Friday, February 27, 2015

Mad Men Season 3 Episode 7: Seven Twenty Three

Three people, three very different mornings.  We'll find out how each of them ended up where they are by the end of the episode.  Peggy Olson is asleep, naked - her clothes tossed haphazardly on the floor - lying next to some man, Betty Draper is her perfectly put together self, luxuriating on a plush couch, and Don Draper wakes up on the floor of some unknown room. empty bottles and a bloodied face letting us know he likely had the worst night among the three of them.

Before we know where he is or what happened, we flash back to the start of the day when Don was freshly scrubbed and ready for the day. Throughout the episode we are teased by the karmic payback that apparently befalls Don as we witness one after another of the reasons he probably deserves what he gets.

At home Betty and her interior decorator are working on the family room and Don is bored and disinterested as usual.  The new styling has mix of Western and Asian influences, the latter a major theme of Bert Cooper's office.  The decorator refers to the area in front of the fireplace as the hearth, the soul of the home.  It is there that Betty later places the oversized piece of furniture that reminds her of a man not her husband.   

Don strolls into work at 9:30 and sees the Greek chorus gathered around his secretary's desk. Conrad Hilton has parked himself in Don's office.  He is playing with Don like a cat bats around a mouse before devouring it. He's cryptic and toying and only after making the usually unflappable Don sweat he tells him that he wants to offer Sterling Cooper some of his NY business.  But first, he phrases it as having unmet needs and what one does about a wandering eye, as if he were confessing to philandering and not offering up a piece of his business.  His unannounced arrival and misleading discussion all make Don squirm - and Connie seems to enjoy watching Don's discomfort.

News of landing part of the Hilton account would be a source of celebration for most admen but it starts a series of escalating problems for Don.  To land the account Don will have to sign a contract and the boy who grew up with the hobo code is not one to be tied down to a contract.  The push to get Don to sign a three-year contract with Sterling Cooper become the focal point of the episode with him running away from his responsibilities both figuratively and literally, being visited by ghosts from his past, abusing his co-workers, and being irresponsible.

Elsewhere, Betty is suddenly overcome with civic pride and wants to take an active role in local politics - which has nothing at all to do with the entry into her life of the dashing politician Henry Francis.  One of the ladies is familiar with Henry, familiar enough to realize that the porcelain beauty Betty Draper is the perfect person to contact him and ask for a favor.  Betty calls him and they meet to discuss whether he can help with a proposed water tower, but the meeting has little to do with politics and everything to do with Betty's strong attraction to this mysterious older man.

At Sterling Cooper, both Pete and Peggy try and talk their way onto the new Hilton account, with little luck.  Don is not feeling in a particularly benevolent mood and views the employee's jostling to get onto the account as unseemly.  He offers a carrot to Pete, telling him that if he brings in North American Aviation they can talk about Hilton.  But Peggy only gets the stick as he is unnecessarily rude to her when she asks to be put on the account.

Don's timing is as bad as his treatment of Peggy, because she is being wooed by Duck Philips to leave Sterling Cooper.  Duck sends gifts to both Peggy and Pete, trying to get both of them to jump ship.  But only Peggy is interested in considering his offer, especially after Don berates her for asking to be considered for the new account.  Eventually, she takes Duck up on his offer, but not to leave Sterling Cooper, just to go into his bed.  She'll get back at Don any way she can, even if she's not yet ready to leave for another firm.

Don drags his feet about signing the contract and Roger tries to involve Betty to get Don to give in (after his own attempts to get Don to sign fell flat).  That was a huge miscalculation on Roger's part as Betty does not have that kind of power over her husband.  Instead, they get into a fight and he storms off into the night, where he's about to s meet up with the missing pieces of the cosmic puzzle that ends up with him bloodied and bruised, face down on a strange floor.

He finds two hitch hikers and picks them up.  He is swept up in their story of running off and evading their responsibilities.  Dick Whitman would approve.  He sees himself as like minded, another free spirit, going wherever he wants, and doesn't see himself as they see him, the button-downed establishment figure.  They drug him and rob him and before he is knocked out, he has a vision of his father telling a joke about a hillbilly and mocking Don for his white collar life.

Don's efforts to run away from his problems were unsuccessful and he ends up back at the office on the date in the episode's title, July 23, 1963. He finds Bert Cooper in his office this time and Bert has an ultimatum.  Don has to sign the contract.  Bert knows Don's secret and uses that knowledge to get what he wants.  Yet, in some way he gives Don an out: "After all, when it comes down to it, who is really signing this contract anyway?"  He signs, but with the provision that he never has to talk to Roger (who's taking the brunt of Don's anger) again.

We're so used to the calm, unflappable Don Draper, it's odd seeing him nervous and unsettled.  But he is both with Conrad Hilton.  The man he had such an easy rapport with at the country club now makes him so uneasy.  He is on the defensive and off-kilter, and much of that was of Connie's doing.  He walks in unexpectedly and plops himself down in Don's chair, sizing him up, finding fault in his tardiness, his office.  Then he proceeds to pretend to discuss his persona sex life with Don.  Connie enjoys the power he has over Don, seeing him sweat, making him jump on command.  After that interaction, it's not surprising that Don has visions of his abusive father later that day in a drug-induced hallucination.

There was a solar eclipse on July 20, 1963, and here's a Life magazine photo of people using the camera obscura fashioned out of boxes back then:
The eclipse would have hit its peak at about 4:30 PM Eastern that day.

Peggy must have a serious case of whiplash.  When she fought to be a copywriter and asked for her own office, she was applauded and rewarded.  Now, when she asks to be put on the Hilton account she is lambasted for asking for something and told to just do her job and keep quiet.  Be a good girl, don't make waves, don't stand up for yourself, don't ask for what you want (remember how harshly Don took her asking for a raise).  She wants to stay loyal to Don, but he's making it very difficult by treating her like crap.

The music over the closing credits was Tennessee Ernie Ford's version of the song "Sixteen Tons" which tells the story of a rough-living coal miner who has no life of his own as he "sold his soul to the company store."  By contrast, by signing his contract, Don got a nice fat pay day in exchange for a mere three year commitment.  But, despite the money, Don feels as under the thumb as the poor coal miner.

There was a reservoir built in Ossining, next to Pleasantville Road.  And Brookside Elementary is the local elementary school (though Miss Farrell is fictitious).  The neighbor who mentioned "Silent Spring" is referring to the 1962 book that caused widespread concern about the use of pesticides in the environment and helped jump start the pro-ecology movement of the 60s that continues today.

Both Don and Betty are coy about their relationships with the rich and powerful.  Don doesn't let Roger know that he met Connie at Roger's party (instead making it look as if the meeting was all Don's doing) and Betty does not let on that her acquaintance of Henry came from some serious flirting on both their parts.  Although, the lady who claims to know of Henry Francis was quite sure that a young, attractive woman like Betty would stand a better chance asking for his help.

Did you notice the look Allison gives Don when he tells her to hold his calls?  She recognizes how nervous he is, how important this meeting is for him, and she finds it cute how hard Don is trying to impress Conrad Hilton.


Roger: I watched the sunrise today; I couldn’t sleep.
Don: How was it?
Roger: Average.

Connie: I don’t know what I’m more disturbed by, the fact that you don’t have a bible or that there’s not a single family photo.
Don: I’m easily distracted.
Connie: You should have those things.   They’ll make you feel better about what you do.  Start showing up on time. 

Don: Maybe I’m late because I was spending time with my family reading the bible.   

Connie: Having me in your life is gonna change things.
Don: I look forward to it.
Connie: They always say that.

Betty:  It's three years, Don. What's the matter?  You don't know where you're going to be in three years?

Bert: Would you say I know something about you, Don?
Don: I would.

Bert. Then sign.  After all, when it comes down to it, who is really signing this contract anyway?

Suicide watch: 
I cannot believe you just had a baby and you redid your house.  Are you suicidal?

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

Betty jiggles one of the drawers in the study and that drawer becomes Chekhov's drawer and the pay off is only a few episodes away.

Roger was jealous when Ogilvy (David Ogilvy of Ogilvy and Mather) got his autobiography published (in 1963) and it encouraged him to write his own, "Sterling's Gold."

Francine is quoted saying "real estate, that's scary."  A silly line, but funny in light of the fact that Francine eventually becomes a successful realtor.

We'd already seen some attraction between Sally's teacher and Don and their little dance today only solidified that it is something on both of their minds.  Most of the women we've seen Don with up to this point have been strong and confident and independent, but Suzanne seems different - defensive, on edge.  It's possible that all of the dads at her school are coming on to her, but it's also possible that she's attracted to Don and trying to flirt with him or see if the feeling is mutual and is just not very good at it.

Betty is clearly smitten with Henry Francis and we know that the relationship will be more than just a momentary distraction or flirtation.  He treats her like she is not treated anymore by Don.  Henry puts her on a pedestal, adores her, finds everything about her fascinating.  He protects her and thinks about what she wants.  He is also older and self-confident and very much a father figure as much as a romantic figure for her.

Don pesters Pete about nailing down Northern American Aviation, yet it is later the government background check that leads Don to almost run away for the millionth time, fearing his secret will finally be revealed.  And speaking of secrets, while Bert has had no reason to remind Don that he knows the truth, Bert finds the right time to pull that out whenever he needs Don's obedience.

Don does eventually go along with tradition and put some family photos on his desk, but never a Bible.

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