Mad Men Season 3, Episode 4: The Arrangements.

First things first: Poor Kitty.

For me, scenes that showcase the Sal-Kitty union are among the saddest the series has to offer. I’ve spent two seasons wondering just how aware Kitty was of Sal’s orientation. I always speculated she’d gone semi-willingly into this marriage, with her eyes at least half-open. Maybe she was on a mission of conversion. Maybe she was just in love with him and wanted his companionship if not his passion. Now, I see just how willfully oblivious she’s been. How strange it must be to watch your husband do a spot-on Ann-Margret impression, pushing together imaginary cleavage and puckering his lips, while you’re trying to seduce him in a pretty spectacular green teddy.

Speaking of spectacular, how awesome were Peggy’s scenes in this episode? Last week, we saw her gaining all kinds of ground, glisteningly high, and triumphantly preening while checking her matronly secretary and declaring herself a bulwark of feminism. This week, we were reminded in further detail of her Brooklyn side. Note how her accent reverts when she’s visiting her mother and sister. “He’s still dead, Ma,” she flatly says of the Pope her mother’s stage-weeping over. We were also reminded of just how hard-fought Peggy’s transitions must be, with a mother who’d actually tell her she’ll be raped in Manhattan just to manipulate her into staying home and a sister who subtly plays the martyr, even as she’s being faux-supportive.

No wonder her ad for a roommate was so lame. With these people as your former cohabitants, how would you know how to find someone who’d help you achieve the next level of awesome? Fortunately for Peggy, buxom Joan has plenty of experience with roommate soliciting. And her alliterative scene in the break room, where she rattles off gems like, “no dull moments or dull men tolerated” and “Likes to laugh, lives to love! Seeks size six for city living and general gallivanting,” you’re suddenly aware of how easy it would’ve been for Joan to have earned Peggy’s position, had she re-prioritized career and marriage.

Now onto the larger theme of family. First, in the office, we get a father lamenting his son’s uselessness as an entrepreneur. (“My son lives in a cloud of success, but it’s my success. Perhaps when that evaporates and his face is pressed against the reality of the sidewalk he’ll be of value to someone.” That was way harsh [and spot-on], Tai.) Once again, Don pits himself against Pete (and the new British regime in the home office) as he tries to talk “Ho-Ho” out of his plans to bring jai alai to the American masses. Don’s getting a sense of how ridiculous the politics of his position have become and the futility of trying to make his work somehow “noble”

Same thing’s happening at home, as Don watches Gene woo his son, Bobby, with war tales. His pragmatism is powerless in the face of Gene’s gift of a spiked helmet he ganked from a dude he killed.

About Gene Hofstadt, No. 2: I found it an odd choice to bring him into the Draper home for just two full episodes, then kill him off so early in the season. His bond with Sally seemed a bit rushed. (Had they ever interacted onscreen before these two eps?) I thought there would be more mano-a-mano between Gene and Don, more focus on Betty’s growing uncomfortability with Gene’s senility, etc. Basically, I totally thought dude was in it for the long-haul, to be killed off in the finale or something.

But this works, too, I guess.

Call me heartless, but I wasn’t all that swayed by Sally in her leotard, yelling at her parents. I know she’s being sold as precocious, but I just find her obnoxious. (And so does Betty. Which I love.) I’ll admit it was pretty sad, seeing her curl up on the living room floor, absorbing the news of an infamous immolation while everyone ignored her.

Every child needs a champion. Now that Gene’s gone, Sally no longer has one. That’s sad, but after watching her steal from him last week then try to play if off, after causing all kinds of quiet chaos, forgive me if I’m not broken up on her behalf.

I know you’ll feel differently, so I’m looking forward to your comments.

Weigh in below.

P.S. A final note about Peggy and one that I almost forgot: I hope y’all peeped that smug, lingering look she gave Don as she followed the Patio people out of the conference room. Heh.

P.P.S. In that same scene, Roger’s one line of the night nails it: “She’s not Ann-Margret.” Duh. Why didn’t anyone else anticipate that that would be the problem?

27 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 3, Episode 4: The Arrangements.

  1. slb September 8, 2009 at 8:23 pm Reply

    This was a beast to write. And I didn’t even address the really ridiculously heavy-handed foreshadowing scene btwn Gene and Betty.

  2. Jeremy September 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm Reply

    First: I loved the scene in which Joan essentially hands Peggy a pitch for a roommate, and Peggy quickly scampers to find a pen to write it down. If the show wanted to beat it over our heads that Joan could have been in Peggy’s position, they could have written it as some mean spirited theft of one of Joan’s ideas that Peggy uses for an actual ad pitch. Instead, it’s a *subtle* reminder of Joan’s stagnated career.

    Second: I found the Gene #2 – Sally relationship more of a precursor to a (continued) troubled relationship between Sally and Betty. They’ve already been at odds, illustrating a volatile relationship that’s only going to get worse as Sally enters her teens. Gene’s embrace of Sally, essentially creating a new Daddy’s girl, works to accentuate Betty’s rift with her daughter.

    Third: What about Campbell’s “Shylock” quip? He really is a smug piss ant, isn’t he?

    • G.D. September 8, 2009 at 9:06 pm Reply

      on this Gene-Sally relationship: did either of you get the impression that Gene wanted Betty to be a more assertive, independent person than she became? (I could be projecting here.)

      • slb September 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm Reply

        i got that impression, too, but he didn’t seem to have aided her in that process (unless he’s counting supporting her mom’s efforts to slim her down by driving her out of the way for errands and making her walk home).

        • G.D. September 8, 2009 at 9:19 pm Reply

          right. he definitely bears some of the blame. i think that scene from the photo —“i’m still your little girl!” — encapsulates what grates me so much about Betty. she’s just stunted; she’s not an adult.

          And while you think Betty’s disliking is Sally is cute, her barking on Sally underscores how bad she and Don are as parents. Their daughter was hysterical over her beloved grandfather’s passing…and neither of them bothered to get up and console her.

          “they’re assholes.” (c) Van Jones

          • slb September 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm Reply

            “Cute” isn’t how I’d characterize it at all. I just think it’s real. What I “love” about Betty thinking her daughter is obnoxious is the fact that *tons* of mother-daughter relationships are this way—for precisely the reasons this one is. Sally is all too willing to remind her mother that the facade she works to retain has long since crumbled; Betty resents her daughter’s firm grasp on and fearlessness about the family’s realities.

            • Jeremy September 8, 2009 at 9:30 pm Reply

              So, Yes to G.D.’s original comment that Gene wanted Betty to be “more” than what she is; he eluded to this when he told Sally something to the effect of “You can be anything.” And Yes to slb’s characterization of Betty’s relationship with Sally as indicative of plenty of mother-daughter relationships. Something about Gene’s presence (theatrically speaking) underscored this point for me.

            • quadmoniker September 8, 2009 at 11:24 pm Reply

              Yeah, I think Betty’s feelings are echoed by a ton of moms, and I think Sally’s generation was probably the first group of daughters to realize that they annoyed their mothers growing up. That’s part of what they were doing here, foreshadowing the generational rift between the Betty women and the Sally daughters that’s to come, but I found it a little heavy-handed that they had to do it with a famous Vietnam War protest on TV. That said, the shot of Sally on the floor was beautiful. I also thought a much less talked about exchange was spot on: Sally – “Why are you laughing?” Uncle William – “Nobody’s laughing honey.” Of course they were, and she heard them, and they’re lying to her in return.

              But yes, Betty and Don are terrible parents.

            • keke September 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm Reply

              I can sort of see where you are coming from. The problem with Betty is that she is such a child herself! I felt for her in the first season cause we were able to see just how horrible her marriage was. When the second season came around, I was happy when she kicked Don out of the house, I felt like she finally took a stand.

              This season, I just do not like Betty at all. She is such a baby. Her father wanted to have a discussion about his will and his funeral and she exclaimed that she is his little girl. She is always telling Sally to “go watch tv” as if Sally is some little nuisance. And Betty ate Sally’s peach that her grandpa Gene bought her! Poor Sally 😦

              I thought the scene of Sally curling up on the floor was pretty. The news of the Vietnam protest was heavy but I relevant. These kids are going to be dealing with some heavy handed social issues…the times are changing.

  3. ladyfresh September 8, 2009 at 10:53 pm Reply

    God i was happy to see Sal just let go. Peggy asked him to open up and really wasn’t ready poor thing.

    I loved the look Peggy shot Don.

    That prussian helmet scene got me. The power struggle and frustration between the Gene and Don. Don saying “It’s a dead man’s hat take it off” resonated through both their characters for me. I didn’t suspect they’d kill gene off in that same episode, i thought it would be a slow death/deterioration of ‘grandpa’. He made the home dynamics interesting.

  4. quadmoniker September 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm Reply

    Do you guys think it’s possible Kitty might not have known about Sal before then? I’m not sure they really had popular culture level words to describe Sal then, and I’m not sure how much of his behavior would have been a real clue to Kitty before.

    Also, do you guys kind of love the relationship Don and Sal have now? I really think Don has to know someone’s an outsider before he gets on their side.

    • ladyfresh September 8, 2009 at 11:53 pm Reply

      I really think Don has to know someone’s an outsider before he gets on their side.

      yes!
      Don is forming somewhat of a secret outsider team

    • McDevite September 9, 2009 at 12:07 am Reply

      I don’t think Kitty knew, exactly. The episode in which she’s introduced and develops a crush on Sal before the wedding is pretty horribly obvious in retrospect (even excluding that Sal is a Kinsey Six); she likes that Sal is really close with his mother and is in the arts department (the art thing being obviously the gay thing to do, but the mother thing being, I think, a nod at the ‘Close Binding Mother’ theory that suggested that if mothers…err..smothered their sons, their sons would be gay, and weak willed.)

      What confuses me about Sal is how far he hasn’t gotten. He’s approximately Don’s age, and he’s from New York; even if he didn’t make it into WWII (There’s a great Randy Shilts quote from his Milk bio describing WWII for gays: “Gays and Lesbians got into the service and found each other–several times–and for the first time many realized that they weren’t alone.”) Even if not, there is the demobilization in the aftermath. It’s perfectly easy that that could’ve slipped by Sal, but contemporary New York for an artsy Italian gay boy would’ve been easy to get laid in (The Ramble in Central Park, various locations at the Metropolitan Opera, ‘gay’ beaches); it had an underground, illegal, segregated culture for him to hide in. But at a macro level, his story is terribly common pre-Stonewall (and even now).

      Back to Kitty, this was the time when police were seriously raiding gay bars (at this point, Stonewall is only five years away.) so she shouldn’t be totally oblivious–then again, plenty of straight girls I know now couldn’t pick out a gay guy if he were wearing a mesh tank top, listening to the Pet Shop Boys, and working on his portfolio for Project Runway. Still, that moment where she stares into the middle distance is one of the series’ more horrible moments.

      • Scipio Africanus September 9, 2009 at 10:58 am Reply

        Kitty was rocking the Thousand Yard Stare you’d moreso expect to see in veterans like Gene and Don.

        • McDevite September 9, 2009 at 11:44 am Reply

          I don’t think it’s quite right to equate what was going on in Kitty’s head to what for Don and Gene I’d assume is PTSD, or as then thought of, Shell Shock.

          “How strange it must be to watch your husband do a spot-on Ann-Margret impression, pushing together imaginary cleavage and puckering his lips, while you’re trying to seduce him in a pretty spectacular green teddy.”

          I think she’s just figured out what Sal really is (the same way he did with the bellboy) and how totally trapped she is in this marriage. It’s so Ibsen.

  5. McDevite September 9, 2009 at 12:29 am Reply

    The past two episodes have been pitch perfect. Not only that, but we’re getting sort of thematic set up I was hoping for.

    A lot of season one and season two were about building up an incredibly rich jewelry box; where Weiner’s obsessive (and incredible) prop department could go nuts, and viewers could acclimate/be appalled at how different things were.

    It looks like season three is about blowing up the jewelry box–and I couldn’t be happier. In the past two episodes, we’ve got the rise of the middle class (Paul’s plain, scholarship roots, and Peggy), feminism (Peggy and Joan), the civil rights movement (Roger’s black face, Pete’s comment about Ho-Ho Sr.), gays (Oh, Sal), and Viet Nam. With the overarching theme of “The Arrangements” as struggle between parents and children (Boomers), it seems that Weiner is pushing the track of the show towards a big, Kennedy Assassination/Sterling Wedding Finish.

    • Scipio Africanus September 9, 2009 at 11:00 am Reply

      My guess is the wedding/assasination weekend will be the penultimate epsiode, and the final episode will pick up the pieces and show hints of The Sixties, in their full glory, that we’re all kind of waiting to see in full force in later seasons.

      • McDevite September 9, 2009 at 11:53 am Reply

        That’s a possibility, certainly. My inclination against that is based on last season favoring the Cuban Missile Crisis as the big thematic close to parallel the merger, though in the first season, the Kennedy-Nixon election is somewhere in the middle. So, I suppose it could go either way.

        What’s quite striking for me about your comment is that it makes me rethink the show, at least a bit. Sterling-Cooper and its people almost entirely miss out on the Camelot Sixties and are going to get a pretty heavy faceful of Nixonland. To elaborate; there’s not really a point of optimism and vitality that the Sterling-Co folks enjoy the same way that a lot of film/tv about the sixties suggests that the pre-JFK Assassination world felt like. I’ve always sort of wondered how much of that was true, and how much of that was hogwash created retroactively by what came after.

        In any case, Sterling-Co, always behind the times, is now going to get all downsides of the sixties. That’s going to be fun.

        I hope that Joan divorces Doctor McRapey.

  6. universeexpanding September 9, 2009 at 9:10 am Reply

    About Sal and Kitty – does anyone remember that episode last season when they had Ken Cosgrove over for dinner? Sal ignored Kitty and pushed her out of the conversation constantly so he could moon over Ken. When Kitty brought it to his attention after Ken left he was so apologetic and solicitous…I think Kitty has been able to fool herself for this long because she probably thought she was getting a pretty good deal. He cooks, he’s Italian so there’s that touch of the “exotic” about him, and he doesn’t mistreat her (well not exactly). She was probably thinking that a good man is hard to find and feeling lucky to have snagged such a catch. It’s harder than one might think to convince yourself that you were wrong about something like that.

    As for Sally, her lisp was killing me in that last scene. I don’t know if I felt moved by the fact that she lost her grandfather, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the rising tension between herself and her mother. Betty clearly doesn’t know what to make of Sally, and Sally is swiftly losing that unconditional positive regard that young children have for their parents. And yes, Betty and Don are exceptionally shitty parents. I’m already sorry for that one that Betty’s carrying.

    • slb September 9, 2009 at 9:26 am Reply

      Is it wrong that I’m hardcore hoping that kid isn’t Don’s? (It *is* possible it could be by that one-night stand from the bar, right?)

      • McDevite September 9, 2009 at 9:31 am Reply

        It’s Don’s, from the night they spent together at Gene’s House.

        The bar hook-up followed the scene in the family doctor’s office where she asked about abortion and was told off, so she was already pregnant–it was part of her (half-hearted) efforts to get rid of it, along with riding.

        • slb September 9, 2009 at 9:36 am Reply

          Crap. My timeline was aaaall off. Consider my hopes dashed.

        • universeexpanding September 9, 2009 at 10:11 am Reply

          I had forgotten about her asking about an abortion. So now, along with the shitty parenting that Betty already does she’ll probably be super-resentful towards this kid that she didn’t really want in the first place. Fun times.

          • slb September 9, 2009 at 10:35 am Reply

            I’m just fascinated with all the things Don *didn’t* know, coming back into this marriage after their separation. I want a LOT of fall-out some time this season. So far, I’ve noticed that, even though he hasn’t stopped cheating, he *does* seem more invested in Betty/the unborn kid. (He’s commenting, perhaps with concern (?) on her eating habits [melba toast moment, peach moment last night].) I know that’s mostly lip service, but I really have recognized an effort on his part to at least *pretend* he cares about Betty/the pregnancy. That’s been surprising.

            Conversely, she seems really, REALLY over the whole thing. If I’m remembering correctly, Don was the only one interested in his return to the family. Betty only conceded separation defeat when she realized she couldn’t terminate that pregnancy.

            It’s making for a strange marital dynamic.

            • quadmoniker September 9, 2009 at 9:46 pm Reply

              I’ve totally noticed Don being more invested too. I also love how there’s all this “get off your feet” and “eat more than melba toast” concern for betty and the baby, and then her response to that is to sit down, light up, and have a glass of wine.

          • McDevite September 9, 2009 at 10:36 am Reply

            She doesn’t ask about in so many words, but there’s a pretty strong response from the doctor, along the lines of “That’s for girls who don’t have other options.” The whole conversation is great in that the doctor clearly wants to talk to Don, not Betty, about the pregnancy.

            Also, I’m not entirely sure that having not wanted the child initially is going to make Betty especially worse towards that one than she is with Sally and Billy–she just goes deeper into smoking and being frigid.

  7. Scipio Africanus September 9, 2009 at 11:11 am Reply

    I like that they shocked us all by killing Gene off so soon. As other shave said, Gene was probably meant to be a proxy tension-dynamic in the Draper houselhold that can now be fully explored between Sally (and hopefully Bobby, soon, though I doubt it) and Dona and Betty. This generational shift from the Depression/Greatest generation to the Boomers is vital and must be explored at some point on this show. With Gene (and Father Campbell before him) – members of the Lost Generation – now dead, the dynamic can come into view more. They’re in a place now where they can do that properly.

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