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July 31, 2014

Mad Men: Out of Town (season premiere)

by Allison Waldman, posted Aug 17th 2009 12:35AM
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(S03E01)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Don has returned to Betty, the baby's on the way, but all's not right in Don's world. There's turmoil in the office and a current of unrest thanks to the British takeover of Sterling Cooper.

But if you hoped, or believed, that Don's sojourn to Los Angeles and his contemplation of another life was a wake-up call, think again. Don Draper remains Dick Whitman. A leopard doesn't change his spots.

Birth was on Don's mind as he fixed a cup of warm milk for Betty, and we learned that Dick Whitman was a gift from God, by way of a hooker who died in childbirth. The opening scenes unfolded before Don's eyes as if he was there watching his own creation. In his mind's eye, he's as tawdry as the tableau.

Meanwhile, Betty has moved on from her anger and now seeks perfection, even though she knows the most she can expect from Don is the illusion of perfection. His description of the beach scene, to lull Betty to sleep, is Don Draper, ad man, at his best. Don knows how to sell anything and, for now, while awaiting their third child, Betty's buying. When they're like this, Don and Betty seem like they can make it.

The Brits have moved in on Sterling Cooper and it's not a comfortable fit. One-third of the staff has been cut and those remaining -- like Pete Campbell -- fear what's happening. The firing of Burt Petersen, head of accounts, represents just how much the Americans are bucking under the yoke of the English. He screams bloody murder at being axed. Then, the scene at the end when Roger, Pete, Don and Bert all wind up in Don's office for a drink, underscored just how unhappy they all are with the British.

At the same time, the PPL team of Pryce and Hooker were ill at ease among the Americans. Hooker was above being thought of as a secretary -- Moneypenny -- but Pryce chastised him for taking an office. He put him back in his place. What was striking about the British was their duplicity, setting up Campbell vs. Cosgrove, mixed with their own self-deception. Hooker resents being a secretary, which he is; Pryce doesn't believe that London fog is a real weather condition.

The trip to Baltimore for London Fog, the raincoat company, provided Don with a chance to do what he does best, prevaricate. From the lie about his name -- Bill -- to the type of accountant he was to his claim that it was his birthday so he could get Shelley into his room, Don was his old self on the road and away from Betty.

Sal's moment of sexual joy was fleeting, thanks to the fire alarm, and to make matters more complicated, Don saw him in his room with the bellhop. Armed with the knowledge of Sal's secret, Don used advertising to enlighten his friend about how to keep a secret secret -- "limit your exposure." If there's one person at Sterling Cooper Sal could trust with a secret, it's Don.

Once back in the nest, Don learned that Sally broke his valise to keep him from leaving. Sally couldn't conceive that it would take more than a broken clasp to stop her father's wandering ways. Don's time in Los Angeles has traumatized his daughter, even if he does assure Sally that he will always come home and she'll always be his girl. We know too well that Don has a hobo heart when it comes to home and family.

The theme of birth recurred again when Sally asked Don to tell her about the day she was born. Don had nothing. As vivid as his imagining of his own birth, he had next to no memory of Sally's. He knew Dick Whitman, but Don Draper... not much.

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dkny

it was Dick's b-day - no doubt that's why they showed him being born - not exactly a leap there

and he slept with her becasue she was HOT - don't look to deep - Don/Dick/Bill isn't really all that deep he's just good with a line and made-up names like London Fog.

Great start and good for you Sal go get some! Will he and Frenchy hook-up now?

August 27 2009 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

Having lived there for a while, I really appreciated the period detail, especially pre-BWI Friendship International Airport and Haussner's restaurant. It famously did not take reservations, and you did have to be in line early to be sure of getting in to dine at a reasonable hour. Given that the production staff apparently contacted former staff to get details of the waitress' uniforms, I was surprised that the set wasn't as detailed as some on the show have been.

It's not surprising the tables were not as close together, but the decor, while appropriately ornate, had too few paintings--in real life the Haussner's art collection was displayed almost floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall, and there were tchotchkes and objets d'art on the horizontal surfaces as well. Given the time period and the guys, it's too bad the at-the-time "stag-only" bar, featuring paintings of nudes, couldn't be worked in.

August 18 2009 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe

Wow, what a way to start. I can't wait for the rest of this season. Mad Men has turned into a must watch for me. I wish it was in HD though.
http://www.joeonthetube.com

August 17 2009 at 3:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Natalie

I too was under the impression that Don didn't want to show the stewardess his ID because he was using another identity. Though at the time I didn't think it was really Don's birthday and he was using it as a pick-up-line, now I am starting to think that it was Dick's birthday. It does make sense in regards to the opening scene and why he chose that moment to think about that.

I also didn't pick up that Don may have been with another woman the night that Sally was born. But I think that's another valid point. This show can really make you second guess yourself...

August 17 2009 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
edgore

I think that in the last scene we are seeing more than just the general unhappiness with the Brits. We are also seeing Pete Campbell realize that, even with the complaints he has about his new position and his frustration with having to compete with Cosgrove, that he is entering the Boy's Club. There is no way that Roger and Bert would have treated him like that before his promotion.

August 17 2009 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cgar

there is no question it was Dick Whitman's birthday.

August 17 2009 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cgar's comment
thepassenger

Based on what? If you make such a statement, you should be able to substantiate it.

August 17 2009 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pbfredle

When Don told the stewardess it was his birthday, I assumed he meant his Dick Whitman birthday, not his Don Draper birthday. To me that explained the flash back to his birth, at the very beginning of the episode. Loved the episode and since I couldn't wait for DVR viewing, I appreciated the limited commercial interruptions.
Several laugh out loud moments and some really touching ones as well.

August 17 2009 at 1:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to pbfredle's comment
Jarrett C

Perhaps I'm missing something, but wasn't Don still masquerading under his brother-in-law's name (that was on the luggage tag). If he had shown his ID (Don Draper), it would have revealed him a liar. I doubt it was anyone's birthday. Just Don working his "magic".

August 17 2009 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MadaboutMM

pbfredle - Thanks for clearing up the birthday issue. I totally agree with you. It was Dick Whitman's birthday. I think that is why "Don" felt okay about cheating. It wasn't Don, it was Dick.

August 17 2009 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Loved this episode. It's great how Don is sort of the keeper of the secrets in the Sterling Cooper world. He's good at keeping his own secret and good at keeping others' secrets too.

Every time an episode of MM ends I want to see the next one immediately, heh.

August 17 2009 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phil

Focusing on Don's feet in the opening shot might indicate the personality of the character as we've come to know him as one who is always moving and moving forward. But here is standing still, warming milk for his pregnant wife and thinking about the past. Maybe life isn't so bad this way --especially if he limits his exposure the way he suggested to Sal. Careful he was and yet could this amount to a side of Don Draper where he starts getting feet of clay? We definitely should stay tuned. . .

August 17 2009 at 11:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig

Whoops there is a mention of the Sal scene. I skipped right over it. My apologies.

August 17 2009 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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