Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mad Men, "Out of Town": Birthday wishes

And we're back! A review of the "Mad Men" season three premiere coming up just as soon as I read you the phonebook...
"I don't know. I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I've already been." -Don Draper

"His name is Dick - after a wish his mother should have lived to see." -The midwife
So now we know: "Mad Men" season three picks up only about six months after the end of season two, a much shorter span of time than elapsed between seasons one and two. Betty is now very pregnant, and the Brits from Putnam, Powell & Lowe are firmly entrenched at Sterling Cooper, but there isn't nearly the sense of disorientation we got when we came in on season two and 15 months had passed since Don's pitch to the Kodak people.

But date-wise, the most important part of "Out of Town" isn't that it takes place six months after "Meditations in an Emergency," but that it takes place on Dick Whitman's birthday. (Note that Don explains that a look at his driver's license - which has the real Draper's info on it - wouldn't help confirm this.) And though this isn't exactly what Matthew Weiner intended when he wrote it (he seemed surprised but not displeased when I suggested the idea in our interview), it feels like much of the episode is about wishes - some made on birthdays, some not - and how they can sometimes come true in the worst possible way.

In the opening moments, we see Don, up late and no doubt aware of what tomorrow will mean to him (and only to him), imagining the circumstances of his own pathetic birth. It's a story his father's hateful wife assuredly told him many times - not to make him feel closer, as Don and Betty try with Sally at episode's end, but to remind him what a terrible burden he is, and what a cosmic joke his entire life is - and in that imagining, we learn that Don is a wish that never turned out quite right for either his biological or adoptive mother. The whore who gave birth to him got her revenge on Dick's father (who had to suffer his wife's resentment until his own death) but didn't live to see it. And the woman who wished and prayed for a child finally got one, but it was one who would be a daily mortification to her.

In Don's adult life, meanwhile, we see Pete finally get the promotion he's felt he was owed since we met him, only for it to be presented to him in a way (with Ken as co-head of accounts) that prevents him from enjoying the moment. ("Why does it have to be like this?" he whines to Trudy. "Why can't I get anything good all at once?") We see Salvatore finally open up and accept a man's embrace, only for the rapturous moment to be interrupted by an inconvenient fire in the hotel.

Even Don and Betty's newfound marital bliss is more of a wish by both of them - she needs someone to take care of her and help raise the kids, he needs someone to provide normalcy to his complicated life - than a reality. We see that they're trying, hard, to be closer to each other, but as soon as Don's on the road, he's going to bed with a stewardess (albeit a stewardess who looks like a taller version of former model Betty).

As I said in my column review of the season premiere on Wednesday, "Out of Town" is a much busier, faster-paced episode than last year's opener, "For Those Who Think Young." Though the leap in time isn't quite as big, the premiere still has the confidence to drop us into the action without bothering to explain what it is that Burt Peterson screwed up, or anything else that happened since the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

If nothing's spelled out, it's still not hard to infer a lot, specifically about the state of things at Sterling Cooper. The Brits are in charge, and nobody on either side of the arrangement seems happy about that, whether it's the chipmunks living in fear of "the firings," Pete and Ken being forced to compete for the job they're currently sharing, Joan hating Mr. Hooker, Mr. Hooker hating everyone, and new financial officer Lane Pryce being puzzled by it all.

The heart of the episode, though, is what happens when Don and Salvatore leave New York for a night to put out whatever fire Burt caused at London Fog. In our interview, Weiner talks about how the episode is about submission, and here we see both the word man and the picture man submitting to their own true nature. Don really, really wants to be faithful to Betty, but he can't resist Shelly the sexy stew ("I've been married a long time," he tells her. "You get plenty of chances."), especially not on his real birthday. And Sal - good, guilt-ridden Catholic boy that he is - wants to resist his gay impulses and be a good husband to Kitty, but when the hotel bellman (who has remarkable gaydar, given how brief the encounters in the elevator and then the room were) is sexually assertive with him in a way that the Belle Jolie rep never tried, Sal finally gives in. And even though the fire ruins things, you get the sense, as he's describing to Paul what the man in the London Fog ad should look like ("excited... handsome"), that Sal enjoyed the experience enough to not run back into his closet of self-denial as quickly.

We're at a point in the series where the genius of Jon Hamm almost goes without saying. Weiner and the other writers have clearly learned to trust their star to say so many things that they can't or shouldn't put into his dialogue. Here, for instance, Hamm expertly shows us Don, bit-by-bit, acknowledging that he's going to sleep with Shelly, and convincing himself that it's going to be okay. And then there's that wonderful look on his face in the final scene as Betty takes over the story of Sally's birth, and Don's not only thinking about how he cheated on Betty again, but that, despite his infidelity and all the problems he and Betty have, how much better off Sally and Bobby are than he and Adam were as kids. All without saying a word.

But Hamm isn't the only one with that gift, as Bryan Batt shows in that wonderful, terrifying and then ultimately happy moment on the flight back to New York, as Sal braces himself to be condemned by Don, only to be relieved when Don, through his "Limit your exposure" pitch, basically gives him the 1963 version of "Keep it on the down-low."

Yes, "Mad Men" is back, and "Out of Town" was an incredibly satisfying way for the show to return from the long hiatus. Heck, even if the rest of the episode had been a drag, it would have been worth it for the running gag about London Fog itself, which served as a metaphor for the whole show. Pryce explains that there is no London fog - that what we think of as fog was actually dust from the coal mines. In other words, what we think of as something mysterious and romantic from the past was actually something far seedier than its reputation suggests - just as "Mad Men" is constantly showing us the hidden emotional cost beneath the glamorous behavior of men like Don and women like Joan.

And yet "Mad Men" rarely makes us feel too guilty for asking us to revel in the surface when we want. As Bert Cooper, bless his Ayn Rand-loving heart, puts it, "I don't care what they say: London Fog is a great name."

Some other thoughts on "Out of Town":

• As I mentioned back at press tour, I did a long interview with Matthew Weiner to discuss "Out of Town," some leftover issues from last season, and whatever long-range plans he has for the series and feels comfortable discussing at this point. You can read it here. And if you missed my Jon Hamm interview from Friday, you can read it either as a column or a straight transcript.

• Since the episode doesn't entirely spell it out (you could assume Peggy and Joan are discussing her engagement ring), I want to clarify, as Weiner did in the interview, that both Joan (to Greg the rapist) and Roger (to Jane) have gotten married in the ensuing six months. (There's a reference in the scene in Cooper's office to Roger still unpacking Grecian treasures, which are apparently from his honeymoon.)

• One other Joan-related clarification: Weiner says he doesn't think Joan intended to screw over Hooker by giving him Burt's office, but that she was trying to make peace with the jerk and inadvertently ran afoul of Mr. Pryce's sensibilities.

• You know you're back in "Mad Men" world when a character like Betty can deliver a line like "She's taken to your tools like a little lesbian" without anyone so much as raising an eyebrow.

• Perhaps the best sign of the effort both Don and Betty are making for their marriage: Don uses his copywriting powers for good (describing an idyllic beach setting to make Betty forget about her physical discomfort) rather than evil (the time last season when he dreamed up a lie he and Betty could tell the kids about the separation), and this time Betty compliments him on how good he is at making things up.

• I'm by no means an Anglo-phile, but after a press tour featuring lively sessions with David Tennant, Craig Ferguson and Robert Carlyle, plus the chance to watch Jared Harris go to work as Lane Pryce, I think I may become an Anglo-accent-ophile. Be they Scottish, English or whatever, there are some guys it's just a pleasure to hear talk, and Harris is definitely one. And voice aside, I like his performance so far as Pryce, who's quite deliberately a hard man to read. He keeps Burt Peterson on well past whatever the scandal was for the sake of his ailing wife, but also seems unconcerned with upping the awkwardness of the work environment by pitting Ken and Pete against each other - or, for that matter, with how the two of them might view him down the line after he didn't give either of them the full story about their "promotion."

• Was Vincent Kartheiser channeling Ed Grimley with that spastic dance Pete does after getting what he thinks is the good news from Pryce? Possibly the funniest moment in the episode (it's that or Sal's exploding pen), and another reminder that Pete, if he's not an imitation human, is at best an overgrown child. Where Ken recognizes how Pryce is trying to manipulate them, Pete's too fixated on getting what he wants now-now-NOW to notice or care, and he still needs approval from his mother, even though, as Trudy notes, "Don't go to the well; there's no water there." And that subplot featured yet another very funny scene, where Ken and Pete are on the elevator together, each believing he's been promoted above the other, each trying to be magnanimous in victory and each assuming the other has heard about his own good fortune.

• I initially thought that Burt Peterson was meant to be a new hire -- someone the Brits brought in after they kicked Duck Phillips to the curb following his outburst in "Meditations in an Emergency." But in watching some of the season two marathon episodes earlier in the week, I caught a few mentions of him, like when Pete tells a joke about Burt to his brother at the family barbecue in "Maidenform." So we're to assume, I guess, that he's an old hand in the Sterling Cooper accounts department who was promoted to replace Duck, then flamed out. Either way, he was played by Michael Gaston, and his firing led to several hilarious moments, including Roger's awkward shift from jaunty to somber when he realized, "Oh, that meeting," and Burt ranting about the British off-camera while Joan deals with Mr. Hooker.

• Speaking of Hooker, for those of you on the younger end of the "Mad Men" demo, the derisive nickname of "Moneypenny" that the Sterling Cooper secretaries hung on him comes from the James Bond books/movies, where Moneypenny is M's efficient gal Friday, but hopelessly in love with 007. (Here she is in "Dr. No.")

• Hooker is also the object of affection for Peggy's secretary, Lola. Not a lot of Peggy in the premiere, but it's reassuring to see that she's settling in as a higher-ranking member of the Sterling Cooper team, and also that she has just as much trouble with her secretaries as mentor Don.

• It was a nice continuity touch, I thought, that most of the companies listed in the first meeting between the heads of accounts are ones - like Utz or Secor laxatives - that have either been mentioned in the past as Sterling Cooper clients, or been part of larger storylines (Jimmy Barrett with Utz, Pete using Secor to block JFK campaign ads). Presumably, the new ones are clients brought in by the merger with PP&L.

• Do any art aficionados care to identify the painting everyone was discussing in Bert Cooper's office?

So go read the Weiner interview (if you, understandably, don't have time to read the whole thing right away - or ever - I excerpted the most important quotes at the top) and then tell me, after a long wait for more of Don, Peggy and company... what did everybody else think?


Jon88 said...

Good news, bad news. Great return, still horrendous captioning. Can't have everything.

JoeE said...

The painting in Bert Cooper's office appeared to be some early version of Japanese tentacle rape porn. If you're smart you won't google that.

Anonymous said...

The painting was the Dream of the Fisherman's Wife by Hokusai

Steve Ely said...

Ken Cosgrove sure was likable here.

brandonnn said...

The woodcut is "Dream of the Fisherman's Wife", by Hokusai (who's infinitely more famous for his "Great Wave" print.

No less shocking to see it show up on TV, high-brow lineage or no.

Zack Smith said...

Don's flashback raises one curious issue -- how did he know what happened with his mother's death and her dying words? That seems like something his dad wouldn't know. It could either be conjecture, or perhaps he tracked down more information about himself at some point in his life.

Oh, Sal. So close. That pen was a great sight gag.

A bit of Pete's insecurity might come from the fact that Ken, with his published writings and actual charisma, could beat him. Ken's probably just amused by the situation, and given the lack of raise, couldn't care if he gets the job or not. To Pete, of course, it's the world. And he seems marginally nicer and more open to Trudy, though he's still a petulant little boy.

Don keeps being drawn to Peggy substitutes, at least visually. Is it a fascination with blondes, an idealized woman from his past, or just his desire to have more control over his situation?

On a shallow note, Joan's "big ones" just seem to get bigger every episode. In the elevator scene with Peggy, I was afraid a button was going to fly off her sweater. Knew she was going to marry that guy, but hope she can get out of it...

Last notes: Jared Harris is great; Harry Crane seems to be enjoying the power of his position, but can he handle it?; Paul Kinsey still has that beard. Thought he'd be rid of it by now.

Paul Allor said...

This is more a general question about the show than about this episode (which was great), but I've been wondering:

What the heck does Roger Sterling do at Sterling Cooper? In the first season he was Head of Accounts, then after his heart attacks he seemed to pretty much just hang around and enjoy the fruits of being a senior partner. But now that PPL owns a majority share of the company it seems a bit odd that he's just there all the time. Does he have an official position, and I've just missed it?

Ann T. said...

Alan - Thanks for the quick post. I found myself laughing out loud more in this episode than I have in the past. I'm looking forward to the cage match between Pete and Ken through the rest of the season. And, I'm glad that they didn't pull any punches with Sal's storyline.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Don's flashback raises one curious issue -- how did he know what happened with his mother's death and her dying words? That seems like something his dad wouldn't know. It could either be conjecture, or perhaps he tracked down more information about himself at some point in his life.

Weiner talks about it in the interview a bit. The basic idea is that Don's birth and early life were such a scandal that everyone in town gossiped about him, and he gradually learned all the details. If the dream wasn't exactly what happened, it was close enough.

BH said...

I think that the genius of Mad Men can be summed up in one sequence. You get to see Don Draper pretending to be somebody else while seducing the stewardess. This man is is unbelievably cool and suave. Basically he is the man.

In the very next moment, when he talks about how it is his birthday, you see how unbelievably sad that he is. While being Don Draper on the surface seems like it would be great, the reality of it is completely opposite.

Also, great to see Jack Kehler in a small role. I'm glad he finally got the venue he wanted.

Brian said...

I think my favorite scene of the episode was Don and Sal making up the story about being hush-hush FBI "accountants" investigating Jimmy Hoffa. Not only was this funny, it also created layers of fabricated identities: Don and Sal are both playing roles in their everyday lives anyway, and here they were playing roles within roles (and the actors were playing roles within roles within roles). It also tied in nicely with James Ellroy's "Underworld USA" trilogy of novels, set in the '60s and featuring Hoffa as an occasional character.

No Spoilers! said...

As always, great review Alan.

A few thoughts I wanted to add:

I loved the scene where Pete barged into Don's office to complain about his promotion, but calculatingly switched gears once he saw Roger in the back of the room.

Speaking of that scene, was it just me or did Cooper look unusually pale?

Finally, I have to hand it to AMC for consistently airing promos that give us a flavor for the next episode without being the slightest bit spoilery

Zac F. said...

This is the first episode I've been able to watch live and it was well worth it.

Unlike Jon, I had no problems with the captioning. Everything came up fine and was in sync with the program.

Am I the only one squicked out by Don scooping up the top layer of boiled milk since my mind went dirty right away?

I'm guessing Roger has a pretty good contact down in Cuba since he was able to get his hands on Cuban cigars.

panduh said...

So glad to have Mad Men back, as well as your commentaries, Alan! I go to your blog first, every week. Loved the ep -- but it was over too soon. I'm loving the turn of events at Sterling Cooper, and Jon Hamm was pitch (ahem) perfect, as usual. In addition to a longer show, I wish there was more Peggy. But we've got time.

Rebekah said...

I read Don's pause as he told the story of Sally's birth as being due to the line "It was the middle of the night, and I had just gotten home from work." Who gets home from work in the middle of the night? I assumed he remembered being out with another woman the night Sally was born, and felt like a douche.

Awesome said...

Fantastic analysis, Alan, as per usual. Your insights -- particularly how the episode showcases various wish-fulfillments and their subsequent letdowns -- were inspired. I also appreciated your take on Salvatore's subplot, namely the metaphor of the pen exploding and what Sal's really thinking during the description of the man on the subway (which was a subtext I didn't catch).

I am curious as to your thoughts on WHY Don cheated with the stewardess. She wasn't headstrong like Rachel or Bobbi, and she wasn't interesting like Midge. If Don is trying so hard to work things out with Betty, why was it so easy for him to sleep with her? Even if he was convincing himself throughout the story that this affair would be okay, what were his motivations for doing it? I don't think it's just because it was his birthday...

Manton said...

I couldn't get over how funny the entire show was, from Pete's "I got a golden ticket!" celebration, the Hoffa bit at dinner with the sexy stews, a few classic Sterling lines, it just goes on and on.

Which kind of makes me think that they're putting us into a lull for something big (and bad) to happen this season.

But that definitely doesn't put a damper on things, and especially not this episode. I'm just so happy to have this show back in my life again.

Nicole said...

I also noticed that the closed caption person had an issue with homonyms.

It's nice that Mad Men is back, especially with so very few good dramas on right now. I am glad that Don is making an effort, but I suppose that I shouldn't be too surprised that he fell off the faithful wagon when he left town. I was relieved that he did not get on Sal's case, because poor Sal, doomed to never get any satisfaction with that ill-timed fire alarm.

Betty's lesbian comment took me out of the show a bit, because I'm not sure if the term "lesbian" was something that she would know at that time. I thought the feminist movement in the 70s brought it into the mainstream, and since Betty is no avant garde hipster, it felt like a modern intrusion.

Setting up Pete against Ken was great, as well as the contrast between the Brits and the Yanks. And Mr. Hooker... what an awesome name to give the British version of Pete. I couldn't help but giggle.

I noticed that Pete called Mr. Cooper "Bert", and so he certainly is trying to pretend like he is one of the big boys. Speaking of Mr. Cooper, I do wonder about his painting and whether it is an attempt to test the patience of the Brits. I think most people would consider it obscene (especially for that time) and inappropriate for an office.

I am looking forward to more Peggy in the upcoming episodes.

Brandon said...

Does anyone know what Mr. Hooker called Sterling Cooper in his office scene? "This place is a ____-ocracy."

SKRollins said...

@ awesome - good point. Don's stewardess didn't seem to be the type of mistress he's usually attracted to, just seemed like a bit of a bimbo...@Rebekah, I hadn't thought of that, Don really is awful.

chris said...

I was a bit disappointed. The episode felt a bit flat to me but I think my building up the season premiere in my mind probably set the bar too high.

I was disappointed with Don bedding the stew but I guess despite the happy homelife a carnal guy like Don needs what he needs.

I was also disappointed with Sally finding the the stew's wings in Don's luggage. When Sally started unpacking I kept thinking "Don couldn't have been so stupid as to accidentally leave evidence in his suitcase." But there it was. Last season Betty went through all of his things and couldn't find any evidence.

I think we'll see Duck in a future episode as a fashback to how the new structure came to be.

Newsie78 said...

Still processing everything, but two office-related things I wanted to mention. First, we saw at least one instance where someone's intercom wasn't working properly: in Cooper's office and maybe in Peggy's? (Or her secretary was just wantonly ignoring her.) Also, Peggy and Don were both doing some of their own typing. Small stuff, I know, but maybe signs of more trouble to come at Sterling Cooper?

jamfan said...

@Brandon: "gynocracy." Poor Mr. Hooker, with the ladies running everything in his world...

Will Eidam said...

I especially liked Salvatore mentioning he had never seen a Stewardess "that game" before.

I figured Draper had known about Salvatore, and was giving a wink to the audience when he said "Really?" (as I thought it was suppose to be a little sarcastic for us)

But maybe that was just a little something for ourselves to enjoy.

Brian said...

So did Duck Phillips really get fired just because of his outburst at the end of Season 2? I just recently rewatched that episode, and while it was inappropriate, it didn't seem like something he'd be fired over, especially since he'd just been formally installed as the new president of Sterling Cooper only minutes prior to it.

Nicole said...

I also thought that Don's pause in the story to Sally was because he had just come back from a fling with a woman... it's what lead to the guilty look at the end.

Pryce said Gynocracy - so I suppose he's implying that Sterling Cooper is run by a bunch of women, and not in a good way.

Oh show, so much goodness in less than an hour.

chiefbroad said...

I took Don's "Really?" response to Sal as evidence that Draper has never not been hit on by a beautiful woman.

Blair Waldorf said...

Loved Salvatore's hot hookup. Bryan Batt was amazing. The longing and pent up frustration he brought to that scene was incredible and totally hot.

I felt awful for him when it was interrupted.

And I love that Don doesn't say anything. I think Don absolutely would judge Salvatore, but only if he thought about it. But Don is used to keeping secrets and, like Cooper, he is comfortable overlooking information that is just unprofitable to think about.

justem said...

Excellent episode.
Excellent review.

LOVED the line you quoted at the top about ending up in the same place.

I'll be curious to see the overall public reaction to Sal and the bellboy. I, for one, was cheering. However I wonder if there will be backlash for the male kissing scene. I am happy for Sal, but what about his wife???

chris said...

I can't recall but had Bert ever gone to Don's office before? Going to someone's office seems to be a big pecking order indicator. For instance - Don never went to Duck's office except that one time. Bert going to Don's office may indicate Bert's lost power in the firm.

Awesome said...

@Rebekah and Nicole: I don't think he paused because of guilt from an affair (although that interpretation is clever). Don doesn't really feel guilty about women. The ONLY thing that really stops him in his tracks is Dick Whitman. With the episode being bookended with thematic births, I really think Don's thinking about his own birth at that moment. Perhaps he's thinking about being born to a whore, and Sally being born to the ideal wife. Perhaps he couldn't remember the rest of the story, because all he remembers are the rumors surrounding his own birth.

frabjous said...

Because the father's face is turned away in the scenes with the biological mother, I thought throughout the episode that that was meant to be Dick, in his first sexual encounter, and that he was remembering the birth of his true first child. It wasn't until I got here that the penny dropped.

My only excuse is that I was flustered by the appearance of the trivia-spouting grad student from Bones as the new male secretary -- I'm sorry, personal assistant. (Will this mean that he's not on Bones this season? I love that character.)

Will Eidam said...

@Tobey, you're probably right, as that's what my friend thought after I had mentioned it.

And since it turned out Don had absolutely no idea until the fire escape scene, what you said is probably what he meant.

But I did like my take on it, lol, albeit wrong one.

b'ville said...

On the first plane ride, the captain or the stewardess announced their "descent into Friendship." Are Don and Sal going to be confidantes, each sharing his double life?

Jennifer J. said...

Still processing...quite the understatement here.

I noticed a number of people called Mr. Cooper. Bert. In his talk last season with his sister he really wanted to work. I think this merger has just made him a semi non-entity. Very sad.

I'm thrilled they hired Jared Harris. Not only is his intelligence on display, but he definitely carries an aura of mystery around him. That should make for an interesting season.

I want to know why Joan was telling Peggy in the lobby that she'll be glad when she's out of there. It sounds like she has an end date in her mind. Or, since someone noticed her being more voluptuous than usual, maybe she's pregnant.

I was happy the episode did not make it clear if either of those 2 had gotten married. I'm truly disappointed that Joan did. I want to see her vibrant and happy. That rape last season broke me inside.

I thought the opening montage was incredibly well done as well as how that capped the episode. I knew right away that she broke it because she didn't want Daddy leaving anymore. I love Sally. Betty can be so mean to both her children. Anyone know if that was very typical back then?

I already loathe Mr. Hooker. Great name.

Burt's exit was classic.

I liked Peggy's retort about work to her own secretary when she was fawning about Mr. Hooker's accent and that she could listen to him read the phone book. Go Peggy!

I'll also be very curious to know where things stand with Pete and his wife and children/adoption as well as will there be any other confrontations with Pete and Peggy this season?

Oh, Salvatore....

Ann T. said...

@Newsie78 - good call on Don and Peggy typing in their office. I also thought it was odd. I don't remember Don having a typewriter in his office in the previous two seasons. I had hoped that Joan would be filling in as his secretary, but I'm dying with curiosity about where Joan is going. She didn't seem very happy about it when she was talking to Peggy.

frabjous said...

@Rebekah -

"Who gets home from work in the middle of the night? "

People who work in ad agencies, and what are more broadly called "creative services" firms, that's who. Especially when they've got a major deadline.

Which is not to say that maybe he wasn't out tomcatting. But I also know from experience the time the lights on my floor go off automatically (2am, if you're wondering).

Mapeel said...

I agree with Nicole that the lesbian line felt anachronistic. So did Trudy's phone reaction to Pete's news "NO" in such an eighties/Seinfeld delivery. (That marriage has had a transformation since last year--Trudy is so calm and nice in the face of Pete's infantile behavior.)

But such small points. The opening shots of the feet and the stove burner put us back into the Mad Men landscape, like no other on tv.

I first thought Don's birthday claim to the stew was just a line.

chris said...

I told them it was a stupid idea but they don't always get our inflection. - Roger's line of the night

Jaye Berman said...

I believe the term used was "gynocracy."

Zack said...

I know the line was "Gynocracy," but I initially heard it as "Joan-ocracy." I now see that as a T-shirt with a Joan cartoon on it.

Alan, thanks for clarifying the flashback issue. Great interview -- you always get such good material out of Weiner.

Rebekah said...

@Nicole- I also thought the lesbian joke seemed anachronistic, mainly because I don't think lesbians were out enough to be a defined subculture at that time, with all the attendant plaid-shirts-and-tools stereotypes. We seem to think alike. :)

Otto Man said...

I agree with Nicole that the lesbian line felt anachronistic.

It may have felt that way, but it was a common enough term by the mid-1960s that Betty would have certainly known it. During the heyday of McCarthyism, there was a "lavender scare" to go along with the red scare, in which Congress and other political entities hunted out gays and lesbians.

Someone like Betty would have known the term, and she would have used it sneeringly too.

Nicole said...

I second the notion that "Joanacracy" needs to be made into a T-shirt... and there is great Mad Men art out there already.

Nicole said...

I mean "Joan-ocracy". I think the T-shirt should be red.

KcM said...

Some small points to throw into the mix:

* Nice to see that Pete and Trudy seem to have close to a functioning relationship now. Particularly when Pete was in giddy-schoolboy mode, she seemed very knowing about his foibles.

* Limit Your Exposure: Given that Don [a] lives his whole life in the closet, and [b] was training Peggy to live as much in Season 2, Sal seemed an obvious recipient for his unique talents. But I hope this isn't a one-off, and that this story builds.

* Pete and Ken are co-heads of accounts, Harry is living large on the TV tip...that makes Paul the odd man out. I hope he doesn't disappear, as -- particularly given his bus ride in Season 2 -- he seems the most attuned to the waves ahead.

* The late scene of Bert, Roger, Don, and Pete all huddled in Don's office indicates how strongly the power dynamic in the office has turned against them. Britannia rules again. (And Jared Harris is a great pick-up for the show.)

eddie willers said...

And we learn that his real name is not Richard.

It's Dick, by God!

Anonymous said...

Two very minor thoughts, one from me and one from my wife:

Me: This is the second show this year in which Jared Harris has screwed over Michael Gaston

My wife (forced to watch _True Blood_ and a few minutes of _Hung_, both of which she dislikes, before _Mad Men_ because we were at a friends' house): _True Blood_ is an uninteresting show, but at least they're willing to ask for some level of nudity from their man-candy, not just their woman-candy.

Henry said...

Wow. The season three premiere of Mad Men was so good. 27 minutes elasped before the commercial break and there were only three commercial breaks throughout the entire episode. I hardly noticed the minutes passing by because I was so immersed in the show. Peggy has her own secretary, even if she's a little incompetent! They even went so far as to show a sexual situation between two men, which was going pretty far for a cable television show. I loved Don's line to Sal on limiting his exposure. Shows like Mad Men thrive on the double meaning of certain lines. I even like the interesting rivalry shaping up between Ken and Pete. It's absurd that Don can share a very intimate revelation (that it's his birthday) with a complete stranger that he almost had sex with (the stewardess). Would he had gone through with it if the fire alarm hadn't occurred? Based on his past history, sure. Now? I'm not so sure. He seems devoted to Betty. But it's handled very well and shot very well. David Robert Jones from Fringe shows up in the episode and may be a regular guest. Joan still looks ridiculously good, though I wonder what she means when she says "(she's) out of there soon." Did she get married to the rapist doctor?

It's really one of the best television shows out there right now.

Rebekah said...

@frabjous Well, now that I think about it, I know doctors and lawyers who get home in the middle of the night. Didn't realize that ad men would fit into that category, as the SC folks always seem to to slag off for happy hour at 5:00 sharp.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I thought Roger said "Oh, SAD meeting," which is even funner than "THAT meeting."

Pamela Jaye said...

My captions were horrible, but since they so often are, on the mythbox, I thought it was just backsliding (they've been better since the last upgrade - whatever it was we upgraded)

I've discovered it's really true: I'm horrible with names and it affects my ability to follow things, when names are being used.
On House, it took me several eps to learn that Doctor Damaged's name was Cameron, I'm still not sure who Tahmoh whoever is, on Dollhouse (and just saw that extra ep. eek!) The West Wing drove me nuts in later seasons by just *referring* to people by name a lot (and rarely showing them, I think. I could never remember what committee member they were talking about) and now we have two or three new Brits to contend with the names of, as well as, if I'm not mistaken, two characters named B(u/e)rt.
Peterson - the fired guy - does have the same first name as Please Take Off Your Shoes Cooper, doesn't he? And yet, something in me makes me think of Freddy Rumsen, when I think of him (perhaps it's girth. or firedness. Oddly the only reason I remember Freddy's name is that I saw the pilot of Dharma and Greg again last year and looked up Greg's work buddy only to find it was Freddy Rumsen)

Thanks for the info about Roger's marital status. The Greek refs made me wonder a second but then we were off to the next thought and I didn't have time to get back to it. (and I decided to note that I was reading your transcript in my Facebook status, which promptly stopped all reading as Facebook distracted me)

I also wondered about the tale of Dick's birth, but didn't catch the license/birthdate thing.

Recently my fried noted that she tried Mad Men but it seems slow and sorta confusing, so I suggested she read your blog after each ep (as the tags now go back far enough without splitting by season number).

One thing that really hit me was Ken's comment that they wanted to make them hate each other and he wasn't going to play. I was also surprised to see Pete was still with Trudy, and I wondered if Joan is pregnant.
On the other hand, oblivious though I may be, I did understand right off when Sally started confessing, why she didn't want Dad to "take a trip." but i was happily suprised to hear Don echo Journeyman's immortal words "I'll always come home."

Don & Betty both seem happy, which also surprises me. (it's nice to know that even once you've been with Awesome, you can still go back)
And I'm back to "confused" at Joan's reply to John about his position and how he should be referred to.

Also, Don was typing (see? I do notice some things) which now puzzles me: is Roger's wife still his secretary? Didn't she leave/get fired/get promoted to Roger's (whatever)? Or does he just have a *new* no-show secretary.

Kay said...

Hmm. Did I miss it? What was the deal with Sal's exploding pen? Can someone explain that to me?

Lane said...


Duck was fired because Don was going to quit had he been President. Remember how Duck overplayed his hand but Don had no contract?

Anonymous said...

@Kay The pen. I took it to don't know how to put it. He said it burst because of the plane ride (the pressure or something) but I think it was meant to symbolize some other exploding things. Perhaps in his heart. Or his pants.

Beth said...

Kay - Sal was very excited. Just bursting with excitement.

Anonymous said...

I loved the episode.


Is something up with Joan? I mean, she's always curvy, and I love that, but she seems curvy beyond what we've seen before--and, honestly, sort of just plain big. Are they up to something the way they did with Peggy in season one?

I thought Don's hair looked longer--a small step toward the more "mod" look of the 60s? The Beatles are emerging by this point, so we can expect some gravitation toward 60s styles.

I was surprised they didn't deal with the Duck storyline. I agree with the earlier post that at some point it will be tied up, but I figured it would be tied up in this episode.

In conclusion, it's awesome to have Mad Men back. And tonight was the first episode I've ever watched live--sort of an added thrill to have finally caught up with the series.

Anonymous said...

Coal fires

Kay said...

The exploding pen was at the meeting with the London Fog guys?

Savvy Veteran said...

I loved it when everyone in Cooper's office was discussing the painting of the, pleasuring the woman, and upon Don's arrival, Burt declaring that "we were just talking about you." However he meant that, it sure made me laugh.

I know the show sometimes catches flak for being "slow moving," and for not having a lot of plot (I think that's a stupid criticism, by the way), but having watched this episode tonight with a person who had never seen the show before--and having to explain to her what had happened in seasons 1 and 2 and all of the various goings-on up to this point--it sure didn't seem that way. I probably spent 25 minutes alone just recapping the most bare-bones major character developments and plotlines.

All in all, I was very happy with the episode. I do wonder, though, how Salvatore's encounter will affect his future "behavior." I assume that this, along with Don's neutral reaction, might spur him out of the closet, but it also seems plausible that he'll again overcompensate in the opposite direction.

Great write-up as always, Alan.

Savvy Veteran said...

Clarification Re: what I just said about the painting--

Cooper actually said something to the effect of "I wonder what man envisioned her ecstasy," which actually makes it pretty clear by what he meant in reference to Don. My apologies to the internets.

JoeInVegas said...

A few items:

When Sal makes the comment about the stewardess “game”. I think Don just thinks that all men are hit on by women, and is just oblivious to his situation with the ladies.

A few notes mentioned that Ken did not receive a raise when he was promoted. Looks to me like he got a pretty good one. Last season, when we saw his check, he was making $300 a week = $15,600. So $21,000 is almost a 30% raise.

I was a little confused as to why Harry was complaining about tax rates. Kennedy had proposed a 30% cut across the board tax cut (that went into effect in 1964) seems like they would be talking about the money they would be keeping ….

Anyone catch the rerun of the Season 2 episode 1 of Breaking Bad that ran after the encore? Boy Monday mornings are going to be tough for the next 12 weeks.

ScottyG said...

Harry made sure to mention that the TV division is expanding

and is Joan leaving? She patrols the office and I can't see her getting that satisfaction at home (with kids as well?)

Anonymous said...

What happened to Duck?

Chip said...

Was Robert Morse always credited the way he is now, I thought he used to be special guest star? Anyway good start. I bet Joan will or already is doing Hooker. I thought Lane Pryce was Duck's replacement as president but if not then who is? Don disappointed though, he had that great moment at the end of Mountain King and hes already back at it, even if the fire did stop him before he got to anything. I thought for sure Betty would get suspicious at the stickpin. And are we to infer that Don doesnt even remember the birth of his own daughter?

Anonymous said...

Re: "Game" Stewardesses - Don Draper is in "The Bubble".

On a serious note, again in this epi, we see Don taking a position against change and modernization with the London Fog folks. The son wants to expand into umbrellas and hats and such. Don shuts him down with "LF is raincoats" speech.
Now we take for granted line extensions and making the Brand work for them, think Burberry. But Don won't go there.

And what's with the subway flasher ad, even if the flasher is a woman....


Mo Ryan said...

"I told them it was a stupid idea but they don't always get our inflection."

Oh lord, did I laugh at that. My husband is English, so a lot of the Brit-related lines and humor killed me.

All in all, a great return, imho. I also didn't like the line about the lesbian and about the "well run dry," but those are mere quibbles in an otherwise energetic and interesting hour.

Man, that Sal scene was hot stuff.

Now begins the season of being tired on Mondays, what with all the Mad Men watching and reading and writing. Yay!

Question Mark said...

>>>>>When Sal makes the comment about the stewardess “game”. I think Don just thinks that all men are hit on by women, and is just oblivious to his situation with the ladies.<<<<<

So that makes TWO characters played by Jon Hamm who are 'living in the bubble.'

cgeye said...

Din't I say that that portrait was mighty sketchy, since it's the first known hentai in Japanese pr0n? I did, but did anyone listen until it was too late? Did no one think of the whorechildren?

As for the 'lesbian' ref, people in NYC/SF would know, since mob-run bars had queers segregated. Bar raids hit the papers often; they were an easy target for vice cops. The Mattachine and Bilitis groups started in the 50s, and the State Department red-baiting scandals also forced homosexuality into public discussion. Butches were the public face of dyke culture, and they took the worst hits. I'm damn proud of Sally's non-traditional gender behavior, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

If you were like Betty, a young gal on the go, you'd know which bars never ever to be seen in -- and lesbians did work in modeling too, you know.

OH -- in old school airlines they handed out wings for kids to wear. Back then they were pins; now they stick on.

God, I missed this show. Seeing Sal get some was pure oxygen. And, yes, HE GOT SOME -- for his life, a kiss is something too much to expect. And Batt's so big, and yet so innocent -- considering how a worse gentleman could have bashed that bellhop, I was so happy they found each other. And the demon who set off that alarm (Mr. Weiner, I'm looking at you) obviously adheres to the Whedon Convention: Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait. But jeezum crow, must we wait until Stonewall?

And no one got that Hooker (which is rich enough name alone for a man-secretary boot-boy) is this year's Pete Campbell -- brazen with the ladies, craven with his boss? The appelation 'weasel' is being passed to him as the ceremonial tiara and flowers are passed from one Miss Universe to another.

"I don't sleep well when I'm here." I bet you don't honey. And isn't Miss Sally just as blonde as the stew who last we saw wearing wings. Goodness, if we don't crash or nuke too hard, the teen years for Sally will be *awesome*.

And about the typing thing: If your office was taken over by Brits, and your blowing-with-Vichy secretaries blab what they know to the man-secretary stooge, then wouldn't you type your most sensitive correspondence and lock it away in your office? Prudence seems to be needed, nowadays.

Anonymous said...

My favorite moment of tonight's episode was the micro-second glimpse, in the endless BMW ads, of the gas pump, and 3.4 gallongs toting up to $.96. Yep, 96 CENTS!!

I'm embarrassed to say I remember those days/prices.

whitey b. said...

Two words: new Bobby. I'm completely crushed by this; I loved Old Bobby. The scene last season in which he's apologizing for playing with the robot/telling Don they need to find him a new daddy was one of my favorites. I always thought the young actor and Jon Hamm had great chemistry together, but I'll begrudgingly give the new kid a chance.

Other than that, this episode was everything I hoped for.

LA said...

whitey b - exactly, I am bummed they recast Bobby. But glad they kept the same actress for Sally because she's terrific.

Roger's "inflection" line was a gem, and I laughed out loud upon learning this year's d-bag is named "John Hooker." (Though don't count Pete out of that competition just yet.) And learning how Dick got his name was worth the long wait since last fall to tonight. Bravo.

Sal, poor Sal. Now that he's had a taste of what he's been, uh, craving, I think he's going to have a very hard time staying in the closet. His personal conflict is about to explode just like the pen in his pocket (another priceless moment).

I'm surprised there was any question about Duck's status. I thought they made it perfectly clear at the end of last season that he was out when his power play over Don failed.

Thanks for a great review, Alan, as always. Off to read the Weiner interview.

Tyroc said...

Overall, a lot to like. A ton of story was set up, the new status quo explained, and an emotionally rich episode to boot. Very impressive. Plus, lots of funny.

I did find the use of lesbian annoying. Not so much the term, but just that it was one of their not subtle, "Look how people we so not P.C. back then, isn't it hilarious?" moments.

Kind of like when Don and Betty left the garbage during the picnic last year.

I like it better when its more subtle. (In the 2nd or 3rd episode of the show, when little Sally was playing with a plastic bag and Betty got mad at her -- not for doing something dangerous but for making a mess of her clothing -- it wasn't subtle either, but at that point that joke felt much fresher.)

I did feel the Bellboy coming onto Sal was SO fast. I assumed it was a dream sequence for a moment, and still find it kind of odd. I wonder if something was cut that explained it more? Like an earlier flirty moment? Otherwise felt a bit false to me given how completely in the closet Sal has been, and how fearful he is of being caught. The coincidence of Don peeking into Sal's window at the precise moment where he would catch Sal, also felt false.

But otherwise really liked it. Glad to have it back.

Tyroc said...

"Look how people WERE so not P.C. back then, isn't it hilarious?" moments.

Is what I meant to type. Doh!

j.v.moon said...

I honestly LOVED that the bellboy came onto Sal without any warning. I have pretty radically accurate gaydar, if I do say so myself, and I have to tell you I pegged the bellboy the moment he glanced over his shoulder in the elevator. It wasn't a telling moment, but something about the way they were building up the tension with Sal made me think they were going to act -- maybe just that Sal noticed him, or something. He made an awkward, out-of-place comment after the boy left the elevator, too, a dead giveaway if you ask me.

As for him approaching Sal in the room, we don't actually know how long he was there -- not long, obviously, but perhaps it was long enough, perhaps Sal said something or behaved in his particular way -- we also have to remember that being gay in that society was a game of knowing. One HAD to be able to detect it to survive -- to be able to seek out others like him. Sal isn't so good at this because he's repressed as all hell, but for the evidently well-adjusted bellboy, picking up on Sal's somewhat feminine mannerisms and his genteel voice, doesn't seem like much of a stretch, in fact I think it's an excellent example of the subtle quality accuracy that just pervades this show.

Beautiful, beautiful scene -- and sexy for being so forbidden and new, both for Sal and for us, so unused to seeing anything so unrepentant as that on national television. Fine stuff, as always.

j.v.moon said...

And something else I forgot to mention: the fact that they specifically DIDN'T provide us with any direct insight into what was about to happen with the bellboy seemed to me to be an effort to get us thoroughly in the mind of Sal. This was most effectively accomplished with that AMAZING shot of his feet, counting the money, and then freezing when the bellboy's feet come so close to his... you almost don't realize what's happening, and then you're just totally blown away... just like Sal. That's some elegantly crafted drama, which has the grand privilege of doubling as real, sincere emotional impact.

Anonymous said...

Great Review Alan!

One slight gripe - Mad Men is usually very good about the time period (at least from what I can tell), but the Moneypenny line doesn't fit. Assuming this episode was about 6 months since the end of season 2, and the Cuban Missile Crisis being in Oct '62, that puts this episode at March or April of '63. Dr. No was released in the US in May of '63. The fact that overcoats are still being worn, the best guess for the time of year was late March, early April. So the reference, while extremely funny (not as funny as Pete's dance mind you), is too soon.

Obviously not a big deal and nothing that ruins anything about this show, I'm just a big James Bond nerd...

Anonymous said...

It's only too soon if you're just a Bond movie nerd. Casino Royale was first published in 1953, and by 1962, there had been 10 James Bond novels published in addition to numerous short stories in periodicals.

Plenty of people knew who Moneypenny was by 1962; that was a big reason they even made Dr. No into a movie.

Drifting Starward said...


And I love that Don doesn't say anything. I think Don absolutely would judge Salvatore, but only if he thought about it. But Don is used to keeping secrets and, like Cooper, he is comfortable overlooking information that is just unprofitable to think about.

I don't think he would judge. He may personally disagree with it, but I think what this episode shows is that Don immediately empathizes with what Sal's going through -- not because he's also secretly gay, but because he knows what it's like to have a secret, especially one so profound that it's necessary to become a completely different person in order to function in a "normal" life. It's not that Don is "overlooking" this fact about Sal, but instead he sees the way Sal's situation is similar to his own.

Farm Girl Pink... said...

Someone else mention how big Joan looked.

I doubt she is pregnant... as much as the person making her clothes are making them too short.

It bugged me last season too. Her dresses are cut too short from her shoulders to her waist. And they have her all tied up in her girdle. Which just throws off the way her clothes should hang.

I realize wardrobe is wanting to play up her figure... but they need to cut her dresses better.

Joan looks fine in sweaters and skirts... Capri pants... but it is those one piece dresses that hang so badly on her. She is really tall and somehow they keep cutting her dresses for someone 5 inches shorter.

And to state the obvious... wearing too tight clothes... on anyone... gives you the appearance of looking fat. Even when your not.

JMK said...

Speaking of continuity and filling in the blanks, one of the companies that was given to Pete was North American Aviation. It was one of the companies that Pete had a lead on after the "Jet Set" and he mentioned to Don at the end of Season 2 that he was about to land them. Well, I guess he did.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I am curious as to your thoughts on WHY Don cheated with the stewardess. She wasn't headstrong like Rachel or Bobbi, and she wasn't interesting like Midge. If Don is trying so hard to work things out with Betty, why was it so easy for him to sleep with her?

A couple of thoughts on this:

1)While Don tends to choose women like Rachel and Midge as long-term mistresses, we don't know that he's as discriminating with one-night stands. The break-up scene with Bobbi, where she talked about how he's a legendary cocksman in certain New York circles, suggested that he gets around, and he can't make all of them into his girlfriends, so... Don needs sex, clearly, and if he's using a fake name and never going to see the woman again, maybe he doesn't mind that she's pretty but dull.

2)Maybe he chose her because she's so reminiscent of Betty. We see in the earlier scenes that Don's really making an effort here - whether he loves Betty or not, whether he's attracted to her or not, he's trying to convince himself that he is - and maybe that extends to him being drawn, even briefly, to a woman who looks/acts like his wife.

3)To quote the man himself, "Who knows why people do the things they do?"

TIMMY!!! said...

Call me a nitpicker, but I had a real problem with Don and Sal FLYING to Baltimore from NYC, my father made that trip all the time in the 70s and he always took the train, it drops you right downtown and takes pretty much the same time as a plane, and that's with jets, not the slower props Don and Sal would be taking.

It bothers me because I have the sneaking suspicion Weiner thought of the Sal bellman incident and Don's (great) "limit your exposure" line first, which led him to the raincoat sight gag in the ad, which led him to Sterling-Cooper needing a raincoat manufacturer for a client, and of course anyone who was around in the 60s-70s knows London Fog would be the only choice for that.

I haven't checked, but my guess is the real London Fog must have had its HQ in Baltimore, so "Mad Men"'s insistence on verisimilitude would require that is where Don and Sal would need to go. So why not take the train? Well, you can't meet a sexy stewardess on a train, they don't have them, and Weiner's plot required Don to hook up (literally anonymously, which leads to thelugage tag, which leads us to the plane again...) with someone out on the road.

My only major complaint about "Mad Men" from Day 1 has been that the hands of the creators are often WAY too visible on screen ("Boys and girls, this episode's theme is..."), and this was another example of that. Not only that, it was lazy scriptwriting, which worries me a bit as we embark on Season 3.

MadMeme said...

And there's still the open-ended question of whether Don actually had sex with the stewardess (although many would call his behavior cheating anyway).

A few people here have already mentioned this, but I was also under the impression that they never consummated the deal. Of course, they could have returned to the room and finished, but I think, normally, when 'real life' intrudes upon 'fantasy', the fantasy evaporates.

This, it seems, might be an important plot point. Aside from offering the writers a device in which Don could find out Sal's secret, the fire alarm interrupted what I assumed to be Don's first 'slip' since the reconciliation (saved by the bell). This could be layered with further significance in future episodes.

justjoan123 said...

New season, same complaint: Betty treats Bobby like dirt. Hate it.

As to the horrendous captioning, here's a revelation: last night I watched the 10 p.m. show and then decided to watch it again, not on my DVR but in real time. The captioning was corrected! So if you can bear it, wait an hour and you will not have to endure "dosen" for "docent" and other atrocities.

justjoan123 said...

Sorry to double-post, but I hit "send" before I saw my spell-check held back the final graph:

I don't think in this case Don"chose" the stew at all. She chose him, very aggressively, and he was fairly ambivalent about committing to the actual act. As to why he was interested, but relatively unfazed by Sal's hotel room partner, his recent dalliance with the jet set would have broadened his horizons, if indeed they needed broadening.

spiderpig said...

Since the episode doesn't entirely spell it out, I want to clarify, as Weiner did in the interview, that both Joan and Roger have gotten married in the ensuing six months.

Alan, since as you said, the episode didn't clear it up, isn't you telling us that Joan (and Roger) are married now (sort of) spoilers? What about the people that don't read your blog/interviews with writers? I'm not asking that they SPELL IT OUT for you, but at least give more indication so observant viewers can tell the storyline without you having to give us the ideas second-hand. That's just poor writing in an otherwise wonderful episode. Well, the episode did have many, many layers so I guess I won't fault them too badly for the one misstep.

Anonymous said...

For those who are writing about the fire alarm - and whether it had any impact on Don and the stew, in particular: back at the office, didn't Sal say, rather offhandedly, I thought, there were casualties? An alarm would have kept everyone outside for quite a while, an actual fire even longer - long enough to cool everyone's ardor, sober them up and make them scramble to get their things together and get ready for the next day. I took the bellhop moving into crowd control and reassuring people as the indicator, okay, everybody go back to "normal," the interlude is over.

Carla said...

@ spiderpig – I don’t think it’s fair to say that Alan was even vaguely spoilerish by mentioning that Weiner said that both Joan and Roger had gotten married in the interim between the end of last season’s timeline and the beginning of this season’s. We knew that they both had imminent wedding plans at the end of last season. Personally, I don’t want writers to spell everything out for me. I don’t want things served up on a silver platter. So I don’t consider this a ‘misstep’ by anyone—Weiner, writers, and Alan included.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

@timmy: the question as to why Sal and Don flew, rather than the take the train? I wondered about that at first, but wrote it off as simple perception. Flying indicates more urgency, more importance - it would look better for the client for them to think that you are rushing to meet their needs.

No one has talked much about Betty here - I thought there was a distinct difference in her. A confidence. A hardness to her. And there is definitely something going on between her and Sally. It seems to be some sort of maternal jealousy, because clearly, Don is crazy about his daughter.

Betty is normally such milquetoast and in this episode, she was a bit more steely.

Anonymous said...

I think the bellhop's seeming "gaydar" was enhanced by the fact that Sal evidently called him up to the room to fix an A/C unit that wasn't really malfunctioning. I'm not saying that Sal knew for sure it wasn't broken -- just that the bellhop interpreted it that way. And on some level, I do think Sal was at least overreacting to the A/C unit in the hope that some scene like that would transpire.

Girl Detective said...

I was struck, and not surprised, by how fast Don reacted to the fire alarm--leapt out of bed, urged the stew to move it, left his shoes, told her to leave hers, and got out. He's got a talent for leaving, does Don.

justem said...


"I don’t want writers to spell everything out for me. I don’t want things served up on a silver platter."

Thank you!! I agree completely. I'm going crazy today reading comments (all over the web) from people who are upset that they didn't resolve every last issue in explicit detail. That is not the show's style at all! Do people really need to be spoon-fed their television??

Anonymous said...

I get the cleverness, and I hate to sound dumb; but doesn't the "Limit your exposure" concept seem a tad obscene for an ad campaign even today -- particularly for a staid, family-owned business such as London Fog is represented to be? I think Matthew Weiner's anachronism-meter may have been on the fritz for this one -- or else, the double-entendre reference to Sal's situation was just too neat for Weiner to resist.

By contrast, I thought Betty's "little lesbian" reference was completely time-appropriate. It's obviously very un-PC now, but back then, when gays and lesbians were marginalized, it might have seemed to an upper-middle-class women like Betty to be a sophisticated comment to make.

Stephen said...

Did anyone else catch that "Dick" was not in fact the whore's "dying wish" for her son's name, but rather part of the threat she issued to Dick's repellant father the night he slept with her and was too cheap to spring for a "sheath"?

She said, "If you get me in trouble, I'll cut your dick off and boil it in hog fat." Nine months later, as she's dying after giving birth, she repeats this through trembling lips, but the midwife can only make out "Dick" and incorrectly assumes that is her desire for the child's name.

So not only is Dick Whitman a bastard and the son of a prostitute, his very name harkens back to his shameful conception!

(Maybe that's why he sleeps around so much?)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, since as you said, the episode didn't clear it up, isn't you telling us that Joan (and Roger) are married now (sort of) spoilers?


Weiner is about the most spoiler-phobic showrunner I've ever encountered. He was surprised I didn't recognize that Joan and Peggy were discussing Joan's wedding ring rather than her engagement ring, and he felt that the Greece reference was enough to establish that Roger had also wed and honeymoon'ed. Later episodes will treat these two developments as established facts of life, not unexpected revelations.

Again, there are a million things going on in an episode of Mad Men. I try to shine a flashlight on as many as I can, and while I don't get to all of them (95 comments in, neither I nor any of you have mentioned Cooper's ant farm), I try to pick ones that I know people will be thinking/asking about. And given where we left Joan and Roger's relationships at the end of last season, and the oblique references to that here, I just wanted to be clear, and Weiner seemed perfectly comfortable letting that info be known.

belinda said...

Love love love the interaction between Ken and Pete. That scene in the elevator completely floored me, as was the difference in their reactions in that board meeting. Very nice coupling for two characters that have yet to share a scene alone with each other.

Hey, were people wearing shoes in Cooper's office? (I couldn't tell, but it seems, from the ease at which people entered and left the office, that they didn't take off their shoes.) If so, then that's also an indication of Cooper's growing irrelevance to the company.

Love that John Slattery (and Morse, I can't remember if he was too last year) are no longer special guest stars.

Certainly very interesting new additions to the office - excited to see what Moneypenny and Pryce have to offer.

Nicole said...

Other sites have mentioned that an ant farm is a gynocracy. I am not a biologist, but if that's accurate, that's another level for this week's episode.

I try not to freak out over spoilers, so I appreciated Alan's interview clearing up the marital statuses of Joan and Roger. There are so many subtle references going on, I didn't pick up on if Joan was married or not. Roger's reference to Greece was also a little on the down low, and I honestly didn't think about his new wife until I came to the blog.

Todd W said...

I'm surprised no one has yet commented on the film of milk that Don draws from the pan at the end of the reminiscence/projection sequences. It seemed a pretty stark and compelling graphical allusion to the subject matter of the sequence in at least two possible, related ways.

Alan -- I wonder if you're correct that Burt Petersen must have dropped the ball on some important account during the six-month hiatus. I got the impression that he was slated for dismissal when PP&L first arrived, but that his wife's condition had temporarily stayed their hands, not that he'd made some significant screw-up thereafter. Which may suggest that these firings (1/3rd of the staff overall) are just cost-cutting measures rather than real performance-based responses. (Of course, I doubt that anything hinges on this distinction either way.)

As ever, thanks for the blogposts.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey, were people wearing shoes in Cooper's office?

No. When Burt Peterson is rampaging through the secretaries' bullpen, you see that he's in his socks and his own terrified secretary is several steps behind him, carrying a pair of men's dress shoes.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I wonder if you're correct that Burt Petersen must have dropped the ball on some important account during the six-month hiatus. I got the impression that he was slated for dismissal when PP&L first arrived, but that his wife's condition had temporarily stayed their hands, not that he'd made some significant screw-up thereafter.

Todd, if that was the case, why would they have promoted him to be head of accounts? Why not just leave him in his old position, bring in a permanent replacement for Duck, and then fire Burt once they felt a "decent" amount of time had passed?

Also, Don and Sal's trip to Baltimore was to deal with some kind of emergency. When I put two and two together, it comes up as Burt screwing something up with London Fog, but I could be reading that wrong.

Belinda said...

Forgot to mention this earlier, but even though we didn't see Peggy much in this episode, Pete's comment about all the Os in the accounts kind of shows that Peggy quite possibly has more accounts than Don does. If not, it's nice to see her so firmly sitting as the second go to person in the creative team.

And, on Don's flight attendant, I think Don said it best when they were at the restaurant, and you do see that Don is not entirely sure what he's going to do with the girl, and Don said something like he keeps coming back to the same place. That means a lot of things, but in this scene it seems to mean he is always going to cheat, whether or not he intends to.

spiderpig said...

He was surprised I didn't recognize that Joan and Peggy were discussing Joan's wedding ring rather than her engagement ring

I'm sorry I mentioned the word spoilers in the last comment, what I meant to say was nobody (most people anyway?) would have known Joan was married already if they hadn't read Alan's blog or interview. In all the other blogs discussing the first ep of Mad Men I've been reading they don't mention Joan being married at all or they point back to this blog as proof that Joan is already married (even Mo Ryan's The Watcher article links back here for that point.)

As I said, I really don't need everything to be spelled out necessarily. I do enjoy all the layers this show gives us and that's why I come to this blog to read everyone's comments dissecting the show. There's always someone posting about something the rest of us didn't catch. That's part of the fun!

So yeah, I guess that scene with Peggy and Joan admiring the wedding ring was just something all of the rest of us missed. Spoiler accusation retracted. :)

Jen said...

I'm so happy I've finally caught up with the show and can now watch in real time.

I thought this premiere set up the season in a great way, while there's no hanging mystery on the scale of Don's identity/Peggy's baby, the implications of events from the previous finale are just as suspenseful. I'm personally anxious to see where things stand between Pete and Peggy after their mutual confessions and to see exactly where Joan stands, not to mention the ongoing fallout of the merger. I think the tension was played up really well in this episode and gives us a good starting point for the gradual explication of where things stand with the characters.

There's a great interview with Bryan Batt over at NY Magazine that really makes me look at Sal in new ways, especially after this episode.

I also loved the humor in this episode, not just Pete's gleeful dancing in his office and the mocking of Moneypenny, but also that lady from the Met committee in the hair hat... that had me in hysterics.

Todd W said...

Alan --

Ah: that's a good point about Burt's elevation, unless it occurred simply as-matter-of-coure, with Burt as the next person in line to take the position as a matter of seniority. (Of course, Duck had intended to give the position to Pete, but that was pretty clearly outside of the seniority chain, in culmination of his efforts to groom/"capture" Pete.) On the other hand, Don did say to the London Fog owners in Baltimore that the point of the trip was to show the flag ("continuing continuity of our service even after Burt has gone," or something), and it seemed clear there that the "trouble" at London Fog was internal to LF's own potential expansion plans, not to S.C.'s performance. At all events, though, a completely academic point.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Pete's comment about all the Os in the accounts kind of shows that Peggy quite possibly has more accounts than Don does.

As head of creative, I imagine Don is the assigned copywriter of record on only a handful of the firm's most important accounts. He supervises Peggy and Paul and Sal and everybody else, and he'll often come up with the pitch himself, but Peggy will be the copywriter of record.

Otto Man said...

95 comments in, neither I nor any of you have mentioned Cooper's ant farm

I'm surprised that would have survived Burt's tantrum in his office. You could hear the sounds of him breaking and trashing a lot of the room -- and yet a glass-cased ant farm in the middle of the room didn't get so much as a scratch?

Even if Burt hadn't tried to break it -- and if it were a prized possession of the boss who just shitcanned him, you think he would have -- I'd have to think some of the flying debris would knock it down.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought Lane Pryce was Duck's replacement as president but if not then who is?

Pryce is the new Chief Financial Officer, and for all intents and purposes, he's in charge. My guess (and this also goes back to the question of what Roger does all day) is that Sterling and Cooper are technically still in charge of the company, but that they're figureheads while Pryce makes the actual decisions.

debbie said...

Tobey said...
I took Don's "Really?" response to Sal as evidence that Draper has never not been hit on by a beautiful woman.

Heh, that comment reminded me of Hamm's character on "30 Rock."

SKRollins said...
Am I the only one squicked out by Don scooping up the top layer of boiled milk since my mind went dirty right away?

It was jarring for me to see too. Kinda reminded me of a placenta...either his own from his birth or his unborn baby soon to arrive.

Todd W said...

Many comments above noting that Don's conquest last night didn't have the heft or interest of his previous lovers. One suggestion has been that he has different standards for one-night stands. Here's another: when Betty was acting like a beautiful, spoiled child, with no heft or depth herself, Don sought that when he strayed. Now that she's growing and maturing, he's drawn toward the pretty, bubbly and vapid young things. (Of course, the episode also made perfectly plain why the guy's so drawn to cheating; he's perpetually trying to compensate for the lack of affection, particularly female affection, that arose from his brutal youth.)

Also, apologies: I missed the other commenter's previous notice of the milk-film in my comment above.

DaveMB said...

Cigars -- I believe Roger said that he had bought both the cigars and the Stoli in Greece. Greece was a NATO member at the time (and a right-wing semi-dictatorship IIRC) but they wouldn't have respected the US trade embargo with Cuba and they could trade with Russia (maybe through semi-third-party Yugoslavia) as well.

Sal's pen --apart from the metaphor, Sal said "airplane". I can certainly believe that a fountain pen would do that given the lower air pressure in the plane cabin. (As Leo and Bartlett discussed one time on _The West Wing_, NASA went through great effort to design a pen that would work in space, while the Russians used pencils. I believe ballpoints were just coming in around 1963 and they were too low-status for someone like Sal to use.)

Lesbian -- I have no trouble believing that the concept and word were familiar in Betty's 1950's women's college and the NYC modeling scene. Anyone recall whether the word shows up in Mary McCarthy's _The Group_, for example?

WV: reark -- Noah's command when it started to rain again

Susan said...

I actually assumed Joan was married now, since at the end of last season, she was getting married "at Christmas," and it was now spring 1963. When Peggy commented on Joan's ring, I figured it was her wedding ring, although would it have killed Weiner to have confirmed it with a shot of the ring?

@Girl Detective, I was thinking the same thing about Don's flight from the hotel room - this is a man who knows how to run, he's quite the expert at fleeing dangerous situations.

Ellie said...

"Lesbian -- I have no trouble believing that the concept and word were familiar in Betty's 1950's women's college and the NYC modeling scene."

I don't question whether she would be familiar with the concept (although she's not the most worldly--remember Juanita and her "friend"?). The line was still jarring to me coming from Betty. As others have said "tomboy" would seem more appropriate. It seemed to me it was a little to me to be a little too forced and heavyhanded. We get it--Betty Draper: still not mother of the year.

Lane said...

I think the biggest issue I had was the alacrity in which the bellboy jumped Sal's bones.. seemed to come out of nowhere, and even if the bellboy had NASA like gay-dar, still...

the scene WAS played SO well by both actors

Hatfield said...

Ahh, Mad Men. I just watched all of Season 2 again last weekend, re-reading the recaps as I went along, so it's strange to be reading new Mad Men material on here, especially the 100+ comments. Great to be back, though.

Ok, so my biggest complaint is that Don cheated. I know he's been doing this the whole time, and yeah, he resisted a little more, but just what the hell was the point of all the drama between he and Betty last year, and his subsequent adventures in CA? I know Weiner's sensei didn't believe in people's ability to change, but his philandering feels redundant at this point to me.

Otherwise, this episode cracked me up, made me cheer (for Sal, even if it was bittersweet), and also kinda sad to realize that Joan married him anyway. Didn't realize that until I got here, though; everyone I watched it with actually had a debate about whether she would actually marry him AFTER we watched the episode. Oops.

Jared Harris = Awesome. Like Alan said, his inscrutable nature should make for an interesting character, maybe even a foil to Don. Moneypenny, on the other hand, is Limey Pete, and I hate him already.

Oh, and I know we don't watch previews around here, but can I just say how silly it is that AMC's previews basically just show a bunch of lines spoken by random characters with no context? Sure, it's interesting, but they could show Don telling some unseen person he was going to eat a sandwich, and without hearing the person's response it would be like, "Ooh, what does that MEAN???" Bah, I think I've finally come around to Alan's way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Both scenes with Don and Betty took place in the bedroom. Did anyone else find this noteworthy?

Also, I knew Sally was going to pull some sort of "evidence" out of Daddy's suitcase. I was terrified it would be something more incriminating...

Also, what is up with Cooper's ant farm? Perhaps a metaphor for a lot of people at Sterling Cooper running around looking busy and not getting a lot done. More firings to come, perhpaps?

Colm said...


Read it how you will, and it could tie into why they made them fly as opposed to take the train like Timmy mentioned, but Friendship is just the old name for BWI.

Unknown said...

Honestly? I thought the fire alarm was horribly contrived. I know they were trying to get from point a to point b, but that one got an eye roll from me. What I did think was interesting about that scene, which no one has pointed out, is that Don may have seen Sal exposed, but Sal saw Don exposed, too. Granted, it might not be as "big" a deal, but its still the difference between an assumption and a confirmation.
Favorite part - Pete finding out about Ken, and their completely opposite reactions to the promotion. Plus, how Pete keeps running to Don when he gets bad news, like he did when his Dad was killed in the plane crash. How twisted do you have to be, given their history, to see Don as a mentor?

Anonymous said...

What did Sal mean when he said "airplane" in the scene with the bellboy? Why was the lighting so dark in the last half of the episode?

Sharon said...

Betty's lesbian comment struck me, too, but in a different way. Obviously, Betty feels that she has to compete for Don's attention, particularly after last season when she finally allowed herself to acknowledge that he has been unfaithful to her. Even the most loving of mothers can feel competitive with their daughters - and Betty is hardly the most loving of mothers. As Sally gets older and starts to receive the attention from men that Betty has accepted as her due all these years, that competition is only going to increase. To me, this remark was Betty's attempt, perhaps even unintentionally, to establish who is truly Don's "girl", and to reaffirm to herself that Sally will never be the woman - the paragon of femininity - that she believes herself to be.

Otto Man said...

What did Sal mean when he said "airplane" in the scene with the bellboy?

Not sure, but I assumed he meant that the pressure from the flight made the fountain pen burst.

Anonymous said...

Please, Mr. Weiner, sir, may I have some more clich├ęs?

Anonymous said...

Rather than viewing Don's rush out of the room during the fire alarm as an illustration of how good he is at making escapes, it occurred to me that this was a peek at the real Dick Whitman. That he was really just physically afraid of the fire. No matter how far he has come in creating this new character of Don Draper, he can't completely escape his internal cowardice.

Unknown said...

Did the office intercoms always have that garbled quality? It seems like they were clearer the first two seasons.
It seemed to me like Don was pulling away in the hall just a bit; like he was actually considering not sleeping with the stewardess.
Jon Hamm's final expression as he couldn't tell the story to Sally - perfection! Give that man an Emmy please.

miles said...

I was thinking that Don's longer more relaxed hair as symbolic of him being more in touch with the Dick Whitman in himself.

miles said...

I was also thinking that one of the many reason's Don cheats (reminds me of a Randy Travis song) is that he is "the son of a whore." He spent his childhood hearing that. Maybe his cheating is a subconscious effort to connect with her. Or to rebel against the crap he had to listen to as a child.

Hyde said...

What the heck does Roger Sterling do at Sterling Cooper? In the first season he was Head of Accounts, then after his heart attacks he seemed to pretty much just hang around and enjoy the fruits of being a senior partner. But now that PPL owns a majority share of the company it seems a bit odd that he's just there all the time.

I think this is another example of the audience knowing what is about to happen to these characters, who are still relatively innocent (think about the floodwaters rising around Don in the ads for the coming season). In our era, where downsizing is a fact of life, the dead-man-walking status of a hood ornament like Roger is readily apparent. But he's as insouciant as ever. The possibility that he could be seen by the new boss as every bit as disposable as Freddie Rumsen and Burt Peterson has almost certainly never occurred to him--his name is on the firm, after all. (This isn't a spoiler, by the way--I'm just assuming this is Roger's fate.)

Re Alan's comment about being "back in Mad Men world," it's interesting that so many of us here have referred to Don's one night stand as a stewardess, which is a word I imagine most of us no longer use. But watching this show, it does seem natural to think of her as a stewardess.

Anonymous said...

Sorry is this has already been brought up but Duck got fired because Don was going to walk. Don basically said it's me or him when he walked out at the end of S2. When the Brits said "well he was always a drunk" they meant that Duck was expendable but Don wasn't. The deal wasn't going to go through if Don wasn't part of the package so Duck was out.

I've seen many people ask where was Duck on various sites but I thought they made it very clear last seaosn that Duck was gone. Duck was a means to an end and wasn't needed anymore.

gina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

No talking about the content of the previews, folks, even previews as vague as on "Mad Men." Rule #2

CarolMR said...

Isn't Don Draper's effect on every woman he meets wearing a little thin?

Anonymous said...

*Betty's lesbian comment took me out of the show a bit, because I'm not sure if the term "lesbian" was something that she would know at that time.*

I found the comment jarring as well, but my partner and I decided that since she went to college it made sense.

*Trudy is so calm and nice in the face of Pete's infantile behavior.*

Perhaps Trudy has learned the way to soothe the beast is to never ever appear in any way smarter, wiser, or more capable than he is.


Anonymous said...

Did you happen to notice the last line of this paragraph in your interview with John Hamm?

Well, do you feel differently about yourself when you're out like that?

I don't feel differently about myself. I'm playing a part, and when I'm being myself, I don't behave the way Don does. It is a means to an end for me. It is all about convenience. The more you have to go to events, get dressed up for, have your picture taken a million times -- and all it only takes a few pictures of you with some floopy idiot haircut, and you go, 'Oh, man, is that the one they're gonna print? Yeah, that's the one they're gonna print.' So you try to limit your exposure.

Pun intended???????

Alan Sepinwall said...

Did you happen to notice the last line of this paragraph in your interview with John Hamm?

I actually cut out the next part of that exchange, where we acknowledged he was quoting Draper, since I didn't want to feature any season premiere spoilers, even something relatively oblique.

DiscoLemonade said...

SKRollins said...
"Am I the only one squicked out by Don scooping up the top layer of boiled milk since my mind went dirty right away?"

It was jarring for me to see too. Kinda reminded me of a placenta...either his own from his birth or his unborn baby soon to arrive.

I also interpreted the milk as a placenta.

Also...did anyone else notice the pimples or whatever they were on Pete's face in the meeting with him and Ken as the new heads of account? At first I was trying to figure out what was wrong with his face and then realized it was just another sign of his reaction to the double-promotion.

LA said...

So I've slept on the episode, and the one thing that is still really resonating with me today is what a talented actor Bryan Batt is. He makes Sal say so much, even without dialogue. I sincerely hope this is Batt's season to get a little more screen time.

Alan - Just curious, how many advance episodes have you screened?

olucy said...

SO glad to read Alan's take plus the comments here. I *always* glean something I didn't the first time around.

I'm a bit sheepish to admit I didn't quite "get" the full import of limit your exposure when Don was making his "pitch" on the plane. I understood that he was talking business and conveying that he was going to turn a blind eye to the elephant in the room, and that Sal could breathe easy. But now it's so much richer.

But I *was* confused by seeing the ad idea actually drafted later. It's skating too close to a sensitive area for Sal to have mocked up the ad as a joke and shown it to others. But there's no way in hell that that ad would've flown in 1963. It wouldn't fly now, with such a conservative brand.

What's everyone's take on that?

berkowit28 said...

Are we quite sure that the midwife didn't hear more of what Don/Dick's real mother said than the word "dick", and imagined that was the name she wanted for the baby? It didn't seem that way to me. It sounded as if she very much caught the gist of the real comment, and she herself (the midwife) named the baby Dick - ironically, or in grim memory. She certainly didn't give much away to the wife (adoptive mother), but she certainly seemed to know the story, saying something like "named after what his mther really wanted" or something like that, and "Is your husband home?"

Think about it. If the midwife didn't hear the mother's real comment, then the one and only person who ever heard it was Dick's father, Archie, when she first said it to him. Would he really have spread that around? How would Dick have ever heard about it himself? Surely only if the midwife spread the story around to begin with, until it became common knowledge, and eventually Dick's too.

Anonymous said...

It's a story his father's hateful wife assuredly told him many times . . .

Is this what Matt Weiner has said? Because the episode certainly didn't convey this.

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

To me, this remark was Betty's attempt, perhaps even unintentionally, to establish who is truly Don's "girl", and to reaffirm to herself that Sally will never be the woman - the paragon of femininity - that she believes herself to be.

How did you come up with this conclusion?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Is this what Matt Weiner has said? Because the episode certainly didn't convey this.

Past episodes have. His father's wife hated Dick Whitman, thought nothing of calling him a whorechild, and almost certainly would have tried to shame him with the details of his birth whenever the opportunity arose.

Anonymous said...

some things that did not occur to me when I first watched this episode.

1. I did not know that Sal had never been intimate with another man. I just assumed he was sleeping with other men already, but was keeping it secret from his wife and co-workers.
2. I thought the birthday line was just something that Don Draper had made up and it never occured to me that it was the real Dick Whitman's actual birthday.
3. I though Don's pause when telling Sally's birth story was because he could not remember his own daughter's birth.
I could go on, but these are great examples of how I really need to read this blog to fully understand the show.

Anonymous said...

A thought just occured to me regarding Joan and Roger's marriage(s). No spoiler here, just speculation on my part.
What if Joan and Roger did get married but not to their lovers from last season. If fact what if Joan and Roger both dumped their partners and actually married each other?

Lenny Boyle said...

Tad annoyed that you said you're not an anglophile. But as a long time reader (and a scot) at least you are enjoying the accents on offer in Mad Men and indeed at comic con. It's interesting because I am only aware of your accent from the sopranos and you're only aware of mine from a couple of sci fi stars. Even if you're not an anglophile; Scotland loves you, Al.

StickmanAZ said...

Am I the only one who associated the draft London Fog ad with the famous "Expose Yourself to Art" poster?

That poster came much later (about 15 years after the current time frame in MM).

Details on the making of the poster and it's image here:

Maura said...

What if Joan and Roger did get married but not to their lovers from last season. If fact what if Joan and Roger both dumped their partners and actually married each other?

Joan mentioned Craig (Greg?) by name in the episode in a manner that indicated she's with him, so I don't think Joan and Roger are married to each other. Although, honestly, nothing about this show would surprise me anymore. : )

Ah, Pete. Still acting like a spoiled child when he doesn't get exactly what he wants when he wants it, and still managing to make me love him at the same time.

This was a great way to start the season. We got the beginning of some good story lines, and a few terrific OMG moments.

Thanks for clarifying that Joan is married now, Alan. I assumed she wasn't yet because she's still working. I was also holding out hope that she had kicked that bastard to the curb.

olucy said...

Not to mention, in that era, I don't think husbands and wives working in the same office was allowed. Not that it's a great idea now (with some exceptions, of course).

Jennifer J. said...


Can you shed any light at all on why they recast Tommy? I'm going to miss that other child actor. He seemed just perfect. Plus, he and Hamm had a real chemistry.

Thanks for any info you might have....

JimZipCode said...

My wife wonders why Don & Salvatore would bother to take a plane from NYC to Baltimore. It would be a pain to go out to LaGuardia, rather than just catch the train in midtown; and on the Baltimore end, Penn Station is right in the city, fairly close to the Belvedere, while Friendship Airport is outside the Baltimore Beltway.

Nowadays it's probably faster to take the train, all things considered, including the security BS. Back then it would be easier to get on board a plane than it is now; but would the plane itself be as fast?

Of course they don't have sexy stews on the train...

Anonymous said...

Why are people assuming the ant farm is Burt Cooper's? Isn't it in Petersen's office, now temporarily occupied by Moneypenny?

olucy said...

Joan told Moneypenny that it was Cooper's.

Anonymous said...

As for the comment on Don and Peggy doing their own typing - a sign of things to come...

Writers at advertising agencies used their to do their own typing - I'm sure they still do. And that's how they used to do it - on Selectric typewriters. I was a secretary in an ad agency in the late 70's. The Creative Director had a secretary and there was another secretary who did final presentations, but all the writers typed up drafts of all their ideas and pitches, even the Creative Director himself - much like writers do their own typing in the initial stages.

There was nothing wrong with the intercom system - that chick was just totally ignoring Peggy because she was a female and she felt she could get away with it. I remember those intercom systems, too.

So much of Mad Men rings true - even though I wasn't in the same era OR the same metropolitan area.

It wasn't all the drinking in the office - but there were a lot of drinking lunches and some lunches where you just never returned to the office, especially if you went to lunch with some of the writers and creative guys. And then the account guys did like to take a me and other young secretaries along for some client entertaining at happy hour - and I can't even mention which one of our current elected officials worked there at the time as an account executive.

During my time there, it was a wild ride, running the gamut from the glory year of being named Agency of the Year by the American Advertising Agency - lots of reasons for drinking - and then a year or so later losing a few big accounts and then the layoffs began...

So keep up the good work, Mr. Weiner!

Anonymous said...

I don't get the confusion about why Don chose the pretty dumb stewardess to cheat on. I actually thought that part of the episode was very well played by Hamm. We've seen Don charm women before, but this time, he wasn't really trying--she threw herself at him, and he was kind of... listlessly going along. She invited them out to dinner, she invited herself to see his room, and then she pulled him into a kiss against the wall.

The entire time, he was very obviously going through the motions, not initiating anything himself but not exactly resisting, as though seeing what would happen. When she asked "what are we doing?" his response was half smirk ("we? It's mostly you, madam!") and half academic curiosity ("I don't know, what IS going to happen?"). It was only at that moment that he seemed to decide that yes, he was actually going to have sex with her.

This auto-pilot approach to cheating on his part seemed somewhat pessimistic to me. He said himself he always seemed to find himself in the same place: it was like he gave up, and basically decided to sleep with her because he realized it was easier for him to do so than not to. He did it because it was the path of least resistance: because he'd done it so many times already that he just fell into it. It didn't mean anything but he didn't try to stop himself either: it seemed like he (pessimistically) decided that since he was a whorechild, he wasn't going to fight his nature.

helga said...

Im so glad this show and all the great observations are back. Yeh i was wondering about that "expose yourself to art" poster too, thanks for mentioning the time of release on that one.
I'm really enjoying all the commentary on Betty's new steely persona. What struck me about the lesbian remark was what seemed to be Don's reaction of genuine amusement to it. It's as if she's becoming more interesting to him in a wise-ass/Midge sort of way, yet she still wasn't sly enough to catch on to the stewardess' pin. (Wouldn't he have brought one home for each of the kids?) I was also surprised by the way they were throwing all the cancer talk around, was that typical of the time?
When it came to Shelley the stewardess it looked to me like Don could take her or leave her. I thought the hilarious line about ending up in the same old place was an insult directed at her and her ilk. Even back in the room he seemed bored and disdainful of her, and it also looked to me like the only reason he decided to go with it was in a self-pitying gesture for him to have an agknowledgment/celebration of his birthday that was probably more than Dick Whitman ever got. The line kinda reminded me of the secretary seduction scene in Revolutionary Road too.
And in keeping with the Sterling/Cooper execs' slightly behind-the-times theme, how about that promotion gift from Pete's wife? I don't remember if that "the buck stops here" thing was on Truman or Ike's desk but either way it would seem like a dated joke reference, no?

Tom said...

My favorite pun in the episode: Sal, he loves the

Welcome back Mad Men!

blogward said...

Regarding Betty's 'lesbian' comment; totally brilliant and consistent characterization - throughout the show, Betty has been shown to resent her daughter (can't think of name offhand - Bo?) and be insecure of her and Don, as her own mother kept Betty at a distance. This was Betty the competitive woman instinctively undermining the relationship of Don and daughter. Subtle and automatic - watch for more.

Also, some have questioned why Don would still let himself be unfaithful; apart from any woman-hating issues Don may have, it's fair to say that from a 60's WASP perspective and with Betty about seven months gone, Don isn't getting any at home - and he has learned to be a little bohemian anyway.

Thirdly, overjoyed to see Maggie Siff listed in series 3 cast.

Karl Ruben said...

including Roger's awkward shift from jaunty to somber when he realized, "Oh, that meeting,"


I thought Roger said "Oh, SAD meeting," which is even funner than "THAT meeting."

@Alan & Matter-Eater Lad: My favourite line of the episode; I also heard it as "Oh. Sad meeting". Repeat nit-picking listens seem to bear this out.

Thanks a bunch for all the reviews and interviews, Alan - your writing (including that of these awesome commenters) is an invaluable supplement to the show.

AFish said...

Great insights as usual Alan, but I have to say...on this one I totally disagree.
Is it just me or does everyone seem a bit "out of character"?? Let's start with Don. In this episode we were definitely seeing that bit of Dick Whitman that we first glimpsed last season in "the mountain king" -- which made sense given several personal transformations (i.e. betty's pregnancy, the revelation from the real Mrs. Draper that "you are not alone," etc. etc.) -- until it becomes apparent that Don's behavior and business/personal relationships have not changed.
The aggression and smooth callousness is gone but the behavior those things masked (and in a way validated) is not.
Don Draper is not acting like himself (either as Don or Dick) and for the first time in the series the character feels contrived and the motivations don't make sense.
Same thing with Pete. I'll buy that perhaps he and Trudy have found peace with each other and are beginning to make an effort...but I will not buy that after only 6 or so months she has morphed from a belittled accessory-wife to Pete's Peggy-substitute and closest emotional confidant.
Also Bert Cooper: when have you ever seen him outside of his own world? I cannot fathom him "hanging out with the boys" like he does in the scene in Draper's office. His personality simply does not lend itself to that kind of relationship. It only makes sense if Bert is suddenly feeling himself becoming useless under the new ownership and needs companionship. But to me it seems like Bert would act this desperation out by becoming increasingly more withdrawn in his world of Ayn Rand and Japanese art.
And on a final note, I have to agree with the previous post that Betty's "little lesbian" comment about Sally felt totally modern and out of place, and too cavalier for the time.
I hope that this last part doesn't become a trend because the brilliance of this show is that it manages to be a powerful social commentary simply because it is so much "of its time" and has not until now felt like us looking back through the prism of cultural change.
Those things aside, I thought Joan, Sal, Ken and Peggy's characters were spot on.
All in all, it was an ok opener and I'm glad to get back to the world of Sterling Cooper. I'm just going to chalk the character problems mentioned above up to a case of the high-pressure first-episode-jitters and hope that the over-acting and character inconsistencies go away as everybody settles into the new season.

Anonymous said...

re: the quick Sal/bellboy encounter - my gay male friends have told me of anonymous hookups they've engaged in that happened even faster than Sal's. Especially in the pre-AIDS era.

re: Pete's wife entertaining docents from the Met - doesn't that mean she is truly associating with early 60s high society?

Liam said...

Recall that Betty is a graduate of Bryn Mawr. She knows what lesbians are and its a sign of her aggressive childishness to use the term as a way of demoting another princess who is competing for the king's affections. Betty is no Cordelia (Lear reference).

Not that Matt Weiner intends any cross-reference, but Bryn Mawr's motto is I Delight in The Truth; something that Betty definitely does *not* do when the truth is hard.

ascot2 said...

a little confusion on my part - that was Don/Dick's real father in the flashback (Archie Whitman). Okay. I got that. He's the same person in the Hobo Code, and who was waiting for the body of DIck for Dick's body, when his younger brother saw him. But I thought he died (kicked in the head) when Don/Dick was nine (?) so he couldn't be the dad, because wasn't Don/Dick brought up by his stepmother and her (new, non Archie) husband? Is that right? Help.

Maura said...

Andrea said: Same thing with Pete. I'll buy that perhaps he and Trudy have found peace with each other and are beginning to make an effort...but I will not buy that after only 6 or so months she has morphed from a belittled accessory-wife to Pete's Peggy-substitute and closest emotional confidant.

I agree, Andrea. I think she's just doing what she can to humor him and keep him from going into another one of his funks. She's doing what she thinks a good wife is supposed to do. I didn't much that was genuine between the two of them. Taking care of Pete's fragile ego is a full time job, and she has it down to a science.

I still think she's a simp. Also, that hat she had on was killing me, and not in a good way.

LA said...

ascot2 said...
a little confusion on my part - that was Don/Dick's real father in the flashback (Archie Whitman). Okay. I got that. He's the same person in the Hobo Code, and who was waiting for the body of DIck for Dick's body, when his younger brother saw him. But I thought he died (kicked in the head) when Don/Dick was nine (?) so he couldn't be the dad, because wasn't Don/Dick brought up by his stepmother and her (new, non Archie) husband? Is that right? Help.

Ascot - You are partially correct.

Yes, that was Dick's real father that we saw Sunday night, the same man in The Hobo Code flashbacks, Archie Whitman.

The man in the flashback waiting for Dick's body was NOT Archie Whitman, it was Abigail's second husband who was Adam's father.

Hope that helps.

Henry said...

My brother was watching the season premiere with me on Sunday. He asked me an interesting question: What exactly is Don's position at Sterling Cooper? Is he Head Copywriter? If he has no contract (as established from last season), is he a freelance copywriter?

olucy said...

He's the head of the entire Creative Department, which means he's over all the copywriters and graphic designers. Both Peggy and Sal look to him for approval/direction.

I don't know what the legal implications are of his not having a contract, but he's not freelance.

berkowit28 said...

Don works full-time for SC, but since he has no contract, he could

1) quit, or be fired, at any time, with no notice, but

2) since he does not have a contract with the usual no-compete clause, if he did quit or was fired, he could work for a competitor, set up his own firm, take away clients, etc. (Though he said in Series 1 that if he ever quit it would be to do something else, obviously under conditions of leaving under protest, had Duck taken SC a direction he didn't like, no one would believe he wouldn't compete.)

Before SC was sold to the Brits, he had a 12% share of the business. Presumably that had to be legally fixed somewhere (during the partners' meetings, he was expected to be there, but in the end his absence meant nothing since the 12% wasn't going to make a majority even with Bert, supposing they had both opposed he sale.) He received his share of the sale, and now he's just an employee again, high-level, apparently still without a contract. SC needs him, and he'd rather not be bound to them by contract - gives him some freedom. Some day he may get fired, without compensatio, of course.

Henry said...

Those are good explanations, which helps my brother and I because I could not adequately explain Don's position to him. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Don is Creative Director of Sterling Cooper.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, olucy for explaining my ant farm question. I obviously was not paying attention at that moment.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Something that occurred to me while talking about the show yesterday: When Sal "forgot his ticket" and the hotel, could that have been a convenient cover for finishing what was interrupted by the fire alarm?

Erin said...

About the bellhop's perfect gaydar, did anyone else notice that Sal in his drunken stupor was pretty blatantly checking him out before he took out his money? That's kiiiiind of a giveaway.

Also, when Sal was late to the meeting, I just thought that he couldn't bring himself to face Don the next morning.

I adored this episode. Funniest Mad Men episode ever. "DROP DEAD, YOU LIMEY VULTURE!"

Anonymous said...

This is off topic but its something that has been brought up constantly about Don and I would like to get some clarification.

In the flashback about him in Korea when he switches identities with the real Don, does he wet himself or is that wetness from the gas leak? I have watched it a couple of times and it seems to be a bit ambiguous, as if the real Don thinks that is what happens but then they are startled to see what that its really from the gas leak.

Has anybody else seen it that way?

Atlanta PR Guy said...


Using my wife and I calculated some interesting financials from MM:

In 1960, Don received a raise to $45,000/year ($305,355 in today’s dollars). Soon after, when named partner, he received another 12% raise to $50,400 ($341,998 today).

Also in 1960, After declining his offer to spend it on a trip to Paris with him, the $2,500 bonus check he signed over to Midge (when he told her, “then, go buy a car…”) would be $17,322 today.

Based on a screen capture of the YTD figures for a paycheck dated October 11, 1962 when Betty was signing his paycheck to deposit it after she kicked him out, prorated through the end of the year (not including any bonuses), his annual salary was $61,118 ($414,727 today).

The $6,500 ‘cash’ he paid for the new '62 Cadillac would be $44,106 today.

Don’s approximately $500,000 share from sale of SC to PPL now would be about $3,392,840.

Gender inequality that it was at the time, after Peggy’s successful Belle Jolie copy, and being assigned to another “project, not an account” for the Relax-a-ciser, Don told her not to be shy about asking for a raise, so he took her from $35/week ($1,820/year; $12,350 today) as a secretary to $40/week ($2,080/year; $14,114 today) as a secretary also doing copywriting.

Harry Crane was making $200/week ($10,400/year in 1962; or $70,571 today) when he opened Ken Cosgrove’s pay envelope and discovered that Ken was making $300/week ($15,600/year; or $105,856 today). I loved Jennifer Crane’s shocked comment of something like, “That mannequin’s making $300 a week; he’s not even married!” because in the early ‘70s, I had a boss actually ‘explain to me’ that was giving one of my peer’s a bigger raise “because he has a wife to support, and they are expecting.”) Harry went to Roger Sterling and asked for a raise to $310/week and settled for Roger’s offer of $225/week ($11,700/year; or $79,392 today), plus “throwing in new business cards.”

In the first season (1960), Pete Campbell was making $75/week ($3,900/year; or $26,464). He then received a 30% raise that brought him to $5,070/year (or $33,995 in today's dollars).

In 1963, when Pete Campbell, and Ken Cosgrove, both are unknowingly named head(s) of account services, Pete forgets to ask what his salary will be, but when Ken does remember to ask, Brit CFO Lane Pryce says the salary will be (a(disappointing) $21,000/year ($140,809 today).

We got these figures by replaying some episodes, writing down the figures from some conversations, and using the on-line inflation calculator mentioned above.

Anyone care to confirm, or correct, these figures?

Atlanta PR Guy

Capcom said...

Great review and comments. :-)

As for the captioning, oddly enough I found the instant replay to have more accurate captions than the preview airing. For instance, they spelled it "ginocrasy" on the first run, and spelled it correctly on the repeat. Other things were more accurate as well. Although the way they drink, it could be a gin-ocracy. The Joan-ocracy is a great idea!

I also found Betty's comment about tools and lesbians to be a bit anachronistic as well. Except perhaps in a Vassar "The Group" sort of way, as you mention Liam. But good point about her competitive nature with Sally though, I can see that. And I too get annoyed by her treatment of Bobby, could she have a hatred of men in general that extends to her own son?

I agree that it's great to have Jared Harris on MadMen, after he got literally "cut" from Fringe.

Olucy, I was thinking that back then the "exposure" ad might be more for men's magazines than for a general demographic vehicle such as Life magazine?

Baylink said...

Ant colonies are ruled by a queen, so yeah, I think it would be correct to call that a gynocracy. (Though, I, too, want one of those Joan-ocracy shirts; given the track records of networks, though, we won't get one that doesn't have a big MAD MEN!!!! logo all over it, unless we do it ourselves and get sued.)

Timmy!!!: You're a nitpicker.


And, really, I've read half the comments so far, but it appears that I really am the only one who thinks that Pete Campbell has grown up a bit.

He was smart enough not to go off with Roger in the office, and he didn't rip Trudy a new one when he didn't get what he wanted -- even though screaming at her for things not her fault has been his metier in the past.

Ok, he's acting like a fourth grader... but at least he's no longer acting like he's *four*. :-)

All in all, I'm sure I speak for a whole lot of people (most of whom are not regular commenters on *this* blog) when I say, "huh?" :-)

(wv: hydring - what Sal needed to keep his, er, pen from leaking.)

Tony Semczuk said...

Sorry for the late post...but did anyone catch the sly "Lost Weekend" reference when Don was making fun of the Fleischmann's ad? "I pawned my typewriter so I could spend the weekend with you."

Evan Rose said...

A few comments that may only get read by an even bigger slacker than I...

Don leaving town and cheating - don't shit where you eat. He also might not be getting any at home... (also mentioned by blogward)

"Going to someone's office seems to be a big pecking order indicator." Burt said to Don "You're the face of Sterling Cooper now" in the beginning. Perhaps Don is now "President?" He certainly was the one doing the firing.

"The late scene of Bert, Roger, Don, and Pete all huddled in Don's office indicates how strongly the power dynamic in the office has turned against them." I noticed this too and thought the same thing.

Regarding the plane vs. train, you'll recall something about Don going "first class all the way." When the stewardess closed the curtain, she did so at the back of the cabin - they were in first class. I'm not up on airline historical accuracy (though I do recall Weiner in one interview insisting they be on a TWA plane as opposed to an AA one) but if they're flying out of Idlewild (renamed JFK 12/63)), that's quite a hike from Manhattan and then yes, that trip might have indeed taken just as long as taking the train. By the way, they probably would have been on a 707 (the same plane model Pete's dad would have died in) which is indeed a jet, not a prop plane... Further research has revealed that TWA was Flying out of LaGuardia in '62.

Atlanta PR Guy, thanks for all the payroll info. I've thought about that quite a lot. The $75(8?) Pete said/was told he was making early in the 1st season seemed way, way out of line compared to what Don made, even considering the difference between their positions. That said, everyone seems to be making a lot more money a lot faster.

Alan, I didn't discover your blog until some time after I finished watching the second season, which was some time after it ended, reading instead The House Next Door. Thank you for your analysis as well as a place for us nerds to congregate and chime in.

Gregory said...

The Brits are back!

Just in case anyone is still passing (maybe on DVD catch-ups or when S3 is re-run in the US), just wanted to say that S3 started in the UK last night.

And, as well as the elation at the show being back, it's also great to be able to head straight here to Sepinwall-land to read what you guys all posted six months ago!

Whilst it's certainly frustrating having to avoid this site and Basket of Kisses for six months each year, there's a great beauty in being so far behind because it means I can log-on here and hey-presto the comments buffet is already on display.

Thanks Alan. Thanks all.

Adds no-one seems to have picked-up on:

* the duality between the foot-shots of Don (in the milk pan opening sequence) and Sal in the bellhop money-clip scene

* Sally's obsessions with Don's suitcases (so beautifully drawn) stretches back to S3 (remember "His suitcase is here but he's not"?); so it makes a neat tie-in for Weiner to pick this up again on so many levels, especially her eagerness to unpack it for him. The craft of that final scene was sublime and the terror - just knowing that Sally would extrude something incriminating from the luggage - was out of Stephen King's top drawer. The major expression on Don's face was adrenaline-laced "phew, that was close" relief; and Weiner knew his audience would pick up on it as we were all feeling the same knowing how close he'd come to losing it all.