Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mad Men Episode 6-5: The Flood

Recap: Peggy meets a real estate agent, Ginny, at an apartment she’s considering on the east side of Manhattan. Abe shows up after a few minutes but says little. The agent, using typical sales clichés, counters their objection that it’s too far east. The agent’s advice changes (“go in high,” then “go in low”) and Peggy later loses the option to buy. Disappointed, she feels Abe should be paying more attention to her because of her loss, but Abe is busy writing a news article. Abe reveals that he hopes they can raise their children in a more diverse neighborhood. Showing a variety of emotions in rapid succession, Peggy seems ultimately pleased to hear his point of view, reassuring him that he’s important in her life. Abe quickly returns his attention to his writing.
Don and Megan happen to meet Arnold and Sylvia in the lobby of their building and stop to chat. The Rosens are off to Washington, D.C. where Arnold was invited to deliver a keynote address. Don and Megan are on their way to the Ad Club of New York awards banquet, where Megan is part of a team up for an award. Don is flustered and forgets where Arnold said they were going. He asks him again, and Arnold makes a joke of Don’s forgetfulness.

Before the start of the awards banquet, Megan spots Peggy across the room and goes over to say hello. Peggy talks to her about the apartment she’s looking at, and Megan encourages her. At the CGC table, Ted ignores his wife and makes conversation and eye contact with Peggy instead.
Midway through the banquet during Paul Newman’s speech (where he endorses Eugene McCarthy for president), somebody shouts that Martin Luther King, Jr. has been killed, and people around the room are upset. After a brief break, the awards banquet resumes. Abe excitedly tells Peggy he’s leaving to partner with a New York Times photographer to cover a story about the riots in Harlem. Don offers to give Peggy a ride home.

At home, Don sees the ongoing news coverage of the riots and hears that there are riots in Washington D.C., with three people dead. Meanwhile, Megan talks to her father on the phone and is disgusted with his “Marxist bullshit” position that he “applauds the escalation of [capitalist society’s] decay.” She says angrily that he “hides behind his intellect” and doesn’t want to feel his emotions. Don later places a phone call to the hotel where the Rosens are staying, concerned about their safety, but then declines to leave a message. Later, after some confusion about whether the office should remain open for the day or close early, Don attends a 3:00 meeting with Roger and an insurance man named Randall. Randall’s bizarre behavior, communications, and advertising idea cause Don and Roger to stare in response, and Don tells Randall his idea is in poor taste. Randall’s final comment is strikingly meaningful and coherent, if disconnected to everything else he’s said: “This is an opportunity. The heavens are telling us to change.” After the meeting, Roger explains to Don: “He talked me off a roof once; I kind of owe him.”
At Betty and Henry’s place, Betty hears the news of the assassination and at first decides to keep the television off to protect the children, although later she keeps the TV on even when she’s not in the room because she feels she should. Henry tells her: “They’re going to burn down the city. I have to go help the mayor.” Later, she discovers that Bobby is picking at the wallpaper behind his bed, disturbed that it isn’t matched up. She confronts him and Bobby denies everything. She then accuses him of trying to destroy the house, but postpones dealing with his misbehavior because of all the activities of the day. Henry complains to Betty about Mayor Lindsay: “He smiled like he was going to a pancake breakfast.” Later he says: “I keep thinking about walking through Harlem – Lindsay with his big smile and the rest of us a few steps behind…I keep thinking I would do it differently.” Then he tells Betty he’s considering a run for the state senate, that he’s leaving his job, and that she’ll never have to worry about money. Betty tells him she’s always wanted him to run for office. He ends with: “I can’t wait for people to meet you – really meet you.” After this conversation, Betty spends time looking wistfully at her reflection in the mirror, holding up a beautiful dress that is now several sizes too small for her.

At Don’s place, Betty calls and demands that he come and pick up the children. Don says: “I don’t believe this!” but when Betty insists, he caves in and ends up driving his three children through fiery streets to bring them to his apartment. There Megan makes plans to take the children to a vigil in the park. Bobby fakes feeling sick so he doesn’t have to go, and Don agrees to watch Bobby. When Don learns that Bobby is not allowed to watch TV for a week (Betty’s punishment for the wallpaper situation), Don takes him to the movies instead, to spend some time with him and to make up for what he perceives as Betty’s harshness. After they see Planet of the Apes (a movie showing the destruction of America), Bobby seems confused about the story and Don tells him they can stay and watch it again. Bobby speaks to the usher and expresses a philosophical opinion about why people attend movies.
Don goes to his bedroom and Megan, who has just gotten the kids to bed, finds him there drinking alcohol. She confronts him with: “You don’t have Marx, you have a bottle. Is this really what you want to be to them?” Don launches into a lengthy reflection about fatherhood, placing his experience in generalized terms: you want to love your children, but at first you don’t – especially if you’ve had a difficult childhood. You wonder if your own father felt that way about you. Then when your children get older, something they do may trigger an emotional connection and you suddenly feel the love “like your heart is going to explode.”  Later, Don peeks in on Bobby and sees that he’s wide awake. Don climbs in bed with him and asks him what’s wrong. Bobby, knowing that MLK has been shot, worries that Henry might get shot too. Don tells him, “Henry’s not that important…Go to sleep.” Then Don walks out to his balcony for a smoke and listens to the sound of the police, fire, and ambulance sirens.

Michael’s father arranges a date for Michael with the daughter of a man he plays chess with. She is Beverly Farber, a school teacher. He arranges this behind Michael’s back, hands him money, and tells him to go out with her immediately. Michael ends up taking Beverly to a modest restaurant and has an awkward conversation where he is too direct and says all the wrong things (including asking whether she likes children and insisting that he’s never had sex). Beverly is understanding and reassuring. She tells him (not to insult him but rather to take the pressure off) that she agreed to go on this date only as a favor to her parents. They then hear a radio announcement about the assassination and end their date early. On Saturday, Michael’s father gets up to go to work, although he doesn’t normally work on Saturdays, just to get away from the news. Michael gives him a shirt that he’s just mended, but his father lashes out: “You can’t sew, cook, or clean. Don’t you think there’s a reason you have all these flaws? You need a girl.” He says that when a catastrophe occurs, it’s exactly the time that a man and woman need to be together. “In the flood, the animals went two by two…Don’t you like girls?”
Back at the awards banquet, Pete is visibly angry because he can’t get to a phone. Once able to place a call, he calls Trudy to make sure she and Tammy are okay. He says he doesn’t want them to be alone, and he wants to see Tammy. Trudy is temporarily touched and drawn into the conversation, but eventually she shuts down her emotions and ends the call. Pete encounters Harry at the banquet and starts an argument. Bert Cooper overhears them and insists that they shake hands with one another, but after they do, they continue arguing. Harry expresses concern for what the social events will do to business, and Pete thinks Harry is shameful and a racist. Harry says, “Excuse me. I mistook this for a work day.” Later at his apartment, Pete has food delivered to his door and tries to converse with the delivery man. The man looks at him but doesn’t speak.

At the SCDP office following the assassination, several secretaries fail to show up for work, and Don and Joan are concerned about Dawn. However, Dawn has gone to see Peggy after spending the weekend in Newark with her aunt. Peggy hugs Dawn and they both seem to connect emotionally. Dawn says: “I knew it was going to happen” and is angry about “these fools running in the streets” doing exactly what MLK didn’t want people to do – be violent. Later, Dawn shows up at SCDP and both Don and Joan show empathy. Joan hugs her and says: “We’re all so sorry,” but Dawn is alienated and doesn’t hug her back. They try to send her home for the day, but Dawn says: “My mother thought I should come in. I’d really rather be here today.”

The episode ends with the song, Love is Blue. The lyrics to this song are about the colors (emotions) involved in losing a love relationship. This reminds us of Pete’s emotions around Trudy, Don’s emotions about being separated from Sylvia for the weekend, and many people’s personal feelings of loss after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


A major theme of this episode is a flood of emotions, often leading to emotionally-driven and illogical behavior.

·         When King is assassinated, thousands of people become overwhelmed with feelings of anger and rage and start looting and destroying property, even burning up their own neighborhoods, in direct contradiction to King’s teachings of nonviolence.

·         When Peggy looks to buy a home on the east side of Manhattan, Abe doesn’t comment much. But when Peggy learns she’s lost the option to buy it, she feels deeply disappointed and also upset because Abe isn’t tending to her emotions. After Peggy learns that Abe is hoping they will raise their children in a more diverse neighborhood, she experiences a flood of various emotions as she absorbs his message. However, these emotions lead her to clarity, not illogical behavior.

·         Peggy assures Abe that he’s an important part of her life and therefore she wants to know his opinions, but as she’s delivering this heavy message, he quickly flips back to his flood of excitement over the article he’s writing and the momentous news of the day, blowing her off to some extent – not something he would normally do if he weren’t overwhelmed by his own excitement.   

·         The Drapers run into the Rosens in their building lobby and chat about their respective plans for the evening/weekend. Don is overcome with emotions about Sylvia and so forgets where Arnold said they were going for the weekend. Arnold repeats “D.C.” and later ribs Don about his confusion, caused by Don’s inability to think as clearly as usual.

·         At the banquet, Ted is overwhelmed with emotions about Peggy and acts foolishly attentive to her – not a bright move for an otherwise bright guy, considering that his wife not only feels under-attended-to but also can see who her husband is paying attention to.

·         Later at the banquet, somebody shouts that Martin Luther King, Jr. has been killed. The speaker says they had planned to wait until the awards banquet ended to make that announcement, but whoever shouted the news was obviously overcome with emotion and therefore behaved in a rash way, upsetting the evening’s flow of activities.  

·         Abe is so carried away with excitement about the chance to work with a New York Times photographer to cover the riots that he rushes off from the banquet and leaves Peggy alone without a thought as to how she’ll get home. Peggy is an independent woman, so this may not be a big deal, but it appears to make her feel a little more overwhelmed at the time.  

·         Afraid for Sylvia’s (and maybe Arnold’s) safety, Don places a call to their hotel in Washington, D.C. without thinking through what he wants to say. When he’s unable to reach them, he realizes his call doesn’t really make sense, so he doesn’t leave a message.

·         Roger feels a soft spot for Randall, an insurance man whose communications sound wacky. The meeting he arranges for Randall is a waste of everyone’s time, and his decision to have this meeting may have been based on his emotions rather than any logical business purpose.

·         At the banquet, Bert Cooper is uncharacteristically emotional when he demands that Pete and Harry shake hands and make up. His demand isn’t unreasonable, but it doesn’t work because both Harry and Pete are emotionally overwhelmed and neither one approves of the other’s point of view, although logically, both of them have reasonable perspectives.

·         Betty is overwhelmed by the news of the assassination, and can’t decide whether to keep the television off to protect the children or keep it on all the time, because she feels she should.

·         Betty’s emotions get the best of her when she sees Bobby picking apart the mismatched wallpaper and tells him that he’s destroying the house – a gross exaggeration (although it may not be unusual for her to be emotionally driven and illogical as a parent).

·         Betty dreams of being the wife of a state senator and holds up a dress of hers that, logically, could not possibly fit her anymore. Her emotional desire to be the beautiful center of attention again drives this unrealistic behavior.

·         When Bobby is caught picking apart the wallpaper in his bedroom, he’s overcome by fear and so denies everything, even though it’s obvious that he did it.

·         Megan speaks with her father on the phone and is enormously disgusted by his “Marxist bullshit” analysis of the relationship between the assassination/riots and the presumed failure of capitalism. Her analysis of her father is that he hides behind his intellect so as not to feel his emotions. In other words, she believes that her father intellectualizes because he’s flooded with fear about feeling deeper emotions.

·         Henry speaks to Betty about Mayor Lindsay’s emotional fraudulence, smiling like he was going to a pancake breakfast. Lindsay may be hiding his overwhelmed emotions (about the riots throughout the city) behind a display of fake cheerfulness.

·         When Betty calls Don and demands that he come over and pick up the children, Don is too emotionally overwhelmed to think straight, and so he caves in to her demand even though he knows it makes no sense to drive the children through the riot-torn city. Normally, Don would say no, but in this case his emotions seem to have clogged his mind.

·         Feeling overwhelmed with sadness and not knowing what to do, Megan decides to take the children to the park to attend a vigil for MLK. The soundness of this plan is questionable, since the city is a dangerous place at the time, and bringing small children out is especially risky.

·         Maybe because of his own love of movies, Don takes Bobby to Planet of the Apes, which is about the destruction of America. It makes little sense that Don would consider it a good idea, from a rational perspective, to bring his little boy to a movie with such a dark message and menacing tone at a time when people are rioting in the streets, a movie that Bobby can’t really follow or understand.

·         When Michael takes Beverly Farber on a date, his overwhelming anxiety drives him to say a lot of awkward things that make little sense to say on a first date, if he were to plan rationally what to say.

·         After hearing about the assassination, Michael’s father decides to head to work on a Saturday just to get away from the news, even though he doesn’t work on Saturdays – not necessarily the logical thing to do when riots are occurring.

·         At the awards banquet, Pete calls Trudy and is obviously overwhelmed with loneliness and the desire to see his wife and daughter. Trudy is swept up in the emotions of the day’s events and seems touched that Pete has called, but after a few moments her mind returns to ruling her emotions and she blocks Pete from coming over.

·         After the weekend, Dawn shows up at Peggy’s instead of her own job at SCDP. This seems emotionally driven, since Dawn feels closer to Peggy than to anyone at SCDP.

·         The music that ends the episode, Love is Blue, speaks of a flood of emotions after a breakup: a blue world filled with sadness, a gray life with a cold heart, red eyes that cry, a green heart overcome with jealousy, and black nights feeling overwhelmingly lost and alone.

Another theme is trying to take care of others, but often with confusion and mixed results.

·         Ginny, the real estate agent, tries to take care of Peggy’s request to buy a home but is so befuddled about whether to bid high or low that she ends up losing the sale.

·         Abe has a general desire to take care of Peggy but thinks he shouldn’t weigh in on where she buys a home because he can’t contribute financially. Later, when prompted, he expresses his vision of their future together, and Peggy feels cared for because of it.  

·         Bert Cooper tries to provide leadership to Harry and Pete at the banquet, a way of trying to take care of them, when the two of them begin to argue, but he doesn’t really know how to pull it off.

·         Bert wants to take care of the people at SCDP by closing the office early, but confusion ensues when Roger insists on the 3:00 meeting with his oddball acquaintance, Randall.

·         Roger wants to take care of Randall in a way by giving him a meeting with Don, but by the end of the meeting it’s anybody’s guess as to whether Randall felt cared for.

·         Harry wants to take care of SCDP by paying attention to how the assassination and riots will affect business. However, his comments about this at the banquet don’t influence anyone else to think about the business, and in fact garner Pete’s moral indignation.

·         Don and Joan want to take care of Dawn by sending her home early, but when Dawn says she wants to stay, they seem to be a little confused and decide to let her do so.

·         Joan wants to take care of Dawn by giving her a hug and reassuring her that they’re sorry, but Joan’s care and concern are not believed or received by Dawn.

·         Dawn announces to Don and Joan that she came in because her mother thought she should, indicating that her mother was trying to take care of her best interests. She also told them that she went to stay with her aunt over the weekend, where her aunt presumably was a caretaker.

·         Don wants to do the right thing by Betty and his children, but ends up making the confused decision to drive his children through a dangerous route to take care of Betty’s emotions.

·         Betty wants to take care of her children by keeping the television off so they won’t hear more about the assassination, although later, due to her confusion, she has the television on all the time, defeating that objective.

·         Don wants to find a way to take care of Sylvia even though she’s in Washington, D.C., and he ends up sounding confused and lame on the phone in that effort.

·         Don tries to take care of Bobby by taking him to the movies. It’s questionable whether exposing Bobby to this dark movie at a time when the city is actually being torn apart is an effective way to shield him, but in the moment Don’s attention seems to help Bobby.

·         Michael’s father wants to take care of Michael by seeing that he gets married and has a family of his own. Despite his berating and rude tactics, his message gets through and Michael goes along with his father’s promptings. His father also talks about Noah’s work in taking care of the animals when the flood came.

·         Henry reassures Betty that, despite his plans to leave his current job and run for state senate, she will never have to worry about money – a typical way for men to take care of a wife and family that, in this case, is successful and appreciated.

·         Pete wants to take care of Trudy and Tammy emotionally, but when he calls Trudy and tries to come over to take care of them, Trudy rejects the idea. He feels awkward and lonely because he can’t fill that role for her.


One final observation: To me, Bobby’s character is not only unusual, it’s not believable.  Every child expresses self-interested desires and opinions most of the time, and we rarely hear Bobby talk much about what he likes, what he wants, etc. His sneakiness is believable when he denies picking apart the wallpaper and when he fakes a stomach ache, but his concern about Henry being killed (Henry hasn’t even run for office yet and doesn’t frequently speak before large crowds in the way that MLK did) is too big a stretch for me. When Bobby spoke directly to the theater usher and tried to strike up a man-to-man discussion about why people attend movies, I felt disappointed with the writers. We’ve never seen Bobby develop that kind of confidence, so how did he get it all of a sudden? Throughout Bobby’s life, Don has never paid enough attention to him for him to develop confidence in initiating a conversation with an adult man he doesn’t know. If Bobby were that confident, why wouldn’t he speak up more around his dad, the way Sally does? Based on his childhood, Bobby should feel pretty needy around Don (and hence, around other men) because Don has never given him much of his time, and fairly jealous of Sally because Don pays more attention to Sally than to him. It’s as though the writers are trying to make Bobby into an unusual character but instead have made him into an unnatural one. Please, writers: let Bobby be a natural boy filled with selfish interests first, and an unusual boy second.

No comments:

Post a Comment