Episode 11: The Gypsy and the Hobo

"Uh, I can't switch it off, it's actually happening," Peggy responds to Don's command, while through the glass, the fussy dog owners in the focus group are having a cow (100 % pure beef) knowing that the food being served to their precious babies comes from ponies.

"Any agency that doesn't change the name [of your product] is stealing your money," the suddenly ethical Don tells Annabelle What's-Her-Name, the elegant, Chanel-suit-wearing potentate of a now-scandalized dog food empire.

Called "The Gypsy and the Hobo," this episode was the most explosive yet. Again, it was all about the search for identity, love and acceptance. It opens with Don telling Sally that Halloween masks are "plastic" and "crap" that "you wear once." In terms of being able to put together a costume for the long term, Don certainly speaks from experience.

All of our basic assumptions come in for questioning: Can you really change what's in a can (or a person) by slapping on a new label (or dog tags?) In the end, regardless of how it happens, does the transformation end up as the same old horsemeat?

Mad Men Season 3 Episode 11 In some of the most spellbinding minutes in "Mad Men" history, Betty confronts Don, and he breaks down and spills all of his terrible secrets to her, while his mistress sits outside in his car. The interrogation took place in three parts. First, Don was wedged into the corner of his office, still talking about his "things" and his "privacy." Next, the scene moved to the kitchen, and Betty calmly turns into Perry Mason, interrogating Don/Dick under the good cop/bad cop light of the kitchen table. And then the unburdening continues in exquisite shadow (like something out of a Dutch Masters painting) upstairs in the bedroom.

Normally, when confronted, Don runs away. In this case, he even had a mistress hiding with his hat and her suitcase in a getaway car. And yet, he stayed -- even after baby Gene cried and Betty had to leave the scene.

Dejected, Suzanne Farrell drags her bag down the dark road home. The whole time I was expecting her to respond like a kook, and knock on a window or break into the house.

What a relief she didn't, thus allowing the full drama to play out between Don and Betty. As a result, I'm promotingMad Men Season 3 Episode 11 Suzanne to the new honorific Ms., as in Ms. Maypole. Turns out that, as with Roger, Joan, Betty, and Don, in this episode Ms. Farrell shows a new (and newly encouraging) side of herself.

Perhaps she's not totally bats or evil, just a nice, very nurturing person. Maybe spending time with her in her dark, makeshift, womblike rooms allowed Don to come to terms with his past, and, as granola-crunchers would start saying in just a couple of years, "get in touch with his feelings."

Or, knowing Matthew Weiner, perhaps we're once again being played.

Certainly, in moving from anger, fear, and denial into tears, Jon Hamm showed his (massive) acting chops. I'm sorry I ever doubted January Jones -- she was also pitch-perfect. Altogether, if there were ever a better-written, better-acted, -lit, and -directed scene in television, I haven't seen it.

Having his cards out on the table (in this case, literally the bedroom dresser, in front of the mirror) allows Don to sleep peacefully in his own bed. He wakes up to a new life -- Betty has the three kids dressed and ready for the day, eating breakfast in the kitchen. (Did those plastic baby seats exist in the early '60s?) She surprised us all with her strength, and Don fed off it.

Perhaps she got strong by dint of sitting at her Daddy's desk, in his big executive chair, in Pennsylvania, while her brother dithered on the edge of the desk, near the door.

Certainly, the scene with Milton the lawyer was dead-on for the times. "Are you afraid of him?" "No." "Is he a good provider?" "Yes." "Then go back and try again."

Mad Men Season 3 Episode 11 We also see Roger in a new light. Turns out that like our former president George W. Bush (who also went into the family business), he's always felt "misunderestimated." He's tired of feeling judged as a lightweight, hence his new marriage.

Now I see that Roger and Don are more alike than they know. Roger also wanted to escape past judgment, and in essence change identities, by changing wives.

And Annabelle, queen of the horse farm, brings back bad memories of his callow youth. (Anyone know what "eating in cemeteries" refers to?) And maybe he unfairly links his heart attack, after riding a young date through the office like a pony, to Annabelle.

But she gives it to him straight: "You were adrift. You didn't do anything but spend money. You walked around like a character in someone else's novel."

She wants to imagine a romanticized version of herself -- Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca." He comes back with Peter Lorre. Annabelle says she knows that Roger still wants her. His reply: "So what? I'm married." Ouch. And then his bravura acting comes into play, with the way he enunciates "married/newlywed/honeymooning."

"It's different with this girl," he says, although I'm not sure we know exactly which girl he's referring to.

That's because Joan, with her now-defeated hair, is coming back into the picture. She's coaching Greg for the roleMad Men Season 3 Episode 11 of, as he put it, "head-shrinker" -- but obviously sensitivity is not his strong suit. Obtuseness is. "You don't know what it's like to want something your whole life, plan for it, and not get it," he wails with typical self-pity. I'm not sure I buy the vase-breaking scene, but was happy to see Joan trying to knock some sense into Greg's head. It results in his lightbulb moment: the Army will take care of them. Yes, indeedy. Especially in the Vietnam era, it was a benevolent institution second only to a rich daddy.

Another great line that came out of the focus group (showing the innate wisdom of dogs): "Dogs don't like uniforms."

While we're on the army question, though, I realize that while Don was amazingly honest about what happened to Adam, he fudged a bit in telling Betty why he changed identities in Korea. He was injured as Dick, so he probably would have gotten out anyway. But he wanted a new life as a former officer instead of an abused farm kid, was my understanding.

(The whole questions of names, and what they mean, was brilliantly interwoven into the script. Perhaps Betty is given so many different monikers to show how mercurial she is.)  

Whatever happens to "Dr. Cut-Up," as he calls Greg, Roger wants to do the right thing for his redhead. "She's expensive," he tells a friend in pitching Joan's services "But you're always complaining about needing someone to whip your place into shape. So think about it. I want to help her out. She's important to me. "

 

Mad Men Season 3 Episode 11 And the reference to "The Misfits" suggests more than a dog food problem. As in past shows, it alludes to Marilyn Monroe, who made the movie at the lowest part of her career, while she was in and out of rehab and divorcing the film's screenwriter, Arthur Miller. Just like Don, she was an orphan of sorts who changed her name.

"Who are you supposed to be?" Francine's husband jokes, in the last minute of the show, as he stares at Don standing behind his children, who represent two references to his secret past, the gypsy and hobo. Meanwhile, "Where Is Love?," the plaintive song from "Oliver," the musical about the ultimate orphan, starts playing.

  Don is still yearning for the love of his mother. If it's "really happening," as Peggy says, can he switch it off? And will his secrets stay secret? Two more episodes, kids. See you in Dallas.

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23 comments about "Episode 11: The Gypsy and the Hobo ".
  1. Richard Brayer from Car-X , October 28, 2009 at 3:34 p.m.

    the times they are a -changin"

  2. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , October 28, 2009 at 3:47 p.m.

    I don't know what I'm going to do after only two more weeks of Mad Men, and the Mad Blog.

    I never really thought that Suzanne would actually go to the door after Don didn't come back out. What surprised me was how long she waited. But, that added to the suspense.

    I only hope we see a lot more of Joan in the last two weeks. She's the only character who knows who she is and what she's doing, and does it better than anyone else.

  3. Cathy Carrier from Ashland Indy Film Festival , October 28, 2009 at 3:50 p.m.

    Best episode ever? Meatier that's for sure.
    I loved that we got more of Roger and he had some great lines. Is he married yet though? I thought he was lying to ms. Dogfood. Isn't he suppose to get married the day before Kennedy is shot?

    The "actually happening" line was wonderful.
    I am with you Ms. Dorothy(speaking of real identities) Jon Hamm was great in this. I almost couldn't believe it.
    That ne scene when he looks out the door like he is thinking of running and then he turns around and goes to Bets.
    SO much to say- The scenes of Joan in her apartment are so well designed. I just love looking at them! The orange and blue with the blue dish matching her apron. I love how everything including her outfits goes with her red hair. Fabulous.The whole show is great designwise but those are extra wonderful. I pause the TV just so I can take it all in.
    Thanks for the Blog Dorothy. I look forward to it every week.

  4. Richard Brayer from Car-X , October 28, 2009 at 3:58 p.m.

    forgot something

    "eating in cemeteries" is an old southern tradition that occurred after the Civil war when on the southern decoration day , families would go to the cemetery in the spring, to honor the war heroes who gave all in the war of Northern Aggression , clean up the graves from winter wear and have a picnic- over time it faded away replaced by modern conventions like perpetual care, etc

    wonder if roger has some southern blood somewhere in his family tree

  5. Cathy Carrier from Ashland Indy Film Festival , October 28, 2009 at 4 p.m.

    Isn't Roger from Kentucky? Horse country

  6. Ellen Cannon from Bankrate Inc. , October 28, 2009 at 4:04 p.m.

    Eating in cemeteries -- I assumed she was talking about their wild youth in Paris, which has great cemeteries for walking around, and I guess eating. I've walked, never picnicked.

  7. Bruce Raisner from Venator Partners , October 28, 2009 at 4:19 p.m.

    My initial reaction to the "cemeteries" line:

    The famous LaChaise cemetary in Paris which "hosts" the likes of Balzac, Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison (though I don't think he was there before the war...)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery

  8. Dean Fox from ScreenAngels Networks LLC , October 28, 2009 at 4:48 p.m.

    Excellent analysis as always, Dorothy. I'll miss your thoughtful reviews as much as the show itself.

    One plot point that stuck with me: Doctor Greg has been washed out of his surgical residency, yet the US Army will gladly hire him to operate on our wounded troops!

    So he's no Hawkeye Pierce, maybe more like Frank Burns, a danger to his patients.

    Very disturbing, and given the need for military doctors during Vietnam, probably an accurate portrayal of how corners were cut to meet quotas. As usual, our soldiers pay the price.

  9. Tanya Irwin from Tanya Irwin , October 28, 2009 at 5:10 p.m.

    @Cathy: It's Roger's daughter who is supposed to get married the day Kennedy is shot. We found that out because she and Mona don't want Jane (Roger's new wife) at the wedding. I believe they may have eloped, I don't remember a wedding. I totally thought Suzanne was going to knock on the door. I still have a strange feeling about her, can't put my finger on it.

  10. Terry Powers from , October 28, 2009 at 6:09 p.m.

    Thanks you for yet another great post that adds a wonderful dimension to my enjoyment of the show. Clearly the best so far this season, and a lot to potentially 'wrap-up' in 2 episodes, but Matt Weiner will leave us guessing on many aspects. . .guaranteed.

  11. Wendy Swiggett from Mythos , October 28, 2009 at 6:29 p.m.

    Great review! Just one quibble. The drunken Annabel says to Roger "You still want me" and he says "So What" not "Somewhat." As in "I may be physically turned on, but I don't need to act on it." This is a new Roger!

  12. Wendy Swiggett from Mythos , October 28, 2009 at 6:34 p.m.

    Oh, and @ Tanya and Cathy: Roger's daughter is to marry the day AFTER Kennedy's assassination, Saturday Nov 23, 1963. We are only at Oct 31st 1963 - so still three weeks before the date. This could be covered next week, or not at all on Mad Men. You never know!

  13. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , October 28, 2009 at 7:03 p.m.

    Dean -- Funny you mentioned the MASH characters. I had the same thought about Frank Burns, which led me to thinking about similarities between Hotlips and Joan. In the movie, Hotlips is a lightweight we make fun of and dismiss. But in the TV show, she evolved into a substantive character the others cared about and respected. Similarly, Joan first appeared as an overdrawn caricature of the sexy bitch, but quickly became one of the strongest and smartest characters in the entire Mad Men universe. Wonder if military widowhood lays ahead.

    Thank you, Richard, for the insight into "eating in cemeteries." It triggered a forgotten memory of fried chicken and potato salad in a cemetery in Hyde County, N.C., where I learned that Confederate veterans and their families were legally excluded from the postwar pension plan that provided for all Union veterans as well as their wives, children, parents and even siblings. My initial reaction to the line was that Roger and Annabelle had celebrated life in all sorts of ways among the tombstones.

    I like Roger more and more -- candid, irreverent, and touchingly loyal to Jane. Don's "so what" means "let's do it anyway;" Roger's means "yes, but no." It's time for him to stop messing around and do something that matters.

    A time/place question -- did Westchester parents accompany their kids on Halloween in 1963? My Trick or Treat years (encompassing 1963) were spent in Virginia, Florida and Germany, where I never once saw an adult shadowing any kids. Who gave out candy at the Drapers? And how many minutes would Betty be able to carry Gene in her arms?

    Brilliant writing and inspired acting. Wish all TV were this good.

  14. Brenda Garrand from Garrand , October 28, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.

    Conflict... Resolution... Surprise. Ambiguity. Don doesn't seem like such a roué now. Roger appears positively ethical. Betts is in a thaw cycle and Joan's poised to move ahead to her own reality or, oh dear, his. Can we see season next shaping up as the sixties unfold? Who buys SC? Does Duck make the poach? Will Don's contract bind? The suspense is killing me...

  15. Greg Pabst from University of San Francisco , October 29, 2009 at 12:21 a.m.

    "Eating in cemeteries."

    It was common in the 19th (and early 20th) century to use graveyards (not only in the South) as public parks. Many families would take a picnic to the cemetery where their family was buried.

    A kind of Anglo "Dia de las muertos" which takes place this weekend (Hallowe'en).

    It's another layered "easter egg" in the world of Weiner.

    Greg Pabst (recovering English Major).

  16. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , October 29, 2009 at 7:51 a.m.

    @ Greg. Dia de los muertos is not Halloween; it is All Souls' Day, November 2nd. Halloween is the Eve of All Hallows....all hallows being all saint's day, november first...a sort of anglo jour toussaint, you might say. But such an obligatory holy day that Peggy might duck into Mass at St. Pat's before heading to the office on a Friday in 1963
    @Dorothy. Great review. How many times do you watch the show before writing?

  17. Bob Batchelor from Thiel College , October 29, 2009 at 1:01 p.m.

    Greg's "washout" doesn't necessarily mean that he's not a competent surgeon, just that he wasn't being promoted at that particular hospital. He botched a procedure, but isn't incompetent, like Frank Burns is portrayed in the novel and movie versions of MASH.

    Teaching at a really large university, I'm surrounded by students with cell phone glued to them, so maybe I'm more sensitive to phone conversations, but is anyone else struck by the lack of phone manners? I understand Suzy being instructed to answer: "The Draper Residence," but everyone else says two words and hangs up, particularly Betty. Is this a literary device to make her seem more mysterious or brooding or is it the way people spoke on the phone in the 1960s?

    Suzanne didn't pull a "Fatal Attraction" moment b/c she has her own issues as well. She tells Don earlier that she went into their affair "with her eyes open." She knows how it will eventually end, especially living in that community. One of her first concerns when Don calls is whether she has to worry about losing her job.

    Great overview, as always, Dorothy. Please start writing similar columns about other series. Maybe we could have a vote re what you'd cover next?! I'd love to know if you watch "Dexter" or "Californication?"

  18. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost , October 29, 2009 at 1:09 p.m.

    Great write up! Just wanted to mention things I noticed... This season has been using ad campaigns as symbolic devices (they seem to pop up in single episodes and disappear by the next). Last week it was for the one medium that got away -- the telegraph -- against an attractive newcomer -- the telephone. It continued the ongoing theme of identity and misnomers, but possibly also foreshadowed subtly and brilliantly the remaining story arch.

    This week's clearly does the same. Another throwaway ad client, this one for dog food made from horse meat. The name is just "a label on a can." The naming theme continues of course right through to the last line: "And who are you supposed to be?" followed by Oliver Twist lyrics.

    My observation is this: Betty was reading "The Group." She asks the lawyer about divorce. Suzanne Farrell is in love with Don, and maybe Don is in love with her. Remember, she calls and asks about him the next morning. And he says something along the lines of "only you would ask about me in this situation..." Don actually wakes up to the same life. Betty is all cold and loveless to him around the children. She doesn't smile. She brings no more warmth to the table than she did the day before. I love her enunciation on his true name "DICK" during her interrogation... It said a lot to me beyond the obvious. And closing out with Oliver Twist -- an orphan given an arbitrary name upon his arrival in the orphanage -- singing a hint... Where is love? You tell me.

    This season seems headed for tragedy on a personal as well as national scale.

  19. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost , October 29, 2009 at 1:33 p.m.

    I just thought of something else... Season 1 ended with Don alone sitting on the stairs in a darkened home on Thanksgiving 1960. Kennedy is assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, just days before Thanksgiving. Are we headed to the same place?

  20. Feminista Fan from The Past, Present and Future , October 31, 2009 at 8:56 a.m.

    Love this show and Dorothy Parker's reviews too! She's like a good friend with whom you can pick apart the intricacies of the show.

    To all those women who were born after 1970, think about what Joan or Betty could have been if they were born 25 years later?

    Every time you scratch your head about why the feminist movement occurred, think about Joan and Betty and all the other frustrated females whose endless abilities were met with limited opportunities for women. I think this may be the greatest lesson of the series.

  21. Maddy Mud from McMarketing , October 31, 2009 at 8:04 p.m.

    "Where Is Love" is the saddest song ever. To use that at the end of the episode was such an inspired choice. It's always been one of my favorite show tunes that hasn't been overused into oblivion ... I too found the vase breaking a bit much (did Joan become Tony Sorprano?) but then Greg has certainly dished out some physical unpleasantness to her too (where the word "rape" does feel appropriate) ... and talk about patronizing -- the big daddy doctor telling Betty to go back to her man basically unless he couldn't earn wages -- you can see the revolution rapidly fermenting for our female friends.

  22. Phyllis Fine from Mediapost , November 1, 2009 at 6:54 p.m.

    Just a note from behind the editorial scenes at MediaPost. I also thought, along with Dorothy, that Roger said "somewhat" to Annabelle's comment about still wanting her. But a quick check found that commenter Wendy Swiggett was indeed right: Roger actually said "So what?" So we corrected the text.

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