Monday, September 14, 2009
"Mad Men" recap: Duck, Duck, Herman
Note: Like my "True Blood" recap, the "Mad Men" recap is late this week because I was out last night at a friend's wedding. Sorry for the delay. Now on to the recap.
This week on "Mad Men," the Drapers welcome a new member of their dysfunctional family, Lane Pryce pinches pennies, and Peggy, Pete and Duck Philips enjoy the most awkward lunch in recent TV history.
Near the beginning of the episode, we learn that Sally's outburst last week wasn't the end of her acting out about Gene's death. She's had a conflict at school and Miss Farrell (the lovely young teacher Don was eyeing as she danced around the Maypole a few episodes ago) is worried about her. When Betty tells her of Gene's death, Miss Farrell is instantly sympathetic. She said she knew something was up when Sally started asking questions about Medgar Evers (the assassinated civil rights leader, who must have just died in "MM's" timeline). We later learn that she lost her father as a child and, during a brief exchange with Don in the classroom, she gets a hint of his own trouble childhood. I sense a bond! A bond that will, at the very least, lead to a flirtation.
Not long after, Betty goes into labor and has a heavily drug-assisted birth (the episode's title is "The Fog," in reference to Betty's drug-induced haze). While getting wheeled through the hospital, Betty glimpses a janitor that she swears is Gene. During her labor, she hallucinates her father, mother and, oddly, Medgar Evers. This is what happens to people whoo speak up, Ruthie says, referencing Evers (who, ironically, doesn't speak). Clearly, Betty got all of her parenting skills (or lack thereof) from dear old Mom.
As Betty's getting all Tommy Gavin on us, Don is making a new friend -- another dad-to-be sitting in the waiting room with a bottle of booze. Once again, Don's buddy is a fellow outsider, a prison guard named Dennis. Dennis's wife is having their first child. It's a breech. He's nervous. Don sympathizes, using his gift for words. Dennis is only mildly calmed. But Don's right -- Dennis's child is fine. And so is Don's -- it's another boy. Betty immediately wants to name him Gene. "We don't have to decide that right away," Don replies. Ouch.
Meanwhile, at SterCoop, Lane Pryce is chastising the staff for their travel expenditures, and use of office supplies (and that stolen credenza!). Don tells him that shattering employee morale is no way to save money. Pryce at least does him the courtesy of hearing him out.
Elsewhere, Pete is sweating over his, to him at least, lackluster list of accounts. But he notices something interesting with Admiral, which sells TVs. Its sales are flat, except in heavily black areas. He pitches the then-novel idea of marketing Admiral TVs to black customers, advertising in Ebony, Jet and newspapers that serve the black community. It's a great idea and it almost gets him fired. The Admiral execs are furious and complain to Bert and Roger, who chew Pete out. But Pryce, maybe heeding Don's advice about nurturing the workstaff, tells Pete that his instincts were good: he just picked the wrong client.
Pryce isn't the only one to appreciate Pete. Pete also gets a call from his Uncle Herman. Pete's Uncle Herman is in his 90s, so Pete is terrified that something's gone wrong. But "Uncle Herman" turns out to be Duck Philips, using a clever ruse (by the way, I guess never realized that Duck's real name is Herman. I guess that explains why he uses a nickname). Duck, as it turns out, is doing fine at Gray, another agency. He wants to have lunch with Pete and Pete accepts. Turns out, Duck invited someone else to their meal -- Peggy. Uh-oh! Duck tells them he knows that they have a secret relationship. He knows that Pete got Freddy ousted to move Peggy up. And he wants them to work together -- for him. Pete says no immediately and storms out, but Peggy stays. Turns out, she's a little more vulnerable to Duck's wooing, because she doesn't feel respected at SterCoop. She doesn't get paid as much as the guys. And, as she points out to Duck, no one there asks her to lunch.
Later, Peggy tells Don this very thing -- the being paid less part, not the lunch with Duck part. "I want what you have," she says. Don says he can't do anything, and I believe him. After all, Pryce and his folks are rationing credenzas and laying off the Burt Petersons of the company. They're not exactly going to cotton to giving a pay boost to a woman, of all people. But Peggy is agitated.
Wonder what her next move will be.
Anyway, here are some more thoughts on "The Fog."
* What do you make of Pete's talk with Hollis? Given this is Pete we're talking about, I expected him to say something stupid (and granted, he did get all obnoxiously self-righteous about the idea of Hollis thinking he was a bigot). But Pete did seem to listen when Hollis said he had more important things to worry about than television. And he even called Hollis on his own self-righteousness, gently pointing out that he finds it hard to believe that Hollis doesn't watch baseball. Hollis's smirk shows that he's right, and proves once again that Pete, for all his goofiness and immaturity, is a bright guy. Another thing worth noting about this scene is that it's the second major discussion between a black and white character this season. A few episodes ago, we had the Gene/Carla chat in which she chastised him for calling her by his former maid's name and asking if the two black women knew each other. The show definitely seems to be paying more attention to race issues this season.
* Before going off to look at his new son, Dennis the prison guard touches Don's face and tells him that he can tell Don is an honest man. In his line of work, Dennis says, he's learned to detect who's honest and who isn't. At this moment, I turned to Mr. I Screen and said "Wow. That guy must really suck at his job." My husband nodded in agreement.
* Don makes Sally and himself corned beef hash as their midnight snack. This isn't important, except I really like corned beef hash.
* The most poignant line of the episode? That would be when Pete confronts Peggy about her chat with Don, wanting to know whether she told him about Duck, and whether she intends to leave SterCoop. That's my decision, she tells him. "Your decisions affect me," Pete says pointedly. Again, ouch.
* OK, a little "Mad Men" math for you. Pretty young teacher + exposed bra strap x drunken phone call to known cad Don Draper = affair. But perhaps I've calculated wrong. We'll see.
* Nice touch during the conference with Sally's teacher: Don has to sit a child's desk, but Betty, due to her condition, can't fit and has to sit in a chair. Thus, they sit in front of Miss Farrell not as a unified front, but as a scattered, separate pair. Fitting.