Mad Men

Mad Men Roundtable: Season 2, Episode 9 – “Six Months Leave”

EJAww, poor Freddy Rumsen.

We’ve got an episode set in early August of 1962, given the timing of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Time’s moving fast this season, and it would seem as if this episode takes place only a few days after the previous episode, or else it took Sally Draper a good long time to start wondering when Daddy was coming back.

For a lot of people, Marilyn Monroe’s death was a turning point. Up until that point, America was riding high on Eisenhower’s Post-War optimism, and then came Kennedy and the promise of Camelot. Monroe’s death brought an unpleasant reality to the fantasy, and for us as viewers, starts the clock ticking for the Kennedy Assassination. It’ll be interesting to see how the characters adapt when the world starts changing. I think that’ll be a massive shift in the series when it happens.

You know what I like about Mad Men? The characters in the show actually laugh when something funny happens. You don’t see that often on TV, because it can be distracting. But Salvatore’s reaction to Freddy Rumsen’s accident was just perfect. It was sad, but also funny, and I laughed just as hard as Salvatore. (Even harder when Pete asked “Is he dead?” a minute later.) Don (not Draper) has mentioned this before, but the guys at Sterling-Cooper actually tell jokes.

It’s interesting that we finally see somebody with an alcohol problem in the same episode where Marilyn Monroe dies – their consequence-free lifestyle is starting to unravel. We haven’t really seen Don share many scenes with Freddy, so I don’t know how close they might have been (though Freddy clearly goes back farther than the new generation like Paul and Ken). We don’t really know enough to say for sure whether Don even likes Freddy, but he’s loyal to him. Perhaps because the last time he turned his back on somebody who was hurting, he lost his brother. And maybe it’s a stretch, but I think a certain pants-wetting incident in Don’s past may have made him more sympathetic. It bothered him when Harry and the rest made fun because it served as a reminder of when Dick Whitman pissed himself out of sheer terror back in Korea. Don’s got a soft spot for the weak, especially when they’re being bullied. Dick Whitman’s never far away, and I think Don halfway expects to have to start all over once again.

Poor Betty continues to unravel. She’s dangerously close to turning back into Season One Betty, with the shaking and the bathrobes and the occasional pigeon massacre. We see her trying to jimmy a locked drawer open, still looking for that smoking gun that will prove Don cheated on her, and thus prove that she can still trust her instincts. She’s actually going to be relieved if and when she finds her proof. (I can’t remember right now: Did Don hide his Box of Secrets at home? If so, Betty might find out more than she bargained for.) Also, note Betty’s bizarre behavior elsewhere in the episode. I may be getting this all wrong, but it seems to me like she’s pushing her friend to actually have an affair with Imaginary Stable Boyfriend. Betty could never bring herself to have an affair to get back at Don, so she’s just facilitating for somebody else. That’s the most passive-aggressive revenge ever! Or possibly she wants to feel superior to somebody, so she needs to make sure that they fall.

Always nice to see the friendship of Don and Roger. As much as they’ve screwed with each other, they do legitimately like and respect one another. Don actually enjoys Roger’s company, which for a man who avoids getting close to others is huge. This week, Don actually drops the name of his father in conversation. Sure, he doesn’t own up to the specifics, but that’s not a small thing for him. And it goes without saying that it’s nice to see Don take a swing at Jimmy Barrett. I think he should have thrown in a couple of kicks, though.

And then we have the ending. When Roger’s wife showed up, I assumed that he must have renewed his relationship with Joan (even though the episode made it pretty clear that things are tense between them), so the Jane revelation was a real surprise. I didn’t see that one coming. Something tells me Joan will not take this well.

We had two scenes this week where the regular characters interacted with Black supporting characters – is this setting us up for race to take center stage next week? The preview scene with Paul’s girlfriend certainly makes that seem likely. Myndi

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