Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mad Men, Season 2, Episode 10: The Inheritance (Recap)

Pete Campbell rattles off the list of companies that the two-person contingent from Sterling Cooper will be able to court when they're in Los Angeles next week and Don jokes that it "Sounds like a hell of a stock portfolio."  Funny you should mention stock portfolios, Don, considering that Pete learns this episode that his recently-deceased father was broke and that the storied Campbell/Dyckman dynasty has barely a pot to piss in.  So Pete won't be receiving any inheritance thanks to his father's death, only bills and a crusty recently-widowed mother.

Betty is also dealing with her inheritance.  It's been two years since Betty's mother died and she finds some of her mother's things missing and her father ailing when she goes back to her childhood home, now taken over by her father's new lady-friend, Gloria.  Betty fears she's about to be an orphan, with nothing of her mother to remember her by and only newly-forged unpleasant memories of her father, now distorted by the brain damage of his recent strokes.  The past generation is leaving nothing but misery to the next generation - which is doing its part to either avoid creating or damaging its own progeny.  And so it goes.

The episode starts with a discussion of the aforementioned upcoming trip to Southern California which Don is making sure is not a boondoggle but sticks to the mission of getting more clients for the firm.  The impression these Manhattanites have of orange groves, beaches, and lazy afternoons is a real stereotype the East Coast holds about the West even today.  Pete can't wait to get out there, grab his putter, work on his tan, and start making contacts.  Paul Kinsey is also looking forward to the trip, even though it interferes with a planned trip down south to register black voters with his girlfriend Shirley.  Doing something for mankind is good and all, but a chance to rub elbows with Ray Bradbury (who, to name drop, I once sat on a writer's panel with!) can't be passed up.

Later that night, Don gets a call from Betty.  Her father's had a stroke.  Don wants to come in on his white horse and save the damsel, but she tells him it can wait till the morning.  The next day the two of them head up to her father's house to check on his condition.  Betty finds out that this was not her father's first stroke and that his new girlfriend didn't think it was serious enough to tell her about.  Betty is furious - that her father is ill, that her mother isn't there any more, that this witch has moved in and is taking over.

Her father comes downstairs and at first he seems none the worse for wear - until he calls Betty by her mother's name and seems very confused.  It's one of the many small moments that I love in Mad Men.  At first, nothing happens.  The conversation is stilted and superficial, with Betty's brother William and Gloria both making awkward small talk. It's realistic, exactly like that moment would play out.  Later, the chitchat takes a decided turn as Gene suddenly erupts at Don.  He's furious and vicious in his attack on Don and the family take it as another side effect of his stroke, yet they don't realize that he's right on target about Don.  He may have suffered some brain damage, but he still recognizes that there's something wrong with Don.

The profound effect of her father's illness on his perception and personality, along with the emotional toil of facing his mortality, is what likely drives Betty into Don's arms later that night.  But it's just a temporary deviation from the separate path she plans to take from Don.

Pete and Trudy have been trying to add to their family for some time and,
despite their best efforts, Pete has yet to do on purpose what he was so easily able to do by accident with Peggy.  So Trudy suggests they consider adoption.  While at first cool to the idea, Pete does warm up to it and even mentions it to his brother, Bud.  BIG MISTAKE.  Bud blabs to their mom and she refuses to consider handing her inheritance (if you can call a name with no money behind it) to someone who would bring in a child from outside of the family.  Adoption, she reminds him, was something his father called "pulling from the discards."  It's not something their family does.  But then her family also doesn't go broke...or they didn't before now.  The rift between Pete and his family just grows and grows; they don't understand him, appreciate him, or value what he values.  He's a stranger there, yet he doesn't feel at home with Trudy either.

The morning after Betty and Don sleep together, Don wakes up to find Betty gone.  She later lets him know that they are not reconciled and her father's illness has not changed anything between them.  He's there for her as much as he can be, standing by and supporting her as Gene again uncomfortably mistakes her for her mother Ruth, this time with a horrifyingly sexual suggestion.  Yet Betty is so distrustful of Don that even his sympathy for what she's going through is suspect.  Viola, the family housekeeper who Betty seems very close to, gives Betty some growing up advice.  "You are supposed to take care of your husband and your beautiful children now."  But Betty doesn't want to take care of her lying cheating husband and she's not all that interested in being a parent either.  She hasn't really moved beyond being the child herself and does not know how she can handle not being taken care of. Still, she rather be alone than with Don.  So once they get back home, she sends him away, again.

Don comes back to find the office nearly deserted as most everyone is in a conference room celebrating Harry Crane's baby shower.  While Pete is plagued by his inability to get Trudy pregnant, Harry is being feted for planting one in Jennifer.  He takes in quite a haul - cigarettes, coffee, girlie magazines - all the things a new dad needs.  Harry, who's always had a sentimental streak, seems pretty moved by the occasion, despite the efforts of his coworkers to trivialize and mock the moment. As is so often the case, there are great little moments in the scene including Joan bristling when she's reminded of Roger's new lady love (the Tiffany present from Jane..."and Roger") and Peggy and Pete exchanging a brief but to us meaningful look as she hands him a piece of the celebratory cake.

Did you notice how Don zeroed in on the guidebook to Los Angeles when he first arrived back at the office?  Well, Don suddenly cancels all his meetings and tells Joan that he'll be going to LA for the conference. Don has been known to run away from his problems before and so it's not surprising that after being told by Betty that he's still not wanted at home, he decides to fly across the country. Joan relishes the opportunity to tell Paul that he won't be going after all - giving him the bad news in front of everyone at the party.  Maybe Paul will think twice before outing someone's age publicly again.  But you still have to give him credit for trying to make lemonade by quickly calling Sheila and pretending it was his idea to stay and go to Mississippi with her.

Pete needs to confide in Peggy, needs to have some connection with her (if only he knew!).  But Peggy is always so formal with him, he never seems to get the interaction he wants.  He throws out some hints to what's going on with his life, especially his decision whether to adopt or not (again, not realizing how awkward having the conversation with the woman who gave up his child for adoption).  She doesn't know what he's talking about or what he wants, but, sadly for Pete, there's really no one else for him to talk to.

Cue Jaws music.  There's something lurking in the dark, something scary and dangerous.  It's...Glen Bishop.  He's hiding out in the playhouse that Don had built in Season 1 for Sally's birthday.  Glen is in a too typical situation, torn between split homes, feeling like a burden to both parents, and looking for salvation.  As was the case in Season 1, his happiness fantasy is tied to Betty Draper.  In her he finds a kindred childlike spirit and she's as much in need of rescue as he is of someone to save.  Their interactions would be even creepier if Betty weren't such a victim of arrested development and didn't so much appear to be his peer.  But, then, Betty is the adult and she finally acts like one, calling Glen's mother.  He takes it as a betrayal, but it's more likely a sign that maybe Betty knows she needs to grow up. 

When Helen comes to talk with Betty about Glen, their interaction is much different than it's been in the past.  Betty shares with her that she and Don are separated, and this bond brings them closer.  Helen opens up, Betty opens up and each seems to much better understand the other.  Helen has been there and is making it on her own - even if she admits that she's not a very good mother.  Betty is scared about life without Don, but here is someone telling her she can do it. 

Meanwhile, some 30,000 feet overhead, Don is heading for California. "It should be a pleasant day."


Don (to Paul): As much as I'd like to indulge your Twilight Zone fantasy of being shot into space
Sal:  Believe me, it's our fantasy, too.

William:  In New York.  Right.  Where everything's better.

Paul: If you don't mind, I'd rather face Mississippi and those people screaming at me and maybe getting shot after I go to California.

Pete:  What about all that money Dad gave to Lincoln Center? Get that back.
Bud:  You can't take a donation back.

Betty (to William): Stop counting other people's money.

Gene:  Who know what he does, why he does it? I know more about the kid who fixes my damn car.

Gene (to Don):  Nobody has what you have.  You act like it's nothing.  My daughter's a princess.
You know that? ... He has no people! You can't trust a person like that!

Viola:  The minute you leave, you'll remember him exactly the way he used to be.  It's all good outside that door.

Betty (to Don): I know how you feel about grieving.

Betty: Nothing's changed.  We were just pretending.

Betty:  Daddy used to fine us for small talk, remember? Conversation is an art.

Joan: How is everything?
Don: About how those things are.

Paul:  And I want you to know I've thought about it.  Let me finish. I'm going to stand there arm-in-arm with you and make a stand. It's not just about you and me.

Glen:  I didn't know if I was going to see you again.  ... I haven't seen you in so long, except driving down the street.

Glen:  I know I'm a problem for them. ...  I know I am because they keep saying I'm not.

Glen:  I came to rescue you.
Betty:  Did you bring your cape?
Glen:  I'm not joking.  We can go anywhere.  I have money.

Betty: Sometimes I feel like I'll float away if Don isn't holding me down.
Helen:  The hardest part is realizing you're in charge.


Let's run away, "I have money."  I'm not quoting Glen Bishop, but Don Draper in Season 1, Episode 12 "Nixon v. Kennedy."  When backed against a corner by Pete Campbell, Don's answer is to leave everything behind and run off with Rachel Menken.  He's not that much more evolved emotionally than a 12-year-old child of a broken home.

Pete mentions "Rope," the Hitchcock thriller about the murderous University of Chicago students Loeb and Leopold who in 1924 killed a teenager in an attempt to prove they could commit the "perfect murder."  By virtue of the fact that we know their names, suffice to say they were unsuccessful.  But Weiner and Co. must be very fond of the story as this is the second mention (the first being Don referring to Roger and Ken in episode 2.03 "The Benefactor").

Don's comment to Paul and Pete, when it was clear they hadn't read the material Peggy had prepared, was meant as an insult to the boys - "maybe I should send her."  But, maybe he should have.  Had this not been 1962, it would have occurred to him to send his best copywriter, not his most hirsute one. 

Much discussion of mourning and death, obviously:  Bud says, "all we have to do is go over there, get her signature, mourn over the loss of our birthright, and move on."  William says, of their father's home "It's like a tomb in there."  Gloria reminds Gene, "Ruth is dead."  Betty asks of her father, "Is he dying."  Pete mentions not having been on a plane since his father died. 

Though confused by his stroke, Gene has a moment of clarity when he lets rip on Don "the cypher" Draper.  He correctly notes that Don does not appreciate what he has and that he has "no people" and can't be trusted.  It's unfortunate when the sanest comment comes from someone with brain damage.

Love the little moment when Bert Cooper comes into the baby shower party and wishes Harry a Happy Birthday.  Classic.  Also appreciated the call back to Harry and Hildy's one night stand as she drunkenly wishes him the best with his new baby.

The conversation between Pete and Peggy mirrors others they've had in the past, such as when he regaled her with his hunter fantasy in episode 1.07.  

Betty perks up when Glen mentions that his mother Helen doesn't want to be with him, she wants to be with her "boyfriends."  She's always considered Helen to be a slut (a divorced woman!), and after their unfortunate interactions in Season 1, she's happy to hear anything that gives her the upper hand.

There is much gold to mine in the Betty/Glen interactions.  First, where do the writers come up with this stuff.  "G: Can I tell you something? B: Of course. G: I don't like ham. I don't like meat at all, actually."  So random.  But not random is his fantasy of saving Betty, of being the super hero who takes her away from her sadness to a place where they can be together, and happy, forever.  This magical thinking is normal for kids and yet is the kind of magical thinking that Don suffers from.  Whether it's his fantasy of swooping in to win the client or save the day, or his fantasy of pullig up stakes and running away, he's as childlike in his thinking at times as Glen is.  Only, Glen still has the excuse of youth.

When Carla comes home with the kids and asks "how is he," Betty is confused by the question.  She's so entranced by Glen's presence that she seemingly forgot she was just visiting her ailing father.  Carla's offhanded comment "what's he doing here" may have snapped Betty back into reality.

Even strangers find Paul Kinsey boring and pompous.  Imagine that.  His exchange with Hollis on the elevator was priceless.  "Please, Hollis, it's Paul."  What a coincidence the first time he tells Hollis to call him by his first name, Sheila is in the elevator. 

How long has Joan been waiting to get back at Paul for putting up evidence of her age in the breakroom?  She relished the opportunity to tell him that his trip to Los Angeles was canceled.  Let's face it, he had it coming.

Lack of subtlety:
Closeted Sal Romano toasting the new baby: "Here's to the little one, whatever it may be."  We get it, Sal's gay.  Please stop hitting me over the head with obvious nods to Sal's double life.  Also, enough with the "everyone smokes."  I can't imagine even in 1962 someone would joke about hoping their child grew up to like Lucky Strikes.  Although I don't begrudge them showing us people lighting up on the plane as soon as the no smoking sign was turned off. 

Suicide count:
Pete mentions to Peggy that his flight to California crashing "wouldn't be the worst thing."


Betty tells Don, after she finds out about her father's stroke, "You know, I've been dreaming about a suitcase."  That image will come back in Season 4, The Suitcase, when Don has his hallucination of the recently departed Anna Draper - holding a suitcase.   

There are two times that the Draper grandchildren discuss the art of conversation and it was nice how Betty and her brother referenced their father stressing to them the art of conversation.Once was in 2.4 Three Sundays and the other time in 7.3 Field Trip.

Don comes into the office, after being kicked out of the house for a second time by Betty, and walks by the receptionist.  He smiles, "Hello, Donna."  "Allison," she replies.  Sadly this will not be the last, nor most serious, slight she suffers at the hands of Don Draper as their crash-and-burn mini affair will show us in Season 4's Christmas-themed episode.

While Glen is still deserving of his "creepy kid" reputation in this episode, as the series progresses he becomes one of the beacons of sanity, shining a bright spotlight of rationality while others cling to their fantasies.  It's interesting to watch his evolution and growth, while seeing how stagnant others (notably Betty) are over the years.  

In Glen's last interaction with Betty, he comes to say goodbye before he heads off to war. He is 18 now and he still has fantasies of being with Betty, but she explains matter-of-factly that she's married.  She hugs him then and she's scared of what might happen to him in Vietnam, wondering if this would be the last time shed see him.  

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