Monday, November 2, 2009

Mad Men “The Grown Ups” An Assassination Rocks Their World

All Photos from AMC

Mad Men “The Grown Ups” seems to have been building to this point all season: the country gets the horrific news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Anyone old enough to have lived through that day can remember it vividly. I was 8 years old and in class when the news came over the public address system. Even at that young age, we all knew that this news was serious business. I also can recall sitting glued in front of the TV for days watching the news coverage. “The Grown Ups” was a perfect episode for people like me who saw the event through a child’s eyes – not unlike Sally and Bobby Draper – but now had a chance to see it through the eyes of the grown ups who still had to go about their daily lives. I also found it interesting that the episode showed other coverage besides the usual Walter Cronkite video of the event. Our household was an NBC household so we were glued to Chet Huntley and their coverage the entire time.

In “The Grown Ups,” before the assassination happened, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) got the news from Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) that Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) was given the title of Senior Vice President of Account Services, and Pete would be had of account management . Needless to say, Pete takes the news calmly while in Lane's office, but then leaves for the day to wallow at home in his perceived failure. Pete’s wife Trudy (Alison Brie) tries to look at the situation with Pete’s job rationally in order to calm him. But when he later says he doesn’t want to go to Margaret’s wedding after the assassination has occurred, she agrees with him and stays home with him.

Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) arrives at work with her new roommate Karen Ericson (Carla Gallo) and they talk about men. Her roomie doesn’t like Duck, saying that his cologne lingers too much. Later, Duck (Mark Moses) calls Peggy for a “nooner” and on her way there, Duck hears the news on TV that Kennedy has been shot, and while he seems rattled about it, he unplugs the TV to likely keep the news, and the distraction, away from Peggy and his planned afternoon delight. When he finally turns on the TV, the news that Kennedy is dead shocks both of them.

Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) daughter is getting married that weekend, and Roger's wife Jane (Peyton List ) gives Margaret (Elizabeth Rice) a gift of beautiful earrings in an attempt to make peace with Margaret. But this only incenses Margaret more, who throws a tantrum with her mother, Mona (Talia Balsam). When Margaret drags Roger into her drama, Mona tries to calm the situation further with Margaret so the wedding can go on. Roger, however, rants to Jane about why she even got involved when he told her to stay away from Margaret. As the wedding gets close and news of the assassination comes out, Margaret sobs uncontrollably, her worst fears about her wedding being doomed coming to reality.

At the office, everyone goes about their normal workday, and when Pete is talking with Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) they are so engrossed in the discussion that they don’t even see the news bulletin come across the TV screen. When it seems that the entire floor of employees for Sterling Cooper descends on Harry’s office to see the news bulletin, Harry and Pete are shocked. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) meanwhile is battling with Lane about hiring a replacement for Sal. When Don doesn’t like Lane’s answer, he says that Bert Cooper still has a say in the company, and Don storms out. But when Don hears all the office phones ringing and everyone seems to be collected in Harry’s office, he then hears the grim news. Betty Draper (January Jones) is at home, and already crying over the news when Carla (Deborah Lacey) comes home with Sally (Kiernan Shipka) and Bobby (Jared S. Gilmore). Betty is already in a funk after finding out about her husband’s secret past life, and this new news rocks her world even further.

When Don arrives home and finds the kids glued to the TV, he tells Betty he wants them away from it. But when she wonders how she can keep it from them, his answer to her is to take a pill and lie down. He proceeds to sit down with the kids and seemingly becomes glue to the TV just as they were. Later. with Betty already in the darkened bedroom lying down, he takes a pill himself.

The day of Margaret’s wedding, everyone seems to struggled with whether they should attend the reception or not attend. Pete and Trudy decide to stay home. The Drapers, however, decide to go, but it’s clear that many people were no shows by the look of all the empty seats. Roger tries to salvage a bad situation the best he can despite the fact that he finds out there is no wedding cake and his wife seems to be stuck in the ballroom kitchen glued to the television.

Betty gets a surprise when she sees Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) show up at the reception, and he meets with a young woman. She is relieved when she overhears the woman is Francis’ daughter Elanor (Veronica Taylor). Elanor later notices that her father can’t keep his eyes off Betty. Don and Betty are also dancing, and he kisses her and tells her everything will be fine.

After the reception, Roger carries a drunk Jane into the bedroom and flops her on the bed, and when he seems sure she is out cold, he picks up the phone and calls Joan (Christina Hendricks). It seems clear that Roger still has feelings for Joan and I wonder what will happen with those two during the season finale.

Back at home the next day, Betty is watching TV and screams loudly as she watched on live TV the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald. But when Don tries to reassure her, she says "Leave me alone," and pushes him away and leaves the room. When Sally enters and asks. "What happened?" Don says "Nothing," which is typical for Don, who seems to think that he can just sweep everything away with a few words.

When Betty wants to go for a drive alone to “clear hear head,” Don seems perplexed. I guess he doesn’t quite know what it’s like when someone keeps secrets from him. Betty meets Henry Francis in a parking lot, and he stuns her by saying he wants to marry her. They share a kiss. He thinks he can make her happy (and I think to myself, “good luck with that”).

Back at home, Betty tells Don she is upset at him for ruining all of this, and then says she does not love him. She goes on to say that when he kissed her the day before she felt nothing. Don tries to blow her off as he always does, saying she will feel better tomorrow. She says he can’t even hear her right now, and he says she is right.

The next day, it seems like business as usual at home, with Don going to work and the kids having breakfast, but he and Betty do not speak. No businesses were open that day for Kennedy’s funeral. When Don gets into the office, he finds Peggy there, who also seemed to have the need to escape her own place, as her roommate brought in a whole group of people to watch the funeral and to write letters to Jackie, and her mother and sister are at home crying and praying. She decided to go to Bert Cooper’s office to watch the funeral, and Don heads to his own office for a drink.

I thought this episode used the events of the Kennedy assassination with the right mix of television coverage – just enough to show how the people reacted to the news, but not too much that it overpowered the episode. It was clear that everyone’s lives were due for a shakeup anyway, and this event may have rocked their worlds enough that they will use it as an excuse to make changes in their own lives. But when Henry Francis said he can make Betty happy, I find myself wondering if he is aware of what a cold fish she can be? I am not sure that anything can make Betty happy, and while she has taken the big step of confronting Don about her lack of feelings for him, I still sense she is conflicted over the whole matter and I wonder if Betty is just one step away from going off the deep edge?

Pete is getting to be a bit of a whiner. He seems almost too insecure about things that he appears immature. He’s another person that I sense is one step away from something – maybe it’s making a bad career move. The smarmy Duck wouldn’t be good for Pete, and I also question his motives with Peggy.

It was a great episode with plenty of drama with all the key players, and hopefully it will lead to a very exciting season finale next week. I can’t wait!

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