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