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