MAD MEN: “The Grown Ups”
Read on for my recap & review of Mad Men episode 3×12, aired November 1st, 2009:
Since season 3 of Mad Men is taking place in 1963, and we learned awhile ago that Margaret Sterling had set her wedding date for November 23rd, we knew that this episode was coming. The assassination of JFK was bound to be covered on this show, and it was handled in true Mad Men style. This episode was thought provoking, shocking, sad, confusing, and even, at times, humorous. I’m not old enough to have lived through the assassination, but the depiction of this life-changing event rang true to me, and left me with a much more powerful sense of how the president’s death affected the country.
The episode opened on Pete, who was sitting in his office, wearing his coat and shivering with cold. His secretary, Hildy, brings him hot cocoa, and Pete, of course, complains about its quality. He points out that it’s instant, made with water and not milk. As rude as he is, he has a point. Any instant food or drink that gives you a choice between water and milk requires milk–accept no watery substitutions. Anyway, they’re both cold and wrapped in coats, as it seems that the heat went out in the building. Pete eventually apologizes to Hildy, before leaving his office to meet with Mr. Price.
Unfortunately for Pete, his meeting with Lane Price does not go as well as hoped. Price tells him that Mr. Cosgrove will be Senior Vice President in charge of Account Services. Pete will be Head of Account Management. This means that Ken has been promoted, in lieu of Pete. Price says this doesn’t mean he hasn’t been doing his job well, so Pete asks what this decision was based on. Price tells Pete that he does an excellent job meeting his clients’ needs, “but Mr. Cosgrove has the rare gift of making them feel like they have no needs.” Instead of spontaneously combusting in anger and disappointed entitlement, Pete is pretty calm. Price commends him for taking the news so well, and Pete shakes his hand rather than storming out. Shocking. Pete walks back to his office distraught, and glares at Ken, who’s helping a secretary out with a space heater. We really haven’t seen Ken in a while, but that’s pretty much all the attention he gets in this episode. Pete only goes into his office to get his briefcase, and then heads out. He tells Hildy that he doesn’t feel well.
Cut to Peggy and her new roommate, whom I will call Daisy. That’s her character’s name on Bones, and we don’t hear her name once in this episode, so she could very well be named Daisy. The ladies are coming back from lunch, and this is probably my favorite scene of the episode. There is just so much information about single women’s attitudes and expectations packed into this little conversation, and I find it fascinating. Peggy: “Why did you pick that place? I don’t know why a lunch counter is any better than eating at your desk.” Daisy: “Well you could have joined me for a drink.” Peggy: “I can drink at my desk if I want to, and I’m not out $1.25.” True, Sterling Cooper does have a well-stocked bar, and I guess now that Peggy’s not a secretary she’s allowed to drink with the boys. Daisy: “I’m sorry that I’m not as stimulating a lunch companion as Doug.” Ha! Peggy corrects her, and tells her that it is Duck. She should just pretend that his name is Doug, because that would be less embarrassing. Daisy doesn’t care what is name is, as she doesn’t like his aftershave. Peggy senses Daisy’s dislike, and asks what’s wrong with him. Daisy: “Nothing. I don’t even know why I’m weighing in about men right now.” To this, Peggy hilariously replies: “I think it’s good that you’re being picky, finally.” Wow. Just, wow. Daisy points out the limitations in the market: “Well there’s nothing around but married ones. I mean, we can’t all throw caution to the wind.” Peggy clarifies that Duck’s not married, which shocks Daisy: “Oh. Then why are you with him?” Um, what? Wow, again. I really need to hear more of their conversations, as they are fascinating together.
Cut to Roger’s daughter Margaret, and his ex-wife Mona. They are preparing for the wedding. Margaret is unhappy because Jane bought her expensive new blue earrings. Whatever. Mona says that Jane’s trying, which just makes Margaret mad that her mom always takes Jane’s side. Margaret complains that Jane has been giving her marriage advice: “Don’t go to bed angry. Let them do what they want. Dress sexy.” That would be a tad disturbing, so I can’t fault Margaret for being grossed out, but the brat goes a little overboard: “It’s disgusting. Doesn’t she know that? That she ruined my life.” Mona reminds her that her father had a part in that. Thank you, Mona, for being the voice of reason. Honestly, she is my favorite character in this episode. Margaret knows that her dad is to blame, and hints at both embarrassment in front of her in-laws, and worry about her fiancée Brooks’ faithfulness. Mona tells her daughter that Brooks is different, but Margaret is still on the self-pity train. She sobs: “I don’t want to get married. Everything’s pointing to the fact that I shouldn’t. And everybody knows. Brooks knows. His mother knows. You know what she said to me? She said ‘In India, if the wedding doesn’t take place at the appointed hour, they burn the bride.’” Mona offers the best line of the episode: “Just because she went to India, doesn’t mean that she’s not an idiot.” I’m telling you—Mona is the MVP of this episode. Margaret continues with threats of calling off the wedding: “Jane, if she’s coming, I’m not going.” Mona sets her daughter straight: “She’s coming, because your father’s coming and he paid for everything. You’re having the wedding. The bride will not be burned. Turn those earrings into a tea service or something.” Ha! Mona proceeds to tell her whining daughter that she’s babbling and acting like a child, and orders her to go to her room.
Margaret proves her mother right by calling her father to intervene. She whines to Roger, and says that she doesn’t like Jane, though she doesn’t refer to her specifically by name. Roger demands to speak to Mona, and tells his ex-wife: “Well, first of all, tell the bride that everything’s copasetic. We both agree that she’s nuts and she should shut up.” Is he referring to Jane or his daughter? Hehe. Mona relays this message if far kinder and explanatory terms. Roger then says that if Margaret wants to cancel the wedding, the cost will come out of her inheritance. Mona turns to her daughter and tells her that the wedding is off. Margaret is somewhat chastened, so Mona asks, “Do you want to cancel it or not?” Margaret says no. Mona: “Then go eat something. I’m not taking that dress in again.” Mona then asks Roger why Jane got her such an expensive gift, and we learn that Roger didn’t even know they saw each other. Mona expresses that she can’t wait to get her daughter out of there. Roger asks if everything is ok and she laughs—interestingly, this question and answer is repeated later in the episode, in his phone call to Joan. Mad Men does love its parallels.
After he hangs up with Mona, Roger is angry and yells for Jane. Jane, by the way, was wearing a fabulous red suit with leopard print trim, and looked great. Roger tells her that she overdid it with the gift. She says that she’s sorry but that she just wanted to make amends. Roger: “Why the hell are you even talking to her? You’re screwing things up.” Jane: “I’m tired of the awkwardness. And I’m trying to be nice. And I don’t know what kind of world you live in, but I’m the good person here.” Roger: “You’re not good, because you didn’t listen to me. And you really upset her.” Up until this point, I really felt for Jane, but then she goes a little crazy: “Everything you do is for her. I’m your wife.” Yeah, being jealous of your husband’s kid is sort petty and ridiculous. However, Jane does have a reason to be upset, as she expresses later: “And guess what, I live here too and I get to do what I want to do. So stop trying to tell me that you know better.” Roger is extremely patronizing to her, so I get her point. She slams the door and he tells her that she better not have locked the door. She did. He makes a distasteful joke about her committing suicide. Shut up, Roger.
Meanwhile, Pete is home eating leftovers, when Trudy arrives. He tells her that he got fired, and she asks what happened. Pete explains: “Lane told me Kenny is senior something of something accounts, and I’m not. I’m account something.” Ha! I was cracking up at that line. Oh, Pete, you almost make me like you right now. Pete continues: “I couldn’t even hear. All I saw was his frog-like mouth flapping.” Trudy wants to get to the bottom of this story: “So, did he ask you to leave?” Pete: “No.” Trudy: “I have to ask this, but did you lose your temper?” He says no, and shockingly he’s being honest. Trudy is relieved and continues to ask questions. He tells her to stop and then says that he’s going to call Duck. She tells him no, they would have fired him if they wanted to fire him, and that he should wait. Pete: “They basically said that I care too much about my clients and they notice it. How can that be bad?” I don’t think that’s what Price “basically” said, but OK. Trudy: “Peter, you hold all the cards. It’s going to be fine.” I’m not entirely certain about that, but her line also marks another ongoing them in the episode: “It’s going to be fine.” Get used to that phrase, as it will be used over and over and over again.
Cut to Betty, waking up to a crying baby. When she gets up and enters Gene’s room, she sees Don rocking the baby. She says that she thought he left. Perhaps it is more like she wished he had left? She thanks him and tells him to go back to bed. He asks her if she wants anything and she says no. He sure is on his best behavior, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to mend his relationship with his wife. Sorry Don, but too little, too late.
Back at Sterling Cooper, Peggy and Kinsey sit in Peggy’s office and complain about the heat. I guess if it’s not one thing, it’s the other. Duck calls Peggy, and when she tries to get Kinsey to give her a minute, he hilariously says no. Duck says that he’s around the corner at a hotel, and invites her to join him. He calls her Pee Wee. Ick. He is very demanding about her coming to join him, and refers to some people as homos, so I like him even less than I did before: “C’mon creative, be creative.” Peggy eventually acquiesces, and when she hangs up, Kinsey is amused: “I know a nooner when I hear one.” Hehe. Peggy says, “You’re disgusting,” but her heart just isn’t in it. She knows that he’s right.
Meanwhile, Pete goes in to talk to Harry. Harry has the TV on in the background, and won’t turn it off—that will be important later. Pete unloads: “I found out yesterday that head of accounts is going to Kenny and his haircut.” Ha! Another contender for best line of the episode! For such a sad episode, there sure is a lot of humor. Harry knows, so Pete asked if he was consulted. Harry: “After the fact.” Pete: “What does it mean?” Harry: “It’s not good.” Pete: “I know it’s not good. There’s no future for me here. How did you do it? You made your job up.” Harry: “I didn’t. I looked at other agencies. I saw that they had TV departments and wondered why we didn’t.” Pete: “There’s no such thing in the accounts field.” Harry: “There’s marketing.” Pete: “That’s a research job.” Somehow Pete doesn’t realize that perhaps research is where he belongs, since his people skills suck.
Elsewhere, Don goes to see Mr. Price, and he waves a paper around and asks if it’s official. Price says that the man Don was trying to hire for the art department was too expensive. Don retorts: “Well, at least you had the guts to send me a memo.” Ha! Sal is gone, and no one is in charge of the art department. Price does not seem to find this a problem: “I haven’t heard a complaint from any of the clients.” Shut up, Mr. Price. Don complains about the heat, and Price blames his over-excitement. Don: “Do you want me to walk you through a delivery schedule?” Angry Don is funny.
Cut to a TV screen, with the breaking news that there was an attempt on President Kennedy’s life. From this point on, the news coverage is used to cut between scenes. Duck is watching, and he quickly switches it off and unplugs it when Peggy arrives. Jerk. She notices all the smoke. Two more reasons why I don’t like Duck. Duck: “I’m a glad you ran over.” Me: “Blech.” Peggy: “Me too.” Oh, Peggy. You could do so much better.
Cut back to Don: “I don’t understand. I can’t run my department without an art director.” Good point. Price offers to call the London bosses. Don: “Bert Cooper still has a say around here.” Price answers the phone, and we can assume that it is probably the JFK news.
Meanwhile, Pete and Harry continue their talking and whining. Suddenly a group of people walk in to watch the JFK coverage on the TV. “Christ, somebody shot the president.” “Is he dead?” “Shhh.” Don walks down the hall and sees all the phones ringing and no one answering. Don asks what the hell is going on. No one answers.
Betty watches the coverage, as the news announces that Kennedy is dead. Carla comes in and asks if he’s ok. Betty tells her that they just said he died. Both women cry. Carla sits down and smokes a cigarette—neither of which we have seen her do on this show. You know that this situation is intense if it leads to this. The children look on—once again, no one cares about them. I must admit to getting a little teary in this scene. Sally walks over and comforts her mother—we know that it wouldn’t be the other way around. Sigh.
Cut to Peggy: “Did you give me a hickey?” Duck: “I don’t think so.” Peggy: “I told you, I don’t like it. I get questions from my mother.” Now that Duck has got his un-interrupted sex, he finally brings up the news story and turns on the TV. Pretty creepy of him to hide the news so that he could get laid. They watch as it is announced that President Kennedy died at 1pm, and are shocked. Peggy: “Oh my God. What happened?” The newscaster says that Vice President Johnson will be the 36th president.
Cut to poor Margaret, dressed in her wedding gown, collapsed and crying. Yeah, this is her wedding day. Crazy.
Don goes home and calls for Betty. The TV is on, and shows a man being interviewed. Betty comes in and they hug. She tells him that she can’t stop crying. He wonders why the kids are watching this. Betty: “What am I supposed to do, Don? Am I supposed to keep it from them?” Um, probably at least limit their exposure and provide some comfort and explanation. Probably not just leave them in front of the TV with no thought to their well being. We saw the same behavior when Grandpa Gene died too. Sigh. Betty really is a terrible mother. However, I think it’s important to understand the context of the times, and her own relationship with her mother. She’s a bad mother, but not a bad person. For her, getting married and having kids wasn’t just a choice, it was the only choice. Additionally, this did just happen after she learned that her husband has been lying to her since she met him. Don tells her to take a pill and lie down, and that he’ll take care of this. Don tells the kids to turn the TV off, but they are glued to the coverage. He tells the kids to look at him, and assures them that everything is going to be ok. See, I told you. He explains: “We have a new president. We’re all going to be sad for a little bit. Then on Monday there’s going to be a funeral.” Bobby: “Are we going to the funeral?” Oh, poor Bobby. Don sighs and sits on the couch. Later, he goes upstairs and sees Betty sleeping. He turns of the radio and takes one of the pills himself.
Cut to more news coverage. Betty is wearing a headband and dressing gown, and is sitting in front of the TV with the kids. Don come in and reminds her of the wedding: “You should get ready, it’s almost two.” Betty: “Really, Don?” She says, “He’s twenty four years old,” I think in reference to Lee Harvey Oswald. Betty is not sure that the wedding will still happen: “Are you sure they haven’t canceled it? It said in The Times they were doing that.” Don: “I’m not gonna call Roger to find out. If we go in, and it’s off, we’ll grab dinner or something. We can’t sit in front of the TV all day.” Betty begrudging acquiesces, and Don tells the kids to stay put until Carla comes. See—Don is really no better than Betty when it comes to parenting. Despite the lovely speech here and there, he spends most of his time at work or having affairs, sometimes planning to run away from his family. When he is home, his parental attitude is limited and transitory.
Cut to Trudy and Pete. Trudy asks, “Can you see bags?” Again, hilarious. Her dress is a gorgeous peacock blue, and she looks great. Pete is watching the news coverage and points out that LBJ is just more of the same, and no one voted for him. He asks why they’re going to the wedding, as he, like Betty, wants to watch the coverage all day. Trudy tells him that it’s his boss’s daughter’s wedding, and it’s business—he has to go: “Maybe they’ll cancel it, but we have to show.” When she sits down next to him she asks if he’s been drinking. Pete replies: “The whole country’s drinking. And not to celebrate some spoiled brat’s wedding.” Another golden line. Such a well-written episode. He continues: “They’ll never cancel. You know why? Because they’re happy. You should have heard some of the things people said yesterday.” Trudy is appalled, and asks what kinds of things. Pete: “Man made a lot of enemies, things like that.” Trudy: “That’s awful. I don’t care what your politics are. This is America. You don’t just shoot the president.” Agreed. Pete expands on the bad behavior of his co-workers, and says that he’s not going. Trudy says that he’s right, and as she gets comfortable on the couch we get to see her fabulous matching royal blue pumps. I think it’s interesting to note how differently Trudy and Pete handle this situation, as opposed to Betty and Don. For once, we can really see the strength of Trudy and Pete as a couple. Despite their missteps, they have a real marriage, and work through their difficulties together. With Betty and Don, everything was a façade for so long, that they have no genuine base to their relationship to rely on. They don’t have a real marriage, so it is no wonder that this crisis causes them to fall apart.
Cut to the wedding reception. A lot of people didn’t show (surprise surprise), so they rearrange the seating. Roger gets on the mike: “Help yourself. I mean that—there are no waiters.” Aaww. A random guest offers a truly horrendous take on the situation, saying that Hiroshima was America’s way of getting over FDR’s death. I want to throw up. He proposes that they hang Lee Harvey Oswald and then take care of Texas and the whole South. Sigh. Mona changes the subject, thankfully. She tells Roger that the cake is not coming. Sad. Henry Francis arrives, and he greets a young attractive woman. Betty watches. He says congrats to bride and groom, and through his conversation Betty learns that the unknown girl is his daughter. Betty is clearly happy about this news. Uh oh.
Cut to the news again. A number of the wedding guests are hanging out in the kitchen, watching the news footage. In response to a view of Lee Harvey Oswald, Jane asks, “How would you know that’s how a monster looks like?” One of the guys asks, “Did you see the Times? He lived in Russia.” Another guy: “I thought he just visited?” First guy: “Would you visit?” Oh, sixties, how glad I don’t have to live through you. Roger tries to convince Jane to come back into the banquet hall, but she doesn’t want to listen to his speech for the umpteenth time. She says that they’re about to interview Oswald, and she doesn’t want to miss it. Roger and Jane fight, but finally he gives up. The lower ranked guys leave to go back into room, to appease Roger, but Jane and Bert remain, transfixed.
Roger then offers his toast. He asks someone to get his wife out of the kitchen, but adorably tells the audience, “While we’re alone, I have something nice to say about my ex-wife.” He addresses her: “Mona, you’re a lioness. And thank you for resisting the urge to eat your cub. This could have been an awful day. But here we are, not watching the TV, but watching the two of you. To Margaret and Brooks Harsrove. The adults, we all wanted to be strong for you, but your spirit, your love, your hope is giving us strength. And I promise you now, if you can make it through today, marriage is a cake walk.”
As the episode is entitled “The Grown Ups,” it is important to note the reference to “the adults” in Roger’s speech. In some ways, the assassination finally made Margaret grow up, and act gracefully for the first time in the episode. We have already seen that Mona was the most adult of adults, and this traumatic event does not rattle her. Roger, who was wavering in previous episodes, proves himself in this speech, and in this episode, to have truly grown up, finally. Jane, sadly, does not. Later, her child-like behavior will be strikingly juxtaposed to the very adult Joan. Trudy and Pete proved themselves to have a grown up marriage. Don and Peggy were already grown ups, and handle the assassination perhaps most calmly of all. Betty, after recent weeks, has been starting to grow up. This episode kicks her into high gear—she is going to break with the past, and wake up from her sad and superficial life, and start to embrace her options. Her journey into adulthood is really the most radical.
But back to the recap. The first dance begins, and the emcee invites everyone else to join.
Betty is hesitant but agrees. Don tells her that everything’s going to be fine. She asks how he knows and he responds by kissing her, right then and there. Knowing how much Don does not like PDA, I was rather shocked. Henry watches them with interest, and his daughter calls him on it. Hmmm.
Later, Betty leaves the bathroom and makes eye contact with Henry, but Don is looking at her too, and she goes to Don. Hmmm. Betty has options for the first time in a long time. Who will she ultimately choose?
Cut to Roger carrying a very tanked Jane to bed. Jane mumbles, “He was so handsome, and I’ll never get to vote for him.” Oh Jane. So she was not even 18 years old in 1960, was she? Oh, Roger. Jane passes out, and Roger makes a call. I guessed that it would be to Joan, like many others I’m sure, and I was right. Roger: “So what’s new?” She laughs. This echoes of his earlier conversation with his ex-wife, and highlights the history and comfort-level between Roger and Joan. Roger: “Incredible, isn’t it?” Joan: “Yes.” Roger: “Margaret got married today.” Joan: “That’s right, I forgot. Poor thing.” Roger: “Oh, Joannie, I wish you could have seen it. Oh my God, what a disaster.” Joan: “I’m sorry.” He can’t believe how quiet it is out there, and Joan points out not everywhere, as Greg is working the ER: “People are still getting sick, car accidents are happening, babies are being born.” Roger: “Well I’m glad he’s not home, I had to talk to you. Nobody else is saying the right thing about this.” Joan: “My God, you’re really upset.” Roger: “What’s that about?” Joan: “Because there’s nothing funny about this.” Roger: “Well, hang in there Red.” Joan: “You too.” They say their goodbyes. Wow! Those two are SO good together. I wonder if the show will continue to develop this further. Or will they just each other’s one that got away.
Cut to Betty in front of the TV again, and she is actually watching live as someone shoots Oswald. She screams. That would be so disturbing. The happy world that she constructed is crumbling, and she yells, “What is going on?” She doesn’t accept Don’s comfort, and leaves the room. Don tells Sally that nothing happened and to go upstairs. Well, at least little Sally didn’t witness the murder. A bit later, Betty comes downstairs and says that she’s going out. Don wants to come with, but she says no, as she needs to clear her head. I’ll bet.
She drives to see Henry and meets him in a parking lot. He asks about her husband, and she replies: “I don’t care. He’s been lying to me for years. I couldn’t be in that house.” Wow. She talks about her feelings about what happened. He says, “It’ll be ok, we’ve lost a lot of presidents and we’re still standing.” She’s not so sure, but he has more to say: “Have you thought that there are other ways to live? Listen, I’m not in love with the tragedy of this. It’s not Romeo and Juliet. I want it to happen.” Betty: “I have three children.” He discusses his schedule, and then he says wants to marry her. Um, jaw? Meet the floor. Way to shock me, show. She doesn’t know what to say, but he tells her to search her heart, as she knows that he can make her happy. They kiss. She says she should go. Henry: “I wish I could take you to the movies right now. Some theater that was playing your favorite movie.” That makes a weird kind of sense, as movies are often about escapism. Betty: “Singing in the Rain.” He leaves her with that happy thought. What do you think? Is there really a happy ending for Betty and Henry? I doubt it.
Cut to more TV coverage. Pete and Trudy just watched Oswald’s murder. Pete: “They just stood there. No security, the most wanted man in America.” We see the footage replayed again. Trudy asks if he’s going into work in the next two days. He’s not thrilled with the thought. Surprisingly, Trudy is thinking along the same lines: “Those people don’t care about you, and honestly what’s the difference.” Pete: “What are you saying?” Trudy: “You did everything they asked you to, but you don’t owe them anything. You should start gathering your clients—they’ll follow you wherever you go.” Trudy has morphed into the new Pete. They are made for each other.
Cut to more news footage, but this time in Draper house. Betty comes into the living room, where Don is sitting and drops a bomb: “I don’t know where to begin. I want to scream at you, for ruining all of this. But then you tried to fix it, and there’s no point. There’s no point, Don.” Don tries to console her: “You’re very upset, I understand. I know it’s painful, but it’s going to pass.” Betty: “I don’t love you. It’s true. I don’t love you, anymore. I know that. I kissed you yesterday. I didn’t feel a thing.” Don is still in denial: “You’ll feel better tomorrow, you’ll see.” Betty: “You can’t even hear me right now.” Don: “You’re right.” Betty has woken up, as I stated earlier. I don’t blame her one bit for wanting to get out of her unhappy marriage. Sorry, I’m Team Betty, if we have to pick sides. Ultimately, however, it’s not about who’s wrong, and who’s right. The bottom line is that they do not have a strong enough foundation for their marriage to survive during troubling times. The Drapers were superficially happy, and skated by under the veneer of perfection, but that could only last so long. Don goes upstairs and sits in a chair, and just looks at his hands. This is a situation he can’t lie his way out of. Sorry.
The next morning, Don gets dressed and goes downstairs. He watches Betty get breakfast ready. Then he goes into kitchen and says good morning. He kisses the kids goodbye, but not his wife.
The office is still dark when Don arrives, but Peggy is working. Of course she is. Don startles her, and asks what she’s doing there. Peggy: “I don’t know, Aquanet.” We can see that the story boards (or whatever they’re called in ad lingo) feature people in a convertible. Oops. Peggy: “It doesn’t shoot ‘til after Thanksgiving. We’ll be OK.” Peggy is just … so, Peggy. He says that the bars are closed, to explain his presence, and asks why she’s there. She starts talking about everyone’s reactions—her roommate and mom were all so overblown. She’s going to watch the funeral in Cooper’s office. When she asks if Don’s coming, he says no. He goes into his office and pours himself a drink. Has he lost his family for good?
So, what did you think? Post comments and questions below.