Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Mad Men" Ep. 3.11: "The Gypsy and the Hobo"

"I'm not saying a new name is easy to find ... But it's a label on a can. And it will be true, because it will promise the quality of the product inside."
-Don to Annabel, the dog food princess

"And who are you supposed to be?"
-Neighbor Carlton to Don, Halloween night

What's in a name? Everything and nothing, as Don Draper a/k/a Dick Whitman discovered in the terrible, wonderful moment his wife finally smashed through the crumbling but still formidable wall that separated his two lives. She's crossed over - the wall may be doomed - yet the person, the self, the life he presented to her, that they shared together, hasn't, as he feared, dissolved in a plume of smoke. Incredibly, to him, it's all still there the next day.

But it will never be the same again, as Don realizes when he wakes to see his box of secrets on his bedroom dresser, strangely innocuous-looking in the morning light. (Didn't you feel him wondering, just before that point, whether it had all been a dream?) So what now from here? Will Betty decide that the man she married was the same quality all along, irrespective of the name he assumed - the name that's now tainted by association with stolen identity, perhaps a criminal violation? Or will she have the same delayed reaction as those fatuous dog owners once they realized that their dogs were enjoying horsemeat?

Too early to tell as yet. But if there's anything this episode drove home once and for all, it's never to underestimate Betty Draper. She was smart enough to figure out the full implications of Don's box, and steely enough to nail his balls to the wall when he tried to wriggle out of telling her the truth. She also showed startling insight into Don's psyche with her comment about his wanting her to discover her secrets, and his not really understanding money. At the same time, she was compassionate enough to show what looked like genuine, if tentative sympathy towards him when she realized her question about Adam touched on his deepest wound. It's not for the first time, either, that Betty's been responsive to Don's showing his vulnerabilities (remember when Don told her about his father beating him as a child?); she may be no Suzanne Farrell (for which I'm rather thankful), but we've had plenty of hints that she does want Don to let her into his inner life. Of course, now that he finally has, the result may be a textbook case of being careful what you wish for. Still, the early signs suggest she isn't running away, at least not just yet.

But what about Don? Does he still think the Draper brand is what warranties his best qualities? Or is he going to try to incorporate his Dick-ish self (no pun intended) more fully into Don Draper's life? There were so many moments in the revelation scene - easily one of the best written, acted, and directed scenes in the history of MM - when I thought Don/Dick might bolt and hightail it for the car, where Suzanne was waiting. (Or, far scarier, that Suzanne might come knocking on the Drapers' front door.) That he didn't do this is telling, though of what, I'm not quite sure.

(I have to say that except for the delicious suspense and extra layer of tension her unseen presence lent the Betty-Don confrontation, I remain unimpressed by the Suzanne storyline, and really hope we've seen the last of it. Though I suspect it ain't quite over, yet. But I did feel for her, for just a moment, at the end of this episode.)

As if the Don-Betty developments weren't stupendous enough, we also got a plummy dose of Roger Sterling like we've never seen him before. A jilted young lover! A carefree Hemingway-wannabe! And, in the present, a faithful husband (to Jane) and loyal friend (to Joan)! It's a credit to John Slattery that in an episode dominated by Jon Hamm's phenomenal acting, he more than held his own. He sold every single new facet we glimpsed of a character I used to dismiss as hopelessly one-dimensional. It was pleasant to see Roger acting like a mature adult for once, even if I suspect his rejection of the dog food princess was due as much to residual resentment as to love for his silly wife. The juxtaposition of that very awkward meeting with his reconnection with Joan was interesting, though I hesitate to read it to mean Joan was Roger's "One."

As for Joanie, her thread was the slenderest of a particularly dense episode, but in many ways it was the most satisfying. Not that I'm condoning violence, even towards a putz like Dr. Butterfingers Rapist, but I confess I whooped when she clocked him with that vase. And kudos to all who predicted that Butterfingers would join the army. That can't possibly end well, but at least it should get him out of Joan's life for a while. Now let's hope Roger lands her a nice job that will keep her squarely in the MM universe.

Funniest line: "I can't turn it off, it's actually happening!"
-Peggy, re: dog food focus group

1 Comments:

Blogger Juanita's Journal said...

As for Joanie, her thread was the slenderest of a particularly dense episode, but in many ways it was the most satisfying. Not that I'm condoning violence, even towards a putz like Dr. Butterfingers Rapist, but I confess I whooped when she clocked him with that vase.



In other words, you're condoning violence. Be honest with yourself.

6:48 PM  

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