Mad Men

Mad Men Round Table: Season 3 – “Seven Twenty Three”


EJSorry I missed out on last week’s discussion, but I was busy laying down some rubber mats. The spunkybean offices were a mess after that party… Luckily, Myndi brought three write-ups worth of quality to the table.

This week, I kept being surprised by how much was happening.  Several major things happened, and they happened in an almost offhanded way. And man, who knew that Roger and Jane’s garden party was going to turn out to be the most important event of the season?

By the way, this episode opened with what we like to call “The Alias Open”.  JJ Abrams loved opening episodes of Alias with some insane situation, and then before we could take it all in, he’d jump back in time to show us how we got there. This particular version opens in three different bedrooms, including a bloody Don, post-coital Peggy with a mystery man, and a very satisfied Betty.

Conrad Hilton’s interest in Don deepened this week.  I like the way he’s portrayed here – he’s got a little of the crazy rich guy within him, but he’s searching for some kind of truth.  You have to admire that he clearly went through Don’s desk drawers while waiting for him (“You don’t have a Bible”).  When you’re rich, you get to root through people’s stuff all you want.  Don is really guarded with him, almost cold.  Watch them talk, and you’ll see openings for basic conversational courtesy, but Don just lets them hang.  His habit of sharing personal glimpses with strangers has come back around on him, and he’s not happy about it.  Just the little bit he shared with Connie at the club is more than almost anybody at Sterling-Cooper knows about him, and that freaks Don out. These are uneasy times for Don.

Meanwhile, Betty gets to exploit her connection to Henry Francis, the man she let touch her belly at the party.  Betty seems aware of what she’s doing – she knows that Henry is interested in her, and she’s happy for a chance to renew that connection, even if she needs to cloak it in talk of a reservoir.  Once again, Betty has a bad habit of letting others use her body inappropriately, or at the very least, a fascination with it.  (Did you notice that after talking to Henry on the phone, she tugged on the locked drawer of Don’s desk?  Nice.  She’s justifying herself with a reminder that Don still has his secrets.)  And it’s clear that Henry’s interest in her cause isn’t a matter of civic duty – he called her back awfully quickly and set up that face-to-face without hesitation.  Plus, he bought her a fainting couch.  That’s not something you just do for a constituent.  We haven’t heard the last of Mr. Francis.

And yes, she puts the fainting couch in front of the hearth.  The decorator said that the hearth is open so people can gather there.  (I love the line “People gather in front of a fire, even when there isn’t one.”)  Well, Betty puts her ill-gotten antique right in there, making it impossible for people to gather.  She can barely even pretend she likes her family anymore, and that’s such a great use of passive-aggressive symbolism.

By the way, did we know that Betty studied Anthropology?  I’m fairly certain she was lying to Henry about that, but I can’t recall the specifics of her education just now.

Then there’s Sally’s teacher, who’s getting a little crazier every time we see her.  She turns all of Don’s comments into propositions, and she acts both indignant and interested.  I think she managed to put Don off with her crazy-lady vacillations this week, and Don’s not easy to drive away.  I mean, he spent most of a season with Bobby Barrett….

Don had a couple of crises this week.  There was his encounter with the young draft dodgers, which was interesting for a variety of reasons.  First, there was their reaction when they found out he’s in advertising.  They’re a little, I don’t know, disgusted.  We’ve seen little hints that the outside world does not hold ad men in high regard, which casts most of what we see in a different light. These guys are masters of their universe, only it’s a universe that people would prefer not to think about.  There’s the symbolism, too.  Don runs up against the younger generation and it ends in a fight.  It illustrates just how unprepared Don’s generation is for the events to come.

And Don’s lack of a contract becomes a key point this week.  Sterling-Cooper has indulged him all along, and London has even played along.  It’s likely that they would have put their foot down eventually, and the Hilton deal just gave them the excuse.  Don’s reluctance to have a contract is certainly consistent for his character, but I find it surprising that he’s not willing to take that risk to become a partner.  As much as Don likes to think he’s free to do what he wants, he’s got a wife and three kids, and he’s stuck with Sterling-Cooper though some hard times.  He is where he wants to be, whether he admits it or not. Nevertheless, I couldn’t believe how mad I felt when Bert Cooper played his trump card – “Would you say I know something about you, Don?”  I didn’t see him going there, and I’m very disappointed in him.

Speaking of people I’m disappointed in…  Really, Peggy?  Duck Phillips?  Really?  I can’t decide if she turned down his job offer out of loyalty or insecurity.  Probably both.  It’s frustrating that Don really does respect her, but she keeps catching him at the worst times.  Peggy isn’t that plugged into the behind-the-scenes action, so she doesn’t have any real context when Don is standoffish or angry.  Watch how he can absolutely destroy her with a few words, even as she’s discovered her ability to wound Pete. Now, I tend to think Duck was playing her, rather than being overcome by passion.  He’s pretty transparent in his motives.  But the question is, what were Peggy’s motivations?  Can she dispense with him like she did with Pete and her bar guy, or does she thing Duck values her has a woman and as a creative peer?  She’s desperate for affirmation on both fronts, and this could be devastating.  Plus, you know, it’s Duck!


Twice during this episode, Don Draper arrived at his office to find his desk chair occupied.  Once by Conrad Hilton, and once by Bert Cooper.  Both men have the ability to exert great power and influence over the man whose most prized possession is his power position in all of his relationships.  Don lost that in many ways this week: to the various powers that be at Sterling Cooper; to Hilton; to Betty, who called him on his crap, and finally, to the hitch hikers who got him drugged up, hallucinating and knocked out cold.  They beat him up and stole from him.  Wouldn’t we all expect Don to be super-smooth and somehow outsmart these hooligans?  Not this time, as his guard was down, and the normally shellacked veneer of Don Draper was cracked.  Could this be the beginning of the man’s downward spiral or will he pick himself up and pull off another Kodak Carousel presentation by season’s end?  Only time will tell. I can’t be the only one who was not only shocked but disappointed that Peggy ended up in bed with Duck Phillips, can I?  The man is so smarmy and transparent that I’m amazed she fell for his line of bullshit.  Then again, he seemed to know what she wanted to hear, didn’t he?  Wooing her with a laundry list of female-centric clients that cried out for her creative expertise seemed to be just the thing to turn Peggy on.  I still shuddered at Duck’s proclamation that he “loves the morning”.  Yikes.  Of course, all of this was exacerbated by Don’s dressing down of Peggy that was hardly deserved.  Her loyalty to him has gotten her nothing (“There’s not one thing you’ve done that I couldn’t live without”), and maybe Pete’s knack for “barging in and infecting (her) with his anxiety” will result in a shake up that no one saw coming.

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