Monday, October 12, 2009

Mad Men “Wee Small Hours” Real Big Trouble

Photos from AMC

In the “Wee Small Hours” episode of Mad Men, a lot of trouble can happen. Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) tries to keep his cover of being gay, and in doing so, threatens one of Sterling Cooper’s largest accounts. Conrad Hilton (Chelcie Ross) and his annoying habit of waking Don up, coupled with his demanding and narrow attitude is giving Don Draper (Jon Hamm) grief. Don uses Conrad as cover to start a fling with Sally’s former teacher, Suzanne Farrell (Abigail Spencer). Betty Draper (January Jones) seems to be leading on Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley ) from the governor’s office, but then seems to get cold feet. This is all over a backdrop of civil rights and segregation commentary. Mad Men remains the best drama on television, as it weaves personal drama in with the culture and the events of the day to create a rich tapestry of life in the early 1960s.

Things are tough for Sal when working on a commercial for Lucky Strike, Lee Garner Jr., (Darren Pettie) the son of the cigarette magnate, makes a flagrant pass at Sal while in the editing room. Sal rejects Garner’s advances, using the excuse that he is married. But Garner, who previously addressed Sal as “Sally”, knows very well that Sal is hiding behind his marriage. Garner contacts Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) and demands that Sal be fired, and Harry, picking up on the fact that Garner seems drunk, decides that since it’s not really his call to fire Sal, and since Garner told him not to tell anybody, he decides to do nothing. This blows up in his face when Garner comes in to a meeting at Sterling Cooper and sees Sal there, and storms out. Roger Sterling (John Slattery) fires Sal on the spot, and then tells Harry to have Don fix the mess. When Harry and Sal come to Don, Don is clearly not pleased, and when alone with Sal, says that the loss of Lucky Strike could turn out the lights at Sterling Cooper. He tells Sal that it just has to be, and tells Sal he will find something. At some later day and time, Sal calls his wife from a phone book in what looks like the park, faking that he had to work late. Clearly he hasn’t told her he was fired.

I felt horrible for Sal, especially when Don, who knows Sal is gay, chastises him and says, “You people.” Don appears unable to see that he is no different than Sal in keeping secrets. Considering Don’s philandering has created problems with accounts before, he has a lot of nerve implying that because Sal is gay, that Sal’s issues are different than Don’s. It is almost as if Don looked down on Sal in the same way that he has looked down on Peggy in past episodes – that because Peggy is a woman or because Sal is gay, that their issues don’t have the same importance as Don’s, a heterosexual male. I wonder what Don would have done if Garner would have made a pass at him? Don’s attitude is reflective of the opinions people had of gays in that era, and sadly, these days, gays can still be unfairly stereotyped.

Meanwhile, Betty starts writing letter to Henry Francis in the governors office, and he responds. Henry then drives to the Draper home to see Betty, and when Carla (Deborah Lacey) comes back home, Henry makes up that he came there about using Betty’s home for a fundraiser. Betty seems to think that Carla is ignorant to what is really going on, but Carla is no dummy and reads accurately that Henry was not there for a fundraiser. When Betty decides to go through with it – maybe she came to the conclusion that she had to keep up the cover story so there would be no issue with Carla, Betty is crushed when Henry doesn’t attend and instead sends one of his staff to speak in his behalf. When she brings the money from the fundraiser to Henry’s office, she throws the cash box at him, angry that he humiliated her and she waited for him to come. Henry said that she had to come to him because she is married. When he locks the door and kisses her, Betty pulls away, saying that meeting there or even in a hotel is “tawdry.” Henry is confused by her behavior and doesn’t know what she wants. Frankly, I am not sure what Betty wants either, but it seems that she wants to be the one that is desired, and not be the one that desires someone else.

Don, on the other hand, seems to have no concerns about anything being tawdry. When he gets a call from Hilton in the wee hours and can’t fall back to sleep, he decides to head into work. On the way there, he sees Suzanne Farrell out for an early morning run. He offers to drive her to her place, and when they get there, he asks her to join him for a cup of coffee. She knows it’s not coffee he wants, and she blows him off. Later, at work, he finds that Hilton has summoned him again. He meets him at Hilton’s place and, over some prohibition alcohol, Hilton gives Don the chance at his international business, saying the he even wants to have a Hilton on the moon. Hilton wants Don’s ad campaign to reflect that. Hilton also calls Don "my angel" adding that Don feels like "more than a son" to him because he didn't have the advantages Hilton’s Connie's own boys had.

Back in the office, Don is unhappy with what Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and her team have come up with, even though they are based on Draper’s own ideas. At a later date, Don presents the campaign to Connie: How do you say "Ice Water" in Italian or "Hamburger" in Japanese? Hilton. When Hilton wants to speak to Don alone about the campaign, he’s angry, saying the campaign is good but Don had nothing about Hilton on the moon, and "When I say I want the moon, "I expect the moon." He storms out. Afterwards, Roger enters Don’s office, and says that two huge clients stormed out of their office this week, adding, "You've got your face so deep in Hilton's lap, you're ignoring everything else. You're in over your head."

But Don’s answer to his predicament is to get even further in over his head, when he fakes that Hilton called him in the wee hours again, and tells a sleepy Betty that he has to go in to work. He doesn’t head to work, though, he heads to Suzanne Farrell’s place, and she tells Don she knows exactly where things are headed. He could care less, and forges on with a starting the affair anyway, and he spends the rest of the night in her bed.

Sal, the only person who was cautious about having an affair is the one who suffered the most punishment, having lost his job because he rejected the advances of a client. His situation was no different than sexual harassment that women also faced in that area when they refused the advances of a boss or client, but for Sal, it seems even worse because there was zero tolerance for gays during that time. Betty is no more than a tease, and she is playing dangerous game with Henry, whether she realizes it or not. I don’t blame him for being confused as to what she wants. But if Betty only knew what Don was up to, she wouldn’t have any doubts about making an overt move for Henry. Don is becoming more of a cad each week. He’s riding high with his ego in getting the Hilton account, and is acting as if he is untouchable. His fling with Suzanne Farrell – who leaves nearby and can see Betty or the kids in the normal course of a day – is literally too close to home. Don’s behavior seems to get riskier with each passing day. The question is, at what point will his luck run out, and will he take one risk too many which will blow it all for him? Since we know that Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) knows who Don really is, and Roger seem to be out to take Don down a few notches, it may only be a matter of time before Don’s risk taking works against him.

Video Recap “Mad Men: Wee Small Hours”

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Lisa R. said...

Thanks for the wonderful recap! I felt horrible for Sal,too. He's one of my favorite characters. Doesn't seem fair to me that Sal has to lose his job because he won't cater to that bully of a client. I hope he'll still be on the show...

I love some John Slattery each episode; he embodies Roger Sterling so wonderfully. I used to like Roger, but ever since he hooked up with his new 20 year old wife, I can't stand the guy anymore.

Kinda DVR cut off the ending credits so no preview for next weeks episode :(

Do you watch Dexter? You're spoiling me with all these brilliant recaps of Law and Order and Madmen...Dexter's the only other show I watch these days! Would love to see you tackle that show sometime.

I Like to Watch TV said...

Hi Lisa - thanks for your comments. I don't watch Dexter - I don't subscribe to any of the premium channels like Showtime ot HBO etc. because I found that I had no time to watch them. I've heard good things about the show, though!

As far as Mad Men, yes, Roger is getting a little annoying, and I think Slattery is playing it perfectly!

Lisa R. said...

Seasons 1-3 are available now on DVD...maybe you can do past episode recaps! Pretty please :)

The Rush Blog said...

"Betty Draper (January Jones) seems to be leading on Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley ) from the governor’s office, but then seems to get cold feet."

Why are so many of you upset that Betty didn't have an affair with Henry Francis? Why is it so important that she went through with that affair?

Betty wanted more than a tawdry affair with Henry. She wanted someone she could emotionally connect with. She can't get that with Don, who either wants her as some fantasy figure (see their trip to Rome) or a token wife. She thought she was going to have that with Henry. Instead, he seemed more interested in a tawdry affair. She was right to end it before it could begin.