Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mad Men Season 3, Episode 11: The Gypsy and the Hobo

"I can explain." - Don Draper.

Don has the special ability to make so many women in his life unhappy at the same time.  His wife discovers she's been living with a stranger while his girlfriend discovers she's fallen for someone incapable of having a meaningful relationship with anyone.  He's not real, he's just a construct - a person he created and has been playing for so many years.  What happens when the facade is torn down and the real person has to answer for himself is what we see this episode.  And it's not a pretty picture. At least Sally still loves him.

Roger has a tense reunion with an old flame and Joan discovers that she cannot depend on her husband.  But the meat of the episode is in that drawer that has been seen off and on throughout the series.  Don's private space, where he keeps his secrets, set in his office in the middle of the home he shares with his family.  Was he being reckless, was there any subconscious desire to be found out?  Betty for the most part ignored his office, his desk, his drawer and respected his privacy for all the years they've lived in that house.  As she said, she could have had a locksmith in there any time she wanted.  But she never cared enough to probe.  Why now?  Was it because of her thoughts turning to Henry Francis?  Was she hoping to find something on Don in that desk (remember how she unsuccessfully dug for evidence of his cheating back in season one)?  She hit the pay dirt when she opened that drawer and, as she tells her lawyer, she's been in a dream state since the discovery, not knowing what to do now that she knows.

"I can explain," says Don.  Over and over, faced with his greatest fear.  He goes off to get himself a drink and Betty assumes the clever adman is trying to think of a pitch.  He can sell anything, he's a "very, very gifted storyteller."  But this is not the suave adman, she's getting a rare glimpse at the scared man who's been living a lie and fearing being discovered for years.   Only when she sees him sweating and fumbling with his cigarettes does she start to see that he's dissembling in front of her.  This is not the cocky Don Draper, all swagger and confidence.  This is something new.  He offers a rare glimpse behind the curtain and for one night only he'll answer any of her questions.  "I'm not going anywhere."

Or course, even in Don's confession, he can't tell the whole truth.  He tells Betty the circumstances of how he became Donald Draper leaving out that it was he who switched the dog tags to create the confusion. The explosion may have been an accident, but the identity theft was not.  And he still manages to stir some sympathy from here, even when confessing to a criminal act and other betrayals, including ignoring his own half-brother and driving him to suicide.  But this is the most open we've seen him with Betty and also a reminder that she married and had three kids with someone who she barely knew.

As Don goes through the shoe box that contains all that he has of his past, he tells Betty some of his past.  As angry as she is by his betrayals and lies, she also feels compassion.  Despite herself, she feels for him.  This must have been a great weight to bear, and in some ways Betty may be relieved to finally have her questions about her mysterious husband answered.   And, with his discussion about turning away his half-brother, she sees the lengths Don went to to keep his family intact.

Despite her sympathy for Don's sad tale, there is no way to ignore that he never opened up to her, hid some major truths from her, and was living a lie every day they were together.  Whether he felt he had no other choice or whether there was never a good time, the fact remains that he kept a significant part of his life secret from her. There is no question that if she was looking for a loophole to give herself permission to fall for Henry Francis, she now has one.  The next morning, the shaky, scared Dick Whitman has put on his Donald Draper suit and is back to the stylish, poised cipher he was before the big reveal.  He goes to work and them comes home to escort his children as they go trick or treating.

In other parts of the Sterling Cooper orbit, Joan reaches out to Roger to help find her a job after Greg tanks his interview to switch from surgery to psychiatry.  Roger's ego has been stroked but good this episode with Annabelle coming back to admit she was wrong to choose someone else and Joan turning to him when she needs help.  Joan, on the other hand, is more and more frustrated that her husband is not living up to her expectations.  He never confides in her or asks for her help, he just goes off and makes unilateral decision after unilateral decision.  This time, it's to join the army so he can still be a surgeon (where he can perform the meatball surgery they used to talk about on MASH, no doubt).  Joan is supposed to just be thrilled with this, but it's just another sign of Greg's indifference to her needs.   

Roger is happily newly married to Jane and so the visit from his old flame merely stirs up old hurts and gives him a chance this time to come out on top.  We do learn a little more about Roger thanks to her - that he was something of a spoiled, directionless playboy and she left him for someone solid who could take over her father's business.  But Roger feels as if he manned up after that, marrying and going off to fight WWII.  Still, there are signs of the dilettante in Roger that even his service may have not overcome.

Suzanne Farrell is a tragic character, but the tragedy is of her own doing.  While chafing at the fathers of her students often propositioning her, she nevertheless sent out vibes to Don which he picked up.  She was willing to be his "other woman" and to go so far as to plan a weekend getaway with the married father of her former student.  That she was left alone in the car when he was surprised at home, forced to do a special walk of shame, and given no explanation was sad.  So too was her concern for Don's well being.  But when she asked if her job was in jeopardy, there was realization that she broke the rules as well and was far from blameless.

At the end of the episode, when Don and Betty take the kids trick or treating after Don's revelation, Francine's husband Carlton does not realize what a loaded question he asks when he looks at Don and asks, "And who are you supposed to be?"  Who indeed.


Annabelle Mathis of Caldecott Farms  has some history with Roger.  She knew him some twenty years ago and they had a relationship, but she left Roger for a man who would go run her father's company.  They have dinner and rehash the past.   She sees their story like "Casablanca," where Ingrid Bergman leaves the rogue (Humphrey Bogart) she really loves to go off with the hero.  Roger sees it differently, that she left him for the rich guy while he stayed behind, married Mona and went off to fight the Japanese.  He's bitter and she's surprised that they don't see the past the same.  She thinks she can come back, more than 20 years later, say she made a mistake and everything will be fine.  All will be forgiven and Roger will leave his new barely out of her teens bride for him.  But Roger tells her, it's too late.  

When Annabelle mentions her husband passed away at 51 from lung cancer, we cut to Don lighting up and looking just a tad guilty.  

Don gives another hint to his true roots, admitting to Annabelle that he'd eaten horse meat (something that drew a surprised look from cultured city boy Roger).

The Caldecott client is a call back to the first time we meet with Lucky Strike. Both companies are troubled by the public perception of their product (even though their products are no different than their competitors), both need to find ways to separate themselves and get the public's acceptance.  Don was successful re-imagining Lucky Strikes with "It's Toasted," but lost his magic this time around.  His only answer for her company was his only answer for himself - change the name.  The old name will never work, you can start fresh with a new one.  That is not what Annabelle wanted to hear and she leaves unsatisfied with everything Sterling Cooper has to offer. 

They reference the 1961 movie "The Misfits" which raised concerns about horses being used in dog food.  The movie is most notable as the first and only pairing of screen legends Clark Gable (who died before the movie came out) and Marilyn Monroe (who died not long after).   Their costar, Montgomery Clift, died in 1966.  His last known conversation was with his assistant who told him The Misfits was on TV and asked if Monty wanted to watch it. He answered, "absolutely not."  He was found dead in his bed the next day.

Woolworths was one of the country's biggest and first "five-and-dime stores" and launched the retail store trend that gave us WalMart and Target and the like today.  They are no longer in business under that name, but the company continues today as Foot Locker.

Don is once again talking about running away (which we learned about in the Hobo Code which this episode's title references in part) with a free-spirited, curly brown haired woman (like Midge, and somewhat like the more rigid Rachel Menken).  He has a type.

Back in the '60s it was not automatic for divorced women to get custody, nor to get an even share of the marital assets.  Also, you could not get a "no fault" divorce and needed grounds like abuse or adultery.

Greg reveals some secrets from his past - that his father had a nervous breakdown.  Behind every abusive a-hole is there something like this that they're hiding about themselves.

Everyone in the episode wants to run away from the past and not be reminded of their failures.  It reminds me of Jackson Browne's song "These Days" - Please don't confront me with my failures

I had not forgotten them.

More back-story for the Mad Men timeline.  "You divorced her on Valentine's Day 1953, we were married three months later."  


Suzanne:  I look at your life.  And even if I remove myself from the picture, I see a man who is not happy.
Don:  I'm happy now.

Suzanne:  I just wanted more than I thought I would want.  But it'll pass.  Actually, I know for a fact it will.
Don:  I don't want it to pass.

Betty:  I feel like I've been in some dream since I found out.

Roger:  We were not in Casablanca.  The only similarity is that you left me for another man.

Annabelle:  You were adrift. You didn't do anything but spend money.You walked around like you were hoping to be a character in somebody else's novel.

Roger:  I finally found a beautiful carefree girl. Unconcerned about the future.

Greg: Hey, you don't know! You don't know what it's like to want something your whole life, to plan for it, to count on it and not get it!

Peggy:  Dogs don't like uniforms.

Roger:  Do you want to know if you broke my heart? Obviously.

Annabelle: You were the one.
Roger:  You weren't.

Don.  I can explain.
Betty: I know you can.  You're a very, very gifted storyteller.

Don: Where do you want me to start?
Betty: What's your name?
Don:  Donald Draper.  But it was Dick Whitman.

Betty:  Why didn't you tell me? Why couldn't you tell me any of this?
Don:  When? The day we met? On our first date? On our wedding night?
Don: Why did you need to know?
Betty:  You don't get to ask any questions. You have a family.
Don:  No, I don't.

Betty:  I knew you were poor.  I knew you were ashamed of it.  I see how you are with money.
You don't understand it.
Don:  I was very poor.

Betty: What would you do if you were me?  Would you love you?
Don: I was surprised that you ever loved me.

Betty:  You lied to me every day.  I can't trust you.  I don't know who you are.
Don:  Yes, you do.

Don:  He came to me because he wanted help and I turned him away.  He didn't even want help.
He just-- He just wanted to be part of my life And i couldn't risk all of this.

Greg:  I've been an ass, Feeling sorry for myself because I couldn't solve this problem. And it was so easy, Joanie.  The answer was right in front of me.  I joined the army, Joanie. ...
Please tell me this will make you happy, because it will make me happy to give you everything you want.

Suicide mention:
"People were jumping out of windows."

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

It doesn't take long for Betty to see this ultimate betrayal as a good opportunity for her to finally do what she's wanted since she was first swept off her feet by Henry Francis.  The lawyer she speaks with in this episode eventually helps her make the necessary arrangements.

We don't know if Roger was more loyal to Jane or more resentful of Annabelle, but he did stay on the faithful path for a while.  But Joan clearly still had a place in his heart and they would hook up again as both their marriages fell apart.

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