Out of My Mind

The Musings of a Woman Who Thinks Too Much

Nelle Engoron

Nelle Engoron
Location
California,
Birthday
May 01
Bio
You can email me at "nengoron@gmaildotcom" & follow @NelleEngoron on Twitter. My archived radio shows on last season's Mad Men are available (for free!) at: www.blogtalkradio.com/madmentalk **My "Mad Men" commentary for Season 5 is on Salon rather than here -- go to http://www.salon.com/writer/ nelle_engoron/ to find all my Salon articles. **My book, "Mad Men Unmasked: Decoding Season 4," is available on Amazon in both e-book and print versions.** I'm a writer/editor/consultant who lives in the SF Bay Area. I write about all kinds of things, but am particularly intrigued by movies, relationships, gender issues, belief systems and "Mad Men." (Scroll down left sidebar for links to a selection of my blog posts.) I'm working on a novel and a memoir, neither of which is about Mad Men!

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Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 7, 2009 6:09AM

The Arrangements: Mad Men Season 3, Episode 4

Rate: 15 Flag

 

Gene and Betty

 

You gotta really pay attention.  ~ Grandpa Gene to Sally


Indeed we do, Gene. These latest episodes are so packed with story, character development, symbolism, revealing dialogue, historical allusions and humor that it’s hard to keep up.   Poor Gene couldn’t keep up – he dies in this episode, a bit too soon for my taste, as I was greatly enjoying his presence in the show.  But he achieved the enviable goal of leaving while we were still wanting more.

Several of the characters on Mad Men are wanting more, as well, and chafing at their present arrangements.  Some take action to change them; others have theirs changed for them; others will have changes coming in the foreseeable future.  


You gonna be one of those girls? 
~ Anita, on hearing Peggy is moving to Manhattan.

I am one of those girls.  ~ Peggy


Peggy wants out of Brookyn, ostensibly to eliminate the 2 hours a day she spends commuting (which she notes adds up to an extra week of work per month), but also to become a full-on Manhattan career girl (they’re not women yet, in 1963), because as she says it’s “different up here.”  

She wants to escape the mother who calls her Peaches yet tells her she’s going to get raped in Manhattan, even though at first the alternative doesn’t look much better, given how the rest of the staff is treating her – the boys getting Lois to make prank phone calls as horrible potential roommates, leaving Peggy to wonder if everyone in Manhattan has decided she shouldn’t live there.   Joan critiques Peggy’s ad for a roommate as sounding like stage directions from Ibsen, stressing as it does her responsible nature and possession of a TV and furniture, then offers to help since she thinks the right roommate could do “wonders” for Peggy.  Suggesting once again that her talents are wasted in the secretarial pool, Joan dictates a possible new ad off the top of her head, leaving Peggy the professional copywriter scurrying to take notes:

This is about 2 young girls in Manhattan; this is about an adventure!
Am I wrong?  If this were me, I’d say something like:
Fun-loving girl.  Responsible sometimes.  Likes to laugh, lives to love.  Seeks sidekick for gallivanting  No dull men or dull moments tolerated.

But of course the problem is that it isn’t Joan but Peggy who needs a roommate, and as we see in not just this episode but the entire series, people pretending to be who they’re not has unfortunate and even tragic consequences.  In Peggy’s case, channeling Joan merely means attracting a comically inappropriate roommate, Karen Erickson, who takes the ad at face value, and offers that she herself only has a few rules, one being “no sailors.”  A stunned Peggy agrees and chirpily imitates her new best buddy, as well as fudging on how her life as a career woman makes demands on her, insisting that she might work Saturdays but never works Saturday nights when “I’m out in the city ready for fun!”

He’s still dead.  ~ Peggy to her mother, re: the recently deceased Pope

Peggy’s new life has a more immediate cost, when she tells her mother about her move, perhaps ill advisedly combining it with a gift of an expensive new console TV that at first impresses Mrs. Olson by making her realize how well her daughter is doing, but then is rejected by her when she thinks it’s a way to buy her off.  In a direct steal from 1950’s director Douglas Sirk (in the movie All that Heaven Allows, in which Jane Wyman’s kids try to fill her empty widowed life with a TV, in part to distract her from the younger man they forced her to give up), we see the shadowy images of Peggy, Anita and their mother reflected in the glossy blank screen of the TV, equating the family with it, as her mother soon does as well:

I guess I’m the kind of mother who wants a TV more than a daughter.  You got me a new TV because you thought I was born yesterday.  You belong in the city.  Family’s cheap to you.  Take it back.  It’s just gonna remind me of how stupid you think I am.

Television has of course been blamed, to some degree rightfully, for the demise of close family interaction from its very inception, but here it’s also used as a symbol of how societal and cultural changes are beginning to put cracks in the parent-child bond, a process that will accelerate at warp speed in the next several years.  Peggy’s mother is proud of her success but also afraid of it, and unable to fully understand it (last season, Peggy told Father Gill she was surprised to hear her mother explain what she did for a living).  She tells Peggy that she can’t believe anything she says, a clear reference to the secret pregnancy, but also an accurate assessment of how Peggy hides herself from her mother, as even adult children would increasingly do in the 60’s, as they delved into behaviors that their parents found unthinkable.

As she leaves, Peggy’s mother turns away from her, and to the TV, turning it on even after she’s said she rejects it, seeking the numbing solace it will bring her for at least a few hours every night.

That wasn’t so bad. ~ Anita

Really? ~ Peggy

She’s been through a lot of changes lately.  The holy father dying – that was hard on her.  ~ Anita




Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten – that’s how I was raised.  ~ Bert Cooper


The struggle between parents and their children takes a tragicomic turn in the business side of the episode, as Pete reels in an old college chum, comically nicknamed “Hoho,” who has come into his trust fund and wants to spend it getting jai alai going in the U.S., and wants Sterling-Cooper to handle the advertising, promotion and TV rights to the tune of at least a million dollars a year (although letting slip he has up to $3 million budgeted for marketing).

I’m terrified of him catching balls in the face. ~ Hoho on his star player, who Sal thinks looks dreamy, like Mel Ferrer.

The staff clearly finds his gullibility and ideas risible (from getting all three networks to cover jai alai simultaneously to having his star athlete headline action-adventure-spy musical extravaganzas) but are happy to soak him for as much as they can.   Only Don has reservations, ostensibly because he knows that Hoho’s father is an old friend of Bert Cooper’s, although he is also almost visibly appalled at Hoho’s ignorance.

Hoho wants it all in color.  ~ Pete, discussing media plans.

What about radio? ~ Hoho

You’ll have to take radio the way it is. ~ Don

Arranging a meeting with the more soberly named “Horace Cook, Senior” (David Selby, a million years after Falcon Crest), as well as Roger and Bert, Don questions the wisdom of throwing millions of dollars at a sport that is unknown in America and that Cook Sr. himself derisively terms “Polish handball.”  What follows is a chilling example of a father disowning his son, not financially but morally:

You know that’s not the way the marketplace works.  A man comes through your door,  he knows what he wants, he has the money to back it up, you do your best.  I’ve seen his plan -- it’s gibberish.  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.  […] When we put that money aside for him, he was a little boy.  We didn’t know what kind of person we were making.


Don looks extremely pained during this speech, and at Cook Sr.’s offhand remark to Bert’s soothing, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” of “Easy for you to say; he doesn’t have your name.”  Don doesn’t bear his father’s name, but he was the one who rejected it.  Hearing a father reject his son so callously and coldly seems to spur him to take one last chance to right a wrong, even though it’s only partly his.   When Pete and Don take Hoho (who is so naïve he thinks he should be treating them) out to dinner, Don gives him one last chance to reconsider:

I think you should take this decision a little more seriously.  You have a great fortune and that’s not just money, that’s the future. We will take all of your money, I promise you.  But I think you should re-evaluate this obsession. You can do better.

But Hoho is one of those people who think they know a lot more than they really do, and who thus get their pockets picked clean, who discusses advertising smugly but mispronounces “Ogilvy” and who entirely misses the import of Pete’s crack that jai alai would have been just the kind of investment his own (bankrupt) father would have been interested in.  He’s utterly unable to see his own blind spots, and therefore to take the blunt words that Don has spoken at face value – instead, he seems to have been spying on Don’s seductions of women:

That’s a sales technique, isn’t it?  You zig away from me and I zag back into your arms?


In the end, Don comes around to the logic that Hoho’s father puts forth,which is that if Sterling-Cooper doesn’t take his money, someone else will, and so Don tells his staff, “Don’t stop till you see the whites of his pockets.”  As a literal parting shot, he gives jai alai a try, sending the ball into the ant farm and shattering the glass, releasing the busy worker ants, even as the human workers continue to toil in their own glass prison.

He has a dream and it’s our job to make it come true.  ~ Pete

Well there you have it.  ~ Don

Hoho may have the final laugh, though, as jai alai did have a brief phase as a popular spectator sport in the 1960’s.  And we get a laugh right away, learning that Pete’s own college nickname was…Humps.

Everybody thinks that but nobody says it.  ~ Pete





 I’m not myself. ~ Sal


Peggy may be trying to take on a new identity, but Sal is desperately trying to hold onto an old one, his façade as a heterosexual man.  His wife Kitty is getting suspicious, though, as he once again spurns her sexually, despite her sexy new nightie, leading her to question him directly:

Something’s wrong…isn’t it? ~ Kitty

No, don’t say that, don’t say that. ~ Sal

But for once, Sal has a good excuse, explaining that he’s been watching his job disappear, as illustration gives way to photography in advertising, a neat symbol of how reality is beginning to trump illusion in American society.  People no longer want a pretty picture that someone’s drawn for them, either in advertising or in life, but an honest depiction of real life.  This means that not just Sal’s livelihood is in danger, but his whole closeted life, his face to the world.  

Fortunately, Don has not only kept his secret from “Out of Town,” but has given Sal a chance to move up in and secure his career, tapping him to direct the Patio soda commercial.  Sal’s worried, though, because as he explains to Kitty, “I don’t want to fail.  A single mistake and the entire shot is ruined.”  As a closeted gay man in 1963, he knows it only takes one mistake to ruin his entire life, and he’s already gotten one bye from Don.  Surely he won’t be granted another.

Yet even as he says this and tries to literally hush Kitty as she voices her concerns, he unconsciously outs himself when he acts out the entire Patio soda TV commercial for Kitty, playing the Ann-Margret part to perfection (far better than the girl they get to imitate her, I might add.)

As he does so, we realize that the choreography of the ad, in which the actress stands on a treadmill and alternately comes towards the viewer and then flirtatiously recedes, is also a metaphor for the slow coming out process of not just Sal but most gay people, especially in the early days of sexual liberation.  But as is so often true on this show, the symbolism goes deeper, applying not just to Sal, but to all the characters on the show who are experimenting with moving out or forward or on with their lives, sticking a toe out and then stepping back, as they see how the world reacts to their true selves.

Having let the gay out at home, Sal is going to have a very hard time putting this particular genie back in the bottle.  The actress does a superb job of showing us Kitty’s slowly dawning recognition that she’s right that something’s wrong, that her husband isn’t what he’s said he is, or what she wants him to be.  And even though she “doesn’t ask for much,” she admits she does need “tending” by her man, and is realizing that beyond cooking and decorating, she’s not going to get that from Sal, a realization that is crushing, since as she tells him:  “I have one horrible flaw – I’m in love with you.”

I figured I’d bring myself to the woodshed. ~ Sal to Don

But it’s not just Kitty who is beginning to sense something about Sal. When the commercial is shown to the clients who have demanded it, they reject it immediately, saying, it’s not what they expected it to be, which prompts Peggy to look almost unbearably smug for the rest of the scene (in the last episode, she’d asserted that clients don’t always know what they want, much less what they need.)   When Don testily asserts that “this is exactly and I mean exactly what you asked for,” and Ken adds that “it’s an exact copy frame for frame” of the Bye Bye Birdie footage they loved, they sheepishly agree while continuing to express their puzzlement:

I know but there’s something not right about it.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I’m sorry.  I wish I could explain it, but I can’t.  It’s just not right.


After they leave, the boys continue to ponder the problem:

It doesn’t make any sense.  It looks right, it sounds right, it smells right but something’s not right.  What is it?  ~ Harry

It’s not Ann-Margret.  ~ Roger

Although the clients can’t put their finger on it, in his animal instinctual way, Roger can:  It’s just not Ann-Margret in the commercial, just as it’s not really a heterosexual man in Kitty’s bed.   It may be an exact copy, it may look and act and smell like one, but it’s not.  Let’s just hope that Sal and Kitty can find a graceful way to get off the treadmill, wish each other well and move on to partners who can give them both the “tending” they need and want rather than remaining alone together.

This is not what I thought it would be.  ~ Patio Client #1

Glad I’m not alone.  ~ Patio Client #2




 

War is bad.  ~ Bobby

Maybe.  But it makes a man out of you. ~ Gene


As they do for Peggy, the fraying bonds between parents and children also take center stage in the Draper household.  Grandpa Gene dotes on his grandchildren, attempting to give Bobby his WWI mementos, until Don objects, taking away the German helmet that bears a bullet hole from where Gene shot the soldier wearing it, telling Bobby bluntly, “That’s a dead man’s hat.”

Don of course knows all about wearing a dead man’s hat, which he does every day in the guise of the actually dead Don Draper, while his own soldier’s hat as Dick Whitman is also dead, in the eyes of his family.  These matters seem on Don’s mind, as later we see him look at a photo of his parents in 1928, in which his father looks like the grim SOB we saw in “The Hobo Code.”

Grandpa Gene is even more generous with Sally, doting on her, offering to buy her peaches  (gruffly overruling Bobby when he says they give him a rash), telling her she’s smart and “can really do something,” although subtly putting down Betty in the process.  We can understand why he’s doting on Sally, who laps up the attention as well as the verboten ice cream he encourages her to share with him, as his relationship with his supposed “princess” Betty isn’t going well.  Looking miserable in the unique way that women do at the very end of pregnancy, and being nagged about her smoking, Betty is understandably tetchy, but her reaction to her father’s straightforward attempt to share his “arrangements” for after his death, during which he explains that he’s written it all down, precisely so that “we don’t have to talk about it again” brings out the worst in Betty:

I don’t understand why you like talking about this when you see it upsets me.  It’s morbid and it’s selfish.  I’m your little girl.  I know it must be horrible to be looking at what you’re looking at, but can’t you keep it to yourself?


I think that last sentence sums up Betty’s entire character.  She doesn’t want to know what’s really going on for anyone – not her father, not Don, not her children, not even herself.  She believes in repression as Christians believe in Jesus’s death – as a way to cover all sins.  And she defines almost every human feeling as a sin.   Given we never see Betty go to church, I guess it’s that Nordic Calvinist strain that can’t be escaped even when formal religion is eschewed.  But at times, she seems more Catholic than Peggy.

In the end, it’s up to Sally to have the feelings that the adults refuse to have, as she mourns her grandfather silently in the dark in that classic childhood hideout -- underneath the dining room table – until she can’t take the adults inane chatter anymore and bursts into the kitchen to confront them, with Betty trying to teach Sally how a WASP woman deals with her feelings properly:

Sally:  How can you sit there like nothing’s happened? He’s gone forever and nobody even knows that.

Betty:  You’re being hysterical.  Calm down.

Sally:  He’s dead and he’s never coming back and nobody cares and nobody cares that he’s really really gone.

Betty:  Sally, go watch TV.

Once again, TV is the great pacifier, a way to push down feelings and avoid human contact and real connection.  And yet, Betty is visibly sad, the evidence of tears shed still in her face, and despite Don’s objections, she eats the peach that has lain in her father’s car all day, the peach bought for Sally, the substitute princess, but which Betty claims as rightfully hers, a last gift from a father who pampered her, even if he earlier blamed himself for doing so:

You don’t want to hear about it.  Scarlett O’Hara.  You’ve always been sensitive. That’s my fault for shielding you from all the dangers out there. That’s why you married this joker.  If you’d even known what was possible….


Sally seems to know what’s possible, throwing herself down inconsolably in front of the TV as directed, only to face the horror of a TV news item about a Buddhist monk self-immolating in Viet Nam to protest Catholic oppression.  As we viewers recoil in remembrance from this famous event, and contemplate the tragic era to come, we shift to a scene late that night, as a sleepless Don enters the tiny attic room in which Gene has been sleeping and folds up the bed he’d used.  Next to it sits a crib, waiting to be put into action for the new life soon to come into the Draper household.  As we fade to black, the old WWI song, “Over There” rises up, a foreshadowing of another war soon to explode in America:

Over there
Over there
We won’t come back until it’s over
Over there

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well synopsized, though my feeling of bleakness was far beyond what the description captured...almost as if after the 60s come ....Nixon...no, that'd never happen!
An exhaustive and exhausting recap. Makes me both glad and sad that I don't watch myself.
Wow Silk, these recaps are really complete and analytic. I was in and out of sleep as I watched and realized that I would be able to recap with your extremely thoughtful analysis.
This reminds me of papers I used to write about great short stories for my MA in lit. Really, really well done.
Question: How much do you read other critiques before you write yours? I can't imagine in the short time there is to write this after the show that anyone can come up with all these subtle insights!!
How did I miss the worker ant metaphor! Well done.
Good work. I thought the aspect of Betty devouring the love shared between Sally and Grandpa Gene (the peach that had "been in his car all day") was a perfect illustration of Betty and her perspective on the world. She's every bit as self-centered as Don and they are certainly well matched in that regard, though Don seems more concerned about his children than she is.

I do beg to differ about the move from illustration to photography representing a public transition "to reality." Advertising is never about reality, regardless of the medium and contemporary debates about the degree of Photoshop used underline such. Earlier you discuss television and its role in the lives of Americans and their families. Well, little else illustrates the retreat from reality better than the insertion of Murrow's "wires and lights in a box" into our society.
Another fine synopsis. I had to watch this episode two times in a row. At first watching, I wasn't particularly enthralled by the episode, but at second watching, I got it. As soon as I saw Gene putting salt on his ice cream, I figured he was trying to hasten his death. After all, we knew that he was diabetic, and had had several strokes, so he must have had high blood pressure. Then when he said he smelled oranges, I thought he was a gonner. I was just relieved that Sally wasn't driving when it happened. I found Grampa Gene interesting, and I'm sorry he didn't stick around for a few more episodes. After worrying that he might molest Sally after watching last week's episode, this week I got the idea that he could sense Sally's potential and was trying to encourage it -- even if letting her drive was a sign of his recurring dementia. Again, I thought that Sally could become another Joan, a woman full of unrealized possibilities -- but wait, the 60's are just starting, so there's time for rebellion.

And that Betty, talk about deliberate obtuseness. She could show absolutely no compassion for her dying father or her grieving daughter; this bodes ill for the baby, and I wonder if there will be a postpartum depression/psychosis story line -- of course in a 1960's kind of way. Watching Don look at the photo of his father and step mother, and watching the look that crossed his face as he wanted to comfort Sally but didn't have the cojones to contradict Betty, made me think that all the feelings he's deliberately turned off are bubbling up to the surface. I've always thought things would end badly for Don, but for some reason, last night, I had the thought that maybe he'd become a better human being, whether as Don Draper or Dick Whitiman.

I was between my sophmore and junior year of high school, in June of 1963, and I distinctly remember the self-immolation of the Vietnamese Bhuddist monk; it was my first hint of foreboding. I also remember JFK's civil rights speech and how moved I was. In fact, from this vantage point, I can see that 1963 was my last year of idealistic, patriotic innocence. Just another great thing about Mad Men -- it makes me remember.
Hey thanks everyone for coming by on a holiday and reading! I was up till 3 AM writing that, and had no idea if it made sense by the end, so glad if it did.

And no, Lea, I don't read any other recaps or analyses before I write - not even the capsule summary on AMC. I like to come at it fresh, from my own impressions. I write these right after the show ends on Sunday, which is why I end up being up so late! It's all top of my head stuff. I confess my lit crit and film crit training is probably showing in them.


Brian, I agree things are feeling bleak already. But then this has never been a cheery series, has it??

Crabby, sorry I exhausted you! I did go on quite a long time. I need to keep it shorter. But I lose the power to edit trying to get this done right after the show. Give me a night of sleep and a few more hours and these recaps would be shorter and better!!

Yak, thanks!

Kevin, "devouring the love" is an excellent phrase and insight! Wish I'd thought to say it that way. Yes, i realize photography can be highly manipulated and is in advertising. I was going with the metaphor that I think the show was putting forward - -about society moving from facades that are drawn to supposedly capturing "real life". It's always a facade to some degree, of course, but I do think the photos in the 60's, even in advertising, were far far less manipulated than they are today -- including because the technology to do so back then was very crude and limited. I just saw some 60's Avedon photos in a museum, including his fashion work, and it looks almost primitive compared to the super polished slick stuff we see today.

Adele, we know from earlier eps that Gene is hypertensive (when Betty worries about Don's own hypertension). I don't know that he was hastening his death -- I think it was more not worrying about dying and wanting to enjoy himself rather than restrict himself. But then again he was giving away his things, and giving Betty his will, so maybe he was trying to nudge things along.

I've also wondered if Betty's going to have a post-partum depression. I'd say the odds are strong that she will, esp given her father just died and she reacted badly to her mother's death (just before the series begins) which triggered her trips to a shrink, and also isn't happy she's pregnant. That would open up storylines about psych treatment in the 60's, which could be harrowing!

I do think Don has become and is slowly becoming a better man. It remains to be seen if Betty can overcome her extreme need for control and order and be open to changing herself.

I also agree that the power of the series comes in part from what it makes us remember (if we lived thru those years). It's like nostalgia on steroids.

Thanks for mentioning the oranges. That's another "it isn't what it looks like" instance in the show -- Gene says he knows the ice cream is chocolate but he smells oranges. They really work their themes into the smallest details!
wow wow wow—your insights as always have touched on things I did not initially take note of! How do you do it so quickly??

A few thoughts:

Joan WAS raped in Manhattan—but in her boss’ office, by her “clean cut” All-American doctor fiance, not in some dark alley. Wonder what Peggy’s mom would think about that?

The pope referred to is John XXIII, died June 3, 1963—who opened Vatican II, beloved by progressives in church ( but who knows what direction he would have taken things in had he lived (or would have been allowed to take). Succeeeded by Paul VI, author of Humanae Vitae encyclical (anti-"artificial" birth control encyclical), which opened growing abyss between church and many women even more.

TV: it will soon become not just a babysitter, a source of entertainment, a conduit for adverts, but vehicle through which country experiences and witnesses March on Washington, Birmingham, Kennedy and later King and RFK assassinations, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, Vietnam, Chicago convention, etc… so Betty's command that Sally basically shut up and "go watch TV" , as you point out about what Sally sees that night, may lead to Sally and others seeing things Betty et al. do not exactly have in mind.
Right back atcha, MaryCal,with those great observations! You caught several things I missed. I did think about TV showing a lot of grim truth in the coming years (after the happy happy joy joy TV up till then) but didn't end up putting that in my post. But yeah...if Betty only knew what Sally was out there watching, she'd probably yelp and turn off the TV and scold her!

I was thinking the Pope who'd died was the one before John, Pius. It's interesting Peggy's mom is upset about John - she doesn't seem the reformer type. But then devout Catholics are broken up when any Pope dies, and her mother fits the bill. I remember Pope Paul well, as he was Pope for most of the time I was growing up and died when I was midway through college and had left the church so for me he was "the" Pope, and not a very impressive one. John was like JFK to me -- I was too young to "know" him and only heard about him from others who were older.
Silkstone, it's a good exhaustion. Looking forward to next week's!
I love these. Your analyses are spot on and helps me to understand the nuances of the show much better.
Thanks, Crabby and Dorinda!
Regarding Mad Men and nostalgia; I keep thinking of the Season 1 finale, "The Carousel" where Don explains that the word "nostalgia" comes from the Greek and refers to the pain left by an old wound. This may be the best season yet.
Such an excellent analysis. You've caught everything it took a number of posters on Television Without Pity to uncover. Also, I particularly like your style with the quotes interspersed.

I do part with you about Gene though. I'm relieved that he's gone. He was impaired enough that I was tense every time he was alone with either or both of the kids. It just felt that he might untether from reality again and do who-knows-what.
Adele, I loved the Carousel episode! And I think that piece of dialogue you pointed out is very very important for the series.

Suz, wow, I'm flattered! thanks.

It's interesting to hear people's reactions to Gene. I just didn't find him at all worrisome the way so many people did, and I found him a funny, true-to-life character.

I think part of it is trusting that this series isn't like others -- the predictions people were making seemed to me to be based on what TV shows normally do in terms of plot, things that are far more "dramatic" or even sensationalistic. I didn't see the MM folks going that route, of molestation or accident or something really intense like that. The way it happened, including him dying off-screen, is just what I expected.

It's a different kind of show.
"I think part of it is trusting that this series isn't like others -- the predictions people were making seemed to me to be based on what TV shows normally do in terms of plot" - You are absolutely right about this, which is why I dislike speculation, in general.

I guess I looked at Gene differently, in that I wouldn't trust him alone with children after his "liquor raid" and "KP duty" episodes.
Suz, I agree he was erratic. But in reality, elderly people with moderate dementia don't do things like molest children (unless they also did so pre-dementia!) or even get into car accidents. What they mostly do is make less sense in what they say and do around the house, have mood swings, and at worst, wander from their homes and get lost. MM was being true to the reality of moderate dementia that Gene was showing.

I think TV normally hypes up reality so much that we lose perspective - not on real life but on what we expect in a TV show when we sit down to watch it. I think those exaggerated expectations aren't generally apparent, except in cases like this where the rare show defies them.

I hear this when people complain about nothing much happening in a TV show (which I've heard non MM fans say about it - it's slow, it drags, it's all talk, nothing happens). Most dramas on TV are pretty damn dramatic, after all - whether you're talking medical or cop shows or just family dramas. Most of those characters have more drama in one season than 10 of us will have in a lifetime!
Just catching up here, Silkstone. I watched this episode with my in-laws, who had never seen the show before, so I know I missed some important points. I am going to watch the ep again after reading your synopsis/analysis, which is excellent, as usual.

Along with Peggy's family "coming apart", I also noticed this particular exchange:

Karen: "So, Peggy Olson, I have to ask. Are you Swedish? Because I am."
Peggy: "Norwegian."
Karen: "Well, we won't tell my parents."

And then Peggy lies to her mother, saying that her roommate is Norwegian.

The average person today probably wouldn't think there was any difference between Swedish and Norwegian, but back then, all of those ethnic groups had their own identities, their own newspapers, their own social clubs, and their own neighborhoods.

Just another thing that has changed for good, starting in the 60's.
Sao Kay, thanks! I just glanced at it, but our local TV critic had something on his blog about both the soldier's hat with its bullet hole and Gene's car conjuring up JFK, who will be shot in the head a few months from now. I thought that was interesting - -need to go read his entire commentary. He also makes the point that people get different things out of MM, because it's so rich, and that seems to be true.

Jeanette, good catch! I did notice the whole Swedish and Norwegian thing and thought about putting it in here for just the reasons you name, but my post was just getting too long! I actually knew about the importance of that distinction, although I did miss that Peggy said to her mother than Karen was Norwegian -- that's funny. My father grew up in NYC in the early 20th ce when there were very ethnically segregated enclaves (far more so than persist today) and used to talk about that kind of stuff.
Lea Lane is so right ... these wonderful MM deconstructive posts ARE like the essays we had to write in Lit classes and the discussions we'd have with our profs ... it totally takes me back to those days. MM episodes are definitely made that much more richer and profound after reading this blog the day after.

I'm also with those who felt Grandpa Gene's departure was far too soon ... I was really beginning to like those scenes with him and Sally, esp. the last one where they're sneaking spoonfuls of ice-cream, it was done so naturally and poignantly.

I admit, I actually kept rewinding the scene where Sally hears the devastating news and slowly leans her head against the closed door (after Betty blithely leaves her out there, not the least bit concerned about how her daughter is dealing/reeling from the news) ... I had to pause the DVR after and had a very heavy sob session.

I don't know why that scene/his death affected me so; was surprised at how deeply I felt that loss. Then I realized how much I saw myself in Sally, and how uplifted I felt when she was finally getting her due and getting the attention/love she deserved, albeit from a grandfather wracked with dementia.

That ice-cream scene where they bond and he tells her her mother wasn't always perfect-looking and gives her a pep talk to boost her own esteem ... I confess I wanted to be Sally in that scene then.

My own mother is very much like Betty, even to this day ... aloof, completely unaware of the damage she has inflicted by her own self-absorption over the years. How I wished there were someone like Gene who gave me a few moments of importance in my own childhood. I could practically see her soul sitting up straighter in the car seat when he barked at her brother that peaches is what Sally wants and what he's getting.

So it was equally crushing to see that growing bond taken away so cruelly by his sudden death.

Someone said this a while back and I agree: whoever plays Sally deserves an Emmy nomination, at the very least.
I bought the third season on Amazon on demand Thurday and binged on all the episodes, back to back. I am SO looking forward to your next episode critique.
Scheherazade, thanks so much for the long and heartfelt comment! This show hits on some deep emotional levels for those who watch it. And what's interesting is that it does so for so many different types of people and experiences, because there's not just one character or one type of character that's being portrayed in depth in it. I'm also just now starting to get how Betty resembles my own mother, too. I'm going to have do a stand-alone blog post on that some day.

Also agree that the young actress portraying Sally is doing a great job. She's also very un-child-actress, which is a huge help. She feels real.


Hells, thanks so much! I'm off soon to have some rare (for me) afternoon caffeine to keep myself powered till the wee hours tonight after the episode airs here on the West Coast....
I know I'm late to the party on this one, Silkstone, but the whole sequence with Sal--looking at it from the P.O.V. of a modern guy who has many gay friends he has watched struggle with coming out (since I was a little kid!)--was one of the most unbearably sad things I have ever seen on TV. It was sad for Sal, who was (finally!) able to be himself, if only for a few minutes, and then had to bottle it back up again. (Not to mention his clear realization that he really does love Kitty, even if he can't "tend" her in the way she needs. And it was sad for Kitty--and I agree that this actress did a bang-up job of both showing her realization, but not overplaying it--who now knows this man she obviously loves is not who she thought she married.

I have been haunted by this scene from the moment I saw it. Poor Sal. Poor Kitty. Stonewall can't come soon enough for either one.
Douglas, I agree. I find his story incredibly moving and even heartbreaking. It's tough to watch yet I look forward to where they're going with it. And I love Bryan Batt's work in the series, both comic and dramatic.
Bryan Batt has been fantastic. He's very much "out" in his personal life, and as I saw him for the first time in "Jeffrey," it was hard for me to believe that anyone could believe that he was a straight man. But he just does a fabulous job.