Mad Men, Season 3

Week 11: A Focus Group Goes to the Dogs
Talking television.
Oct. 27 2009 10:08 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 11: A Focus Group Goes to the Dogs

Still from Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Suzanne Farrell (Abigail Spencer) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Episode 11

OK, I watched the vase-smack gif for a minute straight, per your request, Julia. I'm afraid, though, that I still think it's a little much. ( This, I could watch all day.) I'm more amused by the debate raging in the Fray over just how damaging such a blow would have been to "Dr." Greg. The consensus seems to be that it depends on what the vase was made of—porcelain (headache) versus heavy ceramic (subdural hematoma).

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

Patrick mentioned the focus group scene, but I wanted to linger over it for a bit longer. Though my hope that somehow Chauncey Phillip's services would be enlisted in the testing of the Caldecott product didn't come to pass, the scene was still a highlight. Like Patrick, I loved Smitty's observation that the owners' descriptions of their dogs' predilections were really just thinly veiled descriptions of themselves. And the climax of the scene was hysterical: The owners freak out when they learn their animals have been eating horseflesh, and Annabel can't stand to watch. "Turn it off," Don commands. To which Peggy replies, "I can't turn it off. It's actually happening."

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The last straw for me with Miss Farrell: When she scrapped Don's plan to go to Mystic, Conn., in favor of Norwich. How great would it have been to see Don Draper climbing the rigging of the Joseph Conrad? Or hefting a harpoon!

Like you, Julia, I'm looking forward to seeing where Mad Men goes from here, now that Betty knows Don's secret. My hunch is that the series won't lose much steam. For one thing, Don still needs to guard his secret closely in his professional life. Bert Cooper saw fit to keep Don's identity under his hat (so he could later use it as leverage), but Don's rivals and enemies might not be so magnanimous. And would a "friend" like Connie Hilton remain loyal if he learned Don stole an officer's identity over in Korea? Not likely. But I also think the series doesn't need Don's secret identity as much as it used to. We've noted throughout this TV Club that Mad Men has focused more on the changing times this season than it has in the previous two. As we approach the Kennedy assassination, escalation in Vietnam, Beatlemania, and the other watershed moments of the first half of the 1960s, I don't think we'll miss the mystery of the supersecret drawer all that much. There's too much other stuff going on.

Which brings us to the Kennedy assassination bet. The original wager, as I understood it, was about whether the series would dramatize the assassination in the manner that it has other historical moments, like the Cuban missile crisis and election night 1960. I agree that Weiner is cagey, but I still believe him when he intimates that the series isn't going to address the assassination head-on, as it were. Last week, during Weiner's appearance at the New Yorker festival, his interviewer broached the subject: "I know everyone's been asking you about the Kennedy assassination. That's something you're going to have to deal with on the show." Weiner's response: "Or not."

I do think the assassination is going to happen this season and wouldn't at all be surprised if Weiner upended expectations by having it happen in the penultimate episode, not the finale, as you suggest, Julia. A couple of weeks ago, we saw Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech go by in a flash—a snippet on the radio that did little more than temporarily slow Don's inexorable march into Miss Farrell's pants. I can't imagine Kennedy's death being treated that incidentally, but I don't think we'll see the boys at Sterling Cooper huddled around the TV watching Cronkite, either.

Oh, what the hell. I'll take the bet, Julia. For two old-fashioneds, I'll bet you that Kennedy lives through the opening credits of episode 3.13. I'm coming over to your office to shake on it now.

John

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