Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mad Men, "My Old Kentucky Home": The decline and fall of Roger Sterling

A review of "Mad Men" season three, episode three coming up just as soon as I loan you my glasses so you can write this blog entry as me...
"No one thinks you're happy. They think you're foolish." -Don
"That's the great thing about a place like this. You can come here and be happy, and you get to choose your guests." -Roger
"My Old Kentucky Home" is one of those "Mad Men" episodes where very little seems to happen in terms of story, but where the atmosphere and character work are both so rich that plot becomes irrelevant.

Class, and the challenges and disappointments that come when you move from one class to another, are the big issues at work in this one. We spend a lot of time at Roger and Jane's country club Kentucky Derby party, where Roger and Betty and Pete (all of whom grew up privileged) feel right at home, and where Don and Jane (who didn't always have silver spoons) feel they're out of place. Jane retreats by drinking heavily and not eating at all, while Don finds temporary refuge in the club bar, where he bonds with a fellow climber of the social ladder, Connie (played by the fine character actor Chelcie Ross). Connie talks of growing up dreaming about what life must have been like in a fancy house on a hill; now a wealthy man, he knows that "It's different inside."

Connie's not the only person to understand that lesson by the end of the hour. Harry, despite his own ascension at Sterling Cooper, fits in no better at the party than Don. Joan throws a party of her own, where she learns that the vile Dr. Greg is the one gaining social standing due to their marriage, when she had always assumed she was benefiting from him. We meet Paul's old college buddy Jeffrey, who reveals that all of Paul's scholarly affectations are a put-on from a former scholarship kid with a thick Joisey accent, and we see that Paul's insecurity at being found out keeps him miserable.

The one person relatively content in their move up in class is Peggy, who partakes of some Jeffrey-supplied weed - after delivering possibly the funniest "Mad Men" line to date: "I'm Peggy Olson, and I want to smoke some marijuana." - and, high on the stuff, tells her overprotective new secretary Olive that she's doing just fine as a single career woman who lives her life the same as the men around her.

Peggy is inside, but she still sees with the eyes of an outsider, as do people like Don and Connie. But the characters who have always been upper class are too far inside to have any idea how their world really looks, or how it's going to change. Roger has no idea how offensive his blackface performance of the titular song will seem in only a few years (let alone how disturbing it is with nearly 40 years distance). Pete and Trudy don't recognize how sad their well-rehearsed Charleston is. Dr. Greg has no more idea how valuable Joan is to his career than Harry did during her brief stint with the television department.

Let's start with Joan, who didn't have much to do in the season's first two episodes. We see that Greg is the same prideful, violent oaf he was when he raped her in Don's office last season. He hates not getting his way, and he especially hates being reminded that his wife is often smarter and more worldly than he is. Joan, at least, has gotten better at handling him, as she shuts down the argument about the seating arrangements before things get too physical. But as the dinner party goes on, and she starts to get clues that Greg isn't quite the hospital superstar she thinks he is (he killed a patient due to a surgical error, and the chief of surgery's wife doesn't have a high opinion of him), Joan's ability to grin and bear it becomes more strained. When a flop sweat-covered Greg all but pushes her into playing her old accordion(*) to entertain the guests - and to distract everyone from thinking about his "bad result" - she chooses Cole Porter's "C'est Magnifique," whose lyrics are about the kind of perfect romance Joan wants to pretend she has. The melancholy look on her face suggests anything but.

(*) And I'm told that's actually Christina Hendricks playing the accordion. Don't be surprised if this episode leads to a boom in accordion lessons for and/or sales to young women.

If Joan's world is getting smaller and sadder as time goes on, Peggy's finally realizing that her own world is full of nothing but possibility. She's becoming more and more like Don, going through multiple secretaries and sampling a bit of the counter-culture to expand her sense of perspective. Elisabeth Moss has been maybe my favorite part of the season so far; she still plays Peggy as somewhat Sphinx-like, but the character and the performance are both much more confident and funny and sexy than they were even late last season. I'm sure Peggy has some tough times ahead, but it's a real pleasure to watch her ascendant and in command the way she is here.

Peggy's storyline also puts Paul together with Smitty (though Smitty's buddy Kurt has yet to appear this season) in one of the more interesting culture clashes "Mad Men" has to offer. Paul and Smitty are maybe five years apart in age, but generationally they seem as far apart as Paul is from Bert Cooper. Paul wants to seem older than he is, and is so insecure about his standing that he has to constantly recite his credentials. Smitty, on the other hand, is content with his youth, and even celebratory about it. It's so rare to see anyone on "Mad Men" this comfortable in his own skin - even if this is a persona Smitty assumed in the same way Dick Whitman became Don Draper or Jersey Paul became cultured Paul, it's a persona he's made his peace with - that he becomes an interesting, amusing foil for nearly every other character on the show. I remember Joan having no idea how to respond to Smitty's flirtation in last season's "The Jet Set," and I would love to see Smitty have to work directly with Pete on something.

Because the episode spends so much time at Sterling Cooper and at Joan's apartment, and because the Derby party is more of an ensemble piece, this is a more Don-light episode than usual. But the scene with Connie reminds us again of the very different world Dick Whitman grew up in, and in the present, we see that even though Don and Betty are both making more of an effort in their marriage, there's still a gap that can't be closed. Don will always feel out of place in Betty's life because he can't tell her who he really is. (I doubt he'd feel comfortable even telling her a relatively safe story like the one about parking cars at the roadhouse.) And in Betty's reaction to the attentions of Henry Francis, we see that her dalliance with Captain Awesome in "Meditations in an Emergency" didn't so much satisfy her need to understand adultery than it gave her a taste for it, or at least for what she's missing from Don. Don's trying, really trying, but it's been a long time since he looked at Betty with the awe and hunger that was on Henry's face when he asked to touch her belly. Before that encounter, Betty warned Don that she wanted to get some dancing in before the night was over; after it, she told Don she wasn't in the mood to hit the dance floor.

There's also, of course, some leftover tension from their separation, which comes to the forefront when a drunken Jane mentions it to Betty, who doesn't like that Don's former secretary (and Roger's current unpopular wife) knows about this, and who maybe wonders if Jane was with Don before she was with Roger. And Roger has the bad timing to come upon what looks like Don making a move on Roger's wife, just as Don once walked in on Roger actually making a move on Don's wife.

After briefly enjoying the role reversal, Roger falls back on his sheltered, delusional belief that his old friends are all just jealous of him. Just as he doesn't understand that blackface is past its sell-by date, Roger doesn't recognize that he's become a bad joke in his old social circles: a mid-life crisis cliche who has no discernible function at work, who's drunk all day (though never as impaired as his wife is here) and who has no idea he's becoming as obsolete in America at large as he is at Sterling Cooper. So long as he has his country club membership, and can retreat on the old comforts that his class provides, he can avoid facing reality.

The story of Sally stealing five bucks from Gene may not at first glance seem that connected to the rest of the episode. It's a well-played vignette about how difficult life is with Gene in that house, even (or especially) on days when he's relatively lucid, and it also shows that Sally is trying to learn how to lie like her parents do so often. But it's important to note that, in the happier moments, Sally's bonding with her grandfather by reading passages from Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." What's about to happen to the America of this era won't be quite as drastic as what happened to Rome, but thanks in part to the complacency and willful ignorance of people like Roger Sterling, Gene is more prophetic than he realizes when he tells Sally, "Just wait. All hell's gonna break loose."

Some other thoughts on "My Old Kentucky Home":

• I should say that, while Jane is usually a fairly unlikable character, "My Old Kentucky Home" did make me feel some sympathy for her. Yes, she got what she wanted by landing Roger, but she's in way over her head socially, she knows everybody hates her, and on top of that, Roger (in terms of stature and possibly finances, based on how quickly he seems to be burning through the PP&L sale money) is no longer the man she thought she was marrying.

• Also, shocking as the blackface moment is to modern sensibilities, the concept wasn't entirely dead after Roger's day. In the early '90s, Ted Danson got in some hot water for donning blackface for a Friar's Club roast of his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. (Goldberg later said she helped him come up with the idea as a response to the hate mail they were getting for their interracial relationship.) And Spike Lee's 2000 movie "Bamboozled" was all about blackface, albeit with black actors donning the makeup themselves.

• It took me until second viewing to realize that the Peggy/Paul/Smitty scenes were largely taking place in Paul's office, and not Peggy's, as the layout was identical. (I'm assuming it was the same set, redressed.) When Peggy moved into Freddy's old office late last season, guys like Paul and Harry were outraged that The Girl got her very own office before they did. Apparently, the firings by the PP&L folk cleared out enough dead weight that Paul doesn't have to share anymore.

• I couldn't help noticing Gene tell Sally, "Go wash your teeth." I assumed that was some outmoded phrasing, but "wash your teeth" turned up over 40,000 hits on Google (albeit compared to over 800,000 for "brush your teeth"). Is it maybe a regional thing?

• Michael Gladis, who plays Paul, and Rich Sommer, who plays Harry, don't look exactly alike, but their build is similar enough that I imagine they were confused for each other early in the show's run, which in turn led to the joke here where Paul offers to borrow Harry's glasses and pose as him at the Derby party.

• Pete and Trudy's Charleston was the second time in three episodes where Vincent Kartheiser has been able to show off some ridiculous yet limber dance skills. His legs almost seem to be made of rubber for parts of this one. The dance seems absolutely like the kind of thing these two might throw themselves into learning; they can't have children (though it's clear Trudy still longs for them), so instead they find another way to compete with the couples around them by rehearsing and rehearsing their dance steps to show off at an occasion like this.

• I'm hoping Carla is more involved this season, as she has a unique perspective on the Draper family. We see that she's already figuring out how to deal with Gene, and she's savvy enough to realize, just as Gene did, that Sally stole the fiver before she "found" it.

• The real world comes up a few times, as we're reminded that the First Lady was pregnant at this point (it wouldn't end well), and that the '63 Kentucky Derby took place on the same day that New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller married his second wife, Happy. As alluded to in the brief discussion of that, the marriage (only a month after Happy's own first marriage came to a legal end) was a major turn-off to many Republican voters. It not only damaged Rockefeller's own national ambitions (though he'd wind up as Gerald Ford's appointed VP), but arguably was the beginning of the end for the national dominance of the more socially moderate wing of the Republican party, since the marriage to Happy led to Barry Goldwater getting the '64 nomination, which led to Ronald Reagan's ascension, etc, etc. I bring this up in spite of the usual No Politics rule only because Roger is a classic Rockefeller Republican, and the ascension of people like Goldwater will likely create yet another part of his life where he's going to be left behind.

• A few people complained last week that their recording was cut off before the show ended. That's not going to stop, unfortunately. The episodes are now all going to run a couple of minutes past the hour to allow for more commercial time (while simultaneously keeping Weiner from having to cut any story time), so until/unless AMC and the various programming guide services can get their stories coordinated, I'd strongly advise padding your recordings by at least 3 or 4 minutes, though theoretically you should only need 2.

Finally, I want to again commend you guys on both your insightful comments and on your sticking to the commenting rules even as the number of comments each week rises to a level not seen on this blog for anything but maybe "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica." You're bringing up things I didn't necessarily think of, and you're playing well with each other. On the internet, those two qualities are still an unfortunate rarity. So thanks.

What did everybody else think?


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Julian said...

First of all, January Jones is simply stunning in this episode.

Peggy made me laugh outloud a few times, in a good way. She is such a deep character. Love every minute of her this season.

Smitty! Good to see him again. Hilarious all episode.

The black face shocked me, not as much as Roger's nice singing voice.

Keep up the great great work Alan!

Anonymous said...

How do you add minutes to a DVR recording?

Question Mark said...

Hey, January Jones gets a rare chance to act along with the rest of the cast! Good for her!

Harry Crane's transformation is one of the more interesting aspects of the show over three years. In S1, Harry was easily the most likable of the 'Chipmunks' but as Mad Men has progressed, he has seemed more and more out of touch compared to the more naively worldly Ken or (amazingly) even Pete, as his programming chip seems to be gaining more and more human emotion. Alan mentioned last week how Harry and Roger seem to be peas in a left-behind pod, which is interesting in Harry's case given his progressive role as head of TV advertising.

T.J. Hawke said...

Does anyone else find it strange when Chelcie Ross is not playing some type of sports figure?

Garrett said...

I also liked Paul puffing up his counterculture credentials: he told Smitty he smoked all the time, but his connect said something to the effect of "I never see you anymore."

Anonymous said...

This episode also continued the who will accept change/who won't, albeit in a slightly different light. You have Peggy, Paul, and Smitty at the office, getting high. You have Don, who not only feels uncomfortable at the country club, but who also seems to bristle at Roger's donning of black face. And then you have everyone else, who seems to not mind the black face at all.

Also, so much revelation of singing skills this episode.

Anonymous said...

Really loved this episode. Lots of revealing performances - Roger's blackface act, Joan's accordion piece, Pete/Trudy's Charleston, Paul's a capella singing. Really evokes the era and also great character moments for all of them.

Great discussion of the ep. Thanks, Alan.

chris said...

I found it funny that Joan was as worried that her fiancee would kill the vacuum cleaner as his co-workers are about him killing patients. He's seeming less and less competent as the show goes on. Are we sure his name isn't Frank Burns?

Mart said...

I was struck by the role of singing in this episode; not common in this show. Paul and his friend doing the a cappela, Joan singing her french ditty (beautifully, wittily), Roger singing in his offensive play. And of course we had the Ann Margret and Peggy sort of singing last week. Mad Men the Musical?

Craig said...

I expect in some future episode we will learn that Paul, while working his way through college as a construction worker, came across a small box containing a morose singing frog.

Phil Freeman said...

Pete and Trudy don't recognize how sad their well-rehearsed Charleston is.

I must disagree. I didn't think this was "sad" at all; in fact, I said to my wife that if people still danced like that (not just their routine, but the whole Derby party dance floor), I'd be willing to take dancing lessons.

Chris said...

It took until 1986 for the state assembly here in Kentucky to change "the darkies are gay" to "the people are gay". I didn't realize it was that late a change.

Sally reading out loud sounded just like Linus' recital in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Ann T. said...

Yes, so much singing in this episode. Love it. I'm glad that Joan is finally starting to realize that she deserves better than awful evil Dr. Greg. I hope the chief surgeon's wife is a continuing character. I think that Joan could find a good ally in her if she decides to stick with Dr. Evil.

Todd said...

Grrr ...

I HAVE my recording set up to go five minutes beyond, and it STILL stopped at 11 (the Charter DVR is not the world's most advanced piece of equipment).

Can anyone summarize the last couple of minutes?

Marti said...

Pete and Trudy don't recognize how sad their well-rehearsed Charleston is.

I must disagree. I didn't think this was "sad" at all; in fact, I said to my wife that if people still danced like that (not just their routine, but the whole Derby party dance floor), I'd be willing to take dancing lessons.

I agree with Richard ... this was the first time I ever thought that Pete actually liked his wife. They looked so at ease and in synch with one another on the dance floor. I really like Alan's point about the shared upper class upbringing of some of the characters; I believe Trudy shares this with Pete.

Did anyone else get Great Gatsby vibes from this episode? The line about seeing the mansion from the outside spoken by a man in a white tux, the Jitterbug, the class distinctions.

Unknown said...

I loved Jane's entrance and well-placed digs at Joan - "getting the ring re-sized"; and getting "nosebleeds above 86th St." Zingers! Interesting to see Peggy's desire to work after partaking of the canabis. Will she and Smitty bring out the bong at the next Creative session?

Manton said...

Just when I think we've hit the comedy zenith with Peggy's introduction and asking for weed, we get black face and a Campbell dance. An embarrassment of riches.

Going along with the general theme of the episode, I really enjoyed Peggy's statement of where she went to "college." In an episode where Roger buys his upper-crust friends and Paul gets insulted when it's revealed he went to Princeton on a (*gasp!*) scholarship, Peggy enjoys the hard work she's put in to get herself to where she is. And, almost more importantly, is confident that she'll continue to climb, high or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Joan's got a squeeze box
Dr. Greg never sleeps at night

She goes in and out
And in and out
And in and out
And in and out


Nicole said...

Roger's blackface performance was probably one of the more disturbing things this show has done. I am glad Don walked out of there because the reactions from the rest, while not surprising, were still pretty depressing. As the show is set in the New York area, it certainly demonstrated that not all racists lived in the South. Not that I think Don was that much more open minded, but I think he was made uncomfortable in seeing the privileged white upper class making fun of people in no position to defend themselves.

When Pete and Trudy started to dance, I was expecting him to try to make an impression, and dancing the Charleston, as opposed to something modern like the Twist, would be the kind of thing he would do to please the bosses. After all, he was warned off by Don to not give his business cards.

I probably sympathized with Don this week more than any other because I have had to go to those parties that are really work, and they are such a pain, especially when filled with poseurs or privileged idiots who have no concept of the world around them.

Anonymous said...

I had to rewatch the bar scene because the first viewing all I could think about was Alan's interview with Jon Hamm when he describes acting while doing so many little things. It's makes the cocktail making scene all the more impressive.

Did anyone else notice that, of all the guests, both Don AND Pete seemed displeased by Roger's singing? And Pete wasn't putting it on for anyone, he genuinely seemed uncomfortable, and it suggested another layer to his character.

I have to agree with the posters that, while rehearsed, I think the dance worked. It would be one thing if they were bad or clumsy, but good dancing is always impressive, and it wasn't quite obnoxious enough to annoy anyone at the party.

Poor Joan.

Riki said...

When Pete and Trudy started to dance, ... dancing the Charleston ... would be the kind of thing he would do to please the bosses.

Did anyone else notice while the two were dancing that Pete kept looking out toward Don and Roger with a giant smile on his face, looking to impress?

I also enjoyed the moment that Don and Betty first arrived, when Pete, Harry, and Ken all came up to Don to greet he and Betty, and the wives tried to compete for Betty's attention.

Anonymous said...

One scene really stood out to me in this episode and that was when Greg and Joan fought about the place settings. Greg was willing to accede to Joan's compromise instead of demanding that she obey him like we would expect him to do. That one scene spoke volumes to me, and even though some negative aspects of his personality were revealed in this episode as well, I like that the writers are not making him a completely one-dimensional character.

I also really enjoyed the "twist-endings" to some of the plotlines in this episode. Gene forgiving Sally rather than punishing her (which I expected as it would set up conflict between him and Don...but I guess that will come later). And the romantic kiss in the woods for Betty and Don! Maybe he just needs the right setting. I love how much this show can surprise you just when you think you know where it's going.

Unknown said...

Is it just me, or does anyone get the vibe that Gene might end up molesting Sally? They seemed to spend a lot of time alone together in his room this episode. Also there was that scene last season where he mistook Betty for his late wife and grabbed her breast. He didn't really seem all that bothered by it even when his wife Gloria brought him back to the present and reminded him that his late wife was dead and he just grabbed his daughter's breast. Maybe that was some subtle foreshadowing on the writer's part? In any case, I hope they do end up sending Gene to a home. He just gives me the creeps, and I can't see Don putting up with him for long.

spudsayshi said...

I must disagree. I didn't think this was "sad" at all; in fact, I said to my wife that if people still danced like that (not just their routine, but the whole Derby party dance floor), I'd be willing to take dancing lessons.

I totally agree--I found Pete as charming as I ever have (which is, granted, damning with faint praise) in that scene. But for that I may have to credit Trudy, who's become one of my favorite minor characters. She's just nice in a way that very few of the other characters are, and one who seems to deal with a hard knock really, really well. Unless we eventually see she's not.

Laura G said...

I definitely agree with the comments that Pete's dancing was not supposed to be seen as shameful or passe. I think this episode was meant to show how his wife helped push him ahead of Ken in their little competition. She is a credit to him, like Joan is to her fiance, increasing his workplace prestige enough that Ken notes, "I should bring a date to the next one." While Harry's wife is awkward and doesn't know what to say, Pete's wife bonds easily and quickly with the all-revered Betty.

christy said...

What a treasure trove of an episode.

I loved Sally reading about the Roman Empire. And her face when she gives her grandpa the five, and then again right before she started reading at the end? I know it's been said before, but what a little actor she is. Sally Draper has always been my favorite tertiary character but she is taking it to the next level this season.

Then, Peggy's wonderful line.

I WISH I could have seen my own face when they cut to Roger singing in black face. I think I almost fell off the couch. And yes, a beautiful voice he has. Paul does not, despite his applause. But the drug dealer guy did. I love "you can't sing" as the ultimate insult among old fellow glee club dorks.

That Charleston was...amazing. By which I mean amazingly weird, as danced by the Campbells. There's something wrong with people who dance at a party in a way that makes you feel like you're supposed stop and watch them instead of get up and join them. And it's also just awesomely weird for its own sake...the look on their faces... What is going on with Pete and Trudy this season, anyway? They really seem like a team all of a sudden, after being really dysfunctional before, and this weirdly well-rehearsed dance was like a metaphor for that. I can't wait to find out more about what happened there.

And then, as if we hadn't been blessed enough, Dr. McRapey goes into the bedroom and...what's he going to come out with? A violin? A flute? A guitar? No! An accordion! YESSSS. And then my girl Joan throws down on the accordion. Natch.

Finish it off with more reading by Sally, and I am one happy camper. And very relieved the Sally/Gene/Carla storyline ended peacefully.

cgeye said...

We knew Joan married far below her station sexually, emotionally and maturely; we just got the confirmation that everyone that counts knows that, too. "The last thing you want right now is a child." Whoa -- that C of S's wife was Joan, in her day. Telling the truth, seeing strategically, a person who could be a good friend if Joan's marriage lasts. Ah, well.

And no one noticed how Mr. Sommer introduced us to Harry's baby Beatrice -- the namesake to his own lovely daughter? Awww. May all be well for both kids, now and forever.

I liked that Sal pointed out that he's been at Sterling Coo for longer than any of these kids.

Sterling's blackface was sloppy -- ear-to-ear, forehead-to-neck's the rule, with white lips -- but he did do a passable Al Jolson imitation. It was good to see the retro-20's nostalgia, though, since the culture was reviewing the kerfuffle over Joe Kennedy's bootlegger past, THE UNTOUCHABLES, plus the return of all things naughty suppressed by the dying Hays Code and obscenity statutes. You couldn't swing a dead cat in Hollywood and not hit a movie set in the 20s.

I thought Pete and Trudy's dance was part of that revival, as well as defiant. If they're going to be the Childless Couple moving among young marrieds having their kids, then dammit they should have at least one thing to demonstrate that they are together for keeps. The other dancers' petulance was in their inability to keep up -- a single nail's best when hammered down. But didn't Pete seem immeasurably happy? Was this the first time we've seen him like that for a full episode?

Kinsey's rant about Cuba was the first callback to last season's finale, and it was a good time to see it. I cheered when Peggy said, "You both can leave... I'm in a very good place right now." This is her life, to enjoy being productive, to be unashamed after all those sacrifices, and to answer that mom's voice in the form of Olive. She can do the one thing Don absolutely cannot -- stop being afraid. Here's hoping that epiphany lasts past the narcotic buzz.

Mapeel said...

I think the thing that makes Trudi and Pete's dance "sad" is that it's the Charleston! Sure, maybe they are taking dance lessons, and maybe they know the Fox Trot from the forties and Lindy from the fifties, but why do they know the Charleston? How square are these people?

Just a nod to Smitty's shout out to English majors, quoting Eliot's The Hollow Men.

And I agree with Chris that Sally sounded uncannily like Linus quoting from Luke.

Nicole said...

I too am sensing a weird vibe between Grandpa Gene and Sally. I am not sure if the writers are going to take it as far as molesting, and I actually hope they don't, but something doesn't feel right there. I don't recall if Betty was said to be rebellious as a child, but Sally seems to be taking on Betty's role as favoured offspring, which I am sure Sally will have to pay for in some way if Betty catches on.

Peggy was fun this episode, and it is nice to see that she is not daunted by trying to fit in with the boys. She was however certainly oblivious to Smitty's subtle overtures, which is probably a good thing for her at this point.

romanholiday said...

The purposely anachronistic elements of the show were used to great effect in this particular episode, and also lent to the air of Old Money vs. New Money. I thought the Charleston dance was meant to further underscore how Pete and Trudy SHOULDN'T have children-- they're good together, but the sort of couple that can only really function childless.

Were Paul's stoned ruminations on last season's Cuban Missile Crisis the first mention of it this season?

Non-sequitur, but has anyone else noticed that Ken never brings a date with him to events, dinner parties, etc.? Wonder what this is about?

Rob Biesenbach said...

Regarding Don and his place in the world -- future vs. past -- I love that he so often orders an "old fashioned." Such a great, and telling, detail.

I loved Pete and his wife dancing the Charleston. I can see your interpretation -- pathetic, dated, etc. -- but it actually made me exclaim out loud. There was definitely a joy and exuberance about it that somehow made me happy for Pete. Sure, he's stuck in his old world and they've had their troubles, but there is something about a party and dancing that allows you to momentarily escape from the everyday.

I had a major sense of foreboding throughout the Sally/Gene scenes. Maybe it was the previews, but I kept expecting something creepy to happen (a la him grabbing Betty last season). There was a hint of this, at least, with Sally reading some mildly salacious passages of Decline and Fall.

Why no discussion of the ending? Don sees Roger and Jane having a moment and it definitely affects him in some way, because he then finds Betty in the clearing and the moonlight and has a spontaneous, passionate moment with her. Yes, Roger is a bit pathetic and backward -- but isn't he also somewhat representative of the coming sea change? He's going for happiness, even if it's reckless and crazy. It's not "proper," what he did, but there's gonna be a lot of that in the coming years. And it does somehow plant a little seed with Don right there.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Pete and Trudy's dancing was the most obnoxious thing I've seen at a party since swing-dancing made its brief comeback in the mid-90s.

Anonymous said...

Great ep and it gave me a lot of emotions like the cringing of seeing blackface, thoroughly enjoying Pete's Charleston dance (and how in love he and his wife seemed to be during it), hoping Sally wasn't going to lie that Carla was behind the money stealing and Gene either hitting Sally or Carla as a result.

I didn't like Peggy's too on the nose conversation with her secretary at the end of the ep. I get it that she's a stand in for the impending women's advancement in the workplace, but Peggy saying she'd be a standin for the jealous secretary seemed like she was speaking too forcefully to the audience. I hope that secretary sticks around though. I don't want Peggy to turn into an earlier version of Murphy Brown with a new secretary each week.

Nicole said...

I liked the swing dancing revival in the mid-90s, but I would go to clubs where everyone participated and you didn't have one couple force the rest to clear the dance floor, which is what happened here, and it was quite obnoxious. However, being obnoxious is in Pete's wheelhouse. He was noticeably glancing at his bosses for approval, so while he and Trudy were good dancers, he was trying to use it to further his career, thus missing the point of the joy of dancing.

romanholiday said...

Also, loved how (I thought) Greg was trying to humiliate Joan by insisting she play the accordion, but she ends up completely owning it and charming her everyone (audience included!).

dylanfan said...

Did anybody else flash on the Overlook Hotel bar scene in The Shining? At least his name wasn't Lloyd ...

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if Sterling is going to get shoved out of the firm and die a pauper's death from one last, big heart attack. John Slattery is so wonderful. Tell you the truth, this episode is one big Emmy submission.

I particularly loved the bar scene with Don and Connie, because it not only highlighted the issues of class and acceptance, but you got the idea that Don had won Connie's admiration despite Don's rare confession of his roots. Hamm is so good in this scene, it's amazing. And I suspect he mixes a mean drink in real life.

Lastly, the Joan/Peggy storylines have become so fascinating to me. I think everyone roots for Peggy because she's the young striver without any strings (well, except for Pete's little bastard), but I cannot WAIT to see what happens with Joan.

I think Christina Hendricks plays a marvelous dame, and if "Life" had been spared, I would absolutely have loved to have seen where the relationship with Olivia and Ted had gone because she and Adam Arkin gave that real heat. She's just terrific.

HaroldsMaude said...

I was a bit intrigued by Harry's wife. What might her upbringing be (country club class or not)? She seems more ambitious than Harry, and ready for them to be part of the crowd, when the dancing begins and they are outshown by Trudy and Pete. Did you see her storm off as they took over?

And precious Joan. Ms Control. Her stare at Jane at the beginning was perfect; she has so much control at work. But her reactions to Dr. Evil and the vacuum cleaner (again, maintaining control), only to see it lapse with the Dr's wife telling her not to get pregnant, hear of Dr. Evil's incompetence, and be pushed into performing to save his image. Poor Joan.

And yes, Don is trying. I cringed at the end when he was looking for Betty. I so hoped she wasn't in an embrace with the man who flirted with her. That Don held her and kissed her, reminding her of her appeal, was the perfect move.

And Peggy - she wants to do everything the boys are doing. Her scene with the secretary when she was high was probably one of the best of the night. What has this woman seen that would make her worry about Peggy's recklessness?

Anonymous said...

OMG I remember my dad ruining perfectly good Saturdays by going to the dump! Olive had me on the edge of my seat with her mastery of the mundane.

FWIW I can totally believe that Trudy n' Pete would have mastered some Charleston moves at camp or collage or something, in a "hey gang, let's put on a show" way, on top of the dance lessons they surely endured.

Marlark said...

I think, in those last few minutes, Don took a look at Roger and Jane dancing alone and realized that Roger was in fact, happy. So happy that he'd be dancing with Jane for the pure joy of dancing -- just them and the Straw Hat Band. That, along with Jane's comment along the lines of "can't you see how beautiful she is?", prompted Don to plan a big wet one on the Mrs.

BigTed said...

I really had no idea which way the transaction between Gene and Sally would go. But in the end, it made sense... Sally is growing up with parents who barely pay any attention to her, except when telling her what to do. The fact that her grandfather at least notices her existence must be a huge change for her.

I was struck by how good the singing and dancing by various actors was in this episode, even though each segment, in its own way, was meant to make us very uncomfortable. Yes, Joan is far above her husband in stature, but how could she not be? Hearing her perform that song, it became clear that she isn't just as sexy as Marilyn Monroe, she's as talented, too. The only possible ways for a spouse to react to that is to feel very lucky or to become very resentful... and we already know which direction her husband is taking.

HaroldsMaude said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Fantastic episode, soooo many layers of detail. Peggy had several hilarious one-liners in this episode but the one line that cracked me up the most was from Carla: "we don't all know each other, Mr. Hofstadt."

SNAP. So sad, funny, true and well-delivered.

Garrett said...

That bar scene has a few more layers. Someone at Television Without Pity pointed out that "Connie" is likely Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain (perhaps more infamous now as the great-grandfather of Paris Hilton):

It's not difficult to see Paris as one of the girls young Connie would see at the mansion. And it's even more fun to think of a young Don Draper relieving himself in her car's trunk.

Anonymous said...

Coupla things:

Blackface absolutely wasn't past it's sell-by date in 1963 (by 1967/8, maybe), and regarding Pete & Trudy's dancing: ALL society kids back then took dance lessons. It was de rigueur.

Zac F. said...

"My name is Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana." is one of the funniest lines I've heard on Mad Men yet.

Seeing Roger in blackface threw me for a loop, but it makes sense since he's of the older generation who grew up watching movies where white actors were in blackface and he doesn't think anything is wrong with it. Interesting how Don reacts negatively to it, which is expected of him since he's of a lower class, and Pete does too, which I didn't expect since he's a blue blood too like Roger.

Chelcie Ross played Connie, the bartender in the bar scene, which gave me a The Shining vibe.

I don't know if it's the actor or the character, but the guy that plays Joan's fiance drives me nuts since he always looks like he has a pinch of snuff in between his lips and mouth and is trying to keep from swallowing it or spitting it out.

Susan said...

Another fantastic column, Alan. My husband and I often end the episodes by talking about what we thought the theme was, and we were actually thinking that this week's ep was about performances, and what they mask about what's really going on. Trudy and Pete seem like the perfect young couple, even as we see her eye Betty's pregnant stomach jealously. Sally walks around the house like the perfect child after stealing the money. Paul wants to appear to be a cultured college man, Joan wants to be the perfect wife and hostess, and Don is the only one who drops his performance for a moment to tell a true story from his past to a stranger. As Mart mentions above, there's even a lot of literal singing and performing in this episode (Roger and Joan's performances, Pete's dancing).

Alan, I disagree that "Dr. Greg has no more idea how valuable Joan is to his career than Harry did during her brief stint with the television department." In my mind, I thought the whole dinner party was Greg's way of using his wife to improve his standing at work - he knows how good she looks, and how impressive she can be. Joan's performance was heartbreaking. On another note, I think that this party gave an inkling of how Joan will stay at Sterling Cooper - if Greg doesn't get Chief Resident, Joan will have an excuse to keep her salary.

Oh, and gorgeous shot of Don walking towards Betty at the end, and Betty in the moonlight, in white.

JT said...

Lovely, sexy, goddess Joan will end up divorcing her husband, possibly when hse goes to work with Peggy. Joan will become the head of television at Peggy's new company (where Peggy wil lassume Don's role).

Alan, I think you need tot calm down on the hatred for her hub. Yeah, he was a pig last season, but clearly, Joan has the upper hand in their marriage and always will.

And that song she did was sexy as f--k. But no where near as sexy as when she danced so sexily with Paul in the first season at that bar.

I'm loving the pace of this season. Alan, do you have any idea what the over/under is on how many eps Weinter wrote solo or co-wrote? So far he's 3-3. Just curious if there is a known number yet.

Of course, David Simon & Ed Burns must own the record for most eps writtne by showrunners, surely.

Rob Biesenbach said...
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David J. Loehr said...

Again, wonderful episode, post and comments!

One thing I especially liked was their use of "C'est Magnifique" from Cole Porter's "Can-Can." The story of the musical works well thematically with "Mad Men," whether you want to talk questions of identity or changing social mores, the changing role of women or the perception of art and its worth.

I'd have to listen more closely--I did have it turned down, being the only one awake in the house--but it sounds like they changed out the "tragique" in the bridge of the song for "magnifique," which makes me want to see if they changed any other lyrics...

Stephen S Power said...

I have to think that Don jumping over the bar was something they thought of on set. It would have been awkward from the camera's point of view for him to walk down and around the bar back to essentially where he started.

Excellent point re Nelson Rockefeller and how his marriage to Happy doomed his political prospects. But you should also note how that marriage ended: with Rockefeller dying of a heart attack while having sex with his 25yo mistress. Which could be how Roger goes, as he almost did already.

I love how, on a show in which everyone is constantly performing and worried about the crowd's reaction, many of the characters actually performed and those were trying to impress looked like fools (Roger, Pete and Trudy) and the one who was meant to be foolish actually impressed (Joan), while allowing her performance (reading) was Gene's way of telling Sally she was forgiven.

And where can I get me a fancy muddle stick?

cgeye said...

And if I may try on my tinfoil pillbox for a second, I'd like to extend kudos to AMC's promotional group for previewing this episode in iTunes and taking the emotional temperature in re Sterling's minstrelsy.

During that window, the blackface was mentioned in passing. The big meme was "My name is Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana". I'm pretty darn sure that overshadowed any racist transgressions in this episode, by Roger or Gene.

So, if I may mention a competitor, Bravo, AMC, Bravo.

panduh said...

Great writeup again, Alan!

I agree with everyone else about Joan. Christina Hendricks is amazing in this ep, and I my heart goes out to Joan as she confronts the realities of life with Dr. Evil. (As an aside, at least Dr. Evil vacuums! That's a job Mr. Panduh would do only under extreme duress.)

As much as I LOVE Jon Hamm, I am finding more pleasure these days in watching Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks. They are doing incredible work, and their characters are complex, interesting women, without the slightest hint of caricature. Thanks so much to Matt Weiner for writing "real" women and for this show!

And I loved Pete & Trudy's Charleston.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how others seemed to describe Roger Sterling as a "silver spoon" or priviledged. When in reality, Pete comes from a more priviledged background. After all, Roger is simply one generation away from being self-made - like Joe Kennedy Sr.'s children. His father was proabably self-made, like Bert Cooper. If Roger was truly a "silver spoon", Cooper would have allowed Don to fire Pete back in Season 1's "New Amsterdam".

cgeye said...

Okay, two more bits:

If a husband can rape a wife and get away with it, she will never have the upper hand in that marriage. His anger will always be near flashpoint, and she will live her life in fear. This we won't see every day, but she will have years taken off her life either through denial or fear.

As for Conrad Hilton, something else is going on in 1963 -- the construction of the New York Hilton, completed in June:

If this is dealt with again, Don might skyrocket past any machination Lane Pryce or PPL might throw in his way.

cgeye said...

And from the El Paso Times:

evie said...

I also missed the sadness of the dance routine. It was actually almost an exact replica of the scene from "It's A Wonderful Life" with James Stewart & Donna Reed. Their dance was 17 years later, but does that mean people today doing a famous dance from the early-90s, in fun, is also sad?

Since you are in-tune/in-touch with Weiner, I guess we were supposed to get the sadness. I didn't.

But then, perhaps I was still recovering from the shock of Roger in blackface. Wow.

Devin McCullen said...

As much as I like Chelcie Ross (heck of a curveball), I actually hope that, assuming he is supposed to be Conrad Hilton, he isn't used again. Mostly because I would think that he was enough of a celebrity in the business world that Don should have recognized him. For this scene it didn't matter, but to have him become a major plot point would be too much.

Anonymous said...

I could certainly be wrong, and Alsn's reading of the moment may fit in better with the overall episode, but I took Betty's comment that she was holding Don back from dancing as a diplomatic way to both hide the fact that Don wasn't being festive (it seemed to be something the others at the party took amiss) while at the same time sending a message to Don that she was disappointed ("I think I've disappointed Don tonight...").

Lou B. said...

Re the '20s nostalgia for the Charleston, Al Jolson, etc.: it's funny to think that this was no different time-wise than current nostalgia for the '60s: looking back four decades. (See Kottke on "timeline twins.")

Anonymous said...

As half of a couple toughing it through some pretty hardcore fertility struggles, it's hard to see other childless couples struggling with finding their identities - even fictional couples - without kids. Of course we throw ourselves into hobbies like dancing in order to have a way to channel our energies and be together. It's hard to hear that dancing is a way to compete with other couples - maybe so, but I can't tell you how much I identified with Trudy looking pained at the discussions of Betty being pregnant. If it gives Trudy and Pete a way to be together and get through the pain of infertility, good for them.

Anonymous said...

In addition to Don and Pete, Ken was definitely NOT amused by the blackface routine, and Bert Cooper's reaction, I think, could be taken either way. Also, a number of the background people in the shot (of various ages) seemed either awkwardly polite or appalled.

I think there was a really mixed reaction throughout the crowd, for whatever reason (they may be more put off by Roger making a spectacle with the wife they disapprove of than the racial implications).

Don, though, is the only one who actually walks out.

Anonymous said...

What made Roger's blackface act especially obscene to me was his mouth, which looked like an asshole puckering and unpuckering as he sang. It just seemed like they were highlighting it.

Alden said...

We really did get a 'musical' episode of Mad Men, huh?

Joan really shone here. One of the real complexities here, which nobody mentions (and really showed me how awesome Hendricks is): After the vacuum/argument scene, Dr. Evil walks off to take a shower. The last shot is Joan, whose smile actually reaches her eyes and she seems a little happy and turned on by his de-shirtment. It seems that, despite the rape and his childishness, she's still got some form of attraction to him; I love that, while not avoiding the fact that he's a rapist asshole (the 'Code Pink' story, anyone?), the show makes sure that this relationship is as complex as it'd be in real life. She married him for a reason, and perhaps even for a moment, she can forget.

I also viewed the saddling of her with the accordion to be a minor putdown, only for her to completely rock it. Immediately after Joan presses the issue of his screw up, he says, "Joan has many, many talents", and them pushes HER to play the big ole accordion - both making her play a seemingly-awkward instument while pressing his authority to make her entertain. And the glances they share, and his utterly fake smile, gives her the look of a caged bird singing.

Poor Joan; I keep feeling like she's gonna be married to this asshole for the next thirty years out of stubbornness. "What, I'm in a box? Why I LIKE my box. Why wouldn't I like being in a box? It keeps me safe, and everyone likes it better if I stay in my box. Being in my box makes sense! Peggy, if you get out of your box you'll be hit by a car! Silly girl. I don't know what she's thinking."

Also, I LOVE Peggy's new secretary, and Peggy's speech to her. Their relationship, already, is fascinating. I really want her to keep popping up. Don's scene in the bar, Betty's dad... lots here that was great. The above, though, was what I wanted to discuss. This episode was fantastic, anyhow.

Sarah D Bunting said...

"Sure, maybe they are taking dance lessons, and maybe they know the Fox Trot from the forties and Lindy from the fifties, but why do they know the Charleston? How square are these people?"

I learned all those dances, including the Charleston, at Barclay classes. (RIP Mr. and Mrs. Thompson...and those goddamn white gloves.)

I did grow up in a deeply square town, and I think the parents of kids my age were sort of that last war-baby half-generation that still thought you shouldn't grow up without knowing how to do "real" dances. But...that was the eighties. Square for a time post-MTV? Okay. In '63, I don't know. I know my own parents knew how to do it, because my mother has complained that my dad was too tall for it to "look right."

My grandmother used to say "wash your teeth" (or, after we started making fun of her for it, "clean your teeth"). She was from South Philly and lived in Bryn Mawr most of her adult life, FWIW. Probably about 10 years younger than Gene.

Anna said...

I completely agree that the "routine" was sad. Again, Pete just tries to hard. At first when they are dancing, they looked great, like they belonged. But by trying too hard, he looked like a fool.

Also, I'm loving watching Pete and Ken. Having them "compete" (I put it in quotes, because part of the joy is that Ken isn't competing and Pete is competing too much) has been fantastic - letting us compare how to two handle things. Pete is still not content where as Ken is loving every minute of life. He isn't trying to impress Don or Roger -- he was the only one that didn't go up to Don when he arrived. After the dancing laughingly Ken says "next time I need to bring a date." (I don't think Ken thought it was sad) If Pete was in that position, he would be kicking himself that the other guy out shown him.

I hope they keep with this joy of a subtle-subplot!

Brian said...

Yeah, Connie definitely has to be Conrad Hilton. He mentioned that he was from San Antonio, New Mexico, which is where Conrad Hilton was from, and Hilton would have been 75 in May of 1963, so the age fits. That would be too big of a similarity to be a coincidence. I'm still kind of confused about why he was bartending though.

Mark S said...

He wasn't bartending. Don saw a guy in a white jacket behind the bar and assumed. Connie made a comment that they were both on the same hunt.

And no one has mentioned the Charleston transition yet. Pete and his wife finish their dance and it immediately cuts to Paul reciting "This is the way the world ends".

robertpie said...

Comment: I'm still kind of confused about why he was bartending though. >>>

He wasn't actually bartending. Like Don, he was looking for a drink. They discussed the fact that there was poor service at the club, etc.

SR said...

To me, Pete and Trudy's Charleston is one of those quintessential Mad Men moments, with layers upon layers of meaning. In no particular order:

- they were trying very hard to impress
- it actually was impressive
- they looked like they were enjoying themselves
- they looked like they wanted other people to watch them
- they've clearly found ways to bond as a childless couple
- they seemed oblivious to the fact that their gyrations bumped others off the dance floor
- they're obviously completely out of touch with youth culture (and their more bohemian counterparts smoking at the office)
- it was totally in character
- it was still surprising to see

I agree with everyone who said it was sad AND everyone who thought it was joyful. Somehow, amazingly, it was both.

ScottyG said...

Sally needs to step up her game before she can compete with Don for lying

Roger and Joan both showed of their pipes tonight

surrey said...

A review of "MAD MAN"............oops so boring i don't like it...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: my take on Pete's Charleston, clearly he and Trudy are good and clearly they enjoy it and each other, but there's something so naked about their need for everyone to be impressed by them, and to take over the whole dance floor, that it made me uncomfortable.

That, or it reminded me of Ross and Monica from Friends doing their New Years Rockin Eve dance routine.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Good catch on Conrad Hilton, guys. That must be who Connie was.

Jennifer said...

No one is going to let up on a man we watched rape Joan. We all (I thought all) had a visceral reaction - we were made to watch - I don't think we are being asked to "calm down on the hatred". And as a previous poster stated, that removes the possibility that Joan will ever have the ultimate comfort or power in her marriage.

Sexiest scene in Mad Men? Don hopping over the bar. (Even though there's a cut-through right down the pike.) I guess he really needed that Old Fashioned!

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's hard to hear that dancing is a way to compete with other couples - maybe so, but I can't tell you how much I identified with Trudy looking pained at the discussions of Betty being pregnant.

I'm not saying all infertile couples throw themselves into other activities to compete with child-bearing couples. I'm saying this infertile couple is doing that. It's just how they roll.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who wanted Chelcie Ross to look at Don and say, "Look, mister, there's two kinds of dumb, there's the guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and the guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter, the second one you're kinda forced to deal with.

Linda said...

"Alan, I think you need tot calm down on the hatred for her hub. Yeah, he was a pig last season, but clearly, Joan has the upper hand in their marriage and always will."

I can't agree. Greg has made it clear to her that he will use physical force if he doesn't get what he wants. Not just "can," but "will." As someone mentioned, you never have the upper hand once you know that, because everything is colored by it.

I agree with the observation that the reaction of Roger's crowd to the blackface was decidedly mixed. Everyone at this kind of event laughs politely at the little show, but while blackface was certainly not as shocking at that time as it would be now, it was also far past its heyday, and one would not have had to be especially sensitive to know that there was controversy surrounding it. I agree that it fits in with the rest of the episode -- with the way people are growing to see Roger as more and more grotesque and, as Don said, foolish.

I also come down on the side of the Pete/Trudy dance being really sad. It's not because their vague sense that they are being left behind by everyone who has kids isn't very relatable; it is. But Pete is not a warm, good husband, and he hasn't suddenly become one just because they learned the Charleston. To me, this was "Make A Big Show Of Your Happy Marriage," just like when he's at work, it's "Make A Big Show Of Being A Big Shot." I get that he's/they're in real pain, but I just get the sense that they don't really feel in their bones what they're projecting. And while it may well be realistic that they'd know the Charleston (through dance lessons, as has been mentioned), it's still part of this whole pattern of displacement and discomfort that recurs throughout the episode.

gypsy howell said...

The fact that they chose the charleston as their dance number really struck a chord with me.

I'm Sally's age, so my memories of 1963 are a little bit hazy, but one very indelible memory is that my mother made me a white fringed flapper dress costume for Halloween in either 1962 or 1963, and I entertained some of my parents friends with my own little version of the charleston, which by the way I did pretty well (for someone Sally's age).

Makes me think there must have been some kind of charleston fad going on that year.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I am shocked that you guys all loved it. I love this show but last night's episode left me cold. The whole smoking pot thing seemed so cliched and overdone; there was nothing new or interesting about the way they did it.... Did anyone else think this was the weakest episode to date?

Boudica said...

Am I the only one who thought the old college friend, Jeffrey, looked like Tom Cruise? I kept doing double takes when he was on screen. And if they were class of '55, that makes them 30 years old. Paul looks older than that to me.....

dylanfan said...

Yes, Boudica -- first thought I had when Jeffrey entered. And I loved how he kept up the lame flirting with Peggy. BTW, did it seem like forever from the time Peggy left to get the blender until she came back? Jeffrey must live right around the corner ... too bad they didn't follow through on the frozen daiquiri idea? Did everybody have blenders in their homes that early?

Dave said...

I don't think I've seen this mentioned before, but it has always seemed obvious to me that the husband Jane really wanted to steal in that office was Don; not Roger. Roger kind of fell into her lap and she rolled with it, but the distance Don always maintained with her-- the only guy in the office who didn't fall over himself trying to impress her-- fascinated her and aroused at least some degree of attraction. Buying him those extra shirts to keep in his desk drawer after learning of his separation from Betty was a clear attempt on Jane's part to bond with him, I thought. The scene at the end of last night's episode with Jane, Don, and Betty, also felt tinged with regret on Jane's part that she didn't get the man she was really shooting for. Anyone else get this, or is it just me?

srpad said...

I enjoyed this episode because I love the characters but I must admit the pace of the show is glacial and a friend of mine I had convinced to jump on board this season finally gave up midway through this one. I hope others don't do the same because I want this show to stick around.

Re: Pete's dancing. I have nothing new to ad but i wnated to say i agree it was a very layered scene. happy and sad all at once.

Re Accordians. They can be sexy as hell. Who knew?

I read all the other comments and don't think I saw this but was I the only one who assumed at first that Betty was lying when she said she was waiting for a friend to hide the fact that she was married? I was actually surprised when one of the other wives showed up and they left togther. I had assumed she was waiting for Don.

Sarah D Bunting said...

@Anonymous 8:20 -- I was waiting for an "Up your BUTT, Jobu" that never came.

Howard Chaykin said...

A terrific episode--for all the reasons mentioned--and also, for the fact that it continues to affirm for me that Peggy is the future.

I've believed from word one that she would ultimately replace Don and his contemporaries, and season three continues to support this. But if she's the show's fictional version of Mary Wells, is Smitty Jerry DeLafamina? Or will one of the younger old guys--Ken, maybe, or Harry--evolve?

And it really was the funniest episode in quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice that the commercial breaks were far less jarring than in the prior episode? It helped make the episode so much more watchable.

Brandy said...

The Charleston didn't bother me at all. We had to learn in cotillion and that was the late 80s. My father was always telling me that it would be important because when he was in greek life at UGA they did all those dances and I'd feel out of place. Neither wanting to be a part of the Greek scene or wanting to go to UGA, I dissagreed and my mother kept pointing out that he went to college more than 30 years before I would so probably it was a little different now. Good times.

They took it too far, that I agree with.

But it was the first time that I saw them have a partnership and a genuine feeling that they weren't just settling. So the good outweighed the bad.

Loved Peggy's speech at the end. Not as much as "I'm Peggy Olsen and I want to smoke some marijuana." But I loved it a lot.

Peggy's at the vanguard of the age of the career woman and so her secretary worrying that she was making choices she'd regret and Peggy assuring her that she could have everything was awesome, especially the total confidence she did it in.

My mother was a career woman in the middle 60s and it was a different time. By the time I was going to school it was expected that a woman be a career woman in every circle I traveled in but my father's ultra conservative, ultra-southern family really expected that women went to college for their MRS. degree.

My Aunt, to this day, believes that I'm to be prayed for because I'm not focused enough on finding an appropriate husband.

Peggy's at a time when most people would make those assumptions and I thought she handled it with aplomb.

miles said...

For me, the three parties represented past, present and future. Of course Roger's party was mired in the past--with the black face, charleston and old fashioneds. The office party was future looking with drug use and Peggy asserting herself in what she wanted as well as taking the reigns on the work project. I'm less convinced about Joan's party representing the present, but my thought is that it really spoke to the complicated relationships between men and women of the time. For all three couples. The power dynamics and the role playing.

On another point, I think that Don realized at the end that Roger was happy as well as foolish.

LDP in Cincinnati said...

Definitely in the minority here, but this was the first Mad Men episode that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. Only the scenes with Don were interesting. Stories about people smoking pot -- like people who smoke a lot of pot -- are almost always boring, and not even Peggy's funny line ("I'm so high") saved that plotline for me. I hope they don't pursue it.

Arthur F said...

Great episode as always, and the need to push character insights must be in preparing for a big ride ahead I guess. I just wanted to mention that watching television in the early 60s I recall coming more than once across the 1946 and 49 followup "Al Jolson Story" and the like. Sure maybe blackface/minstrel wasn't being directly produced anymore in blackface, but it was certainly still accepted enough in entertainment that would be quoting the vaudeville/minstrel songs heritage. The modern Dick van Dyke show was just on tv then as well, several of the episodes had progressive african-american characters on board ) but then again old minstrel Showboat tunes might still appear in Sally's set, and so on. The culture for it didn't just turn off even if the blackface did. I recall seeing so often the 1946 Al Jolson story on tv in the 60s, and like the film, blackface was allowd if it was "in quotes" somehow. I think what makes the whole thing so ugly is Roger period, who has just lost so much of his charm, the blackface was always in him really, he just shows it more clearly now.

Arthur F said...

(oops sorry, couldn't edit out in the previous comment!)

lap said...

Everyone else has already touched on just about everything, except that I found it fascinating that Betty was the one woman at the Derby party without a hat. I believe it was because she knew that it would set her apart from the rest of the wives, or, because since she obviously is feeling awkward at this stage in her pregnancy, she didn't want to have a big hat and a big belly.

Henry said...

I actually think the "I am so high" line from Peggy that caps off that section of the episode was much funnier than her introduction.

I loved how Peggy owned that conversation with Olive, who I got a distinct impression was a little condescending towards Peggy throughout the entire episode before Peggy laid the smackdown on her. Elisabeth Moss should win an Emmy based on that scene alone!

I also find myself getting more and more angry at the situation between Dr. Greg and Joanie. Each time I see the guy, I wanna go into the screen and punch him. Okay, I missed the surgical error part but I probably wouldn't have heard it because I'm so pissed off whenever I see the guy. But it's great that Joan put him in his place with the conversation about the dinner table arrangements. It was almost as if Joan welcomed a spat between them while Greg was trying to worm his way out.

I would have thought Betty was more angry at Don that he spread the news about the separation around the office. Never thought of the fact that Jane was with Don before Roger. Roger, by the way, made me angry the entire episode as well, though I can't really pin why (the obviously offensive blackface routine aside).

I did think that Charleston routine looked a little too rehearsed, but I didn't think it was compensation for not being able to bear children (or being competitive with the others at the country club). Nice catch, Alan.

Brian said...

Dave - I completely agree with your sentiment about Jane's first choice being Don. It was like she was so drunk that she didn't realize it was him at first and then when she did (once she was sitting down), she reached for him. I got the same vibe you did.

I agree that Pete and Trudy's dance was sad for the reasons' Alan spelled out.

It's very interesting what is happening with Gene and Sally. I was struck by the contrast of Betty telling Sally to go watch TV, yet Gene is encouraging her to read. And read together with him, a classic. I think it's an indication (linking to the themes Alan highlighted) that Gene feels Betty married beneath her strata, and that Don's lower class upbringing is rubbing off on his grandchildren. So he's trying to class them up a bit, starting with Sally. Her stealing the money is Don's half of Sally, not Betty's half, so rather than punish her, he sets out to elevate her class-wise.

Anonymous said...

It's not surprising that Don didn't recognize Connie Hilton. Roger was earlier pointing out the big shots from his party list to Don and Pete. Of course, this was most likely primarily to toot his own horn at knowing these people anyway.

Was some of the singing and dancing an allusion to Nero fiddling while Rome burned?

Pete and Trudy's dance was great. It's not unlikely that they learned the dance hanging around the country club growing up. The fact that they were pushing others off of the floor without regard was more striking to me.

Nancy D said...

Not sure if someone has mentioned this yet (I am commenting from work so I don't have the time to read through all of these insightful comments), but Pete and Trudy's dance was an example of "the grass is always greener on the other side." When Don and Betty show up to the party and Harry and Pete and their wives gather around, you can see the hurt and disappointment in Trudy's face when the talk of pregnancy and babies is brought up. Later on, when Pete and Trudy are dancing, you can see the longing on Harry's wife's face. I took it as a "you don't dance with me like that anymore. Look at how carefree and happy Pete and Trudy are since they don't have to worry about caring for and supporting a child." So just as Trudy was jealous of Harry's wife (her name escapes me) for being able to talk about all the discomfort of the last months of pregnancy and how worth it it is, Harry's wife is jealous that Pete and Trudy seem to have the time and love for each other to learn how to dance like they do. Nothing is really as it seems, and the Mad Men characters can't always seem to grasp that. Once they attain what they think they want, they might find out that they don't really want it.

Unknown said...

Great point, Laura G, about Trudy being a credit to Pete here, and it made me see that all the wives at the party seemed to see this as their "job."

Trudy -> Pete
Jennifer -> Harry (see how she pushes him to mingle more effectively?)
Betty -> Don (constantly reminding him of his responsibility to stay. Though of course she really just wants to be there herself.)

Put's Ken's exclamation "Next time, I need to bring a date!" into context.

Plus, it highlights the dysfunction when the wife's not a credit: Jane and Roger.

And it ties Joan's story in to the party. I disagree with Alan that Dr. Greg has no idea that Joan is helping his career. I read that he absolutely knows. That greedy look on his face during the dinner party when he's pushing Joan to the front of the conversation. Not because he's lovingly proud of her, but because he knows it makes him look good.

arrabbiata said...

Found it a bit disconcerting how a bunch of doctors were giggling like school kids at the "cut the cheese" reference. I remember having to explain the meaning of the phrase to my mother back in the 70's. I imagine that men will always be ahead of women when it comes to flatulence terminology.

My first reaction to the Charleston scene was that for once Pete and Trudy seemed happy to be together. So often one is upset with the other. My second reaction was that they must have worked very hard at this. The other dancing couples looked like they just wanted to have fun doing a lively dance, but were forced off the dance floor to make room for the show-offs. Pete trying to win an imagined competition.

Didn't get a molestation vibe from Gene regarding Sally. The situation with Betty last season was significantly different- he was confusing an adult woman with similar looks for his wife. I can't imagine him thinking a little girl is his wife. On the other hand, I was worried that he might have a violent outburst toward her regarding the stolen money, or that Carla would be taking the blame. I was a little surprised that Betty didn't just automatically blame her son for the missing money, but I guess the conclusion that her father was just confused was more logical. If we hadn't seen Sally take it, I would have assumed Gene was mistaken about the money.

Peggy's social and career evolution and Joan's dawning realization of her own talents and the nature of her husband's world make them two of the most interesting characters on television these days. This show needs a long run if only to see how things go for them over the rest of the decade. Of course, I could proabably say the same about most of the other characters on the show.

E. Conty said...

"Putting on a show" would be the theme for the episode. Besides all the vaudeville acts, there's Paul the intellectualoid, and Sally trying to hide her misdemeanor.

I loved the way Peggy's interactions with Olive played out through the episode, culminating in her slightly eerie hyper-lucid assurances that everything will turn out all right.

Nelson Rockefeller had more troubles than his marriage to Happy in 1963. Note the radio mentioning the State Liquor Board scandal, which embroiled a number of Rockefeller appointees and led to new legislation.

Is it me, or is Don shown to be more at ease with older folks? Gene the last episode, and Connie here. Another hint of Don's place when the generational divide starts?

Put me down under the "sad" column for the Charleston. All I could think of is that in less than a year four brit mopheads are going to land at JFK (not Idlewild!) and completely turn their world upside down... and then Weiner cuts to TS Eliot.

KarenX said...

I never thought Betty was lying about "waiting for a friend" when she was talking to that guy. She was obviously pregnant and thus married (at that party, of course she would be). I think he was just drawn to her. Him putting his hand on her belly--and asking first! Imagine that! It truly was a golden age!--was a remarkable event. In this episode that cast such a haze over everyone, he was a person who understood what real life meant. It was so shocking to see something really so genuine. And then later, when we saw him with his own trophy wife... and her darling little unpregnant figure. What a contrast.

You see so rarely episodes of television about mothers, especially about mothers as benevolent, protective forces. I am sounding a little hippy-dippy here, but mothers are not common in fiction, capable mothers less so. Betty is perhaps not a good mother, but she is the obviously pregnant one. I thought the older women/mothers in the form of Mrs. Doctor and Secretary were more helpful than not, and that each of them has given Peggy and Joan real information about the world.

Peggy especially. The secretary maybe was jealous, and fearful about what could happen, and judgmental (I actually liked her), but she got through to Peggy about what it means to be Peggy and a woman at Sterling Cooper in a moment--Bobbie Barrett and even Joan have been trying to tell Peggy what to do and how to be for much, much longer, but this secretary--who was a working woman who became a mother and came back to work--means something good/useful to her.

The best line for me was another one of Peggy's, about how Paul couldn't possibly know what she likes because he never, ever bothers to ask her. I think Paul, somewhere deep inside, heard that message, too.

Jeff said...

I wondered if "wash your teeth" was outmoded phrasing as well. Julianne Moore's character says it in "Far From Heaven," which takes place in the 1950s.

Brandy said...

I got the impression that Joan's husband knew exactly how good she was for his career. That is why when things got tense and uncomfortable he had Joan show off for them. I thought he was using her for his own advancement.

Brian said...

KarenX - great pick up about Peggy's line to Paul. I got the impression he truly heard her too. I had forgotten about that until your comment.

Jeff said...

I wonder if there's a connection between Don brushing the grass with his fingers at the end of the season premiere, trying to make contact with something real, and Don walking across the grass to find Betty at the end of this episode -- leaving behind Roger and his hatefulness and this whole artificial shebang in the artificially-lit tent to go be with his wife in the darkness.

cleamontis said...

In defense of accordions - They didn't have the dorky rep back then. Like Joan - my mom took lessons for much of her youth in the late 40's and 50's (it was a social- climbing thing for a working class immigrant (French Canadian and Irish) mill town). Her mother sewed beautiful floor length gowns for competitions and recitals. As a kid in the 60's I remember her playing at parties (mostly family - occasionally with friends) with that big styled housewife hair, full makeup and a fitted print sheath dress, with bright clip-on earrings, matching brooch or necklace and point-toed heels. Kudos to the writers for accuracy for the feel of the time...

DeeTV said...

I don't know if it's the actor or the character, but the guy that plays Joan's fiance drives me nuts since he always looks like he has a pinch of snuff in between his lips and mouth and is trying to keep from swallowing it or spitting it out.

He drives me nuts too. What is this actor's name? I know him from somewhere but I can't place him. He really shows just how ugly a really good-looking person can be.

Other thoughts:
- I wonder how common spousal rape was at the time. I find it disgusting and unforgivable. At the same time I wonder if it's like many other things in the show. Things, that while maybe not acceptable, were ignored or not discussed.

- Don calling Roger foolish. Roger must really be losing clout at S-C. Don and Roger have always had a good, pretty honest relationship, but I don't think it's wise to tell one's boss they look foolish, especially in reference to the boss's wife.

- I liked the Charleston dance scene. I saw it as Pete & Trudy having a good time doing something they're both good at. I didn't get the same vibe as lot of the folks here, but I think I'll go and re-watch it.

- Was that Christina H.'s real voice? I know Alan mentioned it was her playing the accordian, I'm wondering if it was her really singing. I'm always amazed when I see the talent of some actors today. What a talented cast!

- I agree with the folks who have the feeling something bad is going to happen btwn Gene and Sally. I thought the passages she were reading had too much of a sexual tone to be appropriate reading material for her age.

Overall I thought this was a GREAT episode. I don't often re-watch episodes but I'm going to re-watch this one.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thought the old college friend, Jeffrey, looked like Tom Cruise? I kept doing double takes when he was on screen.

*****Me too. Glad you mentioned it as he was distracting. I'd think being a CRUISE doppelganger would work against him, but what do I know...Matt hired him.

Anonymous said...

These comments are all so insightful. There are many things I'd like to say - but I'll just stick to the Grandpa Gene and Sally storyline.

At first I was getting a bad molestation vibe or abuse vibe of some kind. It gradually began to dawn on me that Grandpa Gene knew that Sally had stolen the money (he was "incapacitated" when she had come looking for him and it was immediately after that when he noticed his money was gone). I think he knew from the start and was trying to get Sally to admit it in front of her parents (or Carla) so that they'd have to actually spend time dealing with Sally instead of always pushing her aside.

Toward the end of the episode I began to realize that Grandpa Gene is the one person (besides Carla) who is noticing that no one in the house is truly spending time with Sally and Bobby - quality time. Don does when he's home - but that's not very often. Grandpa Gene's line about "throwing money at all their problems to solve them" is an indication that they need to spend time, not money, truly exploring the gifts and talents of their children and their life. He's becoming an adult that Sally can trust to give her time and teach her the way things should be done.

Incidentally, I see this sometimes with my dad and my son. My husband and I have all the worriesand time constraints of parents with young children...but sometimes it's my dad (grandpa in this scenario) who has the time to spend with my son grabbing a grashopper by the wings and showing him what one looks like close up...or telling my son to respect mommy and be grateful and thankful for the wonderful meals she prepares...small things but things with a much larger meaning.

Anonymous said...

This was one great episode?

- I thought they were going to fade to black with Joan & her accordian.

- Some posters are thinking of the Charelston in "Wonderful Life" as being a decade prior but the scene where they danced the Charelston was pre-depression '20's. By '63, Pete & Trudy are dancing their parents' dance.

- The back and forth between the past (the country club) and the future (the young folks in the office) was very well done.

- Olive was a good stand in for every Mom who had to let their daughters go into the feminist movement / sexual revolution of the late '60s.

- At my next party I'm going to make an Old Fashioned like Don - it was cool to watch. What did he grind up in the glass, a sugar cube?


Russell Lucas said...

Boy, this episode was great. I had to rewatch the first two before cottoning to them, and even then, there was too much of the multinat corp business in the first two episodes. But everything from the maypole dance last week through this week's episode has been sublime. And part of that is because it's got a lot less plotty since then, which is what I love, but I can see why something a little more narratively-directed might have been what AMC/the producers wanted for the first two episodes to hook new viewers. Otherwise, this should have been the season premiere.

What's so impressive about the show is how even when Draper is reduced to a guest star, the presence of the other well-drawn characters, particularly Peggy and Joan, more than compensates.

I didn't see anything sad about Pete and Trudie's Charleston. It was the first time I recalled ever seeing the two of them really enjoying each other's company, in a purely unself-conscious way, without a collective scheming for advancement or him plying her with insincere pet names. If it was a ploy to get some sort of firmwide recognition, it's a pretty goofy one. It just looked like a moment of pure enjoyment, where a mostly-useless talent can have a specific social application once in a great while. Sorta like playing the accordion.

And even if the Charleston was a dance popular during an earlier, lone-gone time, it's born out of a nostalgia that's not patently offensive like Roger's blackface, and unlike a waltz or other inherently blueblood jig, the Charleston was a democratic dance exclusive only to the extent that Pete and Trudie's skills excluded everybody else from the dance floor in appreciative awe. The inclusion of that bit of dance fad called back to the other ways the show has used trends-- especially that great opening scene for season two set to "Twist Again," (the epitome of trying to prolong a dance craze's expiration date) which immediately told us where we were chronologically last season.

Of course, even as the Twist craze died down later on that year, there are still some opportunistic times to make reference to it, eh, Harry?

Of course, making a comely young woman jiggle to get a job isn't a nice thing to do, and it's even worse when you're not the guy who hires the jiggle, but it could be worse: you could be a doctor executing a Code Pink. Just one of the perks of the either job, I guess. And we wonder where Joan's husband got his warped sense of sexual entitlement.

So there are these great echoes throughout the episode of the perks and burdens of being employed; you may get to watch young women audition for commercials, but you'll end up wasting your weekend at a ridiculous party where you're not having any fun. You'll get to be married to a doctor, but you'll have to host a party where you'll be examined in every way imaginable. Flip side: maybe as the junior copywriter you'll have to sacrifice your weekend to meet a deadline, but you'll get the liberty to work as you want when there's nobody else around.

And I love Betty's line: "I look like an open umbrella." It's really evocative.

Todd said...

I've dreaded Greg's reappearance on the show, so I thought it was hilarious that one of the first things he does is smell himself and say, "I stink." It's what we were all thinking the minute we saw him.

Then Joan said, "Why don't you go take a bath?" That seemed as old-fashioned as "wash your teeth," from a time when many bathrooms had bathtubs but no showers.

miles said...

At the beginning of the episode, Harry has the actress do the twist. Later we see Pete and his wife doing the charleston. The contrast was dramatic to me.

I also thought that it was interesting that Carla spoke back to Gene in what would be called an 'uppity' fashion (at the time). Maybe that's because race issues are bubbling to the surface in the country.

Anonymous said...

*Jasct-Alan, I think you need tot calm down on the hatred for her hub. Yeah, he was a pig last season, but clearly, Joan has the upper hand in their marriage and always will.*

OK rape is not “pig.” I understand back then that using your engaged as your sexual outlet for whatever reason was not at all considered unusual, but it was just as wrong and everyone knew it. Where exactly is the upper hand when he totally ignores her please vocally and from her eyes to NOT make her perform, let alone the accordion to such an impressive audience?

Joan is learning how to maneuver him better, and losing hope since the only reasons she had to be in this marriage are disappearing, but I’d hardly say we’ve seen that Joan always has and always will have the upper hand here.

I actually related well to Pete and Trudy here. Trapped in a world that tells you “Do all these things and we’ll like you and everyone wants to be liked so you’ll fell good when you do” and then you do all those things and you STILL just aren’t comfortable but there’s nothing else TO do because then you’ll just be hermits and get no more money or social status.

Personally I found Peggy’s slicing comment about how no one ever asks her what she wants unless it’s frilly femme stuff much more satisfying than declaring she wanted to smoke marijuana.

And Don, as always, is stuck as a hypocrite who can’t really make anyone happy or be fully comfortable. He dares get uncomfortably watching the blackface performance and escapes, and yet fully endorses all of the servant/black status of his own housekeeper in his own home where he is King and she cannot even eat at the table with the family to eat the dinner she prepared.

Betty continues her path on becoming Mother of the Year, curious to see how this plays out.


FranklyMrBillShankly said...

As a Kentuckian, I was amused that Don leaves the Derby party and its mint juleps behind to make an Old Fashioned, which was reputedly invented at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, an institution as similarly exclusive (economically, racially) as Roger's country club.

Also, I think that Joan started playing the accordion when she started 'developing.' It's one of the few instruments you can play that completely covers your chest.

Nicole said...

It sounded like Christina H's voice, mostly because the French was pretty mangled and hard to understand and I imagine that a dub would have made it sound clearer. She does have a pretty voice, but it would have been nice to have someone coach her a bit on the pronunciation.

I hate the Evil Dr. Greg even tries to belittle Joan by calling her the diminutive "joanie", which reduces her to a little girl. Luckily our Joan can take care of herself.

As for the question of spousal rape, I imagine that it would be impossible to know how often this occurred, since in most countries, it was not defined as a crime until the 80s. Probably only in situations where the physical evidence was obvious would people outside the relationship even know.

Madame Leiderhosen said...

Jane sure did grab Don mighty close to the crotch. She's such a nasty piece of work.

Anonymous said...


Your point about Happy Rockerfeller leading to Goldwater leading to Reagan only adds to the irony of Reagan being the only divorced president in our history.

Anonymous said...

The Code Pink issue put together all the pieces of the puzzle re Greg's need to control it rape or gawking at them while naked and unconcious...reminds me of men who "Ruffie" women. It was not lost on Joan either. She had an eye opening dinner party with finding out Boy Wonder will NOT be the Chief Resident due to his bungled surgery. This knowledge gives Joan the upper hand and Greg knows it. I'm sure the snide remark about Joan having so many talents was directly related to her "taking the drivers seat" while in bed...threatening his masculinity.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenter who said the unifying theme was performance masking or attempting to compensate for dissatisfactions. Seen in that light, perhaps it is significant that Betty's baby refuses to kick on cue to put on a show for the stranger.

I think the episode can also be seen as having a broader theme of entertainment/self-entertainment and its ties to desperation, which could bring in many other things, including the marijuana, and Sally and Gene's read-alouds as well. And Sally's acted performance of her "scene" where she finds the money.

Maybe "charades" is a good word for the underlying theme. "Let's play charades!" "You're terrible at charades." "No I'm not!"

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this mentioned yet, but there was a moment at the dinner party that sent chills up my spine: when Joan hears about Greg losing a patient due to a surgical error, listens to his lame excuse for not having told her about it, and gives him that ... look. What a telling moment in their relationship.
While I agree with earlier posts that last season's rape will leave her on guard every day of their marriage, I cannot agree that it has given Greg "the upper hand." That look Joan gave him told me that while Greg may be under the delusion that he has the upper hand, he is way out of his league. As the rest of us already know, you only cross Joan at your own peril!
Now that Joan realizes Greg is reaping the benefit of being married to her, rather than the other way around -- and now that Greg knows she knows this -- HE will be on guard. Of course, the dynamic of his insecurity and jealousy is a hallmark in abusive relationships, but if anyone could handle this without becoming victimized, it would be Joan.

Unknown said...

For some reason, I felt this episode dragged with some great moments. Each week I have more admiration for Jon Hamm and how he just dominates the scenes and eats up the screen - much like Gandolfini - at the same time I don't find the other characters as interesting-when they aren't interacting w/ Don/Dick.

I thought the bar scene was great-for several reasons. I loved the class angle-I loved Don's story and Connie's comments about weddings (and the one he was attending in particular). I also liked Connie's comment on how he feels in the room with the "country club republicans" and that even though he is a republican as well-he felt differently. I know there is a no politics rule, so I will keep this a generic historical observation. I wondered if this was a hint at the schism that soon develops within the party between the western conservatives (Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan) and the NE Rockefeller republicans. Nixon appeals to men like Connie and Don b/c of his life story but also his big business credentials. If "Connie" was Conrad Hilton, does this mean we can expect another meeting between he and Don for an ad campaign?

On the personal/relationship side some really troubling signs in this episode. I keep getting the sense in watching these first few episodes of the season that this ends poorly for Joan and Roger. Joan b/c she might likely end up being divorced w/ nothing after helping (Greg?) finish his residency, set up a practice (and then run off w/ a younger version of Joan-or multiple younger versions). I thought the "hint" about not having a baby and something along the lines of you will be fine "no matter what happens" were really striking.

I feel the same way about Roger-that this ends poorly-another HA and Jane likely leaving him (before or after) for a younger man.

I also thought it was interesting w/ Betty that she sees there is life after divorce even with kids and even to more powerful (and loving) men.

Alan you have said that there are hints the world passes Don by and the show is supposed to end w/ him in California. I was struck last week when he said he had just been to California and everything seemed clean and hopeful. And while Dick is the guy who can't do anything right-Don seems to be the guy who will be ok no matter what. I have to wonder if he rides that TV wave out to California after things fall apart w/ Betty. Just some thoughts. enjoying the show and your weekly summaries-thanks and keep up the great work.

Warren said...

Caught an error at the start of the show where a radio plays the news and refers to "Attorney General" Hogan. In fact, Frank Hogan was the long time New York County Manhattan DA, not he state attorney general. Hogan was succeeded by Robert Morganthau Jr., who is retiring this year.

Ciji said...

I dunno… I felt Carla’s treatment of Gene was a bit out-of-place and too modern (much like Betty’s “little lesbian” comment in the season premiere). She was quite abrupt and a little rude to him. From what my grandmother -a housekeeper/nanny for a upper-class White family- told me, you just didn’t “sass” White people like this. However, my grandmother was in the South, whereas the Drapers are in New York.

So, I could be wrong.

Wood Swords said...

Holy crap, Warren, good catch. I could barely make out that dialogue and I was straining really hard to.

Russell Lucas said...

I don't see how any of the information Joan acquired at the dinner party can alter either the balance of power in her marriage or her prospects of long-term happiness. If anything, it should make her unhappier.

If Peggy is able to see a clear vision for how to arrange her life to be happy, Joan's plainly not there. She's still working on a set of inherited assumptions-- that she'll be able to quit her job and be a full-time hostess/mother, not unlike the Betty Drapers or Trudie Campbells of the world. She's all ready to help her guy climb the ladder. If she's going to change her objectives, that's going to take some work. We've already seen that, cruelly enough, by crossing the age 30 threshhold she's past the expiration date for office tart.

Russell Lucas said...

Whoops, forgot to add that Joan's also hemmed in because while divorce is becoming an option for the Rockefellers and the Roger Sterlings of the world, it's only financially palatable for the ex-wives when they're married to a rich guy. Greg's clearly not going to be that guy. So it's not as if she can up and leave without being thrust back into shared apartments or a kept arrangement.

Guy Nicolucci said...

The Music. That was the best part of the episode. Each plot featured at least one character singing/dancing/playing a kind of music that is about to become even more out of date than it was in 1963 because the Beatles are coming.
This was one of the best unstated "Mad Men" themes I can remember. Gene is right. "All Hell is gonna break lose."

Anonymous said...

It seems everyone noticed what all the characters had in common. And that was they all had a talented and practiced activity of some sort. Whether it was charades, singing, dancing or reading (did anyone noticed the vocabulary the little girl possessed) and lastly conversational skills. Interaction between men and women, upper class and lower class, boss and workers; all forced upon them due to the proclivity of the day.

But I saw nothing said to what was lacking with all of them; television. Would Connie’s and Don’s revelations and bonding happen if the “game” was on? A child reading to her grandfather in today’s world? It is now called books on tape. Musical instruments played or dances done by couples? No time, too busy watching Mad Men and then on to a faceless discussion with…me.

belinda said...

Nope. Still hate the guy. Poor, poor Joan. But that 'showdown' with Jane was awesome. I only wish we would be seeing some of that Joan while she's dealing with Greg.

Drunk Jane and her interaction with Don did kind of confirmed that in the last season, she was indeed aspiring to be Don's mistress rather than Roger's (and now wife). Which is pretty interesting.

I love the scene of the Charleston. Without any words, it has described so succintly and perfectly what the Campbells are.
And I was really impressed with the actors' dancing skills.

And of course Peggy. I love her "Paul makes me sleepy" line, she had so many choice lines this week. I like seeing the interactions of the creative, and seeing them work without the account people, though I do miss seeing Don at the office. I love the scene with her and her secretary, in which she made a really good speech, and then to have that end with Peggy exclaiming her clothes (or something, I forgot) to be beautiful. I like this secretary, I hope she stays with Peggy.

It's lovely to see an episode where song and dance are so readily used in such an effective manner, perhaps even more effective with actual dialogue.

Jessamyn said...

Re: Pete and Trudy presenting a happy, united front - I also was thinking that perhaps, with her confession, Peggy gave Pete a gift. That is, he was so focused on what Peggy was and Trudy wasn't: Peggy "got" him, Peggy is savvy and clear-eyed, etc. - but he had to face the fact that he'd irrevocably thrown away what he could have had with Peggy. Was it a wake-up call to hang on to what he has with Trudy? It may not be perfect, but she loves him and in some ways they do understand each other.

And this coming from someone who ordinarily can't stand Pete for his emotional abusiveness, btw.

I thought it was nice that everyone did their own singing, in realistically varying degrees of quality. Paul's voice is not as good as the drug dealer's, but he was in tune - the dealer kept going flat. Joan was completely enjoyable as a performer, but it was not a professional voice. Roger's the most talented, but it is of the least use to him. Especially deployed the way it was.

Speaking of which, I saw Pete's distaste at the blackface as part of his dislike of those who do anything to excess, such as Freddy's drinking. Roger is doing a lot of things to excess, and he's definitely passed a number of taste barriers here.

Jessamyn said...

Forgot to add: I saw Don's hopping over the bar as an explosive release of energy, just as his violent mashing-up of the drink bits was. He's barely keeping a check on his desire to run the heck outta there. I think relaxing a little with Connie and telling that story on himself reminded him not to take it all so seriously.

Jarvis and Anita said...

Alan, I love this show, but most of the time I can't figure it out, can't work out how all the pieces fit together. Then I read your entry and the little lightbulb goes on in my head! Many thanks - I must point out though that I think the Wire was also getting comment volumes similar to this towards the end... :)

Anonymous said...

Two great exchanges from this episode - which was one of the funniest I can remember - which haven't been mentioned yet (i'm paraphrasing):

"You people, you think money solves every problem."
"No, just this one."

And then the line where Peggy goes off on Paul for only caring about how she feels about bras and body odor. And then the other guys is like, "I'm very interested in how you feel." Or something like that.

Onetime said...

More evidence of Connie = Conrad Hilton: The "Live Like A Mad Man" sweepstakes offer from the aforementioned hotel chain.

And the protest by Paul on using his mohair sweater captured the prestige mohair had in the 60's.

Anonymous said...

I'm from KY and I put the pillow over my head when Roger sang "My Old KY Home". I was so shocked! I laughed when Gene told Sally to wash her teeth because my own grandfather from NJ used to say that. Also interesting to me is that my brother was born 5-11-63 and since the Derby is the first Saturday in May he would have been born that next Sunday.

DaveMB said...

No one yet has mentioned that the woman at Joan's party was "due in September, just like the first lady". I had to look it up -- I remember the assassination because there was new on the TV all the time and so I couldn't watch Bozo the Clown, but at age four I missed that particular Kennedy tragedy. But I knew last night that John-John was old enough to stand at JFK's funeral and that Caroline was older, so any 1963 baby must not have made it...

Thanks for the Conrad Hilton pointer. It is interesting how well Don relates to older men. This is the first time we've had a historical person portrayed on the show, right?

Zack Smith said...

In the Charleston scene, the main thing I noticed was how awkwardly Harry was dancing, and how upset Jennifer looked as she rushed off. Harry doesn't know how to realize his ambition, and his awkwardness throughout was just painful.

The Charleston was over-rehearsed and both Pete and Trudy were trying to hard, but it was pretty fancy footwork. Honestly, the fact that those two can even seem to work together is weirdly hopeful.

For some reason, I liked Don's line "Don't hand out your card" to Pete, after Pete pointed out the Duponts where there. Don knows Pete all too well, and still loves to give him the brush-off, but there was good advice wrapped up in that.

Peggy's marijuana experiment seemed similar to Don's thought process -- indulging in some new world, but constantly working the whole time, leading to a creative epiphany. As she becomes more like Don, can she avoid the rootlessness that still affects his every interaction?

Gene is in some ways better with Sally than both her parents. But his dementia is only going to get worse.

Joan's painful little luncheon with Dr. Rapist's coworkers is just another reminder that she's better than him. I just hope she moves forward from this, somehow...Free Joan!

I recall Christina Hendricks also payed the accordion on the UPN show KEVIN HILL. C'est magnifique indeed.

At this point, I honestly have no idea whether Roger is happy with Joan, or has just convinced himself of it. Joan, half-in-the-bag and barely able to get through the party, is definitely not happy, and Roger's going to pay the price...

As a previous poster mentioned, that was some shoddy blackface. If you're going to be racist, at least put some care into it.

Paul Kinsey may well be the most pathetic character on the show. He seems stuck between intellectual snobbery and half-hearted liberal gestures, but everyone, even the bored Cosgrove, is leaving him behind. Will he make any progress this season?

Boy oh boy is Don going to be in trouble when Betty gets that kid out. She was eyeing the back of that guy's head like it was lunch. Even with Don's attempt at a romantic gesture at the end, she's had a taste of his philandering life, and she liked it.

Mostly character-building this week, but there is a sense things are going to explode this year...

Liam said...

Miles Fisher, who played Princeton Tigertones-turned-pusher Jeffrey Graves, was a member of the Krokodiloes at Harvard College.

DaveMB said...

Should Don have recognized Conrad Hilton? Two possible answers:

1) Don has only just started to travel in the circles of the very rich, and I think Hilton is one of the richest men in the world at that time. I don't think he would necessarily be well known by face, unless he promoted his company by his own face like Donald Trump or Bill Gates, and I don't believe he did.

2) If Don did recognize Conrad Hilton, who introduced himself as some guy named Connie, then the cool Don Draper thing to do would be to treat him as some guy named Connie. (Yet another performance in the episode, perhaps?) As opposed to the uncool Pete Campbell thing to do, which would be to give Hilton his business card. (My take on the Charleston was relief to see Pete not being a douchebag for once.)

WV: "poduclen" -- a prescription product to reduce foot odor

Art Fleming said...

Pete really loved that dancing, didn`t he? I think he thought he was winning (and he was kinda).
Count me also in for fearing grandpa would molest little Sally. Maybe im a disturbed young man, those were tense for me.

Anonymous said...

Another memorable Peggy quote,(when she's just caught them smoking and doesn't seem fine about it):
Smitty: You can go home, we'll do the work.
Peggy: Are you kidding, we'll end up with nothing.

Something in the tone of her voice makes me think that she doesn't mean that no work will be done because of the weed but because she knows she will have better ideas than the others.

Also, loved Joan's dress at the dinner party, the black with red flowers matched her red hair and lipstick beautifully. She is really stunning.

Paul Outlaw said...

"Hilton International began on a comparative shoestring, with $300,000 in preopening money and an offer from the Puerto Rican government that Conrad Hilton could not refuse. With no further financial support from the parent company, a small staff expanded judiciously using profit-sharing leases and, later, management contracts. Each deal had to make sense on its own, and the company was ever sensitive to the potential impact on its good name of a bad deal. Cut loose from the domestic Hilton organization in 1963, Hilton International is now a multibillion-dollar company. In addition to pioneering leases and management contracts, the firm created an employee-development institute in 1968 that was instrumental in developing its key employees, which is one of the major contributions a management firm can bring to a hotel deal."

Rob Biesenbach said...

Several additional thoughts.

I think it would be hilarious if Peggy's purple-haze-induced brainstorms turn out, in the light of morning (and sobriety), to be total crap! I doubt it, though.

I thought Don hopping over the bar was so odd and out of character for him. I like the "do anything to escape" theory someone posited. Maybe that was Dick Whitman coming out. Don Draper is always so still, so controlled. In that room, away from everyone but a guy named Connie, maybe he felt free to be loose and uninhibited.

The guy who touched Betty's pregnant belly. Did he say he worked for the Governor? I feel like he'll be back for some reason (in addition to Connie). Unless he was there simply for Betty's character development.

Thank you to the person who id'd the drug dealer as Miles Fisher. People said he reminded them of Tom Cruise. To me it was more Christian Bale. And in fact it turns out he was the guy playing Christian in a funny video mashup I saw recently -- American Psycho set to Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place." It's uncanny!

sheridan said...

Wondering why no one has commented on the lack of Brits at Roger's party. Clearly, he should have invited at least Pryce. Inviting subordinate acct directors and not Pryce is a snub that the whole office must know about--everyone knew about the party (at least in the upper circles). Bad political move on Roger's part--or does he just not care since he has his money and knows he has no purpose/future at the company?

Amanda P. said...

As another commenter with a history of infertility, I can completely relate to Trudy and Pete's need for "something else" to be good at and admired for. However, the piece of the discussion that I have missed is how Pete and Trudy went from last season (where they couldn't stand each other) to this season, where everthing appears to be great. I am so afraid that Peggy's announcement about her baby turned the "it's not MY fault we can't get pregnant" key in Pete's brain, and that is what's turned him into a potentially decent husband (although still an annoying little snot).

The other thing I have seen discussed much in the comments was Joan's look at Greg after she started playing. I couldn't quite interpret it, but for just a tiny, tiny second, I felt sorry for Greg. There was such a sense of "I am sooo going to get you for this" in Joan's expression, and Greg just looked scared.

Anonymous said...

The outfit worn by the Patio model at the beginning of the episode is identical to an outfit worn by Ann-Margret in "Bye Bye Birdie" as seen in this clip:

SadEnding said...
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Anonymous said...

My insides instantly crashed down against my pubic bone when Don went over the bar. Ladies (Gents?)... was it just me?

And what is so funny about the "I am Peggy Olson" line? It's not a standout to me, but maybe I'm missing something.

Eldritch said...

Alan said...
Pete and Trudy don't recognize how sad their well-rehearsed Charleston is

Later, Alan said, he saw them as sad due their sad need to be the center of attention or "dance winners." (Hope I paraphrased that correctly.)

For a different reason, I think their dance scene had a sadness to it. They were dancing the Charleston, an old fashioned, obsolete dance. The Charleston was a dance fad of the 1920's. It never came back.

Pete and his wife should be looking to their present of 1963 and the future. They should be dancing current and newly faddish dances which were coming in then, like the Twist.

Instead, like Roger wearing black face, Pete and Trudy are looking backward to how things were done in the past. How many hours have they devoted to perfecting an antique dancing technique? Of course, they're very good and thrilled by the admiration they're getting, but they're only impressing the older folk, their parents and grandparents.

I had the feeling the whole country club party scene showed people obsessed with how thing used to be.

I got that feeling about Don late last season when he went to California. There was a scene of his standing at poolside in the warm sun. Everybody else is relaxed and lounging in swimsuits. He alone is dressed in a full, heavy business, including a pork pie hat. How out of step and clinging to the past is that?

At Draper's home, Gene's granddaughter is reading him The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This seems to capture the theme of the episode. Gene is certainly in his decline, while Roger and his crowd ignore the coming changes, fiddling to the tunes of the past.

Where else does it fit? I not really sure. This series often/usually surprises me, and honestly, I'm such a sucker for twists. But can anything good come from smoking grass at work? I'm getting very worried about Peggy. She was high, but even so, she boldly told her secretary that she was going to be fine. In the words of Bill Cosby, "Never challenge Worse, 'cause it'll come back and get 'cha!" She's challenged the gods. And if the gods hate anything, it's hubris.

HaroldsMaude said...
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HaroldsMaude said...

"The outfit worn by the Patio model at the beginning of the episode is identical to an outfit worn by Ann-Margret in "Bye Bye Birdie""

absolutely, right down to her long red hair and flats. Nice carryover from last week.

And if you watch the film, the pusher (Miles Fisher) may have resembled Christian Bale (my daughter thought so too), but he reminded me of Bobby Rydell in that film (or Tim Matheson in Animal House).

And speaking of look alikes, who but me thought of Frances Sternhagen every time Peggy's new secretary was on?

Unknown said...

Following on from the Conrad Hilton spot, there's a real contrast building between Don and Pete (and pretty much everyone else). Remember a couple of weeks ago when Pete had his tantrum and said something like, "why can't good things just happen to me?!!?!" Good things do seem to "just happen" to Don -- like happening to meet Conrad Hilton while both were escaping formal functions. It seems like we'll see Connie again, and Don will have already won the account.

Daniel said...

Smitty's response to Paul quoting Eliot -- "OK, we get it, you're educated" -- is what I might've said to the Mad Men writers after seeing the scene where Sally reads "Decline of the Roman Empire" out loud. A bit overboard on the symbolism.

Thought it was interesting that Alan felt Pete and Trudy doing the Charleston was "sad." I guess Pete's reputation precedes him, but I sort of thought the routine was cute.

I could be wrong, but I don't think this was the first time we've seen marijuana on "Mad Men." Wasn't there a scene in Season 1 where Don is hanging out with Midge and her friends at her apartment, and they're all lounging around and getting high?

Jaredruddell said...

I'd say Mad Men's greatest scene transition to date occurs in this ep. As Peggy takes her first few hits on the joint, puff! we get the crazily surreal close up of Roger in black face. I definitely burst out laughing after that registered.

Daniel said...

I think the thing that makes Trudi and Pete's dance "sad" is that it's the Charleston! Sure, maybe they are taking dance lessons, and maybe they know the Fox Trot from the forties and Lindy from the fifties, but why do they know the Charleston? How square are these people?

Given that the party was at the Kentucky Derby, which even today has an old-fashioned theme, I didn't think them dancing the Charleston was out of place at all.

Plus, the music that was being played while Pete and Trudy danced was unmistakably 1920s/jazz/ragtime. It would've been weird if they broke out into the twist or something more modern.

Eileen said...
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berkowit28 said...

Eileen, if you'd read the comments written before yours, you'll find the answer. You could do a "Find" on "Connie" if you're not interested in anything else.

Ellie said...

Ceej: "I dunno… I felt Carla’s treatment of Gene was a bit out-of-place and too modern"

I kinda felt the same way--Carla seemed just a little too familiar with Gene. This is from a southern perspective too, so, as you say, it may have been different in NY. OTOH, Viola's dressing down of Betty seemed pitch perfect and maternal.

Regarding "washing your teeth," I remember my old (and southern) relatives saying this back in the 60s and 70s (provoking giggles from me and my sibs).

Speaking of sibs, thanks to Anon above jogging my memory regarding the dates, it just occurred to me that my sister was born on the day of the big Sterling soiree.

Kathy said...

When Pete and his wife began dancing the Charleston, I couldn't help but think back to the beginning of the episode when the Ann Margaret look alike was asked to dance the Twist for the entertainment of the guys who were auditioning her. Social change happened so quickly during the 60's that we were left with these sharp contrasts in many areas. Racial unrest increased our awareness of what was still happening in the South at the same time wearing blackface or employing a black maid was still considered acceptable. The older men were drinking old-fashioneds while the younger men were smoking marijuana. This episode revolved around these social contrasts.

SadEnding said...
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Anonymous said...

I guess I need to go back and watch the "rape" scene again because I don't remember having a strong negative reaction to it. The way I remember it, they were engaged, he was horny, and he wanted to have sex and she did not resist. It is possible I was not really paying attention, and if that's the case, I feel bad I missed a key plot point. But the thing is, I don't seem to have this same intense hatred of Joan's husband that most of posters seem to have. Yes, Joan is finding out he is not the dream guy, but that does not mean he is some horrible criminal in my mind. Nobody's perfect. Maybe the theme of this season will be about finding ways to make your marriage work after you find out your parter is not perfect.

Anonymous said...

Yes, employing an illegal alien is now the acceptable way to hire a maid :)

Kathy said...

ProfJoe...Do you see black maids...or maids at your neighborhood? Certainly not in mine.

Anonymous said...

Disappointing that not a single person felt compelled by Chelcie Ross's appearance to say, "Bartender, Jobu needs a refill!"

Paul Outlaw said...

RE: The Charleston Debate

The party itself may have been a pathetic throwback, but there was nothing inherently pathetic about the young couple dancing that old-fashioned dance. It was after all a Kentucky Derby theme party where the band (along with the tiresome host in blackface) was trying to create an old-time feeling. At that moment they were playing a Charleston. What else would you dance to it? Everyone else on the dance floor tried to, only Pete and Trudy had it down pat.

mj said...

So Sally was able to think through the likely consequences of 1. stealing from a grandfather with dementia, 2. taking just $5 rather than the whole $35, and 3. devising a way to give the money back without confessing. Yet, even if she had gotten away with her plan, what in the world would she have done with the $5? Saved it until she was old enough to go to a store on her own? Make black market deals? Invest in Conrad Hilton's hotels? Nah, she's just like both her parents - fundamentally dishonest and having a propensity to want to do bad things but able to disguise it well.

AMC has been hammering the "Story Matters Here" tagline. The AMC execs were likely disappointed last night. I knew some people who watched MM for the first time and were completely baffled by how little the story mattered in "My Old Kentucky Home". Someone upthread suggested this episode should be an Emmy submission. Really?

SadEnding said...
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Craig Ranapia said...

Was I the only person who hated seeing Roger in blackface NOT because its eye-wateringly offensive to contemporary liberal sensibilities (that's the status quo at Sterling Cooper), but because it's way too obvious for a show where, so often, the subtext is the text?

Craig Ranapia said...

Kathy said:
Do you see black maids...or maids at your neighborhood? Certainly not in mine.

Apropos of nothing, Kathy, I helped pay my way through school cleaning offices and hotel rooms. And, yes, people's houses. Found it a damn sight less degrading than being on welfare or just leaving school and starving to death.

Nicole said...

I don't understand it when people say nothing happens on this show. It's not like there was a blank screen for 60 minutes. There were conversations between people and we learned something more about the characters. Does there need to be a mystery solved each episode? It's not like this is the Mentalist. Watching this show is like catching up with your friends, where sometimes nothing of obvious importance is said, but you still gain greater insight from those conversations.

I'm not saying that this show is perfect, as I too think that the blackface was a bit like the lesbian comment, in that it was more of a "hey look how non pc we were in the 60s!" moment. However, that scene did show us the varied reactions of the characters and what that says about them. The show is a collection of moments in people's lives, with no specific path that needs to be followed, kinda like real life.

SadEnding said...
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Anonymous said...

Such a great post and comments!

Actually, Pete and Trudy's dancing act was not so uncommon back in those days. Ballroom dancing (not the "Dancing With The Has-Beens" kind) classes were popular back then, and considered a part of a well-rounded young person's extracurricular education. I had to suffer through them too, ugh.

The "different from the inside" line was great, and I agree, very Gatsby. Also when considering the Gatsby line about how (paraphrasing in my bad memory) "...they were reckless and broke things, and people, and left the mess for someone else to clean up..." That could sure sum up many of the folks on this show.

I sure thought that Peggy was going to go up to the roof and fall off!

Don behind the bar was very impressive. I never knew that watching a man muddle and mix a drink could be so sensuous. But whoa, The Shining, funny point! I loved the way Connie said something about there being a "hole" at the end of the bar after Don jumped over, heheh.

Yes, the college friend did look very much like a young Tom Cruise, he even had very similar mannerisms, it was really distracting!

Blenders (e.g. Osterizers) were very popular back then, they even had units that screwed right into the counter top in some ultra modern kitchen setups, but that didn't last long.

I came to the conclusion this week (I may be slow) that Betty never seems to be able to say please when asking for something, or thank you when given a compliment and I find that extrememly annoying.

Again, very helpful comments as usual!

Pixanne said...

Am I the only viewer to NOT see the Don/Betty kiss at the end as something swoon-worthy? As someone said upstream, that gesture was in keeping with the theme of the episode - "all for show". Don saw Roger and Jane in a tender slow dance and questioned his own judgement, and Betty found herself attracted to another man....their kiss was a desparate grasp at keeping the illusion of their marriage alive. Like Pete and Trudy's dance, and like Dr Greg and Mrs Joan's dinner party - it was all for show. The only person who was true to themselves was Peggy - even in the fog of smoke, she was clear eyed.

Linda said...

"He wanted to have sex and she did not resist"

Simply stated, you are remembering it wrong. That's just not what happened.

Raymond G said...

I beileve there was indeed a Charleston "fad" in the Spring of 1963, as I read somewhere that the Martha and the Vandellas hit "(Love Is Like A) Heatwave" (released in July '63) deliberately used the Charleston beat to capitalize on the "fad".

christy said...

"I guess I need to go back and watch the "rape" scene again because I don't remember having a strong negative reaction to it. The way I remember it, they were engaged, he was horny, and he wanted to have sex and she did not resist."

You're right, you need to watch it again. She said "no" over and over, he pushed her to the ground, she physically tried to get him off her while continuing to say "no," he pushed her face against the floor and raped her. No need for quotes around rape.

No coming back from that. I need a REALLY unhappy ending for Dr. Greg.

Betty said...

Anon, re: Joan rape - you NEED to go back and watch that scene again. It is without question, a forced sexual encounter. Joan *absolutely* resists.

It was about taking Joan's power away from her in the place where she is most powerful (work).

Brandy said...

Somebody upthread speculated that Don may have lucked into a big Hilton account as just another way that he's luckier than Pete.

However, seems like it might be a little uncomfortable for Don should he be at one of those client functions where one takes their wives and he and Connie exchange humble upbringing stories.

I'd be excited to see the return of Connie if only because he has a little info on Dick and seeing how Don would relate to seeing him on business or social settings knowing Connie knows that piece of him.

Johanna Lapp said...

I immediately thought of Connie as the non-evil twin of Vicomte Willi from last season.

Having read Decline and Fall, I can assure you that there are no "hot parts" in there that a molester could use to corrupt a small child's innocence. There was never any hint of Gene abusing Betty along those lines, was there? I wouldn't be surprised if he behaves steadily more irrationally, eventually violently, but there's no foundation to expect sexual abuse here.

"My name is Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana" is funny because the first half of the sentence is straight out of an AA meeting. The second half is not.

Black or white, the housekeeper didn't eat at the family table in those days. Shirley Booth as Hazel dined alone in the kitchen, as did Ann B. Davis as Alice.

BTW, the show started late, at 10:02, on Comcast Cable in Philly, and finished at 11:07 running 65 minutes in all. If you're DVRing, the "Record Show With Options" menu has a choice to add minutes. To be safe, I'd record 10 minutes extra. Or simply record the 10pm show and 11pm rerun, which would catch any overspill.

Smitty without Smeeth is not funny enough.

Paul gets high by mooching at Village parties, which is why he sees his connection so seldom. Also because the guy is a dipwad.

Jane was a million times cuter in the brief "Previously..." clip than in tonight's episode. Marriage is wearing her down fast.

Patrick Bouvier Kennedy would be born prematurely in August and died after two days of respiratory distress.

Remember that the Charleston in its day was as shocking and new as the Twist in the '60s.

Peggy asking for the Dictaphone reminds us that up until last week, she was doing her own typing .

How will the new corporate overlords be seen when Americans go mad for the British Invasion? The Beatles, and then Goldfinger (the huge Bond mega-breakthrough)...

Sally Draper's reading prowess wasn't based on a huge vocabulary. She was in the last cohort of kids taught to read by the phonics method, so could negotiate a word like "licentiuous" without having the slightest idea what it meant. The revolution in teaching reading was yet another '60s change that brought far more harm than good.

Chip said...

You get used to period shows like Mad Men or even shows like Sons of Anarchy for saying nigger once in awhile for authenticity sake but Jesus Christ, Roger in black face?! wtf man. Good episode tho, alot better than last weeks. Betty's pissing me off, Don's keeping his snake in his cage but she's still horny, even flirting while pregnant, jeez. Really cool to see Miles Fisher as Paul's weed hookup, until now I've only seen him making money off of his uncanny resemblance to Christian Bale and Tom Cruise. He sings too, peep his cover of that Talking Heads song:

Chip said...

I didn't think Pete and Trudy's Charleston was sad, in fact it momentarily made me forget that they have a shit marriage

Jeff Berger said...

Tonight I go back to the source and watch the first episode of "Mad Men". The three girls who occupy the rooms above me in Somerville, MA are moving to the North End. And the reason that they are moving, although they never said as much: "Mad Men". For the same reason Don Draper visits Midge at the beginning. She, having her post-coital cigarette, looks oddly like Peggy in silhouette. Draper is not in his usual steel grey but some earthier tone. He talks to the black waiter and looks up into his eyes and asks about his taste for Old Gold like Ronnie Van Zant asking Curtis Loew to show him a blues chord. The Draper that everyone loves is the Boy Wonder. The women that want to strip off his grey armour want to get down to the boy underneath, to be the mother that he never had.

Draper is merely repeating patterns, and Weiner is caught in his character's deep yearning for stability. We want it too. But we also want the airline hostess in Baltimore, because her skirt is "that much too short". (We don't want the redneck diving into the waves who becomes UCLA film student beach bum shaman rabble-rouser, hot rod salesman, proto-psychedelic voyager peddler of Pet Sounds; at least not yet). Roger wants Jane because she breaks the pattern that Joan would never break. She looks at the Rothko, lives on Jane Street. This is all like visiting Midge's apartment, with or without getting high. Don knows that Marijuana is just another goddess trip, just like his entire life, surrounded by goddesses, none of whom are enough to monopolize him. He is and Odysseus without a Penelope. The goal, remember, is to get Betty "on her feet".

Season three is a real problem. The Draper who was waiting for the young executives to pick the meat off of his bones is now being gnawed by the Empire. Instead of being entertained by Bohemian Goddesses he is fondling grass and dreaming of pagan delights around the maypole. 1963 is now. Most kids drink themselves to early liver damage rather than simply enjoy the green. Why? Because they want the lower thrill, the belly warmth of Irish whiskey, their communion with the past. One of Draper's secrets is that he knows when to sacrifice compassion on the altar of victory, whereas Roger and Cooper only pretend to know, and don't act accordingly. Marijuana, Midge, Rachel Mencken only got him so far: to glimpse parts of the mother that let him down. This show touches greatness because it draws on the same powerful source of male angst which grace most monotheism: that the all-seeing eye of man is the loneliest view.

ghoti said...

Our Miss Reynolds... What can't she do?

Anonymous said...

Just a comment on the "wash your teeth" being a regional phrase - it may be generational, too. My grandparents who are 95 and 96 both still say that and have said it all their lives. I'm 45 and never heard it other than from them. My mom is their daughter and she never said it, which leads me to believe it could be from a specific time period. My parents would be the age of several people on the show like around Betty Draper's age; so that would tie in to Betty's dad and my mom's parents being the same age and using that phrase.

And I loved the Charleston dance with Pete and his wife. I didn't think it sad at all that it was well rehearsed. At least they're well in sync in one area of their lives!

Kokuanani said...

One thing occurred to me re Joan and her "expectations:"

I think going in to this marriage, she thought it was going to "save" her from the grind @ S-C. Recall her remark, "I can't wait to get out of here," or "I'm not going to be here much longer."

Now she's realizing that life as the Wonderful Wife of Mr. Doctor is NOT all that great. Life at S-C could provide her both an identity and some $$$ to stash away for a future escape.

Then Mrs. Doctor says to her "don't get pregnant." I don't know when it's going to dawn on Joan that "retiring" from S-C and getting pregnant is REALLY going to tie her to Doctor Evil.

I'm wondering if she will discover that she's pregnant, realize how bad having a child would be for her, and choose to search for an abortion. It's 1963, so abortion is not yet legal. Yes, she's got that docgtor "pal" to whom she refers the secretaries when they need to go on the pill [which, BTW, had only just become available in 1963], and who, it is suggested, can perform abortions.

I'm just thinking that there might be an interesting storyline here on these issues.

Unknown said...

Great comments, all.

One small point that has stuck with me--during Joan's dinner party, when the wives are in the kitchen, the older one remarks on the decor and Joan preens for a second--and just as she thinks to herself, "We're doing great and we're going to do better and stuff this, Jane," the older wife intimates that the place is ghastly, that Joan has "made do" out of nothing nice. It took my breath away in the same manner as Jane tried (poorly) to one-up Joan and as Trudy's dancing literally pushed Jennifer away.

Scott J. said...

Pixanne said...

Am I the only viewer to NOT see the Don/Betty kiss at the end as something swoon-worthy? As someone said upstream, that gesture was in keeping with the theme of the episode - "all for show". Don saw Roger and Jane in a tender slow dance and questioned his own judgement, and Betty found herself attracted to another man....their kiss was a desparate grasp at keeping the illusion of their marriage alive. Like Pete and Trudy's dance, and like Dr Greg and Mrs Joan's dinner party - it was all for show.

I love that this show inspires such sharply differing interpretations even while each of these interpretations strikes me as equally valid. Personally, I see that final kiss as the one moment of genuine affection in this episode, where it wasn't for show. Unlike those other couples, Don and Betty didn't have an audience. He saw Roger practically dragging his semi-conscious bride around the dance floor and was thankful for what he had. It reminds me of the scene in "Marriage of Figaro" when Don spies another couple at the party sharing a kiss in private, making him realize how loveless his own marriage was. I think Don and Betty have come quite a way since then, and while it's not the stuff of storybook romance, they're building a true partnership. They're supportive and appreciative of each other. OK, that's not swoonworthy... But it gives me hope that their kids won't turn out as screwed up as they did.

Scott J. said...

DaveMB said...

Thanks for the Conrad Hilton pointer. It is interesting how well Don relates to older men. This is the first time we've had a historical person portrayed on the show, right?

We had boxer Floyd Patterson at the underground casino in "Six Month Leave", but he didn't have any lines.

janie said...

What was funny about Peggy's line was the delivery, not the literal words. It does read very AA on the page but in the ep it was classic Peggy multi-tasking:
-There's work to do and the boys are goofing off
-Jeffrey's in the background hitting on her not too subtly, asks her name
-Paul dismisses her concerns, says he needs "inspiration"
And so Peggy quickly takes all of this in, turns to Jeffrey to shut him up, says "I'm Peggy Olson" turns back to Paul, says "and I want to smoke some marijuana."

Actually my favorite part of that exchange is the dismissive glance she shoots "Jeffrey Graves. Princeton, '55."

How could there be no bourbon at the bar with all those mint juleps? Criminal! I'm curious as to what was in the soda bottle Don opened while making his old-fashioned. I'm guessing some kind of substitute for the simple syrup? Also curious as to when it would have been common to have a soda gun in your bar set up.

Anonymous said...

Re: Blackface "with nearly 40 years distance."

You might want to check your math there.

Karen said...

A really beautiful, complex episode, full of meaningful contrasts.

One I've not yet seen mentioned has to do with the tense scene between Jane and Joan at the beginning of the episode and the way it contrasted with each woman's behavior at her own party. Jane was purposely taking a moment to lord it over Joan--"I get a nosebleed above 86th St;" "Keep an eye out for my driver"--making her superior social status into a weapon she could wield over her husband's former mistress, and emphasizing her superior social status. But later that night, Jane would be falling down drunk and grabbing another man's crotch (or so the angle made it appear), and Joan would be wowing the Chief of Surgery and his wife with her endless accomplishments. I haven't always liked Joan, but I do admire her, and she shone while Jane sank. You'll note that the blackface routine was specifically done to amuse Jane, who said it always cracked her up.

I didn't get anything like a molestation vibe from Grandpa Gene--I was expecting physical violence--so I was touched when he called Sally in after her pathetic and transparent attempt to "find" his $5 and asked her to continue their reading of Gibbon. He--like many people--seems to be a far better grandparent than he was a parent. He may be the first person Sally can believe actually cares about her, as opposed to her largely absent father and her hyper-critical mother. The contrast between how Carla spoke to Gene and the way she would be likely to speak to Don or Betty reinforced Gene's marginal status in that household. Carla spoke to him that way because she could.

Another contrast was between the way the men in the office treat Peggy and the way that Smitty (still something of an outsider himself) and Graves the Princetonian did. Paul and the others can't get past her dumpy, mousy past image and never see her any other way, but Smitty, and especially Graves, were almost mesmerized by her (as well they should be). I couldn't figure out if Paul was really picking up on that and if it would change the way he acted towards her. There was also the contrast between Paul--now revealed as as much of fake as Don, though not quite as successful at it--and Graves, who struck me as the kind of privileged Ivy Leaguer who could turn to dealing drugs as an amusement because it would never have a long-term deleterious effect on his life.

Karen said...

And, of course, the contrast between Joan and Greg. The dynamic in their marriage is still in formation, I think. I was surprised by the boldness of her response to his desire not to fight over the table arrangements--"Then you should stop talking"--which I feared would provoke Greg to something I really didn't want to see. But she was quick to defuse any potential explosion by coming up with a solution for the conflict. Then, as the party wore on, it was clear--as so many other commenters have noted, in addition to Alan--that Joan is the star of that couple in the eyes of their guests. I don't think Greg brought out the accordion to humiliate Joan; like some others, he was trying to divert attention from discussion of his own failings by showing off his talented wife. But that comes from desperation, not pride, and I can see his recognition of her quality eventually bringing resentment rather than pride, and that will not be good for our Joan. I think the accolades of her guests were good for her, though, and may bring her to a place where she can aspire to realize more of her talented potential than through being a secretary.

And, finally, there was the contrast between Peggy straight and Peggy stoned. I don't think straight Peggy would have made that marvelous speech to Olive; she's just way too buttoned down. But the pot gave her the freedom to say what she may not even have realized she felt.

Of course, as Alan and others have pointed out, the themes of performance were strong (which made Don's abandonment of the "Don Draper" performance in conversation with Connie even more interesting). I just picked up on these constant contrasts as well.

On the two big debates: I don't think people thought that Roger's blackface was offensive--that mindset really wasn't in place yet. They thought he was making an ass out of himself. Don's telling Roger he was "foolish" was as much because of the performance as because of his midlife-crisis of a marriage. It's natural for 21st century viewers to be gobsmacked by a blackface performance, but I can't even imagine a country-club audience being so. Plus, it could be argued--unpleasantly, but argued--that it fit with the Kentucky Derby theme. But it's one thing for a subordinate to put on a routine like that and another for Roger, and I think that's why Don walked away. As someone else noted above, Roger's kind of a clown these days, spending most of his days drinking. That, combined with not really being Don's boss anymore (that's really Pryce, isn't it? Roger has no real function other than as figurehead), gave Don the freedom to tell him he was foolish.

On the dance: there's no question that Pete and Trudy would have been sent for dancing lessons when they were young, and that they would have learned the Charleston. And, just as every wedding reception today eventually gets around to playing "The Hustle" and letting everyone relive their John Travolta youth, I'm sure Pete and Trudy had had plenty of opportunities to practice a dance like that, and clearly they enjoyed it. So it's not a reflection of their being square so much as of being of a certain social class (note that the Tigertones tune Paul chose,"Hello, My Baby," was from an even earlier era--both of which are in stark contrast to the rather tentative twist performed by the Ann-Margret clone at the opening). But, for the reasons outlined by both Alan and SR in the comments, it was sad behind the joyousness of accomplishment.

This comment is getting almost as long as Alan's review, so I'll stop. But DAMN there was a lot going on.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Eileen, if you'd read the comments written before yours, you'll find the answer.

Which is why one of the commenting rules is about being respectful of other people's time and energy and not asking questions that have been asked and answered several times already upthread. You don't at least skim the other comments, you don't get to comment.

cty said...

Couple of callbacks:
-- Pete & Trudy's Charleston ( I read it not so much sad, but insensitive and dominating, an echo of Roger's blackface - which made for a pretty jarring fullscreen in-your-face jumpcut, no?) vs. the gang's season-1 Twist scene in the bar, a far more egalitarian setting and one where Pete was so out of place, including his "I hate seeing you like this" line to Peggy
-- Betty's "I'm waiting ... for a friend" vs. her "I'm waiting" during the season two Cuban Missile Crisis episode
-- two observations, echoing some previous comments: the show's really hammering at the change-is-coming theme, with hints of apocalypse, this season, eg Paul's "this is the way the world ends" and grandpa's "All hell is going to break loose" along with Decline & Fall of Roman Empire as bedtime story (!). A bit heavyhanded, that? Sometimes Wiener and the writers do get that way.
-- Looking forward to see whether Mary Jane works as an advertising muse. "Bacardi-licious" and "Bacardi-lightful" set the bar pretty low. But it wouldn't surprise at all if the end product was another Peggy triumph and pot became a staple around her little corner of the SC playpen.

G-Fafif said...

One week it's Conrad Birdie. The next week it's Conrad Hilton. Will we soon hear William Conrad narrating "The Bullwinkle Show" for Sally and Bobby?

Rob Biesenbach said...

cty said:

-- two observations, echoing some previous comments: the show's really hammering at the change-is-coming theme, with hints of apocalypse, this season, eg Paul's "this is the way the world ends" and grandpa's "All hell is going to break loose" along with Decline & Fall of Roman Empire as bedtime story (!). A bit heavyhanded, that? Sometimes Wiener and the writers do get that way.

Heavy-handed, maybe, but beautiful and kind of poetic nonetheless (more than kinda, in Paul's case). To me, it least. Almost theatrical. These lines reminded me a little bit of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, with the prophetic warnings coming, almost like a Greek chorus.

Along those lines, when Don hops the bar and Connie tells him there's a pass-through at the end, Don says, "I don't have much time." That's this whole series in a nutshell, is it not?

I personally can't wait to see what happens when all hell breaks loose. They had a tastes with the missile crisis. November is their Millennium Approaches.

stubbins said...

Two Conrads... and the end of the world.

The only proper thing for Wiener to do?

Dump AMC and broadcast the rest of Mad Men on Conelrad.

smarty said...

@ Jamie - 4:00 am: There was no bourbon at the bar because it was all at the outside tent for the mint juleps. They couldn't get an old fashioned out there, so they decided to scour the empty bar.

Karen said...

Speaking of old fashioneds, someone up top asked what Don was crushing in his glass. He was using a blunt ended wooden stick known as a "muddler," which is used to crush a cherry and an orange at the bottom of a glass. The way we made old fashioneds when I was a bartender in the '80s was to muddle the fruit, add a little sugar (which might have been in cube form in 1963), a dash of bitters then a splash of club soda to dissolve it all--then add ice and pour in your whiskey (we used rye).

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