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Mad Men: The Fog - Review

"Are you planning to give the baby the breast?" Betty's nurse.

This episode had it all and much more; intrigue, funny one-liners, babies, hallucinations and late night cooking. Mad Men showed us the last few weeks that it can funny amidst all the turmoil and drama but this week showed it us something else. Motivated action!

Not the usual kind of action mind you but the kind where everyone has a goal and is pursuing it relentlessly. There wasn't a lot of characters staring off into space and lamenting what could've been in this episode. Although Don always gets to do that for at least part of the episode.

"The Fog" is one of those surreal Mad Men episodes that will no doubt go down as one of the series best. Despite the fact that everyone's favorite office manager Joan only made a token non-speaking appearance. But we did see what became of good old Herman "Duck" Phillips, Betty had the baby and some wild Demerol induced hallucinations resulting in the reappearance of daddy Gene, Peggy realizing this might "be her time" and Don scoping out his next conquest. But I was wondering how Sally is taking the death of grandpa Gene. Stay tuned as there is lots to go over in this "action packed" episode! And congrats to Mad Men for picking up it's first Emmy of the season yesterday, winning for Outstanding Hairstyling. There will be many more next week I'm sure.

On to this weeks recap and review . . .

After last weeks tragedy, Don and Betty are called in for a meeting with Sally's teacher. Little Sally is acting out at school by picking a fight with the largest girl in school, "a bruiser" as Betty calls her. They won't win any parents of the year awards as they didn't notify the school or even let Sally miss any time. Undoubtedly curious about death, Sally is asking her teacher questions about Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers recent murder which causes the other child in the room (Betty) to get all flustered and upset. Betty excuses herself to the bathroom which leaves Don alone with the hot young teacher which is never a good idea. Hot teacher Suzanne wastes no time as she immediately starts empathizing with Don. Cue the "It's going to be a beautiful summer" line.

Don is late getting back to Sterling Cooper where Lane is literally nickel and dime-ing creative for pencils, paper, postage and 38 cent tips. Obviously Lane is getting pressure from the home office back in jolly old London about Sterling Cooper's free-wheeling spending ways. Didn't they just get that one million Jai Alai account? Don barely gets the chair warm as he promptly walks out before Lane is finished lecturing.

Kinsey waxes on about Marxism as Pete complains about his lackluster accounts. It seems that Admiral TV's business is flat and after some paper shuffling and Kinsey's jazz theory he realizes that black people must be buying all those TV's in select markets. The good ole boys club is interrupted by the news that Lois got her scarf caught in the copier. "Not a care in the world" Ken Cosgrove pops in and invites Kinsey to the Mets game and brags about his Bird's Eye frozen food watch. Umm, ok.

Don is still working on the London Fog account as Lane comes in to speak to him about the waste portion he missed by walking out. "Pennys make pounds and Pounds make profit" he opines as a frustrated and emotional Don makes his case on how the business works. He busts out "The Bridge on the River Kwai" defense in regards to morale and shuts up Lane for now.

Pete gets a call from who he believes is his Uncle Herman when in fact it's the long lost Duck Phillips. Duck's first name is Herman (no wonder he goes by Duck) and we are treated to a classically funny and confusing Pete conversation. Seems like Duck landed on his two web feet at a rival ad agency. Sitting in his duck decorated office, Duck pressures Pete in meeting him for lunch in typical "cloak and dagger" fashion.

Don gets home just as the phone is ringing and guess who it is? That's right it's Sally's drunk, oh so-ready for action and hot teacher Suzanne Farrell who offers her help to him. But before Don can answer and get himself into trouble Betty comes down the stairs and says it time to give birth! Saved by the baby. Don is ushered off to the waiting room and as Betty goes down the hall she sees her father Gene mopping the floor. Or did she? Even though she is in labor the nurse asks Betty to fill out paperwork (why don't they ask Don to do it?) and not so surprisingly she can't do it. Betty goes into the delivery room to be "shaved and given a low enema" and is treated to screams coming from next door.

Don is in the waiting room with the other expectant fathers when a sarcastic nurse (played by the voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith) comes in and upsets another guy waiting for news. Dennis is the other father-to-be and a prison guard and he smartly packed a bottle of Johnnie Walker for the wait and offers some to Don. They bond as manly men do. Or do they? Don and Dennis are having a conversation about prison as subtle hints are dropped that he might not be actually having this conversation at all. Dennis represents the prison that has become Don's perceived life and it's kind of a surprise that his subconscious likes him that much. The Don dreams continue as he eyes a sixteen year old candy striper and he listens to Dennis' fears about his wife which is really Don's fears about Betty. Almost presciently Dennis hears the news that his wife has a baby boy, wonders aloud if he deserves it, tries to convince Don he's an honest guy and promises to be a better man. Talk about a guilty conscience! Later on we see Dennis wheeling his wife down the hallway and as he and Don make eye contact it's obvious they are complete strangers instead of the friends that Don had believed they had become. Don is very surprised about this especially after the deep and meaningful discussion he had with him. Looks like he was lecturing himself.

Betty is getting some Demerol and is informed that her doctor won't be there as he's celebrating his anniversary. The drugs kick in very quickly and as she throws a tantrum she begins to hallucinate back to her childhood of hearing school work and squashing bugs all set against an idyllic green screen back drop. In the delivery room Betty is fighting mad and struggles with the nurse. She calls out for Don to no avail and accuses the old nurse of "being" with him. More Demerol is clearly the answer. In a lot of pain Betty nearly gives up but instead she passes out and has a hallucination of her going home and seeing her daddy cleaning the floor with a bloody mop. Gene hints that she might be dying but defers the answer to her long deceased mother Ruth who is tending to the recently shot Medgar Evers who says "you see what happens to people when they speak up?" Downright freaky. Betty wakes up with her baby in her arms and to Don's smiling face. She thinks it's a girl but Don tells her it's a boy and of course she wants to name him Eugene after her Alzheimer's afflicted and bloody mopper dad, to Don's apparent disappointment. She names him Eugene behind his back anyway.

Upon returning to Sterling Cooper, Don's office is filled with baby gifts when Roger calls him instead of walking the 20 feet down the hall. I guess the sundae he's eating is too good to leave as he let's Don know that the office has ground to a halt in the half day he's been gone. Sounds like someone has got a big chip on his shoulder.

Meanwhile at the cloak and dagger lunch, Duck also invited Peggy which causes Pete to close down immediately. Peggy didn't know Pete was coming until she got there. Duck launches into his pitch not knowing about their past history. He thinks he does but gets it all wrong and pisses off Pete in the process. Duck heaps praise on her and put the idea into her head "that it's her time." On his way back to work Pete asks Hollis the elevator man all kinds of questions about this TV which makes Hollis not only anxious but very suspicious as well. In his own clueless way Pete is doing market research but this conversation is dripping with race relation subtext. Times are changing and in a few very short years Pete will understand Hollis' apprehension.

In a scene right out of a 50's style ad campaign Don and the kids stand out Betty's hospital window to wave at her. Later that night Don is cooking a midnight snack when Sally comes down to spend time with her father. Seems as though Sally's teacher has made quite an impression on her and quotes her several times to Don. She's way too young to realize that this is not a good idea at all.

Feeling invigorated, Pete pitches his newly realized research to the Admiral TV guys. His first mistake is that he's pitching creative and his second was he seriously underestimated the deep racism corporate America has against black people. Pete is the way he is because he was raised that way, he never gave it a second thought but ultimately he sees money as the great equalizer. People will spend it regardless of color. The Admiral guys totally freak out after the suggestion they advertise in Jet and Ebony. Pete is shocked!

Peggy brings Don a baby gift but really wants to talk about her future. She very calmly but forcefully tells Don that she wants a raise. She tells him about the new Federal law about equal pay for women and throws Kinsey under the bus. When Don says no she starts daydreaming out loud about how perfect Don's life is and that she wants what he has. Totally disheartened about Don's refusal she asks "What if this is my time?" Pete sees her leave Don's office all upset and confronts her about telling Don about the Duck meeting. They tussle but Peggy stands her ground and tells him to mind his own business. I'm sure this will force Pete to go to either Don or Lane later on and ask for him being sole head of accounts. Little does he realize he's about to get into trouble.

Pete is called into Bert Cooper's office where Lane and Roger are all waiting to rip him a new one. Roger goes off on a very confused Pete by reminding him that "half the time the business comes down to 'I don't like that guy!'" and that he'll have to do many hand jobs to make this right. Lane brings it back to dollars and cents and wonders if the up to now neglected "Negro" market is worth going after. After all the British are more tolerant of other people aren't they?

The episode ends when Don brings Betty home where her friend Francine is waiting to help out in tight yellow pants. The kids all see their little brother Gene for the first time and Sally gives Betty flowers. Betty utters the name of the episode by saying "It was all a fog" and later that night she is woken up to loud crying. As Betty sits on the bed pondering what happened to her life the show cuts to black with the strains of the beautiful Alberto Iglesias song "Me Voy A Morir De Tanto Amor" playing over the credits.

Random Thoughts . . .

I would have liked to see Sally dealing with grandpa's death. Kiernan Shipka has shown without a doubt that she can handle intense dramatic scenes. Maybe it's just me but I would have liked to see her shove "the bruiser" Becky Pearson's face into the water fountain. She seemed way too happy and back to her old precocious self so soon. Are you with me?

You watch, Suzanne Farrell is going to offer to give Sally "private tutoring" and while she's at it she'll give Don some private lessons as well. Could she be more obvious?

Having Lane nickel and dime the agency to death only sets up the bound-to-happen soul crushing that is likely to happen in the season finale.

Pete's naive and insulated mind is very funny. It may turn out that he will have the most open mind of them all. All it takes is for that dimmer switch to go off in his head and there will be no stopping him.

While Betty's hallucinations was more obvious (and creepy) Don's was much more subtle. Both worked in a big way. Too bad these two can't just communicate with each other. I realized Don was dreaming almost instantly, so either I'm that good or the writers have went to that well much too often. Most likely the last one.

Speaking of Betty's hallucinations. She saw her father mopping the floor before she received her Demerol, could it be that she took some drugs before she left the house? Maybe it was that opulent lunch she had of toast, cottage cheese, pineapple and Lifesavers that made her see things. The last one she was extremely disturbing though. At least Don's was slightly affirming. Boy, is she messed up. You also gotta believe she almost died in childbirth especially when the nurse came to Dennis with news of her bleeding excessively. She was talking about Betty!

Great to see Duck Phillips again as the mystery of what happened was slightly revealed. He went on to have a very sparsely decorated office (except those ducks on the wall) at another agency and is now in a position to recruit people he knows. I'm sure we won't see the last of him. He looks pretty good these days.

We FINALLY got to see some Pete and Peggy interaction. Maybe we'll see something come of it. The way it's going that might not happen until next year.

I like how Peggy stuck up for herself so eloquently, although she did wake up Don which leads me to believe that he may have dreamed it as well. Especially after she uncharacteristically showed a little envy of his situation in her creepy voice. Is it possible that she just dropped off the present and left while he was sleeping?

Not nearly enough Joan or Roger for that matter. Enough said.

Best Exchange:

Roger: "Let me put it into account terms. Are you aware of the number of hand jobs I'm gonna have to give?"
Pete: "Am I being taken off the account?"
Roger: "I'm gonna have to pretend I had you killed!"
Pete: "Sales are flat. I had to do something."
Roger: "I don't know if anyone's ever told that half the time this business comes down to 'I don't like that guy'."
Lane: "Are we done with the flogging?"
Roger: "It's never as good as you think it's gonna be."

Next Best Exchange:
Pete: "Uncle Herman? My goodness, is Aunt Alice alright?"
Duck: "Who is this?"
Pete: "It's Peter. Donnie's boy, you called me?"
Duck: "It's Duck. Duck Phillips."
Pete: "Duck?"
Duck: "Sorry for the cloak and dagger, I didn't want to set off any alarm bells. My name is Herman, you know that."
Pete: Except that I actually have an Uncle Herman and he's 91."

Best Lines:
"You have little veins. Breathe and think about the beauty parlor." - Nurse to Betty.

"You'll be okay. You're a house cat, you're very important and you have little to do." - Imaginary Gene.

"You see what happens to people when they speak up?"
- Imaginary Ruth.

"A lot of Negroes prefer Admiral. I've done research." - Pete to Hollis.

"Do you think I'm a bigot?" - Pete to Hollis.

Overall, I give this episode a very solid 4.9 Lucky Strikes out of 5 simply because Joan was only on screen for 10 seconds and didn't even speak. Seriously though, this was an outstanding episode and I firmly believe that it will become an instant classic in the shows run. You can't beat a killer combination of witty dialogue, freaky scenes, Pete humor and some Don temptation. Right?

Has there ever been a show that could pull off such creepy scenes when it goes into flashback mode or in this case hallucinogenic mode? It's staged like a Kubrick film that lends itself to being creepy at any given moment. Very cool.

Feel free to leave some comments and thoughts about this wonderful episode and in the meantime enjoy this sneak preview of next weeks episode when the team has their holiday cancelled because of a visit from the chairman of Putnam, Powell and Lowe. I wonder if it's gonna be a woman . . . That would be interesting. Enjoy!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's episode: "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" - Sterling Cooper receives a surprise visit from the head London honcho and the guys at Sterling Cooper are freaked out. Something is spooking Sally, could it be Gene? Joan gets some unexpected news. She better not be pregnant!

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on September 13, 2009 11:50 PM
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