Shit? Meet Fan.
Hello, and welcome to the EXACT OPPOSITE of last week. I was so happy with everything after the last episode, so I kind of set myself up for it, but the stark, gut-wrenching sadness of this one bummed me out in an unpleasantly visceral way. The JFK-shaped shoe drops, finally, and everything starts to unravel. Duck and Peggy are still at it, and they win Best “Where Were You When…” Story. Pete and Trudy have become the realest couple on the whole show somehow while we weren’t looking, and they sort of decide together how to deal with Pete’s ever-weirdening position at Sterling Cooper. Roger’s daughter gets married, and we watch him regain respect for his ex-wife while he comes to terms with the reality of his new one, but it’s still Joan he calls when he needs real comfort. And then Betty breaks my heart.3.12 The Grown-Ups. Pete is all curled up asleep on the couch in his office. (Everybody has a couch! Where’s my office couch?) His secretary’s mittened hand shakes him awake to give him the hot cocoa he apparently asked for, since apparently the heat isn’t working in the office. “This is instant,” he whines at first, but quickly apologizes and says it’s really hitting the spot. Could our Pete be morphing into one of the titular grownups? You can do it, Pete! Oh, also, Mr. Pryce wants to see him. He’s waiting in his office for Pete looking unbearably British, sipping tea with his leather gloves. “Come in, have a seat,” he says. Which is usually bad news. They’ve decided to make Mr. Cosgrove Senior Vice President in charge of Account Services, whereas Pete will have to make do with Head of Account Management. Which doesn’t sound all that bad to me really, and Pryce does mention that hey, your job title is better, it’s just not as good as Ken’s. Pete defends himself – he reminds Pryce that he sort of got the shit end of the stick in terms of how they arbitrarily divided up the accounts, but he managed to keep up with Ken anyway, so what the hell? Pryce smugly commends Pete for taking it as well as he has, but Pete does the Sad Charlie Brown Walk out of the office and goes home early to mope. See? He went home to mope, not Peggy’s office. And no fondling of rifles. We’re making progress here.
“The point is, your father and I are both completely awesome, and neither of us can understand how our union resulted in such boring, whiny spawn.”
Mona and Margaret Sterling are getting ready for the wedding, which is apparently closer than I thought, which means we’re further into November than I thought, which means oh crap. Mona is so awesome. I’m glad we get to spend some time with this family every now and then. Margaret is still whining about Jane coming to the wedding, and is even whining about a pair of (admittedly ostentatious) zillion dollar earrings she gave her as a gift. “She’s trying,” Mona says charitably. “You always take her side!” Margaret huffs, which is a pretty ridiculous thing to say to your mother about the child bride your father left her for. “She’s giving me advice!” Margaret sobs, and when Jane says things like “don’t go to bed angry” or “dress sexy” all she can think about is Daddy. Which is pretty disturbing; I’m with you on this one, Margaret. She feels like everything is pointing to the wedding being a mistake. Oh dear. You don’t know the half of it. Brooks’ mom says that in India, if a wedding doesn’t happen at the appointed time, they burn the bride. Mona: “Just because she went to India doesn’t mean she’s not an idiot.” Ha! “Jane is coming, because your father’s coming and he paid for everything. The bride will not be burned. Turn those earrings into a tea service or something.” I demand more Mona! Margaret calls Roger, who, hilariously, is lying in bed next to the ringing phone yelling “Can someone get that?” When he finally gets it himself, he can only handle the whining for a few seconds before he asks to speak to her mother. “Tell the bride that everything’s copacetic. We both agree that she’s nuts and she should shut up.” Ha! Mona translates: “Your father says that he’s sorry, and that Jane will stay out of the way, and that we’re both tired of the drama.” Roger says that if she wants to cancel the wedding, fine with him, he’ll take the deposit out of her inheritance. Margaret finally chills out enough to say she doesn’t want to cancel, then runs off, at Mona’s instruction, to eat something. “I’m not taking that dress in again!”
Roger says he didn’t know about the earrings, and that in fact he’d forbidden Jane from contacting Margaret. Mona confesses she can’t wait to get Margaret out of there. “Is everything okay?” he asks. Mona just laughs in response, and he laughs too, and it’s cute. She’s great. I mean, between Mona and Joan, yes, okay, I see the dilemma. But between Mona and Jane? That’s a no-brainer, Roger, you dumbass. “Jane, get in here!” he yells, like he’s talking to an errant child, and yeah, I think the whole “she might as well be your daughter” thing is starting to sink in for him a little. I mean, how many of these conversations must he have had with Margaret over the years? The kind where he scolds her for doing something he’d forbidden, and she responds defiantly by stomping her little foot and saying it’s her house and she can do what she wants, then theatrically storming out in tears to hide in the bathroom? (Roger: “You better not have locked that door!”) Seriously.
“You don’t understand me! I’m going to my room to listen to sad music and write in my dream journal! Wait, am I the daughter or the wife?”
Trudy comes home to find Pete at the table dejectedly stabbing a fork at some leftovers, eating directly from the lovely casserole dish. Ha. “I got fired,” he tells her, because he’s kind of a drama queen. “Lane told me Kenny is Senior Something of Something Accounts, and I’m not,” he pouts. “I’m Accounts Something.” Oh dear lord that made me laugh so much. Especially since I, like many others around the intertubes, often think of Ken in terms of a single line he had in the pilot, when he was hitting on Peggy and she didn’t remember who he was: “Ken. Cosgrove! Accounts!” I honestly want to call him that every time he’s mentioned, so now I want to call him “Kenny. Cosgrove! Senior Something of Something Accounts!” When Trudy carefully asks him if he lost his temper, Pete says no, he didn’t, and he seems a bit surprised himself. “I’m going to call Duck,” he declares, and Trudy begs him to just wait it out awhile – they would have fired him if they’d wanted to. She kisses him on the cheek and snatches his casserole away. I love them. There, I said it.
Betty wakes to the sound of the baby crying and Don’s empty pillow, but when she trudges down the hallway she finds Don in the nursery, rocking the baby to sleep. Aww, you may think, like I did, what a sweet adorable scene! There’s a real partnership! He’s not just pretending to try, he’s really doing stuff! And she knows how much she means to him, now that she knows what he’s been carrying around all these years! Awww! Yeah, well, hold that thought for a few minutes.
The next day Peggy’s in her office chatting with Paul when she gets a call from “Mr. Herman.” “Can you give me a minute?” She whispers to Paul. “No,” he smirks in reply. It’s Duck, of course, and he rattles off a hotel and room number. She discreetly tells him that she already has lunch plans, but he’s like “It’s been three weeks! You can have a Monte Cristo!” Well, I’m sold. Paul smirks even wider when he sees Peggy blushing as she hangs up. “I have to go to the printer,” she announces. Paul: “I know a nooner when I hear one!” “You’re disgusting!” Peggy huffs, as she heads off to her nooner.
Pete stops in to chat with Harry about the news that “Head of Accounts is going to Kenny and his haircut.” Harry, being pretty much the entire television department, has a TV on so he can monitor the ads, but he turns down the volume to advise Pete. “I know it’s not good,” Pete sighs, as we watch the television turn quietly from soap opera to a “NEWS BULLETIN” screen. Holy mother of Christmas, you are fucking kidding me. “There’s no future for me here” Pete laments, while we all go “THE TV OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE TV!” Pete observes that Harry sort of made up his own job, but there’s nothing like that in his field. “There’s marketing,” Harry suggests, which is actually a pretty good idea, but OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE TV FOR CHRISSAKES! Eventually the rest of the office pours in to hear the first tentative reports of some kind of incident in Dallas.
Once upon a time, kids, when something was “Breaking News” it meant some serious shit was going down, not a press conference from Jon and/or Kate, or a low-speed Mylar balloon chase.
Down the block, Duck is watching too. But since there’s no real confirmation that the President’s life is in danger, he figures he might as well unplug the TV when Peggy arrives so as not to kill the mood. Classy.
Don storms out of a little pissing contest with Pryce – they’re arguing over the new art director Don wants to hire but Pryce says they can’t afford. He’s already annoyed, so when he sees that there’s a whole big empty room of ringing phones, he just yells “What the hell is going on?” Which might as well have been the title of the episode. The phones all stop abruptly, as they still do to this day when the system gets overloaded, and the sudden silence in the big empty room is incredibly, effectively unnerving.
Betty is watching and smoking at home on the couch when the bulletin comes in: Two priests who were with President Kennedy have confirmed that he died. At that moment Carla hurries in with the kids and asks if he’s okay. “They just said he died,” Betty whimpers, stunned, and when strong, stoic Carla gasps and cries, well, that’s pretty damn effective. She sits on the couch next to Betty and lights a cigarette, two things we’ve never seen her do before. Even more effective? Sally, standing in the doorway, watching her mother cry, and coming up beside her, putting her arm around her shoulder to comfort her. Come on, people! It’s not enough that I’m once again watching archival footage of one of the most horrible things ever, you have to do the “wise-beyond-her-years child comforts her mother” thing too?
“Did you give me a hickey?” a completely oblivious post-coital Peggy asks Duck, who responds by casually mentioning a news story that was on right before she arrived, and he’s sort of curious about how it turned out. He turns the TV back on just in time for Walter Cronkite to announce that it’s official: President Kennedy died at 1pm Central. Want to know what’ll make me cry as much as or possibly more than either a weeping civil-rights era housekeeper OR a wise-beyond-her-years child comforting her mother? Is Walter Freaking Cronkite’s voice breaking for a couple of seconds after he announces that the President is dead. Jesus. Hang in there, Walter, you have two more devastating assassinations to break before the decade is out, but then you get to talk to a couple of guys on the FREAKING MOON, so that’s pretty cool, right? Sigh. Also, in general, Walter Cronkite. These days when terrible things happen we have to sit through ghastly animated graphics and dick pill commercials so we can hear about them from eleventeen channels of interchangeable overcoiffed failed actors and morning show DJs in pancake makeup. (I’m a little proud of how old that rant makes me sound.)
“Gramma Peggy, where were you when President Kennedy was shot?”
In 1963, however, everybody in America was watching the same weird-looking actual journalist read stories directly off the wires. Including Margaret Sterling, who is collapsed on the floor in her wedding gown sobbing to Mona that her wedding is ruined, because yes, that’s exactly the takeaway message here, Margaret, is your wedding has been upstaged. Don gets home to find the kids in front of the TV. Betty hears him come in and they embrace like they mean it. “I can’t stop crying,” she says into his shoulder. Don, who looks pretty upset, for the record, wonders if the kids should be watching this, but Betty says they can’t just keep it from them. He wants the pretty words for this but they aren’t there, and he’s sort of paralyzed. The best he can think of is to tell her to take a pill and lie down. “Turn this off, I’ll make us some dinner,” he tells the kids in his best Dad voice, but they don’t even take their eyes off the TV. He gives up on that and sits in front of the TV with them. “Everything’s going to be okay. We have a new President, and we’re all going to be sad for awhile, and on Monday there will be a funeral.” “Are we going to the funeral?” Bobby asks, and Don realizes that a quick pep talk isn’t going to cut it this time. He takes Bobby on his knee and watches with them. Eventually he goes upstairs, turns off the radio next to a sleeping Betty and shakes out a few of Betty’s Little Helpers for himself.
The next day Betty’s in her robe on the couch, still watching. Don says it’s almost 2, they should be getting ready for the wedding. “Really, Don?” He pauses and watches while they talk about Oswald. “He’s 24 years old,” Betty says in disbelief. She wonders if the wedding is cancelled, but Don says he can’t call Roger to ask. They’ll go into the city, and if it’s off they’ll have dinner. “Can’t sit in front of the TV all day,” he says. He seems to be genuinely concerned for her, and those of us who weren’t around for this particular tragedy have our own memories of being catatonic in TV comas in the aftermath of 9/11 and Katrina until someone ripped us away for our own good.
The Campbells are also torn between the television and the wedding. “I don’t understand this,” Pete is saying. “Lyndon Johnson. More of the same. It felt for a second like everything was about to change,” he adds, failing to notice that absolutely everything has just changed forever. Like Betty, Pete thinks it’s stupid that they’re even thinking of going, but Trudy, who looks FANTASTIC, says it’s a work thing, there’s a system, he’s always saying that. “It’s one thing to go and pretend like I don’t hate them,” Pete tells her. “It’s another thing to go and pretend like the President hasn’t been murdered.” Trudy sits next to him and smells alcohol. “Have you been drinking?” Pete: “The whole COUNTRY’s drinking!” He says the Sterlings won’t cancel, because they’re happy. “You should have heard some of the things people said yesterday.” Trudy’s mad now. “Like what?” He made a lot of enemies, things like that. “That’s awful!” Trudy spits, genuinely horrified, some of Pete’s anger rubbing off on her (and sounding a little bit like her character on Community, which you should be watching). Pete says the girls were talking about Jackie and the kids, and how she just lost that baby, and Harry was counting how many commercials won’t air. “I’m not going,” Pete announces. If Trudy thinks it’s that important, she can go and say he’s sick. Trudy thinks for a moment, then says, “No. You’re right.” She kicks off her shoes and settles down into the couch with him, curling up to watch everything unfold together, and frankly it’s adorable.
“When did we become the most functional adult relationship on this entire show? Go figure!”
The wedding of course has not been canceled, and Betty is sitting miserably at a mostly empty table. Roger grabs the mike from the band leader and tells everybody to sit wherever they want, and hell, have both entrees, there’s plenty for everyone. “Help yourself! I mean that; there are no waiters.” Heh. Mona tells him the cake’s not coming. “Shit,” he says, grabbing her drink and downing it. I don’t know why that’s so funny every single time. Betty is staring off into space when goddamn stupid Henry freaking Francis walks in and her face lights up. Shut up, Betty’s glowy face! Ugh! Every time I think we’re through with him, there he is again, all creepy and smarmy. He hugs and kisses a young woman, who Betty is delighted to learn is actually his daughter. That actually might be more disturbing, because did we even know he had an adult daughter? What do we know about his family at all? But Betty is still all googly eyed for whatever damn reason. Sigh. Margaret, by the way, to her credit, is taking it all in stride, so good on her. Roger runs to the kitchen to see about tracking down a wedding cake of some kind and half the guests are in there huddled around a TV watching an interview with Oswald. Including Jane, who is literally clutching her pearls. I don’t know if the giant industrial kitchen was supposed to make me think about RFK’s murder, but it did, and I know what show I’m watching, so yes, it probably was supposed to.
Roger begins his toast by addressing Mona. “You’re a lioness. And thank you for resisting the urge to eat your cub.” Yay, I like that they’re friends sort of. He says this could have been an awful day, but there they all are, watching Mr. and Mrs. Hargrove instead of watching depressing TV. “The adults, we wanted to be strong for you, but your hope is giving us strength.” Etc. Everyone toasts and everyone dances, including Don and Betty. She’s all distracted, and Don of course does not understand how such a thing is possible. “Everything’s going to be fine,” he tells her, like he’s told her so many times already. “How do you know that?” She asks. By now, I think he knows something is really wrong. He responds with a big fat long serious kiss, which would probably work for me, but Betty isn’t especially comforted. She’s also glancing over at goddamn freaking Henry the whole time. Afterwards, Betty emerges from the ladies’ room and looks toward the coat check, where both men are grinning across the room at her like she’s the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. She looks at them like they’re a couple of cute hats she’s trying to decide between.
Bachelor #1 is the philandering father of your children who just came clean about the huge lie and painful secret at the core of his identity which he kept hidden from you for your entire marriage! Bachelor #2 is some random guy you barely know who felt you up when you were pregnant and you made out a couple of times but doesn’t really have a discernible personality! How will you choose?
Roger gets home with a once-again-drunk Jane tossed over his shoulder. “He was so handsome!” She’s slurring pitifully. “Now I’ll never get to vote for him!” Which is funny, because oh my god, does that mean she couldn’t vote in 1960? Because she wasn’t 18 yet? Yikes. Anyway, he tosses her down on the bed and takes her shoes off like he’s done this a million times. “You want me to cut you out of that dress?” he yells into her ear. “ZZZzzz,” she responds. So he finds himself drunk, awake, and alone, and I’ll give you seven guesses who he calls the first chance he has. He knows her number by heart, incidentally. Joan answers the powder-blue wall phone: “Hello?” Roger: “So what’s new?” Ha! Joan laughs too. “Margaret got married today.” “Poor thing,” says Joan, and Roger gives the opposite of his toast: “Joanie, I wish you could have seen it,” he says. “Oh my god, what a disaster.” Joan says she’s sorry, and after a couple of seconds of silence, Roger says he can’t believe how quiet it is out there. “Not everywhere,” Joan says. It feels like the world has stopped, but Greg’s working in the ER, and people are still getting sick, and getting in car accidents, and having babies. Have I mentioned that John Slattery is just absolutely note-perfect pretty much every single second he’s on screen? He’s wearing the bemused kind of half-smile of a man who’s been waiting all day to talk about something awful, and here he is, half a minute into this conversation and he’s already hearing exactly what he needs to hear, from the only person he can count on to know what to say. “I had to talk to you. Nobody else is saying the right thing about this,” he says sort of angrily. “Wow, you’re really upset,” Joan marvels. “What’s that about?” Roger says drily. “Because there’s nothing funny about this,” Joan responds. Roger appreciates the irony as Jane’s hand drunkenly flops into his lap.
Okay, so some things are always funny. Like drunk 20-year-olds ruining serious conversations.
Not funny: everything that happens from here on out. Betty’s watching TV again, and oh right, this part. This bit of footage you’ve seen a million times of Oswald being marched out by police? The one where he too gets shot and killed by some crazy guy? Well, this one actually happened on live television while everyone watched. Betty stands up and screams after the shots ring out. “What is going on?” She wails desperately. Don, again, meaning well, and definitely sensing she’s getting harder and harder to reach, tries to comfort her, but she shrinks away from his touch. “Leave me alone,” she says, and storms out, like she’s annoyed with him for saying it would all be okay and then failing to prevent Jack Ruby from shooting Lee Harvey Oswald a couple thousand miles away. What the hell kind of provider are you, Don? I get that it’s been building up for awhile, but still, nobody can comfort anybody right now, so it’s not like we can single Don out for not saying the right thing to her. She can, though, apparently.
Later, Betty wakes Don up from the couch and says she’s going for a ride. Don says yes, great idea, get the kids, we’ll all go get some air. But no, she says she needs to clear her head. And of course, she meets up with Henry in a totally classy alley somewhere. Sigh. She’s so glad he could meet her. “Where does your husband think you are?” “I don’t care. He’s been lying to me for years; I couldn’t be in that house.” And yes. Good point. But why spend three weeks pretending, dammit? Why get my hopes up, and Don’s? “What is going on?” she asks again, I guess to see if Henry has a better answer. “It will be okay,” he says. Well, there you have it; that is officially the only possible way to answer that question. “We’ve lost a lot of presidents and we’re still standing.” She says she wishes she could believe that, but right now she can’t believe anything. “Have you thought that there are other ways to live?” he smarms. “I’m not in love with the tragedy of this thing,” he says, which may or may not be true, but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Betty’s in love with. Anyway, the point is, he wants to marry her. I’m sorry, what? Betty for some reason does not say “We’ve been in the same room at the same time for a grand total of 20 minutes, and that’s if you count this conversation! What the hell, dude?” No, she’s all flustered and flattered and they kiss and it’s gross and weird and awkward. And like, I get it. Of course she has every reason to be angry with Don. And I know the point is that this whole thing really did change everything, and it really did make people re-evaluate their entire lives, and she’s been unhappy for so long, all she really needed was one little push. I just hope she bothers to wonder whether or not Henry, the politician, is any more honest about his motives than Don, the ad man. They’re both career bullshitters, for heaven’s sake, but only one of them is at home with your kids right now trying to prove he deserves you.
“I find it charming that it hasn’t even occurred to you that I might be full of shit.”
Pete and Trudy are in the same position on the couch we left them in, only they’re dressed down this time, and he looks adorable in his trendy little black turtleneck. Pete, surprising me again, is disgusted by the Oswald footage. “The most wanted man in America, and there’s no security. Why bother having a trial? Throw him over to the mob!” Pete’s not going in to work tomorrow, it’s a national day of mourning after all. “But you are going in Tuesday,” Trudy insists. Then she thinks about it awhile. “Those people don’t care about you,” she adds. “And honestly, what’s the difference? You did everything they asked you to do, but you don’t owe them anything. You should start gathering your clients. They’ll follow you wherever you go.” Yeah! Trudy’s on board the Duck train! If Pete gets in before Grey buys Sterling Cooper, he might even get to be Ken’s boss. Hilarity is sure to ensue!
It’s late by the time Betty comes home. “I don’t even know where to begin,” she tells Don. “I want to scream at you for ruining all of this, but then you’d try to fix it, and there’s no point.” Don looks terrified. “It’s painful, but it’ll pass,” he says uneasily. She stares at him. “I don’t love you.” Aaiigiihhh! Why must you break my heart, show? God, I don’t even want to watch this again. Don’s face falls further. “Bets, don’t,” he says desperately. “You’re distraught.” “That’s true,” she says. “But I don’t love you anymore. I know that. I kissed you yesterday – I didn’t feel a thing.” Aaiigiiiggh! Jesus! I mean, yes, okay, I guess she owes him some heartbreak. But still, aaiigh! Don doesn’t know what to do with himself. “You’ll feel better tomorrow. You’ll see,” he says lamely, in an attempt to end this conversation before he starts to actually believe it’s happening. “You can’t even hear me right now,” she marvels. “You’re right,” he responds, visibly heartbroken. No magic words for this situation, huh Don? He shuffles around upstairs like a lost old man; it’s just the saddest fucking thing. He falls into a chair and just stares at the floor. It’s his worst fear! He didn’t want to tell her who he really was because he was afraid she wouldn’t love him, and he was right. Self-fulfilling prophecy maybe, but maybe Betty can’t love Dick Whitman. Maybe the nice guy dinner-cooking Daddy Don isn’t who she wanted. She wanted Don Draper, mysterious badass, not this guy falling all over himself to be good to her. It’s awful. I’ve hated and loved and defended each of them over and over again, and they both have a list of flaws a mile long, which is why I’ve always thought they were a perfect couple in spite of themselves. So this is just really really sad.
I’m right there with you, Don. For some reason.
Continuing the theme of “This Episode Is The Exact Opposite Of The Last Episode,” Don comes downstairs for work and looks eagerly at Betty for any sign that she is feeling less heartbreaky than she was last night. She is not. She won’t even look at him. And the kids both notice.
The office is completely dark, and silent except for one typewriter. It’s Peggy, of course – they always seem to run into each other at times like these. “What are you doing here?” Don asks. “I don’t know,” she says. “Aqua Net.” And doesn’t have to explain why – she just shows him the storyboards, featuring four happy people in a convertible. (Smarter people than I caught this when it first aired, and in retrospect I feel really dumb for not seeing it myself.) “What are you doing here?” she asks in return. Don: “Bars were closed.” She asks if it’s okay for her to watch the funeral in Cooper’s office, and Don of course doesn’t care. He’s skipping it. He pours himself a drink in his dark office. Cue the saddest song in the history of the universe.
So yeah, I could talk for several more pages about this, and I know it could be easily argued that Don deserves every bit of heartbreak Betty can throw at him, but it’s still incredibly sad. He finally came clean about this huge secret, and apparently he spent three weeks thinking it had made things better, but she just hadn’t had time to process it enough to realize what it meant. And Henry! Their “relationship” is hilariously Victorian, and I suspect his “I want to marry you” motives are way less pure than the fainting-couch courtship she thinks they have. They don’t know each other, let alone love each other. And however you slice it, it’s just another fantasy. Trading one for another isn’t going to make her any happier. And Don knows this is all his fault. I can’t really muster any “so there!” feelings about his uppance having apparently come, even though I know he was in bed with a teacher this time last week. I never thought he’d leave her, and I never thought he didn’t love her. And this isn’t about the adultery, although it could be. It’s about her having married Don Draper and finding out she lived with Dick Whitman. Whether or not he can find someone in between might make all the difference.
So next week is it for the season. Now that they’ve followed my favorite episode ever with the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t imagine where they can go from here, but I’ll be here next week dissecting it whether it makes me smile or breaks my heart! (My money’s on “a little from Column A, a little from Column B.”)