Episode 305, “The Fog” Air date: 9/13/09
Between the “True Blood” finale and the VMAs last night (poor Taylor Swift… first a Jonas dumps her over the phone, now Kanye’s all up in her grill), I was surprised that I even squeezed “Mad Men” in before bed time. (And I was still lights-out by 10pm… I love you, East Coast feed) (I am an old lady?)
I’m glad I DID watch “Mad Men,” because this episode was incredible. We THINK we know about the 1960s, but we have no idea…
I’m not doing a full-on recap here. Here’s the cut-and-dry AMC recap. (They’re not going to snark on their own show!) I just kind of want to chat about some of the more interesting moments.
First of all, Don finally meets the maypole-dancing teacher face-to-face when Don and Betty are called in for a parent-teacher conference. Sally got in a fight! Well, of course she did– she didn’t even miss a day of school for Grandpa Gene’s funeral. Don doesn’t believe that children should be in graveyards (ooh, spooky double-meaning).
Sally’s teacher, Suzanne Farrell, gets really upset when she hears about Grandpa Gene’s passing. No WONDER Sally has been asking so many questions about Medgar Evers’ murder. Later Miss Farrell calls the Draper house to apologize, and tells Don that her father died when she was eight years old. When Betty asks who called, Don says, No one. Don and Miss Farrell are totally going to do it!
But we’ll put that on the back-burner, because the most… eye-opening thing about last night’s episode was the experience of giving childbirth in a hospital, circa 1960. Bottom line: It SUCKED. And it was an incredibly lonely, isolating experience.
As soon as Don drops Betty off at the nurse’s station, the nurse says, “Your work here is done.” Don is sent to wait in the solarium, where he meets Dennis Hobart. Dennis is a prison guard and soon-to-be first-time father. We first meet him when a nurse (played by voice-of-Lisa Simpson/celebrity Scientologist Yeardley Smith) tells him that his wife’s baby is in breach and asks for permission to call in a specialist. Then she walks away. Bye! More news later!
Don and Dennis drink together, smoke together, and generally wait it out. They’re in the trenches! When Dennis is finally called out of the waiting room to see his baby, he makes a sort of confession to Don: He’s going to be a better man. Later, Don and Dennis cross paths again in the hospital hallway (Don is bringing Betty a bouquet with dyed-blue carnations), as Dennis pushes his wife in a wheelchair. Dennis looks at Don but says nothing, and Don reacts with a look of confusion. Hmm.
It’s always fascinating to me that Don seems to make the closest bonds with strangers, people he’ll probably never meet again. And it’s interesting to see how helpless the fathers were, back then. They were swept to the side, kept waiting. We hear so many people talk about the joy of witnessing the birth of their children. That wasn’t even a possibility, for these men. That bonding experience is lost to them.
Not that it was any better for Betty. This morning, one of my co-workers compared Betty’s treatment at the hospital to the type of reception you’d expect for a mental patient. Her nurse doesn’t listen to any of her complaints. Betty is assigned to a cot with a curtain around it, where the nurse matter-of-factly informs her that she’ll be receiving a shave and an enema. (I don’t know if this is still the norm. I don’t really want to know, either.) In the distance, a woman is screaming.
Betty is shuffled through the process without really knowing what’s happening to her. The nurse has trouble finding a vein, and sticks Betty multiple times with a needle. Betty finds out that her OB-GYN was celebrating his anniversary in the city (she frets that he might have been drinking, because one of her friends had a baby delivered by a drunk OB-GYN, and he destroyed her bladder). It turns out that the on-call doctor is going to be delivering her baby, and Betty wasn’t even consulted.
When Betty wakes up in the operating room, screaming and unhappy, the doctor dismisses it. “She can’t hear you,” he says to the nurse. “Like hell I can’t!” Betty replies, echoing something that Grandpa Gene said last episode. Betty is sedated to a hazy, twilight state, and completely misses out on the childbirth. No wonder she doesn’t like her kids. UGH. (Haha, I know I’m being dramatic.)
Betty wants Don, but he’s not there. I mean, he’s in the waiting room. It’s really depressing to me, how lonely the birthing process is. It’s more like a surgery than a joyful event. I mean, I know that it hurts like hell, and all that. But… ugh, this is terrible. (I heard that the medication back then didn’t actually block the pain, but just prevented women from REMEMBERING it. What a dirty trick!)
Betty has a series of strange visions under the influence of the medication. In the oddest one, she sees Gene mopping up blood in the kitchen (she mistook a janitor with her father when she first arrived at the hospital). Her long-dead mother is at the kitchen table, standing over a man who might be Medgar Evers. “You see what happens to people who speak up?” her mother (Ruth) says. (Evers was assassinated as a result of his activism in the Civil Rights movement.)
“You’re a housecat,” Gene adds. “You’re very important, and you have little to do.” Ugh, poor Betty is definitely the product of her upbringing. Don’t complain, Betty. Just do what you’re told.
When Betty wakes up with the baby in her arms, she thinks it’s a girl. Don corrects her that it’s a boy. She wants to name the baby Eugene, after her father. Don obviously isn’t thrilled with that choice. (I’m kind of surprised that Don hasn’t already filled out the birth certificate. I’ve heard of some children getting terrible names as a result of a freewheeling father taking the reigns while the mother is still out.)
In the last scene, when Betty wakes up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, we hear the same dreamy music that she heard in her visions. She pauses, and it seems like she’s going to stop herself from seeing the baby. But then… she goes. (Interesting side note… she tells the nurse that she isn’t going to breast feed her baby… did they HAVE formula back then? I guess…)
On the other side of this spectrum, we have Peggy. Duck Phillips (remember Duck? The dog-ditcher?), who was fired from Sterling Cooper and now works at Grey, uses a bit of subterfuge and invites Pete to lunch. Pete reluctantly attends the lunch, only to find that Peggy has also been invited. This is their first encounter since Peggy told Pete that she gave away his baby! (How soap opera does THAT sound?)
Pete doesn’t want to stay, and Duck says something about a “nosh.” Pete makes a zing about Grey and the term “nosh”… it must be a Jewish company. Pete’s been slyly anti-Semitic all over the place this year. But I’m giving him a little bit of a pass, because… I don’t know, I like Pete. By the end of this episode, I especially like him.
But yeah, Duck is totally in the dark about why it’s a terrible, terrible strategy to invite Pete and Peggy to lunch with him. He wants to steal Pete and Peggy away from Sterling Cooper, and bring them over to Gray. At one point Duck says, “Don’t be a baby.” Ooh, Duck. Bad choice of words. (More like, Don’t make a baby!) “If you want to woo me, you’ll have to buy me my own lunch,” Pete says to Duck, just before he exits.
Peggy is more intrigued, if only because Duck is paying attention to her. She mentions at the opening of the scene that nobody buys her lunch at Sterling Cooper. Aw, poor Peggy. (I want to know what’s up with the Swedish roommate!)
In the week’s other major storyline, Pete realizes that Admiral TVs are selling particularly well in “Negro” communities. He pulls a “Grey’s Anatomy” and stops the elevator in order to try to get the elevator operator (Hollis) to enumerate why he chose to buy an RCA TV over an Admiral TV. Hollis is very uncomfortable about the whole thing and says that he doesn’t even watch much TV, what with everything that’s going on in the world (I’m assuming he means the Civil Rights movement). But it’s an interesting moment, of Pete trying to understand and bond with Hollis. Pete’s heart is in the right place… sort of.
And it’s funny to hear an elevator man say, “Every job has its ups and downs.”
Later, Pete tries to convince Admiral to aim a few ads at the “Negro” community. Or– even better!– to create integrated ads. The men from Admiral are appalled, and Pete is equally appalled by their resistance. Later Sterling, Cooper, and Pryce (the Brit) call Pete in for a smack down. Sterling calls Pete “Martin Luther King” and says that he ought to drop-kick him off the roof. Lane, being from Britain, actually thinks that integrated ads might be a good idea– obviously not for Admiral. But… Pete’s onto something, maybe. Whew, voice of reason.
Peggy brings a baby gift to Don’s office. She’s there to try to bargain for a raise, after the meeting with Duck. (She doesn’t actually mention the meeting with Duck.) This episode opened with Lane nitpicking every last expense, and Don isn’t open to talking about a raise. Peggy says that she read in the paper that there’s a new law about women getting equal pay. (Wow, and we’re still not there yet, are we?)
Peggy plays with the little booty on the baby gift and says (paraphrase), “Third baby… must be old hat, by now.” Somehow I hadn’t lined up Peggy’s baby-having experience with Betty’s, but now that she mentions it… sadness. Not only did she have to go through the horrible birthing process, but in the end she didn’t even get the happy, getting-presents part. She doesn’t have an outlet for the emotions of her experience.
Pete sees Peggy emerge from Don’s office, and he is MAD, re: the whole Duck affair. But their dialogue might as well be about the baby she gave up.
Peggy: It’s my decision, Pete.
Pete: Your decisions affect me!
Ugh, the 1960s were sad. I hope that in forty-to-sixty years someone can make such a poignant show about the 2000’s. Figure us out!
This isn’t the final scene, but I’ll talk about it last: After Betty gives birth, Don comes home and is cooking ground meat on the stove in the middle of the night. Sally walks in and says that she didn’t know Don could cook. As in, she’s NEVER seen Don cook before! That’s insane, to me.
Don gives Sally some of his snack, and he tells her that he thought she was going to be a boy. “Not all surprises are bad,” he adds. It’s a really sweet bonding scene. It seems like Sally really needs a father figure in her life. Grandpa Gene was just kind of a substitute for Don, wasn’t he?
And the baby was totally a doll, in every scene. Production!
So… this season is all about changes. Civil Rights, rights for women… all that jazzy jazz. Did I miss anything that you loved or observed about last night? Chime in! (And why did Big Gay Sal spend almost $20 more than Don in Boston? Did it have to do with his Big Gay Sex Encounter? Haha.)
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