Mad Men Season 3, Ep. 3: My Old Kentucky Home.

We get another very strong episode this week — maybe the best one ever. A strange man flirts with Betty, and Betty, um, flirts back. Sally gets her klepto on. Pete and Trudy get their jig on something serious. And nobody likes Jane. And that’s not even the really meaty stuff.

Back when I was guest-blogging at Feministe, I argued that part of Mad Men’s relative silence on the issue of race involved the trickiness of portraying people as racists and still likable, sympathetic characters at the same time.  Last night’s episode saw Gene imply that Carla, the Drapers’ maid, was a thief, and gave us also Roger in blackface — the most direct references to personal racism on the show thus far. (Roger, especially, has been sliding deeper into the realm of the pathetic as of late.) But it’s still racism as dramatic shorthand: these people are assholes.

Did anyone peep Don’s reaction in that scene at the party? He excused himself, but that was probably more about distaste for Roger’s hammy fawning over his bride-to-be than the blackface. Don, as we know, has a deep-seated aversion to people who draw attention to themselves (“limit your exposure”) and leaves to go sneak a drink. But he ends up in a genial conversation with a guy at the bar, and seems to tell him some true-seeming details about his past. It made me wonder: just how much of Don’s past is Betty in on? She certainly doesn’t know that he’s not really, you know, Don, but does she think he went to college? How did she explain away his family’s absence at their wedding (which her brother alluded to last week)?

As viewers, it’s hard to see Joan and her husband interact and not remember the crushing scene from last season in which he rapes her on the floor of Roger’s office. Joan has clearly brushed it off — what other choice does she have? — but our knowledge of his crime gives their pretty mundane married-couple interactions an implicit sense of menace. Before their dinner party, she bosses him around in that way that Joan bosses everyone around, and it’s not clear how he’s going to react. After his testiness abates and he walks away, Joan calls him back— you’re not gonna leave without giving mama some sugar? It’s all deeply unsettling.

Also, Peggy gets off the line of the night (“My name is Peggy Olson, and I want to smoke marijuana”) as well as the best scene.

“I am not scared of any of this. But you’re scared. Oh my god! You’re scared. Don’t worry about  me. I am going to do everything you want for me. I’m going to be fine, Olive.”

Good stuff. And let’s hope she’s right.

(Also, what the hell happened to Duck Phillips?)

Have at it.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

39 comments to Mad Men Season 3, Ep. 3: My Old Kentucky Home.

  • Scipio Africanus

    Apparently Duck is in teh Pine Barrens hanging out with The Russian from the Sopranos.

  • RtG

    The acting on this show continues to astound me in all the best ways. Everyone seems to give depth and complexity to every line and gesture. That’s SO tough to pull off.

    Overall, the pace could be a tad faster, though. Seems to me like the camera is lingering a bit longer in some shots, but I’m not sure if I noticed that first or if I read it someone else. Either way, I’m noticing it more and more.

    Also? Matthew Weiner (the show’s creator, showrunner and head writer) is doing wonders with the female characters. Love Peggy, Joan, and Betty. And I agree that Peggy’s scene with Olive was the best of the night. I also like Joan’s accordion scene.

  • Shayla_B

    I don’t think grandpa was really thinking about Carla more than a passing thought either. But I do understand Carla’s immediate declaration in defense of herself.

    Aside from the whole Roger in blackface moment that was like a big “oh yeah, thanks for reminding me of the setting”, Don’s convo with the bartender about not being able to use the bathroom struck me in light of that scene.

  • I’m going to go out on some wishful thinking here and propose that Don was indeed offended by Sterling’s blackface. In the very next scene, he notes how he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom at his first job, signaling, in my hopeful mind, something of an understanding about being refused service.

    In fact, it reminded me a lot of the revelation when we find out Don is actually the offspring of a prostitute in the odd Ep. 1 flashback. In my mind–again, my *hopeful* mind–this seems to color his complex approach to (and treatment of) women. The same seems to apply to his interactions with African-Americans/racism.

    I think he knows it’s distasteful, but can’t exactly articulate why.

  • For me this episode had great parts but didn’t add up to a great episode if that is possible. The line of the night for me was Joan’s response to her husband’s comment that he didn’t want to argue (“Then stop talking.”) Every moment of interaction between Joan and her husband just screams miserable marriage. The look on Joan’s face when she locked eyes with her husband while playing the accordion was amazing; it made me uncomfortable and sad.

    They are doing wonders with Peggy’s character. She was hard with her secretary but she also went and retrieved that blender when Paul told her.

    Great show and I do love the pace. Its the type of show you can watch more than once and spot something new or respond to different things every time.

  • I agree. We know now that Joan’s husband is a fuckup at work, and the last time we saw him feel emasculated — Joan and Roger at the office — he ended up assaulting her.

    And if I remember correctly, they do kind of blame things on Carla. Last week, when Peggy was bugging out about her father, she blamed Carla for eating something in the cupboard. It was an obvious lie, but it’s in an interesting dynamic: this woman is in their home and they trust her enough to take care of their kids, but that doesn’t mean she’s ever worthy of their respect.

  • I think part of the reason the women characters are so well done is because the writing staff is chock full of women.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204908604574332284143366134.html

  • i’ve been reading it in other places, and it seems like that guy wasn’t actually the bartender (which is what i thought) — he was actually Conrad Hilton!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conrad_Hilton

    Remember, he said he was from San Antonio, New Mexico and introduced himself as “Connie.”

  • I watched the show under the influence of muscle relaxers (neck spasms, ouch) so I don’t have too much insight this week!

    Agree w/the others who are cringing when Joan interacts w/her husband.

    Feel like we’re seeing Carla potentially emerge as a more prominent character, esp. as issue of race starts to emerge in the story line.

    Also felt like Don thought the black face was abhorrent, but I could be too optimistic/projecting.

    Didn’t get why him and Betty suddenly made out in the woods.

    Watching Pete dance was hilarious! And to me the way of the writers saying – aren’t these pp past their prime??

  • i’m sure you make it look fly.

  • Scipio Africanus

    That’s hot.

  • ladyfresh

    What is going on with Joan and her husband?

    for someone that was assaulted and it’s likely continually so….

    She seems to be the one with the power in the relationship.

    that particular comment, the pleading look in his eyes when asking her to play, the commentary from the dr’s wife of how did he get her…

  • ladyfresh

    “I am not scared of any of this. But you’re scared. Oh my god! You’re scared. Don’t worry about me. I am going to do everything you want for me. I’m going to be fine, Olive.”

    Good stuff. And let’s hope she’s right.

    omg yes peggy!

    Peggy had more chutzpah than i realized. I felt like she was talking to me and i didn’t even realize that i still worried about her until she said it.

  • Remember, Dick took on all of Don Draper’s identity, and even had to divorce Draper’s wife. So that means he’s toting around Draper’s college degree that Draper mentioned when they first met. I imagine Betty does believe he went to college.

  • ladyfresh

    …i forgot about that

    holy crap spousal rape and date rape are relatively new

  • jackspratt

    It seemed to me that Olive was hovering around Peggy like a mother hen, or, in the theme of the night, a mammy, trying to protect her from harm. Peggy is so caught up in her success that she does not recognize the danger. As a woman of another generation, Olive knows how quickly the things that Peggy has can be taken away. As a woman, Olive wants Peggy to succeed and make her mark. Youth take risks, and can succeed in spite of themselves. I expect to see more of Olive watching Peggy’s back.

  • hmmm…it definitely seemed like more passion than they’d shown for one another in a long time…

  • quadmoniker

    Yeah, I think I also want to always hope Don is kind of ahead of his time because he’s not really in the club. I think, in some ways, he is. He gave Peggy a chance when he didn’t have to and he could have ruined Sal really easily if he wanted to. But he didn’t, mostly because he doesn’t care. He came from nowhere, and he doesn’t need to reinforce everyone else’s sense of privilege.

  • quadmoniker

    Yeah, I liked the “then stop talking” response too. I really thought that was the best. But everything between Joan and her husband breaks my heart. I’m so sad for her. She always brags to her girlfriends at work about their big plans, but clearly they have none.

  • LB

    Conrad Hilton: It may have been him, but he was wearing that white bartenders uniform (at least it appeared to be) so that is still up for debate. I’m mad that the wikipedia entry on the real Conrad Hilton already references his possible appearance this episode. lol

    The development of the female characters in the show has been amazing. In season one, Betty is just a dreadful woman. I am glad to see her developing from the first season, but she is always harsh o the kids, complaining to Don, or downright diabolical in her handling of her dad (HE COULD HAVE STAYED WITH THE BROTHER!)

    I think Don probably wanted to not see Roger make a fool of himself, than his disgust with the blackface. That whole scene really connected to that WASP world of privilege Don never seemed to feel a part of. Similar to the jetset episode. All of these worlds are open to him, but his cautious in how he participates.

    Go Carla for putting Grandpa in check, and great episode overall!

  • Yeah, I’ve started to wonder about how much of the stuff she describes about their relationship is made up. Very sad.

  • lemu

    I figured he was an important man in a subtle role. Foreshadow much?

  • jackspratt

    At the office, Jane tells Joan that she has to have her rings resized because she keeps losing weight. At the Derby party, Jane does not eat anything and claims that is why she is drunk. I believe that we will find out that Jane is bulimic.

  • I hate always being late to this discussion.
    ( sucks teeth )

    Anyway, Peggy did indeed have the best line of the night but how come no-one talked about the rest of the exchange with Carla and Gene?

    Gene: Oh stop it Viola.
    Carla: I’m not Viola. My name is Carla.
    Gene: Do you know Viola?
    Carla: We don’t all know each other Gene.

    I think Don was more disgusted by Roger acting n ass than by the black-face and he said as much to him near the end of the episode – “People don’t think you’re happy; they think you’re foolish.”

    Kind of interesting that Roger who fully put the moves on Betty in a drunken haze back in season 1 is getting all huffy after seeing Jane clutching at Don for some unknown reason.

    I can’t even talk about Joan and that man anymore. They just make me sad.

    I know she’s a bit character, but I felt bad for Trudy. The look on her face when Betty and Harry’s wife were talking about pregnancy and children, and then the way she attached herself to Betty.

    Paul Kinsey is still an asshole.

  • Scipio Africanus

    I keep imagining that Carla is from the Bronx and winds up being, like, Grandmaster Caz’s mother, or something.

  • thashadow

    “Kind of interesting that Roger who fully put the moves on Betty in a drunken haze back in season 1 is getting all huffy after seeing Jane clutching at Don for some unknown reason.”

    Roger is deeply jealous of Don’s life and mystique. I remember there was a scene at a bar with Don and Roger staring at 2 young women. When Don got up, the women’s eyes followed him out of the bar, and Roger suddenly realized the girls weren’t into him at all.

    shit, got a phone call, brb.

  • ladyfresh

    I just wanted to share this Slateop ed/article (pulled from another site you know gd):

    Meanwhile, did it occur to either of you that in this episode, everyone but Don is putting on a show? We see Pete dancing, Paul singing, Roger serenading, Joan squeezeboxing … You could even count Sally lying to Grandpa and the Ann-Margret wannabe auditioning with the twist in the opening sequence. Ace legal mind (and apparent Mad Men fan) Walter Dellinger posted in the “Fray” last week, gently noting our failure “to link up Don’s personal and professional lives”:

    What makes Don so successful as an ad man is his ability time and again to reinvent, reimagine and reconceptualize the product he is asked to promote. His whole life prepared him for this: He has been required literally to invent an identity for himself. … Bring him your product—it may be a sorry thing like a Dick Whitman—and Don will mull it over and imagine how to reconceive and sell that product as a “Don Draper.” From life-long personal necessity comes the skill that, at least for now, makes him so good at what he does in the office.

    It strikes me that this is a way of saying that Don is always performing, always devising and inhabiting a heightened, altered reality tailored to suit other people’s expectations. But in this episode, which showed our troupe singing “antiquated” ditties—all but fiddling as Rome begins to burn—Don seems not to be selling anything to anybody. Indeed, in his conversation with Connie at the bar, he introduces himself as Don but acts like Dick, telling stories that no doubt hail from Dick’s childhood. (Note Don’s pause when Connie asks where he grew up.) Perhaps this scene, paired with Don’s seeming nostalgia for his former identity in Episode 1, suggests that Don will survive the ’60s by becoming more like Dick, more in touch with and honest about his past and who he is. Which makes this season’s big question: Will Don ever come clean to Betty?

  • Bourgie, JD

    Glad you brought up the rest of Carla/Gene because I was if no one beat me to it! I thought Carla was wonderfully sharp in that moment, being assertive in a way that she may not have been with Betty or Don. Gene’s rather harmless in his old age and creeping senility so I assume she’s comfotable dealing with him as she would the children.

    I was shocked at the blackface scene. Not surprised that it occurred but that so many of the guests were so entertained by it all. Well, maybe that wasn’t too surprising either. Still, I like when Don gets all judgy on other folks.

  • Scipio Africanus

    One more very lighthearted thing. Jane straight looked like a Rasta with that dread-hat on, when she went into the office.

    And I’m not so sure that grandpa was dead-set on the idea that Carla took his money. I was really hoping Carla wouldn’t give in with the “I didn’t take it” line. But I suppose for that time and her positrion in that house, she had to assume they thought *she* had taken it.

    I don’t think we’ve seen that last of Joan’s husband’s evil, either.

    I couldn’t decide if I liked Peggy’s tone to the secretary, either. She seemed to be chewing her out in a way that only she would. I sort of identified with the secretary’s warning to Peggy.

  • Didn’t get why him and Betty suddenly made out in the woods.

    i didn’t get this either.

    (you okay?)

  • yeah woke up yesterday w/ pulled muscle. no obvious explanation. is better already today after lots of advil and flexerall, but still painful and limited range of motion. have been wearing neck collar. hot stuff. heh.

  • ladyfresh

    The pregnancy put a strain on an already strained relationship.

    I think the reminder of ‘happy’ couples Pete and his wife’s dance then the failed marriage and thin veneer…more facade of happiness with the new wife…then she mentions an intimate detail about their marriage…

    i think it was desperate clinging to each other in that wacky end of a party

  • I don’t know if she’s the one with the power in the relationship.

    Here’s a question: we understand what happened as rape, but does Joan?

  • Right. But i wonder how much of his “real” life he’s folded into the narrative he tells Betty.

  • A Mendoza

    I don’t believe that was a bartender’s uniform – it was his version of a tuxedo. He did say that he had been at a wedding.

  • About his family – he could have drawn from Dick Whitman’s life and said they were all dead, which would be true. And that could explain his empty half of the church.

  • Scipio Africanus

    It’s classic, textbook saltiness. NaCl-iness, for short. And it’s probably really hard for someone like Roger to take, because he’s been so privileged his whole life and forgets that his money and status largely do the talking for him, not his basic sexual appeal, like with Don.

  • Scipio Africanus

    Great points and questions in this swipe.

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