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October 9, 2015

Mad Men: The Mountain King

by Allison Waldman, posted Oct 20th 2008 9:57AM
Vincent Kartheiser(S02E12)"Stop lying. You've been caught." - Anna Draper to Dick Whitman

If Don were ten years older and this was 1972 instead of 1962, we'd be saying that Don Draper is going through a mid-life crisis. After spending last week contemplating a new future with the jet set, or at least getting the offer of a hobo-existence without the worries of finances or fidelity, Don was compelled to look back before making a choice. That phone call at the end of The Jet Set was to the real Mrs. Draper.

Back home, meanwhile, Betty is again faced with having to grow up. Between her father's decline, Don's disappearance and her rebukes of Arthur and Glenn, Betts has been forced to be more than she's been in the past. Sally's latest stunt shouldn't be a shock considering that she's snuck a drink earlier this season and clearly idolizes everything her father does.

Sally blames Betty for Don's absence, and Betty realizes that pain she's been feeling is just as acute for her child and she does something human about it -- she gives Sally the boots to cushion the blow of the truth that Daddy may not be coming back.

It's yet to be determined if Don is coming back. I love that the office of 1962 respects him so much that they don't even question or pursue his disappearance. They allow a man of Don's stature the same kind of idiosyncracies they do Roger and Bert. Don's choice is to disappear now and then. Peggy's loyalty to Don came through again clearly when she refused to gossip with Pete. She's also learned well from her mentor. Confronting Roger for Freddie's office was brilliantly done.

Peggy also pulled of a great presentation for Popsicle. The ritual metaphor showed how much she understands how advertising works. Don was wise to recognize her talent. Someone as book-smart as Ken completely missed the point. Popsicle was her victory.

Pete seemed to overreact to the the Spence Chapin appointment and throwing the chicken off the terrace might be symbolic of tossing off his marriage. I don't see Trudy's family forgiving him. Taking away Clearasil was just a start.

All the ducks (thanks to Duck Phillips) are lined up for the merger with the British company, even though Bert Cooper claims, "You can't trust the Brits." Still, Bert's sister, Alice, sees the wisdom of the deal and with Roger all gung-ho and Don not there to speak, Sterling Cooper takes the bait. Ramifications from this will be huge, just watch. Don taking orders from Duck? He could take his millions from the merger and created the Don Draper Agency, starting with Peggy as a creative director!

Ultimately, this was a great episode for back story on the evolution of Don Draper, as we learned that the blonde from the car dealership was, in fact, the real Mrs. Draper. What was fascinating was that based on a lie -- a lie that Dick Whitman confessed to -- a relationship was formed that seems more real and secure for Don than the one he has with Betty. He can tell Anna anything, and does.

Don's dip in the ocean, coming after the Tarot cards, seemed to suggest a baptism for him. Is this how he'll wash away his sins and return to Betty and his children? Maybe he's going to be resurrected as yet another man -- not Dick, not Don, but someone else? I think it's more likely he's ready to return to Betty and confess the truth -- all the truth -- and start anew.

Finally, the most disturbing story was Joan's discovery that her fiance is a rapist. She was the victim. When he rejected her attempt in bed to get on top (reminiscent of Betty and Don's last encounter on the floor), you sensed something was off. Joan offered, "Let me do the driving." But Dr. Greg doesn't operate like that. He has to have power and in Joan's world -- in Don's office -- he forced her to have sex on the floor. Given the times and her psyche, Joan will marry this man and punish him for years to come. The seeds of hate were sown when he did what he did. She will get back at him in a slow, cruel way.

One last observation: was Betty bleeding a sign that she's pregnant or was preg and horseriding was a way to end it? That happened back in the pre-abortion era.
Do you think Betty was pregnant?
Yes198 (42.7%)
No97 (20.9%)
I'm not sure169 (36.4%)

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Serious Jest

Very good analysis! Are you on Twitter? I'd like to keep looking out for stuff you put out.

Question for you: I know the episode title refers to the song the kid was playing at Anna's house, but what greater analogy to the "Mountain King" do you think the creators were trying to draw?

BTW, I'd be honored if you checked out some of my reviews (they're short) at www.livemancave.com, and comment.

September 14 2011 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Even though I think Pete's character is flawed, I couldn't help but think he was justified in being upset about the adoption clinic appt. (Though the way he expressed it could have been better.) It was awfully high-handed of Trudy to just make the appointment [and tell others about it].

I did root for Trudy, though, when she told Pete that he shouldn't talk to her the way he was. She was definitely right about that!

October 25 2008 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just caught up with every episode of this series, and I think it's one of the best on television.

Some thoughts on Betty bleeding, although she may have been pregnant, I also thought it was just her menstruating. Although she finally opened up to Sally about the truth about Don, she didn't go into all the other parts of growing up (puberty, etc).

October 25 2008 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i was seriously horrified for poor Joan when that happened. She's one of the few characters i actually have genuine affection for(other than Don and Peggy) Really good episode. Also, i have this nagging feeling if for some reason Mad Men ever went to the future...like the 1980s or something...It'd be run by Peggy Olson.

October 21 2008 at 12:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to KevinInChains's comment

Showing the future of Mad Men (ca. 1980) would be an excellent series finale, but Six Feet Under did it so well.

October 21 2008 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andy See

Great episode as usual. Laughed out loud when Sarah Beth Carson calls Betty out as an awful woman for encouraging her 'crush'. Betty likes to manipulate people but doesn't want to get called on it or admit that she's doing it. By contrast Don has no problem getting others to do his bidding.

Peggy's ambivalence(hatred, really) toward the Catholic church is amusing too. I instantly recognized the image of the Virgin Mary and her brushing off the Popsicle exec was classic.

My personal favorite moment is illustrative on how lovingly this show is created. When Anna Draper tells Dick(Don) that she bought him some clothes she places a bag on his chest from The Broadway department store. For those of who grew up in California in that era that was a landmark store. The Broadway is just another victim of the Macy's sprawl but seeing that bag brought back so many memories.

Later we see Dick(Don) holding a grocery bag from Ralph's (another SoCal or West Coast landmark). Again the devil is in the details.

I think Betty is/was pregnant. Never heard of going riding to try and terminate a pregnancy but the writers have definitely given us a lot to chew on.

It will be interesting to see how Don behaves after his 'baptism' that he had at the end of the episode.

October 20 2008 at 11:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aaron Slater

I noticed a little detail that shows how close they look into the details sometimes... The shot of the bus offloading in San Pedro, then you see two men in white Navy jumpers walk in the background... alluding to the now closed Long Beach Naval Base that bordered San Pedro.

October 20 2008 at 9:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a huge advertising nerd, my absolute favorite part of this episode was when Pete came home and put on the TV and what was airing? 'The Day The Earth Stood Still!' Jon Hamm is one of the stars of the remake and this bit of "product placement" made me squeal!

October 20 2008 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good catch on the Popsicle Virgin Mary pose. I was focused on the ritualistic aspect she mentioned and couldn't figure out what that "familiar image" was.

Poor Joan. She doesn't have a choice. She has to marry doctor/rapist/jerk. Remember when she got so upset about having her real age posted. She is running out of time to "secure" her future. She knows it can't be a SC and she wasted all that time with Roger. I do hope she makes him pay - literally and figuratively for a long time.

I also hope they hurry and get Don back to NY. All the casual feel of California makes me feel uncomfortable. I like these characters in NY gritty mode even with all the flaws. It was nice to see a glimpse of Don, but that isn't the real Don anymore - NY is.

October 20 2008 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great comments guys. What i would really love to see is an actual reading of don tarot cards. Did we ever see the full set on screen at the same time?

October 20 2008 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TarikB's comment

Yes Replying to my own post. The wonders of google.


October 20 2008 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lloyd Singer

I just stumbled upon this blog and think the person who wrote the blog, and all the people who commented on last night's episode, are very smart and insightful. What a pleasure not to disagree with blog comments. However, I was shocked to read that Season Two is over already next week! Yikes. Half of me wishes "more" had happened this season (plot-wise), but of course the slow, sensual pace is one reason Mad Men is so captivating. What a great show.

October 20 2008 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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