MAD MEN Season 3: 'Wee Small Hours' & 'The Color Blue'

Wee Small Hours - AMC - 11th October 2009 - 10.00pm

S P O I L E R S for non-US viewers!

They're really putting us through the mill on this series of Mad Men. First of all, the Brits arrive and stamp their authority all over the shop, then Joan leaves and now it's poor old Sal's turn. I did wonder what the outcome of Out Of Town would be. Once Don knew about Sal's homosexuality it was only a matter of time before he'd get found out.

Sal's working on a campaign with Lucky Strike. Their owner's son, Lee, corners Sal in the film editing room and essentially sexually harasses Sal. Except of course this is the early 1960s and sexual harassment against women is barely on the radar let alone against gay men. Lee is not happy that Sal won't got to bed with him and Sal protests that he's a married man. This does go to show how invisible gay men had to be in social places such as work and leisure. One false move...To emphasise this the episode flags up key events in 1963 as Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I have a dream" speech after the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama kills four girls. The civil rights struggle is also referred to by Betty in conversation with Carla.

Meanwhile, Connie Hilton is applying the pressure to Don. He's constantly ringing him up in the middle of the night, much to the chagrin of Betty. Connie is eccentric and dangerous and he and Don are playing out a bizarre cat and mouse game of mutual trust. Hilton's international business depends on their good relations. Connie sees Don as as his son. Little does he know about Don's dark secrets. Little does Don know how high Connie wants him to jump.

Betty strikes out to contact Henry by letter. Again social codes are broken when Henry turns up at the door one afternoon and Betty has to go through a tense rigmarole of inviting Henry round to discuss using her home for a fundraiser just to throw her maid Carla off the scent. January Jones keeps getting better and better as Betty at first blows hot and cold over her flirtations with Henry and then gets very twitchy about how much Carla suspects. Carla clearly sees through all this nonsense. 

Alas, Lee Garner at Lucky Strike has it in for Sal and orders Harry to fire him. Only Harry sits on the fence about this and it's only until Lee turns up to a pitch meeting and sees Sal sitting there that Roger discovers that Lee wanted him fired. Roger fires him. Sal goes to Don who rather unsympathetically suggests that Sal should have slept with Lee because Lucky Strike is one of the firm's biggest clients. Poor Sal. He can't win and the last we see of him is at night phoning his wife from a booth in a dimly lit park which suggests he's drowning his sorrows by going cruising for men. I really hope that isn't the last we see of Bryan Batt as Sal or of openly gay characters in the series yet I suspect that the staff writers feel that story has come to a natural end.

It also seems such a rash move to get rid of Sal. He's the company's trusted art director and what you would have thought of as a permanent fixture. Don's really mean to Sal, referring to 'you people' as if there's a huge gay conspiracy marching around America in the 1960s. He's truly been ruffled by Connie too because he would surely see he has some leverage with Lee, knowing about his gay identity.

Betty storms back into Henry's office after the fundraiser and still can't make her mind up about having an affair with him. In the end after a brief kiss she rejects him and calls the whole situation 'tawdry'. Similarly, a rather tawdry affair sparks off between Don and the school teacher Suzanne. Last time we saw her was in Seven Twenty Three but Don encounters her again whilst she's out jogging one evening and it's clear that they both want each other. And so Don starts another affair, obviously overcompensating for the incident with Sal and for Connie having a go at him, lying to Betty that he's meeting Connie when in fact he's sleeping with Suzanne. The swine!

The Color Blue - AMC - 18th October 2009 - 10.00pm

S P O I L E R S for non-US viewers!

The affair between Don and Suzanne intensifies with Don excusing himself with Betty by pretending to stay overnight at the office. Is Betty really that stupid?

Back at the office Don's approval of Peggy's changes to one of Paul's commercials starts off a little creative war between them. The lines are drawn over a campaign for Western Union and there's a battle to come up with the best pitch. Peggy gets inspired but Paul drinks late into the night at the office. He suddenly finds inspiration whilst talking to a janitor and has another drink to celebrate. However, hilariously, when he wakes up the following morning with a hangover it seems he didn't write the idea down. There's a rather embarrassing meeting with Don but Peggy encourages Paul to come clean about losing his idea. A Chinese proverb provides them both with new inspiration to work together.

Two other major plot points suddenly burst into life. Don's long secret past, his war service, his marriage and change of identity are finally and devastatingly revealed to Betty. Betty's been trying to get in that desk drawer of Don's for the last three years and here she succeeds after finding the key in his bathrobe. It's going to have huge consequences because Betty now understands she's married a complete stranger. She waits and waits to confront him but in the early hours of the morning she puts the contents of the drawer back and goes to bed.

Meanwhile, Don is over at Suzanne's but they are interrupted by the arrival of her brother, Danny. The two men are highly suspicious of each other. When Suzanne promises to drive Danny to a new job in Massachusetts, Don, worried about her being out alone at night, offers to take him. They have a long and strange conversation on the drive. Danny asks Don not to take him to his destination. He's an epileptic and is tired of taking very menial jobs because of his condition. Don offers him money and his card. I wonder if this sub-plot will get picked up subsequently?

On the way to a Sterling Cooper party in Don's honour, Lane cheers his homesick wife up with the bombshell that the Brits are going to sell Sterling Cooper. Watch that space! It's also highly amusing to see Roger, now at loggerheads with Don, smarmily introduce and honour him at the party. Again, a brilliant episode and one that marks a huge shift of narrative with Betty's discovery of Don's dark past. I wonder how long she's going to be able to contain that revelation.

Thanks as ever to the marvelous Mad Men official site and blog.

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