The Gypsy And The Hobo - AMC - 25th October 2009 - 10.00pm
S P O I L E R S for non-US viewers!
Flippin' heck. This is a stunning episode. All the strands that the staff writers have been gathering are pulled together here for a massive showdown between Betty and Don. The final half of this episode is dominated by an extraordinary and brilliantly compelling two hander between Jon Hamm and January Jones. I predict a couple of awards flying their way! More of that later.
First of all, we meet an old flame of Roger's, Annabelle Mathis. She's after two things: to rekindle her wartime romance with Roger and to get Sterling Cooper to solve the consumer resistance to her brand of dog food. Not easy as buyers associate her brand with the horse meat used in its production. There's a rather amusing focus group sequence with dog owners who are horrified to discover which brand is being tested. Don pointedly says she'll have to change the brand name or go under. She's rather resistant to that and decides to take her business elsewhere. Roger turning her down the night before doesn't exactly cheer her up either.
Joan returns and it looks like Doctor Greg can't get a job to save his life. After coaching him for an interview, she returns home to find him in a morass of self pity having made a complete cock up of it. Her solution is to whack him over the head with a vase and storm out. Now, who's wearing the trousers in that house! He later returns home, contrite, and announces he's joined the army where his skills as a surgeon are wanted. There's perhaps a hint of where his plot line will go when he mentions he'll be potentially posted to Vietnam. Joan also gives Roger a call, asking him to try and find her a job. I wonder where she'll end up? Good to see that they have kept her plot line and character alive since her departure from Sterling Cooper.
Don is continuing to see Suzanne and it's getting more and more serious by the minute. They're planning trips together! Betty, meanwhile, is discussing the sale of Gene's house with her brother William and her father's lawyer, Milton. William is pissed off to discover that any attempt to buy Betty's share of the property will violate their father's will. It's going to get nasty by the looks of things.
Betty, obviously concerned about the revelations in Don's desk drawer seeks the lawyer's advice. Milton warns her that divorce could leave her without money and without her children. Even though he suggests she try and rescue the marriage, she doesn't look too convinced that she could find the strength to accomplish that.
Suzanne and Don drive up to his house just before they go on their trip. He's caught off guard by Betty and the kids who are back earlier than he expected. It's at this point that Betty demands he open his desk drawer. After refusing, she opens it herself and his entire hidden life is fully exposed. January Jones is stunning in this scene, imbuing Betty with a rare determination. And Jon Hamm shows us the vulnerability beneath Don's matter of fact and calm exterior. I was half expecting Don to twist the facts a bit and spin a whole new tale to Betty but he doesn't and everything comes out. He relates to her his birth to his prostitute mother, stealing the identity of Don Draper in the war, ensuring his widow was looked after and the suicide of his half brother Adam. It's the last part that really leaves him exposed and for the first time we see how much he regretted turning his brother away. It's a very moving scene.
A bizarre calm settles over the Draper household. Suzanne, abandoned in Don's car, finally slopes off, suitcase in hand, back to her house. Don calls her from work the next day and ends the relationship.
The final coda is spectacularly appropriate. Don and Betty take Sally and Bobby trick or treating for Halloween. They call at Francine's house and her husband is delighted to see them. "Look at this," he says to Sally and Bobby, "We've got a gypsy and a hobo", commenting on their costumes. Looking up at Don, he asks, "And who are you supposed to be?" I bet our Betty has been asking herself that question for some weeks now.
Fantastic episode which I am sure will now lead to more fireworks in the last two installments of the season.
The Grown Ups - AMC - 1st November 2009 - 10.00pm
S P O I L E R S for non-US viewers!
An astonishing episode. It's certainly a watershed in both the characters we've come to love and/or hate and for the series itself in its depiction of a confident and seemingly indestructible America.
Roger's daughter is getting married and is throwing a childish tantrum about Roger's new wife Jane. His ex-wife is behaving magnificently and both parents can see the funny side of it all. Roger has a go at Jane for interfering with her expensive presents and Jane throws a tantrum and locks herself in the bathroom.
Over at Sterling Cooper Lane announces to Pete Campbell that he has effectively lost the competition between himself and Ken Cosgrove. Cosgrove will get an executive position at the firm and Pete will be working under Cosgrove. He regards it as almost being fired and pouts and sulks to his wife Trudy. Peggy is continuing her affair with Duck Phillips and agrees to meet him for a lunchtime assignation. Don throws a strop at Lane because without Sal Romano the art department has descended into chaos.
As Pete goes into Harry's office to complain to him in the background a television is showing what looks like a soap. As Pete's childish moaning continues a news announcement can be heard that John F Kennedy has been shot. Duck is watching the same news in his hotel as Peggy arrives and he unplugs the television. Some time later, after they've made love, it's clear the news report has disturbed him and he turns the set back on. What they hear turns everyone's world upside down.
For it is time to put away childish things and enter a world of great uncertainty as the beating heart of progressive 1960s America stops momentarily. The shock of that murder of the President is palpable in the episode and you get a brief sense of what it must have been like to hear that news in November 1963. The world came crashing down on an affluent and confident society. This is symbolised by the wedding of Roger's daughter. It's a disaster and yet the marriage at least provides a sense that the future will continue, that all is not lost. Even Roger can't bring himself to make a joke when late at night he seeks out Joan on the phone just to try and talk to her and make some sense of what's going on.
And it brings the Don and Betty relationship to a crisis point too. Betty is inconsolable over the death of JFK and is even more freaked out by the subsequent arrest and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. The world literally has come to an end for her. And it shakes her to her core where perhaps for the first time she knows what she must do about the marriage. At the wedding reception Betty sees Henry Francis arrive with his daughter and as she dances with Don he reassures her that everything will be fine. "How do you know that?" replies Betty.
Later, after the shock of the Oswald killing, she goes for a drive to clear her head. She actually meets with Henry and they kiss in the back of her car. It's here she admits that the marriage to Don is over. "You don't have to answer me now, but I want to marry you," Henry announces. Back at home, she goes for the jugular, saying to Don "I want to scream at you for ruining all this." Still not quite connecting with the public mood and Betty's feelings, he just says she's upset about the assassination. "I don't love you," she snaps. "I kissed you yesterday. I didn't feel a thing." Don responds patronisingly by saying she'll feel better tomorrow. "You can't even hear me right now," she storms. "You're right," he says and he walks away.
After a sombre breakfast, Don goes into work on the declared day of mourning and finds Peggy alone in the office. Both of them are desperately trying to get away from the overwhelming emotions of the period because there's no room for them to feel anything. The episode ends with Don going into his office and pouring a drink. It's the end of the Mad Men world as we knew it.
Thanks as ever to the marvelous Mad Men official site and blog.