Mad Men, Season 3, Ep. 6: Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency.

There will be blood…and Barbies that rise from the dead.

Any sense one may have had of a lull in the action was obliterated by this week’s episode of Mad Men. But beyond the shock of office lawn- mower maimings the episode was a study in irony and disorder, some of it humorous (starting with the very tongue-in-cheek episode name) and some of it tragic.

If the first two seasons glamorized the glossy world inhabited by the characters, this season’s mission appears to be to show us the growing cracks in that facade. There is a sense of the futility of plans in a changing world in this episode, with Don’s evident discomfiture when he is not given the promotion that Cooper imagines may be in the works and Roger’s bewilderment at being completely left out of the future vision of a company he helped build. The once unassailable calm and confidence of these two characters is clearly slipping as they feel the earth shifting under their feet. Don’s new business association with Conrad Hilton may yet help him regain some of his verve, but even as Roger partook in a joke at the expense of MacKendrick (and his foot) there seemed mixed with laughter a sense of uncertain relief — the lingering fear of a bullet narrowly dodged.

But the real victim of irony in this episode is Joan, and this irony is reiterated time and again. We all knew her husband/rapist not getting the chief resident position was inevitable, but that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking to watch as she delivered statements seemingly designed to convince herself as  much as to comfort him: “I married you for your heart not your hands… you’re still a doctor.” Joan barely holds herself together in scene after scene, until the mask finally drops during MacKendrick’s farewell toast to her. Children and caviar indeed.  All of this culminates in the brilliance of her scene with Peggy – “I’m really happy that you got what you wanted. I remember you saying it could happen to me if I played my cards right on my first day.” As I watched Joan go from snapping at Lane’s “executive assistant” that he shouldn’t call her for any forgotten details pertaining to the inspection, somewhat wistfully noting that she is partially responsible for Peggy’s success and of course, in true Joan fashion, saving the day I got the impression that she is only just now beginning to realize what her job means to her, and the repercussions of the choice she has made. She is supposed to be leaving, but since her husband needs her to work for another year and I refuse to conceive of a world without Joan, I assume she will be worked back into staff of Sterling Cooper somehow.

Away from the topsy-turviness of the office, the Draper household is also in disarray. Sally is  still struggling with the death of her grandfather. I get a kick out of the tension between Betty and Sally, and nearly laughed aloud when Betty was trying to convince Sally that the present was from baby Gene not to mention the existence of fairies. She shot her mother a look that so clearly said “Do you think I’m an idiot?”. But aside from rooting for Sally and her increasing outspokenness I also felt a keen sense of frustration with Betty and her unwillingness to deal with anyone’s feelings but her own with regards to her father’s death. Here is her daughter, clearly distraught at what she perceives as a replacement of her grandfather, both in location in the house and by name, but Betty is too intent on her own memorializing of her father and the maintenance of her childishness that she cannot comfort her own child.  It was good though to see the name of the baby act as a rallying point for Don and Sally and a segue into yet another intimate scene with the two of them. It will be interesting to watch what direction Sally’s relationship with her father takes as the one with her mother deteriorates.

Other things that caught my eye/ear:

–  Harry Crane may be on the come up if the plans for an bigger role for the media department go through. Is this the   start of him becoming a major player and developing some moxie?

– The look on Pete’s face when MacKendrick said “Pete Campbell…for the present” – priceless.

– Kinsey perched on his desk playing the guitar during the inspection. What was that about? Was he composing a protest song?

– Passing acknowledgement of Vietnam entering the public consciousness, and the naivete that will soon evaporate – the foreshadowing of chaos yet to come.

– Interesting notions about disability – he lost his foot so now he won’t be able to be an accounts man? This is of course to say nothing of the somber declaration that “he’ll never golf again”.

Alright, have at it. And watch out for John Deeres.

  • nichole

    what struck me about betty attempting to bribe sally into “being friends” with baby gene is betty saying, “you’re important to me, too,” and then bouncing. like, “aight. i did my part. you do yours and get over it,” which is what she says later when sally later freaks in the middle of the night.

    what will be sick (no pun intended) is if joan becomes a nurse, far more competent with healing than her husband is. i almost fear for her safety in the household if that were to happen.

    joan and don in the hospital: two very intelligent, capable, talented people, completely aware of their physical charms and the best ways to use them, sharing a charged moment. the look they exchanged at the end was very much a conversation: “you know i could’ve had you, right?” “yeah, but that would’ve been too easy.” “word. i respect you.” “word.”

    did anyone notice the look don gives peggy after the brief exchange about the champagne? i’m pretty sure he was checking her out when she walks away. she is a brunette who has shown some moxie. and don has been a fairly good boy so far in the season, with only the flight attendant from s3e1 notched into his side belt.

    i love that peggy faints into pete’s arms. it was schmaltzy, but i loved it.

    the lawnmower incident was one thing, but the sight of the person cleaning the windows later– i would’ve become all “sissy mary” too.

    betts is starting to get on my nerves a bit. we get it- she loved her daddy; she wants to remain a little girl, playing with her doll-baby. i want to see more of the other betty again– the one who used a rifle, the one who went searching for someone who wanted her. when will she come back?

  • anonymoussecs

    Found you guys through Alyssa and found Alyssa through TNC. Excellent blog. Really excellent.

    Re your comment about Harry Crane, I suspect that if Mad Men has a significant run, somewhere near the end of it, we’ll be wistfully commenting about what a somewhat decent guy he used to be. I think fate landed him in the honey pot. The right place (advertising). The right time (television’s popularity exploding). This is why he was the only one to get a promotion. Right now, that fact went right over his head, but given a couple of years, I doubt he’ll be as doe eyed.

  • I watched this episode for the 2nd time last night. My reaction to Betty wasn’t as virulent as the first time, but when I first watched it, and she was like “and you’re important to me too.” in this totally dismissive voice, for the first time I felt what so many of you have said – she is a terrible parent. I’ve been making a lot of excuses for her – she hasn’t seemed all that worse than the few glimpses we’ve gotten of other parents during this generation of “Children should be seen and not heard” but that remark to Sally was awful. I’m like Betty, what is your problem????

    And agreed – where’s Betty w/the gun in her hand and cigarette in the corner of her mouth?

    How much do I love Roger Sterling? He cracks me up!

    Don this season is a FAR CRY from the womanizer of seasons past. It’s almost too much.

  • I think what bugged me most about Betty was not that she wanted to honor her father by naming the new baby Eugene, but that “it’s what people do.”

    I would’ve thrown the Barbie out the window too if I was Sally.

    Also, I thought it was interesting that the Barbie was a brunette rather than a blonde.

  • I loved the goodbye between Joan and Don. I used to think Peggy might be Don’s equal but while Peggy fainted at the sight of a bloody foot, Joan saved the day. Joan like Don can rise up to any occasion and steal the show.

    It’s interesting to parallel their stories. Don turns out to be a better parent than his wife and Joan ends up being a better doctor than her husband. She has the brains in her fingers.

    Although I would love to see her as something more than an office manager, I think Joan is a tragic figure of the show like Betty Draper. Joan was born a few years too early understand Paggy’s desire to be a writer instead of a rich housewife. Betty is a bad mother who reminisces about her life as a model and feels alone but can’t figure anything out and lives in an infantile world. We all want both of them to WAKE UP! But they can’t.

  • ladyfresh

    i think i enjoyed that amputation a bit too much. the offense of making them come in the day before the holiday and the independence holiday of all ones! just to restructure ugh the john deere was too good to be true!

    i found the joan and don scene a bit unsettling. Two of the most charismatic characters putting up such hard fronts. The crazier it gets, i feel like the more brittle they get.

    and yes i was shocked at the brits casual dismissal of their ingenue…”he can’t even play golf…” wow