(As a way of breaking up the serious nature of covering the White House, and satisfying our mad Mad Men jones, we started last week to provide Mad Monday recaps so as to provide a forum for fans to discuss the AMC show. Apologies for the fluff. And yes, the below contains spoilers.)
There were many fine lines of dialogue in last night's episode, but the most vivid may have been conveyed without words as Kitty Romano watched her husband Salvatore re-enact the "Bye Bye Birdie"-based TV ad for Patio cola in their bedroom:
Oh. My. God. My husband is gay.
The official Mad Men description of the episode states that Kitty's "cheerful encouragement fades as her husband minces his way through the choreography."
The Patio ad turns out to be a bust. Even though, as Don Draper points out to the Pepsi executives that it's "exactly, and I mean exactly, what you asked for," they say they can't put their fingers on it but "it's not what I thought it was going to be."
Peggy Olson takes this as validation that she was right and their clients were wrong in their original request, but I tend to agree with The Newark Star-Ledger's Alan Sepinwall in his leading question to readers as to whether the executives "could recognize, on some subconscious level, that the actress here had been directed by a man whose appreciation for the original had nothing to do with an attraction to Ann-Margret?"
Sal's rejection of his nubile, negligee-clad wife and his first foray as a commercial director was the one storyline last night that didn't deal with the disappointment a parent feels towards a child, an emotion conveyed by Peggy's mom, the father of a new Sterling Cooper client, and Betty's now dead father, Grandpa Gene.
It's June 1963. We know this because of the references to the recent death of Pope John XXIII (June 3, 1963), President John F. Kennedy's Oval Office address about sending the National Guard being sent to protect African American students at the University of Alabama, and the death of Vietnamese monk Thích Qu?ng Ð?c, who burned himself to death at a busy intersection in Saigon on June 11, an image Sally watches on TV as her parents and aunt and uncle talk about Grandpa Gene's death in the next room.
Olson incurs the wrath of her mother -- still mourning said Pope -- by planning to move to Manhattan.
“You'll get raped, you know that," Mrs. Olson says, seemingly offended that Peggy bought her a new TV before tell her of her plans.
Peggy's bulletin-board ad reads: "Working Girl Seeks Roommate. I'm a clean, responsible, considerate person who wants a roommate to share expenses in Manhattan. Allergic to cats but will tolerate dogs. I have some nice furniture and a small television. Serious and financially secure women only, please. Contact: Margaret Olson, Sterling Cooper, 23rd Floor."
Paul Kinsey , Harry Crane , and Ken Cosgrove force Lois to prank-call Peggy, posing as potential roommate "Elaine" and working off copy provided by her superiors, Lois tells Peggy she works around animal carcasses and has been disfigured by burns. Are Paul, Harry and Ken mocking the burgeoning feminist or treating her as one of the guys by teasing her as they would a peer? Either way, Peggy hangs up.
Joan "Va-va-voom" Holloway steps in as a sort of surrogate mother with advice for Peggy.
"This is about two young girls in Manhattan. This is about an adventure," Joan says, suggesting a different ad for Peggy: "Fun-loving girl, responsible sometimes, likes to laugh, lives to love, seeks size 6 for city living and general gallivanting, no dull moments or dull men tolerated."
An inaccurate description of Peggy, but great copy and good advertising. It works for Peggy, who soon meets new roommate Karen Ericson (who actually fits that description and is played by Carla Gallo, who you may recognize from Judd Apatow's Undeclared, or as the woman who stained Jonah Hill's pants in Superbad.)
The scene also shows how much Joan's potential is being wasted in the chauvinistic world of 1963.
Which brings us to the demise of Grandpa Gene, whose disappointment in Betty seems at least a touch grounded in her not reaching her potential.
"I'm your little girl,” she says when Grandpa Gene tries to talk to her about his will and funeral arrangements. “Can't you keep it to yourself?"
Gene refers to Betty as Scarlett O'Hara (who said: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow") bemoans her marriage to Don, and blames himself for sheltering her as a child. “If you’d even known what was possible," he says. "But that’s that.”
On the other hand, Gene puts 9-year-old Sally behind the wheel of his Lincoln, steering through the streets of Ossining as he operates the pedals.
“You can really do something," he tells Sally, who reminds him more of his wife than does Betty. "Don’t let your mother tell you otherwise.”
Ryan McGee at Hitfix suggests that "In Sally, he sees the spirit of his deceased wife, Ruth….Betty dishonored the spirit of her mother through her sensitive, inactive approach to life. She was obese as a child, and rather than take up work like her mother did during the war, she transitioned from beauty model to stay-at-home mother, content to ride her husband’s coattails rather than make a mark of her own. Gene’s stance towards Sally isn’t exactly feminist so much as a way to preserve Ruth’s existence on earth after her death. This, not his funeral arrangements, was in Gene’s eyes his last great work on this plane of existence."
At one point in the episode, Don opens a box containing old pictures, including one of his father Archie Whitman and stepmother Abigail. "Archie and Abigail 1928," it reads. Nothing more is said about this; I suppose it's just one of the many allusions to Draper's past (the odd impossible flashback that his real mother was a prostitute named Evangeline, his chat at the country club with a man who may have been Conrad Hilton about coal country) that will at some point add up to a more complete picture of Draper, who is about to become a father for the third time.
At Sterling Cooper, Pete Campbell brings in a new client, a Dartmouth buddy, Horace "Ho-Ho" Cook, Jr., who has a trust fund and some wild ideas about the potential for jai alai to surpass baseball in popularity. He has a million dollars for the firm, and preposterous demands. (He wants jai alai games to be broadcast, for instance, "in all three networks and it has to be in color," even though CBS at the time was only in black and white.)
After Campbell brags to Archie Cox and Don Draper about bringing them a "fatted calf," Draper asks, "Campbell, did you tell him who this idiot's father is?"
Horace Cook Sr. is a friend of Bertram Cooper's ; so Cooper, Draper, Lane Pryce chat with the older Cook, who says when he and his wife put the money away for Jr., "we didn't know what kind of person we were making." Ultimately, though, Cook tells them to take his son's money.
Just as Joan tried to step in where Peggy's mother was unable, Sterling tries to step in where Cook Jr.'s father won't, advising his new client to invest his money elsewhere.
"We will take all your money, I promise you," says Draper. "But I think you should re-evaluate this particular obsession. You can do better."
The ascot-wearing Cook Jr., however, is a moron, and he thinks Draper's doing a sales trick with him to make him run even more energetically into Sterling Cooper's arms. He assures Draper and Campbell that's he's going forward.
"Now let's get one thing straight," Cook Jr. tells Draper. "If Jai Alai fails, it's your fault. I'm sorry but that's the way it is."
"Don't apologize," Campbell says. "Everybody thinks that; nobody says it."
TV Fodder notes "you can see the exact moment on Don's face when he decides without any apprehension to take all of this kids money. Very cool."
Later, horsing around with the preposterous jai alai equipment, Draper accidentally breaks Bert Cooper's ant farm.
"Bill it to the kid," says Draper.
Draper is soon rushed home with the news that Grandpa Gene has collapsed and died at the local A&P, where he was going to buy peaches for Sally. (Son Bobby protested that as a choice of fruit since he's allergic; Grandpa Gene told him to STFU.)
As Betty eats the overripe peach (symbolic much?), she, her husband, her brother William and his wife chat in the kitchen. One moment of levity comes when William jokes that Gene won't have to worry about running into his last girlfriend, Gloria, in heaven. Sally gets upset and lectures the adults.
"Nobody cares that he's really, really, really gone," she lisps.
Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune says "Betty's indifference to her children -- she treats them like furniture even on the best of days -- is hard to forgive. We saw some emotional growth in her in Season 2, but she's clearly still extremely stunted in that department…"
Dispatched to the TV room, she watches the monk self-immolate. She falls asleep clutching the book her grandfather would make her read to him, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
One other note about Grandpa Gene, before we bid him farewell: he didn't completely ignore Bobby Draper, he tried to assume the role of father for him as well, giving him a Prussian helmet, complete with a bullet hole. TIME's James Poniewozik says "There are couple obvious things going on in Don's argument with Gene over the helmet. First, there's the parallel to Don's own wartime experience—Don doesn't like to see Bobby putting on a dead man's clothes, the way he himself did. And there's Don responding to the obvious challenge to his authority in his house.But there's also a generational difference here...Don wants to raise his kids in a world where they can reflexively answer, 'War is bad,' to which Gene replies, 'But it makes a man of you.' War, of course, literally made a man of Don, and he has few romantic notions about the way it happened. ...To Gene, sheltering kids from the brutalities of life is indulgent and unwise (though he's also glad to undermine Betty by recruiting Sally for a surreptitious ice-cream snack); where Don comes from, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing."
For those keeping score in the Cosgrove v. Campbell two-men-enter-one-man-leaves competition, it should be noted that Cosgrove screwed up by doing exactly what the Pepsi morons asking him to do, while Campbell won a client by doing exactly what his idiot college pal asked him to do.
Here's the show's recap:
What did you think? -jpt