's proposal. As others have pointed out, they have spent almost no time together and have never had a meaningful conversation. I doubt there will be any big reveal about Henry, but it seems like a bad move.

Ever since Don signed the contract I have thought it would be cool for the show to skip ahead to the end of that contract-- 2 1/2 to 3 years to 1966. It would be very interesting to go right to the Revolver period. Although it's hard to imagine a jump like that without a somewhat definitive resolution to the Draper marriage in the finale.

Anonymous said...

Much better episode than Alan gives it credit for being.

Probably suffers a bit if seen in isolation and may need next week's episode to make it whole.

Whiskey said...

we weren't disappointed by this ep... I thought the assasination was dealt with quite well actually. When I saw the bulletin start in the background as Pete & Harry were blathering on, my jaw dropped and I thought "OMG, this is happening right now! Genius!!!" I loved the camaraderie between Mona and Roger, dealing with their petulant daughter. I loved Don walking out to the incessant phone ringing, like a scene from a nightmare (yes, Twilight Zoneish for sure!). I loved Carla sitting next to Betty on the sofa and digging out her cigs (a little flaw to our ever-perfect Carla, she smokes too!). I cringed at what a perfect mommy Trudy has become to Pete ("be honest with me... did you lose your temper? Oh good." she says relieved, as she pats his hand). I dug the detail about the wedding cake not being made, and Joan's matter-of-fact comment about people still getting sick and babies being born.

Someone could make a fortune selling pictures of Jon Hamm sitting in half-light while holding a baby tenderly. *swoon* *drool*

I wasn't alive for Kennedy's assasination, so for me the callback is to the Oklahoma City bombing, and later of course to 9/11/01. I have been mulling over this for a while, the idea that Betty is something of a hobo too, much more like Don than she's willing to admit. I got a hopeful vibe off her when she found out about the Happy & Rocky wedding at the Derby Party, and maybe she's thinking she can be the next "Happy" divorcee. I think the henry Francis proposal is just as insane as those who commented on it before: what the heck is he basing this on??? And she's gonna hitch her wagon to an older, losing horse? We know that whatever promise Betty sees in HF, that campaign he's hoping to be in charge of will lose. Then what? As for what Betty's role would be, I suppose she could have a stronger presence than Mona's had this season. As Sally rebels, Betty will call Don to fix it or Sally herself will run to daddy. Much as I like Ms. Jones, Betty bugs the crap out of me so I wouldn't be sorry to see less of her.

As soon as I saw Roger reach for the phone, I knew he was calling Joan. She may not be The One for him but there is definitely a special fondness there or she wouldn't be the one he wants to talk to. Flip side of htat is that I feel that for better or for worse, she's in her marriage 100% and it's gonna take a lot (like Greg becoming a POW) for her to seek comfort in Roger's arms again.

If I'd married in Winter, I would've wanted Margaret's gown...

Oh, the Aquanet campaign. I thought most people knew that the story goes that Jackie didn't want to ride in the car with the top down because it messed up her hair, but JFK liked doing it that way because it was more youthful and more "man of the people". That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the campaign a few eps back, Jackie didn't want to mess up her 'do and riding in convertibles is dangerous in other ways.

disappearing atlanta said...

Another observation: Duck's detached during Walter Cronkite's reporting, and his USMC tattoo on his shoulder, reminding us that he had was a Marine.

Oswald had also been a Marine.

Pamela Jaye said...

Kennedy country, hmm..? It's odd it wasn't a bigger thing, then. I was living in the city of Boston (West Roxbury if anyone cares), very Catholic (isn't it?), very Democrat - except for my family. My mom never went back to the Catholic church after the wedding where she married my father who was Protestant (but not attending church) since his mother was kicked out of the Catholic church for getting divorced (I'm fairly sure).

My family (meaning my parents) were independents, who leaned Republican, and really disliked the Kennedys. I once asked my mother why. She said "they're giving the country away." I didn't know what that meant either.
And of course, my mother's whole big Irish family was Catholic. (but my father hated most of them, so we only saw my one aunt, who lived with us. and no, I don't remember her living with us.)

I guess when I was 4, I just lived in a bubble. There were the other kids on our street - who all seemed to be 8 years old... and into the Beatles. I don't remember when that started, but I do remember it. Everyone around me was older than me.
I don't remember crying (of course I don't remember anything) but then my parents were stoics. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, don't whine, get on with life. I sincerely doubt they cried (though my mother told me that when she had to tell my uncle his mother died, she passed out. that, in itself, was odd)

deanne said...

However, I was disappointed in a couple things that could have been much more subtle. Especially Betty's reaction to seeing Henry at the party, as well as the scene (that Alan mentioned having liked - sorry!) where Betty sees Don and Henry both looking at her. It reminded me of the Season 2 finale of Grey's Anatomy where Merideth is "choosing" between Derek and Finn. Yuck.

That's exactly what it reminded me of, too.

Betty may not love Don anymore, but she doesn't love Henry, either. She's going to have to choose herself.

Mike said...

I think many of the reactions to this episode are driven by the demographic of the viewer. Having been 21 years old at the time of the JFK assassination, I remember it clearly (Like Jane, I never got to vote for him). For what it's worth, I was let down by the inclusion of the documentary footage.

Prior to watching tonight's program I had hoped that Matt Weiner would take an approach similar to Tom Stoppard in his play "Rosenkranz and Guildentstern Are Dead", in which the focus is on two minor characters from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" while the larger-than-life drama of Hamlet, the story of which we all know so well, takes place off-stage.

When something is as ingrained as JFK's death on our cultural memory and collective consciousness it could have been cued into the context of the MM saga more subtly than it was tonight. This program is best when it stays tightly focused on the interaction and development of the show's characters and only uses its historical setting as context.

It was still better than 99.9% of the dreck that passes for drama on TV nowadays, just not up to the standard that we have come to expect from MM.

paul in kirkland said...

What I saw was an entire society that was on edge, and to some extent living in "roles" removed from reality, getting a collective kick in the pants.

Seems to me that the assassination caused a society-wide mid-life crisis/life's too short moment, where everyone was forced to reevaluate things.

In that context I can see why "the 60s" happened - this event sent everyone off the rails for a few years.

Don is trying to be what he perceives to be a good father and husband, but not having any actual experience at it all he can say it "It will be alright".

Betty is in for a rude awakening if she leaves Don for the other man; no rational man would say "I'm going to marry you" given how little the two have known each other. He seems very overbearing, and someone who always gets what he wants. I can't imagine a worse coupling.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder if the mention of Betty's pills & Don using them as well, is going to come into play next week.

Hyde said...

Something else about "The End of the World" playing over the end credits: As has been said, this episode marks the moment when "the Sixties" began, and one aspect of this is that the song is the kind of cheesy, drippy pop that is itself about to be made obsolete. The U.S. version of Beatlemania is less than 3 months away, and it's not on the radar screen of anyone in the Sterling Cooper universe.

Manton said...

I was not a huge fan of this episode, especially given its spot in the season, and even more especially after last week's devastating episode. The episode felt obligatory rather than organic, which is a shame. But, you can't NOT do it, and it's still better than most everything else on TV, so....

I will say that this was one of the best uses of cinemetopraphy on the show. Good god, the use of lighting was brilliant. Loved the way they had Don sitting in the chair hunched over, reminiscent of JFK's presidential portrait, as well as the darkness surrounding Don as he waits in the hallway, looking into the bright kitchen to see the family he's idealized so, right as it's about to crumble.

Powerful, powerful images to match a show where the characters all experienced the same thing.

berkowit28 said...

There's one level on which we'd like every episode of Mad Men to be exciting and revelatory, like last week. But that would just feel empty and artificial after a while. Some episodes have to prepare the settings and the background, and layer in subplots without anything coming to grand catharsis, precisely so that episodes further along can do so more effectively.

Mad Men, more than any other series I've seen, even the Sopranos, is like a 19th-century epic novel. It happens to be delivered in weekly episodes, like Dickens novels were, so there does have to be a certain amount of normal one-hour-drama structure. But, thank goodness, not the whole formula. Those expectations take a back seat to the shape of the series as a whole.

Ultimately, it's written with a view to posterity - the DVDs. Eventually, when it's all over and we're re-viewing it, we'll be very gad of that, even if at the moment some episodes naturally feel slower than others. I saw the first two seasons as DVDs - 3 or 4 at a time, a whole season in 3 or 4 days. You really see it develop that way.

I was 15 when Kennedy was killed, and this all felt right to me. Most telling was Ruby's killing of Oswald. That's when chaos descended, as it happened to Betty. Until then, it really did just feel unreal, as if it couldn't be happening. When Oswald was killed live on TV in that totally indistinct way, it felt unbelievable, also as if we were being cheated. (Ultimately that feeling led to all the conspiracy theories, of course.)

I thought it was excellent and, in a way, very real that Betty finally spoke the truth to Don. To Don - I think that this was (part of) what he has been dreading all along - that if his secrets ever came out, he would lose everything. Don't forget the opening sequence of the falling man...

Whiskey said...

oh yes, forgot to say I too hated that scene where Betty comes out of the bathroom to see Don & Henry in front of her, and I too flashed back to when Grey's did it (and I hated that one too!).

Another reason Peggy may want to rethink her relationship with Duck: when there was confirmation of JFK's death, he doesn't turn to her to comfort her or even ask her how she feels or what she thinks, he says he's gotta call his kids and leaves her to deal with the news on her own.

Tahlia said...

Like some of the above comments - not having been alive during the assassination, my first go-to response was 9/11. The collective television culture, the way you're connected to these events and yet not (enough so that, like the Drapers et al, you can still attend someone's wedding - because it's tragic, but yet happening elsewhere). I thought that this episode was an interesting musing on the way a people at large process information (to contrast with Season 1, in which they all reacted to Kennedy by just getting ridiculously drunk).

Coupled with Don's recognition that they need an art department - not Sal, but ART. Don is on the cusp of understanding - TV! is! important! (oh, what would Don Draper think of CNN?) - but he fails. He doesn't come into the office because he grieves the death of Kennedy - he comes in because his marriage is crumbling. Betty spends the whole episode dressed in the old hardcore 50s-esque dresses we saw her in in S1/S2 - not the slightly liberated frocks of the last couple episodes.

Imamarilyn said...

I was 5 and remember it clearly. Replays of the assassination always make me very uncomfortable.

Danger Boy, you are right. Zero chemistry between Henry and Betty, and yes it's because she is icy. I felt she was so overwrought over the assassination as a substitute for getting emotional over Don.

Duck called Peggy "pee wee!" She used the same excuse of going to the printer that Don uses.

Anonymous said...

Grown ups don't have parents; kids have parents. So in this episode Pete grows up, and so does Peggy, but Betty doesn't - she's deciding between two daddies. Don, though, is growing up and realizing that his childhood baggage has him stuck in childhood. I predict that next week we learn something about Don's dad - I think a suicide in a farm silo that Don couldn't stop. That may be what is keeping Don from growing up.

Tausif said...

I felt this episode helped to highlight one of the major themes that Matt Weiner has said interested him about the trajectory of Mad Men. He wants to see how the characters are changed by the social revolutions (race/gender) of the 1960s. I felt in showing Betty's reaction to JFKs death she was putting herself in Jackie Kennedy's shoes. A woman married to a man who was ostensibly a war hero, a womanizer and a father of a young daughter and son which is very similar to Don's character(ization)/description. Betty watched the news with her daughter and son. Consequently she began to think of her own marriage and family questions of the nature of motherhood and being a wife in the 1960s. It pushed the question which was stymied when she met the lawyer about how much should could depend on a man to achieve her dreams in life. I felt the comparison could have been better made by showing the image of Jackie Kennedy holding the hands of her daughter and son at JFK's funeral. However, I think this is an important theme that was advanced by tonight's episode.

LA said...

I don't see where anyone has mentioned it, but I couldn't have been the only person to notice how clearly visible Pete's (Chekhov's?) gun was shown in his office. I was on pins and needles the entire episode that he was going to use it, but now I fear he's going to use it next week. On Lane? On Ken? Peggy? Don?

Brent said...

Henry's suddenly saying he wanted to marry Betty would have raised alarms in anyone else but her.

Yeah, I was really struck by that as well. Perhaps I missed something but other than a couple of stolen kisses, it doesn't seem like Betty and Henry have any real relationship. Marriage seems like a rather drastic escalation of what seems like not much more than a few tenuous flirtations.

LA said...

One other thing before I chew on this one further...

As jarring as this episode was, I think it was successful in leaving at least this viewer with that confused and disoriented surreality that echoed the collective conciousness after Kennedy's assassination (and as others have pointed out, 9/11).

Question Mark said...

I kind of like that three seasons in, Cosgrove is still just 'that really talented guy in the office.' The only depth we get on him is that he really is as good as he seems. Now, of course, as I say this, something shocking will probably happen to him next episode.

Speaking of directing cues, I liked the framing of Pete and Trudy on the couch. Pete almost looked like a Bergman character in the way that he his head just was archly perched, peering at the TV.

LA said...

One more thing. I love how Peggy used Don's go-to lie to get out of the office to go have sex... she said she was going to the printer. That cracked me up.

Mark Netter said...

Have to disagree with Alan on this one. As a kid at the time I have to say the show captured the moment and managed to give us something we hadn't expected after the past four or five weeks. If Weiner is smart the next episode will jump ahead six months with everything changed. Betty's admission to Don that she didn't love him was a real turning point, and Don trying to tell everyone and himself that things will be fine is the harbinger of his alienation. Don and Peggy, so kindred, alone in the empty office as the nation mourned because they have nowhere else to go, just as brutal as a foot in a lawnmover.

This episode had that sense of things slipping away from the era, but I think the parallels I haven't read yet are also kind of sci-fi -- it could happen all over again. Allusions to the young President and his family, his children. As Pete says, "It felt for a second like everything was about to change." A warning.

Tausif said...

I find the title "Grown-ups" relevant to a shift in dynamic in Don and Betty's relationship. Don treats Betty like a child, telling her how she will feel about the assassination, telling her it will all be fine. She asks a grown-up question by pushing back and wondering what if it isn't?

Pam said...

Henry is a politician. He knows how to get what he wants. Betty is a naive fool. Hope she runs off with him so we can get back to the office. Peggy is just as naive. Joan and Mona are clever women. Either one of them could run their own company.

Don looking into the kitchen reminded me of a scene from an earlier season when he was a little guy looking in after his stepmom gave birth to Adam - not really part of the family.

Wes covington said...

I found it a little funny when Henry Francis told Betty that he wished he could take her to her favorite movie. That shot was filmed in the parking lot behind a now closed (except for special events) movie theater in South Pasadena, California, the Rialto. That was the same theater used in "The Player" where Tim Robbins find Vincent D'Onofrio watching "The Bicycle Thief."

There is a Japanese restaurant nearby that uses that parking lot.

AG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AG said...

(previous comment withdrawn for nuking of humiliating typo)

Utterly blown away by Jon Hamm's work tonight. With nothing at all said we get a precise calibration of how much he is now Dick Whitman at home, and what a relief that unburdening is -- you know, right up 'til Betty says she doesn't love him anymore, where you see the rejection go right to the reactor core. And hand to god, I swear the man did most of the acting with his neck muscles. How is that even possible?

I think too that it was important for the show tonight that we saw Pete's reaction. Being Pete it's entirely possible he'll have collapsed in a heap of ostentation and self-pity by next week, but Weiner's been throwing out hints all year that Campbell's more in tune with the gathering storm than most. Since I can't fathom how he stays at Sterling Cooper after Ken-the-cipher gets the promotion, I dread his possible departure but think his subsequent path would make one hell of a show all by itself. Pete in Chicago in '68... Pete in India at the feet of the Maharishi... Pete in the mud at Woodstock... oh yeah.

Not that I don't enjoy the sudden shift of the crazypants accusations from Suzanne to Henry, but mightn't he simply be saying the sort of thing he thinks one would say to someone like Betty? I agree with Pam, above; I'm still not sure I find this alleged grand passion believable.

And do feel better, Alan.

Petunia said...

The Kennedy assassination may not have re-crystallized our political culture by itself, but it was just the first of three shocking assassinations. We also had the escalation of the Vietnam war, an anti-war movement, and a difficult civil rights passage to work through. Before Dallas, change seemed to be desirable and possible. There was a hopefulness then that I haven’t seen since. After Dallas, could the center hold? It's Mad Men's considerable achievement to expose the fault lines crack by crack.

I wanted to see how tonight’s episode showed the assassination news breaking in on fictional Mad Men lives in the U.S. Everyone of a certain age knows exactly what they were doing when they got the news. I had been living in a provincial Japanese town for all of a month when our Japanese neighbor knocked on our door to tell us that our Mr. Kennedy had been shot. We quickly turned on our TV and watched whatever was available on TV in English or in Japanese. We picked up wire service stories in the English language press, but critical details of the events seemed elusive and we were always sensible that we were observing at greater remove than the rest of the American public.

Oh yes, the planned troop withdrawals are not something invented by Oliver Stone. Look up the Taylor-McNamara mission and NSAM 263. We had been in Hawaii for three months before arriving in Japan, and the Honolulu papers covered the announcement. (They cover Asia and the Pacific and military affairs quite well.) I can confidently date that as sometime in the second week of October.

Betty won’t be happy with Henry, but will he be happy with her? She’s beautifully blonde, but does he know her? Does he even like her? She certainly doesn't have much to offer emotionally. Such an impulsive offer of marriage suggests he’s lacking, too. A narcissist looking to acquire a trophy or an arm ornament perhaps? Or maybe he's an emotional abuser. And how much does she know about him? Obviously nothing much about his family. Did anyone else notice Betty's bated breath until she ascertained that the attractive young woman was not his date, but his daughter?

Martin said...

Alan, your takes on the episodes this season have been so wonderful that I must confess to a bit of surprise at this, especially at the thought that "watching TV characters glued to their TV sets seems a bit slothful."

I thought that this episode was about what it means to watch television -- Weiner seems to be arguing that it opens up possibilities for people in a way that nothing else does. Don keeps asking for the TV to be turned off, and even falls asleep in front of it. This is correlated with his desire to maintain everything just as it is -- the house, the kids, the identity of Don Draper, even the Aquanet campaign which doesn't start filming for another two weeks (by which time he assumes that the nation will have moved on). Harry has the TV on but does not pay attention to it, and so he does nothing but draw up charts of absent revenue. Roger pulls Jane away from the television, and iirc, says the same "it will be all right" line that Don uses elsewhere in the episode.

On the other hand, it's *through watching TV* that Betty realizes that she doesn't love Don anymore, that everything she's lived through is just surface. Same for Duck ("I gotta call my kids"), for Peggy (who, as you point out, realizes that Duck isn't a worthy paramour), and for Pete. Even Jane seems to grow up a bit. Pete's the most interesting case, though. With Harry he carps about not getting ahead at the office. But watching television (in the turtleneck!) with Trudy, everything sinks in. Television has made his marriage stronger at the same time that it's weakened the Draper bond.

Going meta in this case wasn't lazy. It was integral to the episode's narrative power.

Riley Dog said...

The instrumental song that the band plays after Roger's speech at the wedding is called, "Moonglow." It was also featured prominently in the movie version of William Inge's play "Picnic," with William Holden and Kim Novak.

Anonymous said...

DoubleLifeofaSalesman here, technically Anonymous for convenience's sake -- and I have almost nothing to say, because such a pall, not only of assassination but counterassassination, hangs over this episode. I anticipated it all season and it still sucker-punched me when it turned up. I was shocked to realize that I even had lingering feelings for, not only the recently departed Walter Cronkite, but even David Brinkley, whose voice we heard and who left Sunday television years ago.

I more or less count myself in the group that's been swelling beginning with Anon 11:14 PM. It's tempting to just say "What a downer," but as I think on this and check out its encore I'm stunned by how much was accomplished, it was as if the more obvious drama allowed for a lot of "stealth" drama to sneak in almost subliminally. We got: a wedding proceeding anyway, with Roger as master spin-meister and Mona at her most impressive (just look back over how she edits that phone call for her daughter); Betty officially falling out of love with Don; the Don/Henry scene (which unfortunately only confirms for me that Betty is deluded and doomed to multiple divorces); some concentration on Pete (anyone notice how an episode with Pete FEELING shut out in the cold starts with him LITERALLY looking that way on the couch?) -- under the circumstances, this episode did not slack off at all.

I was a toddler and vaguely recall my folks being oupset, but I hadn't a clue what was going on. For me, weirdly enough, my reminder of the assassination is the original Outer Limits episode "ZZZZZ" (aka "The Bees"), a rather silly fable about a queen bee turning into a busty brunette temptress in a scheme to conquer mankind. The assassination came just as they were shooting that, and it was tempting to knock off, but they figured, No, we've got to get on with our work.

I have only one idea to offer: LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON. That is to say, just when you think you're getting one thing, you wind up with something else. Betty though she wanted Don, but now there's this Dick person. Pete wants respect from Sterling-Coo but is being counseled by his wife to go elsewhere. Peggy is (hopefully) having doubts about Duck. People are getting saddled with what they never originally elected for. They're feeling ripped off, on the macro level as well as the micro.

I've GOT to see the finale.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see the Weiner handle this time in history. I guess he intended it to be a back drop to the cast lives. I found the connection between the end of Camelot (JFK) and Don's Camelot to be quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

What I loved about the episode was how out of the loop Peggy got over the assassination because Duck unplugged the television during sex. At the end of the episode she was incredibly obtuse and basically did a story board that modeled the motorcade in Dallas remarking that by Thanksgiving (I am assuming it was just a couple days away) nobody will think about it. Oh Peggy..... how lost she is over the whole thing.

I am more fascinated where the next season starts as much as the finale. Since Henry works under Rockefeller the 1964 election would seem logical especially since SterlingCoopers was so involved in the previous election. Rockefeller ran for the Republican nomination but lost out for being deemed too liberal, and LBJ ran away with it picking up 99% of the black vote and also Rockefeller republicans. How SterlingCoopers view itself, most are Rockefeller Republicans, so it would be interesting to see the ideological shift in the office whether it is toward Johnson or Goldwater, plus it would seem Henry would be separated from Betty in the event of Rockefeller running.

I am not really convinced Betty is in love with Henry. She just cannot get over be so loved by the kind of man she was supposed to marry: way older, wealthy, well-connected, etc. I think Henry loves her but their relationship would seem to me be a lot more like Jane and Roger where the relationship is DOA and everybody hates/judges them.

I kind of felt bad for Don tonight. He thought getting his secret off his chest would help but it only put the ball in Betty's court. She knows he married up for her and everything her father suspected was true. But then I go back to how much their relationship has waffled. They may or may not love the people they were in affairs with but we cannot seriously think they love each other right now. Don has to be the one to divorce, while Betty could hire somebody to dig up past affairs for to divorce Don I think she knows the whole elephant in the room of his true identity would explode. She is pushing Don in the direction of divorce.

Caitlin Gardner

SP said...

Well, at least Peggy will have a good story to tell her grandkids.

Kid: So Grandma, where were you when JFK was shot?

Peggy: Oh I was in a hotel having a nooner.

:)

Julia said...

I dug the detail about the wedding cake not being made, and Joan's matter-of-fact comment about people still getting sick and babies being born.

This episode was stunning in how it showed the importance TV was taking on. I will have to watch a second time to get the other stuff - what happened to the characters. I was too entranced by the TV action that I had never seen.

I was 19 and a sophomore at a Catholic University, working in a hospital lab on Saturdays and weekdays whenever not in class. I remember walking into the lab and being told the President has been shot. Surely it was in his arm or leg, I thought. Somebody had a radio and instead of music there was contant news, but we had to do our work.

Back at the dorm later nobody had TVs in their room so almost everybody was trying to squeeze in to see the 30" TV in the downstairs lounge.

In addition to not seeing the Zapruder film until many years later, we didn't know until a week later when Life Magazine came out that Jackie had been wearing that pink suit. TV was in B/W, newspapers had B/W photos, Time magaine had B/W photos and only Life had the color photos.

A commenter is right that we've seen the Cronkite announcement over and over, but the filler TV stuff I've never seen and I'm sure many others my age never saw, either. As I recall, the evening national news was still 15 minutes long or had recently lengthened to 30 minutes. There was never any in depth TV coverage of news, only surface. You went to the newspaper and the weekly news magazines for details. The Kennedy assassination was the first big event where TV was important.

Saturday I had to work. Sunday I had the dorm TV to myself because everybody else thought the action was over. So I saw Ruby shoot Oswald live. Something the MadMen episode did not show was how skittish people were wondering who was behind first JFK being shot and then Oswald. Was there some plot to take over the country we were wondering for awhile.

On Monday, I didn't see the funeral because the work at hospitals goes on no matter what.
Saw the photos in Life later.

I was talking with my son this morning about the JFK assassination and how important being near a TV was. He said 24 hour news came to be important the night of the first Iraq War when Baghdad was bombed live on CNN. He was a freshman in college and saw it all on the TV in his dorm's lounge.

I remember staying up all night watching the coverage from Baghdad. Back in 1963, the TV shut off at a certain time with the National anthem and didn't come back on until maybe about 6 AM.

By 9/11 TVs were ubiquitous. I remember we watched the second plane hit the trade center in my law office. We worked at about half-speed that day and a few more. Hospitals are different.

Now I'll have to go back and see what happened to all the characters. I'm so surprised at seeing some of that coverage I missed all those years ago. Just stunning. I wonder if it's available somewhere.

Courtney said...

I don't find it disappointing that we didn't see more the middle between Betty and Don from the last episode.

It makes sense to me that for weeks she has been absorbing and processing the truth of Don/Dick and probably, not surprisingly, wondering how many other lies there are that have yet to be revealed. She has never been good at truly exposing herself and her feelings to Don. Nothing feels safe for her any longer - her own personal world or the world at large and maybe now she just needs to take some control. She's probably been waiting for a boatload of other shoes to drop and that is a horrible way to live. Personally, I wouldn't be able to stand the anxiety of waiting it out.

I was 10 years old and watched all this unfold just as Sally did - on the floor in front of the TV and watched as Oswald was murdered and had to turn to my mom and ask what happened. My family was genuinely rocked and the tenuous of everything was very tangible. After surviving WWII my parents lives in the early 60s were finally on solid footing - for the most part. The shock that something so unspeakable could happen to America was a stunning hit of reality and, as others have said, nothing since has ever felt really safe and secure.

Don, with all his "it's going to alright" (to me) was his way of convincing himself that it was going to be alright and to play the role of protector of the family that he thinks he has to play -

I'm glad Weiner took this direction and was not disappointed at all in the episode. I think we needed to see these responses from the characters as a set up for whatever magic Weiner comes up with next for them.

I'm rather hoping the next season is set in 1966 - hot times culturally and Don't contract will have expired and we could see what choices he makes after that release from his leash.

marianne said...

I thought this episode was Weiner & co. at its best. They gave the assassination its proper place in the lives of characters. I'm still feeling a sense of solemnity and sadness from last night's show (it seemed wrong to switch to the World Series game after it was over, which I did, however). I thought the pacing was perfect, the way events unfolded, culminating in Betty's revelation that she felt nothing for Don, the way they wove the tvs everyone was watching in and out of the narrative, and that they captured the sense of shock, grief and fear people were feeling. And, like after 911, the way events, and tvs, united people.

As usual, brilliant camera work - Don in the office not knowing with all the phones ringing, the shot of anguished Don in the dark, as others pointed out, or the group huddled around the tv in the kitchen during the wedding! I loved the wedding, practically a farce in the half empty dining room of the hotel with no waiters and no cake. That actor who plays Roger handled the awkwardness perfectly. And of course, that very Hitchcock moment when Betty walks out of the bathroom towards Don/Henry.

This episode was also about couples, it seemed vignettes about them were filmed in succession - Pete/Trudy, Duck (how sleazy to unplug the tv)/Peggy, Roger/Joan!, the newlyweds.

The theme of grownups: I thought Sally comforting her mother looked a lot like an adult comforting a child.

And finally, how appropriate to end the episode with Peggy and Don at the office, back to work, neither one of them with a real home while everyone else was probably with their family.

Congratulations to the poster who picked up on the Aquanet ad!

bettyd said...

If Don does reconnect with Suzanne, the teacher, it will end soon. This event will showcase the generation gap between the two as she would feel so strongly that things are going to change, and Don says "it will be OK" repeatedly.

I really thought he would have called the real Mrs. Draper, since she seems to know him better than most.

Alan Sepinwall said...

At the end of the episode she was incredibly obtuse and basically did a story board that modeled the motorcade in Dallas remarking that by Thanksgiving (I am assuming it was just a couple days away) nobody will think about it.

You're misinterpreting that scene. The storyboard was already created (by someone in the art department, not Peggy) based on a pre-assassination pitch. Peggy's in the office trying to come up with a new campaign because she realizes that one can no longer be used, and she has until the week after Thanksgiving to do it. Don looks at the tainted storyboard, then leaves it face down on the desk so neither of them has to look at it anymore and think of Kennedy.

kathy said...

I'm surprised by your take Alan, I think there were some weak epsiodes this year but I did not think this was one of them. What my mom has told me about that time was exactly what we saw - everyone was glued to their television sets for days. It represented a sea change in how this country experiences national events and cemented the importance of television in people's lives.

I'm not sure I understand the comment about it being lazy for a TV show to show people watching TV. To me, what would be lazy or expected would be for a TV show to say "Hey, we know that what really happened was that people sat around watchign TV for 4 days, but that's boring, so we can't show that".

I also don't feel like I needed Betty's changing attitude towards her marriage spelled out for me. did she soften a little towards Don at the end of last week, yes, a little. But it was all new to her, she was still processing that -- the epxpectation can't have ben that she was done reacting to it? I think for Betty, Henry represents stability and security, she's attracted to him because he represents safety. Betty's personal world has been turned upside down, from her dad's dying to finding out about Don's unfathomable betrayl of her trust and now the larger world seems to have gone crazy as well. She's been told by the lawyer she can't make it on her own but having to stay with Don is terrifying and infuriating to her so her only option is to find another man who an take car of her. She may have grown a bit of a backbone in the past 2 seasons but she's still very much a child in many ways.

Imamarilyn said...

Roger telling Margaret to put her mother on the phone and Mona's translation was fun. I imagine it was not the first time Dad used Mom to get through to the kid. Margaret knew that wasn't really what her dad said but Mom had things under control so Margaret was as ok as she could have been. Amazing that Jane was passed out so cold Roger could call Joan right then and there. BTW, I loved Jane's red fur trimmed suit and hat. Mad Men fashions are great. Roger's reference to Mona in the toast was very nice and showed some class.

Anonymous said...

Three things stood out for me: 1. Roger calling to Jane through the door - "What are you going to do commit suicide?" - foreshadowing anyone? Really what purpose does Jane serve anymore, she can go.
2. Who would marry someone they have kissed twice? I know in the 60s people got married on less than that because you pretty much had to be married, they weren't going to move in together and try it out, but really that is a HUGE committment even for Betty to believe in.
3. If Don looked at me like he looked at Betty on the dance floor, I would have melted and forgiven him whatever sins he has. And then that kiss - seriously- get us a room upstairs at the Waldorf.

Julia said...

The Betty and Henry situation is interesting. Rockefeller didn't lose the nomination in 1964 because he was too liberal, he lost because of what was considered a scandalous divorce and then marriage to Happy almost immediately after she divorced her husband and left the kids behind.

Ronald Reagan was the first divorced man to be elected President. The divorced Ford had been appointed as VP and was the first un-elected President.

I checked out the Rockefeller divorce in Time magazine and discovered the following which certainly was known to Henry. This may be what he advises Betty to do to avoid the New York divorce law requirements.

It was arranged that Tod Rockefeller [the wife]would sue for the divorce—not in New York, where adultery is the only ground, but probably in her native Philadelphia, where divorce hearings can be held in camera.

Rockefeller ran for President in 1964 and tried again 1968. He was eventually appointed Vice President by Ford when Ford replaces Nixon, but was not picked to be Ford's running mate in 1974. Henry will surely be at Rockefeller's side during the Attica riots in 1971.

Watching Betty & Henry would not be boring. Rocky and his first wife split because she couldn't deal with politics. I wonder if Betty will like that better than the advertising game. Both are pretty artificial and demanding of a husband's time.

Erin said...

I wasn't disappointed with this episode at all.

On Betty and Henry - I find it interesting that she married one man she barely knew, and now that she is starting to get to know him she isn't interested anymore and is thinking about marrying another man she barely knows. A man almost old enough to be her father, right after her father's death.

Trilby said...

As someone who was old enough to remember these times, I must say that Mad Men seems stuck in amber and more 50's-like that early 60's. I know that Weiner at el think they are meticulous in re-creating the era, but I was there! The costumes of the Draper family are firmly stuck in circa 1958. You can disagree with me but you would be wrong.

Also, as I remember that time, the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan had a great effect and forced more obvious change on our society than the Kennedy assasination. Of course the two events are moles apart in historic importance, but socially, the Beatles' coming to America changed everything almost overnight.

So when is Weiner going to catch up? Pillbox hats, OUT! Go-go boots, IN! Come one, Mad Men, keep pace!

And also, I missed the p[revious show and discussion when it aired and only caught up this weekend, so sorry if this was discussed already, but how about Joan's vicious BATTERY and SPOUSAL ABUSE of Greg? He is sitting there, minding his own business when she comes up behind and smashed him in the head? I have to wonder, Is Weiner fucking with us? What do you people who call Greg a rapist think of Joan's attack on him? Really?!

Maura said...

Henry's suddenly saying he wanted to marry Betty would have raised alarms in anyone else but her.

And how. I'm not averse to the idea of an out-of-the-blue marriage proposal, but that was a major "Huh?" moment. Henry might truly care about Betty, but I also think he's dazzled by her beauty and her sadness, and intrigued by her reluctance to get involved with him. I'm hoping that, no matter what *his* motivations were, the proposal made her realize there is another way to live, and not that she only sees him as a way out of her marriage. Going from one man she doesn't know her to another man she doesn't know would be a stupid move and huge mistake.

For purely selfish reasons, I don't want the Draper marriage to fail. I love Betty, and would hate for her to have a smaller role in the show. She's still struggling to get over the idea that, as an aging beauty (in her mind, not mine) she's worth nothing. I don't care if she never gets directly involved in the women's movement, but I do want her to come into her own, however that comes about.

Berkowit said: I thought it was excellent and, in a way, very real that Betty finally spoke the truth to Don. To Don - I think that this was (part of) what he has been dreading all along - that if his secrets ever came out, he would lose everything. Don't forget the opening sequence of the falling man...

As a poster mentioned above, he's also dreaded finding out that he's unlovable. Betty says she doesn't love him anymore, therefore he doesn't deserve to be loved. Other than his kids, who else currently in his life (i.e., not Suzanne) really loves him?? When/if Betty actually tells him to leave, I believe he won't go quietly.

Imamarilyn said: Roger's reference to Mona in the toast was very nice and showed some class.

Yes, it did. I was more impressed by that than anything he did last week. Roger is entirely capable of giving a toast and not mentioning Mona, but he put aside their issues in order to make his daughter happy. And Mona, who I already love, was so great in this episode.

It was interesting that Roger took her drink and walked away with it, something he's no doubt done a million times before. Perhaps inappropriate, but also a sign that they'll always be bonded.

Bryan said...

I thought this was a really superior episode. I can't read all the comments, but the fact that a moment on TV acted as the impetus of change—from something as big as Betty telling Don she doesn't love him to Trudy actually letting her hair down (for the first time ever) and those two finally relaxing together, and even talking—was possibly the most culturally important thing to ever happen on the show. Yes, it was a little slothful to watch characters on TV watching TV... I thought that was the point, and why some characters were drawn to it (Jane, Betty) and others weren't (Don, Roger).

edwina3 said...

I normally agree with Alan on a lot of his insights but not this time. I was emotionally floored by this episode. I was 13 when Kennedy was shot and it was announced at my Catholic grade school. We walked home in a trance and were glued to our TV sets for days. This episode brought it all home for me,I cried like a baby.

I loved watching all the character's reactions and then weighing them against my own. For many younger viewers the assasination footage is not as cemented in their awareness as it is for some of us. The whole experience seemed so fictional at the time, so unreal. Having the footage on the character's TV grounded the event to reality.

I was amazed at how deeply it touched me, I thought that wound of Kennedy's death had healed over along time ago.

When Don was in the bedroom after Betty declared her lack of love for him, the lighting was in sepia tones that made me think for a second it was a flashback. It actually was an emotional flashback for Don because it reminded him of the lack of love in his childhood.

Powerful episode and made me understand why Weiner decided to have the Dick Whitman reveal as an earlier sequence. After this event, it would have seemed anticlimatic.

Anonymous said...

I liked Monica and Lisa's comments pointing out the recklessness of some of the decisions made last night. Remembering back to 9/11 when it felt like everything had changed, and while some parts of life were transformed forever, for most of us life eventually returned much closer to normal than seemed possible at the time. Having the advantage of hindsight I can understand both that Betty believes her life can be (has to be) completely different now but also how alien that decision might feel after weeks or months have passed.

I disagree with Alan that this was a weak episode and suspect that the middle part of the Don/Betty relationship will be revealed to both us and them only after the Kennedy assassination pushed them much too quickly to the end. Aren't we seeing that middle with Sterling and Mona now?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Other than his kids, who else currently in his life (i.e., not Suzanne) really loves him??

Peggy. Their relationship is in a bad place right now, but she adores Don (in a non-romantic way) and understands him more than anyone else on the planet.

Julia said...

the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan had a great effect and forced more obvious change on our society than the Kennedy assassination

I agree. People moved on. Frank Sinatra became a supporter of Nixon!

The Camelot myth did not begin until at least a year after Kennedy died. It was the result of an interview with Jackie - she revealed that her husband had loved the stage show "Camelot". JFK was much bigger after his death than he ever was while alive. The show's theme song said "let it never be forgot, that once there was a spot called Camelot". The Camelot bit had to do with nostalgia about a dead leader, not about a living one. I don't think people today realiZe that.

Just watched "A Hard Days' Night" the other day. Get it on Netflix and imagine yourself a baby-boomer teenager who had never seen anything like it in the US.

The youth culture came to be more as a consequence of the Beatles than Elvis. After all, Elvis was incredibly conservative. The Beatles were about freedom.

DTor said...

A couple things:

I don't think there's been any offscreen interaction between Betty and Henry. I'm pretty sure we've seen everything.

As for Henry bringing up marriage: yes, it's ridiculous from a modern viewpoint. But not so much from Henry's perspective. We have to always keep in mind the era we're in-- back then people did actually get engaged after just a few weeks of dating (or even just one or two dates). Crazy from our point of view but it did happen frequently then.

Liam said...

I appreciated that they showed the Huntley/Brinkley news bulletin before Cronkite. Cronkite was relatively new, not yet an icon, and Huntly/Brinkley were the leading anchors.

I also appreciated that they included the part of the clip referring to everyone flashing back to April 1945, when FDR died. FDR's death - Americans were not told he was dying of congestive heart failure, though obviously anyone with medical experience could tell, but then again this was before TV and the omnipresence of live, undoctored presidential visuals - was a shock at a level JFK's was not: we were fighting wars in two massive theatres of campaign, and the new president was not nearly as politically powerful as LBJ had been and was to be.

I was not quite three when JFK was killed. I don't remember that weekend, though my earliest datable memory is from earlier in the month when our family had an epochal event that I can still remember. young child's world is immediate. Though I also remember the effect of growing up watching the Vietnam War unfold before our eyes every night; I still think we've never fully accounted for that enormous shift in virtual experience.

Anonymous said...

I cannot see The Beatles being that big. The kids are too young, only Roger's daughter and maybe a couple of SterlingCooper employees would get into it. They kind of got rid of the British Invasion sub-plot which I thought was supposed to tie in with the big bands taking over American airwaves. I think the next season should jump at the height of Beatlemania where the kids are older and people are just different with an even wider generation gap but start off with the 1964 election because the commercials of that election had a profound effect.
Caitlin Gardner

54cermak said...

@Mark Netter

Your comments were spot on and also reminded me that when Trudy said "I don't care what your politics are, you don't just shoot the President" it made me think of the people showing up at rallies today with guns and some of the more incendiary talk radio/cable news rhetoric going on.

I hope this comment doesn't violate the no politics rule too much. I'm just drawing a parallel.

happyfeet said...

I thought it was an excellent episode and the right sense of tone and place.

In response to the question about the meaning of "Betty seeking Don's embrace after learning that Kennedy was shot but pushed him away when LHO was. Thoughts on this, anyone?" I haven't been able to figure out what it means" by musicmajor; I think Betty was angry because Don told her everything would be alright, and then, it wasn't, when LHO was shot. She can't believe anything he tells her. She doesn't feel safe or reassured by Don/Dick anymore. The world is uncertain. That's why it evoked such a violent reaction in her as to push him away.

Naggie - I think you summarised for me what was brilliant about the tone and attitude of this episode towards that event. It showed through our characters that people were confused and betrayed and simply shocked out of the rules and daze and norms of their previous lives paving the way to societal shifts through the coming decades. Chiefly it underpinned the season theme about change, instability and uncertainty. A president being killed is a seemingly inviolable rule broken - what's going to happen now? Marriage is forever, my husband is perfect and the dominant force, my job is always going to be at Sterling Cooper, I'm going to have my hobo freedom, noone will understand the secrets of my past, my parents will always be alive to look after me, marrying a young doctor will be the happy ever after, Sterling Cooper is staying with the Brits... these are all certainties which characters are realising don't exist.

Did anyone make anything of Harry's suggestion of 'marketing' to Pete?

Like DangerBoy said, I also felt towards the end of the episode that Don may have had Suzanne on his mind. I know he seemed as committed and as in love with Betty than he has been in years but the utter dejection and rejection as he sat slumped in the bedroom and then his leaving the next morning made me think he would like nothing better than to curl up in Suzanne's arms and seek comfort, in the way Roger felt the only person he could truly decompress with was Joan.

Anonymous said...

Why would somebody who makes his living writing about TV think it "lazy" that we saw people watching TV on a TV show? I remember the events of late November 1963 quite well & thought the show did a fine job. Yes, people watched a lot of TV that weekend. But their lives didn't stop. (Even the people who sincerely mourned JFK didn't turn into basket cases like Poor Betty. Yeah, she doesn't "Love" Don any more. When did she actually love him?)

I was in the prime demographic to be bowled over by Beatlemania--coming soon (or maybe next season). But it really won't have an immediate effect on our Mad Men & Women. Sally is a bit young to be affected & everybody else is too old. Yes, the hard-edged Mod/Pop styles will appear. TV will show hordes of screaming teeny-boppers. Some of the marginally hip employees at SC might take notice of marketing possibilities. And Roger Sterling might come up with some of his lovely snark. (Damn, I swore I'd never forgive him for That Blackface Stunt.)

The "counter culture" was still percolating in The Village, out on the West Coast & in intellectual circles elsewhere. The Beatles will "get hip" & the Adorable Moptops will evolve into counter culture heroes--in a few years.

(Dylan introduced the Beatles to pot when they visited NYC in 1964. Did they inspire his later electrification? Which appalled a few traditional folkies but inspired many more to develop what became folk rock & psychedelic rock. Important stuff--but nothing that will affect our Mad Folk anytime soon.)

After last week's stunning episode, it's odd that covering such a momentous event gave us a rather "slow" one. But that's fine with me. Should I be eager for next Sunday? Or sad, because that will be the last show for a very long time....

---not Bridget

Anonymous said...

Bobby Kennedy was shot in a kitchen. Did anyone else think the kitchen scene at the wedding alluded that those characters were also "doomed?" I think it was Jane Sterling, Bert Cooper and Ken Cosgrove?

Yet another anonymous said...

I can see what you mean about the juxtaposition of this episode with the last, Alan, but for some reason, I was able to just see it on its merits, which made it a satisfying episode for me.

Like others, I think that NOT spending an episode on the JFK assassination and its aftermath would have just jarred me too much, and would have felt like a cop-out.

It was interesting to see the characters' strengths and weaknesses shine so brightly through such a tragedy as well as how it spurred change, or the potential for change for several.

I agree with Anonymous #1 about how pivotal this episode was, and I, too, thought about reactions to 9/11 and how different people handled it.

I loved how much more broken down Don was in this episode than all the episodes before it. His secrets coming out have freed him, but now the cracks are more visible, too. He is feeling more than he used to, and that isn't always pleasant.

This season, I finally see that the Trudy/Pete marriage can be a successful one. She is giving him support in ways that he never got from his family, or now from his job. Seeing them on the couch together touched me. He's no Don Draper - he shows his insecurities to his wife.

Was this in the same class as last week's episode? No, but I don't see what they could have done to follow that episode at the same intensity.

I think that next week, we'll get to see some more specifics with respect to the game-changing events set in motion the last several weeks, just in time to leave me hanging and wanting more, with no new episodes in sight for months and months.

Courtney said...

In fairness to weiner, the Beatles didn't come to the U.S. and appear on the Ed Sullivan show until Feb. 9, 1964.

And, they did have an impact in my household. At ten years old I (blushingly) recall dancing to the first Beatles tune by using the doorknob of the bedroom door as a dance partner.

Pillbox hats were most certainly in style - just look at Jackie - and, well, my mom.

My mom had the same type of quilted robe that Betty had on last night and my dad always wore such a hat when going to work. They always dressed well just to go to the store. I never saw my mom in pants until the late 60s.

Maybe it was very different where you were - I imagine in L.A. and NY things were different in certain circles - but in Arizona back then, we were in lockstep and the furniture, attitudes, clothing, drinking/smoking eerily reflects our household.

I too was very effected by last night's program - it raised all sorts of snippets of memories for me of that day and I did find myself crying which I rarely do.

Having stood in the shadow of the Twin Towers that horrible day watching unimaginable human horrors, my point of reference for many things is 9.11 but last night brought back my first brush with national tragedy - and did so very well and painfully.

Karl Ruben said...

Slightly OT, but given the amount of distaste you've expressed about Joan dbag husband, I thought you might enjoy the animated gif in this review of the previous episode, Alan. (scroll down a bit)

Whiskey said...

BTW, can anyone explain Roger's comment about his son-in-law's net worth dropping by half means?

I haven't seen anyone address this so I thought it should be clarified that Roger was dancing with Margaret and looking over at Mona dancing with her date when he said this, and it was preceded by Margaret saying "She's really happy." Brooks (the new son-in-law)was dancing with his mother... And while Margaret was definitely being a bridezilla, it's funny (in a bitter way) that all this happens to her over an elaborate society wedding she didn't want to have in the first place.

What I really wanted to come back to, because I thought about it overnight while I was still "processing" this ep, is the comments about Don & Roger being patronizing, paternalistic, out of touch, whathaveyou when they reassured everyone that everything's going to be alright. I thought it was perfectly in character for them to do this, and when I read the comments criticizing them for it, I had to go back and ponder why I felt so differently from others here. First of all, this is what they do at work with clients: reassure, soothe, make it clear that whatever storm's brewing, it won't be that bad. Second, they're the only war veterans among our regular cast of characters so they've seen people get shot dead and lived through experiences where all hell is breaking loose... then gone back to mundane lives, parties, etc. They *know* life goes on, regardless of the horror in the short-term. Third, hello? Don Draper's [in]famous quote "it'll SHOCK YOU how much it never happened." This is a guy who's lived his life moving on from the heartache, the life-altering stuff... he doesn't dwell on it because to do so makes it real. So, just my two cents on that bit.

I still love this ep. I yelled at the TV so many times, and went on like a madwoman during the commercial break after Henry proposed... LOL, on that, I read a comment on TWOP that made some sense about how HF couldn't just ask Betty to leave Don so they could date and see where it goes, that just wouldn't fly in 1963. I still consider the proposal to be premature given how little they really know each other but admit it may not be quite as insane a proposal as I originally interpreted it to be.

W. Blake Gray said...

I don't understand why Henry would want to marry Betty based on their few short interactions. It strikes me as a discordant note, unless it's just Henry's way of getting a woman into bed -- which would set up the scenario Alan fears, in which Betty leaves Don only to come crawling back.

jjameskendall said...

A few points. I wasn't disappointed in this episode at all. I thought it handled a difficult and catclysmic event in a way that made sense within the constructs of the story. Loved the use of Skeeter Davis's end of the world (a time appropriate song)at the end. This was an episode about people's world's ending. The feel good 50's -- everybody's external world -- ended with a bang (literally in the two assassinations). I thought the range of people's reactions was accurate and well portrayed Meanwhile some personal lives, Pete's, Don's and possibly Roger's reached dead ends (at least temporarily) with a bit of a whimper. The scenes were dark and moody and had a real apocolyptic feel about them. After being so strong and optimistic through the assassination events, it was powerful to watch Don really start to crumble when Betty said she didn't love him any more. Why does the sun go on shining indeed. For Don it seems that it doesn't. The dark office where he could drown his sorrow in drink had a hellish feeling about it.

One thing I found unconvincing was the growth in the relationship between Henry and Betty. What on earth has he seen in her that makes him want to marry her. They've hardly interacted at all. I can understand the attraction, but it's unrealistic to think they could have much in the way of feelings other than lust and longing for each other at this point.

Anonymous said...

I liked this episode. As the JFK assasination footage is old hat to me (I was 8 in 1963), I didn't need to watch it carefully so I could focus on the reactions of the characters.

I loved the way Roger talked to Mona and to Joan, and the way Trudy talked with and to Pete. It's fascinating to see the usual suspects show their less-seen sides.

I love Mona (and the actor who plays her) too. Her new beau, though -- yuck. What a tool.




Anon1

YM said...

I love this show, and I love reading the blog posts and comments about it.


Some have suggested that Don and Peggy may get together at some point, while others have violently disagreed. I'm in the latter camp. I can see Peggy and Dick Whitman together, however--although Peggy may still have a little growing up to do.

JS said...

Couldn't help but notice that the image of Betty and Henry Francis meeting in the parked car was very remniscant of a scene from season 1 with Betty and little Glenn in the parking lot of the supermarket. Especially in the context of the overall theme of adults as children.

Lee said...

I think last night's episde cemented the idea that Roger wants to be with Joan. Whether he would label her as "the one" or not is a bit silly. At bottom, he wants her and I think she wants him.

I want Betty and Don to work it out. I know that's not likely, but I think she's being taken by Henry. They have spent about 2 hours alone together -- that one lunch, one visit of about 2 minutes at her house and another 2 minutes at his office. Otherwise, it's been a couple of letters and a series of looks. There is not basis to this relationship. It's all fantasy.

Henry doesn't even know her favorite movie. I bet Don would know that. Don knows Betty and Betty knows Don. This Henry thing is still just fantasy. Maybe on both their parts, but I don't trust Henry and I don't trust his motives.

Anonymous said...

Henry is a slick political operator who will say anything to get what he wants. Notice when Betty mentioned her three children he did not even acknowledge her statement. I cannot see this relationship going very far. Betty is too childish and immature for Henry to remain interested in her for long. His desire for her is pure lust and nothing more.

For once we see Don comfortable with himself and his wife, being strong for her and loving towards her and she rejects him. I can understand her being angry with him for lying to her all this time but she is using it as an excuse to run into the arms of Henry Francis. This affair will not end well.

MP said...

I thought this episode was fantastic. If anything, it turned everything upside down - or made it visible that everything had been turned upside down. Nothing is as you would think it would be, nobody's reactions are predictable. And the tension was unbearable.

Instead of Betty reaching out to Don and trying to understand him, get him to talk or get some insight into the man, it's now Don who is reaching out to Betty and trying to figure out how she is and what she is thinking.

Instead of Don "going out for a drive" (=meeting up with his mistress), it is now Betty doing exactly that. And Don is the one offering to come with her and make it a family outing.

Instead of Betty ordering out the kids because they shouldn't be involved in the affairs of grown-ups, it is now Don doing that. His explanations and compassion are totally lacking.

In spite of everything we have seen from them so far, Betty seems to be far more shaken by the assassination than Don. He's in denial, for wholly selfish reasons: he seems to want nothing more than everything back to normal, stat.

Instead of Pete insisting in going to a work function, it was Trudy who made the argument for him. When they ended up not going, Pete sided with the people who were looking forward against the people amongst whom he had always wanted to belong. I noticed how he condemned "throwing him over to the mob".

It was also there in smaller things: Mona, Roger, Joan and Jane. In Mona being excessively magnanimous towards Roger instead of bitter, and trying to get Margaret to act normally to Jane. (and can I just say how much I like Mona? She is a hell of a woman.) In Roger calling Joan when he really wanted to talk, when he needed someone to "say the right thing". That also showed that what he got in Jane wasn't what he expected to find and threw away in Joan - Jane is no Joan, and that seemed to be what he was looking for only more straightforward. And last but not least Don and Peggy, with their impeccable instincts, not recognizing the image being conjured up by the Aquanet commercial.

Everything was wrong. And that included the "old guard" at the wedding, which was all together out of touch.

Also, I must say that I didn't feel we didn't see the state of the Draper marriage or that it was very different to where last episode left us. It was hovering over everything, in every little gesture, and to me it was very clear that Betty was still making up her mind, figuring out what she felt, what she wanted. Her aversion to Don was almost palpable, and seemed only to get stronger because of his humility and helpfulness. Right up from the end of the last episode I was expecting her to have a delayed reaction, and she did. It was profoundly sad to watch, for both parties, but it felt very real.

jjameskendall said...

One other interesting end of the world moment was raised by the heating problems at SC.

Some say the world will end in fire, some say ice. From what I've tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor fire . . .
from the great Robert Frost poem.

Many intersting contrasts between the hot and cold personalities and they way they reacted to and internalized the historical events.

MP said...

I have to add that I don't believe Joan and Roger truly want each other. Yes, they understand each other perfectly and they are - more or less - in the same boat, with people who promised them a life that they didn't get. But the fact that they have that in common doesn't mean they belong together, and I think they know it. Or at least Joan does. Someone said Joan had too much baggage for Roger, but I rather think it's the other way around.

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. Alan, I think you might have loved it too if you hadn't spent the past year prognosticating The Kennedy Episode in almost every write-up.


Mad Men is a character show at it's core so what we got was an episode of characters' reactions. For once, these selfish people couldn't look away. Not even Don.

MP said...

@whiskey: good points about Don "make everything go away" Draper and reassurance being part of his job. That's very true. Good point too about Francis' proposal. It seemed to me he said it to emphasize that he had 'honorable intentions' and that he thought too highly of her to leave it at an affair. It was more reassurance than proposal, in my mind.

Courtney said...

Just wanted to point out what was earlier pointed out: Peggy was working to re-write the Aqua Net commercial because she DID recognize that the earlier idea of four people in a convertible is no longer something they can do. Don recognized that as well as you see him silently acknowledge that and turn the mock up over onto Peggy's desk.

Somehow I don't see Betty ending up with Henry - something about the way she was behaving - maybe it was more to reassure herself she was still desired but if she continues on her path - in her usual baby steps - to some self-awareness, somehow I think she will ultimately forego anything long term with him after she leaves Don.

I think the Roger and Joan situation are two people who just really get each other - for lack of a more elegant phrase. I don't see them as being in love with one another - rather they just understand each other in a way no one else does. Sometimes that happens - that your spouse isn't that person which doesn't mean you don't love your spouse. It's a pretty rare thing to have that with someone and I'm glad that they can be friends.

I like that we see Don trying to keep the truth of what is happening from the kids much as he kept his secrets from Betty but Betty is not having it. Not that she's not carrying her own boatload of secrets at this point.

Bunting said...

One thing I found unconvincing was the growth in the relationship between Henry and Betty. What on earth has he seen in her that makes him want to marry her. They've hardly interacted at all. I can understand the attraction, but it's unrealistic to think they could have much in the way of feelings other than lust and longing for each other at this point.

I don't think it's only about that. There's a daddy's-girl axis this functions along, I believe, where Henry's 1) tolerance for her often mercurial and self-absorbed behavior and 2) stated willingness to take care of her (and the kids, although I doubt she cares much about that except as a function of her own convenience) reads for her as unconditional in a very paternal way.

Betty probably married Don because she assumed certain traits in that regard; she can no longer assume those traits. It's not just that he has cheated on her and lied to her; it's that those aren't things daddies do. She can't pretend to herself any longer that she's adored and protected in that way.

I'm not saying that Don and Betty's marriage, or that Betty's approach to adult/sexual relationships, is governed entirely by the daddy's-girl issue, but I do think we've seen enough evidence -- her more-than-occasional brattiness; frequent inability to relate appropriately to her own children -- to conclude that Don is not the only arrested-development case in this marriage.

And Henry-Betty marriages do happen, and do function. It wouldn't be my thing, and it's probably considered "creepier" today than it would have been back then, but this is what some people want from one another. It's like Paulette Goddard's famous quote about her "maitre d'" marriage to Remarque. Different strokes.

With all of that said, I'm fine with Betty marrying this guy and then having that blow up in her face too. The character is written and acted flawlessly, but boy can I not stand her.

-- Bunting

Maura said...

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Other than his kids, who else currently in his life (i.e., not Suzanne) really loves him??"

Peggy. Their relationship is in a bad place right now, but she adores Don (in a non-romantic way) and understands him more than anyone else on the planet.

Yes, you're right, Alan. How could I forget Peggy? Even if she doesn't like him sometimes, she loves him unconditionally. (As does Anna, but she's not a part of his everyday life.) I agree that she knows him better than anyone else does. And, though inadvertent, who did he end up seeing when he went into the office? Peggy.

RE: How the Beatles will affect our Mad Men, women, and children. I turned 8 in 1964, and I and all of my little girlfriends were obsessed with them, because they were cute and they sang about wanting to hold our hands. We talked about them by name, in order of their cuteness. We sang their songs in the schoolyard until the nuns threatened us with having to stay after school to clean the convent, a house that was huge and dark and cobwebby and scary. So, even though Sally is too young to understand the impact The Beatles will have on America, and music in general, I can see her loving them because they're cute and harmless and new.

MagyarMama2Be said...

I thought it was very fitting that when the bandleader invited all father-daughter couples to the dance floor, Don asked Betty to dance.

Anonymous said...

I agree with MP. I don't think Roger and Joan want to be together in a relationship but it is more based on the fact it is so impossible now. However, maybe he wants her back in the office. Oh how I hope she comes back to the office. They both need each other's presence but in the office.

Pete Campbell was less annoying, almost bordering on respectful during the assassination. Pete is good at being the armchair Monday Morning Quarterback on people's reactions during the conversations and it kind of reflects his skill-sets he brought to accounting feeling the need to highlight people's needs versus Cosgrove.

The Draper kids being introduced to unsettling images was already highlighted when earlier this season Sally witnessed the monk burning himself to death in protest on TV but now Bobby got exposed to it with fascination but no real understanding of what was going on nor nowhere near the concern to know what was going on compared to their mother.

I looked up December 1963, The Beatles released "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" the day after Christmas so maybe the season finale is a Christmas episode with a brief introduction to the biggest thing ever as they enter a new year.

I could also see the Warren Commission and the Sinatra Jr. kidnapping coming up.

Oh and I hope the fact the art dept. spot is still vacant that they will try to bring back Sal. Him and Joan, they must come back.

Caitlin Gardner

Susan said...

DTor - I agree. Looked at from a historical perspective - and from a class perspective - Henry's mention of marriage to Betty is really not that odd. He's a political figure, well known, with money and he knows that he would do well to have a beautiful blonde with sophistication by his side. Attitudes about divorce are slowly changing. And Betty is in a vulnerable position and seemingly ripe for the picking.

But as I've thought more about her, Henry's proposal (and someone else mentioned this) just gives her more motivation to confront Don. She knows that she's desirable and marriageable to someone in her class. Based on the dismal view given her by the lawyer, Henry's proposal of sorts gives her a sense of options beyond the Draper household.

But I really don't see this happening. Men may treat Betty like she's a child, but Weiner is unveiling her to slowly be coming into her own in ways far different than Joan or Peggy. Betty's upbringing in a higher social class is a trap of sorts, as is her beauty.

She is clearly the most intriguing character on the show and Weiner would not place her in a secondary role. The Drapers may not be as they were, but Betty is not being pushed into a corner by any man.

On a separate note, re: last week's episode. I am still reeling from the fine acting by Hamm and Jones. Like watching a master class.

mp said...

@Courtney: Yeah, I think you're right, they did see it. Strike my earlier comment about Aquanet.

Gin and Tonic said...

I have to join the chorus of those who disagree with Alan. Sorry, Alan.

Re: the cold/hot office - I think this weeks episode was the "cold" one, the fans want more heat, and Weiner is going to give us more than what we asked for in the finale. Just my theory.

Re: Betty and Henry - they did have a bit of a correspondance back in the summer, so they may feel more of a connection than we've seen.
I think that having been apart from each other for a couple of months the fact of seeing each other again pushed buttons for both of them - making Betty run to him when she got upset the next day, and reaffirming for him that he can't stop looking at her, and is willing to marry her to have her. Of course this would be much more believable if there were any onscreen chemistry betweeen them, but what can you do, her people are Nordic.

Re: all the tv watching - I thought this was beautifully set up. All season long we've seen glimpses of historic events on tv in the background (MLK, burning monk), but this time it was an event so big that it couldn't be in the background anymore, so everyone had to stop and watch.

I can't wait for 9:00 next sunday, but am dreading the feeling I'll have at 10:00.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was interesting that Roger made that quip about “losing half of his net worth” and in the same episode Trudy is encouraging Pete to call his clients. Assuming Pete had 50% of SC’s accounts under him and he convinces the majority of them to walk with him, Roger, himself would lose quite a bit…..

Imamarilyn said...

I think Henry mentioned marriage not so much as a proposal but to tell Betty his intentions were honorable. Betty a few episodes back used the word "tawdry" in reference to an affair with him.

At first the band leader said it was father-daughter, then he invited everyone, probably because there were so few people.

I thought it significant that Pete and Trudy skipped the wedding. They both had been Stirling-Cooper all the way.

Devin McCullen said...

Since nobody has mentioned this, maybe it's just me. But at the end of the Betty-Henry scene in the car, when she smiled at him, to me it didn't feel like her usual smile. It felt a little warmer, deeper - like she was happier than she had been for a long time. Maybe the ice queen is melting?

Whiskey said...

wow, it's a measure of how much we're all digesting from this ep that at almost 200 comments no one's brought up the possible significance of Singin' in the Rain... I haven't watched it in over a decade so I had to go to IMDB to look up the synopsis:

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a popular silent film star with humble roots as a singer, dancer and stunt man. Don barely tolerates his vapid, shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who has convinced herself that the fake romance their studio concocted and publicized is real.

Does this remind anyone of the Drapers, or is it just me? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I wondered if Roger's goodbye to Joan, following the bathroom door scene... was a premonition of his own suicide...

John said...

Good thought Whiskey. Singin' In The Rain is themtically linked to Mad Men because it's about how people react to seismic changes in their worlds. Lina is a true star who becomes obsolete overnight because she's not equipped to act in talkies. Those who can adapt can deal with the change, those who cannot get left behind. I think that's what future episodes of mad men will show us -- who can adapt and who can't. For most of the series, Don is the guy who seems able to roll with change, while Betty seemed stuck in the past (or at least the present). Now in an interesting turn around, that's not so clear any more.

It is a little odd that Betty would cite this as her favorite movie (other than the fact that it's just great fun to watch and very upbeat). I can't make up my mind if there's anybody in the movie she could/should identify with on a psychological level.

Gene said...

The interaction (or non-interaction) between Betty and Henry at the wedding was very interesting. Betty sees Henry walk in with a tall, beautiful young woman and seems stunned, then when Henry is saying hello to the newlyweds and introduces the young woman as his daughter Betty gives a little satisfied smile and mouths the word "Oh". That smile was, I thought, one of the great quiet moments of the show.

Then as the couples are dancing (nice catch about Don/Betty together during a father/daughter dance) Henry's daughter asks why he keeps "looking at that woman". And he's so discombobulated by her irritation that he turns his back on the Drapers and mumbles that he doesn't know what she's talking about. Now "that woman" might end up as her stepmother, though that's still a long way down the dramatic pike.

I guess I'm a bit obtuse because when Betty emerged from the Ladies Room and saw Don and Henry standing there in tableau, and went to Don and totally ignored Henry, I thought that she'd made up her mind to stick with Don. "So much for Old Henry," thought I. And so I felt completely whipsawed when Betty drove off for her clandestine meeting.

I wasn't that surprised by Henry's proposal to Betty. As they're both fully aware, she's a married woman with three children and if he wants more from her than furtive kisses he had to make a serious gesture. He had to give something Betty doesn't have--a happy marriage, a happy home. Henry had seen Don with Betty and knows that his rival is handsome, successful, apparently besotted with his wife. Getting Betty to abandon her husband and marriage would take more than a cup of coffee and a matinee. And, of course, Henry wouldn't be the first man to rashly propose marriage to a stunningly beautiful woman, even one he barely knows.

The scene where Betty confronts Don about his past was justly praised on high, but the scene where Betty returns from her "drive" and tells Don, "I don't even know where to begin" was simple and yet extraordinary. It was difficult to watch, as it reminded me too much of the end of my own marriage, when my now ex-wife said many of the same things Betty said to Don. And I reacted in much the same way, saying that things will be better going forward, we can fix this, things will change...and not believing any of it was really true. When he walks upstairs to the bedroom and looks around the room and buries his face in his hands, good God, I was swallowing lumps, because that's exactly what I did. All this, the life you've built for yourself, is about to end. And there's nothing you can do about it, except wait for events beyond your control to unspool.

I got lucky, my ex and I are still good friends, we got through a difficult period with our lives and hopes intact. I do not think the Drapers are going to have the same sort of split.

Gin and Tonic said...

Oh, I forgot one thing:
I thought Roger's phoning Joan was a nice call back to the Marilyn episode when Joan was laying down in Roger's office and ended up explaining to him how you could be affected by the death of someone you don't know.

Speaking of which - poor Kinsey, it's the second time an ad of his was scrapped because of an untimely death.

CarolMR said...

Julia, Gerald Ford was not divorced; his wife Betty was. Ford was her second husband. And Sinatra supported Nixon because of the callous way that JFK dismissed Sinatra after he, JFK, got into the White House.

Anonymous said...

Any chance Peggy was typing her letter of resignation? She avoided Don's asking to see what she had worked on so far and changed the subject.

-EmeraldLiz

Anonymous said...

Don's reaction was exactly what Don has been doing his whole life. "It will shock you how much it never happened." You move on.

I don't think Don is upset by Betty saying she doesn't love him. I think it is a disappointment that he told her everything and it is still "all about me" Betty - not a bit of understanding. So, Dick or Don, she just doesn't like him because her life is not what she wants. She is so passive and shallow. Will Henry give her what she wants? He knows what to say - but is he only saying it to get her into bed. I think she is going to enter into an affair and Henry will make no move to marry her. Does he want her kids? He has grown children. I think he is using her and likes the thought of her - just like Don did - but the reality of Betty is too hard to handle. She is a self absorbed child with no interests beyond herself.

Jen said...

Have we ever gotten definite confirmation that Duck is still with Gray? I feel like every time we've seen him he's been in, or calling from, a hotel room. It seems like an incredibly shady way to do business, and I just don't get it.

It's possible that because we haven't seen much of him and Peggy in recent eps, we don't know what else is going on, but there's just something weird about it. And if this is what Betty's affair with Henry Francis would've looked like, she's right. It's tawdry.

marianne said...

I agree with the poster who said women in that era wore pillbox hats. In fact, Jackie was wearing a now famous pink Chanel suit and matching pillbox hat the day of the assassination.
http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2007/02/20/JFK372.jpg
Jane dresses a lot like that.

I meant to say earlier: Congratulations to the poster who alerted us all to the fact that the Aquanet ad a few episodes ago foreshadowed the Kennedy assassination.

Anonymous said...

Duck still has to be with Gray because the industry grapevine, not to mention the industry rag Ad Age, would out him if he'd been fired. He'd probably be able to fake employment for a few days but for any real length of time.

Valdivia said...

I usually lurk here and enjoy all your comments (so instructive!) but today I felt the need to comment for the first time (more than last week!).

I think there seems to be a conflation of Don's 'get over it, ignore it' persona with him not being able to change up and adapt to the 60s world as it changes after Kennedy's death. That he will get stuck in the past and Betty will be able to move forward in a way that he can't. Sorry I just don't see that. Although Betty is more affected by the death of Kennedy and gets how things are not the same anymore, her reaction to it is not to embrace that change but to run from it into the arms of a daddy figure. Last week there was talk of Betty growing up, facing reality but we see that now that she has to deal with the 'real' Don, now that Don has actually stepped up as a fallible men that he is but more emotionally open and true to her she does not want it. As her marriage was becoming a 'real' relationship she prefers to have a fantasy one with a daddy figure like Henry, this is just more of the same childishness and desire for things *not* to change. I see Don as being completely able to embrace the 60s. In way his opening up to Betty is a signal that when that kind of reaction is called for he was able to produce it even if it lead to Betty rejecting him and more pain for him.

I see Betty as the epitome of a 50s woman who will struggle with the 60s and 70s while I see Don as the iconic change man, the master of reinvention. I would bet on Don, after much pain, being able to get the decade more than Betty ever could.

Anonymous said...

You read my mind Alan -- this is like a transcription of all my thoughts on this (disappointing) episode.

David said...

Wow. This one certainly hit home, especially in the Don and Betty relationship. Nice to see the strong but not as famous as Cronkite tape of NBC's Bill Ryan [with Chet Huntley and Frank McGee] announcing the "two priests confirm" JFK's death ... and the most famous NBC tape of reporter Tom Pettit describing Oswald's assassination by Jack Ruby on live television. It was an unreal weekend in 1963 ... and it made for a unreal "Mad Men" decades later. It now seems like the show's world is collapsing around it. Who's going to be the hero next week as 1963 drags to an end?

Anonymous said...

Politics American Style: "He was so handsome and I'll never get to vote for him." (Jane Sterling) Same is it ever was.

Love American Style: "I don't love you anymore. I know that. I kissed you yesterday. I didn't feel a thing." (Poor Betty, she was actually serious in reducing love to the effect of a kiss.)

I particularly liked the way he shot the moment where Betty emerges from the lady's room and sees both her husband her potential lover standing in front of her

Darn, you rained on my "way too obvious" parade. And others picked up on the Betty-Carla sofa shot.

Pete: "I don't understand this. Here we are Lyndon Johnson, more of the same. Nobody voted for him. It felt for a second like everything was about to change." Pete out of his straitjacket and in a beatnik black turtleneck. Hmmm.

Oh my God, they killed Kennedy! You Bastards!

Courtney said...

I completely agree that Don will likely embrace the changes that are a comin' because he has adapted his persona time and again.

He has shown his attraction and interest since the first season to alternative cultural lifestyles - while he hasn't shed his outer body suit, so to speak, he does seem to be compelled to explore some non-traditional people - in the first season with Marge (that was her name, right?), his California adventure and then with the teacher who is - to me anyway - straddling both cultural worlds for the time being.

He has always chosen to return and remain in the life he established with his family and work but something is percolating in him. Will be interesting to see which path he next chooses to take and with who.

Yet another anonymous said...

Gene, nice post. Regarding this:

"Now "that woman" might end up as her stepmother, though that's still a long way down the dramatic pike."

...was something I thought about as well, particularly as we see how difficult the relationship between Margaret and Jane is. Again, I agree that the eventuality of that is still a long way away, and also somewhat in doubt, given Weiner's writing style (he certainly doesn't choose the most obvious directions in which to go), but it is an interesting parallel.

I still like Don and Betty together, though not as they are now. Time apart might be the best thing in the world for them. Or, of course, not.

This also makes me wonder what year the next season will be - I love that I have no idea, and yet trust the show to make the right decision.

Liam said...

The NY Times offers a fascinating look at what happened to weddings scheduled for 11/23/1963:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/on-nov-23-1963-some-people-really-did-marry/?hp

Hatfield said...

Alan, I've never understood your opinion that there's love (platonic though it may be) between Don and Peggy, or even just that Peggy has for Don. Is it something Weiner said? She seems to admire him, certainly, but love seems strong. And he has never seemed to care for her a ton, other than covering for her and respecting her ability as a copywriter.

I found this episode intriguing, but count me among those disappointed. The penultimate episode is usually the crazy one, and yet this was slow and most interesting for the archival footage. It may just mean that next week will blow our minds, but between the complete lack of chemistry with Henry and Betty and the sudden change in heart that Betty has (that Alan mentioned), it left me a little cold.

Suzombie said...

Don and Betty dancing at the wedding. Didn't the band leader call for the Father/Daughter dance, then invite everyone up?

Also, what if the series comes back with Betty and Henry married? Could we possible jump that far?

cgeye said...

I was a toddler and vaguely recall my folks being oupset, but I hadn't a clue what was going on. For me, weirdly enough, my reminder of the assassination is the original Outer Limits episode "ZZZZZ" (aka "The Bees"), a rather silly fable about a queen bee turning into a busty brunette temptress in a scheme to conquer mankind. The assassination came just as they were shooting that, and it was tempting to knock off, but they figured, No, we've got to get on with our work.

Wow, your folks worked on the o.g. OL? What an apt series for a turbulent time.

Imamarilyn said...

Whiskey, good point that Margaret didn't want a wedding like that to begin with. It was her mother's idea.

Everything will be all right. You move on. Life goes on. Don told the kids that there will be a new president, you'll feel sad for a while and there will be a funeral on Monday. Don has survived and made it as far as he has because he continues moving forward. He is a survivor of childhood abuse and you learn to keep moving or it sucks you under. The assassination was a huge event, but life did go on. Don knows this intuitively. When he reassured Betty and the kids that it would be fine, those were not empty words. He believes that. He knows that.

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