Mad Men: Episode 12 “The Grown Ups”
Reactions. I live for them. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Donald/Daffy Duck cartoons. I’m not exactly sure the reason why, but I love seeing the many reactions of people from various situations. Mix that in with my whole JFK fixation and you’ve got my most fascinating episode of Mad Men this season.
I knew this was coming, I just knew it! I wish this episode could’ve been two hours. The thrill I got in anticipation of the news hitting everybody was great. And when it hit, I felt like I was there in that moment. Obviously, that was more to do with me, than the show itself. As it turns out though, the one reaction that hit me the most and literally gave me chills down my spine, was Betty’s scream after Oswalt gets it in the gulliver on live tv. Oddly enough, I kinda started laughing when she frustratingly yelled “What is going on?!”. However, that quickly subsided when she opted to bounce and hit up you-know-who.
I get ahead of myself though. Grab a drink and get ready to delve into this episode with me. It’s not as long as you think, so don’t get intimidated by its size. Just think, it could’ve been waaaaay longer.
Speaking of dependence, at the start of the episode, the heating in the Sterling Cooper building wasn’t working. It was either too hot or too cold in the offices. I wasn’t quite sure what that was about until it occurred to me that the workers in the building were just waiting for someone to take care of it. Somebody would fix the situation, so that, like the porridge in the Goldilocks story, their building would not be too hot or too cold but just right. They just assumed that someone would attend to the problem for them.
But nobody could tell them how to react to JFK’s death. And massive tragedies force people to re-evaluate their lives. They make people really look at what’s important to them and what isn’t.
- Via Maureen Ryan
And here I just shrugged off the whole A/C thing as some randomness within the episode. I should know better than that. I suppose it had something to do with my desire for the episode to get to the good stuff. It still doesn’t seem as important to me, but it is something to think about.
Then Duck finally comes back into the fray, with “Pee-Wee” and this really upset me. First of all, why did he un-plug the television? He could’ve just turned it off, but he (and the show) made a point to un-plug it. Maybe i’m just looking too deep into these things, but something is up, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed:
Duck? He’s finally back. He will remember that this was the day he seduced Peggy with the cheesy promise of a Monte Cristo sandwich, and then melodramatically yanked the TV power cord out of the wall so as not to disturb his “nooner.” Despite her roommate’s reservations about Duck’s aftershave (and, probably, his general skeeziness), Peggy will remember her no-hickey-attached fun in the sack with Duck, and then his rush to turn the TV back on. “I gotta call my kids,” he says. Will she also remember his nervousness? Chain-smoking and jittery, Duck seems like a man who’s hiding something. Decades later, will Peggy tell friends that on the day Kennedy died, she was having a “nooner” with the man who eventually (might) become her boss or (gasp) husband? Or that she was being used as part of a cynical power-grab? Our money’s on the latter.
- Via Logan Hill
I wonder what Peggy would say about where she was when she heard the news. Assuming her character doesn’t die anytime soon. It’s kinda funny to think, of all the people to be doing any thing, it was Peggy getting her intercourse on. Like I said, this whole Duck thing upsets me, ‘cause I think Peggy is better than all of what has and will happen to her concerning him. She rarely makes mistakes, but when she does, they’re huge.
And then there was the wedding. I was so wrapped up in the whole events & reactions, that I too thought the wedding was an inconvenience. However, it led to more Roger being a smooth mutha on that mic, which is excuse enough:
Is any format better suited to Roger Sterling’s strengths than the wedding toast? I loved his ode to his ex-wife—a “lioness”—and his genuinely moving words about his bratty daughter: “To Margaret and Brooks Hargrove. The adults—we all wanted to be strong for you. But your spirit, your love, your hope: It’s giving us strength. If you can make it through a day like today, marriage is a cakewalk.” The toast seems even more Sterlingian when we learn, later in the day, that he actually thought the wedding was “a disaster,” which suggests his sweet lines were about as sincere as his encomiums about Don at the Sterling Cooper anniversary party.
- Via Julia Turner
The rapport Roger has with Mona showed so much with so little. You could see how they worked so well together, and even though that relationship had run its course, and even though he went to Joan at the end of the night, you had to respect what he and Mona had. The phone call before the wedding was awesome to me, mainly because of Mona stepping to her daughter and not being that weak supportive mother that most women would resort to. She handled Roger & Margaret like a champ, and I respect that kind of woman.
The wedding was important, but we’ll get to that in a sec. Right now, we’ll discuss Henry & Betty vs Roger & Joan. Though the assassination of JFK & Oswalt was the catalyst for Betty to re-direct her life, the real secret is that Betty is a female, and as we all know “girls can’t swim”. Before she jumps the Draper ship, she needed to secure a life raft, and whaddya know, Henry and his ridiculous marriage proposal/offer comes floating along:
The man isn’t after anything tawdry or tragic. He wants to marry Betty. He wants to make her happy. He wants to take her to the movies and hum ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ on the way home. He doesn’t want to meet Betty’s needs, he wants to make her believe that she doesn’t have any. In some sense, I think this is why Roger chose Jane instead of Joan when he had the chance. Jane represented tipsy giggles and carefree romps in the hay. I don’t believe that Joan, despite her effervescent script for Peggy’s Want ad, was ever just a silly girl looking for laughs. She’s no Pete, that’s for sure. She is the epitome of poise and competent grace. But she gloriously met Roger’s needs, which meant he had to acknowledge that he had some. (We know now he gave that up after Annabel broke his heart.) With Joan he would have had to be a grown-up. Likewise, Don and Betty have serious, deep, grown-up rips in their marriage quilt. Enter Henry, and his offerings of chaise lounges and movie musicals.
- Via Karen Valby
No one can help themselves when it comes to that late night phone call between Roger & Joan. Yes, we know she’s the one. It was obvious from the beginning. His coronary pretty much killed the whole thing, in kinda the same way Betty’s finding of Don’s shoebox ended Don’s whole teacher affair. Also, as we discussed already, Mona was no slouch. It’s obvious Jane isn’t superior to Mona, she’s just younger and different. She was also willing to get hitched to Roger, which is not to say that Joan wasn’t, but well, ya know that whole coronary business.
So how does Don figure into all of this? Glad you asked:
Here’s where the greatness meshes. Part of Don’s near-unblinking acceptance of a monumental moment in American history had more than a little something to do with last week’s episode, where his life was turned upside down by Betty. That was its own kind of emotional beat down for Don. Yes, you could say he’s in the world’s biggest doghouse and that’s why he’s in there pulling his parenting weight with Baby Gene. But this doesn’t seem, in the near term (which is all we know) as some kind of emotional fakery on his part. Don realizes his family is coming apart. It never scared him like it does now. He realizes how emotionally tethered to that part of his life he is - how that safety, ultimately, gives him the, ahem, strength to go out and toy with his second life. Confronted by the lies of his life, he’s holding on dearly. Kennedy gets killed? Alright, I’ll be in my office. He’s focused on Betty and getting through. At Margaret’s wedding, when he says it’s going to be alright and Betty asks him how he knows, there’s no answer. Because Don doesn’t know. It’s him hitting the snooze button on acceptance per usual. He’s trained not to allow negativity to creep in. But having Betty take a pill or move past it is not going to happen. Don doesn’t realize what’s going on in the big picture.
- Via Tim Goodman
I love that whole “snooze button” phrase. It works so well. There’s so much wrong with the whole Draper marriage now, that keeping them together would be ridiculous. Once Don failed in front of Betty, it was the beginning of the end. Failing in front of women in general is usually the kiss of death, and with the type of woman that Betty is, it’s basically law. I mean, in her defense, she did marry Don Draper, not Dick Whitman. Also, it seems as though Don has been acting a bit more like Dick around the house, which I think is a bad idea. It has to be weird/awkward for Betty, plus, now they have a huge secret to keep from the kids.
There’s no way their old relationship can work anymore. It’d have to be torn down and started anew, which is a bit tough to do with 3 children in tow. When they kissed at the wedding, my stomach turned. The way Betty kissed and the expression she had before, throughout, and after…man, I just, I’ve seen that expression before. Bad times is all I can say about that.
There’s still one more episode this season, and I clearly should stop making predictions. But no matter what happens next week, I think we’ll look back on this season as having been defined by two parties: Derby Day, which as Betty notes, now seems like it happened 100 years ago, and Margaret Sterling’s wedding. The parallels between the two events are numerous and surely no accident. Both are hosted by Roger Sterling, both end with Jane Siegel Sterling fall-down drunk, both feature a charged moment between Betty and Henry Francis outside the ladies room. (What is it with this guy?) Yet these parallels serve mainly to point up what’s changed. Pete and Trudy, the life of the Derby Day dance floor, refuse to attend Margaret’s wedding. Roger, so eager to speak of the happiness Jane has brought him in May, has soured on her by November. Betty first met Henry at Derby Day and seemed from the start to be intrigued. Yet that day ended with she and Don sharing a passionate kiss. At the wedding, Don kisses his wife, but it doesn’t have the desired effect. “I didn’t feel a thing,” she tells him the next day.
- Via John Swansburg
And there it is. One more episode left and Season Three will officially be in the books. Just one thing before I let you go: I totally recommend clicking and reading all of those articles I’ve linked to/quoted. You get some varying perspectives and other highlights that I had to cut from this post for the sake of space. One of which has to do with Kenny being the happiest character in the series. Another to do with the opinion that Pete & Trudy seem to have the strongest marriage of everyone. However, if that’s too much for you, I suggest at least reading Maureen Ryan’s. It’s pretty comprehensive and gets all of the important points/ideas/opinions across best.
Thanks for hanging in there with me kids. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of Mad Men’s third season!