Ouch. Everybody is uptight and angsty beyond belief in the second episode of "Mad Men's" third season. The title is "Love Among the Ruins," but it might've been called "Where Did Our Love Go?"
Perhaps the most shocking turn the seg is that Don Draper actually does something selfless in order to make Betty happy by taking in her dementia-troubled father, Gene. He pulls it off in pure Don Draper sotto vocedramatic fashion, pulling Betty's brother into the study of the Draper manse in Ossining and telling him how it's going to go down.
After Betty forces Don to accept the invasion of her brother, his wife, their children and her ailing father for the week of spring break, he gradually realizes that Betty's finely honed sense of guilt about caring for her father will eat away at her if she doesn't take care of him -- or worse, if her brother's wife winds up playing nursemaid. Goodness knows she's already enough of a b-i-t-c-h. Could she be any colder to her kids?
Don would have to be blind not to notice Betty's pain (though that's never stopped him before). Betty declares herself to be in a "foul mood" while worrying about her father, and she later declares herself "
the world's worsta horrible daughter" just before Don takes matters into his own hands with Betty's waffly brother.
Having rendered himself rootless with no family, Don also instinctively understands that Betty can't bear to sell the family home in order to put the father in an old folks home, as Betty's brother suggests. (The brother Don referenced last week as being someone who's always borrowing things and putting his name on them, and whose name, WilliamHofstadt, Don assumed for his near one-night-stand in Baltimore.)
There was a heck of a lot going on in this episode -- written by Caryn Humphris and Matt Weiner and helmed by Lesli Linka Glatter -- but to me the stuff with Betty's father was the most weirdly intriguing.
After last week's season opener, I was hoping for an episode with more Betty and more Peggy, and darn if Weiner and Co. didn't deliver on both counts.
Peggy is facing more growing pains. It's easy to forget that the character has be in her very early 20s, maybe 23-24 at the oldest by now. I do wonder about her back-back story before she wound up at Sterling Cooper. We know now that her father is dead (perhaps it had been referenced before).
On the job we see Peggy trying to be more assertive, commensurate with her professional growth, but it's so hard for others, even Don, to accept. We got our first great Don and Peggy scene of the season, as he's counseling her on how to deal with the fact that she knows and he knows that the ad campaign that Pepsi wants for its diet drink - Patio(?!) -- is total crud. (Great Draper line: "Everybody wants a drink that sounds like a floor.")
In the opening scene, Ann-Margret barrels up to the camera singing the title number from "Bye Bye Birdie" (the film version was released in 1963). She's making love to the camera in an innocent way, if that's possible, shaking those locks, winking and smiling that radiant smile for all its worth. Peggy has the reaction common to all of us who don't tumble out of bed looking like Ann-Margret: Oh please.
But the men folk (even Sal) watching the clip in the Sterling Cooper conference room can't get enough. They're convinced that a similar approach, with a flirty, busty girl and a song is the way to sell Patio. Even though Peggy's in the bulls eye of the target demographic for Patio, her objections are dismissed.
Don at first seems to take an old-school view of advertising 101 in explaining to Peggy about the Ann-Margret fixation: "Men want her, and women want to be her." But in the next breath he's subtly telling Peggy not to get too worked up about it now because she may able to come off as the hero down the road. "You're not an artist Peggy. You solve problems...Leave some tools in your toolbox," Draper instructs.
What Peggy does next -- after Roger Sterling surprises her in the elevator with the strange line: "You're the only one around here who doesn't have that stupid look on your face" -- surprised me. Once again, she demonstrates her knack for picking the wrong guy, as she ventures into a bar after work and winds up in the apartment of a college kid. She makes the calculated decision to not get too specific about what she does for a living beyond working for an ad agency, though she does offer "I work for a jerk." (Don and Peggy, such a love-hate relationship.)
College guy doesn't stop the heavy petting when she asks if he has a "Trojan" (would she have really said that or is this product, er, placement?) and fer chrissake he won't even get out of bed to get her number as she tiptoes out of his place in the middle of the night. He's a dog and she knows it, but that's what she attracted with her best effort to put a stupid look on her face.
Speaking of dogs, the Great Dane of Sterling Cooper remains Roger. He can be such a cretin -- a charming one, for sure, but just despicable. He's ready to turn his daughter's wedding into a fight to the death between his new wife and his ex, Mona. (Always great to see John Slattery going toe to toe with his real-life wife, Talia Balsam, who plays Mona. There's an extra spark.) It's bad enough his daughter's wedding is already doomed by being set for Nov. 23, 1963 -- the day after the end of the world. Bad karma for sure.
We also get more evidence in this episode that the Yankee charm of Roger Sterling and Bert Cooper is rapidly fading for the London office. (The look on Lane Pryce's face when Roger asks if he ever got drunk and tried on the suit of armor in his office said it all.) Those two are clearly becoming expendable, as long as Don continues to spread his pixie dust on clients. Quite an illuminating exchange between Don and Lane after Don is told that they're going to pass on the account for the image-challenged Madison Square Garden and its rebuilding project, after Don goes out of his way to nail it for them.
"Why the hell did you buy us in the first place," Don says, angry that the Brits can't see the value of getting in on the ground floor of a venture that will be oozing advertising opportunities for decades to come.
"I don't know," Lane replies, softly, his eyes downcast. After that, Don literally shows Lane the door of his office.
It's not accidental that the episode opens with vivacious Ann-Margret running around carefree on film singing "Bye Bye Birdie" and the next-to-last scene features Don lost in thought as he watches the Sally's teacher dancing barefoot on the grass as she leads the maypole dance.
I did not get the sense that Don was having a sexual fantasy about the teacher. It was as if he was reminding himself of the sensation of running around barefoot in the springtime, especially from the way he was fondling the grass. I don't think it was sex so much as freedom he was yearning for -- a freedom that he's unlikely to experience anytime soon with a new baby on the way, a crazy wife and a batty father-in-law moving in, on top of all the drama at the office.
I loved the closing line of this episode. I think it was written for every parent who's ever gone into the office after attending a holiday pageant or school function and felt that momentary twinge of regret at not being a kid anymore.
"Do you want to talk about Pampers," Peggy, all business after her eventful evening, asks Don before he's barely got his coat off.
"You bet," Don replies.
**Betty and all her drinking and smoking. I predict Don's going to say something soon. It seems like even in those days it would be seen as reckless to be as much of a chimney as Betty is that late in a pregnancy. And we know Don has read the surgeon general's report.
**The dinner scene with Don, Betty, Lane and his wife. Awk-ward! Didn't help that Don and Betty couldn't agree on how many years they'd been together. Betty just doesn't do those business dinners well -- not that Lane's wife was a great conversationalist. In fact she was quite the snob. "What we lost in London we gained in insects," she sniffed.
** What was up with Betty's brother plunging the Draper's kitchen sink and Betty planning to go out for fried chicken? Did their crazy dad shove something down the sink?
** Loved Pete's line trying about "those snide ad men you see in the movies" in trying toexplain Paul's argumentativeness about tearing down Penn Station in the meeting with Madison Square Garden guys.
** It was brief but there's clearly more fireworks to come between Joan and Roger. It was the way he said "Goodnight Mrs. Harris." So I guess Joan is already hitched.
** "If you don't like what is being said, change the conversation," Don advises the Madison Square Garden guy. Words to live by for Don Draper, eh?
** "You're an Army man, Gene. Drop your socks and grab something." Don Draper doesn't abide whining.
** Great moments with Elisabeth Moss. She can make washing out bras and panties compelling. I loved Peggy's Ann-Margret impression. I imagine it's tough for actors to look natural while playing a scene that's played to a mirror.
** Another subtle bit in the scene where Peggy shows Don the Ann-Margret clip. She's surprised that Don hasn't already seen the film. "You see everything," she says. Is Don losing his touch?
** Wonder if there'll be any repercussions for Don from the picture snapped at Sally's school event?
On second thought (after a second viewing):
** OK, so I totally missed the significance of Peggy's hook up. He didn't take her to bed; she took him to bed. I noticed this time that when he asks her where she works as she's heading out the door, she answers the generic "Madison Avenue" rather than name her firm.
I still say he was a dog for not making an effort to get her phone number or even get out of bed to show her out, walk her to the bus stop etc. But she was in control the entire time, from the time she took the bite out of his beloved hamburger to the time she left him with "This was fun." And the significance of Peggy's suggestion "there are other things we can do" whizzed right over my head on Sunday night. It raises the question of what sexual encounters Peggy's had in the three years since her fateful encounter with Pete.
** I missed most of the boat on the scene at the end with the school teacher. What Don is reacting to is the teacher's natural femininity and lack of sexpot artifice a la Ann-Margret. She's beautiful and sexy in her bare feet. But I still say it wasn't sex per se Don was thinking about as much as he was absorbing the "feeling," and we know that there's no one better than Don Draper to sell a feeling.
** I'm stealing this observation from a comment left on Alan Sepinwall's What's Alan Watching blog: Peggy's college boy did look and act a whole lot like Pete Campbell.
** I totally missed the first time that Peggy steals Joan's line about "so crowded it feels like the subway" when she's at the bar.
** Don's weird, long look at Peggy in her office at the end is not disdain but respect, as it sinks in that she's 100 percent right about the Patio campaign. He's realizing that her instincts are as good as his own.
** For Peggy the whole episode seems to be about wrestling with sexuality and femininity. So of course she'd be washing out her undergarments in one scene. What could be more intimate?
** Betty's major issue with her father is the fact that her brother's wife, Judy, is usurping what Betty sees as her role as the doting daughter. Betty, as we know, is a child herself. And her brother is just as mixed up in his own wife. Judy, on the other hand, seems to have it together and cares enough to try to make the plan work for the family.
** No one in the Hofstadt clan has gotten over the fact that Don had no family members attend his wedding.
** Betty's comment in the car with Don after the dinner with Lane and Mrs. Lane that the baby is "really kicking" comes right after she takes a deep drag on her 900th cig of the day. Kid's going to be born with emphysema.
** Nice bit of continuity: Don tells William to head to Penn station to take his family back to Philadelphia.