In an alternate universe somewhere, this is what JFK’s “Happy Birthday Mister President” serenade looked like.
This week’s theme: Performance! **jazz hands!** In addition to her increasingly strained performance as Mrs. Dr. Asshat, Joan is trotted out like a novelty act to sing (and play accordion!) for his guests. Other performances were squirmier, like Roger’s blackface/pretending-to-take-his-child-bride-seriously act, or Sally and Grampa’s weird awkward “let’s find the missing $5″ test of wills (which goes out of its way to worry us about Sally, Carla, AND Grampa but lets them all off the hook, for now). And then there was Paul proving to everyone that he can do college boy things like recite TS Eliot and sing barbershop quartet numbers, and the sycophantic, spotlight-hogging but frankly adorable Charleston the Campbells show off at Roger’s country club. So with The Hollow Men, the Charleston, and the deluded rich people party, there’s a real Great Gatsby vibe hanging around this episode. The mid 20s and the early 60s have a lot in common, a sort of “everything’s great but we’re still kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop” exuberance that is excruciatingly obvious in hindsight. And we’re lucky enough to watch it all start to crumble beneath them! Whee!3.03 My Old Kentucky Home. We’re casting the “Ann-Margaret-type” for the Patio commercial, and Peggy has obviously spent hours rolling her eyes at her mouth-breathing, Tex Avery cartoon character colleagues all day. Harry is grinning like he’s never seen a girl before, and Peggy reminds him “you’re not part of this process. Don’t forget it.” Those words will haunt her in approximately 30 seconds, when Ken announces that oh, by the way, the Bacardi people are coming in Tuesday, so Don wants copy Monday morning and art Monday night. Ken and Pete are totally sorry to drop this on them at the last minute, and also regret that they can’t join in the fun, as they are obligated to attend Roger’s Derby-themed garden party. Which means it’s gonna be a long weekend for the Creatives at Sterling-Coop. Minus Harry, who quickly reminds Peggy that he’s just a spectator after all. D’oh.
Jane, Roger’s child bride and Don’s former secretary, strolls into the office wearing what looks like a linoleum tile floor folded in half and stapled together at the corners. She cannot resist being politely insufferable in Joan’s general direction for a few excruciatingly awkward passive aggressive moments. What a surprise, Joan’s STILL working there! Could you send one of the GIRLS downstairs to flag my driver down for me? Roger had my rings resized because I keep LOSING WEIGHT! Christ, where’s one of those giant industrial floor buffers when you need one? Anyway, her hat looks like the top of a Dairy Queen soft serve and I want to punch it. Joan’s lingering icy glare suggests she wouldn’t object. Meanwhile, poor flaky Lola has been fired or reassigned offscreen. Peggy’s new secretary is a cute middle-aged schoolmarmy type named Olive.
Over at the Drapers’, Betty is more annoyed than concerned when Grampa Gene peels every potato in the kitchen thinking he’s in the army on KP duty. Don says they can excuse themselves from Roger and Jane’s stupid Derby party if she’s worried about him, but she wants to go. “I bought a dress!” she says in a way I find incredibly charming. She’s so world-weary and bitter that I forget how young she is, and I like when she acts her age for a split second every now and then.
If Teenage Sally Draper doesn’t end up hitchhiking to Woodstock in a van with twelve other fucked up teenagers, I will eat my hat.
And okay, I give: Sally Draper is adorable. She’s also one of the most interesting characters so far this season. I mean, this kid, growing up in this house, holy crap. She’ll be a teenager in 1969 is all I’m saying. Birth of a hippie, right here. She’s reading to Grampa Gene from, anvilliciously, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. As symbolism goes it’s not the most subtle reference, but I absolutely do not care at all. Drop as many anvils as you want, Mad Men. Keep em coming, as long as they’re awesome. So anyway, I’ve never been of the “lisps are inherently adorable” school of thought, or even “children are inherently adorable,” but this kid is freaking cute. Especially when she’s reads sentences like “The warmth of the climate dithposed the nativeth to motht intemperate enjoyment of tranquility and opulenthe, and the lively lithentiouthneth of the Greekth wath blended with the hereditary thoftness of the Thyrians.” Theriouthly, what a great little thcene.
It’s Saturday at Sterling Cooper, and Peggy is stuck with Paul and Smitty, drinking Bacardi & Coke to fuel their inspiration for the five new designs they have to come up with. Smitty says that alcohol’s not his drug – he’ll take “grass” any day of the week. Of course Paul does too – it’s a necessary part of his role as the earliest ancestor of the modern Hipster Douchebag archetype – so he calls an old college friend to procure some. This is going to be AWESOME. He sends Peggy off to fetch a blender for them to frappe some Bacardi inspiration in the meantime (Peggy: “You go get it!” Paul, holding up an orange: “I’m eating!”). Turns out Olive is there too, because when Peggy’s working, Olive’s working, and also she doesn’t have anything better to do.
Poor Thally. I want to like, buy her some books and take her to a natural history museum or something. “I walked backwards all the way up here!” she says proudly as Betty gets dressed. “Zip!” Betty demands in response. Aw. Sally: “You look pretty.” Betty: “I look like an open umbrella.” Ha. I think she looks more like one of those decorative crepe paper wedding bells, but still, very pretty. Betty shoos her away so she plods into Grampa’s room, because at least he acknowledges her existence, but he’s “indisposed.” She loiters around his money clip for awhile, then takes a five dollar bill. Because that’s what kids do when nobody pays attention to them. Later, as Betty and Don are leaving for Roger’s, Grampa Gene comes raging down the hallway yelling that he’s been robbed. Heads up, Sally: Old people always know exactly how much cash they have at any given moment. Steal from mom’s wallet instead. Don pulls out a $5 bill to replace the lost one, but Grampa’s like “I don’t want your money! You people, you think money is the answer to every problem!” “No,” Don says, in my favorite line of the night, “just this particular problem.” Carla tells the Drapers to go ahead, she’ll help Gene look for his money, and I’m like nooo! Stay out of this, Carla! Missing money + black housekeeper + old white man x 1963 = bad news!
Joan is setting the table for their dinner party with Greg’s colleagues. Did you know it was possible to actually vacuum like a total dick? Cause Greg does! He’s also annoyed that Joan hasn’t put the fanciest of their doctor guests at the head of the table, but she is adamant that the host sits at the head, and dammit, she won’t have those women thinking she doesn’t know how to set a table. (Greg: “Joanie, I don’t want to have a fight right now.” Joan: “Then stop talking.”) Of course she arrives at a lovely compromise that makes everybody happy, because that’s her Thing.
“I can’t stay long, I have to go start a brothel in my parents’ house and meet up with Goose and Iceman for volleyball.”
Paul’s college pal Jeff shows up with his big duffle bag o’ drugs. Jeff, incidentally, is played by 1985 Tom Cruise. He and Paul were coxmen together at Princeton. Huh huh. They stuff Paul’s sweater (“But it’s mohair!”) under the door crack and spark up.
Poor Carla humors Grampa as best she can, looking around under beds and whatnot while he looks on and tells her she’s being ridiculous. “I didn’t take it,” she tells him, annoyed. “I didn’t say you did!” He snaps. Carla and I both respond “Not yet!” He calls her Viola, and she politely corrects him. “Do you know Viola?” he asks. “We don’t all know each other, Mr. Hofstadt,” she says patiently, like that’s something she has to explain a lot.
Roger’s shindig is a huge bloated affair at a fancypants country club. Like, so fancy that even the help is white! Betty looks positively radiant and incredibly glad to be somewhere with grownups and wearing a real dress. Pete and Trudy are there too. I never expected to like either of them much, let alone both of them, but here I am thinking they’re adorable. Trudy makes vague sad eyes at the Betty Baby Belly but quickly goes right back to her game face. Harry’s there with his wife, Ken has gone stag, and everybody just kind of stares at each other awkwardly but pleasantly like “we all know that the only difference between this and work is a band and a punchbowl, but let’s just play along and pretend it’s a real party!” Don even warns Pete, as Pete points out which rich important white guy is which, not to hand out his business card. And you can bet that he obeyed. Everyone’s drinking Mint Juleps in real live silver Mint Julep cups just like Paul bitterly imagined they would be. The music is ragtimey/jazzy and everybody’s in flowery things and hats and it’s all very very Fitzgerald.
Back at the office, Peggy asks Olive if the boys are still there, and Olive responds that yes, they are, but they obviously don’t want to work, so Peggy should just stay away. Peggy does not stay away. She knocks on the door and they panic like teenagers but finally let her in. 1985 Tom Cruise is all “well hellloooo foxy lady! What’s your name?” Also in contention for best line of the night is her response: “I’m Peggy Olson, and I want to smoke some marijuana.” Of course you do, Peggy Olson. Of course you do. “You won’t like it,” Paul patronizes smarmily. “How do you know what I’ll like? You never ask how I feel about anything besides brassieres and body odor and makeup.” Smitty lights a joint for her and they all watch as she carefully, deliberately takes her first couple of hits toward imminent, inevitable reefer madness and certain death.
Look out, kids! If you smoke marijuana you’ll end up like Peggy, excelling in your profession above and beyond anyone’s expectations and fighting off advances from 1985 Tom Cruise!
Meanwhile, Roger is making a total ass of himself. He’s in blackface, which was pretty tacky even in 1963, wasn’t it? Classy! But this is his country club, so it doesn’t matter. Actually, there are probably still country clubs right now where blackface is totally acceptable entertainment. Anyway, whatever, he serenades his child bride, she squeals with delight, everyone laughs. Except Don, who makes his patented furrowed-brow “are you fucking kidding me?” face and stalks off in search of a real drink, dammit. Actually, on second viewing, you know who else is uncomfortable? Pete. What’s that about?
So Don wanders into the bar and finds an older gentleman in a white suit milling around behind the counter. Turns out he’s also looking for a real drink, and what the hell kind of country club bar doesn’t have bourbon? Don likes the guy right away. Or rather, I think it’s probably Dick Whitman who’s having fun now. So Don LEAPS over the top of the bar and gets to work. (“There’s a hole at the end here,” the guy points out afterward. Yeah, and the General Lee had doors. What’s your point?) “Rye okay?” Don asks as he muddles the everliving hell out of some bitters and sugar.
And okay, I try not to read anything much about Mad Men before I start writing these so I don’t accidentally steal anyone’s jokes or brilliant observations or whatever, but I couldn’t avoid running into the incredibly cool theory that the guy, who introduces himself as Connie “from San Antonio, New Mexico, before it was a state,” is in fact hotelier/great-grandfather of Paris, Conrad Hilton. I have decided to agree, because it’s cool. They’re each running away from work events pretending to be social events, and Connie confesses that he feels like a jackass no matter how Republican he is or how expensive his cufflinks are. Don knows he’s in good company now, so he tells a story no one else at that club has ever heard, about when he used to park cars at a roadhouse when he was 15. He wasn’t allowed to use the men’s room, so whenever he needed to, he’d just pop a random trunk and relieve himself there. “There’s probably some kid out there doing it to us right now,” he says, laughing for real. I love how Don does this – he’s immediately warmer and more genuine and at ease with this total stranger than he is with anyone at that party. It must be exhausting being Don Draper, huh, Dick Whitman?
Spoiler Alert! Your great-granddaughter will go down in history as an iconic symbol of undeserved entitlement and unearned fame whose genitals all of America will eventually see one way or another whether they want to or not!
Everybody’s all cartoonishly high at the office, with Paul devouring potato chips by the handful and Smitty, eyes closed, trying out slogans: “Rum. Have some. Rum?” Ha. Paul wonders why Peggy isn’t hungry. “I am hungry, it’s just not worth moving,” she explains. “Bacar-D-Eisenhower!” Smitty offers, and Paul does that awesome snorty stoned giggle. 1985 Tom Cruise (who I guess is more like 1985 Tom Cruise with a splash of 2004 James Franco, which is a combo I can totally get on board with) laughs at Paul’s accent, revealing to everyone that freshman year he was “all Joisy.” Paul gets real serious and orders him out, but he changes his mind after proving that can too sing, dammit, he just had to quit the Tiger Tones cause of mono. A quick chorus of “Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal!” and all is forgiven. Peggy breaks the silence: “I am so high,” she muses. So the take-home lesson here is that when drunk people fight about dumb shit, they punch each other; stoned people forget why they were mad in the first place and just end up singing and giggling. I’m just saying.
And here’s another one to file under Betty Gets Some Kind Of Weird Gratification From What Is Really A Pretty Creepy Encounter, right alongside “giving neighbor kid Glen a chunk of her hair” and “implying that she will do the tow truck guy if he fixes her car for $3″: Some guy just starts chatting her up. A creepy guy. And like, yes, she’s beautiful, of course. Pregnant women are often beautiful. But you don’t hit on them, for chrissakes! But Betty has no objections when he asks to put his creepy hand on her belly. I get that she likes feeling beautiful, but everybody at that party thinks she’s beautiful, including many who are not REALLY FUCKING CREEPY. It’s an interesting tendency she has though, definitely a pattern, and probably not the last time we see it.
That’s all fine and good, Betty, but if I were you I’d aim more for the “hasty angry anonymous bar sex with Captain Awesome from Chuck” kinds of encounters.
Joan and Greg’s guests have arrived for their dinner party, and oh my god, these guys are grosser than Betty’s creepy admirer. I have heard of “code pink” being used among male medical professionals when an attractive, unconscious female is around, but it’s so gross and date-rapey and awful that I hope it’s an urban legend. Shudder. (Go ahead and double that shudder considering Greg’s history of indifference regarding a woman’s consent or lack thereof in sexual matters.) Anyway, there are two other doctors, one of whom is the Chief of Surgery, and as they talk shop it becomes clear that Greg’s promotion to Chief Resident is not the sure thing he’s led Joan to believe it is, and furthermore, there was apparently an actual incident of malpractice he just failed to mention to her, because, you know, he doesn’t like to worry her pretty little head about such things. Ugh. When Joan escapes to check on the roast, the wives naturally follow her into the kitchen and say things like “well you must do well!” As in, “how odd that this place isn’t a shithole, since we all know that residents don’t make any money at all, so it’s just adorable that you’re supporting him for the foreseeable future since he’s a total fuckup as a surgeon.” The Chief’s wife also manages to throw in a good “well whatever you do, don’t get pregnant!” The other wife, who is pregnant, doesn’t quite know how to react (it turns out she’s due around the same time as the First Lady, and Christ on a cracker did that poor poor lady have a bad year.) Joan seems to officially be realizing, too late, that she hasn’t really married up at all. She’s married decidedly down, not even across. She won’t be leaving Sterling Cooper anytime soon, and she won’t be whisked away to Ossening like Betty Draper was until Greg can stop fucking up surgeries. And of course there’s this: “The fact that Greg can get a woman like you makes me feel good about his future, no matter what happens.” Joan looks horrified. And gorgeous. But the awesome evening isn’t over yet, oh no! Because Greg insists that she “play” for them. Oh dear lord. Joan is not in the mood, and her pretty, empty eyes as she obediently sings “C’est Magnifique” while accompanying herself on the accordion are yet another echo of that horrible episode in Don’s office. It’s the same look, people. So freaking sad. That accordion is totally, inexplicably hot though.
Dinner at the Drapers’ is a weird affair, with Grampa Gene still giving Carla what is known in my family as The Hairy Eyeballâ„¢. Sally is hiding in the dining room. Eventually she pulls the missing $5 out of her sock and tosses it on the floor. “Hey look, Grampa, is this your money?” Grampa cautiously says yes, but he knows, and Sally knows that he knows, and even though Carla’s out of the woods I’m not entirely convinced he won’t thmack the hell out of little Thievin’ Thally by the end of the episode.
It’s dark now and the country club folk are still clubbin it up! The Drapers are seated with the Campbells. Harry is fine hiding in the corner but his wife convinces him to approach them. “I’ll do the talking,” she says, and then utterly fails to do any talking whatsoever. They just kind of hover there awkwardly and silently. It’s very funny. Luckily something even more awkward occurs to break the tension, as Bert Cooper introduces them all to Henry Francis, AKA Creepy Can I Touch Your Pregnant Belly Guy. If he has a name, does that mean we’ll see him again? And okay, Pete and Trudy get up to dance, and they have clearly rehearsed, and it’s clearly designed to force everyone else off the floor into an admiring circle around them, but it’s freaking adorable, dammit. They look like a real couple having real fun and it makes me happy. It even makes Don smile a real smile!
It’s a real shame Angel never had a musical episode.
And to complement all the Fitzgeraldy euphoria, we cut to Paul reciting the end of The Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang, but a whimper.” Everybody’s like “yes, for chrissakes, you went to Princeton, we get it.” Smitty, who has acquired a serious hardcore crush on Stoned Peggy, suggests they go on the roof, which, again, is totally exactly the sort of thing people suggest when they’re high. “On the roof is a good idea, actually,” she says, thinking about the Malibu campaign. “A hammock, right between the clotheslines.” “Are you working?” Smitty asks incredulously. “I think so!” she replies, just as surprised as he is. She is inspired and determined now. “You both can leave” she announces. “I’m in a very good place right now.” Olive, who knows exactly what they’ve been doing, expresses concern that Peggy isn’t thinking about her future, but Peggy realizes that she doesn’t especially care. “I have an office with my name on the door, and a secretary. That’s you. And I’m not scared of any of this.” But, she realizes, with that abrupt revelatory empathy marijuana elicits, that Olive is scared. And she’s genuinely distressed by that. She looks Olive right in the eyes and promises her that she’s okay. “I am going to do everything you want for me.” She says earnestly. She asks for the Dictaphone and a glass of water then Olive’s free to go. Peggy’s got some serious Creative shit to do. (How did Sal get out of this, by the way? He’s not at either Roger’s party or the awesome Bacardi weed party, so what gives with that?)
Don and Betty are among the last to leave Roger’s Clusterfuck of Whiteness party, and unfortunately they run into a comically drunk Jane. No, past comically drunk. Way past comical and straight on to sad and embarrassing, knocking things over and falling down and all that. Don helps her up and asks for someone to get her some water, but she’s the special kind of drunk that doesn’t really get how drunk she is and that maybe she should just put her head down and be quiet. She tells Betty how beautiful she is, and what a handsome couple they are. “I always knew you two would get back together!” she gushes. *wacky “say whaaaa?” record scratch sound effect* Jane of course was Don’s secretary at the time of their still very secret separation. Which is how she met Roger, who was totally her second choice after Don made it clear he wasn’t in the market for a trophy wife. Yet. Anyway, Betty is mortified and runs off. Jane is still physically clinging to Don for support. “I’m a nice person!” she protests to no one in particular for no apparent reason. He tries to sit her down so he can move on to Betty Damage Control, but Roger sees them clutching each other. Roger, being the kind of guy who hits on other people’s wives (that’s why Betty was so aloof with him at the office last week, I’d forgotten that whole thing where Roger actually literally propositioned her in her own home), gets all huffy about it. “Your wife is drunk,” Don explains wearily. Roger somehow interprets this factual statement as some kind of resentment toward his happiness. “My mother was right,” Roger smarms. “It’s a mistake to be conspicuously happy.” “Nobody thinks you’re happy,” Don returns. “They think you’re foolish.” Which is something I imagine has been on the tip of his tongue at any given moment for months.
They’re just fucking with us now, as Thally Draper walks down the dark hallway, trying to pass Grampa Gene’s bedroom unnoticed. “Get in here!” he yells. Gulp. “Sit down.” Thally obligeth. A few awkward wordless moments go by, Gene making it pretty clear he knows exactly what happened to his money, and Sally knowing he knows and avoiding eye contact and waiting for some kind of discipline. Instead, he just hands her the book and says “where were we?” So that’s that. Everybody knows, but nobody’s going to talk about it, because that’s how we roll here in the Draper house.
I don’t have a joke, this is just really pretty.
Don is looking for Betty so they can get the hell out of there. In the meantime he’s fetched her stunning matching pink coat and purse, and holy crap, carrying those things around makes him even dreamier and manlier than usual. How does he do that? It’s downright preternatural. He finds Betty far away from the lights of the party, alone, in the dark, just standing there. The very last image is that same long shot, as Don approaches her and we just see their moonlit silhouettes as they share the kind of kiss that makes you drop whatever’s in your hands, even if it is a lovely pink matching coat and purse. It’s silent, dark, distant, and perfect.
This was my favorite episode so far this season. I love that Sally and Grampa are becoming friends due to their shared complete lack of attention from anyone else (who the hell is paying attention to poor Bobby, by the way?) but there’s still some kind of vague sense of doom hanging over the whole thing. I love Joan’s determination to keep her game face on while the true state of her life and marriage become clearer and bleaker. (I blame Harry for not hiring her as a script reader when she was so clearly fantastic at it. Jerk.) I love Peggy’s chemically facilitated verbalization of everything we already knew she was thinking, and how she keeps proving herself to be the next Don Draper. I loved that kiss at the end, and how we only got to witness it from far away, with that beautiful splash of color falling to the dark grass. Lovely. Next week: more Sal time!