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'Mad Men': The boxes that bind


Attention, couples: If one of you has a secret drawer, sooner or later, your partner will break into it. Or at the very least, they will fantasize about breaking into it. We all have secrets and should probably be allowed some secrets, but when they are locked away in a tangible location and are printed on papers with fancy, serious words like decree and deed, well, that’s just asking for trouble. At least keep all that incriminating evidence in a security box at the bank, Don!

If only another TV creation, Tony Soprano, could step in and show this guy how it’s done. Then again, that box in the backyard didn’t work out so great for him either.

When we heard that first metal scrape inside the dryer, there wasn’t anyone who thought, “Ooh, wonder if it’s a silver dollar!” No, we all said, “Uh-oh, Don’s in trouble.” Though Don’s drawer represents many of his most pervasive deceptions, they still have the patina of distance, unlike his affair with Suzanne, which the writers are desperately trying to imbue with a sense of magic.

Speaking of the writers, for those keeping track of  “Mad Men” internal affairs, Episode 10, “The Color Blue,” was penned by creator Matt Weiner and Kater Gordon, Weiner’s former assistant who made a meteoric rise to Emmy-winning scribe, only to be sacked recently amid juicy rumors.

“The Color Blue” felt awkward – it had neither the dreamy elegance of some of the earlier episodes of the season nor the exuberant plot machinations of the infamous lawn mower episode. It clunked along, tossing pleasant enough scenes our way, but it felt like appetizers when all we want this far along in the season is a hearty meal.
Nevertheless, let’s break it down, shall we? We met Suzanne’s brother this week – was anyone excited about that? An epileptic, Danny floats into her world ostensibly looking for a job, but it turns out a wad of money will do the trick. Don’s care and generosity toward Danny is supposed to show how fused he is with Suzanne at this point, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of why this affair is particularly special. We’ve seen the pillow talk and the kissing and the mutual tender touching of cheeks, but it remains flat and unconvincing. Suzanne, as a person, is simply dull – she doesn’t even have cool bongo-playing beatnik friends like Midge or a serious fantasia of hats to call upon like the department store heiress Rachel.

In Betty’s corner, things aren’t looking so great. No matter how low she might’ve plunged in that bath with her copy of Mary McCarthy’s “The Group,” nothing can take away her boredom, the nagging questions that must’ve been rattling around somewhere in her head. Is Don really working so hard? What am I supposed to do with all this time?

After Sally answered the phone and it was a hang-up, Betty phoned Henry Francis and asked him if he was the phone phantom in the night. Rather ungenerously, he reamed her for playing games. Betty tried to save face by getting off the line quickly, but we all felt flushed for her. An idle mind will do lots of things to preoccupy itself.

As Betty pawed through the contents of Don’s drawer, her face was stricken. She told Carla to keep the kids busy till dinner while she wrapped her mind around it all. Her first strategy was to confront Don when he got home, but as the hours waned, another strategy kicked in. Betty put away the box and performed as trophy wife for the 40th anniversary party of Sterling-Cooper, but obviously this won’t be the last we see or hear of that loaded box, to say nothing of the stacks of crisp cash. You can buy a lot of room-killing fainting couches with that dough.

In the Sterling-Cooper world, Cooper got depressed about the passing of time while Roger bitterly dug at his wayward protégé. He found Don working at a fur company and doing night school, he haughtily remarked over a dragon-like exhale. Lane Pryce comforted his stodgy British wife who can’t get a handle on America’s tricky cab system, not to mention the lack of stratified class.

Peggy and Paul shared a moment built around the vagaries of the creative process and a man named Achilles. A fine, minor scene but nothing to get too excited about.

And finally, one last thing: Hi, Lois! Nice to have you back. I’ve missed your daffy presence. Don’t sever anyone else’s dorsalis pedis artery, OK?

--Margaret Wappler

Photo: Carin Baer. Betty and Don, a dashing couple with secrets to hide.

Comments () | Archives (8)

Wonderful episode. Right up there with "Seven Twenty Three" and "Guy..." as the best episodes of the season.

I loved the tautness of this one. I know Weiner has said Hitchcock has been a great influence on the mysterious structure of the show, and this episode played that influence to the hilt. The suspense was there from the get-go and never let up.

I'm surprisingly interested in Suzanne. Sure, she may end up being nut in the disguise of a free-wheeling intellect. I hope there is more to her than that.

Loved the Paul/Peggy subplot. He saw that it wasn't Peggy's gender that got her the job. She's just that good. Better than him. I wonder if a bruised ego will lead Paul to changing his profession. Someone has to leave Sterling/Cooper for good. It's time.

Can't wait for next week.

Great insightful recap!!!! I'm with you on the affair - just not believable. Betty is way more interesting and layered than Teacher. What happened to Don who just wants sex? Are we to believe he wants another wife? Yikes!

Loved the repeated line from the creatives, "I hate when that happens," so fun.

Also, love the funny little things Betty says to her daughter, the telephone answering conversation was so true of that time.

Kudos to wardrobe and hair for the last two formal Betty looks - the best period styling ever on TV!

And from one Danish modern afficionado to the prop people - Way Yay!!!

Miss Farrell has been perplexing to me. I get the feeling that maybe she wants to be more than Don’s usual girl. She wants Don to meet her brother, she calls him (I thought she was the one who hung up), and shows up on the train just to talk to him. I don’t think she knows exactly what she wants, but she’s pushing Don who is reciprocating.

Don is taking plenty of risk, but he looks around on the train the make sure no one recognizes. After being with all these other women that have not been that attentive to him, maybe Don is willing to take chances and step outside his comfort level. And with everything going on at work, it’s possible is reaching the point where he doesn’t care anymore and with Betty’s revelation looming, there is bound to be lots of bad things happening. Full review of the episode.


The episode wasn't pitch-perfect, but the scenes with Betty and box were devastating. Don's past is going to catch up wit him, pretty quick.
Love this show, passionately!

The affair with Suzanne represents the road not taken. I think it is Dick Whitman who is sleeping with her rather than Don. Suzanne's brother is so reminiscent of Adam that Don seizes an opportunity to finally do right by him. By all outward appearances Don Draper's life is far preferable to any one Dick Whitman could have aspired to. Still, when he walked away from Dick, Don also walked away from his brother and anyone else who may have truly loved him. As of late, he has been considering/reconsidering all that he left behind. Of course, when he is confronted by the reality of the choices he has made and the cracks starting to show in the veneer of perfection he has so carefully cultivated, he seeks refuge in sex.

As with each season of "Mad Men," the closer it gets to the finale, the more exciting the episodes become. This episode was no exception.

I'm particularly enjoying Don's descent into a unique state of "madness." The writers have subtly manuevered him into a position in which his identity as Dick Whitman is not only coming to the surface in terms of being exposed, but coming to the surface in his own mind. The scene on the train with Suzanne is one great example. It was parallel to the scene in season 2 in which he gets on the train as "Don," but is indentified by another man as "Dick." In both scenes Don is uncomfortable with being exposed, both literally and metaphorically.

The subplot involving Peggy and Kinsey was fun. It was ironic that Kinsey -- a self-professed liberal -- played the "gender" card with Peggy. He's just as prejudiced as those he seems to detest. Yet, Peggy proves to him why she's so brilliant at what she does by thinking on her feet when Kinsey comes up with nothing during their meeting with Don about the Western Union account. What makes Peggy so special here, though, and what seems to endear her to Kinsey, is how humble she is about it; she gives as much credit to Kinsey for his Chinese proverb as she receives for herself. Despite Peggy's forays into sin, she is at heart a selfless girl who wants to treat everyone right.

Great episode in what has been an exceptional season.

I love this show and really enjoy the comments you guys make.

Hows about that Kinsey having a little bit of "me time" at the office?!


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