Mad Men, Season 3

Week 2: Grandpa Moves In
Talking television.
Aug. 24 2009 10:50 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 2: Grandpa Moves In

I'm with you, Julia—the Peggy plotline was depressing. The "Previously on Mad Men" preamble included a snippet from last season in which she complains about not being included in meetings. In that episode, Paul "bras are for men" Kinsey comes up with a new Maidenform pitch while out to drinks with Freddy Rumsen and the boys. So Peggy responds by gussying herself up and joining in the fun when the guys take the brassiere reps out to "see some girls in their underwear," as Freddy puts it. That gambit proved rather awkward—and doesn't seem to have worked—but it wasn't a terrible idea. Peggy was trying to show her colleagues that she can, and should, be involved in all Sterling Cooper business—including business conducted at the Tom Tom Club.

Peggy's actions in last night's episode were more problematic. Unable to persuade Ken or Don that the Ann-Margret approach doesn't appeal to Patio's target audience of women, Peggy strangely decides she wants to be Ann-Margret—to possess the actress's power over men. She'd settle, even, just to possess Joan Harris née Holloway's power over them. I actually kind of loved her appropriation of Joan's line at the bar—hey, at least Pegs takes the subway!—but as you noted, Julia, the line's recipient was a major dweeb. Peggy may have been more in control last night than she was with Pete Campbell, but she didn't quite feel like a man-eater to me. (Joan Holloway, I dare say, never played second fiddle to a cheeseburger.) And the hookup didn't feel like much of a conquest—to me, it was more a fumbling attempt to find in her personal life the power she lacks in her professional one.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

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(On the question of whether this was her first such encounter, my instinct is that it was—based on her tentativeness when she first enters the bar. Maybe she read about those "other things" doing research on the Relax-a-Cizor.)

I wonder if you guys also found it surprising how quickly Peggy turned on Don. He's been a mentor to her, albeit an imperfect one, and in the past she's shown him great loyalty. But last night she was pretty quick to say that she works for a jerk (a jerk in Manhattan—she always makes a point of saying "in Manhattan"). Sure, Don failed to buy her Patio pitch, but this wasn't the first time Peggy had been told that you sell a product to women by appealing to men. Perhaps she's no longer willing to accept that piece of ad-man orthodoxy. That, at least, would be a positive development. Maybe she'll find an unlikely ally in Roger Sterling, who singled her out among the women of Sterling Cooper with this delightful compliment: "You're the only one around here who doesn't have that stupid look on your face." Then again, maybe not.

One last item regarding Peggy: I'm dying to know what you guys made of the episode's most squirm-inducing moment, the one in which Peggy performs bits of the title track from Bye Bye Birdie in front of her mirror. Painful to watch, I think you'll agree. But painful to watch because Peggy is trying to be something she so clearly is not? Or painful because you didn't quite buy that Peggy would try on that persona, even in the privacy of her own apartment? For me, it was more the latter. Was Peggy really under the impression that she might have some Ann-Margret in her? What happened to the Peggy who was carping last week about her frivolous secretary? (Moments of self-discovery set in front of mirrors are also a pet peeve of mine, so maybe I'm just biased against the scene for feeling clichéd in a way Mad Men rarely does.)

The low point for me in this episode, though, was the development that Betty's batshit dad will be moving in with the Drapers, which blindsided me as much as it did Betty. In a show with as many characters as Mad Men, there are going to be some you like less than others, and Betty's dad is among my least favorite. His antics are by turns seriously creepy (groping his daughter last season, thinking she was his wife) and unintentionally comic (his misimpression last night that the Draper residence was a speakeasy and the jig was up). I'm pretty sure we're meant to dislike Betty's sniveling little brother, William, but I found myself siding with him. Gramps does belong in a nursing home. I can't say I'm much looking forward to him dangling Bobby out a second-story window or frying up filets of Polly the golden retriever or whatever demented activity he has up his sleeve. Didn't the Drapers have enough to deal with already?

I have no idea what was going on in that maypole scene. Set up for Don landing the Scotts Turf Builder account? I really hope Don isn't hot for teacher, but I wouldn't put it past him.

I think I'd still take the JFK bet, Julia. My guess is that Weiner doesn't plan to address the assassination head-on, and that the cutaway to the wedding invitation is one of those sly pieces of dramatic irony that he can't quite seem to wean himself of (though there are thankfully fewer Sally-Draper-has-a-plastic-bag-over-her-head! moments at this point in the series). But yes, I definitely would love to be at that rehearsal dinner, if only to hear Roger's toast. Speaking of the Sterlings, my nominee for best outfit goes to Mona, for the wonderfully funereal ensemble she donned to discuss her daughter's wedding with her ex-husband. But Don's sunglasses were damn smart, too.

Who ate the last Melba toast?

Curious,
John

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