Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Trick or Treat"

Mad Men, Season Three, Episode Eleven, "The Gypsy and the Hobo"

Wow! This season just doesn't stop packing the punches--one powerful episode after another. At Halloween--that time of year when spirits move between worlds and revelers "don" (pun not initially intended, but since it offered itself to me, I'll take it )different identities--Don Draper is unmasked. By an empowered Betty, who is tough and strong in her refusal to take the lawyer's advice to "just go home and try to make it work." I was impressed. She looked him straight in the eye, while he averted his; she was steady and adamant as he shook so much he couldn't get a cigarette out of its pack; and when she told him, "We're not done," as she went to tend to the crying baby, he didn't leave, though he looked wistfully at the door for a moment. The scene in their bedroom was poignant and moving as he showed her his photos, straight with her for the first time. He reveals all, honestly, and cries over his brother's death. She faced the truth she found in the box, when I wondered if she might just go back into an easy denial. And when confronted with Don's story, she faced that too, not wanting to be moved, but feeling for him nonetheless. It was sad watching him cry while she sat next to him, ramrod straight, stiffly rubbing his back. It's not clear--to us or to her--where she's going to go with this--but Betty took a huge step tonight. As did Don.

Yet, at the same time that Don is revealing--openly and painfully--his one secret life, his other secret life is waiting in the car. And while I have to hand it to Suzanne for not banging on the door and calling him out as I thought she might after last week's episode on the train, Don isn't willing to give her up yet. He only tells her that they can't see each other "right now." He's not done with secrets.

Knowing the title from the beginning, I kept wondering who was supposed to be the gypsy and who the hobo. I remember the episode from last season (I think it was last season) where the hobo left the sign on the Whitmans' gate that Dick's father was not an honest man. Now we have Betty revealing Don to be a dishonest man. Is she the hobo? And is Don--the perpetual wanderer--the gypsy? When the children's costumes were revealed, the literal gypsy and hobo were shown, but I still like the image on that porch with the gypsy and hobo and their trick-or-treat bags with the figurative gypsy and hobo behind them--disguised just as much, if not more so, as the neighbor somehow knew: "And who are you supposed to be?" While the orphan boy sings, "Where is love?" Too perfect. What will Don answer to those questions? What will Betty answer to them?

A few other thoughts:

--While Don--in Oliver's boyish soprano asks, "Where is love?"--it's interesting that Roger seems to have figured that one out. What a surprise to see a Sterling Cooper man turn down sex with an attractive woman who's throwing herself at him. And how interesting to hear some of his backstory before the war and Mona. I like him again. Toughest line of the night: Lady from the past: "You were the one." Roger: "You weren't." Ouch.

--Most intriguing line of the night: Don--"People change their names, Bets. You did." So, he's comparing a woman getting married and taking her husband's name to his stealing of another man's name and identity. That's a downright feminist critique of marriage and the alien roles women have to adopt. Robin Morgan would be proud of him!

--Poor Joan, having to listen to Dr. Creep tell her that she doesn't know what it's like to "want something your whole life and to plan on it and count on it and not get it." I'm glad she threw the damn vase at him. What will she do now with his latest change of identity to Army doctor?

What do you think? Let's get some conversation going.


  1. Last night's episode happily shattered a few preconceptions I had of where the season was going. And so - I have a few thanks to give.
    Thank you, Betty, for not holding on to the information that you knew about Don's secret life until you could do him the most harm - ala Bert Cooper. Betty's confrontation of her husband - and her brother, and her father's lawyer - proved a revelation. By forcing Don to tell the truth, she empowered herself - and her marriage. And, she may have just put hersef in the running for an Emmy nomination.
    And thank you, thank you, Don - for once, you did not hit the road when your past emerged. This season, we've been seeing new sides of Don emerge - and generally, very unattractive sides. The progression of emotions that Don went through last night as he entered the house - surprise in the foyer to painful confessions in the bedroom to waking up on a sun-filled morning after his first good night's sleep all season- were as gripping a piece of story telling (and acting) as I've ever seen. Betty may be nominated for the Emmy - Don/Dick had better win!!!
    Thank you, Joani, for finally doing what many of us have wanted to do to your damn husband all season - knocking some sense into him. Roger, I gasped at your "you weren't" response to Annabelle - so, thanks, I guess, for defending your blissful second marriage. But were you protesting too much? I think you enjoyed that phone call with Joan quite a bit.
    Finally - thank you, Suzanne, for not being the predicatable, creepy stalker girlfriend I thought you were going to be last week. Not your fault - your character has been all over the place, as if the writers can't quite find who you are. You broke my heart when you asked Don if you would still be able to keep your job. I don't know if you will still be able to keep your job on MM - but your performance, too, was stellar.
    What next?????

  2. I hadn't thought about how Don got his first good night's sleep after spilling all to Betty. He did look younger upon waking. And surprised. I guess confession is good for the soul.

  3. I loved the episode, loved so many things about it. But -- having been about Sally's age at the time depicted -- I know that families did NOT go trick-or-treating together then. That's an anachronism. Kids considered trick-or-treating their own thing and went running out into the night in ones and twos and threes, maybe persuaded to take along a younger sibling but FREE of adult control. It was kid culture, and no kid I ever met (and I lived in Ohio, Colorado, and Kansas during this time) wanted their parents along. It was a once-a-year chance to run free, to knock on doors, to pass information about who had the dime candy bars (!) or an exciting display on the porch. Trick or treating with your parents? Not in the 1960s!

  4. You're right, Anne. I hadn't thought about that when I watched the episode. My and my friends' parents never came with us. Older siblings or neighbor kids always allowed the younger ones to tag along...