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Mad Men: The Grown-Ups - Review

"The whole country's drinking!" - Pete Campbell.

In the second to last episode of this superlative 3rd season of Mad Men so much happened it was difficult to think straight. If any one episode marks the end of innocence of the show, this was it. On top of the main story line there was Margaret's wedding, Pete's frustration and ultimate realization, Betty's epiphany and rejection of Don and Peggy's bad choice in lovers.

It had to happen, right? Creator Matthew Weiner had repeatedly asserted that the timeline of the show would not touch on the President John F. Kennedy assassination but that proved to be a masterful bait and switch. Not only did "The Grown-Ups" feature this incredibly painful time in American history it made the whole circus and subsequent aftermath the focal point of the entire story. We know by now that Weiner likes to jump ahead in the timeline but it really took me by surprise when they went full-throttle three weeks ahead and dove right into the most shocking event in U.S. history. I mean last week was the Halloween episode!

Simply put, this show was epic storytelling as they managed to not only make us feel the characters pain over the realization the President had been killed but that it was expertly wound into the fabric of the story and the characters decisions. This episode will long be remembered for the new perspective it brought to the table and begs the question; Where were you the night JFK was assassinated again on Mad Men?

Just hitting the highlights . . .

On a cold Friday morning November 22nd, 1963 everyone is wrapped up in their lives at Sterling Cooper. I really gotta hand it to Matthew Weiner with his mind-numbing and ultra-realistic (and subtle) reactions to the murder of JFK and of Oswald. For a minute there I thought I was watching Oliver Stone's "JFK" but then I quickly realized that this was much better acted. Nice touch touch to have Carla spark up a Lucky Strike when she found out; Peggy's reaction when Duck plugged in the TV; the use of the actual broadcasts with Walter Cronkite's classic reading of the news; Margaret's typically selfish reaction to her wedding being ruined; Betty's decision to let the kids watch and be glued to the TV as well as her shouting "What's going on!" when she saw Oswald killed on live TV; Don's explanation to the kids; Roger's selfish decision to have his daughter's wedding the next day as planned and utterly classless speech; the irony of Cooper, Ken, Harry and Jane all gathered in the kitchen watching JFK coverage when RFK was killed in a kitchen five years later (Ok, that may be a stretch but was interesting nonetheless); and finally Betty's decision to rekindle her romance with Henry Francis (who oddly delivered the same advice that Don gave.) There's nothing like a Presidential assassination and murder on live TV to make you want to have an affair . . .

Pete gets called into Lane's office office to be told that Ken Cosgrove got the job as Senior VP of Account Services due to his ability to "make the clients feel like they don't have any needs" but that he will be Head of Account Management. Pete doesn't take the news well at all and commiserates with Harry. This will lead to a major Pete meltdown and subsequent epiphany. Seems old sneaky Pete is extremely troubled about the JFK assassination just like he was over the death of his father but this time he can't bury himself in his work. He's only got Trudy and her famous head gear to console and guide him. And boy does she ever. Trudy was pretty impressive with her unwavering advice and support of her extremely troubled and deflated man. Wonder if this will actually cause Pete to fall in love with her for real? Love his line about Margaret being a spoiled brat and realization that his co-workers are all heartless b*stards. I can totally see Pete becoming a protester or a beatnik in a couple of years, especially after seeing him in that Beatlesque turtleneck.

Peggy's roommate gives her grief about seeing Duck but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Remember all those times we haven't seen her in the show lately? That's because she was having a "nooner" with good old Duck (ok, it's been 3 weeks.) This Friday was no different but now she will have to lie for the rest of her life because the "Randy" Duckman turned off the news report so he can get some lovin and in one fell swoop gave himself a great story for the fellas and doomed "Pee Wee" to a life of embarrassment and humiliation. Not exactly a story to tell the grand kids. "Where was I when JFK got killed? I was f*ckin a Duck!" Nice.

Roger's daughter Margaret is throwing a temper tantrum before her wedding because Jane gave her an expensive gift and is offering her advice. Margaret plays the Mommy/Daddy game literally after Mona gives her tough love and not sympathy. She calls up Roger to complain to no avail. Are we really sure that Margaret is actually old enough to get married? I mean she acted like a pre-teen EVERY step of the way. Wow, what a great catch . . . Speaking of Roger, his treatment of Jane was right out of "Gone with the Wind" as I thought he was going to kick the door in and whisk her away but instead he drunk dialed Joan after nearly having his 50th heart attack because of carrying a passed out Jane to bed. Clearly he still has feelings for Joan. They would have made an electrifying couple. Maybe someday soon?

After all the shocking events and rekindled Henry affair good old Betty sees clearly and tells Don she no longer loves him. And thus we have our third assassination of the episode. It was a kill shot, plain and simple right to the chest of Don Draper sure as anything. When he collapsed into the chair after hearing that I felt sooo bad for him even though the writers have tried in earnest to make him unlikeable; it just didn't work. Credit Jon Hamm for inhabiting a multi-layered character that does despicable things and making him likable. The scene with Don coming into a dark office and seeing only Peggy there working spoke volumes about their relationship and showcased just how similar they are in many ways. Bravo!!!

Overall, I give this superlative and amazing episode 5.5 Lucky Strikes Out of 5 because of the deft way the subject matter was handled and how it affected every character on the show. I wasn't alive when JFK was killed but I believe this episode has given me a glimpse of what people must have felt and what this country went through and for that I'm extremely grateful to Matthew Weiner. If there was ever any doubt that this show will win another Emmy next year this episode has completely obliterated it. Extremely powerful stuff.

I can't tell you how sad I am that the season finale is already here as I have NO idea how they can possibly top this but I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with, that's for sure. Leave some comments if you want and please make sure you follow my "live" Tweets this Sunday during the epic finale!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Season Finale Next Week - "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" - Don has an important meeting with Connie. Betty receives some advice. Pete talks to his clients.

No sneak peek this week but here is a inside peek from "The Grown-ups." Enjoy!

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on November 5, 2009 10:07 PM
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