Episode 9: To The Moon, By Golly! Sal Gets Trumped! And, Is There A Difference Between Praying On It & Preying On It?

This week's episode was all about the invasion of space, both personal and planetary, and wanting what you want when you want it, regardless of the consequences.

I don't know how Matthew Weiner coordinated it, but there was a march on Washington for gay rights on the very weekend that the episode repeatedly referred to the September 1963 march on Washington for racial equality and Martin Luther King's historic "I Have A Dream " speech.

Also, Connie, who seems to be achieving Howard Hughes-level craziness, told Don that he wanted the moon. And last week, WE (as in the USA, not the people of Hilton) actually bombed the moon. Neither ice nor towels were found there, apparently.

But first, Connie invades the sanctity of Don and Betty's bedroom by phoning at all hours. "New York City is not a domestic destination, like, say Dallas," Hilton tells Don over the phone in the middle of the night. The Kennedy assassination in Dallas is still about two and a half months away. Meanwhile, the domestic disturbances that rattle the Drapers of New York -- a nuclear family that exactly mirrors the Kennedys -- are escalating.

Both the Mr. and Mrs. are fantasizing about other people. In her dreams, Bets sees herself as a passive woman on the fainting couch, getting touched by a dashing male hand. By contrast, Don very consciously goes cruising for Miss Maypole (and obviously, another bruising, as she keeps warning him.)

Betty reads about a possible Rockefeller run in the newspaper and writes to Henry Francis. (Okay, I called that one wrong.) She's a lefty (although not in her politics, as we see later.) People actually wrote letters to each other in those days, in long hand, in ink on creamy stationery, and then "watched the mail" for a response, and it wasn't even considered romantic. But Bets seems to want to start a romance in the grand epistolary tradition, like, say, between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.

A proper Victorian, EBB was indeed an invalid and a recluse in need of a fainting couch. Then Browning ("Grow old with me, the best is yet to be...") wooed her and took her to live in Italy, where their love strengthened her. The romance was the stuff of legend -- except for Liz's addiction to opium.

Mad Men Season 3/Episode 9 But for Betty, the best was not to be. In fact, to mix literary allusions and "to be," she dithers like Hamlet. She's coy and flirtatious and tells Henry that she has "thoughts." They could have built up quite a heat from the back and forth of the smoldering pages, but he had to go and prematurely show up at her door on laundry day. Ugh! Oddly, her big worry is that she's expecting her "girl" back soon. (Does she think Carla would ever snitch to Don? Or is that just that she doesn't want to lose face?)

As with the other scene with Pete and the elevator operator, Carla has a lot more to worry about than Mrs. Draper's fantasy life, although she does see the situation clearly. Later, as Carla listens to a radio broadcast about the funeral for the little girls killed in the Birmingham bombing, Betty tells her that she can keep "her station," a word that does double duty, as Betty later reveals that she thinks "maybe it's too soon" to fight for civil rights.

For propriety's sake, Betty feels the need to go through the whole charade of the fundraiser, though Don certainly didn't care, and expresses the absurdity of the deal with "A fundraiser for Rockefeller."

I loved Elsa Kittridge, the woman with the corsage from the governor's office. She was perfect -- a giant Julia Child type with a face like Betty Crocker's. She was there to "take a pulse," and her presence reminded me that January Jones' accent sounds a little too tinny and contemporary: by comparison to the casual Valley sound that's now national, in those days educated, upper-middle-class women tended to have more patrician, slightly affected accents.

Bets flips over the fact that Henry was a no-show who sent his "girl." In a huff, she packs up her lockbox (where's aMad Men Season 3/Episode 9 good Al Gore joke when you need one?) and hot-foots the accelerator pedal all the way to Albany, where she just shows up at Henry's office, just the way he rudely showed up at her door. She throws the box at him. (Sal will have a similar throwing fit after he feels violated in the cramped space of an editing room.)

By huge contrast to Don's modern, light office, Henry's sanctum sanctorum (where he seems to live) is dark, draped, old, and filled with heavy tufted leather furniture. (Does Betty realize that, as with the fainting couch, he's blocking up her soul?) He wants to lock the door, or get a room somewhere, and Bets freaks once again. "I don't know what you want," he tells her. Who could?

Whereas back at Sterling Cooper, tobacco heir Lee Garner Jr. totally knows what he wants and goes for it, ID bracelet flashing. Poor "Sally," who doesn't want to take "a risk." (The scene is beautifully acted by Bryan Batt.) Earlier Garner had forced a cigarette on Pete Campbell, who comically coughs throughout the shoot.

Mad Men Season 3/Episode 9 Garner puts his paws all over Sal, who, given the times, is in an impossible bind: not only closeted, but also packed away in a box in the closet. I did get a kick out of the gay iconography of the Lucky Strike sailor. But my favorite scene, acting- and writing-wise, took place late at night at the office between Harry Crane and Paul Kinsey. The line about Perry Mason was a riot. And the idea that nobody knows anything (but Harry was pissed about missing the commercials) was beautifully articulated.

The irony is that if an increasingly productive and forceful Roger had known about the situation, he might have protected Sal by just having him sit out the meeting. But the problem escalated, so Roger, after issuing a Trump-like, "You're fired!" to Sal, sends the trouble down (or up) the line to Don.

Knowing what we know about their mutual hotel escapade, we expect Don to save Sal. But as Roger so crudely put it, Don's face has been "so deep in Hilton's lap" that he's not feeling particularly charitable. Even more crudely, he's been known to service clients when necessary; Bobbie and Rachel come to mind.

Sal was perfectly within his rights to reject the junior Garner, and says as much to his Father Confessor. But as with that line in "The Godfather," he should have come to see him sooner. Don, who is under tremendous pressure, questions Sal's honesty (and is there such a thing as authenticity in a situation like this? The whole "I'm married" thing is rich.) Don even talks about homosexuality in the same dismissive way Betty talks about civil rights. "You people," he says. As in, "You people who won't have sex on command with clients"?

The shock of being fired sends Sal to the Ramble in Central Park. (Or a similar type setting, wherever there's a lit-up phone booth in the middle of a park. Again, he's stuck in a box.)

Meanwhile, Don has a new daddy. At his home base in the Waldorf, Connie even tells him he's like a son -- betterMad Men Season 3/Episode 9 than a son, because he understands having nothing. But while in the confines of the SC conference room, wearing an LBJ-like cowboy hat, surrounded by his flunkies, Connie rejects Don's really smart, really sophisticated Hilton campaign. ("Hilton. The same in every language.") "When I say I want the moon, I expect the moon," the clearly irrational Daddy says, acting just like a client. (I also loved the previous scene of Don't creative group presenting work to him, which he scathingly dismisses.)

Thwarted by his new Daddy, Don does what he reductively does in those situations: He cruises for Suzanne Farrell, the earliest known jogger. (In those days, I believe they called it running track.) And was the sweatshirt a sly reference to when Tony Soprano killed a guy while taking Meadow to see Bowdoin? Before the "I Have a Dream Speech" came on the radio, which Don so insensitively tried to turn off, we heard about "two women brutally murdered in their Upper East Side apartment." Is that what you call foreshadowing?

The first time Don picks up the flower child in the middle of the night, he says, "Who are you?" Didn't he say the exact same thing to Bobbie?

Farrell seems to sense this, and even acknowledges that Don wants her "because I'm new and different. Or maybe I'm exactly the same."

Mad Men Season 3/Episode 9 Not surprisingly, Don ends up as a wolf at the teacher's door. Once inside the cramped space, his transformation into Dick Whitman is complete.

Earlier, when Hilton has asked him "how do we know?" Don replied "Instinct."

And Hilton answered, "So you're just like a dog?"

Yes. Two miles from his house, in Sally's teacher's apartment above the garage, he returns to the makeshift rooms of his youth and sleeps peacefully. She has already told him that "I can see every step of the future till it ends."

Who's the predator, who's the prey? "Mad Men," you're killin' me.

Tags: commentary, tv
Recommend (112)
20 comments about "Episode 9: To The Moon, By Golly! Sal Gets Trumped! And, Is There A Difference Between Praying On It & Preying On It? ".
  1. Bob Batchelor from Thiel College , October 14, 2009 at 3:20 p.m.

    Fantastic summary of the episode, particularly the metaphor regarding the primary characters being cramped or confined.

    What strikes me each week is that I know in the end Don will fall, potentially in a bloody heap. As smart and savvy as he sometimes seems, he also mindlessly trusts people too much. One guesses, for example, that the hitchhikers who stole his wallet in 1963 might have slit his throat in 1968. Perhaps there is too much 1950s America in Don for him to transition into the post-Camelot world.

    At the same time, though, Don is a sleazy womanizer and ruthless, mean-spirited boss. So, I keep asking myself, why I keep cheering him on? I also love Dexter, who is a fictional serial killer, but on that show, at least there is a pretense of Dexter killing people "who deserve it," like murders who escape the system and the like.

    I would love to know if Matthew Weiner is a John Updike fan. Don is similar to Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom of the Rabbit tetralogy, though certainly a more successful, big-city based version. Also, like the Updike books, "Mad Men" expertly navigates the personal unraveling within the broader historical arc taking place simultaneously.

  2. Heather Widman from Boston Globe Media , October 14, 2009 at 3:21 p.m.

    I couldn't help but think Elsa Kittridge was a play on Elizabeth Strout's "Olive Kitteridge." Besides the obvious play on the name, your description of the Julia child build, and Elsa's "school teacher" effect on Betty make the comparison uncanny, if not intentional!

  3. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine , October 14, 2009 at 3:31 p.m.

    Another great essay! I really look forward to them each week. I love what you said about Betty's accent or lack of: "... by comparison to the casual Valley sound that's now national, in those days educated, upper-middle-class women tended to have more patrician, slightly affected accents. .." Growing up in Connecticut I always identified that Katharine Hepburn accent as a woman of intelligence and class - the women in my own family had it and I have a bit of it myself - but I was never able to identify what it was exactly other than an "old Connecticut accent". So rare now that I can call just about any of my regular service providers and they know me by my voice alone.

  4. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , October 14, 2009 at 4:10 p.m.

    For me it was when Betty said "AK-uhr-it-lee" instead of "A-k(y)ur-uht-lee" that I doubted her Bryn Mawr pedigree (not for the first time -- Gene didn't fit as the father of a Seven Sisters girl).

  5. J.a. Hope from Hope Health Inc. , October 14, 2009 at 4:16 p.m.

    to Bob Batchelor - We (the audience) had the same conflicted feelings about Tony Soprano. No? In the end though, you always ended up rooting for Tony. Wonder how this show will play out in that regard?

  6. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc. , October 14, 2009 at 4:58 p.m.

    I missed the remark about Perry Mason. Could someone fill me in? Thanks.

  7. Ej Meany from IPC , October 14, 2009 at 5:24 p.m.

    Why do I think Betty comes from New Jersey, not Connecticut? I am not sure if it's on purpose, the stilted delivery January Jones sometimes employs, but it fits with my image of her character as unsure of herself in so many ways, just used to being silent and admired.

  8. Richard Brayer from Car-X , October 14, 2009 at 5:56 p.m.

    Roger thinks Don is in over his head, and there was aclear lack of creative ideas from his team- is he over his head?At work? Is the schoolmarm a Glenn Close type psycho nut who will show up nude at his home doorstep with only a Bible and a kitchen cleaver?

    Oh what tangled webs............

  9. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , October 15, 2009 at 4:51 a.m.

    1) LAST two episodes are the greatest depictions of the ad business and ad people ever done.
    2) The personal life depictions also seem original to me: The Upper East Side nanny problem and the suburbia problem in the 1960s and homosexuality in advertising. On this last point, excepting for Hollywood, the ad business seemed to always have a DONT ASK.DON'T TELL approach.
    3) Does Roger's line " I am putting you on notice" have a legal consequence for the agency vis a vis draper?
    4) The Moon idea is not ludicrous, of course. It could lead to a great print ad. Given Hilton's earthly pervasity which itself was a negative as time went in.

  10. Marion Hendricks from Herbeau , October 15, 2009 at 3:19 p.m.

    One of my favorite episodes of the season. Brilliant the way Matt Weiner wove the thread of 'promising more than you can deliver' into every situation-the ad campaigns, with Don tactily 'promising' Connie the moon after Connie expertly manipulates Don by calling him his son, Betty leading Harry Francis on, only to back off after he points out she is a married woman. Loved Betty's oh-so-self righteous explanation that it would be "tawdry" to continue their fling. Uh, yeah...
    Don of course has no such concerns. As Dorothy so cleverly pointed out, when the pressure's on, Don reverts back to Dick Whitman and becomes well, a dick. He promises Ms Maypole that she is diffrent, special, etc and into bed they fall.
    Then we have Martin Luther King on the radio promising "we shall overcome" while we see Carla scurrying around as Betty sits, smokes and opines "its maybe too early for civil rights"
    Also too early for Sal, who thought Don might be an understanding parent. Don scorned him in the same way Connie did Don after Don failed to deliver. So much for father-son bonding...
    Amazing sets, incredible actors (why hasn't January Jones won an Emmy yet?) This show is so much fun!

  11. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , October 15, 2009 at 4:18 p.m.

    MARLON, didn't Don tell Sal to relax. Meaning his job was saved.

  12. Jordan Gold from Freedom Interactive , October 15, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.

    Dorothy, you are getting better every week! This was a great summary of a very interesting episode. The Hilton campaign was really good; too bad the client didn't want it. The affair with the teacher makes no sense to me. Seems like Don and Betty will be divorced next season. But who knows? The show keeps surprising us.

  13. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , October 15, 2009 at 9:27 p.m.

    In a show like West Wing or Desperate Housewives, Sal would never have been fired. C.J. or Lynette would have found Junior's weak spot (likely in his relationship with his father) and brought him to heel without losing Lucky Strike. Surprised that no-one at Sterling Cooper even considered anything but capitulation, but Americans in the early 60s were still content to take orders and accede to authority. Harry's the one who should have been fired (what a bungler), but the story works better this way. With Joan and Sal both now gone from Sterling Cooper, maybe there'll be more outside-the-agency drama. Only a matter of time before Don goes, too, and I've been willing him to work with Joan since last season.

    Miss Maypole seems to be quite experienced in affairs with married men, which might make her a good match for Don. (Whose sweatshirt was she wearing? Bowdoin was all-men in the 60s.) I can't agree with Dorothy's "sleazy womanizer" line because Don would only seem sleazy to me if he chose an inferior woman, treated her badly, and paraded the affair in front of his wife and children. But I admired Betty for putting the brakes on sofa sex with Henry. It wasn't what she wanted -- did Henry really think it was all about lust?

    Connie is amazing. Wired differently from most, unpredictable, sometimes brilliant, an almost literal mad man.

  14. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , October 15, 2009 at 9:34 p.m.

    Randall -- While watching TV and commercials in the office, Harry mentioned that his mother-in-law had said he looked like Perry Mason. Paul told him that wasn't a compliment -- "She thinks you're fat."

  15. Randall Hoffner from ABC, Inc. , October 16, 2009 at 3:46 a.m.

    Thanks, Cynthia.

  16. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , October 16, 2009 at 7:35 a.m.

    THE previews seem to suggest a big fight politically within the agency in next episode.
    Based on my scientific observations of slightly off-kilter
    agencies, Sal will keep his job, Don or Peggy will do the Moon Ad and it will be funny, clever, and appropriate. Hilton became a pejorative for the very reasons suggested in the campaign (All the comforts of home), but for a long time it was also (along with Intercontinental), a safe place for Americans to go.
    Then after that, Roger versus Draper in the main event---all inspired by Roger's call to Betty.

  17. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , October 16, 2009 at 7:37 a.m.

    The Perry Mason line would have funnier if attached to Sal.

  18. Richard Brayer from Car-X , October 16, 2009 at 2:54 p.m.

    interesting take on Roger's fight with Don ..is it the call to Betty or Don calling Roger "foolish"?

    the duel is on and what will cause these two to join forces?

    that is what will save them

  19. Maddy Mud from McMarketing , October 16, 2009 at 6:01 p.m.

    Dot -- I too was thinking she came across as a Julia Childs lady. But, I was also sure I knew the actress who played Elsa Kittridge. Pretty sure she's been on Curb lately as Funkhouser's wife, I found her -- she's Anne Ryerson, and is one of the best improv folks in LA. Working with the folks who came from the original Compass Players, like Paul Dooley, etc. She still performs at The Fanatic Salon in Culver City.
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0753246/

  20. Maddy Mud from McMarketing , October 16, 2009 at 7:01 p.m.

    oh, and not to be a double-poster piggy -- but, this article is great about Mad Men props:
    http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/an-interview-with-scott-buckwald-prop-master-for-the-hit-tv-show-mad-men/