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Mad Men Recap: Out Of Town

Mad-men It seems like an eternity since Mad Men Season 2 ended, and I've rarely been as excited about the return of a television show as I was about last night's season premiere. But did it live up to all the hype and expectation? Let's take a spin in this inaugural episode and kick the tires of Season 3 a bit together, shall we?

The episode opens with our antihero Don Draper padding around in his kitchen barefoot, warming some milk on the stove with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Distant sobbing is heard, and a flashback intrudes of a woman (Don's mother, it turns out) languishing in bed after having just given birth. She asks the attending midwife to see her baby, and the midwife pulls out what appears to be a bedpan, lifts a cloth covering it (alright in da box? S'arlight), and shows Don's Mom her stillborn daughter. Don's Dad takes this as his cue to stumble in and slur drunkenly, "So you killed another one." Charming!

Our tour of Don's humble origins continues as we watch a young woman negotiate a price for sex and then tell her John that if he knocks her up she'll cut his dick off. Well I'll be darned, you'll never guess what happens!

We then see the same woman -- Don's biological mother, now in surroundings not dissimilar to those seen in the earlier post-childbirth flashback -- drawing her final breath and deliriously murmuring something about the whole 'cutting his dick off' bit. The midwife, a bit of a jokester, then brings baby Don to Don's adoptive-Mom-to-be, telling her that the baby's name is Dick, "after a wish his mother had."

What I gleaned from all of this was that Don's origins and early life were, in essence, sort of like Little House On The Prairie, had Little House On The Prairie been written by Tennessee Williams after a particularly bad bender, one that might have involved, say, public urination and choking on vomit.

Returning to the present thank god, Don brings the warm milk to the very pregnant Betty, who is apparently having trouble sleeping. She mutters something about their daughter having taken to Don's tools like a little lesbian, and then nods off to Don whispering hypnotic suggestions in her ear involving beaches and coconut oil and how common it is for mothers and babies to die in childbirth, and boy, he should know! Uhh, OOPS?

Back at Sterling Cooper the Limeys are in full effect, which Peggy finds a bit irritating, primarily because her secretary can't seem to do much of anything with them around except unbutton her blouse and giggle like a schoolgirl.

Meanwhile, in Bertram Cooper's office, Bert waxes poetic about a large Japanese print he's hung there depicting an enormous octopus eating a Geisha from the crotch up: "It reminds me of our business." NICE. There then follows a bit of a snoozeworthy discussion courtesy of the new British overlords regarding one of their accounts, "There is no fog in London. No London fog." Zzzzzzzzzzz...

Oh but things get nice and messy and squirm-worthy right quick, when the head of accounts is ushered into the office and given the axe. He storms off, belligerent and screaming, stomping and slamming things as he departs. Serves him right for trusting the British. I mean, there's a reason why all the great film villains are British, right? And then of course there's that woman who does those Orbit gum commercials... [shudder] I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that England is a hellmouth that radiants evil and spreads death and destruction across the globe with a lilting, inexplicably appealing accent whose actual origins are the tongue of the Prince of Darkness, Satan himself. I mean, sure, I like BritPop just as much as the next person, but let's keep our eyes on the bigger picture, shall we?

And as great character story arcs would have it, it turns out our friend (okay, okay, noxious enemy) Pete Campbell has been picked to replace stompy-screamy guy as head of accounts... OR SO HE THINKS. A little later, after what in retrospect was a sad little celebratory jig acted out privately in his office, Pete comes to find out that Ken Cosgrove is sharing that particular position with him. Pete is, you guessed it, NOT a sharer. This revelation leads to Pete whining like a four-year-old to his wife: "Why can't I get anything good all at once?" Well Pete, perhaps if you stop being an epic, flaming asshat for five seconds karma might run in your favor for a spell, hmm?

While all of this is going on Don is off in Baltimore (REPRESENT!) with Sal, doing some work on the London Fog account, AND some work on drunken stewardesses -- bow-chicka-bow-wow...


After a confusing dinner in which Don and Sal somehow convincingly insinuate that they're G Men posing as accountants for no good reason I can discern, Fritos-obsessed Stewardess Shelly -- a blonde she-wolf in food and beverage service clothing -- throws herself at Don in the hallway outside his room at the Belvedere (REPRESENT!). Draped gamely around Don's neck like a Brooklyn hipster's hand-knit vintage summer scarf, Shelly slurs semi-coherently about how she's engaged, and how Don might be her "last chance" (read: "last chance... FOR HOT BONING"). Always the sensitive gentleman, Don replies, "I've been married a long time, you get plenty of chances." ZING! And really, if anyone knows, it's our Don.

Around this time Sal also returns to his room, only to find that his air conditioner isn't working. He calls the hotel desk and asks them to send someone to fix it, and as luck (and great character story arcs) would have it, the dude they send TOTALLY has the fever for the flavor of the Salvatore. Unfortunately, the hotel's fire alarm goes off mid-jerk, leaving poor Sal still sexually repressed/oppressed/depressed -- now with extra blue balls!

Funny thing though, Don climbs down the fire escape and just happens to look into Sal's room right about this time, and DUN DUN DUUHHHHH. Sal's got some s'plainin to do about that half-dressed Baltimore bellhop, you bettah believe it, hon.

The next day, Sal and Don, in full-on Oh no there's totally nothing wrong at all and no I didn't see you getting down with a dude last night nope no way not at all mode, meet with the London Fog people. Don, ever the philosopher-suit, opines: "There will be fat years, and there will be lean years, but it's going to rain." Wow. I think Don should write a book: The 7 Habits Of Highly Manipulative Sleazy Douchebags. That shit would FLY off the shelves!

Speaking of flying, during the plane ride home Sal and Don have what can only be described as a moment. Sal, clearly still nervous that Don now knows his Sexy Sexual Sekrits, nearly chokes on his mid-flight Bloody Mary when Don leans over and in low, serious tones says to him, "i'm going to ask you something, and I want you to be completely honest."

*Twenty-two thousand feet below, a Farmer tending his cattle hears Sal GULP.*

But oh no, Don just wants Sal's opinion on his idea for a new London Fog print campaign! Oh, for fun! That Don, what a riot! Sal's sexual identity, career, and really, entire present and future life was out there, dangling before him by the thinnest of threads, and Don couldn't resist poking it just to watch it spin and swing... Now that right there's a good friend and colleague, people. Hats off to him.

Back at Sterling Cooper, everyone celebrates Don and Sal's return from their trip to Baltimore (REPRESENT! NO, IT'S NOT GETTING OLD FOR ME!) the only way they know how: with mid-day binge drinking. It might be Season 3, but some things never change.

That evening, back at the homestead, Betty and Don reprimand the little lesbian Sally for breaking Don's suitcase. "I just didn't want you to go," she says in the shining, effervescent, twinkling tone of total emotional manipulation that only a 7 year old can pull off convincingly. Like Father like Daughter though, eh?

Sally finds a stray pin in Don's suitcase that once belonged to some drunken stewardess or other, and when confronted with it he pretends it was a gift meant for her. "Tell me about the day I was born," Sally asks him. He mutters a few confused, disjointed words, until Betty cuts him off and finishes the story. Suddenly, Don looks as if someone just punched him in the throat. Nothing a tumbler of good whiskey and some random, anonymous sex won't take care of though, I'm sure.

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I think they took way to many eggs and instead of making an omlette they just left random threads of yolk all over the place. I had a tough time following the plotline. Perhaps next week they will only try to cover some of those storylines. And not spend 5 minutes showing us hot to scald milk old-school.

Cheeky Lotus

Best line of the night: Joan Holloway sniffs "He reminds me of a doorman".


Snarky Amber

I could be wrong—you're the one with the Tivo—but I thought what Sally found was a set of flight attendants' "wings", not a hairpin.


Am changing to 'pin.' A pin of some nature or type. I think all I heard was pin, ehh. Either way, potentially incriminating accessory. :)


Moneypenny. That dude is gonna be a laff riot, I can see that already.


Yeah... this episode felt a bit disjointed and halting. Not really sure precisely what this episode was trying to do in the overall, grand arching narrative of things, but based on the show's track record I have faith that all of this will come to bear some kind of fruit down the road. FINGERS CROSSED.


Joan was my fave. She put that (s)limey in his place. Joan-style.

Also, for all of Don's misgivings- absolutely the guy in the office you most want hanging onto your sekrits...

Lesbian comment? Absolutely gratuitous and inauthentic. Didn't believe it a bit. Though the depression-era stage play at the beginning wasn't terribly believable either...

Loved every sleazy moment. Hope to see Pete Campbell ruin himself. That'll be big fun.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

Sally did find the stewardess' lapel pin, the wings.

While the lesbian comment seemed out of place, it has been clear in past episodes that Betty has issues with Sally. I think it is simple jealousy since Don in the past, has been affectionate with Sally and not so much with Betty. In last night's episode, Betty seemed to have more of a cold strength to her, as opposed to her usual simpering, milquetoast ways. Eh.

I thought the episode was excellent and par for the course with what I would expect from the show. There are interviews with Matt Weiner saying there will be no grand mystery, such as in early seasons. It seems this season will weigh in heavily on the shake-ups at PP&L, which was so much fun to watch last night, I would be down with that.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

Also, I cannot wait to see the circumstances in which Joan stays at PP&L. Surely, she will not leave, as promised, now that she is married! Who will keep Mr. Hooker in his place??


I'm gonna disagree with you that this was up to par in terms of what I'd normally expect from the show. I couldn't shake the feeling that there was, well, no THERE there. Now don't get me wrong, I love the show's side-stepping, obliqueness, and subtlety. I eat that shit up. The holes the writers leave gaping for you to fill in are one of the greatest things about the show. But this episode left me feeling... a bit empty in some indefinable way. I can't quite put my finger on it. That said, I trust the writers of the show, and suppose this episode was foundation-laying in a necessary, if not particularly satisfying, way. We'll see.

Suzy Q

@ cagey: Joan's not married yet. She ain't goin' anywhere.

This whole episode was a bit...disappointing. Not much really happened. Except for Sal almost doing you-know-what with the you-know-who at the hotel. And by golly, wasn't that completely cruel, after all this time? Poor Sal. He'll get his. Eventually.

I thought that line about Sally the lesbian with the tools was hilarious but also not something I imagine a 1963 housewife would say. Then again, Betty's got a bit of an edge.

I'm hoping this episode was all just laying pipe before opening the Floodgates of Awesome this season.


I believe that Don's mother said, "..I'll cut your dick off and boil it in hog fat." Twice. Charming woman.

I feel like this episode was a good beginning for the season. But I certainly hope it only gets better from here.

Fairly Odd Mother

Maybe I am just a true romantic (ha!) but I think Sal did get some loving after the whole coitus-interruptus fire alarm thing. Didn't it seem that way when Sal came running into the London Fog meeting all flustered and late? I took that to mean that he had a "reason" to be late for the meeting.

I fell asleep for the last 15 minutes of the episode. Thanks for filling it in for me.


Yeeeah. The cutting his dick off quote was definitely a highlight. Something for Don's scrapbook, for sure.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

Suzy Q, Joan is married (she was planning to have a Christmas wedding when Season 2 ended.) Her and Peggy were discussing her wedding ring while waiting for the elevator. It is not clear yet why she has not left PP&L, though.


did she really get married? i was hoping she would leave him after the scene in the office...plus, i think she is in love with paul kinsey, that crazy beatnik. speaking of which, what happened to the young, nutty ad guys named smith? did i miss them getting fired?


I'm gonna go ahead and say I was really disappointed in this epi. I was using it as a way to introduce a friend to the show, and she was all "this is kind of lame." She wasn't wrong. It felt more like a mid season epi than a Welcome Back to Sterling Cooper & Now that British Company That Owns Us & all our wacky peeps....

Sigh, Joan still looked awesome, tho I am wondering if she might have a bun in the oven after last season's incident. She looks a bit bigger than she did then (and I am not commenting on her size cos I think she looks fat, I just think Joan looks a bit bigger, like Peggy did when she was preggers.).





I loved the moment on the plane between Don (ol' Hogfat Dick) and Sal (Schtupper of Baltimore Bellboys). Don was asking for Sal's reaction to an ad campaign that is explicitly, overtly heterosexual. It was Don's way of smoothing over his accidental glimpse into Sal's life and saying your secret is safe with me. Just say that you like the ad and everything can go on as before.

Also, the whole notion of raincoats and exposure applies equally well to both men, whose lives are half exposed and half in shadow.

Suzy Q

Ack! You're totally right, I had forgotten about the time jump. Was she wearing a wedding ring? Holy crap, I hope we get to see the wedding (and wedding night) in flashbacks.


There was one upside to that plot thread, though, and that is that he's not his "father's" son. It's not clear whether he knows this for a fact, but if he does it might give him some relief from thinking he is destined to be the kind of awful father/husband he had growing up.


Agree. That's my only quibble with the recap. I thought Don wasn't being a jerk to Sal, but rather finding a way to reassure him that it is up to Sal to 'limit his exposure,' that he can stop stressing about what Don may be thinking. He had to say SOMEthing to him.

I don't get that ad campaign at all.


Do I need to say SPOILER this far down in the comments?

The last bit was the heartbreaking part for me (there's always one in each episode). Sally asks for the story of when she was born. Don starts that he'd just gotten home from work and was exhausted...

And Betty finishes that "Daddy didn't want to go out again." It took a moment for me to realize that he never even went to the hospital. I thought the distance in his and Betty's relationship developed over time, but I guess not.

Is it fair to assume that Pete and his wife did not adopt? I don't remember that being resolved last year. But she seemed like she was doing some kind of volunteer work and was in good spirits.

I had a Mad Men watching party with several people who hadn't seen it before, and don't know that I made any converts.


Sorry if this double posts. I was thinking that the upside of this thread is that at least Don is not truly his "father's" son so, if he knows this story to be true (not clear), he may be reassured that he is not predestined to be the awful father/husband he had growing up. What was the point of this scene otherwise?


Oh hmm I thought it was abundantly clear that i was joking? Putting an over-the-top melodramatic spin on what was a moment whose significance was fairly obvious?

Did y'all think I really think British people are the devil too? Dorks. ;)


I didn't catch the joke. I just thought you had a different spin on the scenario. Serves me right for TAKING YOU SERIOUSLY AS A WRITER AND TRUSTING YOU. *bursts into tears* *stops, adopts very manly look* *nope, still crying*


I think perhaps I should be a tad less creative. Or just use emoticons:

"Now that right there's a good friend and colleague, people. Hats off to him. ;)"

j/k. OR AM I?


Yeah this episode -- detached from the rest of the show -- would make it a hard sell in terms of converting the uninitiated.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

Whoa. That review was serious? And not funny? Nor snarky? Shoulda had a V8?

Pssst! I liked reading something light-hearted for a change about Mad Men. Everyone takes this show so serious-like. eh.


Did you notice that the theme of the ad that Don asks Sal's opinion on (on the plane) was "Limit Your Exposure" -- obviously a veiled suggestion.

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