Mad Men Season 3, Episode 2: Love Among the Ruins.

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This isn’t terribly original, but Peggy’s my favorite character. And because this episode was fairly Peggy-centric, it was my favorite installment in some time. There are several perfect Peggy moments in this episode: the sorta sad singing in the mirror, “We can do other things” and the most important, when she blurts out to that kid at the bar: “I work for a jerk!” This is the first time we ever hear her voice contempt for Don, and it’s almost an aside. Their relationship is completely bizarre. They’re not friends. He’s her boss. He knows her secret. And even when he condescends to her — that ‘this-is-the-way-it-is’ conversation as she points out her objections to the Pepsi ad — it’s in a different tone than the one he uses when he addresses almost anyone else.

I also loved the Madison Square Garden storyline for nerdy cityphile reasons. It was full of accurate historical details and plausible-sounding conversations; the Garden was plopped down in the middle of Manhattan despite vigorous public opposition, and even now it seems like a bad idea. It was built on top of the old Penn Station, which was grand and gorgeous, and replaced by the current incarnation, which is so ugly and so poorly laid out that it feels like it was all an accident.I was actually watching that scene with Paul and hoping that he’d win that argument and spare us from that monstrosity in present-day real life.

Real quick: I wanted to bring up this observation made by Amanda Marcotte a few days ago:

…I would argue that the dark joke of the show is that Don keeps cheating on Betty with intelligent, sophisticated women, and he doesn’t realize that Betty would be the kind of woman he finds exciting if he didn’t oppress her and make her feel small all the time.

I think this is right (even though Betty is my least favorite character on the show), but Don would never find her exciting because she’s not a brunette. That’s part of his type.

Have at it.

21 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 3, Episode 2: Love Among the Ruins.

  1. Scipio Africanus August 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm Reply

    I just remarked to myself that as of last night, Betty is the first person on the shwo I sort of actively dislike (I’ve found Pete Campbell to be the kind of jerk that you can easily ignore and tolerate.) She’s becoming a nag/drag/whiner.

    I’m finding it…odd to see Peggy struggling with ner potential/ability to wield her sexuality/appeal at will. In my guy mind I look at her and say “she’s cute enough”. I.e., she’s carrying on like she’s ugly. Maybe I’m just so used to the Holler For Sport that exists in teh black community that I’m forgetting that’s not the norm in other places and times.

    • Leigh August 24, 2009 at 3:03 pm Reply

      I don’t think she’s all that whiny, just sort of aggrieved and understandably victimized. And I also don’t dislike any of the characters really, because they all seem fairly complex, which somehow precludes me from disliking any. But Betty has her cruel moments, that’s for sure.

      I did not understand that whole Don v. William episode over the dad.

      • G.D. August 24, 2009 at 3:05 pm Reply

        neither did I. and I think it gets at why I don’t like Betty. She should have volunteered to take her father in, or told Don that’s what she wanted.

        Instead we get that scene in which Don is telling him how it’s going to be, and I couldn’t figure out why William acquiesced.

        • Leigh August 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm Reply

          Yeah, I was super confused by the whole family dynamic. Maybe Betty unsubtly manipulated Don because when she asked to bring her dad over for the weekend he hassled her about it in the car? So for round 2 she did the whole teary flounce thing so he could be the man/decider about it?

          Mostly I was sad since her sister-in-law seemed to be the only one with a warm/good relationship to the dad.

          • G.D. August 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm Reply


            i completely missed this. I think you’re right about this:

            Maybe Betty unsubtly manipulated Don because when she asked to bring her dad over for the weekend he hassled her about it in the car? So for round 2 she did the whole teary flounce thing so he could be the man/decider about it?

            • Leigh August 24, 2009 at 3:26 pm Reply

              It didn’t occur to me until I read your comment. 🙂

              PS: Can you tell I’ve been waiting all day for this thread?

              • G.D. August 24, 2009 at 3:32 pm Reply

                lol! I’m glad, sis. I don’t have a TV, so I have to DL the show in the morning. But I had to run some errands this morning, and didn’t get to it. i’ll try to be better about it.

                Here’s a question: how is Betty so oblivious to her father’s assholishness? Neither Don or William seem to like him, and the sister-in-law hinted at his cruelty when she was trying to sell him on the new arrangement (“you always say her cooking is better than mine!”)

                Yet ANOTHER reason I dislike Betty.

                • Leigh August 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm Reply

                  Please organize your schedule around my Mad Men addiction. Thank you.

                  Well, William did mention she has totally forgotten how much she fought w/her dad. So it’s probably a fair amount of revisionist history, and I’d guess a lot of it has to do w/trying to be a good daughter, the same way there’s certain things she has to fulfill to be a good wife. I also get the impression that her obsessing about her dad is fulfilling some sort of emotional need – her desire to be needed by a man perhaps, because I can’t figure out why she doesn’t turn her fretting over her dad towards her kids if she’s looking for someone vulnerable and needy to care for. Or her desire to control a man, any man, maybe. Now she can be in charge of her dad.

                  There’s also a “good family” thing going on, I think, in that didn’t she fret some time ago about the risk of becoming an orphan if anything happened to her dad? (Or am I thinking of something else?) So she might just be freaking out about her dad, his cranky demeanor and her history w/him be damned, because once he’s gone she’s even more at sea, stuck just w/Don and he’s got no people and I don’t know, that’s now how it is where she comes from…

                  I’m kind of just throwing stuff up here to see what sticks.

                  • ladyfresh August 24, 2009 at 4:13 pm Reply

                    Please organize your schedule around my Mad Men addiction. Thank you.

                    yes sir please sir
                    thank you sir

                    yes i waited all day as well

                    • Leigh August 24, 2009 at 4:21 pm

                      Now I’m just reloading the page obsessively to see what the latest comment is. 🙂

    • ladyfresh August 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm Reply

      RE: Peggy

      i think what’s more appropriate is the context of her career. That is what seems to exclude her from the dating game. The next thing is her reluctance to play the mating game that joan does oh so well.

      I think peggy knows she can do the cute thing ala her singing byebye birdie in the mirror, but i think she knows she wouldn’t be satisfied with the results of that. she already seems annoyed enough with men (her reactions to her coworkers) and her one supposed ally don couldn’t comprehend why she would want to change status quo. We already see the pitfalls wit joan and betty of wielding sexuality/appeal without a true power base…you don’t get too far and you may get hurt

  2. Leigh August 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm Reply

    I liked Amanda’s analysis but thought it was sort of projecting onto Betty, a lot of what Amanda would like her to represent. I don’t comment over at Pandagon, so I didn’t leave that thought there.

    I like Betty; why is she your least fave?

    I kept yelling at my tv last night w/all the damn commercials during all the Peggy business! Go Peggy! I love how she just taught that school boy! And quoted Joan.

    Re: Don & Peggy, it’s sort of like he sees a kindred spirit there, but convention precludes them from being equals or even a full mentor-mentee relationship, though I’d venture they are sort of that.

  3. keke August 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm Reply

    I really enjoyed this episode and it was interesting to watch Peggy and her struggle to find balance between her professional career and her social life. She is starting to see how women find themselves almost having to choose between those two worlds. Unfortunately Peggy is experiencing the pressures to dumb it down in order to get what she wants; i.e. Don told her to keep some tools in her toolbox. Also at the bar she didn’t inform her bar date or one night stand, that she is a copywriter and not a secretary.

    I noticed in past seasons that Don cheats with intelligent women who are way ahead of the times. So I agree with that part of the statement. I just don’t know what would be exciting about Betty. I do feel bad for Betty, and Don treats her horribly. But I’m not sure she would be exciting. Honestly I don’t know how different Betty would be if she were not married or if Don was a better husband. To me she is completely defined by perils of her marriage with Don. Maybe she would be a happier person? I just don’t know

  4. Jeremy August 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm Reply

    Every single time Don and Peggy are on screen together, fascinatingly complex interactions ensue. Their dynamic is electric; he respects her with such subtlety in public that it almost goes unnoticed by everyone around them–but it’s vividly apparent to the viewer. And Peggy knows it too. It’s as if she can sense it, even when he’s being a “jerk.” This may be getting too deep but watch their eyes when they interact–she doesn’t look at him with contempt, but with the kind of need-for-approval eyes that only a mentee could have. I think she can tell Don’s giving her good career/professional advice–the “tool” comment after she showed him the clip from Bye Bye Birdie was indicative of this. And when Peggy picks up the Brooklyn College doof at the bar, she’s pulling a Don. “Well this was fun”…straight out of the philandering Draper’s playbook. He’s influencing her in multiple ways.

    In season 1, Pete is desperately trying to be both Don’s heir apparent and mentee, but in the end, Peggy comes out of nowhere, and Don see his professional self in *her*, not Pete. It’s as if he’s reaching out as a mentor to her, at the expense of the other men at Sterling-Cooper. And she seems to be modeling her career, and even lifestyle, off of Don. It’s playing out like a dynamic mentorship, at a time when such cross-gender aid wasn’t the norm.

    • G.D. August 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm Reply

      Right. And this is more pronounced because Peggy doesn’t seem to want *anyone’s* approval.

  5. slb August 24, 2009 at 7:50 pm Reply

    No one’s mentioning Don’s lust for Sally’s teacher yet—and all the perfect implication of that scene with the Spring worship, the maypole, windblown barefoot frolicking as a counterpoint to this crazy awful situation he’s just taken on with his father-in-law (and the larger awfulness of having another kid on the way with Betty, who for the record, I think is awesome, but not for Don). The teacher also embodied Don’s sentiments post-Bye Bye Birdie viewing. “It makes your heart hurt.”

    • quadmoniker August 24, 2009 at 8:50 pm Reply

      I just finished the episode and was just wondering why no one else was saying how surprised they were he didn’t get it on with hippie-teacher before the end of the episode.

      But Peggy and Don, obviously, are the interesting relationship. They’re both outsiders, too, which has a lot to do with all of it. Don doesn’t hail from the same pedigree as the other men with whom he works, so he has no interest in maintaining their power structure.

      And I think Betty’s manipulativeness is just a product of the only kind of power she can have. She can’t say right out that her dad is coming to live with her, those decisions belong to the men. I also just think people get crazy jealous when their impending death or inheritance. I think that’s what it was trying to hint at too. When something bad happens in a family, people have this weird drive to have an ownership stake in the badness.

      Also, I liked Peggy’s nerdy little hookup.

  6. Leigh August 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm Reply

    I totally forgot about that!!! I was like, oh no! C’mon!

  7. ladyfresh August 24, 2009 at 10:02 pm Reply

    we all seemed to have caught the peggy/don interplay
    I haven’t finished reading it but NY Magazine (vulture) has a brief piece on it:
    Mad Men: Changing the Conversation

  8. universeexpanding August 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm Reply

    It took me SO long to get a freaking torrent!!! I near bout died trying not to read this thread in the meantme!
    Would you believe that Amazon can’t sell me eps because I don’t live in the US? Licensing issues apparently. Bastids!!!
    Anyway I finally have watched and…

    Watching Peggy wrestle with who she would like to be concerning her career and her social life is very very interesting. I noted that she didn’t correct the guy form the bar when he assumed she was a secretary or part of the typing pool. You have to suppress a man’s perception of your success if you wanna get some? Maybe. In any event, interesting.

    The relationship she has with Don is fascinating. I think Jeremy’s analysis is spot on with this one. She may think Don is a jerk but I definitely think they are weirdly simpatico. She wants his regard and in a lot of ways she has it. He rides her because he knows she has potential. I don’t think he meant it as an insult when he said “you’re not an artist – you solve problems” and I don’t think he was being abstract either. Peggy is set apart from the other women in the office as far as he is concerned because of that fact – she thinks. Of course other women think…but Don can’t be bothered to notice them.

    Betty…oh Betty. The eternal martyr. Why would someone who has two kids and another on the way, as well as a marriage that needs work willingly sign on to take care of a senile old man. Leigh said that Betty is understandably victimized but I think she also puts herself in the position to be stressed/ taken advantage of/ over-extended. I can’t quite figure why she is doing this thing with her dad but the whole scenario and her noting that she’s a “bad daughter” made me flash back to the psychoanalysis she used to have. Betty has issues with her mother – wanting her approval, feeling like she never quite got it, being angry at her but not being able to admit it. In the wake of her death and her father’s neediness Betty seems intent upon becoming her mother. It’s creepy.

    Other little things that caught my eye:

    – When in doubt say the black person did it: Betty has two kids and a husband…how come it has to be Carla that ate the melba toast?

    – Paul Kinsey is still a jackass.

    – I so thought it was going to go down with the school teacher…I was all tensed up. Question for the room: Don is clearly obsessed with brunettes so why the hell did he marry a blonde? When they posed for the picture at the end, the perfect family, it got me thinking that maybe Don’s marrying Betty was in an attempt to create something pure. He feels sullied and tortured by his past…maybe he wanted to see if he create and live out an ideal new life, complete with the blonde all-american girl next door. I dunno, someone help me here.

    – Joan and Roger make my heart ache. Yes Roger is an asshole. I know, I know…but…they should be together! ( hopeless romantic)

  9. quadmoniker August 25, 2009 at 9:18 pm Reply

    I actually really didn’t think Peggy thinks Don is a jerk when she said that. I think it was more her reacting to social cues. He assumed she was a secretary, she needed something to say that would fit in with the atmosphere. Bosses are jerks. That’s it. Peggy doesn’t really know how to be social.

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