Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mad Men recap: "Dick" in a box

This week's "Mad Men" recap will be a bit short, as I'm experiencing some technical difficulties that require me to type this on my husband's computer. Because my husband is convinced that my computer problems stem from my being magnetized (I'm not, to the best of my knowledge, but he won't believe me), he'd prefer I'd spend as little time on his machine as possible. Thus, I'm going to do a much shorter summation than usual, followed by the usual bullet points.
Spoilers ahead
Tonight's episode started off like a typical "Mad Men" episode, rife with office politics, infidelity and a lot of secrecy. Don is still continuing his affair with Miss Farrell, which is becoming a bit more serious. Paul is jealous of Peggy, and accuses her of stealing his thunder on an Aqua Net campaign because she's "spontaneous" (the disdain with which Michael Gladis says that word is delicious). Sterling/Cooper is about to have its 40th anniversary and, unbeknownst to the firm's employees, the Brits are planning to sell the firm.
Oh, and last but not least, Lane Pryce's wife hates New York.
It all goes along as usual, with portentous conversations, loaded looks, and the usual witty rapport (my favorite line might be from Bert Cooper, to Pryce -- pardon me if I'm misquoting: "You really pour on the honey. And then you lick it off.").
Then, we get to the Moment. The Moment we've been building to since season one, when we learned the truth about Don Draper's past as Dick Whitman. Betty finally learned her husband's secret. Well, we knew it was only a matter of time. But when Betty opened that drawer and saw that familiar shoe box, I gasped. It's, of course, the box that contains evidence of Don/Dick's true identity. And, unlike Bert Cooper, Betty Draper cares that her husband isn't who he says he is. Hoo boy, does she care.
Horrified and bewildered, she plans to confront Don that night, but he never comes home (he says he's with Hilton. We know he's with Miss Farrell). Later, Betty is forced to attend the Sterling/Cooper 40th anniversary party with Don, and has to hear no less than Roger Sterling go on and on about how great Don is.
Look, I've bagged on the Betty storyline a lot, and my criticism of Betty could be misinterpreted as criticism of January Jones, who plays Betty. Granted, I think Jones is by far the weakest of the show's actresses, but her work in tonight's episode was stellar. When she opened that box and saw the pictures of Don/Dick and his family (not to mention the deed to Anna Draper's house, his divorce papers and the dog tags), her look of confusion, hurt and anger was dead on. But she was even better in that final seen, watching with disgust as her husband reacts with false modest to Roger's empty flattery. She's absolutely simmering and, despite the disdain I've felt for her all season, my heart goes out to her.
I have no idea what this is going to mean for Betty and Don's marriage. Will she confront Don? Or has she lost her nerve? My guess is that she'll do the Betty thing and push down her rage, letting boil underneath her ladylike fa├žade until she finally erupts and breaks a chair or shoots some pigeons.
But even if Betty tries to forget what she's learned, she can't unlearn it. I'm pretty sure that her trust in Don is broken for good, and that will no doubt have serious implications down the line.
Now, here are some more thoughts on "The Color Blue."
* I should point out that this was the last episode written by recently fired "Mad Men" writer Kater Gordon. There has been a lot of speculation on the blogs about why Gordon was fired. I can't imagine it had anything to do with this episode, which is quite good.
* We learn this week that Miss Farrell has a brother who is epileptic. Though Don is rattled by the brother's arrival initially, he seems sympathetic to this young man. He even drives the kid to his new job at the VA hospital in Bedford. But the kid bails, telling Don that he doesn't want to scrub toilets for the rest of his life. Don desperately tries to talk him out of it and tells him that, for once, he wants to "get this right." What does he mean, you think? The kid insists, and Don gives him money and his card. Why is Don so concerned about this boy? Does the brother remind Don of his own lost, unstable brother, Adam? Or do I just think that because this storyline exists in the same episode as Betty's discovery of Don's background?
* OK, did anyone else get a "Fatal Attraction" vibe when Miss Farrell sat down next to Don on the train?
* Paul Kinsey sure is creepy, isn't he? I don't think there's any question of why he took out that old Maidenform Jackie/Marilyn ad (the unbuckling of his pants should have been a clue). Look, I know guys will do what guys will do, but in the office? Especially when he believed Peggy was right down the hall? Ew. Just, ew.
* That said, I kind of liked the storyline with Peggy, Paul and the Western Union campaign. When Paul got that great idea during his conversation with Achilles, I started screaming at the TV "Write it down! Write it down!" When he woke up with no recollection of what his brainstorm was, I cringed with recognition. I, too, have had great ideas in the evening that I've forgotten about by the morning. Every writer does. That's what saves Paul with Don. Well, that and Peggy's awesomeness. She thinks up a campaign on the spot in Don's office, as Paul looks on with a mix of shame, envy and just a hit of admiration.
* So who did call the Draper house? Is Miss Farrell lying? Is Henry Francis? Or was it someone else? Maybe it really was a wrong number. Perhaps we'll never know...
* So, do you think the sale of Ster/Coop will go through? I kind of hope not, because I really like Jared Harris as Lane Pryce. I want to learn more about him. I like his attempts to ingratiate himself at firm that doesn't really want him, but that he kind of admires and prefers to his life in London. I also like that he's more than capable of playing hardball with that cagey old codger Bert Cooper. And I like that Cooper seems to grudgingly admire this interloper. It's a rich storyline and I don't want to lose it.


Bill Scurry said...

Jared Harris was fab this week... we haven't seen nearly enough of him. And yes, there is a boiled bunny in Don's future with wacky grade-school teacher -- that is imminent.

The funny thing is that Sterling-Cooper is getting the same treatment DRF's been receiving for years from absentee owners, as your husband can attest to.

Anonymous said...

luv the recap. so true-I got the "creeps" with her showing up on the train. I can't wait to see what Betty will do with this new information. BTW, Don is still hot