"I don't care about your marriage, or your work, or any of that. As long as I know you're with me."
Whoa, Don Draper. You'd better have a flak jacket on underneath that tuxedo because you're about to face incoming missiles from all sides: your wife, your lover and your professional family.
This was the rope-a-dope episode of "Mad Men," one that meandered along with great character bits until just about halfway through when ... wham! Betty hears the keys to Pandora's Desk rattling around in the dryer and she unlocks more of a mystery that she ever bargained for. I love the way this mammoth plot development was played so randomly -- what if she hadn't done laundry that morning? -- and without any hint (at least that I caught) that it was coming.
Leave to Don Draper to engender not one but two psycho femmes with cause to come after him with both guns blazing. I found the scenes between Don and his latest extramarital squeeze, school teacher Suzanne, to be kind of creepy, frankly. She's nuts, folks, and it's only a matter of time before it all spills out of her upstairs apartment and onto the sidewalks of Ossining and the halls of Sterling Cooper, for Betty and the neighbors and the office chipmunks to see.
At first as this episode unfolded I was having a little trouble buying the Suzanne-Don relationship, which we're seeing in full bloom for the first time in this seg, "The Color Blue," penned by Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner and helmed by Michael Uppendahl. Suzanne's a budding feminist, artsy/craftsy type who's probably headed to Stonybrook or Haight-Ashbury in the next four years or so. What does she want with a married Mr. Establishment type (even one that handsome)? She oughta be dating Ken Cosgrove. But then I saw how they were hinting at her brewing discontent with the relationship and it made more sense.
Right off the bat, Suzanne is pushing Don to spend the whole night with her. Then she insists he meet her brother when he drops in unexpectedly. Then she surprises him on the commuter train -- when she drops the veiled threat about "as long as I know you're with me" quoted above. And she may as well just stop lying -- we all know that she's the one who made the hang-up call to the Draper's house. Sally would've been so excited to know her favorite teacher was on the line. And we learn that Conrad Hilton's answering service already has Suzanne's phone number? That's bold. Why, it's as if Don wanted to get caught...but I don't think he does, at least not consciously.
There was a lot of femme angst in this episode overall, from Mrs. Lane Pryce and her meltdown (now it's official: Everyone thinks Moneypenny is a "toad," as Mrs. Pryce put it) to Mama Sterling slipping in and out of real time in the car ride with Roger and Jane to the big Sterling Cooper 40th anniversary shindig (at the Beverly Hills Hotel!).
Interestingly, the only person, male or female, who has their act together in this episode is Peggy. I'm feeling bad for underestimating her. I was thinking that between the weird dalliance with Duck Phillips and the nastiness she's been getting from Don the past few weeks, she'd be starting to unravel into a pile of insecure mush. But no -- Peggy's made of tougher stuff. She's pouring it all into her work and she's excelling. So much so that even haughty old Paul Kinsey has to acknowledge her fantastic-ness.
In fact, Paul's the one who seems to be unraveling. Masturbating in the office to a mockup of his beloved Marilyn/Jackie Maidenform campaign? Ewwww. I'm guessing he feels completely out-gunned and out-classed by Peggy and other up-and-comers in the office (I never remember the young copywriter's name who seems to be a chipmunk-in-training).
Paul's carefully planned staging of the Aqua Net pitch falls apart until Peggy, who was supposed to be merely a prop, picks up the pieces. Peggy and Don get their groove back in this episode as they riff on each other's ideas, each making the other better. Peggy even offers sympathy and support to Paul after he's a jerk to her over the Aqua Net pitch. The cross-cutting in the sequence where Peggy and Paul prepare separately for the big Western Union pitch was nicely done. Ant and the Grasshopper. Peggy drinks Coke and brainstorms into her dictaphone. Paul pounds the whiskey and passes out cold on his couch.
What to make of the storyline with Suzanne's epileptic brother? When Don bows to Danny's wish to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere (Don understands the urge to flee, and the feeling of being ostracized in society) rather than be deposited at the menial job that his sister has lined up for him, he says "I swore to myself would try to do this right once" and hands Danny his card. Was he thinking of his own half-brother who he turned away (and who wound up committing suicide)?
The random way in which Betty discovers those big clues to her husband's past is complemented by the haphazard way in which Lane is told over the phone by the Brits (this is not culturally sensitive of me but "Shinzin" "Sinjin" sounds like a second-tier Marvel superhero) that Sterling Cooper is for sale. (Could the suitor be Grey Advertising, perhaps?) He takes it as a punch in the gut -- and we realize why in the later scene with his distraught wife. Lane has grown to like living in the colonies, and Gotham in particular. "I've been here 10 months and no one's ever asked me where I went to school," he tells the Mrs. I liked his quip about her "ballad of dissatisfaction." You can tell that this is an argument they've had before, in different settings.
There was a lot of nice work in this seg, but to me the single-best scene was the one in which Lane Pryce convinces the reluctant Bert Cooper that he has to attend the Sterling Cooper party. Ever the good soldier, Pryce doesn't divulge the real reason for the event -- to drum up another bidder -- but he knows what buttons to push in Cooper. If Bert's tired of going to funerals, wouldn't people think that he was nearing his if he didn't show up to his own party? Watching two fine thesps like Robert Morse and Jared Harris work off of each other is always a treat ("Who told you I was vain?" "Please, it's obvious."), and kudos to helmer Uppendahl for getting it just right. I also loved that Bert appeared to be watching a soap opera when Lane walked in his office.
As for the big O-M-G of the episode, Betty appears to be biding her time for the right moment to ambush Don. Certainly, he's got it coming. Betty looks as giddy as Sally Draper pulling off something that she knows she's not supposed to do when she realizes that the key fits Don's desk drawer. Inside, she finds a ton of cash -- just in case Don wants to skip out one day? She finds pictures of pre-war Dick Whitman and the family that she's never heard one word about. She finds dog tags for Dick Whitman and Don Draper, and she finds the deed to Anna Draper's house in Long Beach and Don and Anna's divorce papers. And then he doesn't come home all night?! Oh wow, I'd be pissed too.
Interesting that after waiting up for him half the night, at 2:15 she seems to give in by putting everything back in its place, including the keys in Don's robe pocket. But even if she tried I don't think she could suppress this revelation. She starts to unload on him when they're on the phone the next day ("What's wrong? What's wrong?") but she catches herself. I think she's plotting more than wigging out. And I wonder if she's having any thoughts of decamping with her children back to her father's home in Pennsylvania rather than selling the house?
In the closing scene at the party, after Roger delivers his B.S. testimonial intro for Don's humanitarian award (yeh, that's rich), the way the camera focuses on Betty, quietly seething, is just perfect. Who is this man, she wonders.
** Lois! How is she not fired after the foot fiasco? It signals Paul's lowly status in the office that he's saddled with her for a secretary.
** Best line of the episode: Pryce to Moneypenny after practicing his speech. "Churchill rousing, or Hitler rousing?"
** Noticed Betty reading a best-seller of the day, Mary McCarthy's "The Group." Never read it myself.
** "Are you going to sleep here tonight?" Betty asks Don. What a question.
** Don loves an old-fashioned girl. "Long curly hair," he coos to Suzanne. "No one has that anymore."
** It's a bit of Suzanne-Don pillow talk that gives the episode its title, as Suzanne tells Don about a metaphysical query about "the color blue" from one of her 8-year-old students. You'd think the feisty Ms. Farrell would've kicked him to the curb for his response. "My job is about boiling down communications to its essentials...the truth is people may see things differently but they don't really want to."
** Did we know this about Don? I seem to recall some previous mention of the fur company but can't place it immediately. "I found that guy working in a fur company," Roger grouses to Bert Cooper. "And going to night school."
** Two mentions of Mona Sterling in this episode. "Mona said they looked like they were on top of our wedding cake," Roger recalls of his ex's first impression of the young Don and young Betty. And then of course Mama Sterling invokes Mona in a most uncomfortable way for the new Mrs. Roger Sterling. I loved it.
** Of course they're going to have trouble coming up with a campaign for Western Union. It's ancient, outmoded technology, even in 1963.
** Henry Francis heeded my warning from last week. He's pretty brusque with Betty when she calls to inquire whether he was the hang-up caller. "I'm not playing a game here."
** We see a close up shot at one point of Betty's charm bracelet. No Coliseum figurine on it, that's for sure.
** "The faintest ink is better than the best memory." Words to live by on this show.** Achilles the janitor -- he's a hoot. Loved him holding the fluorescent rods as if they were lightning bolts.
** Maybe if Don's life really does spin wildly out of control this time, Connie will be there to catch him in his Stetson hat.