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Mad Men Fodder

Mad Men: Out of Town - Review

Tonight's triumphant return of Mad Men nearly picks up right where it left off. Right off the bat there are a number of interesting and compelling plot points that may propel this season as the best yet. Seriously. Creator Matthew Weiner has said this season is all about change and man he wasn't kidding.

I was extremely surprised by some of the developments and how the characters handled them. So, with my Lucky Strikes in one hand and a Dewar's Scotch in the other I dug in and at times couldn't believe what I was seeing. A lot happened so . . . on to the review and recap!

Unlike the 2nd season premiere, the season 3 premiere called "Out of Town" did not have a huge time jump. Sure some things happened previously off screen and if I had to guess I would say it was 3-4 months later given the nature of Betty's pregnancy. And there's the matter of the British Invasion! No, not that one. But first things first.

As the episode opens we see the circumstances of Dick Whitman's (aka Don Draper's) birth. Don's in flashback mode as he tries to make some warm milk in the middle of the night. Then the first bomb drops. Turns out Don is the bastard son of a prostitute who died in childbirth. It's also revealed that his father got the prostitute pregnant and after he was born the midwife spilled the beans to the wife when she dropped off the baby to him. After many failed attempts Don's dad couldn't get his wife pregnant and this is why Don's childhood was so hellish. In one line it's clear that his father is not a good person. There was some humor as the prostitute threatens to cut off the d*ick of Don's dad if he got her in "trouble". This is how Don got the name Dick. Nicely done.

We find out that the milk is for none other than a pregnant and sleepless Betty. Yes, the second bomb has dropped. All appears to be good between Don and Betty and they even seem happy. In pregnancy she has reverted back to childlike form. Betty tells Don that she packed a bag for his business trip but he'll have to repack it due to Sally breaking the clasp she blithely tells him that Sally "is taking to your tools like a little lesbian". Gotta love those Bettyisms.

This episode showcased Don's silver tongue as throughout we are treated to his active imagination and way with words that make him the best head of creative out there. In his attempt to calm Betty he starts painting a mental picture of the beach and she comments that he's good at that. You betcha he is as we again see later on.

So what's happening at the new Sterling Cooper? During the small lapse of time there were big layoffs. Duck Phillips seems to be gone as Burt Peterson is the head of accounts, Peggy has settled into her new office and position and even has her own "girl", Roger is enjoying spending all his new money and the gang of Pete, Ken, Harry and Kinsey are all waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And there are new additions as the British Invasion consists of one powerful representative of Putnam, Powell and Lowe and his secretary, um I mean "right hand man". While head man Lane Pryce took over Duck's office John is left roaming the halls of Sterling Cooper hitting on all the secretaries with no home. Lane calls Don and Roger into Bert Cooper's office so they can fire the other Burt as head of accounts citing that he is just following orders. Burt then shows why it's never a good idea to fire someone any other time than Friday afternoon. Those statistics must not have been available in the early sixties. As Burt storms through the office and calls John a "limey vulture" Joan sashays down the hall. Yes, Joanie is looking as voluptuous as ever in her bright red dress. John takes the opportunity to complain about how he is addressed at the firm and gets mighty defensive about not be labeled as a secretary. Joan plays him like a virtuoso and it is very unlikely that John is accustomed to women like Joan back home. She would devour and spit out all those British birds.

Meanwhile, Lane calls Pete into his office and after a very funny and awkward exchange he tells Pete he's been promoted to head of accounts. This makes Pete very happy and who's the first person he tells? Peggy? No, he calls his wife with the good news. So, one of the bombs from last years finale isn't even addressed as of yet. In fact, Pete and Peggy don't have any screen time this episode but later on when he hears her name he gets very defensive. Nothing like some more tension between them, right?

Lane shows his true colors when he calls in Ken and after a polar opposite conversation from Pete's he informs him that he's been promoted to head of accounts. Very devious. The writers waste no time in ratcheting up the discord between Pete and Ken. Everything comes way too easily for Ken Cosgrove but after this I'm sure we'll see another side of him.

Don and Sal are flying to Baltimore to meet with London Fog and Sal gets to see what kind of life Don lives. Don gets picked up on the plane by the stewardess and when she mistakes his identity for his brother-in-law (because he left his name on the bag when he borrowed it from Don) Sal sees how good a liar Don actually is. Don makes up a whole identity for Sal and says they are accountants. Shelly the stewardess invites them out to dinner and even though Don resists at first, she won't take no for an answer. Now that's what I call full service. I want to fly on a plane like that.

At dinner with two stewardesses and the pilot, Don keeps spinning the tale and even leaves them thinking they are G-Men accountants investigating Jimmy Hoffa. Wow, who knew accounting could be sexy? Shelly fakes drunkenness with Don but when she tells him she's engaged and shouldn't have sex with him, Don pulls out the old "it's my birthday" line which hooks the irritating accented Shelly. So much for Don being happy and satisfied with Betty. Back in the hotel room Don has her strip and just as they're about to do it the fire alarm goes off and taking charge Don throws her clothes at her and they head down the fire escape.

Problem is that earlier, Sal who returned to his room alone calls down because the air conditioner is broken he gets visited by the bell boy with amazing "Gaydar" and after he repairs it he literally jumps Sal's bones (pun intended). While they're making out like crazy and the bell boy puts his hand down Sal's pants the dreaded fire alarm goes off. As Don is going down the fire escape he yells for Sal to get out. Don then sees Sal and the bell boy getting dressed and the two lock eyes. Dum, dum, dum. Don has a shocked look on his face and you can almost see him wondering if Sal has ever had a crush on him. If Sal has to get outed by one guy he's lucky it's secret master Don. At the meeting and on the ride home Sal is waiting for Don to humiliate him in some way but that never happens. Instead Don comes up with a brilliant London Fog ad while half asleep, again proving that Don Is. The. Man. Of course, this can't be good for Sal's career at the office and I'm sure we'll see that later on in the season.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Pete gets the devastating news (from his girl Lola Hilde no less) that he is the co-head of accounts with Ken and that Lane is splitting the client list right down the middle. This enrages Pete and we get to see whiny Pete the rest of episode as well as some of those patented dead stares he does. Ken in his easygoing way thinks of this as a wonderful opportunity and is totally positive which pisses Pete off even more. I'm sure that now since the clients have been split down the middle the next logical step is to see who gets custody of Harry and Kinsey.

Joan flexes her ample office manager muscles and gives Burt's just vacated office to Mr. Hooker and feeds him some reasons on why this is a good idea. She had me convinced too. Later when John tells Lane the reason he's got an office now, he repeats Joan's lines verbatim. Lane scolds him for being insensitive and it's apparent that he's in way over his head. I'm sure that when he calls out Joan on this she'll set him straight.

Don's got a renewed work ethic and as soon as they land they head back to the office where he hears about the Pete/Ken experiment. Roger brings Don some Stoli and cigars and Pete rushes in to commiserate with Don on this bad idea. Bert comes in and it appears he is now regretting their sellout.

The episode closes when Don returns home and Sally apologizes for breaking the clasp on her daddy's suitcase and we get to see how good a father Don really is. Sally asks about her birth story and when Don starts telling it he starts to think of his own and his mind drifts away. Thus ends the opening episode of what is sure to be an amazing 3rd season of Mad Men. Brilliant.

Random Thoughts:

So what really happened to Duck Phillips? My guess is he was ousted after his meltdown in last years finale. Maybe Duck is in rehab? Or anger management classes in London. Talk about London Fog.

Was Betty so raked with guilt over her one-night stand that she took back Don to live in her perfect little dreamworld? Or is she just medicated?

Apparently there was some fallout over Peggy's reveal to Pete about his baby but it seems like that it just pushed him back into his wife's arms. Can't wait until they have to work together more. Fireworks will follow!

Speaking of Pete, why doesn't his wife have "baby fever" anymore? I did find the happy dance he did pretty funny. I don't like "pity party" Pete, I'd rather see confident weasly Pete.

It's clear that Joan can't wait to stop working when she gets married to the doctor rapist. But let's hope she grows a pair (not really) and takes over Sterling Cooper. God knows she would do a better job at it then Roger. Even it she is less funny.

Jared Harris
is a wonderful addition in his 10 episode arc this season. No one does prim and proper British while being uncomfortable better than him. No good will come out of him being at Sterling Cooper. Either he will be corrupted or he'll have a nervous breakdown, either way it will be very entertaining.

Even with all of the drama this was a very funny episode. In no particular order:
- The octopus painting in Bert's office and Lane's reaction to it. I want that painting.
- Don's rouse with the stewardess and telling her it's his birthday. Priceless.
- Roger coming in late to the firing meeting saying "It wasn't easy" and "I'm sure we'll regret it. Seriously" in classic Slattery style.
- Burt freaking out and destroying the office and Harry saying "I heard he's going in house at Nabisco" like nothing just happened.
- Pete's social awkwardness with Lane while Ken had a relaxing talk. So hilarious.
- Don's genuine surprise when Sal said he never saw a stewardess so "game" to have sex.
- Peggy trying to gossip with Joan. Peggy calling John "Money Penny" and Joan saying he's like a doorman.

Best Lines:
Burt had the two best ones when he said:
"You make me sick. You're the dying empire, we're the future!"
"Drop dead, you limey vulture!"

2nd Best Line:
Bert Cooper: "I don't care what they say. London Fog is a great name."

Runner Up:
Betty: "Carla said she saw Sally hitting it with a hammer. She's taking to your tools like a little lesbian."

Overall, I give this wonderfully written and incredibly well-acted opening episode 5 Lucky Strikes out of 5 for answering some question while asking more than a few new ones. Matthew Weiner is a graduate of the David Chase school of writing and like "The Sopranos" there are no clear cut answers or neatly tied up plot points.

I'm very excited to be running this new Mad Men Fodder blog and I invite all you Maddicts out there to let me know what you think and to feel free to start a discussion and leave some comments. We are in for an amazing time and it doesn't matter that there are only 13 episodes again this year as there will be lots happening and much debate. Check out this sneak peak at a scene from next week's episode. Enjoy and I'll see ya next week!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's episode: "Love Among the Ruins" - Things continue to heat up as Betty's father pays a visit; the firm contemplates whether to accede to an unusual request from a client; Roger takes charge of arranging a wedding; and Peggy's personal involvement in a campaign leaves her greatly affected.

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on August 16, 2009 8:33 PM
Permalink |

A couple corrections...we already knew (from season 1) that Dick's mother was a prostitute. He told Rachel Menken this the first time they slept together. And Lola is Peggy's secretary, not Pete's. Pete's secretary is Hilde.

-- Posted by: Brandy Sanders at August 17, 2009 2:54 AM

Oops, my fault. I meant that it was the first time we saw the circumstances of his birth and that his mother died giving birth. Gotta love the dick joke though.
I fixed the Lola/Hilde reference.
Thanks Brandy, I appreciate you reading!

-- Posted by: Janaki at August 17, 2009 3:38 AM

I think Matthew Weiner missed a dramatic opportunity when he omitted the part about what happened to Duck Phillips. Last season's finale ended with Don walking out of the meeting, declaring to Duck and the big shots that he did not have a contract.

Then the season opener begins without any reference to Don walking out and Duck's bad behavior? There was always tension between Don and Duck, and Weiner could have used that tension to begin season three. Too bad...

-- Posted by: Harry Lowe at August 17, 2009 4:29 PM

Good summary. Thanks for the reminders of what went on last season.

-- Posted by: Derek Sou at August 17, 2009 6:04 PM

Harry: I agree about the missed opportunity in regards to Duck. Something tells me we haven't seen the last of Duck Phillips. Maybe his absence will be explored in future episodes.

Perhaps they saw the episode as being too dark and sought to balance it with some humor. You have to admit that Roger coming in late and saying those buzzwords was pretty comical. It also allowed the Burt Peterson freak out. Classic.

Derek: Thanks for reading and for the compliment!

-- Posted by: Janaki at August 17, 2009 7:24 PM

Roger coming in late was the best, but did you catch the beginning of the tirade..when Bert said "you make me sick" and you could hear him in the background of the office yelling "son of a bitch" classic 60's LOL
-I thought when Don's daughter was taking out his clothes, she was going to pull that huge white bra out!...Back to the hotel

-- Posted by: Antonio Walker at August 18, 2009 12:28 AM

Good point on the bra but I thought Betty would get a little suspicious over the TWA pin. Don is back to being Don, just the way we like him.

Burt's tirade was great. "Drop dead, you limey vulture!"

-- Posted by: Janaki at August 18, 2009 2:26 PM

Funniest Hidden Insult: Don to Stewardess..."I keep traveling and finding myself in places I've already been"

-- Posted by: Anonymous at August 18, 2009 10:32 PM

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-- Posted by: DedoVioheds at September 29, 2010 7:48 PM

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-- Posted by: Creammerewoge at November 8, 2010 2:32 AM

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