It’s amazing how a single bullet, a magic bullet if you will, can change the course of history. It can turn the kids into the adults and vice versa. As Trudy Campbell said, “I don’t care what your politics are, this is America, and you can’t just shoot the President!” If only that were true, Trudy. But adults can say a lot of things when they’re living their lives in front of the TV, either in the office, in the living room at home, or in the hotel room after your nooner, and last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Grown-Ups” showed that better than anything. So let’s go back, and to the left, as we talk about the birth and death of marriages and the day that the 60s really began…
August Bravo: Dia de los Mad Men! And the whole country’s drinking…
Marco Sparks: I loved the beginning of this episode, the first image there of Pete curled up on his office couch, squeezed tightly into a fetal position, waiting for a woman to bring him warm nourishment. Only that hot cocoa was instant, made with water instead of milk!
August: Watching last night’s episode really made me like Trudy. She’s certainly a trophy wife, yes, but she’s always by Pete’s side.
Marco: On this show, she’s the definition of “devotion.” I mean, she was this close to sleeping with an old paramour to help Pete get a short story published in… what was it? Highlights For Children? Fitting.
August: It’s probably women like her that made that decade what it was, for better and for worse. Am I envious of Pete here, just a little? I sure am.
Marco: I have to say it’s a joy to watch Alison Brie, who plays Trudy, on Community.
August: And now we go back to Pete. We all knew he wouldn’t get that job, right? We all wanted him to not get that job. At least I didn’t want to.
Marco: Because you’re the vice president, treasurer, and refreshments organizer of Team Cosgrove, aren’t you?
August: I think Ken really did deserve it. Maybe.
Marco: We really have no idea since we never actually saw him doing his job. He was mostly just showing up to ask him people to go get a drink with him or riding lawn mowers into the office.
August: He never really stressed about it. He was just Cool Hand Luke about it, like, all of the time.
Marco: Poor Pete. People saw him working, so they assumed he was working. They saw Cosgrove chillaxing with that stupid grin and “that haircut,” they just assumed he had everything under control.
I wonder if this is the last time we’ll see Duck, abandoning his sexual conquest of Peggy temporarily (I love her roommate asking why she was with him if he’s not married) to call his kids.
August: Time to get down to business…
Marco: And Jackie turned to Jack Jack and said, “Mr. President, You can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you…”
August: We all knew it would happen this season…
Marco: Weiner said he wasn’t sure we’d see it this year, or how in depth it’d be covered, and yet, this was the defining moment of this season, and the moment so strongly hinted and foreshadowed this whole year, with Roger’s daughter’s wedding date and the constant references to Dallas.
August: Yeah, we all knew it would happen. Maybe in next week’s episode, I think some of us were thinking, but we knew it was going to happen. Hell, it already did happen. Kennedy is dead.
Marco: I love the constant use of news footage, of the characters literally trapped in those moments, time brought to a standstill as they can hear the beats of their own fucked up, broken hearts. And especially poignant with the deaths of Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite in the past few months, too.
August: And Lee Harvey Oswald is dead too.
Marco: Who cares about justice when you can just hand the situation over to the mafia.
August: I love the moment that everyone finds out about it, the way the phone calls are ringing off the hook throughout the entire building, going unanswered, and then, all of a sudden, they stop. Silence everywhere. It’s both what you’d least expect and exactly what you expect.
Marco: And in strolls Don Draper, just a few seconds late to a scene, as he seems to be in every scene in this episode, asking, “What the hell’s going on?”
Actually, the scene with Harry Crane and Pete is what I loved about the actual finding out of what happened in Texas. The TV’s on in the background, broadcasting a special bulletin and they’re whining about their jobs. Pete’s complaining like a sad little kid and Harry’s trying to sound like a mature adult. And then the hilariously ironic line: “I’m going to die at this desk unnoticed.”
August: Man, Roger is just so unhappy. His kid of a wife can’t control herself. And neither can Roger. Calling Joan while his wife number whatever is passed out drunk next to him. That takes guts. And I don’t think Roger even cares anymore.
Marco: What a long, strange journey it’s been since the party in “My Old Kentucky Home,” both of which were thrown by Roger, both of which involved Betty having an encounter of sorts with Henry Francis from the Governor’s office, and both ending with Jane passing out from “not eating enough” with her booze.
Did you notice that Jane constantly reiterates that she’s “a good person?”
Except now this is a world where a President has been killed and Roger can’t find the jokes in the face of this true, uncertain horror. At the end of last season it was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the end of the world. This is worst. This is what happens after. This is the real world and it’s time to be grown ups.
But, man, Joan is the saving grace of this show always. If next season involves the Brits having sold Sterling Cooper to Duck’s company, I can only hope they get Joan back. Also, I think it’s fair to point out that in Roger’s life, to take Pryce’s words as metaphor, Jane is Ken Cosgrove and Joan is Pete Campbell.
Marco: Don’t start writing Roger/Pete slash fiction just yet. I just mean that Jane made Roger feel young, like he was invincible, and everything was easy and there was no work required to achieve his needs. And it’s because the women he wanted wanted someone else. But Roger would have to work to be worthy of Joan and he knows it. And it means he’d have to acknowledge that there’s something he desires so passionately in this world.
We can only hope for good things when Dr. McRapist gets his legs blown off in ‘Nam, all Born On The Fourth Of July-style.
August: Man, this whole episode. No one cares about their own lives. Not unless they’re on the TV. In fact, for the first time the only person who does care is Don. Everyone’s focused on the President, or lack thereof, the wedding, their promotion/de facto demotion, a certain busty redhead, or a Governor’s aide. Everyone’s mind wanders. Their wants and needs. Everything just means nothing anymore.
Marco: The things you thought were important? Turns out they weren’t, not really.
August: Watching Betty kiss that guy made me die just a little inside. It really did.
Marco: I liked the little bits leading up to that. No, Don, while it may be good for the family, a family drive isn’t going to fix things. Not when they’re determined to be broken.
But the actual shot of Betty’s car joining Henry’s in the middle of the nowhere? Interesting. Added with that music, it felt like a very Hitchcock-ian thing for a few moments there. That said, I don’t know that Betty would be all that great as one of Hitchcock’s famous icy blondes. Well, maybe.
August: I was watching that scene and I kept thinking, “Hey, asshole, that’s Don’s wife!” You can’t do that. And she can’t do that! But the lies are finally starting to get to her.
Marco: Sneaky of them last week to think that maybe she had been won over by Don taking the mask off to reveal the inner Dick Whitman hidden beneath. But now he can never put that mask back on.
I really can only see Henry Francis as a plot device rather than as a character. Mostly because that’s what he is, a shade of something, an element to draw out parts of Betty, to wake her up. But do you think that, by this point in the story now, he and Betty have slept together? I mean, he’s proposing marriage to this not so happily married mother of three, so wouldn’t they have to have? Silly little religious aspects aside, how realistic is entering a marriage/serious relationship with no time in the lab testing sexual chemistry?
August: Ah, I don’t know. Mostly, I don’t think she’ll leave Don. I don’t see it as realistic. I think this goes back to how they toy with our expectations and our grasp on the dramatic tension. We think she will, but she won’t.
And WTF was that faux proposal? Betty could not have taken it seriously. I really hope not. If you’re tired of being shackled by your husbands lies, then another man is not going to necessarily be the answer. I guess that was just the best available 1960s pick up line.
Marco: Also, had to love her response to him asking why the kids were being allowed to watch the Kennedy assassination coverage: “What am I supposed to do, Don? Am I supposed to keep it from them?” It took me a moment to really feel how subtle but powerful Betty’s weapons were in that scene.
But I think she wants to feel something other than helpless, or maybe just something in general. And that moment as she was watching Oswald get shot, it was almost like she herself had been shot. I think people complain about January Jones’ acting ability, like when her ex-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher advises her to give up the craft, but I think she’s perfect as Betty.
August: And then there’s Don, trying to be a better guy? A better husband? Maybe. I think Don’s trying to work it out in a way. And maybe that scares Betty a little? All the staying home, the taking care of baby Gene in the middle of the night, the trying to care.
Marco: If this is Don’s reaction to having to finally lay all his cards out on the table, Betty can only be wondering what he was really up to all those times he was supposed to be working.
August: Is Betty going to become the new Don Draper? After all, if Don Draper can be someone else, why can’t she?
Marco: Ooh, I’d watch that show. Part of me is starting to think that if these two were to actually grow up… well, it may not be together.
And I liked Sally’s continued role as watcher in this episode, first glued to the television as things that she may not yet understand in the country, but then taking the both boiling and freezing cold temperature in the kitchen and living rooms, the atmospheric changes between her parents.
August: “I kissed you yesterday and I didn’t feel a thing.” This has to be affecting someone other than just me. Hearing lines like that, which I have before, just makes one cringe. It cuts into the heart of you. And Don. Just sitting there. In confinement. In the dark. What does he do? What can he do? His own wife doesn’t love him and the words don’t come to him so that he can fix it.
Marco: Again, I think for everyone who’s complained that this season has gone by slowly and just dragged, I would point out A) how much character developments/moments we witnessed within this episode, and not just with a few characters, but spread across the spectrum of the cast. Everyone shined. And B) again, I would use this as a yardstick compared to “My Old Kentucky Home.” Everyone’s changed. Everything’s different now.
August: And there goes Trudy again. Was that a motivational speech? Trying to get him up and go? Who does that? Only trophy wives. Only Trudy.
Marco: Trudy is a trophy prize that Pete has never quite earned. But again, look at the differences and the things that are the same about them from then til now. In “My Old Kentucky Home,” they were the power couple, working together, trying to impress their elders, putting on the dance and show. And now, they’re unified together on that couch, stronger together. The most telling moment is when Trudy, so beautiful in her blue dress, takes off her dancing shoes and sits back on the couch with her husband, the man stuck in the fetal position at the start of the episode and who is now finally starting to sound like an adult.
August: And then there’s the refuge of an empty office. Except for Peggy, the woman hard at work.
Marco: Perhaps because Don and Peggy are essentially the same? And I think they both realize that that Aqua Net ad is just fucked now in the face of Kennedy’s death.
August: I thought this episode would be a lot more. I mean, it was everything it was supposed to be. And so much more. I just envisioned something entirely different.
Marco: And maybe that’s why it was so good?
August: Maybe. And seriously, they can’t give me a good preview for next week’s episode?
Marco: Oh, that preview is genius. Just clips from over the course of this season. Mad Men is a show drifting up the river of history that’s already gone by and sometimes you can only look back at what you’ve already seen and done and just guess what’s next. What happens next could be anything. And whatever you think it is, it’ll be something else, but you’ve got to be prepared. Sitting in the dark while you wait for the dawn to come is just part of being a grown up.