Mad Men, Season 3, Ep. 5: The Fog.

Late, rather than never, here’s a few thoughts on last Sunday’s Mad Men. In a conversation with G.D. earlier this week, I said that I didn’t really care for this episode, overall, despite it having really great moments. I’ll stand by that in this write-up.

First for the things I didn’t like: Peggy’s conversation with Don about equal pay. One of the problems with period pieces is the temptation (or need) to wedge the Issues of the Day into the plotlines. This felt like one of the moments. It’s true; Peggy’s self-assured, competent and quite the rising star at Sterling Cooper. It’s true that she hasn’t been rewarded enough for that (although getting ol’ boy’s office was more than a start). But that conversation in Don’s office felt a bit too nail-on-the-head for my taste. “I read this piece in the paper about equal pay…” Oooof course you did, Pegs. How convenient!

Speaking of convenient: what was up with shoehorning Medgar Evers into the plot, first with an almost throwaway line of dialogue from Sally’s elementary school teacher, then sitting him in Betty’s kitchen while her mother holds the back of his bloodied head and tsks, “See what happens when you speak up?” I get that there were levels of metaphor at play there, but I can’t say that I found them effective.

What I did find effective was Pete’s plotline about integration in advertising. This, too, is an issue that had to be addressed, given the period in which the show is set, but Pete’s dollars-and-sense approach to marketing was better woven into the thread of the times and the crumbling empire setting than Peggy’s dialogue in Don’s office. Best yet was the elevator scene in which Pete hounds Hollis the operator for an inside track into Black consumerism. Love or hate Pete Campbell, but he really came across as human here–especially in his golly-gee attempt to break the tension with a baseball reference (presumably thinking the sport would be mutually beloved because of Jackie Robinson). Hollis’ half-chuckle and Pete’s modest grin upon exit were pitch perfect.

In other news, does anyone think Duck will be successful in wooing Pete or Peggy? Was anyone else deeply satisfied by Pete and Peggy’s hallway showdown: “What you do affects me.” Word, Pete. Word.

You’ll note that I avoided talking about Betty giving birth to Eugene. That’s because I hated that section, too—from the random, oversharing prison warden with whom Don got stuck in the waiting room (another too-obvious juxtaposition between the optimism of first-time fathers and the cynicism of third-time ones) to Betty’s drug-addled musings (could’ve done without her stroll down the sidewalk, tight-fisting a caterpillar and her “Do you know where he is? Have you been with him? He’s never where he says he’ll be” rant). The only thing about the hospital that worked for me were Betty blurting out clearly, certainly, “Daddy.” when she saw the janitor and just as clearly and certainly declaring, “She’s beautiful,” before Don shut her down with, “It’s a boy.”

I loved that Don didn’t want to name the baby Eugene, even in spite of his father-in-law’s death.

I also loved Sally’s teacher and her obvious play for Don, either as lover or kindred spirit (probably, hopefully both).

Speaking of Sally, her scene with Don (her first with just him?) was wonderful and odd. Overall, Sally seemed a little too plucky for this to just be two weeks after Gene’s death. Or maybe I’m still stuck on her curled in that leotard on the living room floor in episode four.

Even if it’s not still fresh in your mind, weigh in below with your thoughts on last Sunday’s ep.

13 thoughts on “Mad Men, Season 3, Ep. 5: The Fog.

  1. Jeremy September 16, 2009 at 10:29 pm Reply

    For some reason (call it projection), I always pay close attention to Kinsey. True to form, he offered a gem of a “sellout radical” line in this episode–something about Marx being a brilliant analyst of the market. It played into his character to brilliantly, non-nonchalantly referencing Marx, yet in the context of a scheme to make more money for the company (“it’s all about boom and bust, ebb and flow”). It’s the classic case of a faux radical/liberal that never really grasped the content of what he was reading/saying. It also makes me wonder whatever happened to his girlfriend…

  2. Bourgie, JD September 17, 2009 at 9:05 am Reply

    The birth scenes really gave me pause. I sat there thinking, “Man, childbirth sucked. A lot.” I was thinking of it in terms of the period but then I thought that things haven’t changed much. Most women fall into line when it comes to giving birth, where few take the opportunity to manage and guide their experiences. There’s this blind trust in medical professionals I don’t quite agree with.

    Aside from that, Betty did show some spunk by trying to find out what was up with her doctor. Trying to assert herself in some way. Didn’t work, of course, but I think we got another look into how powerless and truly hidden from the world Betty is/feels. To Don, the kids and the outside world she’s this glowing new mom. No one had to see her going loopy through a difficult labor. They just watch her, happy with her new baby, sort of like the scene where she was up in the window and the family was out on the sidewalk, waving and smiling.

    Betty does annoy me mostly but I’m trying to empathize with her. I still have trouble relating to the white woman’s feeling of isolation, uselessness and powerlessness that fed the fires of feminist movements to come.

    • Leigh September 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm Reply

      I’m going out on a limb here, so bear w/me, but white women’s frustrations at that time period – reading your comment above – make me think of African-American middle-class frustrations today, as I’ve read about / understand them – a sense of, I have this certain degree of privilege (white skin for Betty, middle-class status for African-Americans today), why am I so constrained/blocked/discriminated against, etc.? That might be a clumsy comparison, but it seems similar – when you’re standing at the door society shuts in your face it’s a lot more angering than when you can’t even see the door from where you stand.

  3. keke September 17, 2009 at 10:53 am Reply

    I am going to defend Peggy’s conversation with Don. I feel that Peggy is trying to find some balance in her life. She is dealing with the struggle that many women even to this day are confronted with; the struggle to have it all. On the surface, that conversation was about equal pay but Peggy was talking about equality in life. The ability to have a successful career that pays well yet still able to be a woman, date, to marry, and have a family. She is struggling with the idea of having to choose one over the other. We saw a couple of episodes ago that when she had that one night stand, she basically dumbed herself down for that guy. Because she knew that if she told him she were really a junior copywriter and not a secretary, he would be hesitant to spend the night with her.

    Don has it all; even though he is unhappy. But for the most part, men don’t have to give up the family and social life for a professional career. Peggy has made that decision throughout the entire series. So when Peggy says that it is her time she is indeed talking professionally, and she wants equal pay but she also wants the freedom that men have to navigate the world without compromising on her personal wants and needs (boyfriend, husband, family etc).

    • slb September 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm Reply

      I agree with you that the conversation was about more than a raise. It *was* about equality in life.

      The thing is: Peggy says that, exactly–too exactly. I think her words were, “You have SO MUCH” or “You have EVERYTHING.”

      Don does his Frown of Deflection and concedes, “Maybe so.”

      On both levels–equal pay, equal life–the dialogue, as written (and the fondling of the baby bootie) were too obvious for me.

      Even the teary, “What if this is My Time?” was just like… OKAY, PEGGY!

      (Maybe I’m just being a Peggy-hater right now. Maybe this whole rant I’ve just typed is too, “Yo, Mad Men, your Issues of the Day coverage is good and I’mma let you finish, but American Dreams had one of the BEST plucky heroines (who kept just happening to stumble into historic moments) OF ALL TIME!!!”)

      :-/

      • G.D. September 17, 2009 at 4:51 pm Reply

        LOL. i keep laughing at that damn joke.

        • slb September 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm Reply

          I know, right? I don’t want to live in a world where that stops being funny.

  4. LJ September 17, 2009 at 11:00 am Reply

    The thing that bugged me about Peggy asking Don for a raise was the fact that although she is doing great work and probably deserves more money but is she really adequately staked to make that claim of equal pay for equal work when she has less years experience and considerably less education than her co-workers Se has an H.S. diploma, went to a secretarial school and has 3 years of work experience, 1 as a secretary and 2 as a copywriter. She compares herself to Kinsey, who is ok and maybe doesn’t have the same talent and fools around a decent amount, but who at about 26 or 27 has 5-6 years of working experience, probably all as copywriter and a BA from Princeton University. Is it really fair to expect the same or more pay as someone like that? Now maybe it was sexism and classism that never let her go to college in the first place since she was definitely intelligent enough but is it really a fair equal pay argument here. Of course it depends on how much you are liked b/c I read about an “anti affirmative action suit once” where a white teacher complained it was unfair that she was let go when an “equally” qualified black teacher was kept. The thing the press left out was that though they had the same years of experience and produced similar results, the black woman had an MA and the white woman didn’t so it can play out either way. I also wonder if for some freakish reason Sterling Cooper hired say a black female copywriter (I know fat chance) with a college degree from a pedigreed school and experience somewhere else as a copywriter with the same or more years of experience who had equally excellent ideas and success as Peggy, and she made less than Peggy would Peggy think that was unfair and sympathize or say the other woman made more, would Peggy go to Don and complain that she was making less? Same thing with a black man. Though I like Peggy, I suspect she would think it was wrong if the black person with more/the same experience and superior education made more money.

    • keke September 17, 2009 at 11:28 am Reply

      But don’t Peggy and Paul Kinsey have the same job title? Aren’t they both junior copywriters? I am under the impression that they are, and if they are both junior copywriters, shouldn’t they get paid the same amount regardless of education?

  5. Leigh September 17, 2009 at 1:00 pm Reply

    I liked this episode. I wasn’t wild about Betty’s dream scenes, but after reading a bit more about Twilight Sleep, I found them kind of interesting.

    I loved Pete’s Admiral story line.

    I thought Medgar Evars insertion was a bit clumsy.

    I hated the teacher calling Don and Don just happening to answer the phone and then going to the hospital. That all seemed contrived. The only good part is the teach seems young enough to get a little boozy after work and drunk dial a kid’s parent at home. Heh. Pausing to remember my own stellar professional moments in my early 20. Lol.

    Loved the shout-out to Marx.

    I thought the scene b/w Don and Peggy was pretty good. I see the anvil/clumsy nature of it now that you write about it, but I also thought it was strong because the convo meandered in an opaque, realistic way. Like a prior commenter just said, it was sort of about the $$ but more about Peggy’s overall options. IIRC, she kept fingering one of the gifts while she talked, and that’s the part that sticks out to me. Her ruminating on Don’s life v. hers, vs. hers v. Kinsey’s, per se.

  6. quadmoniker September 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm Reply

    I kind of read Peggy mentioning the equal pay thing as a clumsy attempt to be threatening. Negotiating and advocating for herself is something that’s completely foreign. So I saw the scene as kind of clumsy on purpose.

    I hate dream scenes as a general rule. I get what they were doing. It sucked to be a housewife in the 60s. You’re trapped, yeah yeah. We know. But it was the first time I felt a little bit sorry for Betty. The pause as she went to deal with the crying baby on her own. And she had to have the baby on her own in the first place. And how, the next day, Don complains after Roger complains to him and Roger says, “Betty had the baby, not you.” Oh, different times!

    I do feel like the show can be a bit heavy handed, and like it much more when it frames things in a new way. Which is why Pete’s dealing with Hollis and then Admiral execs was so good. The same way I liked it best during a scene in season 2 when various characters disrobe, and one of them was Joan, who massaged a sore spot where her completely cumbersome under garments had left a mark in her skin. A much better way to communicate that idea that squeezing a caterpillar in a dream.

    • Leigh September 17, 2009 at 1:34 pm Reply

      “I hate dream scenes as a general rule.”

      Ditto.

  7. ding September 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm Reply

    i hope i’m not late to this party. some moments that stood out for me:

    when Peggy is having her talk with Don, it’s her observation that her secretary knows how much she gets paid and doesn’t respect her for it that got to me. i saw this as a perfect moment illustrating Peggy’s ambition, her hunger and her willingness to put a whole lot of distance between who she is trying to become now and who she was *then.* (like the way she pulls herself away from her family by moving into manhattan, the way she’s taken steps not to be the secretary anymore, or aligned with the other secretaries.)

    when Betty goes in to her crying kid at the end of the episode, seeing the slump in her shoulders while she stands in that dark hallway and that looong pause before she goes in. wonderful. and then seeing her straighten up and plod down the hall to go inside while the music from her dream sequences is playing. motherhood isn’t a dream, isn’t wonderful; it’s lonely and hard.

    the moment in the elevator when Pete dimly realizes that he is putting Hollis in danger, that he could get Hollis fired, and he backs off a little. i thought that was acute and surprising. i didn’t expect the white writers of this show to be that subtle.

    and, frankly, the dressing down Sterling gives Pete: ‘Do you know how many hand jobs I’ll have to give out?!’ that made me laugh hard, seeing Pete’s completely nonplussed face.

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