Monday, September 14, 2009

'Mad Men' Monday: The Fog

*Warning, spoilers ahead from the latest episode of Mad Men.*

This episode was so layered and nuanced on so many levels, that I just fell in love with “The Fog.” Liked it much more than the recent episodes.

Betty Had Her Baby

Who didn’t feel sorry for Betty during this episode? We were supposed to hate the patronizingly nasty Nurse Ratchet who was insensitive and downright cruel to Betty. Nurse Ratchet literally pinned Betty down when Betty was frightened and calling for her husband who she was afraid had left. She blithely told Betty that her ob/gyn was out at a fancy dinner in the city and dismissed Betty’s concerns about having a doctor she’d never met deliver her baby. The capper was when Betty felt as though she could no longer push (I’ve been there) and, instead of offering encouragement, threatened Betty, saying, “Either you can do it, or WE will, but it’s gonna come out some way.”

It’s no wonder that in her drug-induced “twilight sleep,” Betty sought out the comfort from her deceased parents. Betty envisioned her father Gene as a janitor, swishing a bloody mop around the Drapers’ kitchen floor, while her mother Ruthie was standing beside a well dressed man who we later learned had a head wound (a reference to the recently killed Medgar Evers about whom Sally had been talking?). Indicating that "this" is what happens to people who "speak up," Ruthie, clutching a bloodied cloth, advised her daughter, “Be happy with what you have.” Gene, who made no secret that he didn't approve of Betty’s life choices, said, “You’re a housecat. You’re very important and you have little to do.”

During the birth of the child that brought Don and Betty back together, Betty’s mind revisited whether she’d made the right choice in letting Don come back home. Interestingly, we learned later that Betty “allowed” Carla, their housekeeper/nanny, to leave, telling her friend Francine that she could handle two kids and a new baby. No housecat she.

Don Was Doting

Don, whose own mother died in childbirth, could not have behaved more like the model 1960s husband than he was in this episode when his third child was born. With the exception of his dalliance with the flight attendant in the first episode of the season, he hasn’t (that we know of) stepped out on Betty.

Don remained at the hospital during Betty’s labor (when he could’ve gone back to work, as Roger wanted him to do), and bonded with another expectant dad, a prison guard who said many prisoners blame bad parents for turning them into criminals, something with which Don strongly disagreed.

Don brought Betty flowers and took the kids to the hospital, where they were only allowed to wave to Betty and the baby from the sidewalk outside as children weren’t allowed inside. Don let Betty name the baby Gene, though he clearly didn’t like it, and was very sweet to Sally during their late night snack, where Don dished up what appeared to be hash and eggs. The two sat side-by-side in the dimly lit kitchen -- the same kitchen where Betty had the vision of seeing her father -- as Don told Sally, who was still grieving her grandfather’s death, that everything would be okay.

Peggy Wants What She’s Worth

But Don’s soothing words didn’t work on Peggy, who’d had her eyes opened to the fact that she is worth more than Sterling Cooper was paying her.

Duck Phillips, about whom I’d been wondering, tried to lure both Peggy and Pete to his new ad firm, he told them they’d be “sitting on velvet pillows” if they came with him. Heaping praise upon her talents after Pete left their secret lunch meeting in a snit, Duck said, “This is your time Peggy.”

Later, she went to Don and clearly laid out the reasons why she should get a raise: Her secretary didn’t respect her because she only made $71/week more than her, that other males were doing the same job (not as well as she had been) and were being paid more and that it was becoming increasingly costly to live in Manhattan on her salary.

Here, Don’s verbal pat on the head didn’t work. He made a bad joke about finding Peggy a cheaper secretary. When that fell flat, Don then tried to brush her off with his patented line, “It’s not a good time,” saying he’s been “fighting for paper clips around here.” “It’s not going to happen, not now,” he said, as if that was the end of the discussion. “You’re going to be fine Peggy,” he added, similar to the way in which he spoke with Sally in the kitchen.

Delicately touching a pair baby booties affixed to a baby gift left on a table, Peggy bore in, “I look at you and I think, ‘I want what he has.’ . . . You have everything. And so much of it.”

As Peggy sat there, letting her words about the stark contrast between their lives linger in the air, Don invoked a classic Don line which he uses when he’s cornered, “What do you want me to say?”

Peggy called him on it. “I don’t think I could’ve been any clearer,” she said. She got up, went to leave and, with her hand still on the doorknob turned to Don and said, “What if this is my time?” He had no response.

Other episode tidbits:

-- The Civil Rights movement is seeping more and more into the white washed world of Mad Men. Betty’s daughter was talking about a slain Civil Rights leader while Pete was getting taken to the woodshed by Sterling Cooper’s bosses for suggesting to a client that they target their product to a growing African-American market. Pete’s uncomfortable conversation with Hollis, the elevator operator, made the tensions clear when Hollis pointed out that he’s "Hollis," but Pete is “Mr. Campbell.”

-- I wish I had the chutzpah to pull a move like Don did when Lane was grilling members of his Creative Department about why they spent so much money on pens and pencils. Don just got up and left the room. And no one stopped him or said a word.

-- Obviously the story with Sally’s teacher, Miss Farrell, isn’t over. A few episodes ago, Don watched with great interest as she danced around the Maypole. Then she called the Draper home to apologize for an earlier conference where Miss Farrell had questioned why Betty and Don hadn’t taken Sally out of school when her grandfather died. Where this will go, I’m uncertain.

By the way, what was with the Sally-as-William-Wallace/Braveheart snippet, wiping the blood on her cheek while Miss Farrell was talking about the incident at the water cooler?

-- One thing that was bugging me: What was the song that was played during Betty’s vision when she was holding the caterpillar and then at the end of the episode, when Betty went to fetch her crying newborn?

What were your thoughts on “The Fog?”

UPDATE: There's some fantastic discussion in the comments section about Betty's childbirth experience going on over at the Basket of Kisses. Be sure to check it out.

Image credit: Carin Baer/AMC.


Monique said...

"The Fog" has done little to make anything clear. I did not realize the Medgar Evans reference and your info clarifies it, but I don't get all the bloodied scenes. I think it will be interesting if this becomes a multi-firm show with Peggy (and hopefully Pete) leaving Sterling Cooper. Perhaps Peggy will lead a "Creative Department" and compete with Don.

Meredith said...

Wouldn't that be weird, following characters who work for different ad firms? Maybe they'll even compete for clients and use what intel they have on one another to undercut each other (like Pete did talking about the guy who was let go in the season premiere).

I agree with what you said regarding Peggy vying against Don for business, it could be dramatic. She had pretty firm opinions about the Patio account that Don and the others dismissed, and then it turned out that she was right about the "Bye-Bye Birdie" knock-off ad not working.

Plus all the Sterling Cooper original employees seem leery of the British folks meddling in their business. I did read an interview with show runner Matt Weiner saying that this season would be about changes. Hmmm . . .

Anonymous said...

I read online that the song played during Betty's "sleep" was: Song of India, performed by David Carbonara (composed by Rimsky-Korsakov). I haven't had time to comfirm it by hearing it on iTunes though.

I didn't get that bloody Sally scene either. I always toss everything up to foreshadowing! I still think Sally will grow up in stark contrast to her mother. Perhaps she will "speak up" for herself in life and Betty is worried for her. Afterall, Ruthie said "this is what happens to people who speak up".

I think there will be more to Miss Farrell/Don. The fact that he told Betty "no one" phoned shows he is already setting the ground for a cover-up. Cover-ups, lies, selling's what he does best, right? Somehow she will hook up with Don. He is too weak to resist her (?) He wants to be strong, but it isn't in him.

Don walked by the prision guard pushing his wife in a wheel chair. There was no baby in her arms and the prision guard didn't acknowledge Don. Did his baby die? Sad.

I wonder if Peggy is going to flip out one of these days? There is only so much male chauvansim she'll take. And it's a shame that she thinks Don has everything. Does he really? If she only knew his skeletons.
-Kris Spazz

Art said...

i'm not so sure that don will do anything with miss farrell. i think that's a bit too on the nose for us. and the remorse that don showed when he was talking with the prison guard in the waiting room suggests that he too wants to be a better man from the birth of the child. i think it can be legitimately explained that don was trying not to worry betty with a phone call about their oldest child getting into a fight at school.

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