Huh huh. “May Pole.”
Well, so far we’re 2 for 2 on episodes I liked a zillion times better the second time around. I know most people don’t have to watch these things as closely as I do, but it’s certainly not the worst thing you could do with your spare time. Anyway, it’s mostly another installment of Move Over And Shut Up While Don Draper Figures All Your Shit Out For You, but it’s also a really nice episode for Roger and Peggy, and for another major character of the season: 1963. Still not enough Joan for my taste, but all in good time, right? As always, there are a zillion fantastic one-liners, smirks, shrugs, glares and awkward silences. Transcribing them all here just isn’t possible, so feel free to rattle them off in the comments section. I probably will!3.02 Love Among The Ruins. Peggy, Harry, Sal and Ken are in a conference room watching the opening scene from Bye Bye Birdie, featuring an almost preternaturally annoying Ann-Margaret. Even that stupid hyphen is annoying. The boys find her incredibly charming, but Peggy and I are both like, uh, really? She has boobs, but so lots of people, many of whom don’t howl like a banshee with an advanced degree from the Lil’ Shirley Temple School Of Precocious Diction. Sheesh. Anyway, the folks at Patio – the new low calorie Pepsi product aimed at helping women “reduce” – want a frame by frame recreation. Peggy, who is absolutely Don’s heir even if no one ever acknowledges it, is skeptical. This is an ad for men, she says. Patio is for women, who have no interest in Ann-Margaret’s “ability to be 25 and act 14.” Heh. “I’m the one who’d be buying Patio,” she says. “You’re not fat anymore,” Harry responds. Shut up, Harry. It’s not like you couldn’t stand to “reduce” a bit yourself, pal. Her observations – you know, the only ones coming from their target demographic – are collectively and firmly pooh-poohed, and that is that.
Also, that damn song has lodged itself in my brain like one of those nightmarish South American parasites you see on the Discovery Channel.
Meanwhile, Pete and Kinsey are making nice with the guys who want to tear down Penn Station – the beloved, iconic, Beaux-Arts architectural triumph – to build the new Madison Square Garden. They’re having some PR problems, you see, which Paul reads out carefully, headline by headline, “Save Penn Station,” “Rape On 34th Street,” “How To Ruin A City,” etc. “We should have torn it down during the strike and no one would have known about it,” one of them says. Pete obligingly laughs like it’s incredibly funny, because that’s what Pete does. Paul, however, isn’t having much luck appearing neutral on the subject. “He’s trying to find an angle!” Pete puts in, grinning apologetically as Kinsey continues to explain why people are so pissed off, without bothering to mention anything about the pissed off populace being wrong in any way. It’s not just the boho beatnik hippies like him who want to keep Penn Station – it’s pretty much everybody – but his poorly disguised contempt leads the potential clients to storm out huffily. FAIL. Was that a little sabotage on Ken’s behalf? The undercurrent of competition between the two heads of accounts hasn’t gone anywhere, so maybe people are picking sides in an effort to hurry it along. Poor Pete. No one will pick Pete’s side, will they? Either way, Kinsey ruined the whole thing and it’s going to take some serious damage control from Don to salvage the project, which, let’s not forget, Bert Cooper managed to reel in last week and assign specifically to Pete. Again, confidence in Pete’s abilities? Sabotage? A bored old shit-stirrer entertaining himself? It’s not clear.
It’s always a little jarring to see Betty at Sterling Coop. You’re on the wrong set! And boy is she grouchy. Joan compliments her on how well she’s “carrying,” and that she’s reassured – see, Greg has warned her that once he’s chief resident, watch out! Because that’s the kind of guy Joan married, people. The kind who decides exactly when she will begin her service as an incubator for his spawn. Oh Joan. Props to those of you who guessed Joan had gotten married over the break, by the way. I thought surely something would derail that, but sadly, no. Betty’s waiting for Don to get out of his meeting with Pryce, about losing Campbell’s Soup Great Britain and exactly who dropped which ball where. “Perhaps I should drag in Bert Peterson and fire him again?” Roger offers. The point is, nobody knows who’s in charge of anything, the British Invasion has made the chain of command go all wonky and this is a huge account that slipped through a big ole crack.
“When the ring moves from side to side, it means the baby is an accident that’s the only thing holding its parents’ fragile, empty marriage together!”
As Don finishes up, Joan is doing that thing where you dangle a ring over a pregnant belly and it’s supposed to tell you the sex of the baby. It’s swinging side to side instead of in circles, but nobody can remember what that means. Roger, who is my favorite character this season, spots Betty and says affectionately “Oh look! Princess Grace swallowed a basketball!” He kisses her on the cheek all gentleman-like but she is decidedly squirmy. General grumpiness or barely disguised contempt for a guy she knows left his wife of a zillion years for some 20-year-old? I’m going with “a little from Column A, a little from Column B.” Don swoops her up for their dinner with the Pryces (“I’m in a foul mood” she confides unnecessarily and hilariously). Joan and Roger are left sort of staring at each other. “Goodnight, Mrs. Harris,” he says fondly, making it official. I may or may not have said “No!” out loud to the television. It’s a cute moment though. If you’re gonna leave your wife, Roger, that’s the kind of gal you should have done it for. Ah well.
Don and Betty proceed to the squirmiest most uncomfortable dinner in the history of US-UK relations. Betty is thisclose to rolling her eyes at any given moment. When Mrs Pryce asks how long they’ve been together, Don says “10 years” at the same time Betty says “9 years.” Is Betty just leaving out that stretch where they basically didn’t have a marriage? Interesting. In the car on the way home she tells Don she’s worried about her dad. His girlfriend, of whom she was never especially fond, left him. “Can you blame her?” Don asks, ever the sympathetic ear. Yes, she can blame her, actually. Her dad had a stroke and she just abandoned him. “Maybe she just realized he’s a son of a bitch,” Don offers helpfully. Heh. Betty is worried – he doesn’t sound right, and she wants her brother Bill (you know, William Hofstadt, the guy who hooked up with that stewardess and witnessed Sal’s Secret Shame from a Baltimore fire escape?) and his family to bring Daddy for a long weekend at the Draper house. Don is about as excited as you’d expect. “Why did you even bother asking me?” he gripes, apparently not having noticed that she didn’t.
Roger’s intercom tells him his “family” is here, which I guess is the only real polite way of saying “your daughter Margaret and also her poor mother whom you totally humiliated.” This is a fantastic scene, and a great Roger episode in general. Margaret is there to talk about her wedding; specifically about Jane, her shiny nubile new stepmom. “I didn’t want to go to her wedding, but I did. The least she can do is not come to mine.” Nice. I like Margaret. She’s got spunk. Mona offers a compromise where she and Roger would each have separate tables but the fiancÃ© walks in just in time for them to have to stop talking about it. Margaret has her wedding planny stuff with her and shows Daddy the invitations she wants. The wedding is scheduled for November 23, 1963. Ooh, yikes, Margaret, America’s innocence is already scheduled to die that weekend, you may want to consider rescheduling. (The 1963 Wikipedia page is really worth a look, by the way. This is what’s going on around these people! The I Have A Dream Speech! The Beatles! TaBâ„¢!)
Pryce approaches Don about the whole Madison Square Garden fuckup, after the exchange of a few hilarious pleasantries. (“Your wife is charming!” Pryce swoons. “They really hit it off!” Don says, unable to keep a straight face.) They need a Cyrano de Bergerac to make New York fall in love with them, and Don’s the one with the figurative nose for it. Of course, he’s okay with that if it means he can avoid the big loud Hofstadt family reunion for awhile. Yikes.
He and Roger meet the Madison Square Garden guy at a cushy restaurant, but before he arrives, Roger vents Don-ward about his family drama, and Don just sits there and says things like “your words, not mine” and mostly just lets Roger bitch until their pissed off client shows up. Don tells him their angle: Change is neither good nor bad; it just happens. Their job is to get people excited about something new rather than lamenting the old thing it’s replacing. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation,” he says. Whoa. Now there’s a trend that really caught on! That pretty much sums up the state of American advertising, journalism AND political discourse lately, doesn’t it? Don has the guy hooked; now it’s time to reel him in. Don talks about California, how everything was so new and clean, as apposed to New York City, which is in decay. Madison Square Garden can be the start of a new City On A Hill. I always wonder who writes these pitches and how much of it is based on actual campaigns. I could probably just google, huh? Anyway, Don has bewitched yet another seemingly unbewitchable old man. Don will take care of the account personally, which is a relief since the guy didn’t want that kid on his account. “The communist. The radical.” What does communism have to do with architecture? Or douchey beards? Anyway, no commies, all is well.
Back in Ossening, Grampa sits in front of the TV with the rest of the kids. Christola, these are gorgeous sets. Look at this den! Betty and Bill take this opportunity to discuss his future. Bill’s wife Judy, incidentally, has been waiting on Grampa hand and foot, giving him his meds and generally paying attention to him, and absolutely no one has noticed. But Bill thinks he belongs in a home. Betty is unexpectedly vicious. She says Bill doesn’t care about Grampa, he just wants the house. And the crazy bastard is their father, dammit, and that’s what matters.
You sleep around, you get bitched at for where you hang your coat. Them’s the breaks.
Everybody’s in bed when Don gets home. Betty immediately scolds him for not taking his sooty coat off downstairs. She’s hilariously bitchy, but she’s got an entire human being smooshing her internal organs around, so give her a break. She seems unreasonably angry with her brother though, unless there’s something we don’t know. She’s convinced all he wants is the house, and that maybe Judy’s egging him on. But Judy’s so nice! And Grampa really is kookoo! It’s not that crazy to send kookoo old men to nice fancy nursing homes! Anyway, there’s this quick little break where Don hears kid noises down the hall, opens the bedroom door, yells “Cut it out!” EXACTLY like my grandfather, and shuts the door again to continue the conversation. It’s awesome. Anyway, Don’s trying to help. “What do you want me to do?” he asks, like he means it. “How can you talk to me like that with the condition I’m in?” Betty says, for no discernible reason. Ha. She’s the boss in this house, and he knows better than to argue. A quick “Well why don’t you go have sex with that other woman then?” will end any argument on any subject from here on out. Best not to bother.
Speaking of evil bad Judy, she’s totally defending Betty even! Lying in their bunk beds, poor things, Bill is annoyed that Betty’s so devoted all of a sudden, even though they fought all the time. “Family’s important to her,” Judy says, and says she and Bill and the kids should just move into the house with him and she’ll take care of him, which she’s totally already doing, so why on earth haven’t they done that yet, and why is this even up for debate? Well, Bill just doesn’t want him around, that’s why. He’s a 30-year-old man! He has his own household to rule, and having his dad around would totally undermine that somehow. Whatever, Bill.
Now there’s a girl who could sell me some Patioâ„¢!
Peggy is at home, washing her unmentionables in the kitchen sink. Whoops, I just mentioned them. I’m sorry, it’s completely impossible not to make that joke every single time. Anyway, she stops in front of the mirror and does a little Ann-Margaret impersonation, I guess trying to find the appeal, to see what she’s missing. She doesn’t seem to find it. She stares at herself awhile in a way that is meant to suggest deep introspection. She doesn’t fit in either world – she’s not one of the boys, but she’s not really an Ann-Margaret kind of a girl either, so where does that leave her? In front of the mirror brushing her hair, that’s where.
Pete and Kinsey are in Don’s office discussing the details of the beautiful miracle Don performed yesterday, salvaging the Madison Square Garden account. They’re going over their plan of action, which includes keeping Paul out of view pretty much at all times. Pryce breaks up the party to speak to Don privately, and after the others file out he tells Don the big bosses in London think the whole thing will be too much trouble and require too many resources. They’ve decided not to take the account after all. Arooo? At first Don tries to be reasonable. This is a stadium in the middle of Manhattan. This is unique. It’s their ticket into the Worlds’ Fair! All the sports, concerts, hotels – this is 30 years worth of business. Pryce just looks suitably schmuckish and says London’s not interested. Don is completely exasperated. “Who’s running this place?” Don rages. “Why the hell did you even buy us in the first place?” “I don’t know,” Pryce responds pathetically.
Peggy, bless her heart, has picked exactly the wrong time to assert herself. She wants to talk to Don directly about the storyboards for the Patio account, and why she thinks they’re going about it all wrong. Normally I think he’d agree with her, since she is making all the arguments he usually makes, but he’s a bit preoccupied with the news that his awesome display of manly persuasiveness was all for naught, not to mention the wacky Hofstadt family clusterfuck he knows he’ll be going home to tonight. So he pooh poohs her concerns just like the rest of them did, only it stings a lot worse coming from Don. She thinks they should be talking about why Patio (Don: “Because everybody wants a drink that sounds like a floor”) is better than coffee or dexadrine. “This isn’t about making women feel fat,” Don says, which, ha! Can you imagine a time during which advertising wasn’t about making women feel fat? Even if they’re just selling shampoo or insurance or something? How quaint. Anyway, he is totally phoning it in here, because when she says this is an ad for men, not women, he responds with the tired old “men want her; women want to be her” clichÃ©. Peggy thinks it’s phony, and even when Don tells her “you’re not an artist; you solve problems” she appears to leave the meeting abashed but unconvinced. She thinks she’s right, dammit, even if Don doesn’t, which is a nice bit of character development.
“You mean this stupid look?”
On her way out, still annoyed but not downtrodden, she finds herself standing next to Roger in the elevator, and it’s maybe my favorite scene this week. Roger, obviously still thinking about Margaret’s wedding drama (which, again, if you think this is drama, just you wait till she finds out she’s been upstaged by what is possibly the 20th century’s most salient political and cultural tipping point), wants Peggy’s advice as a young woman. “You’re the only one around here who doesn’t have that stupid look on her face,” he tells her, which is not only a huge compliment but also my favorite line of the episode. “What would your father have to do for you to not want him at your wedding?” “My father passed away,” she says. D’oh. “There you go. You’d do anything.” Roger reacts as though he’s been vindicated. Peggy’s just confused. End scene. Awesome.
So Peggy is confident but completely powerless at work. That’s exactly sort of feeling that makes a girl want to assert herself any way she knows how, perhaps by picking up some goofball college kid at a noisy bar and going home with him. To do “other stuff,” that is, since he’s enough of a dork to go out trolling at singles bars without keeping any condoms in the house. Dude. While he scarfs down a bar burger like a 13-year old after soccer practice, she tells him she works on Madison Avenue. When he tells her through a mouthful of cheeseburger that he doesn’t know how she does all that typing, she doesn’t correct him, just says “I work for a jerk.” Later, when their Other Stuff is over, she sheepishly crawls out of his sad little sofa bed, dresses, and leaves, all “hey, this was fun, but gotta go okthanksbye!” No numbers are even exchanged, he just tells her he hangs out at that place a lot, which I have a feeling Peggy will never go anywhere near again. And just like that, Peggy’s empowered enough to head back into the office and face another day fighting for professional respect from her colleagues. Good on you, Peggy! Girl power! I truly can’t believe we haven’t seen anybody surreptitiously reading The Feminine Mystique yet.
While I approve of your methods in theory, Peggy, I think we all agree you can afford to be a little pickier next time.
Don comes home to the freaking circus underway back in Ossening. The first thing he sees is Bill with a plunger trying to clear out the kitchen sink, and telling Don not to worry, he’s got it, as if Don would ever consider cleaning up Bill’s mess for him in his own home. Don meets Betty on her way grumpily down the stairs. “I’m going out for a bucket of chicken.” Ah, the days when the bucket was the default container for chicken! “I’m a terrible daughter,” she mopes. Bill says there are only two options – either Grampa goes into a home, or Bill and his family move in with him and Judy is his nurse. “Judy!” she spits, like it’s an obscenity. See, again with the “why is this a bad idea?” Judy seems like a completely awesome nurse. Am I just forgetting why Betty hates her or is it just arbitrary? When Don hears that Bill has presumed to make such a decision on Betty’s behalf, something clicks. He pulls Bill aside and tells him – in that special “do not fuck with me” way he has that no one has ever challenged, ever – that this is what is going to happen: Grampa gets to keep his precious Lincoln, nobody touches the house, Bill will support him financially, and Don takes him into his home. “You are going to tell your sister that this is what you want, and then you’re going to leave.” Yes sir! Really, that’s all it takes to end all this drama. That’s that. Betty looks genuinely relieved when Bill tells her what they’ve “decided,” even if she probably knows exactly what prompted his sudden change of heart.
Later that night, everyone’s in bed when they hear distant sirens, then some shuffly noises from downstairs. When Don and Betty go to investigate, they find Grampa pouring booze down the sink because he thinks alcohol is still Prohibited and the cops are coming after their contraband. Ruh roh. So last year Grampa’s stroke made him hit on Betty, thinking she was her mother. What terrible, horrible thing will Grampa do this season? Guesses? Maybe knocking Betty down the stairs? Crashing the Lincoln into a few pedestrians? Putting the new baby in the fridge? Something’s gonna go down, folks, it’s just a matter of time.
Don Draper does not say “cheese,” bitches.
But not yet. At the moment we’re all gathered here in a beautiful green park for Sally’s little May Day celebration. As the kids do their little dance, winding their ribbons around the May Pole, Don focuses in on the bouncy young teacher. Of course. But no, it’s not that simple – he’s seeing something there besides just a hot young thang. Is he thinking about the new Patio ad? Just fascinated by that kind of blissful freedom? He watches her bare feet on the nice green lawn, and without taking his eyes off of her, leans over to brush the grass under his chair with his fingers. Just trying to connect with the world? Trying to feel what she feels? How many question marks will I use in these recaps this season? (Answer: So many!) The Drapers, now including Grampa, get a nice family portrait taken when the dance is over, which for some reason fills me with more dread.
Don and Peggy find themselves back at Sterling Cooper the next morning feeling more like themselves. Don seems almost relieved when Peggy shows up at his office – I think the weird mentory relationship he has with her is probably one of the easiest, most comforting human connections in his life. They trust each other. He seems genuinely relieved when she just says “Ready to talk about Pampers?” and they dive right back in.
Next week: More Joan! Sold!