Monday, August 31, 2009

'Mad Men' Monday: My Old Kentucky Home

When the credits rolled on the latest episode of Mad Men, I felt kind of, well, disappointed. Unlike most episodes, I couldn’t pinpoint a unifying theme. At least not right away. Sure, there were two parties – Roger and Jane’s horrifically awkward old time Kentucky-themed soiree at a country club, and a business-oriented dinner party at Joan and Greg’s. There was a small working pot “party” with some of Sterling Cooper’s underlings when they had to work on a Saturday.

Then there were the other assorted bits of oddness, Betty’s flirtation with the New York governor’s touchy staffer who, upon seeing her standing outside the ladies' room, opened with the line, “I wish you were waiting for me,” and then moved in to touch her belly in a lascivious fashion. And the stolen $5. Am I the only one who was just waiting for Grandpa Gene to take out a belt and beat the light-fingered Sally? (There was a distinctive darkness hovering around Gene, who had Sally read him The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, of all things.)

Put together, the disparate stories seemed like a hodgepodge of disconnected threads. How did they fit together? Maybe they didn't.

I toyed with the notion that the episode was about places in life as embodied by Peggy’s statement, “I’m in a very good place right now,” despite later being on the receiving end of a patronizing, chiding from her secretary after Peggy insisted that she be included with the creative guys who were smoking pot.

Maybe it was all about places.

Roger and Jane are in a self-contained bubble, pretending to ignore the scorn aimed their way, particularly during their very uncomfortable gathering (the blackface was painful), which Don called “work disguised as a party.”

Betty’s in the world of gestation -- no longer riding horses as she loved last season -- and flirting with a stranger while she looks resplendent in white lace, and later necked with her husband at the edge of a party in the shadows of some trees.

Joan is uneasily morphing into a supporting housewife role – seemingly alien to her -- being placed in a situation by her husband to be his performing monkey in order to up his standing with his bosses. (I hate Greg for the rape scene last year and cannot help but think of him as a domineering, controlling spouse who pressured Joan into performing in front of their company. Did ya catch the uncomfortable look she gave to Greg while she was singing?) Joan's usually the one who sets the agenda and makes the orders, at least at Sterling Cooper. That is, as long as she remains in the secretarial arena.

Gene, a veteran and a former business man, is in a place which is also foreign to him: Bunking in a spare room at the home of his daughter and despised son-in-law, he's been placed under their protective care and the watchful eyes of their housekeeper Carla. Gene is reduced to running around the house, where he’s just a guest, raging that someone had stolen money from him, helpless and confused.

Don -- on whom I can’t get a read this season -- seems to be crawling inside his own skin. He wanted to leave the Roger-Jane fete before he even arrived but stayed because of his obligations to his wife and to Roger. Don was gentlemanly and even affectionate to his wife in attending to her, passionately kissing her -- playing the role of the good husband – after seeing Roger and Jane slow dancing. I wonder if his heart is in the same place as Betty’s when it comes to their marriage?

So maybe there was a unifying theme in “My Old Kentucky Home” after all.

Key/interesting moments and quotes:

-- The Jane/Joan showdown in Sterling Cooper. After a very prickly exchange filled with silences that just hung there, particularly after someone called Jane “Mrs. Sterling,” Jane and her hat told Joan, “Roger is having my rings re-sized. I keep losing weight.” Then she scrunched up her nose in the full-figured Joan’s face.

-- Peggy’s take-down of her secretary Olive’s criticism of her for smoking pot with Kinsey and Smitty was great. After Olive chastised Peggy for leaving her purse unattended in her office and for doing weed (something I cannot imagine her doing to a male boss), Peggy gave this soliloquy:

“I have my own office with my name on the door. And I have a secretary. That’s you. And I am not scared of any of this. But you’re scared. Oh, my God. You’re scared. Don’t worry about me. I am going to get to do everything you want for me. I am going to be fine Olive. I really am.”

-- Pete and Trudy. Oh my God. Pete and Trudy. Doing that dance. Reminded me of George Bailey and Mary Hatch dancing at the Bedford High graduation party on the gym floor that opened up to a swimming pool.

-- Don to Roger, “No one thinks you’re happy. They think you’re foolish.”

What did you think of “My Old Kentucky Home?”

Image credit: AMC.


glonigro said...

You're right, the episode did seem a bit disjointed, but that may be because very little of it happened in the same place, it was all about work outside the office during off hours.

Don seems to be making a real effort to be good to Betty. It's endearing, it makes me like him even more. Maybe it's just his way of trying to make up for his shortcomings as a husband, but it sets up an uncomfortable tension about whether & when he will let Betty down again.

Hated the scene where Roger is in black face, singing to Jane onstage! Incredibly cringeworthy.

Loved watching Pete & Trudy dance! That was great. Don't like Pete's character at all, that was the first time I actually liked seeing him onscreen.

It was interesting to watch Peggy get high with the "boys". I really don't want to see her become a druggie, though! I was wondering if we'll get to find out if her copy for the Bacardi ads are going to be any good!

About Joan, it was sad to see that she really does seem to love her husband, and also that she is angry with the way he treats her. Greg is insensitive and clueless, as was established last season during the rape scene in the office. I'm still upset she married him! I'm wondering if the conversation about the other doctor's "steady hands" was foreshadowing about Greg's inability to become a successful doctor. Joan, on the other hand, is extremely good at her job and I really hope she doesn't stop working only to have her mediocre husband disappoint her at every turn. I was so excited for her last season when she was reading TV scripts and charmed the network executives with her ideas, and crushed when the job was taken away from her. C'est la vie! But it's still sad.

Meredith said...

G -- Astute observations.

I too think that there's a concerted effort to make Don seem more loving and supportive to Betty. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop with his father-in-law who's an accident waiting to happen. You can just sense it!