Episode 6: (John) Deere In The Headlights -- A Bloody Good Show! Plus, Don Puts The Don Back In Madonna!

MadBlog-Season3,Episode6 The fog has lifted, but it cost an arm and a leg!  Ba-bum. Although the episode was full of death, blood, and hacked-off limbs, it was still very merry, and easily the best of the third season.

We got to see both Don and Joan, consummate actors in their roles at Sterling Cooper, at last display some genuine emotion at the office. (They're both disappointed.) In the end, they seem to understand each other. The Brits show up, as does Conrad Hilton. But on the eve of Independence Day, having a tipsy Lois tear up the strip on an errant tractor-bender established a shocking, brand-new, viscerally thrilling tone: half Lucy Ricardo, half Quentin Tarantino.

The point is, everything changes. As Joan put it, "One minute you're on top of the world. The next minute, some secretary's running over you with a lawnmower."

There were equal thrills and chills both at Sterling Cooper and at the Draper home. Open on Sally and her sleepingMadMen-Season3/Episode6 problem. While cradling baby Gene nonstop, Betty has gone back to being the unavailable zombie mom to Sally and Bobby that she was during the separation. The life-saver for Sally is that the less Betty's there for her daughter, the more Don has stepped in, becoming the loving, tuned-in parent. (Poor Bobby seems to be on his own. "Go hit your head against a wall," Betty tells him when he says he's bored, as she cuddles the newborn in the seclusion of her bedroom. "Only boring people are bored."  He asks to "pet" the baby, as if Gene's an exotic find who's kept away from him behind bars. And the translation of "I'm bored" is more like, "I'm your child, too. Won't you love me?"

Sally is so used to that treatment that when Don enters her room at 10 p.m. (do you know where your children are?) and asks why she's up, she becomes defensive, and says, "I know you don't own the electric company."   He seems to know exactly why she's worried (he shares the same fear of the ghost of Gene coming back) and comes up with the idea of the night-light.

In between, I loved the cutting to the quintessential American dinner scene -- Ritz crackers, chicken salad, and a Budweiser beer  -- while the Drapers discuss a move to London. The idea that Bert Cooper had planted in Don's head, to reverse the British pattern and spread his creative seed to the London office, had indeed gone to his head. And Betty seemed heady with delight at the prospect of a proper British nanny and a pram.

Back on earth, Betty picks up the night-light, as instructed, along with a surprise present. And indeed the way she sits ramrod straight on Sally's bed and motions her to come over signaled to me that she was ready to show her the Modess box, complete with a "sanitary belt," to prepare her for her monthly "friend."

Sally sits with trepidation, with good reason. Betty delivers a different kind of female mind-bomb entirely. This set-up, with the coffin-shaped box, buried under the pillow, elaborately wrapped in paper from the comic pages, ostensibly from the baby, comes from some parallel dimension. When Sally reads the card from Gene, who wants to be her friend, and says "Babies can't write,"  her Wellesley-educated mom responds, "You know babies get fairies to do things!" Sally opens the box, and it's a Barbie doll. But instead of kissing or hugging her, or telling the desperate kid "I love you," Betty turns into the mother from "Ordinary People." "You are very important to me, too" she says robotically, and leaves the room.

Now can we take a bit of a detour on the Barbie issue? According to "Forever Barbie" by M.G. Lord, Barbie was a version of a sex toy sold in Germany, rebooted for the American market in 1962, and sold to Moms as a "fashion model" grooming-aid for girls. So Betty naturally would have gravitated to Barbie. As a long-legged, blonde model, she is Barbie, after all. Sally is blonde-ish, too. So if you're going to go down the Barbie road, why give the girl the doll with the black-haired bubble cut? It looks goth, and hacked-off. The doll is an evil talisman from a baby, or worse, a fairy!

MadMen-Season 3/Episode 6 But there's a foot issue going on here, too. According to Lord, Barbie is also a space-age version of a Neolithic fertility doll. Her tiny pointed feet, made to fit into high heels, are more like spades to scoop up the earth. So the fact that Sally threw the doll into the bushes -- back to the earth -- was entirely appropriate. When Barbie reappeared, sitting upright on her dresser and scaring the living daylights out of Sally, it was something straight out of a Grimm Brothers-style fairy tale.

But speaking of pedal extremities, let's get back to the high-octane action at the office.  The muckety-mucks at PPL are visiting on the eve of July 4th, and I love the way the ever-officious Hooker announces it as if preparing for a royal visit. Or setting up a Potemkin Village -- a false front for visiting dignitaries -- straight out of Dostoevsky.

He actually asks Joan if she can find more attractive secretaries to sit up front (and she, ever smart and sassy, suggests bringing in prostitutes, and alludes to the 1963 Profumo scandal.) He jokes with Paul Kinsey that he should shave his (beatnik-ish) beard. "Who are you people?" the very self-important, pipe-smoking  copywriter responds. (Just to show his independent American spirit, Paul is in his office strumming his guitar when the Brits arrive. What a rebel! But the moment nicely foreshadows the use of the Bob Dylan song "Song to Woody" at the end.)

There's more grooming stuff ahead. Cooper sends Don and Roger to the barber so that they can kiss and make up.MadMen Season 3/Episode 6 (A Lewis and Martin reunion was never to be, by the way.)

And what's with Roger being pushed out? In his increasing powerlessness (he was left off the reorganized corporate flow chart) he tells Don that he doesn't want to be judged. It is curious that Roger is one of the only people around whom Don has judged. While recommending a manicure to Don, Roger tells a ghoulish story about his father, the "tallest, handsomest, and vainest man in New York," who lost a hand in a car accident. "They never reattached the hand," Roger says, but "in the casket on that one hand, the nails were perfect."

 And that's a set-up for what comes next at the office -- where the Brits arrive and are as polished and oily as could be. The guy who has a "real spark" according to Roger, (although he was the one who left him off the organizational chart) is accounts man Guy MacKendrick, who, through his over-the-top verbal effluvia, is a British version of a real back-slapper. His grandiose prose sounds like something out of  "The Bachelor" and/ or "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." To "Mrs. Harris," he wishes "caviar and children." To the gathered office clan, he says, "Enjoy your champagne and delicatessen!"

The whole thing with shipping Pryce off to Bombay to thank him for his sterling service in New York is also odd -- as strange as the creepy gift of a stuffed snake. Are the writers setting up some snake vs. mouse game? When Don meets with Hilton, and takes a look at his rather lame advertising, which seems to copy Disney's Mickey Mouse as a brand trademark, he tells him that no one wants to see a mouse in a hotel. After forcing Don to give him free advice, it was odd that Connie would then chasten him for not thinking bigger, and Don tells a story about an overfed snake. Is the corporate world made up entirely of mice and snakes?

Meanwhile, Joan finds out that her would-be surgeon hubby did not get the promotion. "I ran into Ettinger and he said I had no brains in my fingers," he tells her, with surprising candor, even if he's drunk. Which means another year of residency, and that she needs to keep her job.

I was hoping that when she returned to the office the next day, she would pull a George Constanza. In one "Seinfeld" episode, he quits on  Friday, leaves, and then reconsiders, and just comes back into the office on Monday and tries to resume working as if nothing had happened.

But Hooker wheels out the goodbye cake (It says, "Bon Voyage" -- as foreshadowing the Titanic or ship of fools?) and the party begins. Peggy is in nowheres-ville-the secretaries don't include her in their plans,  nor is she one of the boys.

MadMen Season 3/Episode 6 She and Joan seem to be on the brink of an intimate moment when Lois comes through, extruding fresh MacKendrick ankle meat. (The spatter of blood recalled Jackson Pollack, whose work would seem spot-on within the walls of the mid-century Sterling Cooper office.)

Obviously, switchboard operator Lois has no brains in her fingers, head, or toes. But Joan is all brain, and springs into action, probably saving Guy's life with a tourniquet. (Let's see if she can apply the same palliative to her own life, which is hemorrhaging in front of her like her husband's almost-dead career.)

There's more death talk in the hospital. Pryce and Don also seem to have a genuine moment, when he tells Don that he's been reading "Tom Sawyer," and he feels like he's been to his own funeral, and "didn't like the eulogy."  The rest of the Brits show up. They say Guy's career is over because he lost his foot. Now, an empty foot in an empty suit would not seem to be so tragic. But the Brits feel differently. St. John reveals why, while delivering the hilarious line "Doctors said he'll never golf again."

In the end, Don is shown at home, not only whole, but as a Madonna figure, rocking both his daughter and newMadMen Season 3/Episode 6 baby son. "We don't know who he is yet, or who he's going to be, and that's a wonderful thing," he says, and that's no fairy tale -- he's a man with  a masterly grasp of the subject.

Lois, however, has some 'splainin' to do.

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33 comments about "Episode 6: (John) Deere In The Headlights -- A Bloody Good Show! Plus, Don Puts The Don Back In Madonna!".
  1. Molly Oconnor from Thrive by Five Washington , September 22, 2009 at 4:42 p.m.

    This was a great episode ... and a great analysis. BTW: Betty graduated from Bryn Mawr, not Wellesley

  2. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine , September 22, 2009 at 5:11 p.m.

    I agree - this was the best episode this season. The writers finally brought it all together and it didn't feel like some existentialist play.

  3. Richard Brayer from Car-X , September 22, 2009 at 5:19 p.m.

    I loved the lawnmower scene reminds me of my time at O&M Chicago

    those were good days

  4. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , September 22, 2009 at 5:25 p.m.

    Yay! Ambition blooms in Don's heart, triggered by Bert's speculation about the London office (who knew he was so wise?), then fed again by the meeting with Hilton. That scene really gripped me because I think Connie could be the father figure Don never had, the smart, challenging, intuitive older man who appreciates Don and can help him become "a better man" professionally, just as he's learning to be a better father to Sally. Also loved that Joan made him laugh -- not sure I'd ever seen him laugh before.

    Joan endears herself with me more each week. Who else had the presence of mind to stop Guy from bleeding to death and to bring some order to the scene? Who else had the thoroughness to follow up at the hospital and make sure all officers of the company were notified? Who else had the good sense to arrange theater tickets for the visiting Brits and sound the alert the moment they arrived? Who else could put Hooker in his place so effectively?

    Don has the potential for a lucrative, global opportunity with Hilton (is he still working without a contract?), Joan is free and needs work worthy of her, and Sterling Cooper is going to hell anyway, so this would be a great time for Don and Joan to go out independently. They might even take the discarded Guy McKendrick with them. A pipe dream, I suppose.

    A favorite line of the night -- Roger's "Just when he got it in the door" quip.

  5. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , September 22, 2009 at 5:28 p.m.


    Forgot to say -- how can Mad Men be the best drama on TV and the best written and yet not win a single acting award? The Emmy voters must be dolts.

  6. John Berard from Credible Context , September 22, 2009 at 5:33 p.m.

    Are we getting to a point where Don will make good (or bad) use of his proceeds from the sale of the agency?

  7. Henry Harteveldt from Forrester Research , September 22, 2009 at 6:36 p.m.

    I agree that this episode was one of the best.

    The episode provides an almost eerie preview of the November 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, which would take place in just a few months.

    The hairstyle of the Barbie doll that Betty gives Sally is similar to one of the hairstyles worn at the time by First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

    Joan was wearing a green dress. Green is a complementary color to pink. Mrs. Kennedy wore pink on that fateful day in Dallas.

    Joan's dress was splattered with blood -- akin to Mrs. Kennedy's -- as were others in the office nearby. Office workers as proxies for the party in the Presidential limousine?

    In the hospital waiting room, Don Draper and Pryce each buy bottles of Dallas-based Dr. Pepper from a Dr. Pepper soda machine. Here, also, is a possible product mistake in the episode. IIRC, Dr. Pepper was not distributed in the northeast US until the late 1960s.

  8. Robin Zielin from MediaBank , September 22, 2009 at 6:42 p.m.

    What? No commentary about the repeated use of the light symbolism? Not only in Sally's bedroom but throughout the episode. Don staring at the ceiling light turned off in his/Betty's bedroom, Joan switching off the light when her husband comes home with the bad news about the chief residency......

  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , September 22, 2009 at 6:49 p.m.

    I think Don has not told anyone home about his half mil. He's not done anything with it, not as much as a new tie. Betty has no idea what her father left either. It will come later. However, it was the first time Don experienced disappointed in the office as shown, but he can take it. In their own way, both Joan and Peggy had to make decisions. They even may find they have more in common and will have more say in their own lives maybe even friends. And those Brits, attempting to inject pomp and ceremony of their own world, but No More Parades are footing the action, getting mowed down.

    Dorothy, just love your column and return frequently to see everybody else's opinions. I look forward to it almost as much as the show. Thank you.

  10. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc. , September 22, 2009 at 8:16 p.m.

    Great eposode and great analysis.

    About Dr Pepper, anachronistic to have a Dr Pepper machine in a hospital in Manhattan in 1963 for sure. In the mid-60s I knew someone who lived in Manhattan who was from the south and was a Dr Pepper lover. She knew only two places in the city where she could buy it, and certainly not from a machine.

  11. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , September 22, 2009 at 9:18 p.m.

    there may have been an earlier incursion of dr. pepper---i seem to remember some advertising that emphasized the hours on the bottle....very vague...but possible they sponsored some ny tv quiz show....
    lots of people like that young brit in advertising...with all sorts of accents...some of them not at all bad...but the flattery to "valuable" people....sounds so true of a type...truer than a lot of prototypes....
    geer dubois...possible prototype...peter geer was big japanophile....serious one in that i am told he was fluent in the language---no mean trick that

  12. J.a. Hope from Hope Health Inc. , September 22, 2009 at 10:50 p.m.

    Terrific episode and very insightful analysis as usual. A small and picayune point: A Brit would never say, "He'll never golf again." But rather, "He'll never play golf again." That is the proper usage, "golfing" is akin to "tennising" and "hockeying." Regardless of the usage these days, it's a savagery of the English language to use the word "golf" alone as a verb.

  13. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc. , September 23, 2009 at 2:19 a.m.

    Until Joan's remark about "one minute you're on top of the world, the next somebody's running you over with a tractor," the only character at the agency who really showed any sense of humor was Roger. The "just when he got it in the door" line was great, as mentioned, as was the line about "somewhere at some ad agency this has surely happened before" (paraphrasing).

  14. Eric Hyman , September 23, 2009 at 7:36 a.m.

    Incredible write up an an incredible episode. So much happened in this one, thx for the details!

  15. Eric Hyman , September 23, 2009 at 7:41 a.m.

    Oh, I forgot, to mention the humor in Guy's line, "Enjoy your champagne and delicatessen!" which sounds so odd (don't think this is a British thing is it? Delicatessen?) must have had some sort of tie in to eventual use of the riding mower in a way that is similar to a meat slicer in a delicatessen. Sick. But so incredibly funny and devious.

  16. Robert Geller from Fusion PR , September 23, 2009 at 9 a.m.

    I think Hilton admonished Draper for not thinking bigger because Don immediately focused on getting paid for some quick advice. His behavior was bizarre in this scene, anyone in the agency world with half a brain would use an opportunity like this to win points with someone as influential as Hilton - instead Don lectures and delivers parables about overfed snakes. Overall the show is great, but I find the Don Draper character to be extremely smug and irritating.

  17. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , September 23, 2009 at 9:44 a.m.

    re: delicatessen -- I thought it was Guy not knowing that Americans use the word as a shop. He was classically educated, very likely speaks German, and probably made a literal translation of the word, i.e., delicate eats or delicacies. He similarly got it wrong with "ship shape and Bristol fashion" -- how many Americans know what the last part of that means? But part of me appreciated Guy's misfired attempts to use the local lingo and appear one of the chaps, even as it put me off. I'm inclined to like him just because he was clever enough to see that Don is the brains of Sterling Cooper and to make a study of his work. Too bad he was the one Brit truly laid low on Independence Day. If there's any heart and humility beneath that slick exterior, he really might be a good complement to Don and Joan in their own enterprise.

  18. Tibor Weiss from Consultant , September 23, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.

    Episode 6
    It's Pollock NOT Pollack-but the analogy is apt--well, sort of.
    T

  19. Tom Sowa , September 23, 2009 at 1:11 p.m.

    Sally is so used to that treatment she becomes defensive, and says, "I know you don't own the electric company" ...
    My memory recalls Sally actually saying: "I Know, you're not Thomas Edison."

    Right?

  20. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , September 23, 2009 at 1:55 p.m.

    I'm glad others noticed the Dr. Pepper thing. That stood out to me as odd. I remember Dr. Pepper being introduced, closer to 1970, in NY. Thank you to JA Hope for pointing out one of my pet peeves. Golf is not a verb. If you golf, you do not play golf.

    Great column again Dorothy. Perhaps in keeping with the times we should refer to you as Dorothy Kilgallen.

  21. Elyssa Bernard from Daphne Inn , September 23, 2009 at 1:59 p.m.

    I'm curious about the implications of Roger being left entirely off the org chart.

  22. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , September 23, 2009 at 2:51 p.m.

    They want roger out, but perhaps he has a contract so they hope to make life intolerable for him by doing those corporate insults beloved of bureaucrats. In that way, he might leave instead of taking his emolument merely for being Roger and getting his hair cut and shoes shined. If he doesn't want to be judged, he needs to leave.
    Doctor pepper may have been in new york trying to sell the idea of warming or heating dr. pepper earlier than the 70s---this is deep recessive memory probably jogged by a martini or two and as a result it could be questionable-----and it wouldn't explain the soda machine

  23. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , September 23, 2009 at 7:04 p.m.

    That Hilton meeting...So far, it out of Don's element. He has gotten so used to be the one to be pleased, his humility is waning. Also, this is bigger and a more polished community than his comfort zone. Even his home is becoming in more disarray and "old" and common in comparison to NY and the Hilton life. Also, I am surprised that no one mentioned Don's Gene comment about not liking ever him, yet he took control, took him in and was willing for Betty to take most of the responsibility.

  24. Steve Thornton , September 23, 2009 at 10:27 p.m.

    "Golf" as a verb, and "golfing" both date to 1800 according to the OED. With British examples.

  25. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , September 23, 2009 at 10:43 p.m.

    Henry, Tom, Randall and Jonathan -- Check out "The Highly Unofficial Dr Pepper FAQ" at http://www.freenewyork.net/dpfaq.html#q1.6 for the connection between Dr Pepper and the JKF assassination, the origins of heated Dr Pepper, and the significance of the 10-2-4 numbers. I can't find anything indicating Dr Pepper wasn't available in New York in the 60s -- maybe it just wasn't stocked by many New York grocers. I have GOT to drink a Diet Coke now.

  26. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc. , September 24, 2009 at 9:39 a.m.

    Great job again, Dorothy-- brilliant analysis of this brilliant show. Funny to hear Don tell 'Connie' Hilton he doesn't give free advice. The modern Mad Man would roll up his sleeves and get the entire agency to do a spec campaign. Yes, a part of me longs for those good old days when our profession had a smidgen of dignity. http://www.thelintscreen.com

  27. Paul Collins , September 24, 2009 at 2:04 p.m.

    During the Hilton scene, I thought Connie wanted to see if Don would like to start his own agency, but Don said "we'd" love a shot at Hilton's business. Perhaps Don was wise to avoid uncharted, possibly dangerous waters (wasn't there a metaphor like that mentioned?). But he could have left a door open. Or maybe one is... Sterling-Draper anyone? Bring unemployed Joan and recruit Peggy, etc. But I love Robert Morse. Nevermind. Good episode.

  28. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost , September 24, 2009 at 5:14 p.m.

    Not to take anything away from those who might want to read more into the Dr Pepper presence in the show -- I, too, couldn't help but notice the funky old soda machine in the hospital waiting area (and naturally just assumed that it was what it most likely is) -- but it appears to have been simple product placement. Whether paid for or not, Dr Pepper Snapple Group would appear to be responsible for getting it onto the set, having bought up placement and advertising for their more relevant product: Canada Dry... Check out http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/on-tv-a-mad-dr/ for more on that...

  29. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , September 25, 2009 at 7:50 a.m.

    one of the brits swiped willian dean howells's line about tragedies with happy endings.. howells was saying americans liked tragedies like that, but maybe Oliver also was that.......
    i know i never saw the great movie cool hand luke more than once because i didn't like the ending...needed happy ending, i told someone from France.....he said, but it was a happy ending.....

  30. Frank Dangelo from Catalano,Lellos and Silverstein , September 25, 2009 at 3:15 p.m.

    FWIW:
    - Just saw Roger (John Slattery) having lunch at Georgione's on Spring. White tee and black jeans. Had his pet Jack Russell terrier mix with him. I wanted to tell him I liked his line last week (Fog episode) admonishing Pete Campbell about Admiral where he tells Pete "Let me put it in terms account man will understand."...but thought better of it :)
    RE:Dr Pepper 10-2-4
    During WWII a syndicated radio program, The 10-2-4 Ranch (later titled 10-2-4 Time), aired in the South where Dr Pepper was sold...
    IMO: Dr Pepper simply product placement by ICM group

  31. Jerry Stiegler from Marketing Support , September 25, 2009 at 4:50 p.m.

    Best line in the whole show was thrown away by Roger, reassuring his shocked employees that a man loosing a foot to a garden tractor had happened before in the adervertising business.

  32. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 25, 2009 at 9:07 p.m.

    Last AD GUY WHO had a Jack Russell was an art director/producer from Pound Ridge, Frank.
    The dogs are ratters, I think. Perfect, in a way.

  33. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , September 28, 2009 at 10:41 p.m.

    I never thought sucking some copywriter into a non-compete could be so interesting