Episode 12, 'The Grown-Ups': Two Shots Rang Out; Make Room for Daddy

This was a second-to-last installment that felt more like a shiver-inducing finale, with echoes of death -- and John F. Kennedy -- everywhere. And as Joan put it, there was "nothing funny about it."

Mad Men Season 3 Episode 12 Don wasn't in Dallas at the time of the assassination, but rather, in his office, watching people gather around TV sets crying and in shock.

This was the first TV-mediated national tragedy in the country's history. And although it might not make for gripping entertainment to watch people watch TV, that's exactly how the "where were you when...?"  tragedy played out in offices, homes, and schools throughout the country.

Don, a man so traumatized by the tragedies in his own life that he refuses to feel, stood apart, an outsider to the grief both in his office and home. As with James Agee's masterpiece of a novel, "A Death in the Family," the show conveyed a visceral sense of the confusion and wariness that Sally and Bobby were experiencing.

Don didn't want his kids to watch the TV coverage of the assassination. He was in the minority, since, just as the episode showed, whole families stayed glued to their sets, horrified, from the Friday afternoon of the assassination, to the swearing-in of LBJ on the plane, with Jackie standing by in her blood-stained pink Chanel suit, through Jack Ruby's shooting of Oswald on Sunday, to the funeral (based on Lincoln's) on Monday. Weiner did a brilliant job of interweaving these iconic clips into the episode to convey a sense of bodies piling up, of inexplicable loss upon loss, in real time.

A nation lost its official Daddy. And yes, there was a new (unmediagenic) president, but what changed forever, in the reborn TV age, was that we ceded control to the Daddy on the screen, to Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley; watching them reassured us. Called "The Grown-Ups," the episode once again led us to question who was who. Sally tried to comfort her mother, in one reversal; at his daughter's wedding, Roger had two babies on his hands; Ken, with his youthful exuberance and Kennedy haircut, got promoted at work. But Pete, who starts out like a whining child, used the crucible of death to make some grown-up decisions. Carla sits on the couch with her boss and pulls out a cigarette. They are equal partners in grief.

Mad Men Season 3/Episode 12 Half-child Betty also summoned the strength to change her status with her actual partner. She was all emotion, and having Don tell her to "lie down and take a pill" -- just as an unfeeling doctor would in the face of her tears -- reverberated. She decided she didn't love him, and couldn't stay in the marriage.

So she played the Don role, leaving the family to rendezvous with a lover. I couldn't help feeling that there was a suggestion of Ford's Theater, and Lincoln, in the scene in the parking lot, behind what looked like an old warehouse or theater, where she meets Henry. He drives up in his white Ford, and she's in her Lincoln. He tells her he'd love to take her to the movies. Why he would offer her marriage after three meetings, one involving physical violence with a lockbox, and one quasi-phony phone call, is a mystery, but perhaps it's just meant to suggest the career-defeating decision that Governor Rockefeller himself made to marry Happy, a divorcee with four children.

The half-baked wedding -- no burned brides, but no cake or waiters -- was brilliantly done. But here again, I thought the scene of Jane and the other guests watching a violent scene on TV in the hotel kitchen evoked the RFK assassination -- to come in a hotel kitchen a scant five years later.

Pete loves Roger, and was the life of the party on Derby Day, but decided not to attend the wedding; Don hates Roger, and stood isolated on Derby Day, but showed up, and had to sit there and make small talk, adding layer upon layer of numbness and phony obeisance to the already uncomfortable scene.

Mad Men Season 3 Epidosde 12 He did seem hungry for his wife in her ice-blue suit. They danced, and their quietly out-of-synch movements were beautifully choreographed. "Everything's going to be fine," he told her. "How do you know that?" she responded. He kissed her; she felt nothing.

After kissing Henry (or perhaps it was getting the offer of marriage for her back-up plan) she felt something. Her pas de deux with Henry allowed her to say "I don't love you" directly to Don. And that was as sad a moment as I can remember on the show. He wanted to tell her to stop, to take a pill. Instead, the enormity of that statement finally sank in, and he went upstairs to the bedroom, and sat in his chair, wringing his hands, a crumpled man. (The beautiful fading light and his folded shirt sleeves suggested the portrait of JFK in the Oval Office during the worst of the Cuban Missile Crisis.)

So Don ended up in the only place he could feel in control and function: his office. His female counterpart, Peggy, had a similar inability to access emotion, and came in to redo the Aqua-Net campaign that showed two couples riding in a convertible Lincoln, completely open to the elements. She's not writing condolence notes, but she knows she can't leave that in place; no revised storyboard can put those shattered heads back together again.

Any predictions for the finale? I'm shattered.

 **********

Dorothy adds: "Speaking of the Pete/Duck relationship, Pete seems to be setting his cap to leave, and is happy to have the offer from Duck in his back pocket. But won't he feel destroyed when  he finds out that Duck and Peggy are trysting the night away? (And by the way, I know it's simply a relationship of convenience for both Peggy and Duck, but why do they meet in a midtown hotel if Duck isn't married?)  

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22 comments about "Episode 12, 'The Grown-Ups': Two Shots Rang Out; Make Room for Daddy ".
  1. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , November 5, 2009 at 11:56 a.m.

    This Rockefeller guy is the creepiest character in the show.
    All my other predictions have been wrong and right now I can't figure out which plotlines they resolve and what do they leave as cliffhanger for next season and what do they forget entirely?

  2. Richard Brayer from Car-X , November 5, 2009 at 12:08 p.m.

    my guess is the next episode will focus on the agency sale and Connie

    Though not friends Roger and Don will work together for $

    But what of Pete and duck?

  3. Marilois Snowman from Mediastruction , November 5, 2009 at 12:09 p.m.

    Was assassination episode conduit to tumultuous 70s? Will Betty and Rockefeller guy end up at box-wine key parties, while Don and Hippy teacher set up house in wilderness? Sally & Bobby become latch-key kids, while housekeeper grows afro and joins the Panthers. Let's start a contest to see where each character ends up in 1976.

  4. John Wolfe from GroupM , November 5, 2009 at 12:24 p.m.

    This episode ends with JFK's assassination in November 1963. Might we might hear something in the next, season-ending episode about a sensational new rock band from Liverpool that hits American shores only a couple of months later in early February 1964? The musical possibilities could certainly fit a host of existing Mad Men plot lines ("I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," etc.).

  5. David Scardino from Independant Media Consulting , November 5, 2009 at 1:15 p.m.

    Great recap as always. One point of information: NBC was the only network to cover the Ruby assasination live; ABC and CBS were covering the funeral. Given the overall news ratings of the time, most Americans probably saw the film footage rather than NBC's live coverage.

  6. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost , November 5, 2009 at 1:35 p.m.

    As always, an excellent write up with marvelous observations. I have two comments...

    First, I predicted this ending -- for next episode. I noted the Telegraph reference a couple episodes ago was both symbolic and possibly foreshadowing -- the attractive newcomer eclipsing (now the eclipse makes sense looking back, doesn't it?) the only medium that was ever abandoned. But, of course, I thought Miss Farrell was the telephone and Betty was the telegraph. What a surprise to realize it was Don playing the part of the telegraph and Mr. Francis in the role of the ringer...

    My other observation is this: (and you're not the only blog I read and none of you guys saw it this way) I didn't get that Peggy was in the office to CHANGE the Aqua Net campaign. They haven't seen the Zapruder film yet. On the day after Thanksgiving LIFE Magazine will publish a series of frames from the film and they will become the iconic images of the tragedy. I think we have them so ingrained in our minds that we saw it even when they first proposed the ad concept. On Monday in the office with Don she only said she was "working on" it. And in what appeared to be merely a reference to the hitch in the schedule -- an unexpected day off and the world seeming to come to a stand still -- she said it was going to be OK. They weren't schedule to shoot the commercial until after Thanksgiving. Given Weiner's apparent love of media, and that the Zapruder film represents possibly the first time a civilian captures something important on his personal recording device, I'm guessing it figures heavily into the plot of next week's episode. How much though, I'm not sure.

  7. Ray George from HawkPartners , November 5, 2009 at 2:15 p.m.

    Great write-up as always - I too was impressed with how gripping it was to watch others watching TV. Well acted all around.

    Here's an episode 13 scenario to consider: Gray comes in and buys S&C - Pete gets a leg up on Ken due to his tie to Duck, and Don is locked back in combat with Duck as his superior (giving a reason for Roger/Don to rejoin forces). And Peggy's life becomes very complicated with a boss/lover. Somehow, this keeps Connie in the picture (and Don's link to Connie is the only reason Duck does not let him go). Joan is on her own while hubby shipped to Vietnam ("if that's still going on") - comes back to work once the Brits are gone?

    Can't wait but don't want it to be over....

  8. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , November 5, 2009 at 2:44 p.m.

    They could do a big leap to the summer--Rockefeller loses CA primary, Goldwater gets the nomination and the Daisy commercial, LBJ oversees passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Seems like good period to end on.

  9. Austin Gray from Contractor , November 5, 2009 at 4:01 p.m.

    Great catch on the location of Betty and Henry's rendezvous. I would bet money that the location was just behind the Rialto theater in South Pasadena. This is also the spot where Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) kills the writer he thinks is stalking him in "The Player."

  10. Devon Dudgeon , November 5, 2009 at 4:11 p.m.

    Betty won't be able to leave Don due to some change of circumstance.

    Pete moves over to Grey, and then Grey buys Sterling Cooper.

    Roger and Joan have a rendez-vous. (Perhaps her husband is killed in Vietnam.)

    Kinsey gets promoted over Peggy, even though they both know she is better.

  11. Jody Quinn from Edelman , November 5, 2009 at 4:35 p.m.

    And what about Joan/Joanie/Red? Does anyone else think she looked and sounded even more like Marilyn in this episode than ever before ?

  12. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology , November 5, 2009 at 6:12 p.m.

    Thanks all, and a reply to Dorothy's question above. By 1963 the more senior middle class family guys like Duck had already cleared out of Manhattan. Duck may be unmarried, but he very likely still lives a 30-40 minute train ride up the Metro North Line (wasn't it then called the Hudson-something?).

    That's just for logistics. For psychological truth, this does not seem like the kind of an affair where you're opening up your real home (or your real life). Some things never change!

  13. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , November 5, 2009 at 9:23 p.m.

    Notice the similarity between Don's speech to Sally and Bobby about the assassination and the kind of speech parents often deliver when announcing a divorce? ("We'll have a new president and we'll all feel sad for awhile but everything will be alright.")

    I'm with Dorothy on Peggy seeing the parallel between the Kennedy motorcade and the Aqua Net motorcade (as someone on the blog did back when the concept was first acted out in Don's office).

    So glad Dorothy called attention to the importance of TV in defining and memorializing the assassination (it was a worldwide phonomenon -- I and my family, who had no TV, watched the coverage in the formal parlor of our West German landlady).

    The finale and future? Don goes forward without Sterling Cooper or Betty. He has the money to start his own agency (although Betty will want a portion) or could maybe do something with Connie (no, too suffocating). Perhaps he confides some part of his misery to father-figure Connie? Remember that Connie attended the same wedding as Henry on Derby Day, so it's conceivable that they know each other, making for an interesting twist if Betty and Henry go public. Suzanne could be in the picture -- she'd be the best thing since Carla for Sally and Bobby.

    Pete also goes forward without Sterling Cooper, maybe with Grey/Duck or maybe on his own with backing from his father-in-law.

    Joan rejoins the biz, but ideally in a job with some growth potential (who was Roger speaking to when he called on her behalf?) Wanting more substance in his life, Roger will keep trying to re-enter hers, but she'll keep him at arm's length and play the dutiful wife.

    Peggy may go to Grey, but she'll learn that it doesn't pay to sleep with bosses or men who could be bosses. Still, she'll always land on her feet.

    Betty, who seems unlikely to be able to cope without an authority figure, will try to lean on Henry for counsel and support, but he may not be as accessible as she needs him to be. So will she learn to take care of herself (while neglecting her children) or will she do more sulking and smoking (while neglecting her children)? If she'd give THEM some consideration, I'd probably cheer her looking for happiness.

  14. Larry Vine from Garrand , November 6, 2009 at 2:48 p.m.

    Very insightful. I wonder whether Weiner is the genius you make him out to be, or are you just reading far too much into these scenes. What I don't understand is why Don would be upset at the prospect of losing Betsy. If he would of enthusiastically agreed with her and left instantaneously it would of been more in keeping with his character. And who wears a tie and suit to go into the office on a day off?

  15. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , November 6, 2009 at 5:18 p.m.

    In 1963, people were still wearing suits and ties to go to ballgames and the fights. Simple uniform for the train ride.
    Casual Saturdays hadn't yet emerged.
    Don has achieved two things he thought Dick Whitman couldn't: business success and family life. Of course, Whitman had achieved it, but Draper doesn't know it. Draper would have dumped it all and run off with the Bonwit Teller woman if she hadn't demurred and identified his cowardice. Maybe he learned from her.

  16. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , November 6, 2009 at 9:02 p.m.

    Betty is letting herself in for a rude awakening. Her admirer is not what she thinks he is. He is a conquerer who wants some arm candy, not a partner. He has her pegged. She feeds only on attention. The Brits may sell back to SC - they have the personal funds and Roger wants it. They rally round the flag and they all come back home to SC or so it may appear. Duck is going to screw up and do a disappear. Peggy thinks she is revolting against the establishment while playing their game and she is understandably conflicted with her life. She does not have a path to follow or anyone to help her. It's 1963. She still would have to look in the paper under Help Wanted Women for a job. And that dog food old paramour of Roger - he may step on his whiney wife, but he does not want her. Sometimes it just is what it is. Don will threaten Betty financially and Mr. Rockefeller has comes up short on the $ and committent to support 3 kids. As always, there are women that men marry and there are women who men sleep with.

  17. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , November 6, 2009 at 10:03 p.m.

    Paula, nice comments. But consider poor Don. He signed a contract and non-compete to protect his identity under threats from Cooper and to secure a 5-year future for his wife under prodding from Sterling. Now his identity is known by the one person he wanted to keep it from and his five-year contract will become a negotiable asset in the hands of divorce attorneys for their divorce in the Dominican Republic or Juarez or wherever New Yorkers went to dissolve marriages back then.
    And with all the slithery people Betty could go with, the Rockefeller guy is even creepier than the door to door air conditioning salesman from the first season.

  18. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , November 6, 2009 at 11:21 p.m.

    What am I missing about Henry? Duck's creepiness is unmistakable (the sex-before-worries unplugging of the TV was a great piece of characterization), but I don't get the gamey vibe from Henry that others sense. Yes, his office is unusually dark, and he sent a surrogate to Betty's fundraiser without tipping her off in advance, and he broached marriage without really knowing Betty. But he has a grown, sharp-eyed, affectionate daughter, and that argues for him being a decent man, at least on one level. He's bright, reasonably attractive, moves in influential company, and seemingly has more to offer Betty than she has to offer him. Why do those of you who think he's creepy feel that way?

  19. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , November 7, 2009 at 10:34 a.m.

    @ Cynthia. Creepy. To start with, Henry sees Betty for the first time---enormously pregnant and waiting for someone (most folks would guess her husband)---and goes over and touches her stomach. Now as a seduction technique, this is a new one for me. Perhaps evidence of merely desiring to be a mother----- from the right side of the tracks.
    He says "I can't come to you, you're married." Weird litigious-driven manners even in NY State where adultery is the only way out of a marriage. And where by then the whole Rockefeller clan save for David had moved on from first marriages.
    When she does visit him at his office, he's a klutz and probably even clumsier than Pete's thinking with that unfortunate German girl.
    -----------------
    @Jonathan
    Dorothy wrote above:
    "His female counterpart, Peggy, had a similar inability to access emotion, and came in to redo the Aqua-Net campaign that showed two couples riding in a convertible Lincoln, completely open to the elements." Even the thickest advertising copywriters would say to themselves--gee that storyboard with the two couples in the convertible looked a lot like the Kennedys and the Connellys. Of course, a good copywriter would change it; a cynical one might say what the hell and go ahead with it anyway.

  20. Brenda Garrand from Garrand , November 8, 2009 at 9:50 p.m.

    gasp... tonight's the night... what will transpire? Well, let's examine the facts: SC is for sale. Betts has an out. (Or so it seems) Don is bound by a contract. Joan is gone, but not forgotten. Peggy is doing Duck, maybe, can you imagine, because she likes it. Pete has discovered his spine and Roger reveals a sort of character one might not have suspected. (To call Mona out as a "lioness" during the cub's ill-fated wedding was more than damning with faint praise. He gets her and it.)

    If Laura Ingalls Wilder (ok, maybe Clare Booth Luce) was writing this script, here's what would happen:

    SC buys back the firm (with the help of silent partner, CHilton) but not before Pete defects to Duck and company. Roger, Burt and Don reunite and bring back Salvatore who "comes out," gently. Joan returns and Betts leaves Don and the children for a misbegotten flight to Albany. Maypole girl steps in. Henry turns out to be a good guy who falls for the wrong nutjob.

    Peggy ultimately chooses good creative above mediocre lust and stays with Sterling Cooper, but not until after she is made a partner. (Can you say Mary Wells?)

    Evil is punished, good, or relative good rewarded... but we'll see...shan't we...

  21. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV , November 9, 2009 at 10:14 a.m.

    WOULD BE interesting to get a lawyer's point of view of what's happening.....

  22. Maddy Mud from McMarketing , November 11, 2009 at 2:35 p.m.

    I guess I'm the lone person who was very unsatisfied by this episode? I was hoping Don would be at the Dallas Pepsi-Cola meeting with Nixon, Crawford and Bush on the day before the assisination. Or, just something more involved ... we all have our TV memories of this event ... of course, now I see it was more set-up for the finale ... interesting choice NOT to end the series on the K-assassination ... cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the finale ...