MAD MEN: “The Color Blue”
Read on for my recap and review of Mad Men 3×10, aired October 18th, 2009:
“How do I know if what I see is blue is the same as it is to you?”
This episode marked an important turning point for Mad Men. Betty has learned the truth about her husband—that Don Draper is, in fact, Dick Whitman. She wasn’t intentionally snooping. Don left the key to his secret drawer in his bathrobe, and Betty found it while doing laundry. The box she uncovers contains photos of young Dick, along with two sets of dog tags: Don Draper and Dick Whitman. She also finds evidence of a previous Mrs. Draper, and a divorce certificate to boot. After uncovering this life-changing secret, she sends the kids out with Carla. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the episode, wondering whether Betty would confront Don. She sits up late that night, with the box, her wine, and a cigarette. If Don had come home, instead of spending the night with his newest mistress and her brother, Betty would have confronted him. But he didn’t, so she didn’t, and she puts the box away. She even replaces the key in Don’s robe, covering up any evidence of her discovery.
Meanwhile, Don continues his affair with Suzanne Farrell. When the two are in bed together, she tells him about one of her students, who asked her an intriguing question: “How do I know if what I see is blue is the same as it is to you?” Don: “What did you say?” Suzanne: “The truth. I don’t know. I never have. But I love that he made me think about that again. What would you have said?” Don: “I would have told Charlie that my job is about boiling down communication to its essentials. And that I know that there is a blue that at least 45% of the population sees is the same.” Suzanne: “Maybe half those people think they’re looking at yellow.” Don: “Maybe. The truth is people may see things differently, but they don’t really want to.” Suzanne: “Do you feel bad about what you do?” Don: “Nobody feels as good about what they do as you do.” Don likes her job—he thinks it makes her pure. He also likes her “long curly hair”—“no one has that anymore.” I guess Don is really going to like the late 60s and 70s, and will have a field day with all the gorgeous hippies.
Suzanne’s brother interrupts their date, and Don does not handle it well, at first. Suzanne seems to really be taking this affair seriously, and is falling in love with Don. She is bound to have her heart broken. She insists that Don meet her brother, who, as we learn, has epilepsy. He explains his head injury: “Apparently I’m too dangerous to push a cart in a public library.” Don can’t get out of there fast enough, and won’t kiss her goodbye in front of the brother. Suzanne tells her brother that this means that Don is “private,” while the brother argues that he is “arrogant.” He’s both, plus a lot of other things—they have no idea.
Suzanne later surprises Don by showing up on his train ride to work. He is not thrilled and asks her if she was the one who called his house and hung up (there was a subplot involving a mysterious hang up—Henry Francis also denies being the culprit). She says no, and starts to get angry: “I don’t care about your marriage, or your work, or any of that, as long as I know that you’re with me.” A bit naïve—all those things that she doesn’t care about make up his life. She tells Don that she found her brother a job, so he’ll be gone tonight and Don can come by. Don is desperate to avoid anything that will spoil his perfect fantasy, so he annoyingly asks: “Are you sure?”
When Don does returns to Miss Farrell’s house that night, her brother is still there. Suzanne was about to drive him to Bedford, Massachusetts for his job, but Don offers to do it instead. While on the way, the little brother wants Don to stop, so that he can get out. He doesn’t want to clean toilets for the rest of his life: “I’m not retarded. Julius Caesar had epilepsy—he ran Rome.” Don tells him that he can change—pull himself up by the bootstraps. The brother explains that he can’t: “I am afflicted, ok? It’s not a question of will—I can’t change that.” Don relents, and lets the guy out. Don also offers his card, and tells the kid to call him, if he needs to. Then Don goes back to Suzanne and lies to her. The interchange between Don and the young Farrell brother is interesting in contrast to his relationship with his own brother—the brother whom Don refused to see, and who ended up killing himself. It seemed like Don was looking for some redemption for his own fraternal failings, by helping out Suzanne’s brother.
Back at Sterling Cooper, creative was concerned with coming up for an Aqua Net ad. Peggy outdoes Kinsey in front of Don, so he confronts her later. Kinsey: “I don’t need you to put your little swirl on top of my idea.” Peggy: “No one’s keeping score.” Kinsey: “I am. And every time we work together it looks like you carried the load, because you’re spontaneous, and you’re a girl, and you’re his favorite, and you use Aqua Net.” Peggy: “I am not. He hates me.” Kinsey: “That’s rich! Wearing a dress isn’t going to help you with Western Union. You do your work and I’ll do mine. Let the chips fall where they may.” Both Kinsey and Peggy try to come up with something, but neither have much luck. Kinsey gets drunk, and eventually is inspired with a great idea, after talking to the janitor Achilles. Unfortunately, he doesn’t write it down before drinking even more whiskey and passing out.
The next day, Kinsey is frantic, trying to remember his idea, but no luck. When Peggy hears what happened, she’s incredibly sympathetic: “Oh, I hate that.” She says hers is garbage too, but comforts her colleague in the knowledge that they’ve failed before. Kinsey mentions a Chinese saying: “The faintest ink is better than the best memory.” There’s the ad campaign right there, but they have yet to realize it. The two go to Don’s office, and Peggy begins listing the advantages of the telegram. When Don reprimands Kinsey for not contributing, Peggy sticks up for him, and fills Don in on the lost idea. Instead of rolling his eyes, Don is also incredibly sympathetic—this has clearly happened to him. Peggy gets inspired and explains that Kinsey’s quote (“The faintest ink is better than the best memory”) has got her thinking. You call, and then it’s gone, but it’s different if you send a telegram. A telegram is permanent. Don interjects: “You can’t frame a phone call.” All the while, Kinsey looks at Peggy in awe, and remarks: “Oh my God.” Peggy is good, better than Kinsey will ever be, and he knows it.
Lurking in the background throughout the episode is the upcoming Sterling Cooper 40th Anniversary party. Bert Cooper doesn’t want to dwell in the past, and decides not to attend. Don will be awarded, and must give a speech. The London owners call Lane Pryce, and insist that Bert Cooper attend the party: “We’re flying across the pond. We expect all the flowers in the vase.” They explain to Pryce that now that Sterling Cooper is profitable, it is up for sale to the highest bidder. Mr. Price confronts Bert and appeals to his vanity: “Your absence will make everybody think you are ill.” Bert: “Who told you I was vain?” Pryce: “Please. It’s obvious.” Hehe.
Finally, the day of the anniversary dinner arrives. Pryce’s wife is thrilled to learn about the sale of Sterling Cooper, as this could mean a return to London, her home which she has been missing ever since the move. Roger Sterling’s mom attends with her son and daughter-in-law, but she doesn’t recognize Jane, and calls her Margaret (Roger’s daughter’s name). When Roger corrects his mother, she asks: “Does Mona know?” Ha!
On a less amusing note, Betty prepares for the party. She now knows that Don has a double life, but she has already moved past the stage when she was going to confront him. After last night’s shock, she tries to get out of the dinner, but Don insists. He wants to show her off. Betty has to put on her happy face, put on a pretty dress, and go to the dinner. At the dinner, Roger introduces Don in glowing terms, describing all of his many accomplishments. All the while, Betty knows this is a lie, and the episode closes on her face. To tie this into the beginning of the episode, Don is like the color blue, and we all see different things when we look at him. Betty wants to see what everyone else sees, but she no longer can—her eyes have been opened.
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