Mad Men, Season 3, Ep. 11: “The Gypsy and the Hobo.”

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By 10:20, I was all set to declare this episode a dud, but by 10:35, I was biting my tongue. Hard.

I can’t say that I cared much about anything that happened before Don walked into his house, leaving Miss Ferrell in his car, only to find Betty and the kids home from their visit to Gene’s unsold house early. All that stuff with Ms. Mathis, the dog food lady who used to go with Roger way back in the day, felt particularly superfluous. (I’m not sure why so much time was spent developing that story, but if you’re hip to some hidden historical significance, please enlighten me.)

But back to the Draper House of Cards and its happy, happy collapse. The cat’s finally all the way out of the bag and I guess we can stop speculating about the existence of Betty’s backbone: it’s there and it’s in full effect. From demanding that Don open the desk drawer (“or I will,” she threatens, slamming the keys down on the tabletop) to asking if she’s supposed to feel sorry for him, when he confesses that he’s surprised she ever fell in love with him, she is unrelenting and full of very appropriate, very mature and assertive indignation.

To Don’s shaken “I can explain,” she volleys, “I know. I know you can. You’re a very, very gifted storyteller.”

When he walks into the kitchen after declaring that he needs a drink, she trails him and presses for answers. Then, upon seeing how terrified and pale he is at the prospect of offering them, she instructs him to sit and gets the drink for him. But it isn’t long before she’s after him again, and miraculously, right in front of our eyes, he begins to confess. (“We’re not done,” Betty declares, when the baby’s sudden cries interrupt her interrogation.)

He tells her the absolute truth—about everything, even his prostitute mother and how he was the cause of his half-brother’s suicide.

In the end, with all his confessions between them and in the wake of his broken, awkward tears, she states flatly, “I’m sorry. I am.” And she touches his back, not with affection or compassion so much as pity.

I spent so much time here because it was the most incredible scene of the episode and, arguably, the most anticipated reveal of the series. Jon Hamm, always exceptional, played defeated and penitent and relieved and terrified to the hilt. January Jones did steely and superior with grace and competence. I finally liked the Draper coupling and kind of started to root for it, rather than hoping they left each other for better partners, based on these actors’ work here.

But of course, this isn’t the only thing that happened this week, so let’s talk about the second most incredible scene of the week: Joan’s husband Greg continues to prove himself useless by bombing a psychiatry interview, for which she painstakingly helped him prep. He throws one of his trademark, cowardly tantrums, as she woodenly tries to comfort him. “You don’t know,” he yells. “You don’t know what it’s like to want something your whole life and plan for it and count on it and not get it!” Joan’s eyes go dead during this little tirade and at its end? She (awesomely) snatches a vase full of flowers from an end table, cracks him over the head with it, and storms into another room.

Aaaand scene.

Later, when he comes home with one hand behind his back, he reveals flowers rather than the gun I suspected. His other revelation? He’s (stupidly) joined the army. Here, he claims, he can be a surgeon after all and “maybe” he’ll have to go somewhere, “like Vietnam, if that’s still going on…” but he assures a heartening Joan that “most surgeons don’t have to leave home, if they have families.” We realize he’s more of an idiot than we ever could’ve expected, so it’s all the more heartbreaking that Joan’s allowing her hopes to bob up to the surface again.

And in the episode’s final twist of awesome, Miss Ferrell not only has to do a walk of shame with her pitiful little weekend suitcase, when Don gets caught in the house and cornered into unearthing his darkest secrets, but she also gets dumped by phone at the end of the episode.

Based on commenter speculation this season, I’ll bet you guys don’t think we’ve seen the last of her.

Of course this week was full of other interesting little moments, but those are for you to discuss below. What did you make of Betty’s line about Don’s financial practices: “I’ve seen how you are with money; you don’t understand it.”? What about the irony of Sally and Bobby as a gypsy and hobo for Halloween? Am I alone in hating Betty’s whiny, WASP-y brother? Will Betty take her lawyer’s advice and stay in the marriage or is she plotting a getaway? Is Roger really that in love with Jane or is he fooling himself? And was I alone in thinking it was kind of sweet how he was putting in work to find Joan a new job?

18 thoughts on “Mad Men, Season 3, Ep. 11: “The Gypsy and the Hobo.”

  1. STA October 26, 2009 at 9:40 am Reply

    This is the first of your Mad Men summaries I’ve read, and I think it summarized everything perfectly. Your analysis of the feelings behind the confrontation, the acting it took to pull it off, and the description of the “pitiful little weekend suitcase” was perfect.

    The only thing I have to disagree with was your reading of Joan and whether she’s “allow[ed] her hopes to bob up to the surface again.” At that moment I thought she was just playing the role of a supportive sixties wife. What I saw underneath was an understanding that she couldn’t change what he’d done so she’d go with it, but that she didn’t have a lot of confidence in his decision and would be back at work soon enough (after all… we need to keep seeing her on the show).

    And to add to your last paragraph of questions that need thought… what about the man’s “And what are you supposed to be?” addressed to Don, presumably, as he escorted his kids around the neighborhood?

    • slb October 26, 2009 at 9:44 am Reply

      You’re probably right. I mean, we know well that Joan started giving up on Greg that night he raped her in Don’s office and everything he’s done since then has been a grave disappointment to her. This isn’t different. I just thought I read a little hope in her voice and her willingness to go out and celebrate. But it’s far more likely she was just back to playing the part.

  2. Seanathan October 26, 2009 at 9:45 am Reply

    The most satisfying moment on television this season: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2009/10/26/madmen1.gif

  3. ladyfresh October 26, 2009 at 10:34 am Reply

    I believe Roger’s storyline has to do with Joan. I don’t believe his true love is Jane but Joan.

    Re: Betty’s comment on Don’s not understanding money, i think she is right. His background plus his behavior leads me to believe he does not want to understand it. He was/is playing at his world he see people with money and has these turns of resentment, disdain, disgust and admiration. He still views himself as separate from it and them. Don commands people with his looks, charm, wit and creativity. He doesn’t know how to handle the money aspect and use it to his advantage.

    • Alisa October 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm Reply

      That’s what I thought re: Roger. I think that was the point of that storyline. It had nothing to do with wanting us to know about Roger’s past and everything to do with Roger and Joan. When Annabelle says “I’m glad you found her” there’s something in his face…I can’t explain it. And then that banter on the phone when Joan called him. Sigh. I know Roger is a jackass but I felt bad for him. Jane always was and will always be a stand-in for the divine Ms. Holloway and he knows it.

    • Lauren October 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm Reply

      I don’t know if the time spent on this storyline was meant to round out Roger’s character or what, but I did find something bittersweet and satisfying about finding out that he was still so taken with Joan, probably because he’s been portrayed to date as a rakish but prickly WASP. It was nice to imagine him as a young dope in love. And I think if they’d sped up the pace this revelation would have seemed cheap instead of revelatory.

  4. keke October 26, 2009 at 12:18 pm Reply

    This was a great episode. I actually enjoyed seeing more of Roger and finding out a little more information on Roger as a younger man. I also liked the back and forth with Annabel and the reveal of her as his first love and his first heartbreak.

    I agree with ladyfresh; I don’t think that Roger feels necessarily different about Jane, if it is anyone who is his true love, its Joan.

    Jon Hamm was excellent in the scenes with Betty. He has such an expressive face and I really enjoy his transformation into Dick Whitman whenever he feels threatened or is confronted about his past and his lies.

    I too found myself rooting for Don and Betty and but I still wonder how long their relationship will last. Betty has put up with a lot from Don, the secretive nature and dark moods, the infidelity, but this revelation about his past is such a huge shock and blow to their marriage. I just don’t know how much more Betty is willing to take. Betty is still a snob, that line about Don not understanding money says it all. But she now knows more about Don than anyone else, in a way its like he signed another contract when he told her about his past. The power dynamic has completed shifted for Don professionally and in his marriage. The secret is out and it may be a slight bit of relief but the freedom that Don once had is pretty much gone.

  5. Alisa October 26, 2009 at 2:26 pm Reply

    – I wish Joan had hit that fool with something that had more heft and really knocked his whiny ass out. Clown. With any luck he’ll be shipped out swiftly and Joan can exit that sham of a marriage by way of widowhood.

    – I was and wasn’t surprised that he didn’t hit her back.

    – Betty’s brother is extremely irritating. She should give him the damn house so he can shut his yap.

    – But then again, Betty looks like she’s on the fence about her marriage. She might need the house to run to or the sell.

    – I don’t know if we’re done with Ms. Farrell but I know I’m bored of her. I didn’t get the interaction between her and Don and didn’t understand why he’s willing to play house with her right down the street from his own house.

    – I’m thinking, now that the box is opened now what? What can the next two episodes bring?

    • G.D. October 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm Reply

      “With any luck he’ll be shipped out swiftly and Joan can exit that sham of a marriage by way of widowhood.”

      That was way harsh, Tai.

  6. msduende October 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm Reply

    This truly was a great episode, and I completely agree: Ms. Farrell doing “the walk of shame with her pitiful little weekend suitcase” is a flawless description, PB.

    I also agree that Roger’s true love is Joan, who is doing nothing more than going through the motions with Greg about the Army. Her facial expressions completely captured the roller coaster she has ridden in this marriage, and I think the marriage is now over; the question is how it actually ends.

    Speaking of facial expressions, Don’s face as he gave it up to Betty was a wonder; his whole person seemed to crumble and lurch. The acting in this episode was nothing short of masterful.

    BTW, where’s Pete been these last two episodes??

  7. quadmoniker October 26, 2009 at 4:03 pm Reply

    You know what struck me most about the chat between Betty and Don? How domestic they still were. There was absolute tension and anger that was almost overwhelming, but they still feel into husband and wife patterns that seemed totally realistic. I’m not sure yet how Betty feels about the marriage.

    I think she doesn’t want to give the house to her little brother because she needs the nest egg, but I’d also like to add that the quibbling between siblings over a measly inheritance is also really realistic.

  8. geo October 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm Reply

    wonderful episode.

    Don is terribly ashamed of taking someone’s identity. When someone he respects and cares for catches him in the lie, he recants the full story, which is diametrical to what “Don” would do. He wilts like a flower when discussing his old life. My favorite line from Betty: “You don’t get to ask any questions.” I was surprised that she confronted Don. I thought she would hold it for a power move later or not even venture to uncover the true story for fear of what she may find.

    How can anyone not love Joan? Hitting homeboy on the head was golden! I think the purpose of sending her husband to the army is a plot device to send her back to the office and back into the arms of Roger. I’m not sure if I like that angle, but I want more office interactions.

  9. wildwhuck October 26, 2009 at 10:29 pm Reply

    great recap, but one correction, dick didn’t tell the truth about stealing the real don’s identity. dick switched dog tags with don. dick made it seem as if he just went along with a military mistake.

    • Scipio Africanus October 27, 2009 at 9:35 am Reply

      Yeah, I was going to mention that. Even when he’s confessing, he’s still keeping some of it back.

  10. nichole October 27, 2009 at 1:00 am Reply

    i don’t believe joan has her hopes up. when they’re about to get ready to go out, she has a very determined look in her eye. think back to how joan ran SC. the same mistake doesn’t happen twice. joan is definitely going along with the flow of things, but i don’t believe she’s gonna put all her trust in her husband any more.

    jon hamm was so excellent in the confrontation/confession scenes. it seemed like the planes of his face shifted and tightened. (i thought his crying was a bit forced and slightly comical).
    i think january jones was still doing her princess grace impression, which is fine, i guess, and betty has her spine back, but i would love to see her disheveled, and not b/c she feels helpless or with misery.

    betty needs to holla at that washing machine again.

    i enjoyed the annabelle and roger build-up. it definitely seem like it’s pointing to a reconnection with joan.

    this whole season has been about keeping don off-kilter. his accounts haven’t been going like he wanted. betty’s been throwing him curve balls all season. burt cooper calling him out. all that’s left is for him to get fired. *ominous piano and strings*

    only two episodes left!

  11. Jeremy R. Levine October 27, 2009 at 6:20 am Reply

    Great recap.

    It feels like Don’s character was being set up all season for this moment. For the first two seasons, we see him as suave, if frustratingly unfaithful, and just all around cool. This season, he’s just been….off. Like he’s been saltier in his belittling of his underlyings, he’s had his manhood challenged by his bosses, etc. And that was all a bit unsettling. But it was the perfect setup for Sunday, where the human side of Don, with his guard down and the truth finally on the table, came out. Really brilliant setup, because if this had happened any other time in his character development, it wouldn’t have been as believable.

  12. rikyrah October 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm Reply

    It was terrific. I swear, Jon Hamm, has thrown down for the Emmy with this episode. He was stunning. It was unbelievable, seeing him go from Don Draper, to Dick in a nanosecond. I am stunned at how powerful the scenes between DICK and Betty were. Amazing.

    wow…what a payoff.

    where did they find Jon Hamm…where has he been before Mad Men?

    • Lauren November 1, 2009 at 10:23 am Reply

      “seeing him go from Don Draper, to Dick in a nanosecond.”

      This.

      I admit up until the last couple of episodes, if you asked me why I watched the show I would have said something about the novelistic, literary story lines, and the great acting by the side characters, ignore the main couple. But this season Hamm and Jones have had room to move around in their characters — to our benefit! The payoff was investing this kind of time and brain power with the story as long as we have to get this kind of reveal.

      I have no idea where they’re going with the last two episodes, but you’re going to find me breathelss on the couch tonight with a Manhattan. 😀

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