Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mad Men Season 3, Episode 5: The Fog

Don Draper is told that he's an honest man, Betty Draper has not one but multiple hallucinations of her recently-deceased father, Peggy Olson entertains an offer from the less-recently departed Duck Phillips and Pete Campbell has an awkward conversation with the office elevator operator.  

At the start of the episode, the very pregnant Betty is at Sally's school along with Don as they are being asked to explain Sally's recent bullying behavior.  Betty mentions that Sally's grandfather recently passed away and the fragile Miss Farrell (previously seen gamboling around the maypole) is shaken to hear that her young student has suffered such a loss (and that her parents weren't thoughtful enough to share the news with her teacher).  She relates keenly to such a loss and gently chastises the parents for not realizing how much it has affected their daughter.  Later, she calls the Draper home to apologize for her emotional reaction and it's Don who takes the call from the young teacher who had caught his eye just a few weeks earlier.  Pointedly, when Betty asks who was on the phone, Don does not mention the teacher.

Betty is ready to deliver her third child and she and Don head to the hospital.  This is another chance to show the changes from the 60s, where men were kept away from the delivery room, smoking cigarettes and waiting for the nurse (or in this case the voice of Lisa Simpson) to deliver the news of how their brave gals fared.  There Don meets Dennis Hobart, a nervous first-timer whose emotional vulnerability belies his normal demeanor and chosen profession.  Outside of these walls, he's a tough prison guard at Sing Sing, here he's a whimpering ball of mush.  

Dennis and Don talk and bond over the fatherhood experience and Dennis gets Don to open up some.  He admits to having the nightmare that Dennis claim everyone has of ending up at Sing Sing (Dennis doesn't realize that Don should fear prison as he's AWOL and has assumed another's identity) and he admits to not being as active of a father as he'd like.  Dennis also does some oversharing, letting Don know how lost he'd be without his wife and his fears that if anything happened to her, he couldn't love the child.  

While Don is having this intimate conversation with a stranger, Betty is in the fog that is in the episode's title.  She imagines she sees her father as she's being wheeled down the hospital corridor then has a number of drug-fueled hallucinations not only of her father, but her mother, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers, and a caterpillar that represents her desire to change.  Even while confused, she is able to remember that the Hebrides are islands, not mountains, and she questions one of the nurses whether she's "been with" Don.  

After she gives birth, Don goes back home and has trouble sleeping.  In comes Sally to keep him company.  It's a really sweet scene where Sally shares her concerns about the new baby replacing Grandpa Gene and also mentions her teacher who taught her about addling (which is what that teacher may be doing to Don's mind). Sally craves attention from the adults in her life and clings to it whenever it comes her way, moving from her grandfather to her teacher to Don.

At the office, there are two stories going on.  One revolves around Lane Pryce's obsession about the bottom line. He is there, representing the home office, to make the firm more financially sound, and his plan is to count every penny spent.  Because of this, he conducts interminable meetings going through expense accounts and office costs with an attention to detail that would impress his country's fictitious Sherlock Holmes.  He ingratiates himself to no one by having every expense and cost questioned and focusing on where the money is being spent and not on what the company actually does.  

The other story concerns one of the company's clients, Admiral TV.  They are concerned that sales are flat and they are looking for answers.  Pete Campbell looks at the data and thinks that the answer lies in increasing advertising in areas that have a higher Black population.  The big cities with large percentages of Black residents have shown a spike in sales, so why not go after that market?  Well, the answer is, the Admiral TV executives don't want to cater to, lure or otherwise address that market. When Pete suggests running integrated ads, going after both Whites and Blacks, the executives from Admiral look aghast.  "Is that even legal?" they ask.  

Meanwhile, Duck Phillips, not seen nor heard from since his unsuccessful coup attempt at the end of last season, is back.  He is at another advertising agency, Grey, and he is wooing both Pete and Peggy to come join him with promises of sitting on velvet pillows, being showered with riches and awards. But, while Peggy may be flattered, Pete is insulted that he's not being treated as more important than Peggy.  In his mind, he is a special snowflake and not on the same level as Peggy.  Peggy is not interested in Duck's pitch as she feels some loyalty to Sterling Cooper.  But the conversation with Duck does embolden her to ask for what is rightly hers - a fair salary.

Peggy doesn't realize how bad her timing is coming to ask for a raise while Moneypenny is making Don account for every paperclip his department is using.  But Don doesn't realize that his timing stinks as well now that Peggy is being courted by Duck to leave Sterling Cooper and his refusal to consider her request for a raise is only going to make her more likely to leave.  The conversation they have about her raise is really sad as he clearly does not understand what this matters to her. The country just passed the Equal Pay Act and its premise and goals have not yet filtered down from Washington to Wall Street.  So Peggy leaves, shaken, by Don's insensitivity and unhelpfulness.

Of course, Pete sees her leaving Don's office and has no idea how poorly that meeting went.  He think she'll be able to use Duck's offer and leverage it for a raise or promotion (bless Pete and his ignorance of how people who aren't rich white men are treated).  He (rightly) sees her as valuable, not realizing that Don does not share that opinion - or at least doesn't feel the need to reward her.  In some ways, his fear that Peggy will parlay the interest from Duck into a better deal at SC only highlights to Peggy that she's being mistreated at work.

Pete goes to the woodshed to be flogged for having the temerity to suggest Admiral might want to advertise its television sets to Blacks.  After Roger reads him the riot act, and Bert questions his sanity, Lane (a self-described "stranger in a strange land" observing the US as an outsider) points out that Pete was actually forward thinking and that there is definitely something going on in the states that will change the racial landscape.  So as far as Admiral is concerned, Pete is dead.  But he might be able to sell some other client on his approach in the future.

Change is in the air and not just for race relations.  Betty is changed in some way too as her foggy thoughts have her questioning her life.  Peggy is continuing to change as well as her vision of her future at Sterling Cooper has been rocked.  But in the awkward eye contact between Don and Dennis as they passed in the hospital hallway, not everyone may be willing to change despite their deepest desires.


Betty: I just want to put it behind us.  I just really want everything to be okay when the baby comes.
Suzanne: It's going to be a beautiful summer.

Ken:  What time is it?  What time isn't it.

Don: You came here because we do this better than you, and part of that is letting our creatives be unproductive until they are.

Lane: Pennies make pounds, and pounds make profits.

Don: Think of the men's morale, not just your own.
Lane: You've obviously seen "Bridge on the River Kwai."
Don:  I've seen everything.  You have my ticket stubs

SuzanneI guess I can get a little caught up in things and lose perspective.
I don't know why I'm calling. I'm embarrassing myself.

Don: Our worst fears lie in anticipation.

Betty: I'm just a housewife.  Why are you doing this to me?

Peggy:  You have everything. And so much of it.

Ruth:  Do you see what happens to people who speak up? Be happy with what you have.
Gene:  You'll be okay.  You're a house cat. You're very important and you have little to do.

Hollis: We've got bigger problems to worry about than TV.

Pete: Your decisions affect me.

Roger: Let me put it in account terms.  Are you aware of the number of hand jobs I'm gonna have to give?
Pete:  Am I being taken off the account?

Roger: I'm going to have to pretend I had you killed!
Pete: Sales are flat.  I had to do something.
Roger: I don't know if anyone's ever told you that half the time this business comes down to "I don't like that guy?”
Lane: Are we done with the flogging?
Roger:  It's never as good as you think it's gonna be.


Miss Farrell mentions that Sally was asking questions about the death of Medgar Evers. Evers, a civil rights activist, was assassinated on June 12, 1963 by a white supremacist (who avoided prison after two deadlocked trials, but was finally convicted of the murder in 1994).  Evers comes to Betty in one of her drug-induced hallucinations.  He is seen sitting at the dinner table with her mother Ruth standing behind him.  Ruth warns her daughter that those who speak up end up dead.

When Dennis mentions their baseball team having played the 1929 Yankees, he's referring to the time in September of that year that the Yankees, with their appropriately named Murderer's Row, visited the prison in Osining to play what was reported to be one of the best prison baseball squads in the country.  You can read about the Yankee's visit to Sing Sing, where Babe Ruth was reported to have hit a homerun over 600 feet, here.

There is so much packed into that brief exchange between "Mr. Campbell and Hollis."  Class distinctions, racial disparities, underpinnings of the changes to come.  For someone from old money, Pete is a rather modern, forward-thinking and open to change.  Yet, Pete is focused on the American Dream and Hollis knows that Blacks have bigger problems to deal with before they can get to discussing what TV to buy and the like.

Ken shows off his new watch, a gift from a happy client.  Dennis sees Don's gold watch (which has stopped working in the waiting room) and comments that he'd like to have a gold watch but can't have nice things around the prisoners.

Pete bitterly tells Peggy "your decisions affect me" referring not just to her decision to consider Duck Philips' offer, but more importantly her decision to give up their baby for adoption and not tell him about it for years. Speaking of which, look at Pete's face when Duck tells him that he knows that Pete and Peggy have a secret relationship - only to then presume that Pete worked some magic to get Peggy her (formerly Freddy Rumsen's) job.

No comment about the elevator operator saying every job has its ups and downs.  Just wondering where the rimshot was.

No hospital will let you go home with a baby without an industrial strength car seat - no holding babies on your lap anymore.

Spoiler-y Observations (Do not read until you're caught up):

Suzanne Farrell is seen calling the Draper home after school with her shirt unbuttoned, her bra strap hanging, and holding a drink.  This will not be the last time she does something inappropriate, inexplicable, concerning Don Draper.

Lois Sadler is not seen this episode, but we're told that she caught her scarf in the XEROX machine.  We are foreshadowing her clumsiness, which will come back in a big way in the next episode.

Duck will come back many more times to either poach employees from Sterling Cooper or to organize an attack on the company (or at least Don).  And his collection of ducks will get larger.

Pete is focused on the Black consumer and his interest leads him to be seen in Ep. 3.08 reading Ebony magazine as he continues to think about advertising to this market.

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