Episode 5 -- The Fog: Violence, Abandonment, Obliqueness, Or, What's New, Pussycat?

Mad Men-Season 3, Episode 5 So it turns out that the barefoot, sensual, earth-loving Miss Maypole is not a possible Patio girl after all, but rather, Sally's teacher, "Suzanne Farrell." (Small joke there, as she shares a name with a famous ballerina.)

"The Fog" opens with an early morning meeting in a sun-dappled classroom: Don sits respectfully wedged behind a miniature desk, while full-term Betty stands towering like the Statue of Liberty, alone in the harbor, blonde hair piled formally on top of her head. (Whereas Miss Farrell sports long, loose brunette waves, all the better to play the Veronica type Don usually goes for in mistresses as opposed to his own blonde Betty.)

After some awkwardness, the Maypole dancer realizes why the mother-to-be can't sit and offers up her own desk chair. The teacher makes a point of thanking them both for coming, suggesting she's honored by Don's presence -- he's obviously all starched, suited, and lacquered up, waiting to make the 8:57.

Apparently, there was an altercation at the water fountain, and Sally, in newly aggressive mode (at school, anyway) ended up hitting her classmate in the back of the head. (Love the almost-subliminal jump-cut of Sally in full fury.) Don wants to know if there was blood (or stitches). Betty seems to mount the the-other-girl-is-fat-and-no-one-likes-her-so-it-doesn't-matter defense: "Now this Becky Pierson," she sneers, "Sally says she's a bruiser."

Birth was the major theme of the episode, along with death, genealogy, Eugene-eology, racial unrest, and prison. Don's new drinking buddy, Dennis the prison guard, has a job that supplies endless corollaries for the prisons of our own making out here on "the other side of the fence."

I was wondering when the writers would get around to acknowledging the presence of Sing Sing, one of the country's oldest prisons, located in Headless Horseman country, near Sleepy Hollow, in Ossining. The maximum security prison really does cast a shadow over the otherwise pristine Westchester hamlet and its otherwise perfect townsfolk -- no added symbolism, foreboding, or doom required.

Meanwhile, down the river from The Big House, in the big city, we also get some Sterling Cooper action. Indeed, with Lane Pryce's compulsive penny-pinching on all the "p" items -- pens, pads, paper, and postage -- and Captain Bligh-level paranoia about a stolen credenza, the office warden analogies obviously apply. And then there's the formerly Nixonian Duck, who lands at Grey, a Jewish agency, and within two months becomes a hipster mensch and feminist, in a turtleneck yet, trying to poach Pete and Peggy, and bring them "to the Promised Land." (The actor's name is Moses, by the way.)

Mad Men- Season 3, Episode 5 Pete's attempt to "integrate" the advertising for Admiral TV, based on an elevator interview with Hollis -- who was supposed to represent all Negroes-- was beautifully acted and excruciating to watch.

But it was primarily Betty's episode. Shown giving birth and in odd dream sequences, January Jones performed like a raging, locked-in house cat.

If at first Miss Farrell seems insensitive to Betty Draper's needs, she's certainly hyper-aware of Sally's. She asks if anything has changed at home. Betty says her father passed away, although she stumbles over when it happened. Why didn't they send a note, the teacher asks. (Answer: because her parents didn't for one minute consider Sally's feelings.) Did Sally go to the funeral (Meaning, did they do anything to include her in the mourning process?)? Don responds with the clipped resolve of his grim Depression-era upbringing (as opposed to the more enlightened open spirit of the younger teacher): " I don't think children belong in graveyards."

Miss Farrell says she now understands why the little girl was so gripped by the death of Medgar Evers. (On June 12, 1963, Evers, a NAACP activist, was shot in the back in the driveway of his suburban ranch house in Jackson, Miss. His family tried to revive him and mop up his blood in the front doorway. He died less than an hour later at a nearby hospital.)

Betty hears about Sally's interest in the death of Evers -- and realizes that while it's historical, it's also too intense and profound a symbol to be easily juxtaposed with the Admiral TV story within this episode (no, just kidding). So she cranks up her patented internal-denial machine; off she goes to the ladies' room. This gives Miss Farrell and Don time to bond over parental loss. (And no doubt lay the groundwork for mutual future grass-groping.)

The meeting ends, with Betty again declaring she just wants "everything okay when the baby comes." Miss Farrell wishes them a great summer, which we're set up to believe are words of doom.

As it turns out, Betty returns to being a little girl who lost her lunch pail during one of several dream sequences she has while fogged out on drugs in the hospital, delivering the baby. But before that even happens, Miss Farrell phones the Draper home, to apologize for over-identifying with Sally. Leaning into a wall, holding a drink with the ice clinking in the highball glass, bra strap showing, she tells Don that her own father died when she was eight. Don responds like a good daddy, and the speed in which the meeting turns into seduction rivals the "Saturday Night Live" skit showing Draper's devastating effect on women. Betty interrupts the call (Don says it was no one) and they go the hospital.

Betty's brutal labor and barbaric treatment is juxtaposed with Don's leisurely cocktail hour in a damn nice waiting room. Don's conversation with Dennis the jailer, a Dick Whitman type, shows that they are two sides of the same coin: Who is the better man? Which one works in a prison?

Dennis says that every prisoner starts out a perfect baby, and in the end, they all blame their moms and dads. "That's bullshit," Don responds, a little too quickly. When Dennis is told that his baby is breech, he worries aloud about ever being able to love the kid if his wife dies. That's a set-up close enough to Don's own life. "Our worst fears lie in anticipation," Don tells him.

Later, when leaving, Dennis says to Don "You're an honest guy." He wants to believe that, and also that he himself will change into a good man, but he knows it's self-deception. Perhaps that's why he averts his gaze when Don passes him in the hospital hallway days later.

Meanwhile, Betty, who is depressed enough even before she gets the drugs to mistake a hospital orderly for her dead daddy, Gene, goes off the land of the Hebrides. There's some heavy birth canal symbolism there, in the roiling water between two islands. (Though she tells the nurse that her water never breaks.) But the bough breaks, baby and all. We see her in a hyper-real and perfect Technicolor world in one of the drug-fueled dreams, in which she tries to hold a caterpillar. (How do you hold a moonbeam in your hands?) The jury is out on whether it gets to burst the chrysalis and bloom into a butterfly, or whether she squished it like Lenny in "Of Mice and Men." ("Tell me about the rabbits, George.")

Mad Men-Season 3, Episode 5 And is the caterpillar the new life she's delivering, or herself? Her dreams explain her limitations and self-absorption. They take place on a perfect suburban street, or in her own kitchen (which, since she's a '60s housewife, is also her prison.) But any contact with her mother reduces her to angry silence and little girlhood: her icy mother tells her to "close your mouth, you'll catch flies." An immaculately dressed and groomed black man sits upright in the chair, with a blood stains on his collar. (Sally had a blood-stained face.). In real life, Evers lay in a pool of blood as his wife and children clutched him and screamed. But in Betty's parents' hands, even the most grotesque tragedy gets cleaned up immediately, sanitized for proper public display. Just a little blood on the neck and a hankie, and Daddy will mop up the rest.

"See what happens to people who speak out?" her mom says, essentially closing the prison door on whether Betty will ever be able to grow up and leave the scars of her mother behind. Her dad is not much better: he tells her she's a "house cat, very important. Little to do."

Mad Men Season 3, Episdoe5 Betty wakes up with a baby in her hands. (What? The hospital prefers a comatose woman to hold him, instead of the father who is right there in the room?) She finds out it's a boy, but does not seem at all disappointed once she fastens on naming him Eugene. Don objects. The old Eugene seemed to know his secret -- that he can't be trusted, that he "has no people." Don doesn't want the ghost of Eugene in his house. But Betty has unfinished business with Eugene (and perhaps thinks his genes are the best -- as with eugenics) and seems to be newly buoyed by the prospect of having him around.

By the way, they live in a perfect colonial -- a Big House, if you will -- with at least four bedrooms. So what's the deal with the old Gene, and now, the new Gene, having to sleep in a weird little open attic area?

Without getting approval from Don, Betty names her new son Eugene Scott, in deference to her dear dad, and perhaps her attraction to the Hebrides. We'll see if Gene has the Gene gene.

Tags: tv
Recommend (238)
20 comments about "Episode 5 -- The Fog: Violence, Abandonment, Obliqueness, Or, What's New, Pussycat? ".
  1. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , September 16, 2009 at 12:47 p.m.

    Do you think Dennis avoided Don later in the hospital because of some self-denial or failure to face reality? Or is it more likely that Dennis' own wife overheard Betty's rantings during delivery, told Dennis, and Dennis now realizes he could have been wrong about Don being an honest guy. I go with the latter.

    This was without a doubt the weirdest Mad Men episode ever.

  2. Russ Albert from National Cable Communications , September 16, 2009 at 12:53 p.m.

    The name of the substitute OB/GYN at the hospital was a real OB/GYN at the time in the Ossining area. Kudos to Matt Weiner's insatiable thirst for realism.

  3. Mistie Thompson from Sweet Tea Communications , September 16, 2009 at 1:02 p.m.

    I actually can completely believe and identify with Betty waking up in the hospital holding her newborn and having no recollection of what happened - I actually had a bad reaction to the (theoretically non-general) anesthetic given during my C-section (in 2002, no less), and I woke up holding my baby in exactly the same way Betty did. (BTW, this is why I did a non-medicated VBAC for my 2nd birth, & it was a truly fantastic experience that I'd do again in a heartbeat.) Needless to say, this was a difficult episode for me to watch, but I thought January Jones absolutely nailed it.

  4. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 16, 2009 at 1:33 p.m.

    eugenics....
    pretty funny..........
    the show is getting better, but to what do you attribute the happy, attentiveness of Sally to Don...or is it just the obvious grandfather-substitute..............

  5. Scott Curtis from Studeo , September 16, 2009 at 2 p.m.

    One thing I wish you would have elaborated on a little more was the discussion in the waiting room. Remember when Don met the guy and made him an old fashioned a few episodes back? It seems like Don is learning from strangers, there are a lot of random connections happening, a lot of advice and philosophy coming from random encounters. I love that aspect of the story this season.

    This was certainly the best episode of the season yet. I found it to be more about the pains that were happening within the agency, Duck trying to snake the young talent and Don's continued balancing act of good husband/dad vs the more fun to watch/loose moraled Don.

  6. Scott Curtis from Studeo , September 16, 2009 at 2:04 p.m.

    @Jonathan Hutter, I think Dennis avoided Don because Dennis is a 'strong silent type' who ended up putting his emotions out there in a way (during a weak moment of humanity from the birth) that was uncomfortable to him and was embarassed.

    I think Dorothy was saying this as well. I think he understood that he was in an emotional state and the things he said would not be true, he will not be a better man and Don is not an honest man.

  7. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 16, 2009 at 2:59 p.m.

    another possibility---since the guard's wife is without a child in the wheelchair--is that the kid died...........
    in which case, don't optimism proved to be unwarranted.......
    was weiner born in ossining?

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , September 16, 2009 at 3:04 p.m.

    Until MM becomes a 2 hour drama (would love it), we did not receive enough of the other mad folks at the agency. That birthing thing could have been cut and not lost its symbolism. As for Duck, he reminds me so much of those who are empty, but keep getting rewarded with advanced positions. Peggy is understandably very susceptible and it appears only Pete knows her value. Duck will abuse her and scortch everything, as always, in his path. He probably did that to his wife too and he is bitter on top of it all. And Betty, she is going to find how lucky she lives in NY where there is alimony without appreciating it.

  9. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , September 16, 2009 at 3:46 p.m.

    During Betty's admission to the hospital I found it peculiar that the nurse made a disparaging comment when Betty told her she had some pineapple during her last meal. Do you mean to tell me that cravings for strange foods during pregnancy weren't known about in 1963? And since she also had cottage cheese it's actually a rather normal combination.

    http://www.thestarryeye.typepad.com/history

  10. Joe Mandese from MediaPost , September 16, 2009 at 4:22 p.m.

    Since I'm a media nerd I have to pick up on Pete's research and positioning for Admiral, and the reactionary way everyone -- the elevator operator, the client, Sterling and Cooper, and yes, we the viewers -- dealt with it. Pete may be a weasel of a human being, but he is a great ad man, and was years ahead of demographic targeting, which wouldn't become popular on Madison Avenue until ABC President Ollie Treyz pushed the concept in the late 60s. Not to mention multicultural marketing. Speaking of positioning, who wants to bet whether we see Miss Farrell dancing around a maypole again?

  11. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 16, 2009 at 6:01 p.m.

    Who was advertising in Ebony in June of 1963???
    My guess: insurance, cigarettes, alcohol, cars.
    Not much different from Life or Look. But Ebony and Jet were extremely successful ad media.
    Tried to find back issue on line but couldn't.
    By 1963, I would also think that the only place you'd find elevator operators were Saks Fifth Avenue, warehouses (Irish unions), and snooty Park Avenue co-ops. Although in that elevator, it was pleasant to see someone smoking and nobody griping.

  12. Elyssa Bernard from Daphne Inn , September 16, 2009 at 6:21 p.m.

    Was it my imagination or did Betty stop to listen to her baby crying, and then walk right past the room in the end of the episode? That is what I thought I saw and it chilled me to the core. Please let me know if I am wrong as it made me so sad.

  13. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , September 16, 2009 at 10:40 p.m.

    Civil rights and women's rights. Evers slain, Hollis conveying a world of meaning in his brief scene (anger beneath a necessary politeness, intelligence and awareness surpassing Pete's, a grounded niceness under all), and Pete unintentionally showcasing his Admiral clients' racial bigotry as well as Sterling Cooper's complacency about it.

    On the other front we saw Betty treated like a farm animal at the hospital, like a neglected and not-so-smart child in her drug dream, and Peggy shot down when she broached the subject of a raise (so much for the Equal Pay Act).

    Still too early for the children's rights movement to have taken hold, but the writers are certainly setting the scene for it. (Betty did finally go to baby Gene, but the hesitation was chilling -- is she going to up the ante from neglect to abuse?)

    Interestingly, since I don't much like Peggy or Pete, this episode made me feel a touch of sympathy for them. I liked that Peggy refused to be dismissed from Don's office until she'd stated her case for a raise, and I liked that Pete was blindsided by his client's reaction to the "integrated" ad idea (bad from a business perspective to not have a plan B, but good from a human perspective that Pete was focused on business and racism didn't figure).

    P.S. to Rob -- some believe that pineapple induces labor.

  14. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc. , September 17, 2009 at 7:56 a.m.

    We watch "Mad Men"... Dorothy dissects, analyzes and reveals "Mad Men" like a CSI specialist. Thanks, as always, for enlightening readers to the hidden corners and turbulent undertows. Papa Gene had my favorite line in this episode describing Betty like a house cat-- "Very important. Little to do." Coming from her dream, there's enough meat on that bone to keep a team of shrinks busy. http://www.thelintscreen.com

  15. David Scardino from Independant Media Consulting , September 17, 2009 at 2:42 p.m.

    The RCA building (30 Rockefeller Plaza) had elevator operators until at least the end of 1965.

  16. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 18, 2009 at 3:36 p.m.

    rockefeller center comment---that's interesting cause the uniform on the elevator operator looks like it could have lifted from the rainbow room...or one of the pages at nbc....

  17. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings , September 21, 2009 at 4:32 p.m.

    Has anyone watched this episode again? It appeared to me that Dennis and wife were traveling the hallway sans baby (as mentioned above). It seems that the lack of acknowledgment was from discomfort stemming from that "missing."

    Dorothy, I think Sing Sing was referred to in this episode: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/index.cfm?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=89704. There was a mention of a loss of power in the event of an attack and the thought of the doors opening on the nearby prison unnerved Betty.

    I think last night's episode was the best this season but I guess I have to wait to hear what everybody thought until the official blog comes out. Waiting patiently. Always love it.

  18. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , September 22, 2009 at 11:12 a.m.

    LAST SUNDAY's episode i thought was the best one this year....
    the actor playing the young brit was perfect, as was the writing for him...dorothy might have a challenge writing a better review than the show....
    lots of plotlines, but also a little absurd satire---he'll never play golf again....that being more important than cambridge or the london school of economics....
    i, too, thought, in the previous episode that perhaps something had happened to the prison guard's baby...

  19. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , September 22, 2009 at 11:17 a.m.

    THE parental cliche from the 50s...we're not con edison.....changed to thomas edison...but maybe they didn't have con ed in ossining....despite the presence of the electric chair....

  20. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 26, 2009 at 11:06 p.m.

    two months at grey and you're already having a nosh......