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
NOVEMBER 2, 2009 6:24AM

The Grown-Ups: Mad Men, Season 3, Episode 12

Rate: 26 Flag

 tv

 
 
What the hell’s going on? ~ Don

I just want to see what’s going on. ~ Duck
What’s going on? ~ Peggy

My god, what happened?  ~ Peggy

What is going on? – Betty


Well, now we know where Marvin Gaye got the idea.

It’s a cliché that the 1950’s ended – and that the 1960’s truly began -- with JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963, but like many clichés, it has some truth to it. Mad Men runs with this theory in “The Grown-Ups,” an episode which does what creator Matthew Weiner swore not to do, covering an event that (pardon the pun) has been done to death, and showing how it affected America, including by starting an irrevocable splintering process between the kids and the adults, and calling into question who "the grown-ups" really were.  Are they the ones who have the power and the money, the titles and positions, or are they the ones who decide that those formerly precious things are now worthless, and that life is about other values, like peace and love and personal satisfaction, thus upending the entire culture?

As Roger says at his daughter’s wedding, “The adults, we all want to be strong for you but your spirit, your love, your hope, is giving us strength.”  In the next several years, these grown-up children will end a war, start a sexual revolution and change the culture for women, minorities, gays and, well, yes, even the white guys.  If for one brief shining moment there was Camelot, so too will there be Woodstock, and other moments that bring hope for societal change, before America slides back into self-absorption and economic decline in the 70’s.

 

Obviously we’re all in a different mood.  ~ Roger

The fateful news comes down as tragedy always does, while people are going about their ordinary, self-centered lives:  Roger’s daughter Margaret is throwing a childish tantrum, threatening to cancel her wedding in a pique about her stepmother Jane, who keeps putting her high-heeled foot in things, and violating the Sterling rules of etiquette.  Pete is brainstorming with Harry about how to save his career now that he’s lost the tug of war with Cosgrove to be Head of Accounts (although Lane Pryce has issued a Solomonic pair of titles to save Pete’s pride -- and not coincidentally, his loyal clients).  And Duck’s so eager to fuck that he unplugs the breaking news before Peggy can see it and he loses the chance to nail her during a nooner (ick!).  Oh, what fools these mortals be!


Can you turn that off? ~ Pete about the TV, just before the announcement
 
Not really.  ~ Harry

But this news is too big to fail…breaking through even these epic layers of self-absorption to mesmerize everyone for days on end.  And while some of the adults fall apart, the kids turn out to be alright.  

Always a strange mix of childishness and forward thinking, Pete takes the assassination quite personally, perhaps because it comes on the heels of his demotion, which severed his investment in the status quo.  The very structure he’s based his life on is coming apart, and he has no idea where he stands, explaining his demotion to Trudy as a stream of jabberwocky (a preview of how formal titles will soon be seen by much of his generation):

Kenny is senior something of something accounts and I’m not…I’m accounts something… I couldn’t even hear.  All I saw was his frog like mouth flapping.


His initial shock at the assassination turning to anger, Pete seizes the chance for personal growth, which is a rather surprising development for a man who starts out the episode in a fetal position, childishly demanding hot cocoa.  By its end, he and Trudy have suddenly stopped being conformist social climbers playing by the same rules their parents did and scheming how to save Pete’s career and become turtle-necked young rebels refusing to leave their apartment, where they watch TV endlessly and ponder conspiracy theories.  Pete even writes more future Who lyrics by arguing that the new boss is the same as the old boss, and that LBJ will merely maintain the status quo that the youthful JFK would have overturned.  

I feel like I’ve done a lot with what I’ve been given in this arbitrary scheme. ~ Pete




How would you know that’s what a monster looks like? ~ Jane

Even the always-shallow Jane seems to suddenly know what time it is, swinging abruptly from telling her step-daughter to cater to her husband in every way to railing at Roger for trying to tell her what to do and observing that he’s singing the same old song men always have, jeering “I’ve heard your toast a million times,” but “The President’s dead” and everything has changed, so she's going to do whatever she wants, Roger be damned. 

I don’t know what kind of world you live in, but I’m the good person here. ~ Jane

Like a drowning man treading water, Roger spends much of the episode trying to save his daughter’s ill-fated wedding on day after the assassination, “consolidating” the sparsely attended tables at the reception like a man rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and using his ever-reliable speechmaking skills to offer an amusing toast to his ex-wife, who he calls a lioness (and who we see he has come to value more since the divorce).  Afterwards, spent and as serious as we’ve ever seen him, he seeks solace in a phone call to Joan, who dishes out her usual wisdom by observing that at Greg’s hospital, babies are still being born and people are still getting sick, and life goes on.  But when she senses that Roger is truly sad, she comforts him, and here the generation gap doesn’t matter, as we see once again that these two speak the same language in a way they don’t with anyone else.

I needed to talk to you.  Nobody else is saying the right thing about this. ~ Roger to Joan

 

 

I don’t know where to begin. ~ Betty

Never the deepest dish on the buffet, Betty only gets part of the message of change.  She starts the episode absurdly grateful just to find that Don’s left the bed at night not to desert her yet again but to tend their crying baby, and ends it by saying there’s no point to her marriage.  In-between, feelings she’s held in for a lifetime seem to pour out in a torrent of tears triggered by JFK’s death.  While it’s gratifying that she stands up to Don and a stunning relief to see her finally feel something as intensely as the grief, shock and anger she displays, Betty takes two steps forward only to take one giant step back.

Don:  Why are the kids watching this?
Betty:  What am I supposed to do, Don? Am I supposed to keep it from them?
Don:  Why don’t you take a pill and lie down?


In letting the kids watch the TV coverage, a fact that Don is horrified by, Betty shows how far she’s come from the days of not wanting Sally to grieve Grandpa Gene.  Having recently ripped the truth out of Don (acting a bit like a lioness herself), she wants no more deception or avoidance, and sits openly weeping on the couch with Carla as a bewildered Sally puts her arm around her in comfort, a gesture Betty accepts, giving us hope that her love for her children may have merely been hibernating, not absent.  While Don continues to act as if life can go on as before, Betty is having none of that:

Don:  Hey, everything’s going to be fine.
Betty:  How do you know that?


In repeatedly rejecting Don’s formulaic and empty reassurances, Betty symbolizes another huge societal shift:  The turning of women from reliance on men to make things feel (and be) all right to thinking and acting for themselves.  Throughout the episode, we see women question men and refuse the old orders or platitudes.  Not just a societal but a personal trust has been ripped in half, and it can’t be put back together as easily as men like Don seem to think, which leaves a man who has made a living (and a false life) out of how he talks to people truly bewildered at the sudden collapse of his livelihood.

What happened? ~ Sally
Nothing, go upstairs.  ~ Don

But realistically enough, Betty hasn’t changed as radically as we might wish -- rejecting Don and embracing her feelings is as far as she can go. Having seen Henry Farrell at Margaret Sterling’s wedding, she slips out to meet him on the day of JFK’s funeral, seeking comfort in yet another authoritative man who wants to take care of her.  Betty, Betty, Betty – can’t you see that Door #2 holds the same booby prize as Door #1 did?  

True, Henry does look like classic “second husband” material – the faithful, boring man you settle down with after the sexy dangerous one who broke your heart, taking comfort in the knowledge that he will continue to look at you worshipfully even as his prostate fails and your breasts sag.  After soberly declaring that he’s “not in love with the tragedy of this thing” and wants  no secret Romeo and Juliet affair, Henry stuns Betty by saying that he wants to marry her (after they’ve shared one coffee date, a furtive kiss and some puerile letters!) and inanely wishes he could cheer her up by taking her to her favorite movie (Singin’ in the Rain, she confesses – a classic romantic musical, but tellingly, also about the end of an era -- of silent movies).  

We expect or at least hope that the newly awakened Betty will laugh him off or give him the same bitter rejection she does Don, but instead she smiles, seems reassured, kisses him passionately (ick!) and goes home to have it out with Don.  (Like many women, she seems only ready to give up one man when she knows she has another lined up to take his place.)

Betty:  I want to scream at you for ruining all this.  But then you’d try to fix it and there’s no point. There’s no point, Don.
Don:  You’re very upset, I understand. I know it’s painful but it’s going to pass.


Stunned when Betty tells him she no longer loves him, Don tries more condescending reassurances, but the days of that working on Betty are past, and, like her, we know he’s really trying to convince himself that she’ll wake up and be her old self in the morning.  While he staggers up to their bedroom in the dark, looking shrunken and devastated by her rejection, Betty settles in to watch the TV, looking strangely at peace even as the endless reality of death unspools before her eyes as it has across the entire nation for days.

 

Shot has been fired….you cannot hear it in this version of the tape.  ~ Newscaster about the slo-mo silent replay of Oswald’s death.


In the morning – a National Day of Mourning on which very few people would be working -- Don leaves the icy house (around which cold fall winds can be heard whistling like a man walking past a graveyard), as well as his equally icy wife and his puzzled children, to flee to the safety and comfort of his remaining zone of power, the office (and only because, as he says, “all the bars are closed.”)  There he finds the one person we’d expect, his female counterpart and protégée, Peggy, who has fled her sister’s house because her mother’s grief left no room for anyone else’s feelings, just as Betty’s left no room for Don’s.  Ambition undimmed, Peggy’s on the job as always, realizing that the upcoming Aqua Net hairspray campaign that she created has to be killed.  

No moment tells us what’s changed more shockingly than the reveal of the storyboards for a TV commercial featuring two couples in an open convertible.  What a few weeks before was just an innocent story is now an uncanny duplicate of the Zapruder film, a romance turned to tragedy.  We’ve left the era of women being worried about their hair being blown around and entered the era of men worrying about their heads being blown off – in both the U.S. and Viet Nam.  The Aqua Net 50’s and the early 60’s of JFK’s New Frontier, with its promise of shiny happy change, are both over, and the mid to late 60’s – which will bring darker, grimmer and more profound changes to America -- have begun.



Are we going to the funeral? ~ Bobby

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wow. this is a powerful piece, love!!! i felt like i really got this episode but you always suss out the themes and the undercurrents in your brilliant way. i know you don't care what i say or think. the ones who matter will be along soon. you should be the tv critic for Salon.com. you have some mad (women) skilz. love love love and gratitude!
I really loved that moment where Sally comforts Betty. The Draper kids seemed so mature and together in contrast with their parents.
as always, the intense drama distilled.... "what happens next...?" I need to know - proof powerful of the greatness of the show - and the painting of the picture of social change defeats critics who claim this is a glorified soap.
I'm not sure what I like more ...the show or your deconstruction of the show. You should publish these notes -- a viewer's guide to Mad Men ... or send them to Lionsgate ... o Weiner himself ... or something! This is world-class criticism ... and written so fast -- deadline journalism at its best. I have no idea how you do it. But I hope you can keep it up.
Oh boy. Well at first blush, it seemed to me that this episode went on in a stupor, and I was sure how much of that was reflective of my stupor from having "Nyquiled" up for the night. But of course the country was in a stupor and as usual your recap digests everything between the lines. I have to say that in general the characters surprised me, I expected there to be more callousness in the reactions of some. Pete's character has really gotten complex this year (and I'm realizing that here again we've got another terrific actor pulling this off). It almost seems that he's the one that there is the most hope for and he and Trudy are the one who truly grow as a couple. Thinking back to the beginning of the season with the two of them dancing a perfectly choreographed Charleston at Roger's party to this episode's portrayal of a couple more in tune to each other and what's important at the end of the day, it would seem that their choreography was more real than Betty and Don's.

And Betty, oh Betty, Betty, Betty. Really! That guy is starting to look more and more like a worm. I'm with you on the Ick factor here. I was struck by the differences in their autos when they secretly met - is it possible that he will turn out to be more shabby than Don?

Roger & Mona: Noted Roger's greater appreciation for her, was that a different actress portraying her, I didn't recognize her character at first. And this has nothing to do with the series, but John Slattery, who plays Roger, has looked particularly frail to me this year, he seems to have aged 5 years in the past 6 months. I wonder if he is ill.

And speaking of frail, Don looked so sunken to me at the end of this episode, I hardly recognized him.

I totally, totally missed what the killing of the Aqua Net commercial was all about! In my defense, I was falling asleep by then. Even if I weren't, I don't know that I would have made the connection. The point is, I think, that one really has to pay attention watching this series - nothing is a throw away here. The other option, of course, is to watch it in an somnolent state and come her the next day to read your excellent analysis.

Well done and I agree with Theodora on the tv critic thing.
Always looking for this recap, I love Mad Men, everyone is so realistically screwed up. True to life, no one has just one layer. Brilliant synopsis.
Great recap as usual, Silkstone!

There was so much old TV footage in this episode and the bad reception of TVs in those days was perfectly replicated. As a child, I remember how we all watched TV nonstop after the assassination, so in that respect, the episode reflected the way the country was at the time--in shock.

I thought Roger's ex-wife was great in this episode. She was tough-minded and pragmatic. She's so over him. Roger's paying for the wedding, so his child-wife gets to attend. Case closed. Roger came across as best he could for his daughter at her wedding; he's a tawdry, clueless guy and it seems like his daughter is marrying a similar kind of man.

The women have become more assertive because they've had to; their men just aren't coming through for them. Betty's realized her marriage is a sham. Jane acts as if she's well rid of Roger. Pete's turned into a dazed babbler (we'll just have to see how long his new-found lucidity by the end of the episode lasts) and we all know about Joan and her creepy doctor husband.
I love the whole Aqua Net thing; it reflects the ineffectual ways we women try to protect ourselves and how advertisers prey on that feeling of female vulnerability to sell their products. The scene with Peggy in the empty office with the storyboards shows her own personal vulnerability all too well.
This episode seemed to me to be a frantic pulling together of plot-threads so that everything can be wrapped up in the season finale next week. The ending music should have been changed to Peggy Lee doing "Is That All There Is". We'll see what happens in the finale--will it be a "cliff-hanger" a la "Dallas' Who Shot JR"? Or will it provide both some sense of cloture and teaser for the future?
You are really brilliant at recapping a highly "packed" script. I was shocked when Henry proposed-- it was almost comical. And Hamm is really showing what a great actor he is-- his transformation in this episode was almost heartbreaking.
Another great recap, Silkstone. I always look forward to your Monday Morning analysis, and find it the most well-thought out and insightful Mad Men commentary - not just here on OS, but anywhere. I agree with others that your work is stellar and deserves a bigger audience, and you should be getting paid more than 'ratings'. Thanks again.
Very good recap -- in this case, better than the episode itself, which I thought was one of the weakest in the show's history. After seeing it I really wish Weiner had followed through on his vow not to do this kind of episode. I hope the finale makes up for it.
I thought the acting was particularly good on this episode -- as you say, taking a kind of cliche, overplayed piece of american history/culture and making it new by marking turning points for characters. Betty's "I don't love you" could have been just melodramatic pap, but I thought she pulled it off. I also liked that Don seemed amazed that people actually cared. That things could actually interrupt the BS for a minute.
A wonderful analysis, marred only by a tendency to pull or hope for characters like Betty, a tendency rooted it would seem in an identity politics. There is certainly nothing inherently sympathetic about Betty anymore than there is about Don.
Great recap again. You don't seem to miss a symbol. You should be doing this for salon.com, with pay.

I remember those days in 1963, in front of the TV when the world seemed upside down. Nothing was the same after; the reality for Americans was that anything could happen, anytime. Here come the Beatles, here comes Vietnam, here comes the culmination of the civil rights movement, the beginning of the sexual revolution and the start of the women's movement: the real '6os.
The recent publication of the History of the Baldt Anchor and Chain Company located in Chester, PA is located on the web at this site:

http://www.oldchesterpa.com/baldt_anchor_history.htm

It has revealed a little known funding mechanism used by The Pentagon's Personal Investment Banker, Morris A. Schapiro, for both legal and extralegal financial projects either approved or not approved by Congress and the President.

For the most part, Morris A. Schapiro assisted the U.S.A. in getting through both World War II and the Korean War performing quite patriotic and completely legal investment banking for firms, like Baldt Anchor and Chain and The Boston Metals Processing Company from Baltimore, MD, his hometown which were deemed to be vital to the security of our nation in times of war and peace.

Schapiro helped keep several companies afloat during tough times, (described as times of peace with no worldwide conflicts or wars) like The Boston Metals Processing Company and GramTrade International from Baltimore, MD and most of all Baldt Anchor and Chain in Chester, PA. Baldt Anchor and Chain has produced anchors and anchor chain for the U.S. Navy and also for the offshore and onshore oil drilling industry for about 100 years now. Unfortunately, some of Schapiro's more rambunctious and imaginative right wing proteges, like Harold B. Chait and Ray S. Cline, both now deceased, who worked for the CIA as well as for OSS Colonel Uliuss Amoss' INFORM ISI private detective agency in Baltimore, MD took it upon themselves to emulate Schapiro's model for patriotic investment banking using the Bank of Maryland and the continued support of defense contractors during times of truly patriotic World Wars to run amok just before The Viet Nam War in order to fund their own personal wars against both Castro and Khrushchev. Clendenin J. Ryan, also from Baltimore, provided funds from his personal fortune inherited from his father to run special operations against Russia which were not funded by Congress. CIA agents like Harold B. Chait and Ray S. Cline transported laundered money to the South Florida Soldiers of Fortune via The Boston Metals Processing Company and Baldt Anchor and Chain using The Bank of Maryland Trust Accounts run by co-operative Trust Officers. This money ended up in the hands of the anti-Castro Cuban exiles in order to carry out anti-Castro, anti-Cuba, anti-Soviet and later anti-Kennedy operations with only one intention in mind. To fabricate the premise for an all out assault during the Bay of Pigs and later an all-out war against Castro and Cuba and against Khrushchev, Russia and Communism in general. When JFK resisted their efforts to create such a conflagration during both The Bay of Pigs invasion and later the Cuban Missile Crisis, using the tried and true time tested Maj. Gen. Charles A. Willoughby model for war-mongering for profit, they collectively decided to eliminate JFK from the picture, for good. Later they used this same Bank of Maryland and Boston Metals Processing based money laundering model to fund the international trafficking in arms for the Iran-Contra effort according to a statement by Robert Maxwell who was the Trust Officer at that time for The Bank of Maryland. He is a little known Iran-Contra whistle blower who was given credit for opening up the whole can of worms run by people like Oliver North and Elliott Abrams, Jr. This source of funding of covert extralegal military styled privately funded operations against foreign powers which Congress would never have approved has to be terminated with prejudice.

Permanently and immediately. Please contact your Congressperson and ask them to close this blatant loophole which is still being used today in the Blackwater private mercenary army models as designed by persons associated with the right wing think tank, The Council for National Policy and people like Nelson Bunker Hunt, Thomas Ellis, Oliver North, Edwin Meese III, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson and several others who are former heads of The Council for Nazional Policy. There is still time to try to put this sort of Blackwater mercenary army-for-profit operation out of business forever using the Neutrality Act provisions and other laws on the books already. More laws may need to be passed soon. But not much time remains. So please act today and write your congressperson. Time is truly running out.
I think this is one of the best recaps/reviews of a TV show that I have read. Like some have said to me it seems a little more interesting than watching the episode. I was about the same age as the Draper children when this happened. I still carry a lot of images of those days in my mind, however I find that after all this time I can't connect with whatever emotions I was feeling at the time. I think that in some ways I was watching the reactions of the adults around me as much as what was taking place on TV.
I saw the show, but needed this essay/recap to set me back on the path for next week. I kept flashing back to R.L. Hope Elementary school's 3rd grade classroom in Atlanta, GA - I was 4th row 5th chair back when an unprecedented announcement cracked into the room via intercom, telling us all buses were waiting and we were to go home. There I found my mom holding my infant brother and crying in front of our Admiral black and white, much like the scene at the Draper's only we had no household help and no ciggies or alcohol in the house. Maybe the only thing Mom felt she could hold WAS baby brother. It wasn't me or mid-sib brother. We were the 'other' kids draped over the back of the sofa trying figure out how (and why) to comfort a mother we had never seen shed one tear-ever. And Dad was certainly not home in the afternoon. Wow. Thanks for the eagle eye on the tube analysis. It IS a great show!
Of all the characters who I suspected might be candidates for rejecting the social status quo and really changing their lives with the tumult of the 60's, Pete and Trudy were probably my last choices! As you point out, it has been an amazing transformation from them dancing the Charleston at Roger and Jane's party. It will be interesting to see if he actually talks to Duck or pursues a more alternative path.
Even in this time period, it does seem quite strange for Henry to propose to Betty when they haven't yet been intimate. In fact, I think they have spent only about an hour total being together so far.
Kind of interesting that Don's precarious existence has not been threatened in a way he expected, but by Betty saying flat out that she doesn't love him anymore. He seemed more rocked than when Betty confronted him about his shoebox full of secrets.
Excellent and insightful recap, as always, Silkstone! One small quibble:
before America slides back into self-absorption and economic decline in the 70’s
That slide started in the 80s, with the Reagan era. The 70s were a time when the seeds planted in the 60s came into full flower: in women's group, Watergate, the anti-nuke movement, the CoEvolution Quarterly, solar power, and Jimmy Carter. It ended with the engineered Iran hostage crisis, and Reagan's election.
My earliest memory is the sound of my mother weeping, watching the funeral on television, half a world away. I was nine months old.

A brilliant analysis, as usual Silkstone. I am anxious to watch this episode again with the benefit of your insight. Am I the only one who had expected the assassination to take place in the season finale?

Duck gives me the creeps.
I look forward to your morning after analysis almost as much as the show.

I, too, noticed the "what's going on theme?" with the "bewilderment" and uncertainty in the wake of this great shock. It may have been "done to death" but I don't think that it overplays the overwhelming impact and ongoing reach of the JFK assassination.

In other news, I am officially tired of the Don and Betty show. Even though a bit more time was spent with other characters in this episode, Don and Betty were still the central emphasis. It may be that their situation is moving forward, but it feels repetitious to me. Other than enjoying Betty done up in 60s fashions (Trudy is offering competition there!), she bores me. She may be growing, but she comes from such a shallow and dependent place that she has many miles to go before I could find her an interesting character.
Another great synopsis, and I look forward to them every Monday morning!

Though last week, I missed watching the show on Sunday and decided to read your column before watching the episode…
And that really gave me some great insight into what was happening on the screen.

Tough call here - not sure if I want to watch the show and then read your column, or the other way around!!

In last night’s installment, it was a minor moment in the episode, but Carla's emotions said it all... for the negro community (we weren't black yet), it seemed like all of the dreams and hope for a better America died along with President Kennedy...
I think the writers of Mad Men have been pretty good at showing just the right amount of attention white, middle-class and suburban people would have given to events of the 60's.

MLK's "I Have a Dream Speech" is now iconic, as it should be, but at the time, many white people, like the characters on Mad Men, gave it little attention. Plane crashes, Jai Li (which I had forgotten was televised briefly) and the election of JFK are discussed as part of the day, and then the characters return to their personal concerns. Which is the way it was.

For better or worse, the writers HAD to cover JFK's death, the way it really played out. I was amused at Don's explanation for going to work because the bars were closed, because one of my neighbors at the time made the same complaint. There was just no way to get away since everything closed and TV coverage was 24/3, but I'm glad the writers still wove personal issues into the event.

I also thought it was realistic to show how some people, men included reacted with tears and bewilderment and others reacted with anger. I remember some adults being spring-loaded pissed-off at the time, which concerned me because I was just too young to figure it out at the time.

Great analysis of the show. I look forward to these recaps and comments every Monday.
Wonderful stuff...your comment about Singin in the Rain and another reader's reminder about Trudy and Pete dancing the Charleston called to mind Betty's comment that Derby Day seemed a million years ago--indeed, everything that represented will be shown the door...well, in large part. (Some people even today still can't come to grips with that). The old MGM musicals to "who'll stop the rain."

Hard rain's gonna fall indeed.

Speaking of Dylan, wonder if Jane will trade in her leopard skin pillbox hat...I too was struck by the reversals here--now it was Betty imperiously announcing she was "going out" and leaving the woebegone Don--she even stood over him as he was stretched out on the couch (shades of Betty on her Victorian settee??)--Roger turning to Mona and Joan for their strength. The dawning of the age of the Lioness??

(But please tell me Duck does not have a nickname (peewee??) for Peggy--ick ick ick.)
Great recap as always, Silkstone - you give us even more to think about than the show itself.

I too completely missed the real point of the AquaNet storyboard. I'm sure it's not the only last-minute revision they'll have to do.

My wish for the Drapers: Betty leaves Don for Henry ( I kinda like the guy, sorry), Don leaves Betty for Suzanne, and Carla raises Sally and Bobby.
I felt I had heard previously the sentments Don mouthed to the kids on Nov. 22. When he suffered a loss (his dad maybe?), had similar words been uttered to comfort him, to deal with loss using a verbal Band-Aid? I wish I could read the script for that episode. And, of course, I love that the show is literary enough to warrant hearing echoes from week to week.
Hey all, my body decided to get 5 instead of the usual 3 hours of sleeping after staying up to recap, so I just got here. I wanted to say thanks as always for your incredibly insightful comments -- I look forward to them as much as many of you say you look forward to these write-ups! You always come up with brilliant thoughts on things I missed, or further insight into stuff I noticed, too.

Thanks also to several of you who said I should be doing these professionally - very flattering! I'm open to offers....

On to specific responses:

Theodora, I'm always glad to get your input and you are one of the important ones.

Peppermint, I agree -- those kids actually seem pretty damn healthy given what's gone on in that house, and Betty's coldness as a mother!

Brian, I agree, that adding social context and commentary is often what elevates something from soap opera. I think MM can teeter towards the latter (I felt that way watching the very first ep this season, which made me fear the show had lost its way) -- it's a fine line. You have to have enough drama to engage viewers, but not so much that it's a melodramatic soaper....

Steven, as always, it means a lot to get such high praise. and I see you did an MM piece today, too! I'll be over in a while to read it with great interest...

Teresa, for a woman on Nyquil, you don't miss much. I really love the comment about Trudy and Pete going from the Charleston to this (I wish I'd thought to connect that dot -- someone later gave me credit for it, but it's all you!) and love the point that they are in synch more than perhaps any couple in the show, and not just when dancing. I've thought that for a while now and it's been quite interesting. I also have been increasingly struck by Trudy looking like a young Elizabeth Taylor -- it's her annoying voice that prevents her beauty from coming thru as much as it otherwise would, I think.
I don't know if Henry would be more "shabby" than Don, other than monetarily -- he probably doesn't make nearly as much, or at least want to spend it. I think he sees Betty as a trophy and would treat her well, which is of course what lures her. But really, if Betty just wants a new man, she could almost have her pick. Why this drab little specimen? And yes, Mona is played by the same actress, Talia Balsam (trivia note: John Slattery's real wife and George Clooney's ex-wife). I'm so glad she's back as I love both the character and how the actress plays her. She's one of the only women with strength in the show. As for Slattery, he always looks nearly transparent to me....

thanks, Rita!

Empty Nest, I was 5-1/2 when JFK was killed and I remember the non-stop TV watching as well. And yes, Mona seems to have moved on nicely -- I was thinking she's probably happy to be rid of Roger. I disagree about Margaret's husband -- he doesn't seem like Roger Jr to me, but we haven't seen much of him yet.

Walter, it's not the kind of show to do a cliffhanger, I don't think, except emotionally (e.g. Don in the empty house at the end of Season 1). I think we'll see the outcome of some of the changes of this episode, though, with maybe some characters moving on in some way, esp Betty.

Voicegal, I agree that Jon Hamm is getting to show us how completely "Don Draper" is an act -- for Dick and for him -- by showing us the vulnerability underneath. I think he's been terrific all season.

Nora, thanks!

Nick, you know...I thought it was interesting Weiner wasn't going to do the JFK thing and that it was a wise choice. But I actually found this episode really worked. Perhaps it's because the material is powerful for me, having lived through that time. But also because - it really was a defining moment. And to skip it would have been artificial and awkward. Which is I think what they decided over at MM. They had to do it, and given that, they did an excellent job.

Alice, you bring up such a great point that I wish I had -- that Don doesn't care that JFK is dead and seems amazed that others care. I think that says a lot about his character and I really should have delved into it. I think it shows his nihilism, his belief that nothing means anything and everything's a sham. When people honestly believe in something, he doesn't get it - he thinks they're fools.

Sandra, another child of the time here who remembers this well. And agree that we had the benefit of more changes being in place when we got older. Although I feel like we still lived thru a lot!

Libertarius, that's funny as people have commented on earlier posts I did on MM that they're glad I'm so tough on Betty! heh. I think I was more complimentary of her here than usual, but didn't think I let her off the hook. I was actually talking to her thru the TV last nite when she was falling for Henry's claptrap and I am so not a person to talk to the TV. That's how foolish I thought she was being!

Lea, so sweet as always. yes, it's amazing to think what these characters are about to experience. That we feel this so viscerally about fictional people and situations says so much about how real they've been made, but also how powerful that time period is/was -- which of course is why Weiner was so interested in it.

Ted, thanks! You bring up a great point I meant to work in somewhere but got lost: that for kids at that time, the main experience was indeed watching the adults and trying to figure out what happened and why they were all so upset. Someone else mentioned seeing their parents cry -- for many Baby Boomers, the JFK assassination and funeral was the first (and one of the few) times they saw their parents cry. Harder for later generations to get what that alone meant, I think.

Gabby, great little flashback there! And folded into your story is this cultural nugget: that they knew all those kids had mothers waiting at home for them. Today you could never just send all the kids home, as at least half the mothers would be at work!

Harry, I'm actually not surprised about Pete and Trudy -- they've been positioned as a hip young couple of the time. It's just that "hip" then looks dated to us now. I could see a whole show about the Campbells, as they navigate the 60's and the 70's, trying every fad that comes along! And agree that Don seems more upset about Betty not loving him than we'd thought. I think it shows that she means more to him than he's let on...especially to her. I wonder if he'll blame the revelation of his secret for her feelings?

TomReed, I never watched any of those other shows, so can't comment! But I know what you mean about TV shows having one episode that stands above the rest. I wouldn't say this one is for MM -- not sure what I'd nominate for that slot for MM, or if that "greatest" episode has even occurred yet -- frankly, I hope it's still to come!

Donna, thanks. But actually, the 70's were a time of decline. There was a terrible recession, rampant inflation (even "stagflation"), soaring gas prices, conflict in many parts of the world, Nixon's resignation, Ford and Carter's failed presidencies. It was the worst economy in the US since the Depression, only surpassed by what we're going thru now. Yes, there were advances for women and others, but there was also a fall into pursuing self-actualization to the exclusion of social action that had dominated the 60's. That's why they call it "the Me Decade."

Ablonde, I didn't think the assassination would come last -- that seemed too cliche to me. And yes, Duck creeps me out in the extreme. I hate seeing Peggy with him (ick!).

Suz, I agree with your assessment of Betty, and I also really hope we'll have more focus on the other women in the next season. Either that or Betty has to reveal hitherto hidden depths of character!

Uncle Funk, yes, Carla's reaction was very moving and important as to the history of the time. As always, the actress does a lot with so little. I loved that she not only just sat down on the sofa with Betty but lit up a cigarette! We've never seen Carla smoke, and we just know that she doesn't, when she's "on duty" even though Betty smokes like a chimney. But she's so upset, all rules she lives by normally are broken. I really liked seeing her and Betty united in their grief.

Flyover, thanks! Yes, the interesting thing about history is that what we pay attention to at the time and what seems important later aren't always the same. Often, yes, but not always. And certainly people are self-centered -- we pay attention to news (the famous "first draft of history") that matters to us personally. The power of JFK's assassination is that it mattered, seemingly, to everyone in America: black and white, men and women, rich and poor. Even people who disliked him were shaken up by the brutality of the act, and also Oswald's shooting a few days later. The reaction really was, "What the hell is going on?" Everything seemed to be flying apart.
A few folks slipped in while I was typing that incredibly long comment/reply:

MaryCal, those insights and connections were all great!! I did so want to work in that Derby Day line (it struck me, too) but there's only so much I can cram in late at nite. And loved all your "rain" connections -- I hadn't thought about that, only that a movie about the end of silence is apt. People are going to stop being silent (esp women and people of color) and start talking their heads off! As for "PeeWee" -- I just couldn't go there. I said as much about that abomination as I could stand. ick!

Kay, I love your solution! I'd take Carla as my mom any day - she seems wonderful. Of course, who knows how she is with her own kids....

Kid: Yeah, it's interesting how little sympathy Don has for other people's hurt given how hurt he's been. But then that seems psychologically true. I'm guessing that deep inside he thinks other people, esp these privileged folks, are weak whiners and he knows what real pain is, so he has no sympathy. And he has a point, when you compare his life to people like Betty, Roger, Pete, and well, almost everyone else on the show.
Wow. This was better than the show. Great stuff.
Silkstone, as I was reading your recap, I had the same thought as one of your other readers -- I'd love for Matthew Weiner to see all the recaps and comment on them. We've all said before that this is the most literate of TV series, and just like great literature, it leaves me wondering whether the all the levels and references we see were intended by the authors. This episode did seem crammed full, and belonged to the actors more than the writers. Jon Hamm is brilliant, and I don't think I ever gave Vincent Kartheiser full credit for his acting chops before last night -- nor Allison Brie (Trudy). I was 16 when JFK was killed, and I remember thinking that it was truly the end of the world. As a member of several civil rights groups, some friends and I went to an African American (oops -- Negro) church on Chicago's south side, the day of the funeral, and I still remember the outpouring of grief.

And Silkstone, I'm with you about the '70's. I don't think the '60's ended until around 1975 (I always think with the advent of disco), but by the late '70's, even though progress was made in some areas, most of the idealism was gone. Even the drug culture had changed from the idea (yea, it always rang a little phony) of mind expansion to just getting high, and as I recall coke and quaaludes were real favorites, neither of which encouraged the idea of community.

I can't wait for next week, and I can't imagine how all these loose ends will be tied up. I think, along with one of your other readers, that we may be headed for a cliff-hanger. This is the first year that the deal for the next season is already inked, so a cliff-hanger is possible. I'll miss these Mondays and will have to look for other ways to get my Silkstone fix.
I had dvrd MM last night so could not read you until I had watched it. I am as addicted to your columns on the show as I am to the show itself...fancy that. And after next week..... I will be unsettled. WHY only 12 episodes. I don't think I can wait a year.
I don't watch Mad Men, but I always appreciate your recaps and the hard work you did to put this together.
Gwool, Mary and VR, thanks!

Adele, thanks, and great additions to the discussion from you as always. I've said this before but I think much of what's tucked into the show is deliberate although I think all good writers are even smarter than they know, putting in symbolism and themes without realizing it.

I agree with you about Kartheiser and Brie - they are wonderful in their parts and increasingly delicious together. I couldn't stand Trudy at first (that voice!) but she's grown on me. At this point, frankly, I feel more interested in where they go as characters than Don and Betty. It would be interesting if the show focused on them next season -- and it would be appropriate, per what I've written about the generational shift that's coming. Let's hope we see a lot more of them, and Peggy and Joan next season.

Lisa, thanks! I'd rather get 13 higher quality shows than more with less, but the season did feel quick (well, except when I was struggling to write some of these pieces at 3 AM...!). I hope we don't have a full year to wait for next season - usually in cable it's more like 6-9 months (unless it's The Sopranos!)
Silkstone, thank you so much for your wonderful recaps every Monday! I've been reading all season and wanted to comment before it's all over next week.

We've been waiting for this episode all season, and I think Weiner absolutely nailed it. I was exactly Sally's age on the day JFK died, home sick from school and watching a soap opera when Walter Cronkite broke the news to me. For those who didn't experience that day, 9/11 came close, with everyone wondering out loud if the world really was coming to an end. I loved the way the events were streamed through the characters' lives over the four days via TV. The episode paid faithful and respectful homage to the way that cataclysmic events bind the wounded together at the same time they reveal how solitary we really are.

For those looking for some insight into Weiner's creation of the series, check out the October issue of Vanity Fair. It's a fascinating read.

Thank you, Silkstone and everyone!
Others have touched on this and it seems to me that Don is so wedded to the life he's created and the world he inhabits that he can't avoid being dismissive of what he must sense is the change that Kennedy's assassination will bring. Hence the "everything's going to be fine" and his instinct to keep the kids from dwelling in it.

I still have more sympathy for Betty than most folks do. Maybe it's because I knew some bright women for whom women's lib didn't come sooon enough and they wound up boring and conventional. The proposal didn't ring true but her realizing that she no longer loves Don, and actually telling him so, is a big first step in throwing of the societal shackles. Henry won't be any better so it'll take her another false start before she starts to get it.

The possible beginning of Pete's transformation was unexpected but there were a number of junior execs that embraced the flowering of the 60s. I'm curious to see how this develops.

I'm even more curious to see what the future holds for Peggy. She's such an intriguing character.

And while Singin' in the Rain did cover the end of one era, it equally covered the beginning of another that proved vastly more popular from the get-go. It also covered the downfall of someone who couldn't talk and the rightful reward of someone who could.

Great post Silkstone; I can't imagine how you pick up so much and can get it down in text so quickly. You are really dialed in to the MM wave-length.
Every time I see Sally Draper giving her irritated pout, I become more convinced that she will one step out of a VW van and onto Haight Ashbury.
Totally agree, Stefan. I loved the look she gave Don when he said "nothing" had happened after Betty screamed about the Oswald shooting. "F you, Daddy, do you think I'm an idiot?"

I think we'll see quite a change in her by the time Season 4 starts. And she's really going to be beautiful when she grows up, IMO.
The prize goes to you, Silkstone, for the most insightful article on this episode. Better than Sepinwall, better than Maureen Ryan. I will enjoy reading more of your writing on any subject.
Late again . . . but wanted to thank you for the insights. I thought the Aqua Net storyboard connection was brilliant--the visual was a real kick in the teeth. I was about Sally's age when Kennedy died and remember the confusion of adults' pain and the constant television coverage as background to that. I thought the use of the news footage was well integrated and inevitable in the episode.
i really enjoyed reading this...an artful review.
Well I thought I would weigh in with my own JFK assassination experience. The anniversary is upon us and I still hurt a little every year for what was lost. I think that MM covered it pitch perfect and it had to be covered.
I was 10, in fifth grade, attending Catholic grade school. When I was in 2nd grade, the year of the election, the nuns were actually wearing JFK buttons on their habits. My fifth grade year I had a lay teacher (not a nun) - Mrs. Kexel, a gray haired, but stern grandmother that most of the boys hated because she poked her fingernails in their shoulders when they weren't paying attention. We were in the middle of a lesson, there was a knock at the door. It was our principal, Sister Mary Frances. Mrs. Kexel went to the door and stepped out into the hall to talk to her. The look on Sister Mary Frances' face said that something was very, very bad. With an audible gasp, Mrs. Kexel's hand went to her face.
When Mrs. Kexel came back into the classroom, she was crying. I don't remember what she said, but we were to get ready to go home on the bus. I remember thinking that I had some really big, important news to tell my Mom, but she had already heard. Everybody went through the next few days in a fog. The TV was on all the time. We were hurting, the grown-ups were hurting, the grandparents were hurting and nobody could make it better.

Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and we were denied any closure.

Four and a half years later, I was a freshman in high school at a babysitting job watching TV when the news broke that Martin Luther King had been shot and two months after that, on one of the last days of school for the year we were reeling from the shock that Bobby had been assassinated in California earlier that morning.
It was like - they killed them all - anybody who could speak or stand up to what was wrong - they killed them - no wonder it went from doing drugs to expand consciousness to just getting high.

It hurt for a long, long time.
Miss You, thanks! Yes, one thing this show got right is the non-stop TV watching. I think it was the first national tragedy that was covered on TV to that degree. Of course, we're used to that now, but it was new, then (including because TV's were just starting to be ubiquitous in American homes) and was one huge reason it was an experience that was shared emotionally by the entire nation....well, except for Don Draper!

Abra, great catch about "Singin' in the Rain" being as much about the start of a new era as the end of an old one. And I loved this insight: "It also covered the downfall of someone who couldn't talk and the rightful reward of someone who could." Wish I'd thought of that!

Stefan, ha! yeah, I see that, too...especially after having seen kids raised in that era as I was do precisely those sorts of things.

Kay, I love Sally's "knowingness", too. My guess is that Sally is a stand-in for Matthew Weiner -- the smart, observant kid who took it all in and knew it meant something, even if not sure what it is, until later on. Of course, that's the childhood story of most writers.

Cantara and Kat, thanks!!

Hells, the Aqua Net thing at the end knocked me out. I didn't see that one coming and I really thought it was brilliant. And I agree they integrated the actual news footage very very well. It's like another character in the episode, and it's utterly accurate to how people just couldn't stop watching -- and there was an endless series of things to watch, given the assassination itself, the confusion about it, Oswald's shooting, the charisma of Jackie and the charm of the kids, and then the pageantry of the funeral.

Teresa, your story is similar to so many others. I forgot to put it in but one thing I loved about this episode is that people were already starting to tell their "where I was when I heard JFK was shot" stories -- we hear it at Roger's wedding, and it's soon to be a defining gesture of the era. And it fit what I've experienced with other huge events (e.g. Loma Prieta quake I wrote about here recently as well as of course 9/11).

and yes, you're right. Those assassinations hurt for a long, long time. Not just individuals but the entire country.
One more thought about the AquaNet storyboard - that was introduced 2 or 3 episodes ago, so quietly and matter-of-factly. And most of us, I guess, assumed it was there just to demonstrate something about Paul's growing envy toward Peggy.

But it was also THERE so it could be used HERE.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one ...

Weiner and his writers are like master chess players. Only it's 3D chess.
It occurred to me that Peggy will eventually resent Duck for depriving her of being able to contribute to the "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" conversations.
No, the question I've always heard is "Where were you when you HEARD Kennedy was shot?"

Peggy can just say, "I was checking for hickeys in a hotel room."
This continues to be the best Mad Men writing I've found anywhere.
Dawn, well, a political operative. Which is either better or worse than a politician, depending on who you ask!

Kay, I also think one of the tests of a TV show is how well they plant things ahead of time that come to satisfying fruition later. The Aqua Net bit is an example of that. It's also one that no one saw coming, which makes it that much more powerful -- sometimes you can see the writers' fingerprints and know they're setting something up for later, but not this time. It was a real shocker.

And I laughed out loud at your comeback of what Peggy will say about where she was when she heard JFK had been shot (and you are quite correct to say that's the actual question). What a horror for a good Catholic girl!

As a side note, it's hard to explain how much JFK meant to Catholics in that era, unless you were one -- which I was. Also to people in Ireland, who had his and Bobby's pictures on the walls of their houses for at least a generation. They were enormously important, especially since it had only been 50 years or so since their countrymen who immigrated to the US were still seeing, "No dogs or Irish" signs on businesses.

AskaPunk, thanks!!
I had assumed ( like most people) that Henry's casual proposal was just a reckless move of a naive sap. I'm now thinking there is a strong possibility that he actually might be a smooth "player". Recall when his daughter caught him staring at Betty during the wedding reception she was indignant. Maybe she has seen her father in action before? And I don't think any political aide to a Rockefeller would get too far without being able to schmooze people.
Great write-up! Just want to add my favorite part of the episode: Carla sitting on the couch with Betty and lighting up a cigarette while watching the assassination footage on TV.
There is one metaphor that has received no comment. At first the building was ice cold. Then it was hot. Then JFK was shot. I have nothing definitive, but I am certain that it was no accident. I will just throw out an icy reserved coolness for the 50s and a red hot 60s explosion. I most want to hear from others.

Another point is I am certain Peggy was typing up her resignation letter when Don walked into her office at the end. First, Don asks why she is in, and she responds with Aqua Net concept being useless. Then Don looks at her typewriter and asks, "What have you got?" She immediately diverts him by asking, "Why are you in?"

Finally, there is something from last week that is driving me nuts. It occurred while Don was telling Betty about his parents and birth. He made a point that his parental mother was not his biological mother, who was a prostitute. He does strongly imply that his biological father was his parental father. The flashback sequence of his conception showed that Don's biological father was a boy who could not afford a condom, and that boy was not Don's parental father who is fairly old.

One last thing regarding Don's telling of his family. Do I recall correctly that his mother took up with a guy, who was called "Uncle Walt"? I am not sure of this, but if it is, a shout out to "Uncle Walt" Disney.
As always, fabulous commentary.

You touched on Duck and Peggy's noon get together -- I think they did have sex, since she asked if he gave her a hickey. And yes, ick.
Harry, I think he's not quite a wolf in sheep's clothing but definitely more of an "operator" than his mild-mannered appearance suggests at first.

Jude, yes, I was quite stunned to see Carla just sit down and light right up! I loved that the wall between her and Betty broke down a bit in their grief.

Robert, I hadn't thought about the hot/cold thing before - I like your theory! It definitely must mean something, as everything does on MM and the whole temperature problem is talked about by the characters. There's also a fever dream aspect to it -- and certainly that time had a weird hallucinatory feel to it like when you're running a high fever alternating with chills.

But I'm 99% that it was "Mack. Uncle Mack." that Don said, not Walt. And I also don't think Peggy was typing her resignation letter -- I see no reason why she would be, and every reason she'd be on the job making sure she comes up with something new for Aqua Net. As for Don's parentage, I'm not remembering how that episode started, but at the time I thought we did see a clear link to Don's father. And his father would have been more of a "boy" when Don is conceived than he is when we see him later on in the show, when Don is about 10 or so. (And people aged fast in those days in those tough kinds of lives.) But there is the question of: if she was a prostitute, why they'd think Archie was the father and not other guys??

Crystal, oh yes, I was clear that they had sex. Peggy also comments that he didn't "seem distracted" when he confesses afterward that he was because of something he'd seen on TV. I was referring to the fact that he wants to be sure they have sex, so hides from her what's happening until after they do. Double ick! I hope this makes her dump him.
There are a couple of reasons why I think Peggy was writing a resignation letter.

First is the overall arc of the series story line. Stirling Cooper is up for sale. Second, Ducks (ugh) has been trying to hire Pete and Peggy for most of the season. Pete and Trudy hade a decision for Pete to leave. So what will Peggy do? This sets up an interesting scenario for next season. Pete and Peggy working for a competitor (and OMG a Jewish firm at that) while Sirling Cooper with (old school) Don and (blackface) Roger Stirling and whomever buys them. regardless of the specifics, including Peggy, the team at Stirling Cooper is about to be upended with roles changed, kind of like the late 60s.

And by the way, am I the only straight man in America who misses Salvatore and wonders when and how he will return? He was the most empathetic character on the show and possibly the best acted. All the problems that Joan and Peggy face in the workplace (and they are Legion) pale in comparison to what Salvatore deals with.
Peggy can't go to work for Duck, if she wants to be taken seriously. "Oh yeah, the new copywriter - some girl Duck's sleeping with."

"And that guy Pete? Geez, she brought her ex-boyfriend with her, too!"
Robert, I miss Sal, too. I saw the conversation that Don was having with Lane as being an opening to get Sal back - he says he doesn't have an art dept.

But I agree with Kay Bell -- if Peggy was reluctant to go to Grey before, she would be very unlikely to do so now that she's slept with Duck. She knows how that would compromise her. Not just if it ever became known there, but it would affect how Duck treats her - - instead of just treating her professionally, he would act like he owns her. (In the slang of today, she'd be his bitch.) It's not a good situation for a woman.

I also don't see the show fragmenting the characters into other agencies -- it's hard enough to follow their stories as it is (and with only Joan having left -- although I also think she'll be back). I think the agency selling will be the impetus/excuse for gathering Joan and Sal back in and keeping Peggy and Pete there.
If Sal gets to come back, so does Freddy Rumson.
I'm a first time writer but long time reader, and I echo the other's comments: you're the best! I have one question, though, about your observation that we see Don going with suitcases in hand to his hotel. I thought that it looked like he was going to an apartment in a brownstone building, and that Joan had gotten him the furnished apartment that he'd requested. What do you think?
i love mad men...is a incredible serie....good screenplay..