Episode 13: Sit Down And Close The Door. The Pierre 8 Await!

"Damn it, Whitman, this is a cooperative!" the fellas in the 1930s "Grapes of Wrath" wardrobe yell at Don's father during another dreary, overly mannered "Mad Men" flashback set in that sad, oil-cloth-covered kitchen. And indeed, those are telling words. Because this Season 3 finale was all about Don finally learning to cooperate.

Mad Men Season 3/Epsiode 13 Ain't that a kick in the head, as Archie himself never got to say. It's probably too late for a turnaround now with Betts (Damn! Those poor kids! And her lightning-quick dependence on the Rockefeller-handling-belly-feeler obviously spells disaster.)

But it turns out that all along, the rest of the kids at Sterling Cooper were also hankering for Don's approval, aka Daddy's OK -- especially the abused young'uns, like Pete and Peggy. But another fallen-fellow-father-figure, Roger, also craved Don's apology, and to be treated better. Among other good lines, ("Reading us your will? I want the Cadillac,") Roger issues the definitive statement on Don: "You're not good at relationships because you don't value them."



Has the Draperman finally buried his Daddy issues so that he can move on? His day started with oversleeping on the army cot in the very room that his much hated father-in-law occupied until his death. That made him late for his meeting with Connie.

And when Connie told him the news about the sale of the agency, and that he'd be splitting from him ("Happens all the time, that's business"), Don responds bitterly. He accuses Hilton of purposely tying him up so that he could "kick me around, knock me down to size... That's why you called me son."

Indeed, Don's relations with Connie have always been awkward because of his filial rage. The moonshine-soaked flashback for the first time showed the cause of all of his internal combustion. (And speaking of internal combustion, what's with taking the wheat up to Chicago via horse? This was the 1930s. Even the Joads had a broken-down truck.)

Anyway, Don's father was an abusive drunk -- and last season he told Betts that when his father beat him it made him want to kill him. As a result he could never discipline his own kids. We knew Dick Whitman's background was a killer, what with his prostitute mother dying in childbirth, and giving the baby the name Dick as a sick joke. We didn't know that Don's father died right before his eyes, kicked in the head by a horse spooked by lightning.

It was then, at 10, that Don discovered life could change in a heartbeat -- and it hardened his hard-luck heart even more.

I'm sure he had lots of guilt over the death, added to the already Oedipal yearning he carried for his dead mother. That's a psychological brew that would make him inclined not only to change identities, but to want to numb and isolate himself as an adult. As a husband, that translates into drinking and affairs.

So let's get the grim Betts chapter out of the way so we can move on to the really exhilarating stuff -- where the episode knocked it out of the park -- putting the new agency together.

Mad Men Season 3/Episode 13 The Dick side really came out in Don's drunken fight with a sleeping Betts in the bedroom. He calls her a "whore" (shades of his own dad) after he finds out from Roger (in a beautifully acted scene in a bar) that his wife was cuckolding him with Henry Francis. This was ugly. It reminded me of the violent scene between Tony and Carmela after she told him she wanted him out of the house. Tony put his arm through a wall, had Carmela by the neck, and told her that she too was complicit -- or at least hardly innocent -- in the life they made together.

Don/Dick makes a similar point. I think down deep he's enraged because he thinks the Main-Line blonde is rejecting his dirt-poor background now that she knows the truth -- that he's not "good enough" for her. I don't think that's the case. After all his cheating and lying, the final thing he came clean on is just too big and overwhelming for her. And who could blame her? (A side issue to get into some other time: her parents hardly seem upper-class to me.)

Anyway, she stands up admirably for herself. ("I didn't break up this family...) Would that she had similar strength in moving on independently with her life. But in those days, being a divorcee was so dreaded that she jumps from the frying pan of Don's pathology to the fire of a master manipulator, Henry. Boy, is he rushing her. First he persuades her to give up all financial settlements with Don ("you don't need what he can provide") and then gets her on a plane to Reno, faster than you can say "Huh?"

There was nothing sadder than that final scene on the plane, with the baby up and fidgety on her lap and the old man asleep next to her.

In what seems an appalling move, she left Sally and Bobby at home (for the whole six weeks, through the holidays, too?) with Carla.

Meanwhile, Don is starting a new life with his work family. (And I even got hints of the finale of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when they all leave the SC office for the final time and he tries to lock the door.) Then again, that act of kneeling down almost seemed religiously contrite -- and Roger tells him to forget locking up..

But in humbling himself, and making his apologies, it does seem that Don's fired up with a new religion. "I want to work. I want to build something on my own!'' he tells Bert Cooper when trying to sell him on buying back the agency. Later, after he tells Roger, "I was wrong," Sterling says "So you do want to be in advertising after all!"

Don's first interaction with Peggy echoes his unsatisfying talk with Hilton at the opening of the episode. He gives her the rough treatment, and she tells him she's tired of being kicked around: "You expect me to follow you like some nervous poodle?" She turns him down, and calls him out on the carpet. (The carpet that, as it turns out, wasn't cleaned over the weekend.)

Perhaps some of her strength comes from having the offer (and the um, creepy as it seems, love?) from Duck. But besides that, she has always had a preternatural respect for her own talents as a copywriter -- and that will get her far.

Don reconsiders, and visits Peggy at her Manhattan apartment. "You were right," he says. "I've taken you for granted and I've been hard on you because I saw you as an extension of myself, and you're not." He ends by telling her that if she turns him down again, he will "spend the rest of my life trying to hire you." (If only he could have said exactly this to Betty!)

He then tells her something that seems a bit mystical: "Something happened, and the way they saw themselves is gone."

I interpreted that to mean they're fellow survivors; they both came up hard and have secrets, which is a very valuable thing when you're in the image/desire business.

For Pete, he acknowledges his forward thinking (such as it is) on "aeronautics, teenagers, and the Negro market."

The air gets stirred with Joan's presence, and we all had to breathe a sigh of relief and agree with Don when he said, "Joan -- what a good idea!"

Mad Men Season 3/Episode 13 The excitement and energy was palpable in the Pierre suite. (By the way, many venerable agencies started just like this -- breaking away from the mother ship and renting a hotel room. Scali McCabe Sloves started with a single client, Volvo, at the Gotham Hotel. The principals of Wells Rich Greene broke away from Jack Tinker, a creative boutique founded by McCann's CEO (they had earlier been at DDB) and also opened an office in a room at the Gotham Hotel.

So Don packs up a Velveeta box, and flees. Will it turn out that any of this was legal? Will Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce be able to succeed? Will Sal come back somehow, despite the reliance on Lucky Strike?

In any case, Weiner could not have concocted a more satisfying start for season 4. As Lane Pryce, the only Brit allowed to develop into more than a caricature, told London upon being sacked: "Very good. Happy Christmas!"

30 comments about "Episode 13: Sit Down And Close The Door. The Pierre 8 Await! ".
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  1. Sheldon Senzon from JMS Media, Inc., November 11, 2009 at 4:56 p.m.

    Personally I think the series is way over the top. I'm happy for AMC as it's managed to counter lower ratings during re-run season but please, enough praising already.

  2. Laura Black from black house creative, November 11, 2009 at 4:58 p.m.

    Loved the episode and your retelling and analyzing of it! Are we all sucked into a nighttime soap? Sure, but I still love it.

  3. Ellen Considine from SwartAd, November 11, 2009 at 5 p.m.

    I thought Don was referencing the way the public saw themselves after the Kennedy assassination. Peggy got that there was a change in the air, but other people were just moving forward without realizing the repercussions it would have on the collective American psyche..

  4. Tanya Gazdik from MediaPost, November 11, 2009 at 5:07 p.m.

    So I hear that the new season won't begin until August. Ugh! That's way too long of a gap.

  5. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine, November 11, 2009 at 5:17 p.m.

    This episode rocked! I laughed out loud more than once - and the scenes of them building the new agency were absolutely intoxicating. All of the plodding along that was done throughout the season with the slow moving, going nowhere episodes is all forgiven and forgotten - this one makes up for all of it. I have seen it twice now and will probably watch it a 3rd time - I want to write down Don's speech when he talks about wanting to "work" and build a business for himself. Words to live by!

  6. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), November 11, 2009 at 5:29 p.m.

    That episode was fantastic. I love the range of emotions. The crying at the divorce scene, the cringing when Don almost hits Betty, and the energy in the start up.

    I love that these people are finally showing fire and passion for this business, even though they had to be pushed to the brink by the Brits to make it happen, they all really want to do this. Until now, only the junior people at SC tried to show passion, and were shot down by disengaged management. Having a team on board is inspiring (I'm glad I left the agency politics business and stayed in the agency business).

    If you're looking for a cultural parallel, late 1963 was weeks before the Beatles first appeared in the U.S. I predict next season will start with the Pierre 8 in black suits and mop tops.

    I can't wait until August. And I'm going to miss Dorothy's blog.

  7. Ej Meany from IPC, November 11, 2009 at 5:34 p.m.

    Love, love, love this blog, Dorothy. Thank you! I can't wait til next season.

  8. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, November 11, 2009 at 5:38 p.m.

    Exhilarating episode, capping the best season yet, which is really saying something. Ms. Considine is correct; Don is referencing citizen/consumer perception in the wake of the JFK murder -- remember the week prior, Peggy is in the office working on the day of national mourning to re-imagine the TV spot that had inadvertently been storyboarded in a way similar to the president's motorcade?

    Perhaps it's just a false promise of a new start -- "The Sopranos" had those, too -- but it really feels like the series is going to take off in a new, more hopeful direction, and that Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce could be among the new wave of creative agencies that ruled in the 1960s. I'd love to see it.

  9. Austin Gray from Contractor, November 11, 2009 at 5:51 p.m.

    Fantastic blog. The whole episode was so layered and the acting was full of depth. I loved the bit at the end with Roger asking Peggy to bring him some coffee and her quick retort of "no." A new day will finally dawn for Mad Men.

  10. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., November 11, 2009 at 6:40 p.m.

    Another brilliant analysis, Dot. I re-watched the "Wee Wee Hours" episode today-- the one where Connie calls Don over after midnight for a drink and says that Don's "like a son." What are they drinking? Some rockgut/moonshine prohibition liquor Connie has saved. Don blanches when he drinks it, just as the 10-year old Don did right before his pa got kicked by a horse into the afterlife . This show has more layers than an onion bundled for winter.

  11. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, November 11, 2009 at 7:10 p.m.

    Another great season, and more great Madblog to add perspective to some world-class writing and acting. I'm very impressed that you mentioned that Scali McCabe, WRG and other agencies were founded this way. Jumping ship with your accounts dates back to the beginning of the advertising industry, and is part of the mythology of a business that has lost most of the glamour, intrigue and fun it had then.

    Thanks for nailing the details.

  12. Dr. Gilda from RedHead Media, Inc., November 11, 2009 at 7:43 p.m.

    Thank you, Dorothy, for your right-on analysis for each episode. You've taught me alot about the history of the ad biz. I'll also miss everyone's comments. Pity we have to wait until August for the next season.

  13. Elizabeth Mayberry from Emmaco Inc., November 11, 2009 at 8:17 p.m.

    I have looked forward to Dorothy's recap every week and laugh with everyone's comments. Loved Patrick Scullen's line "..his pa got kicked by a horse into the afterlife".
    Now that the show is in hiatus, what WILL I do until August?

  14. Seth Shapiro from New Amsterdam Media LLC, November 11, 2009 at 8:25 p.m.

    Agree- the country lost Kennedy, and Don/Peggy's audience ("the people who buy things") lost their innocence. You can argue that the 60s began on Nov 22 '63 and ended with Watergate. In fact the Beatles arrived at Shea 3 or 4 months after the where this season left off - will be fun to see what Don makes of that.

  15. Amy Schulz from Wendt Integrated Communications, November 11, 2009 at 11:16 p.m.

    Ah, Dorothy, a million thank yous for another fabulous season of commentary. I don't know how I'll make it until August. The season finale was simply spectacular...such a culmination of where these characters have been and where they have the potential to go. Fabulous moments throughout...the realization that the Brit could just fire them and get them out of their contracts! The look on Paul's face when he opened Peggy's door and realized they had chosen her over him! Pete extending his hand and saying "I'm not really sick"! Joan answering the new agency's phone for the first time, and finding it was just Harry who forgot the room number! I love Matthew Weiner.

  16. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, November 11, 2009 at 11:31 p.m.

    On the work front, this was snappy and fun -- good guys outfoxing the bad guys, favorite characters reunited, old grievances resolved, the stage set for an exciting new adventure. Harry will have to go, of course (thick as a brick, plus Joan dusted him in her brief stint in TV), and Sal will come on board. I'd even like to see the smooth Brit who lost his foot to Sterling Cooper make another appearance. Interesting that Trudy is the only wife in the picture -- she's developing an attractive edge and is a real asset to Pete. If she had anything to do with bringing Clearasil into the SCDP fold (wasn't that her father's business?), maybe she'll get a taste for the ad game and find her own place at the new agency.

    On the people front, I found myself thinking about the underrated virtue of humility. In Don's case, it was his road to deliverance. Now he's clean and resolved, sees his place in the world, and can finally accept and appreciate all those people in his life who've now confronted him as equals.

    I was also struck by the lessons Don got from his two fathers -- the lesson from Whitman that no man is an island and there's strength in numbers, and the lesson from Hilton that you own and shape your own life and can't blame others for your failures. Now that we've literally seen the last of Whitman pere, maybe Don will be free of him, too. Still lots to learn from Connie, though, and I can't wait to see him again.

    I still don't know about Betty and Henry. He reads true to me so far, but there are some compelling reasons not to rush into remarriage (Betty needs to grow up and learn some independence, Sally and Bobby need to adjust to the upheaval in their lives, Betty and Henry need to get to know each other, Henry and the older children need to get to know each other). BTW, was he the "old man" next to Betty on the plane? If yes, they're already looking like Mr. and Mrs. Married Couple.

    Last season I constantly vented my resentment against Betty's treatment of her kids, so won't do it again here. But somebody needs to put them first.

    Thanks, Ms. Parker, for the pleasures of your weekly column and the comments it draws from others. One day you'll have to reveal who you really are and give us the story of how you came to create Mad Blog. Till August (or whenever the hiatus is over) . . .

  17. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings, November 12, 2009 at 12:08 a.m.

    Don and Roger back together, Joan and Roger and Don back together, plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.

  18. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings, November 12, 2009 at 12:09 a.m.

    Dorothy, thanks so much for another great season of Mad Blog. Do you know or care to predict whether January Jones returns?

  19. Royelen lee Boykie from Mad Men Musings, November 12, 2009 at 12:21 a.m.

    Wasn't it the first episode that Don heard the research on the death wish theory?

    Isn't it interesting that Don had a flash back to a community breaking apart and which ended in his father's death but he decided to break his community apart anyway?

    Don's death wish is often present, drunk driving, picking up strangers, going off with strangers, dishonoring the family. Will he survive to season 4?

  20. Lawrence Greenberg from Greenberg Media, Inc., November 12, 2009 at 9:48 a.m.

    Excellent recap, Dorothy. Actually surprised by how upbeat the season episode turned out to be given Episode 12 and the pending divorce of Betts and Don. It positions the series to refresh itself for Season 4. It'll be interesting to see if all of the secondary characters -- Kenny Cosgrove, Paul Kinsey, etc. -- are brought back.

  21. Dr. Gilda from RedHead Media, Inc., November 12, 2009 at 9:57 a.m.

    Ahhh, yes, the Draper children. The cold and dismissive parenting they're getting can only mean dysfunction soon. As their parents play out their own self-involved dramas, the kids are practically left to fend for themselves. Now that Grandpa Gene's gone, Sally is missing that loving adult connection, but her brother never even had that. I wonder if this aspect of the storyline will be explored in the future. Kids don't react well to the changing of their guard. Once the kids begin to act out, Betty's new Lothario may decide to pack in the fantasy of happily-ever-after with this group. And we'll all watch how fleeting love can be! Dependent Betty may then choose to return to Don's (financial) nest--if its feathers are still intact. How can we wait 'til August???

  22. Beth Braxton from UNC-Chapel Hill, November 12, 2009 at 1:36 p.m.

    Our generational attitudes are definitely seen in our responses. Encouraging Betty to basically find herself and to put her children first actually seems Gen Y/Gen X. Remember the episode with Sally in the drycleaning bag and Betty was more concerned about her clothes on the floor? Or the kids in the car - no seat belts, going from the front to the back? Our safety precautions, Children On Board and everyone getting a trophy absolutely wasn't the norm in the 60s. Can you imagine having a dinner party today and having your 8-year-old mix the drink? It was more common back then. Kids were to be seen - not heard.

    Betty building a "lifeboat" as Don puts it was probably very typical of the times. Betty being divorced would change her entire life. She'd lose her friends, her lifestyle. She's just found someone else. She wants to be taken care of - love isn't the important factor in the equation. Acceptability is.

    And yes, it was Henry asleep beside her on the plane.

    I think Don loves his children very much and is actually the more attentive parent. He's definitely the more emotionally demonstrative one towards them - hugging them, picking them up, kissing them on the cheek. Betty is completely disengaged with the older kids and far more attentive to Gene - since all he does is sit and she doesn't have to worry about him asking for anything but food or a diaper change.

  23. Maddy Mud from McMarketing, November 12, 2009 at 1:40 p.m.

    I hope they pick up in 1968 ... that would be amazing to see everyone in ad culture thinking they're in hippy culture ...

  24. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV, November 12, 2009 at 5:53 p.m.

    I thought Henry was awake on the plane reading...maybe an English translation of Kraft-Ebbing.

  25. Laura Haessler from University of Denver, November 12, 2009 at 7:09 p.m.

    CALLING ALL MAD BLOGSTERS OUT THERE! As a student at the University of Denver, I am conducting research into the representation of the advertising industry as it is portrayed in mass media. If you would like to help me out, please take a moment to take a very short, completely anonymous, survey located here:

    Thank you all for your time and, to Dorothy and those who regularly contribute to the Mad Blog, “Brava, Bravo!” for a great season three.

  26. Michael Redd from Kennesaw State University, November 15, 2009 at 8:03 p.m.

    This series is a cultural icon - staying true to the tenor of the times without going all sappy on us. The last two episodes saw the type of growth in characters you do not normally get in episodic drama. Congrats to Matthew Weiner and AMC for no hokey hooks to get us to Season 4.

    I may take the time to watch from the beginnning again. Also, thanks to you Dorothy for the insightful analysis. As an aside, is there an archive of your past blogs?

    See everyone in August!

  27. Tommy Hollis from GAM.TV, November 16, 2009 at 8:48 a.m.

    January Jones was on SNL.
    They didn't quite know what to do with her.
    It probably was their worst show since 1982.
    It is hard to do an hour and a half without having one line or bit to smile at.
    It was so bad they had the musical guests do three songs and the opening of some Joe Biden imitation ran at least six minutes...which was kinda funny as it was Joe Biden they were satirizing.
    Best lines from the last Mad Men episode:
    "Did you wash your hand?"
    "We've been robbed."

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