Oh Don Draper, you heart breaker.
After a long and boozy night in a hospital waiting room with an antsy first-time father who's bursting with epiphanies, the handsome enigma that is Don Draper heads right back to the office on the day Betty gives birth to their third child. A whopping half a day to exult in the arrival of the baby that saved, at least temporarily, the Drapers' marriage. This is one of the many confounding points to ponder in this fifth seg of "Mad Men's" third season, "The Fog,"written by Kater Gordon and helmed by Phil Abraham.
Don seemed touched by witnessing the emotional roller coaster that the younger man rode as he sweated out the birth of his breach baby. By the end, Don is serving as father-confesser to Dennis Hobart, a guy who's paid to be professionally tough, as a prison guard in Ossining's local landmark, Sing Sing.
"I'm going to be a better man," Hobart swears to Don. He's not a religious guy per se ("I don't know who's up there, so I'm telling you," Hobart explains), but he needs to be heard. "Tell me you heard me," he implores. Don's cold but not cruel. He bears witness, and a rejuvenated Hobart goes off to see his newborn son.
It's not hard to discern the overriding themes of this episode -- they're worn on the sleeves of most scenes.
Birth, rebirth (more so than death, I think) and the struggle for equality. Not only the struggle for minority groups to achieve equality, but the great struggle for mainstream society to wrap its collective consciousness around the radical idea that Negroes and women deserve equal protection under the law, in the workplace, at the ballot box and in the marketplace.
And whoopdeedoo -- Duck's back! And he's wearing a turtleneck!
This was a helluva episode for Pete Campbell (and Vincent Kartheiser). While it's clear that he's clueless about the civil rights headlines of the moment -- the civil unrest in Birmingham, Ala., the brawling over segregation, the murder of Medgar Evers -- he has no problem going after what he sees as a market opportunity in the black community.
Pete's as big of a social snob as they come, but interesting that even with that background he fundamentally doesn't think of blacks as inferior beings. Their dollars as just as good as anyone else's -- and so he's surprised when Sterling Cooper client Admiral television set manufacturer is offended by his suggestion that they try to shift some marketing dollars to target black consumers. Worse he suggests that white and black might actually mix in an Admiral ad -- which is blasphemy to the ears of said Neanderthals. And it lands Pete in hot water.
"Admiral Television has no interest in becoming a colored television company," Bert Cooper berates Pete.
(BTW, in a nice bit of continuity, remember that in last week's episode, Peggy impressed her ornery mother by buying her an Admiral set. "You must be doing well," her mother enthused.)
Bert Cooper and Roger Sterling don't get it but shockingly Lane Pryce, the penny-pinching Brit, does understand Pete's thinking. "There's definitely something going on," Pryce tells Bert and Roger after the flogging of Pete is over ("It's never as good as you think it's going to be," Roger bemoans after the chew-out of Pete is officially ended by Lane).
Of course, "something going on" is ominous because we know that the markets where Pete noted interesting sales activity for Admiral -- Detroit, Atlanta, Newark, N.J., Washington, D.C., etc. -- will be engulfed in racially charged riots in just a few years.
I've been feeling the shadow of Betty Friedan on "Mad Men" and Peggy specifically (natch) for some time, but in this episode she had a full-blown guest shot. Peggy's scene with Don in which she asks for a raise was mammoth on two levels.
First, she's standing up for herself more explicitly than she ever has before, whether at home or at work -- at least to my memory -- by pointing out that there's a law designed to ensure "equal pay for equal work," and that she should be at least making as much as lazy-ass Paul Kinsey. I loved that she didn't fold when Don gave her the "it's not a good time" line." "What if this is my time?" she responds.
But this being "Mad Men," there was a little detour, and that came when Peggy fingered the baby booty on the baby gift she'd brought Don. Without a word, Elisabeth Moss' perf spoke volumes about what Peggy was feeling in those few seconds. Don realizes it and figures he's got the upper hand, knowing Peggy's deep, dark secret as he does. He tries to be the benevolent patron again ("You're going to be fine," he coos) but she's not swayed.
"I don't think I could've been any clearer," she tells of him of her request for a raise. Damn. Moss plus Jon Hamm equals powerful stuff. Peggy is changing dramatically, as we've seen in every episode so far this season.
Now -- to Betty. This will take a while.
My first question that I'll have to research more when I have time is whether postpartum depression was something recognized in this era. Because I think it's pretty clear she's riding the bullet train to the postpartum station. Heaven help her family.
In this episode I realized that she's been at war with herself about the pain and turmoil under which her baby was conceived. I think that explains her focus on getting her family "at its best" for the baby's arrival, and her violence and fury while medicated during what appeared to be a somewhat difficult delivery (aka "The Fog").
First she wants Don, but then she's angry all over again. "Have you been with him," a druggy Peggy demands of the nurse. Yikes.
(Forgive me this tangent: I know that it was the norm back then, but I can't imagine going through child birth without my husband, my hero, right there beside me helping every inch of the way. Nor can I imagine being knocked out for the final act of a such a life-changing experience.)
Betty's Demerol-induced fantasy sequences were both so crazy Freudian that I need to watch a few Woody Allen movies real quick to fully understand them. Her mother, her father and Medgar Evers in the Draper kitchen where Daddy is mopping up blood in the custodial uniform that she imagined seeing him in at the hospital. You figure it out!
Of course the lines from her stern-faced mother were telling. "Elizabeth, shut your mouth or you'll catch flies." and "See what happens to people who speak up," mother says, glancing at Evers. Daddy's line to her was also bizarro, but I didn't get it all on the first viewing -- something like "You're very important and you have little to do." Wha?
Nice work all around from January Jones in this very sweaty episode. I think her best moment came not during labor but in the opening scene where Don and Betty have the meeting with Sally's teacher to discuss Sally's violence toward another girl, when she can't quite remember how much time has passed since her father has died.
Thank goodness somebody tells the Drapers what jerks they've been toward Sally as far as her grandfather's death goes. Sally's teacher, the barefoot beauty Miss Farrell, shakes Don out of his denial when she scolds: "Why didn't you call us or send a note?" She left off "you shitheads" but just to be sure Don got the message Farrell instructs him, after Betty bails out to the bathroom, that Sally "does need more attention. ...It's a very special pain to lose someone at that age."
Don appears to get the message, judging by the latenight hamburger and eggs snack that he and Sally share toward the end of the seg. He should've done a HECK of a lot more to make amends but it's a start. Sally sure looked cute in her boyish PJs.
Are they hinting at a romance to come between Don and Miss Farrell with the phone call that they have just before Don takes Betty to the hospital. I love how he instinctively knows that she's got a drink in her hand and a bra strap hanging low and turns on the patented smooth Draper talk.
Of all the great stuff in this episode, I think the sequences with Don and Hobart with the most momentous. Don admits to Hobart that he doesn't "throw the ball around" with his son enough, and he's clearly affected by Hobart's obvious love for his wife and concern that he's not there to help her through the ordeal. But then two seconds later Don's brain is back on work as he tears an automobile ad out of the magazine he's reading (presumably for a competitive purpose?). Hmmmm, didn't Hobart say something about the importance of "being careful not to take it home" with you.
Hobart notes his unusual perch on human nature, and how he knows that the inmates were all babies once and that "everyone of them would blame their mom and dad" for their predicament. Don snaps back: "That's a bullshit excuse." And yet, Dick Whitman wouldn't be sitting there in the guise of another (dead) man if he didn't have some serious daddy and mommy issues.
But Hobart praises Don. "You're an honest guy. Believe me, I'm an expert." So does Hobart see into the soul of Don/Dick, or does that mean that Don/Dick is so good at acting that he fools everybody. I know one thing, Jon Hamm is so good that he convinces me that Don/Dick is so internally conflicted that he himself doesn't know the answer to that question.
Finally, Hobart makes a chilly statement that if his wife dies in child birth, "how could I love that baby?" At the end of the episode Don passes Hobart in the hospital hallway as Hobart is pushing his wife in a wheelchair. They make eye contact but don't speak. Hobart looks like he's ready to kill -- not exactly the ecstatic new father. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but is the implication that something happened to their child and Hobart is in no mood to schmooze with his waiting-room buddy?
There was so much deep stuff going on in this episode that it overshadowed the fun of the return of Duck. He's trying to sow the seeds of dissent by wooing Peggy and Pete. Pete's snobby nose gets out of joint when he finds Peggy attending the same clandestine lunch date. Peggy is far more affected by Duck's salesmanship of his new firm, Grey Advertising, and his Sterling Cooper-bashing.
Duck senses the unspoken bond between the two, though he sees it only in career-climbing terms. Pete seems to reference it too when he confronts Peggy about her meeting with Don. "Your decisions affect me," he says, with a special intensity.
** Betty names the child that she was so sure was a girl "Eugene" after her father. Don's not thrilled about it.
** Roger uses the phrase "hand jobs" when berating Pete about the Admiral situation. Would that term have been in use in 1963?
** Duck's office at Grey has ducks on the wall behind his desk.
** "Two months at Grey and you're having a 'nosh' " Pete tells Duck. Is this a reference to Jews at the agency?
** Pete puts his foot in his mouth but as usual doesn't know it in his impromptu market research session with Hollis the elevator operator. Finally, Hollis tells him "we've got bigger problems than television," (that may be a little off on the quote but sentiment is correct). Hollis informs "Mr. Campbell." You just know that it took another 10 minutes for Pete to wonder "who's we?"
** No breast feeding for Betty. I suppose it was out of fashion then.
** Sally gives her mother a big hug and flowers when Betty comes home with the baby. "I missed you so much." What does Betty do? Nothing. Grrrrrr Forgive me: I think I'm blinded by my anger toward Betty, but as readers have pointed out, Betty did show Sally some affection in this scene.
** Was it my imagination, or was the overhead shot of Don and Betty walking in to the house with the baby basically the same shot as in the first season finale when Don comes home to the empty house?
On second thought:
** The consensus in blogosphere seems to be that Hobart was embarrassed for having opened up so much to Don and that's why he didn't acknowledge him in the hallway. I wasn't the only one who thought the worst about their baby, but for several reasons, the macho-shame explanation makes the most sense to me.
** I totally missed the significance the first time of Betty in her fantasy sequence crushing, or at least wrapping her fingers tightly around the caterpillar. Very telling.
** Didn't pick up on all the many references to "time" in this episode until I read other commentary on this seg. It's very true, the word time and references to it were all over this episode.