Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Inheritance of Mad Men

Betty Draper (January Jones) begins to face the reality of her father Gene’s stroke and his onset of dementia or failing memory. She is under no illusions that she does not need Don (Jon Hamm) and calls him at his hotel to join her on a visit to Gene’s house. Betty is growing more aware of her circumstances and who she really is. She demonstrates that in her communication of new limits and boundaries to Don.

The recap below contains plot spoilers about Season 2, Episode 10: "The Inheritance." If you haven't seen Episode 10 check out the Mad Men Schedule to see when we're airing encore presentations or download it on iTunes.

Betty and Don quickly arrive at Gene Hofstadt’s (Ryan Cutrona) house where he tellingly confuses Betty for her similar-looking dead mother – Ruth (the pretty woman in the portrait). Betty tells her brother William (Eric Ladin) to “stop counting other people’s money”; it is evident that familial vultures are circling. The family awkwardly confronts Gene’s decline.

Betty recognizes the situation and she asserts herself with Don. We hear her new-found voice tell him to “stop it…nobody is watching.” We see her send Don away from their home with his suitcase: “Nothing’s changed. We were just pretending” and not really making love at her father Gene’s. Yet in Betty’s heart, she knows she relies on Don for personal and parental support. The decision to divorce is heavier than the property. Betty admits, “Sometimes I think I’ll float away if Don isn’t holding me down.”

The later encounter with run-away Glen Bishop (Marten Holden Weiner) reinforces the precarious status and doubled responsibilities of a divorced parent carrying for children. Glen is acting out and displaying anger (“I hate you”) because his mother Helen Bishop (Darby Stanchfield) cannot properly care for him or be attentive enough to meet Glen’s growing psychological needs as an early adolescent.

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) resists the notion of adopting a child with Trudy. His mother even threatens disinheritance. The irony is that the father’s inheritance is empty because the father spent all the money – “spent it with stranger.”

Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis) gets bumped from the California convention trip by Don Draper. He joins girlfriend Sheila (Donielle Artese) along with Negro (in those days) Freedom Riders on a bus to Mississippi. That makes him a “fellow traveler” in the anti-Communist lexicon on the day. They ride down to low and dark regions -- the “scary” zone – with high purpose to register voters. They travel into the Sixties without knowledge or experience of where America is headed. Meanwhile Don and Pete Campbell fly off to the golden Pacific on the musical sounds of the satellite “Telstar.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mad Men’s Six-Month Leave

MANHATTAN, New York October 1, 2008 >> mad men virtuality ©ML Duby

“Stop dining on the drama of other people’s lives like teenage girls.”
– Don Draper

On the other hand, now that we’re here, we might as well enjoy the Mad Men crew indulging their usual barrel of drink. We’ll sample a few hor'dourves and chat before the main course. Unfortunately, one of our regulars – Freddy – over-imbibes to the point of literally pissing himself. Let’s be clear about the Mad Men equation of consequences...after the disclaimer, of course.

DISCLAIMER: The essay below contains plot spoilers about Season 2, Episode 9: "Six Month Leave." If you haven't seen that episode, check out the Mad Men schedule on to see when encore presentations are airing or download it from iTunes.

Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) is sent on a one-way out, “six-month leave of absence from which he won’t return” (Roger Sterling – John Slattery) because the “man is a train wreck” (Duck Philips – Mark Moses) and “disgusting” embarrassment according to Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). The scenario is that Freddy is so totally tanked and still drinking right before the Samsonite luggage client meeting. The unprofessionalism and potentially erratic, unpredictable presentation seems less important that the social stain of wet trousers.

The Six-Month Leave episode is really about who and what we hold onto. Against the real-time world backdrop of Marilyn Monroe’s death, we view our characters reacting to the news, revealing (or not) their feelings about the event, and resolving to move forward toward a “fresh start” as it was put by Don Draper (Jon Hamm). Draper in the elevator on the way up: “Can’t say I’m surprised.” Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) astutely comments, “We’re lucky Playtex didn't go for that Jackie/Marilyn campaign." The secretarial pool is universally weepy with mourning. Roger Sterling sneers that Miss Monroe was a movie star that threw it all away as Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) pines, “This world destroyed her.”

As for Freddy’s plight, he’s dead in the world of Sterling Cooper. Despite his skill set, shared war stories and the loyalty of creative team, Freddy is finished, kaput, sayonara, adios, bye-bye and finito. Roger insists the firm “has to let him go.”

One of Roger Sterling’s violated cardinal sins is lust of the variety that all so frequently allies with disloyalty. Roger ensures the jettison of Freddy is “all being done the right way.” Apparently, 25 years of marriage with Mona does not weigh up as equal to his attraction to the 19-year old secretary Jane Siegel (Payton List). Roger commits a double cop-out, first with a fake name – secretary "Margaret" – to Mona and then, with a twisted-version replay of Don’s suggestion that “it’s your life, you have to move forward.” Roger's business is clear justification without acceptance of responsibilities for his actions and the underlying intentions.

Conflict between Don and Roger is foreshadowed with Roger’s reminder to Don that “you don’t have a contract” with Sterling Cooper. Roger adds, “Your loyalty is starting to become a liability.” At the close, Don ignores Roger’s effort to “explain” his misuse of Don’s bar comment, requests Jane to be off his desk and closes his office door in Roger’s face.

Marilyn Monroe sang “I’m Through With Love” in “Some Like It Hot.”
(1931) Matt Malneck; Songwriters: Gus Kahn, Fud Livingston, Matt Malneck

I'm through with love I'll never fall again
Said adieu to love Don't ever call again
For I must love you or no one
And so I'm through with love

I've locked my heart I'll keep my feelings there
I've stocked my heart in an icy Frigidaire
And I mean to care for no one
Because I'm through with love

Why did you lead me to think you could care?
You didn't need me for you had your share
of slaves around you to hound you and swear
their deep devotion and emotion to you

Goodbye to spring and all it meant to me
It can never bring the things that used to be
For I must have you or no one
And so I'm through with love
I'm through with love
That's why I'm through with love