Mad Men, Season 3

Week 7: Why Won't Peggy Fly the Coop?
Talking television.
Sept. 28 2009 10:54 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 7: Why Won't Peggy Fly the Coop?

"Duck" Phillips (Mark Moses) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) in Mad Men.
"Duck" Phillips (Mark Moses) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) in Mad Men

I, too, was taken aback by Peggy's assignation at the Pierre. There's something especially creepy about Duck whispering "I love the taste of liquor on your breath"—the recovering alcoholic indulging his old demons through the proxy of a kiss. But I wouldn't chalk up the encounter to Peggy's vulnerability. Look at her face the morning after as she gleefully submits to a second "go-round." There's not a hint of uncertainty or remorse. On the contrary, like her male colleagues, Peggy appears to be capable of good, old-fashioned, uncomplicated carnality.

What I wonder is why she doesn't just fly the Coop? Who cares if Grey's office looks like a "Penn Station toilet with Venetian blinds"? They represent Hermès! She's learned enough from Don to let Duck want her but not have her. But ambition is Peggy's governing emotion, and while stringing Grey along might garner silk scarves, casual nookie, and a fleeting feeling of power, a shot at copy chief would be a serious rung on the ladder.

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One plausible reason for her reluctance is Pete's suggestion that Duck is just looking for revenge. Another possibility is that for all her talk, Peggy doesn't want to leave without Pete. They share a secret (a secret who is by now almost ready for preschool), and that's a bond they can't sever. However strained their relations, Peggy and Pete may want to stay close enough to keep tabs on each other. But the most obvious reason Peggy would stick around is loyalty to Don, the only other ad man who knows her secret and the one who spotted her talent in the first place.

What an episode for Don! The rejection by Miss Farrell was fun, though, of course, her ostensible inaccessibility will only intensify the seriousness with which Don pursues her. (This episode was all about the power of playing hard to get.)

I agree, John, it was refreshing to see Don so off-guard. But I have no idea what Connie Hilton was getting at with his weird overture about what he should do when his "eye starts to wander." Fraysters: Start your engines. What was the old coot going on about?

As for Bert Cooper's bit of twinkle-eyed blackmail, I thought it was brilliant. Of course Bert's too shrewd to come out and say it explicitly. So he murmurs, "Would you say I knew something about you, Don?" Weiner and his team have such a subtle grasp of the odd cadences and syntax of their characters. ("I'm just making conversation," Don says to Miss Farrell. "You can change it if you want to." Whatever that means.)

I was less enthusiastic about the draft-dodging, roofie-slipping sexhibitionist hitchhikers. It's not that I couldn't see Don picking them up, or popping the reds, or even watching them dry hump in the motel room. It's more that I didn't know what to make of these two: Were they in fact a couple of high-school grads looking to get married so that he could skip Vietnam? Or were they actually a pair of con-artist car-jackers, making a premeditated go at ole "Cadillac" Draper by snowing him with a sob story and feeding him some pills? And if it's the latter, why did they leave the Cadillac? Sudden bursts of unexpected violence are great, but they only work when they make sense. Boozy office party + powerful tractor = gory accident. But the young guy clocking Don doesn't really add up.

By contrast, the Henry Francis story line seems extremely promising. For one thing, Betty's joined the Junior League! She's taking an interest in civic matters! Anything to get her out of the house, as far as I'm concerned. It's been a decade since I used a land line at home, and I laughed out loud when Bobby hung up the kitchen phone before Betty could pick up the one in the study. That sort of thing happened more or less anytime someone switched phones in my house growing up. Today, Sally and Bobby would probably have their own iPhones. Funny to think of that as a "period" gag.

"We all have skills we don't use," Betty tells Henry at the coffee shop, which got me thinking: Wouldn't it be great if Betty threw herself into protecting the reservoir? I mean, of course it would be fun to watch an affair develop, but it would be so much more interesting if Betty was also striving for some higher aim; if her affair with Henry was shot through with the sorts of professional complications that Peggy had with Pete (and now has with Duck), or that Don had with Rachel Menken or Bobbie Barrett. I wish Betty had an extra-familial agenda of some kind; the addition of that one vector would do wonders to enliven her story line. At a minimum, it would give her something beyond redecorating to do.

On which note, Julia, a question: Early in the episode, the officious interior decorator tells Betty that you shouldn't put furniture in front of the fireplace. "That's your hearth, darling. That's the soul of your home. People gather round a fire even if there isn't one." Yet that is precisely where Betty places the fainting couch. What do we make of that?

Fender bender,
Patrick

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