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Mad Men: Wee Small Hours - Review

"But what about the moon?" Conrad Hilton to Don Draper.

Secret liaisons, unrequited love, miscommunication and filmmaking. These are the wonderful things that happened in the Mad Men universe, both in front of the camera and behind it.

In a day that brought the news of the unfortunate firing of an Emmy winning writer, Matthew Weiner & Co. has delivered another gem (read about the firing here). Lately I noticed that the episodes are doing lots of quick cuts as if to cram more and more info into an already bulging story line. Not that I'm complaining mind you but I find it a little odd and out of character for a show that thrives on the slow unfolding of major plot points.

"Wee Small Hours"
was chock full of new developments with some old ones coming full circle. Characters fall back into old routines as tensions have never been higher. Remember when Don used to be unfaithful? Check. How about Sal's homosexuality? Double check. Betty reverting to a childlike state? Big check! Mad Men thrives on putting it's characters into uncomfortable situations and we as the audience can only yell at the screen in a feeble attempt to keep them on the straight and narrow. It's voyeurism, plain and simple.

On to the review and recap . . .

The time is August 1963 and Martin Luther King Jr. just delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech and four African-American girls were killed in the infamous Birmingham church bombing. So what are the characters of Mad Men doing? Naturally, they are having wet dreams and scouring the night for sex. The episode opens with Betty having a wet dream featuring Henry Francis seducing her on the fainting couch when she is rudely awakened by the phone ringing in the dead of night. Crazy old Conrad Hilton had an epiphany about his hotels and decides to call Don about it. Little Gene starts crying as Connie waxes on in the middle of the night warped conversation about Hilton's being like missions and that he wants one on the moon and then hangs up. Don decides to go in to work and runs into the hot teacher Suzanne jogging down the street. As he gives her a ride (no, not that kind) they flirt some more and Don is intrigued but Suzanne is not making it easy for him. She gets out of the car and jogs home.

After working all night at the office on the Hilton campaign Don falls asleep on the couch and scares poor Allison in the morning by barking at her for some coffee. Betty obviously turned on by her wet dream decides to write a note to Henry asking if anybody else reads his mail. Peggy, Smitty and Kurt present Don with their terrible Hilton ideas and Don let's it rip. In a matter of moments he belittles all three and send them on their way to come up with some better ideas.

Sal is directing the new Lucky Strike commercial with client Lee Garner Jr. on set. Lee offers sneaky Pete a cigarette and as Pete nearly coughs up a lung from one drag Lee starts criticizing the commercial. He wants the guy to look directly into the camera which is against the campaign signed off by his father. He solicits Harry's opinion as Pete is still coughing up his lung and Harry typically shows no spine and agrees with him. Sal does it his way while Lee makes a sexual innuendo directed to a clueless Salvatore. Don returns home that evening looking for the hot teacher.

The mail must have been lightning quick back in 1963 as Betty already gets a response from Henry saying "not anymore" which makes the little girl in Betty turn all gooey. That doesn't stop her from denying little Sally a pencil case for school. Mother of the year Betty strikes again!

Sal invited a drunk Lee Garner to the editing room to see the rough cut of the commercial and things quickly turn ugly. As soon as the editor leaves the room to do the voice over Lee makes a move on Sal. He grabs Sal's chest and a shocked "Sally" jumps up and moves away. All he can muster is a feeble "I'm married" but sticks to his guns and rejects the advances. Lee leaves and Sal destroys some film cans. Meanwhile, Betty starts writing longer notes to Henry and passes out on the fainting couch.

Feeling uncomfortable, Lee calls up Harry of all people and demands that Sal be fired. Harry is shocked and says he can't do that and a further dejected Lee says to keep this between them and not to tell Roger or Pete. Kinsey wants to hear the gossip but a scared Harry dismisses it because he thinks Lee is drunk. That night Connie continues to stalk Don by calling him at home and invites him over for a drink of moonshine. Don gets dressed up in a suit and tie and goes and has another strange conversation with Connie. This time Connie waxes on about communism, God and says that Don is like a son to him. Always looking for a father figure, this actually moves Don and they have a moment. Albeit a strange and bizarre moment but a moment nonetheless.

All that note writing makes Henry pay a visit to Betty. They also have a moment and you can tell that Betty is clearly excited in more ways than one. Just then Carla comes in and Henry quickly makes up something about having a fund raiser. But you can't get nothing by the sharp as a tack Carla as she immediately knows something is up. She gives Betty one of those knowing side looks as she shows Henry the door.

Things really heat up as the Lee comes to the conference room to view the finished ad and Harry is very nervous. As Pete comes in with Lee he sees Sal he quickly turns away and high tails it out of there leaving Roger confused, Sal frightened and Pete utterly flabbergasted. Roger ask what's going on and Harry nervously tells him about the drunk phone call asking him to fire Sal. Roger goes nuts and screams at Harry, tells him to get Don to fix it and fires Sal. Harry and Sal rush over to see Don and after Don hears what happened he sends away Harry and asks Sal what really happened. He reluctantly tells Don about how Lee made a move on him and he rejected it. Steaming mad, Don incredulously says "YOU people." This sends a major shock wave through Sal as he feebly says he didn't do anything. Don fires him outright. An extremely shocked Sal packs up his artwork and leaves; but is he gone for good?

There is weird tension between Carla and Betty that night as both know there's a massive elephant in the room and his name is Henry Francis. Don comes home and Betty makes it a point to tell him in front of Carla about Henry coming over and that she's hosting a fundraiser. While Don is relaxing Betty calls up Henry about the Rockefeller campaign fund raiser. Is this what snooty people do to cover up an affair? How elaborate!

Don finally presents creative to Conrad Hilton and comes up with a great campaign. But Connie is pissed as he asks about the moon. Apparently the crazy old Connie is actually a resident of the moon. He sends everyone out and gives Don a good berating. "You did not give me what I wanted. I'm deeply disappointed." He storms out and leaves Don speechless.

At the staged fund raiser Betty anxiously awaits Henry's arrival. Instead he sends his lackey to speak to the group. Betty is pretty pissed off and we get a fade in to Betty counting the money and then a smash cut to Betty driving to see Henry and showing up at his office with the cash box full of money. Typically Betty reverts to a little girl and throws the box at Henry and then pouts. Henry eases her mind and goes in for a big time smooch. He goes to lock the door which gives Betty time to rethink it by saying what they're doing is "tawdry". She should know right? She doesn't want to have sex with him in his office as I'm sure she wants it to be on the fainting couch!

Even though stipulated he didn't want have anything to do with Roger, he comes to see him anyway. Roger slings insults to an unaffected Don and "puts him on notice that he's in over his head."

That night Carla is listening to the radio and hears Martin Luther King Jr. talk about the Birmingham bombing when Betty comes over and tries to be all nice with Carla. But before you know it Betty offends her as she wonders (ignorantly) aloud about the civil rights movement. Thankfully, Don comes home before she really makes an ass out of herself and notices the mood is weird. Meanwhile a very dejected Sal calls his wife to tell her that he's coming home late. It's time for a binge as Sal is cruising what looks like a rest stop obviously looking for some man action.

In the last sequences a very dejected Don lies to Betty about a late night Conrad Hilton call and goes and visits hot teacher Suzanne in her above the garage apartment. They have some witty banter until Don's had enough, he grabs her and they make out. She melts in his arms and there is jump cut of them snuggling in bed together. Uh, oh.

Random Thoughts . . .

Even though I know the pattern of the show I'm still a little pissed off that they abruptly leave plot points unresolved for such a long time. Even though this was another amazing episode I can't help but think about the unresolved Peggy and Duck romance, Joan's disappearance as well as Lane and Bert Cooper's glaring absence from such important matters like the possible loss of two very big clients.

I find it humorous that Betty's sex dreams are much like a teenage girls (not that I'd know) in the fact that they are saturated with an impossible level of mysterious romance. Her writing letters to Henry is straight out of a Shakespearean tragedy. Funny but true.

I had it pointed out by an amazing Twitter follower that the Draper dishwasher, Sal's phone booth, Elsa Kittridge's corsage, Don's typewriter and the reference to "loose-leaf" binders in this episode were all wrong for the period. Thanks Greygoosegirl, you rock!

I have expected to see Suzanne jogging with the 1963 version of an iPod or at least a Sony Walkman. She is way ahead of her time. She obviously represents the anti-Peggy era "Women's Lib" forward thinker that is so very wrong for Don. Oh, so wrong and extremely dangerous.

I wonder what the Hilton's of today think about the portrayal of the family patriarch? The better question may be what the 1963 Hilton would think of Paris and Nicky? At first Connie was like the curmudgeonly old Uncle but now he's just bat sh*t crazy. He's stalking Don in a very creepy and uncomfortable way. Maybe instead of firing Sal he should have run interference for him? Just a thought. Even though I don't like the character much veteran character actor Chelcie Ross is scary good as he brings a quiet dignity to obvious madness.

Sneaky Pete stole every scene he was in tonight. First he coughed up his lung for five minutes straight and then later when he went from telling a racist/sexist joke to utter confusion in nothing flat. Love it.

After today's Mad Men firing news I can't help but to think that the Peggy/Don dynamic is directly related to the Matthew/Kater relationship in real life. Especially with the similarities regarding their meteoric rise through the ranks. Matthew Weiner has always said he has complete creative control of the show and it's content. Hmm, much like Don . . . If you don't know what I'm referring to read all about here.

Poor Sal, who knew that being IN the closet is so fraught with danger? He just can't win. You gotta give him an award for being the most clueless gay guy ever. First he crushes on Ken, then his tryst at the hotel is interrupted by a fire alarm as he stupidly leaves the drapes open for Don to see him and then he can't tell he's being sexual innuendoed to death by Lee Garner and to top it off he gets fired for saying no. What's a gay to do? Cruise the rest stop of course . . .

Speaking of, what's with Don turning all nasty with Sal? Was he just waiting for the right moment to lower the boom on him? Jon Hamm did great in this scene as his eyes were filled with judgment and disgust. It was pretty sad to see the forward thinking Don act this way. Very sad and heartbreaking.

Don is obviously losing it as he can't do the simple act of delivering the moon. He should ask George Bailey how to do that. I wonder if Connie would still want a Hilton on the moon after the U.S. bombed it this week? Hmm.

Love how Carla is so astute. Apparently Carla is "The Shadow" as she knows the darkness that lurks in the heart of men (and women) just by looking at them.

The other petulant child Roger Sterling has been reduced to a jealous and snippy figurehead. I liked it when he and Don would have adventures. I long for those days.

Don's fling with hot teacher Suzanne will end very badly as I wouldn't be surprised in the least if she hasn't done this type of thing before, gloms onto Don and goes all "Fatal Attraction" on him. The one thing missing from this show is murder so I can imagine her going all psycho on him to the point of her showing up at the office or his home until Don sees no other way out but to knock her off. Now that would be a season finale, am I right? Maybe in keeping with the theme of 60's she can have a Chappaquiddick type of incident and die in a car accident. Regardless, this is sure to be messy and end in disaster.

Best Exchanges:
Pete: "I'm telling you it's bad for me."
Lee Garner: "What's that supposed to mean?"

Harry: "My mother-in-law says I look like Perry Mason."
Kinsey: "It's not a compliment, it means she thinks you're fat."

Connie: "But what about the moon?"
Don: "Excuse me?"
Connie: "There's nothing about the moon."
Don: "Well, right now that's not an actual destination."
Connie: "That wasn't the point. I said I wanted Hilton on the moon, I couldn't have been more clear about it."
Don: "Well . . . I'll admit, I misunderstood that. I'm sure there's a way too fit that into . . . this."

Connie: "You did not give me what I wanted. I'm deeply disappointed Don."
Don: "This is a great campaign."
Connie: "Fine. What do you want from me, love? Your work is good. But when I say I want the moon, I expect the moon."

Suzanne: "What can I do for you?"
Don: "I don't know. I wanted to talk."
Suzanne: "Right. Says the man who unbuckles his pants."
Don: "What do you want me to say. You've been flirting with me for months."
Suzanne: "So what?"
Don: "So I can't stop thinking about you."
Suzanne: "Because I'm new and different. Or maybe I'm exactly the same."

Best Lines:
"I want a Hilton on the moon, that's where were headed." - Connie to Don.

"Who are you? I mean, dumb or pure . . ." - Don to Suzanne.

"Give me more ideas to reject, I can't do this by myself."
- Don to Peggy.

"Now that I can finally understand you, I'm less impressed with what you have to say." - Don to Kurt.

"I'm married." - Sal to Lee.

"When you get into trouble you call mommy and daddy!" - Roger to Harry.

"That's a 25 million dollar account you stuck your nose in, Crane." - Don to Harry.

"Who do you think you're talking to?" - Don to Sal.

"Were not chauvinists, we just have expectations." - Don giving a presentation to Connie.

"Maybe fried chicken. I don't like the sound of "hamburger" and "Hilton." Besides hamburger is already a foreign word."
- Connie to Don.

"Segregation is uncivilized. It's that simple" - Fundraising guest.

"I don't think it's going to help your fundraising when you promise one thing and deliver another." - Betty to Elsa.

"It's tawdry." - Betty to Henry.

"These children - - unoffending, innocent and beautiful - - were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"I hate to say this, but it's really made me wonder about civil rights. Maybe it's not supposed to happen right now." - Betty to Carla.

Overall, I give this episode 5.1 Lucky Strikes out of 5 because of Pete coughing up a lung when he smokes. Seriously though this episode was just plain frustrating but oh so good all at the same time. How can you criticize such unabashed greatness? While I'm worried about them getting rid of the uber sexy Joan and now Sal if Matthew Weiner keeps up this kind of provocative story telling he's got my continued vote of confidence. I literally have no idea how these two can be brought back into the fold. I guess that's why I'm writing a blog and not a show . . .

I'm pretty bummed that there are only four episodes left of this amazing season and I'm wondering how they will address the JFK assassination. Weiner has already gone on record by saying they will skip over the tragic event but does that mean the season will end right before or will he pull a Battlestar Galactica and have Don bury his head into Suzanne only to lift it up a year later? Ah, the possibilities.

I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts about this great episode and in the meantime enjoy this sneak preview of next weeks episode as Roger and Bert Cooper revel in their own misery. Enjoy!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Next Week's Episode: "The Color Blue" - The firm celebrates a milestone. Peggy and Paul compete on an account.

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on October 11, 2009 10:40 PM
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