Monday, September 14, 2009

Mad Men “The Fog” Makes Things Clearer

Photo from AMC

This episode of Mad Men “The Fog” brought the birth of the newest Draper, Eugene Scott, on June 21, 1963. Betty seemed to slip into a dream-like fog during her delivery, and we may have seen how her state of mind will unfold after the baby is born. Somehow, I sense that Betty will have issues with depression after the birth of the baby, as she seems mentally to be going off a cliff. Her true feelings about Don seemed to be coming out in her drug induced haze and delivery of the baby. But Peggy and Pete are far from being in a fog, both seemingly very clear as to what is going on in their work lives. Peggy senses that she has to stand up for herself if she wants to get what everyone else has. Pete, on the other hand, becomes more worried that he is being set up for failure.

The episode begins with Don (Jon Hamm) and Betty (January Jones) meeting with Sally’s teacher, Miss Farrell (Abigail Spencer). (By the way, Miss Farrell is the woman who, in the episode ”Love Among The Ruins” was dancing around the maypole with Sally and other children at a picnic, and where Don seems to have been lost in thought while watching her dance.) The Drapers were called there because it appears Sally has been acting out, and the behavior is not typical. When Miss Farrell asks if anything has changed at home, Betty tells her of her father’s death. This seems to have an effect on the teacher. When Betty excuses herself to go to the bathroom, Miss Farrell talks with Don and asks if Don can understand about Sally’s grief. He does. When Betty returns, she says she wants to put all of this behind her so when the new baby comes things can be perfect.

When Don gets back to work, he enters a meeting that Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) is having with the staff where he is scrutinizing expenses. When Don hears Pryce nickel and diming every expenditure, he gets up and leaves the meeting.

Kinsey (Michael Gladis ) is talking with Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) about the Admiral TV account, and Pete realizes that sales of the televisions are up in urban areas –“great jazz cities” as Kinsey calls them – and Pete realizes that it may mean more black people are buying them. Harry enters their session and agrees with the conclusion. Ken (Aaron Staton) comes in, bragging how well things are going for him and then leaves.

Later, Don is in his office and Pryce enters, continuing the discussion about expenses, but Don pushes back, saying that Pryce needs to loosen up if he wants the people to be able to do their jobs and for the firm to make money.

While Pete is working on the Admiral TV account, he gets a phone call from his Uncle Herman. It turns out to really be Duck Phillips (Mark Moses) inviting him to lunch, telling him it won’t be a waste of time.

When Don gets home, the phone is ringing and he answers it, and it’s Miss Farrell, who is apologizing for her pushing so hard at the meeting. She’s drinking while she is talking to Don. She tells him that her own father died when she was 8 years old and could relate to what Sally was going through. When Betty calls out for Don, he quickly terminates the call, telling Betty it was no one on the phone. It turns out, though, that it’s time for the baby to be born. Don seems momentarily rattled and mentions he needs to get his keys, and Betty calmly points out they are in his hand.

When they get to the hospital, the nurse tells Don his work is done, and sends him off to the solarium to wait. As Betty is being wheeled off, she sees a janitor mopping the floor that looks like her father, and calls out to him, perplexed. When Betty has trouble with the pen to fill out the form, the nurse helps her complete it, asking when she last ate and if her water broke Betty calmly gives her the information, and tells her that her water never breaks.

While Don is waiting, he strikes up a conversation with another man who is also waiting for his wife to deliver. Dennis Hobart (Matt Bushell) is upset with a nurse (Yeardley Smith – who is the voice of the animated Lisa Simpson, by the way) because he hasn’t gotten any information about his wife’s status. She tells him it is a breach and apologizes for him not being told. Hobart works at a prison, and he brought a bottle of (I think) Johnny Walker with him. He and Don share a few drinks while the pass the time. Don sees an ad in a magazine for a car and rips out the ad. Hobart later tells Don that all the people in prison blame their parents for how their lives turned out.

While Betty is being readied for delivery, she hears another woman screaming in childbirth, and Betty’s face gets a slight look of dread. Later. when she is being prepped with drugs and it seems painful for her, she gets more upset when she finds her regular doctor, Doctor Aldridge, won’t be available. He’s at an anniversary dinner with his wife at Mama Leone’s. (By the way, I ate there when I went to New York on a class trip in 1969.) Betty wants her own doctor, but she begins to drift off and dream or hallucinate. She is walking down a tree lined street – frankly the scene reminded me a lot of the old movies where someone walked on a treadmill being filmed in front of a filmed backdrop. A caterpillar drops in front of her and she catches it in her hand, than then seems to squish it. Later, Betty struggles with the nurse, saying she didn’t want this and comments about Don’s whereabouts, asking if she has been with him. They give her Demerol and she drifts off again.

The nurse tells Hobart his wife had a boy, and she is in recovery, having lost a lot of blood. Before he leaves, he tells Don that he knows Don is an honest guy. He also promises to be a better man, asking Don if he heard him. Don says he did.

Betty seems to be fighting the delivery and then sees herself walking in the hospital hallway, which turns into her home. She sees the janitor mopping the floor and sees that it is her father. He tells her he misses her, but that he had to go. She asks if she is dying, and he tells her to ask her mother. Betty’s mother Ruth (Lou Mulford) is at the kitchen table, a black man seated in front of her. She tells Betty to shut her mouth or she will catch a fly. Betty tells her she forgot her lunch pail. Her father, mopping the floor with blood, tells her she is a housecat, and that she is very important and has little to do. Her dream image slowly fades, and she wakes up in a hospital room with the baby, Don telling her it is a boy when Betty seems to think the baby is a girl. She calls the baby Gene, saying she wants to name him Eugene (after her father). Don tells her they don’t have to decide that now, but she calls the baby Gene.

When Don gets back to the office, it is filled with baby gifts. Roger (John Slattery) calls him and tells Don that it seems all work has stopped while he was gone, and tells Don that Betty had the baby, not Don. Don is miffed as he was only gone one half of a day.

Elsewhere, Pete arrives for his lunch with Duck and sees that Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is also there. She says she did not know Pete was also invited. Duck tells him that he knows that they had something going between them, and then dangles the opportunity for new jobs to work at Grey Advertising, where Duck now works. Pete seems offended at the thought, but Peggy seems to be interested, much to Pete’s surprise. Pete leaves, and when Peggy make a move to leave as well, Duck tells her that she also is talented and she should strike while the iron is hot, adding that she's a freewheeling career gal with great ideas and that this is her time.

When Pete gets back to the office, he takes the chance to talk to Hollis (La Monde Byrd) , the black man who operates the elevator. Pete wants to know about Hollis’ choice for a television, but Hollis tells him black people have more to worry about now than just TV. When Hollis says he barely watches TV, Pete says that he doesn’t believe Hollis doesn’t watch baseball. Pete reminds Hollis that he is just doing his job by asking these questions.

Betty sees Don and the kids waving to her from the hospital sidewalk as she watches from her window, holding the baby. Later at night, Don is making a snack – it looks like corned beef hash with an egg – Sally (Kiernan Shipka), comes in and the share some food and some talk about eggs and chicks and chickens. Sally tells her that Miss Farrell says everything will be fine, and Don says then it must be true.

The next day when Don goes to get Betty, he passes Hobart and his wife in the hall, and he smiles at him, but Hobart looks back with only a slight smile, saying nothing.

At the meeting with the Admiral TV people, Pete and Kinsey pitch the idea of targeting the “Negro” market by placing ads in publications like Ebony and Jet, which cost far less and will give them more coverage. They suggest integrated ads, and one of the execs says that is illegal. Pete tell him it is not, but they aren’t happy with the proposal, saying it’s not worth having a conversation about it, saying maybe blacks are buying the TVs because they want what whites want.

Meanwhile, Peggy comes to Don’s office bearing her own baby gift, commenting that no one asked her to go in with the others. She talks to him about wanting equal pay for equal work, and that a law was passed to make sure that women are treated equally. But Don says the timing is bad, seeing that he has to fight with Pryce over paper clips. She tells him she only gets paid $71 more a week than her secretary, and Don implies they need to hire a cheaper secretary. But Peggy continues to push, saying that she does better work than Kinsey, and that this is not a good time for her, it costs a lot to live in Manhattan. He has everything – and so much of it - and she wants the same things that he wants and has. When he asks what she wants him to say, she coldly says that she doesn’t think she could be any clearer. When Pete sees her leaving Don’s office, he panics, thinking she told Don about their lunch with Duck. When she is evasive about what she said to Don, he gets ever more rattled, saying what she does affects him as well.

Later, Pete is reamed royally by Bert (Robert Morse) and Roger about the Admiral account as Admiral doesn’t want anything to do with the “Negro” market. But after Pete leaves the room, Pryce seems side with Pete, saying they should be looking at that market with someone, from someone not from the US he thinks there is potential.

When Betty and Don arrive home with the baby, Francine (Ann Dudek) is there to help. Apparently Carla has to leave to be with her family. Sally and Bobby (Jared S. Gilmore ) meet their new brother, Eugene Scott. Francine asks Betty how it went, and Betty said it was like a fog. Later, while everyone is asleep, the baby begins to cry, and Betty gets out of bed. She walks down the hall and stops, listening to the baby cry, and then she continues to walk as we fade to black.

I found this episode to be rather intense, with a look inside Betty’s state of mind. While she appears to be cold and stoic, inside she seems to be riddled with self-doubt about her marriage and carries a lot of baggage about her parents. Her catching the caterpillar – which usually turns into some sort of butterfly or moth – and then seeming to gasp far too tightly in her hand seems to indicate that somewhere along the line Betty feels that she can’t be what she wants to be. Or, it could mean that she wants to dish out to others what she felt was handed to her in life. Either way, there may have been more information about Betty in her dreams and hallucinations than we’ve seen from her in reality. Somehow, I don’t see things working out well for her as the season goes on.

In an indication of how times have changed, every time Pete or someone else used the word "Negro", I found myself cringe. It's important to remember that this term, while not acceptable now, was very commonly used then. I also found it interesting that while Peggy was fighting for equality, it seems that Hollis, the elevator operator, wants a piece of that life too. It will be interesting to see how this show portrays those issues as it moves ahead in the years.

Video Recap of Mad Ment “The Fog”

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