I believe it was Chekhov who observed that if you introduce a tractor in the opening act of a drama, you’d better shred someone’s foot with it in the last. Following that sound advice, the writers of Mad Men delivered the most outrageous scene in the series to date—and the goriest. Lois’ ill-fated John Deere joy ride reorganized the better part of Guy Mackendrick’s foot onto Paul Kinsey and Harry Crane’s shirt fronts. Lois, I’m afraid even the switchboard isn’t going to take you back after this one.
Patrick and Julia, I’m dying to hear what you guys made of this scene. I could see some people finding it over the top; it was as if Quentin Tarantino had dropped by the Mad Men set and was invited to direct for a minute or two. But I thought the scene was kind of brilliant. Up until that point, I was sure I had this episode all figured out: PPL was going to install the prodigy Mackendrick at the top of Sterling Cooper, where he would promptly start driving everyone crazy. (Guy’s unctuousness had been established quickly and effectively with his feigned humility as St. John Powell recited his CV and his generic greeting to his new underlings: “I know everything about you. You are a very impressive young man/woman.”) Don in particular was primed to hate life under this wunderkind, whose arrival dashed the dream Bert Cooper had conjured for him—that of a jet-setting life split between New York and London. As we’ve noted previously, Don has been especially Sphinx-like this season, so it was nice to see him betray some emotion as he got his hopes up about this imagined promotion. I particularly enjoyed watching Don and Betty discuss life in London over a very American meal of chicken salad, Ritz crackers, and Budweiser.
While the coming rivalry between Guy and Don—to say nothing of the coming rivalry between Guy and Roger, who was hilariously left off the new org chart—was promising, the foot-mowing, like Oliver!, was a tragedy with a happy ending. It spared Lane the fate of being shipped off to Bombay and spared us having to say goodbye to him. (It was wrenching watching him puff up with pride as Ford and Powell praised his work, only to see him crushed by the news of his reassignment.) Guy’s fate also showed us just how cutthroat the fine fellows from PPL are—the gifted young accounts man loses not just his foot, but also his career. “The doctors said he’ll never golf again,” says St. John. So that’s pretty much that.
It was a dark irony that the job of administering first aid to Guy fell to the steady hand of Joan, who learned this episode that her husband isn’t going to be a surgeon, at least not in New York City: He has no brains in his fingers, in the memorable phrase of his boss. One hastens to add that Greg seems to have no brains in any part of his body, judging by the way he treats his devoted wife. I can’t imagine we’ve seen the last of Joan’s hillsides, but will she be too proud to come back to Sterling Cooper? And what did you make of her goodbye to Don? The look they exchanged threw off some serious electricity, though I don’t think the spark was sexual. Don and Joan have always seemed to admire one another, perhaps because they have a good bit in common: an abiding confidence, mastery of their domains, great power over the opposite sex. Was this merely the sweet sorrow of kindred spirits parting, or something else?
Maybe everyone will leave Sterling Cooper. Last week we were forced to confront the prospect of Peggy defecting to Grey. Now Conrad Hilton has taken an interest in Don. I can’t quite picture Don’s creative appetites sated by working as an in-house guy at Hilton, but who knows—another round of penny pinching, and maybe he’ll be tempted to fly the Sterling Coop. (I’m assuming that Connie was intimating a job offer when he chided Don for not thinking bigger than just landing a Hilton account or two, but it was a somewhat cryptic line.) In the meantime, though, I was happy to see Don and Roger bury the hatchet and revive their Martin and Lewis routine. It’d been too long since we’d had a proper dose of Roger. I was tickled, if not surprised, to learn that he is an early metrosexual. Though not as early as his father, the other man to lose a limb in this week’s episode—a little heavy-handed, perhaps, but at least the hand was well-manicured.
Back at the Draper ranch, Betty gave her latest clinic in bad parenting:
Bobby: I’m bored.
Betty: Go bang your head against a wall.
Betty: Only boring people are bored.
She made a bit more of an effort with Sally, trying unsuccessfully to bribe her increasingly disturbed daughter into accepting the newest Draper. (We’ve seen this tactic before: At the end of season 2, when Betty finally tells Sally that she and Don are having a “disagreement,” she cushions the blow with a new pair of riding boots.) I found Betty’s attachment to her new baby puzzling: Why is she so affectionate to Gene and so short-tempered with Bobby and Sally? Is it simply that she knows how to provide for her baby, but not for her older children, whose needs have grown more complex than food and sleep? Or has the ghost of Grandpa Gene, now inhabiting the body of Baby Gene, cast an evil spell on her?
Enjoy the liquor and delicatessen,