Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mad Men Season 3, Episode 4: The Arrangements

The plans, the plans, the plans you make.  Eugene Hofstadt said this near the end of Episode 2 (Love Among the Ruins) and in this episode his plans all come to an end.  He makes his arrangements, despite the fact that his daughter does not want to consider his mortality, and then makes plans with his beloved granddaughter.  But those plans will never be fulfilled and by the episode's end, Don closes up the rollaway bed and the Draper house loses one family member as they come closer to gaining another.

Pope John XXIII is dead so we know it's just after June 3, 1963.  Eight-year-old Sally Draper is driving her grandfather and brother around their neighborhood because that makes about as much sense as someone her age reading the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Grandpa Gene is a representative of the times, when age distinctions were blurred and we didn't shield children from age-inappropriate behaviors.  But he also pays more attention to her than her parents and it must be refreshing for her to be someone's favorite.

Peggy is further distancing herself from the old Peggy, now by planning on moving to Manhattan.  With this her transformation from the repressed, constricted suburbanite to modern woman will be nearly complete.  Her first attempt at her transformation is less that successful as she is too rigid and joyless in her approach to finding a roommate.  The guys decide to have a little fun at her expense by having Don's secretary prank call her.  Eventually, with Joan's help, Peggy manages just the right tone to get the kind of situation more appropriate to someone her age.

At Sterling Cooper, a golden goose has fallen into their lap - a rich client, Horace Cook, Jr., with a crazy obsession, crazier ideas and money burning a hole in his pocket.  A college friend of Pete's, this spoiled rich kid has never heard the word no and expects that with enough money he can buy whatever he wants.  What he wants is to make jai alai the new national sport and its best player a worldwide sensation.  In the meeting with Lane, Paul, Sal and Harry, Horace throws out one implausible idea after another and no one tells him how nutty or impossible they are (other than Paul having to break it to him that CBS does not air its programs in color).  Don walks in and immediately picks up on the loony vibe and makes a little quip, but Lane locks down the money and the meeting ends.

Gene sits Betty down and, after admonishing her against smoking, gets down to the arrangements.  He has everything worked out, who gets who, what will happen to him, after he dies.  Betty does not want to hear any of this.  Gene is tired of her Scarlett O'Hara, fiddle-dee-dee attitude and says that her sheltered nature is why she ended up married to "that joker" and blind to the dangers in the world (again, he means Don).  They get into a tiff, she thinks he's being morbid and selfish and he wants to know that things will be taken care of after he's gone.

Later that night, Gene opens up an old box of memorabilia that he wants to share with Bobby.  Historical pieces and souvenirs of war.  Gene is old school, WWI old school, and he relishes his memories of wartime camaraderie.  Don, AWOL from the Korean conflict, does not share his nostalgia or sentimentality.  And he does not want his son wearing a dead man's hat.  So rather than being a moment for Gene and Don to bond over their shared war experiences, this is another example of the rift between them.

Sal is working late, nervous about his first foray into commercial directing.  Kitty comes on to him in her newest, sexiest piece of lingerie, but Sal is not interested.  "I'm not myself," he tells her, and she has no idea how true that statement is.  Sal is still firmly ensconced in the closet and his work life is not giving him any satisfaction as he worries he's about to become obsolete.  While he doesn't feel that he can do anything about his personal struggles (he can't face them, certainly can't talk to Kitty about them), this is his big chance to make something good happen at work.  And it's scaring the heck out of him.  He enacts the commercial for Kitty, playing the seductive Ann Margret type, and at the end Kitty looks very confused and worried and we're supposed to think that for once she's noticed something is a bit different about her husband.

Don was not at all comfortable with Pete's "fatted calf" client, especially considering that his father is a close friend of Bert Coopers, so a meeting was scheduled between Don, Lane, Bert and Horace senior to discuss the son's plans to spend his millions bringing jai alai to the masses.  Lane tries to pretend that the younger Horace has a great idea, but his father knows that his son is stupid or crazy or both and has no illusions that the money he spends will pay off.  But he gave his son the money and it's his to do with as he pleases.  You can make all the arrangements you want, but ultimately people will decide what they decide.

Gene and Sally bond some more over morning ice cream.  We learn more about Betty's unfortunate relationship with her own mother when Grandpa Gene tells Sally that Grandma Ruth was so worried about Betty getting fat that she would drive her to the store and then make her walk back.  He tells Sally that she's smart, like her grandma, not like her mother.  "You can really do something," he tells her, "Don't let your mother tell you otherwise."  Grandpa Gene the feminist.  We get some foreshadowing of his death when Gene says the ice cream tastes like chocolate, but smells like oranges.

Don and Pete take their new client out to dinner and Horace pays lip service to recognizing that his idea may seem crazy to Don, but it has a 50-50 chance of being successful in his eyes.  Pete says that his own father would have liked those odds and thought this a great investment, which considering his father died broke is probably very accurate.  Don sees another side of young Horace.  Here is a spoiled rich kid who understands how lucky he is and how no one thinks much of him.  But he has a dream of creating something, bigger and better than anything his father created.  He wants to impress his father.  Don tries to caution him against wasting his millions on a pipe dream, no matter how well-intentioned, but Horace will not be dissuaded.

That night, Don can't sleep.  He goes into his office, opens his secret drawer, and pulls out an old black and white photo of a stern-faced Archie and Abigail circa 1928.  Don stares at his father's harsh face.  There was some talk at dinner about fathers and sons, and the dynamic of Horace Jr. trying to come out from under his father's shadow was a major theme.  And, obviously, Betty's father is now a daily presence in his life.  Somehow, all of this has him looking back at this ghost.

The next day, Pete has the contract all ready to be signed which will bring a nice payday to the firm.  He jokes about having spent two years at Dartmouth protecting Horace Jr. from Shylocks, so we see that he has had a gambling problem in the past. It's now just changed from betting on horses to betting on a sport no one has heard of and no one can pronounce.  Also, one you can't play if you're left-handed.

Grandpa Gene is not at school to pick up the kids, eventually Betty comes and brings them home.  At the office, Joan is cleaning up the destroyed ant farm in Lane's office (that Don broke earlier) but she's still having a better day than Sal who presents his commercial to the client, who deems it an utter failure.  Peggy, who never liked the Ann-Margret impersonator idea, walks out of the meeting smugly while Roger points out that you couldn't recreate the magic of the original.

Sally is sitting on the front porch, probably waiting for Grandpa Gene.  Instead it's the police and they bring the news that he passed away while at the A&P (where he was picking up peaches for his favorite grandchild).  Betty goes into the house and leaves the shocked and grieving Sally outside by herself.  She calls Don (who was in a meeting with Sal) and gives him the news.  Don has just enough time to show Sal the silver lining - he may have failed, but he is now a commercial director.

That night, Betty and Don and her brother and sister-in-law are talking about Gene and Sally comes in crying.  She doesn't understand how the grownups can be joking and laughing and ating like nothing has happened.  She has experienced her first loss and she's devastated.  The adults pretty much ignore her, Betty tells her to stop being hysterical and go watch TV and Don doesn't get up and comfort her.  So off she goes to the family room, and settles down in front of the evening news, where she witnesses a monk's self-immolation.  Well, that should make her feel better.

Welcome to the 60s.


Anita: Are you going to be one of those girls?
Peggy: I am one of those girls.

Pete: As they used to say at the freshman mixer.  When you get a "yes," you go home.

Don:  During the Depression I saw someone throw a loaf of bread off the back of a truck.  It was more dignified.

Sal: I'm not myself.

Horace, Sr.:  Should you be lucky enough to strike gold, remember that your children weren't there when you were swinging the pick. ... My son lives in a cloud of success.  But it's my success.
Perhaps when that evaporates and his face is pressed against the reality of the sidewalk he'll be of value to someone.

Gene:  You're smart.  You remind me of your grandma more than your mother. … You can really do something. Don't let your mother tell you otherwise.

Don: Don't stop until you see the whites of his pockets.

Suicide Count:
Gene tells Betty he doesn't like seeing her commit suicide, and neither do her kids.

Whore Count:
Peggy's mother tells her not to become one of those girls.


There was so much parent-child conflict - disapproval and disappointment on both sides. Horace Sr. embarrassed by the windmills-chasing son he has bankrolled, Pete remembering his own irresponsible father, Gene treating Sally as the daughter he (and his late wife) wish Betty had been, Peggy's mother's dismay masking her fear for her daughter's reputation and safety ("you'll get raped"), even Don weighs in by digging that old photo of his father out of hiding.

Thích Quảng Đức was the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in Saigon on June 11, 1963 in protest to the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngô Đình Diệm. This is perhaps the first time that Vietnam may have been on the radar of Americans and was an omen of what was to come. Speaking of Vietnam, Gene talks to Bobby about war, but that was one of the great wars that united all Americans and not a divisive "conflict" that tore the country apart.

The discussion of the furs is very 1960s, back before objections to the fur trade started (a movement which reached its peak in the 80s). Now virtually no one would be caught wearing real fur.

Gene is the first to warn against cigarette smoking, discouraging Betty from lighting up.

Oranges are a sign of death at least as far back as Don Corleone joking around with the orange rind just before he keeled over in The Godfather and Grandpa Gene smells oranges just before his own demise.

Another sign of the times - fresh, raw eggs added table side to your salad, no seat belts in the cars, cigarettes advertised on TV.

Jai Alai did gain some popularity in the sixties as a form of betting, especially in the Miami area. The player that Horace Junior refers to as the Babe Ruth of jai alai was Francisco Maria Churruca Iriondo Azpiazu Alcorta a Basque jai alai player.

Great moment in the first meeting with Horace Junior where Paul is about to say that no one has put a special on all three networks at the same time because it's a ridiculously stupid idea, but he's stopped before finishing his sentence, But Horace's idea of a sports star turned actor is not so far-fetched and it becomes de riguer to see athletes acting on TV and in movies.

It was a cute bit how Peggy tried to warm her mom to the idea of her new roommate by saying she was Norwegian instead of Swedish.  Also, Peggy's very slight smile when the Bye Bye Birdie pitch failed, as she told her male coworkers it would.

Gene settling his affairs so soon before dying is either a coincidence or a sign that he knew his time was running out. But he packed a lot into his last days, sneaking stacks of phone books for Sally to sit on as he taught her to drive, showing Bobby about how to safely open a box while telling him about wartime and its life lessons, and reinforcing his very negative opinion about Don to Betty.

Betty is seen at the end, eating the peach that her father had bought for Sally just before he died.

Spoilery observations (Don't read until you're caught up):

When Don packs up Grandpa Gene's bed we see the crib for the new baby.  Although Betty refers to the baby as a girl her instincts are wrong and it will be a boy - whom she will name after her father

The failure of his first commercial outing is just the latest of the bad things that happen to Sal this season.  He's about to have an overlap between his personal and professional life that leaves him on the outside looking in.

Horace Sr. and Bert Cooper have the following exchange (concerning Horace's son): 
H: When we put that money aside for him, he was a little boy.  We didn't know what kind of person we were making.  B: Don't be so hard on yourself.H:  Easy for you to say.  He doesn't have your name.
Bert Cooper never had any children, though he was something of a father figure to Roger.  But he was the father of Sterling Cooper and that agency did have his name through it's many changes.  At times, Bert was not happy with the company that bore his name, so he could relate to that feeling of disappointment.  He became exceptionally irritated with Don, in particular, by Season 7.

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