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July 28, 2014

Review: Mad Men - The Grown-Ups

by Bob Sassone, posted Nov 2nd 2009 12:52AM
Mad Men: The Grown-Ups
(S03E12) "The whole country's drinking." - Pete, to Trudy

When Joel talked to Mad Men creator and writer Matthew Weiner last month, he wouldn't say when or how the show would deal with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. We all knew it was coming, since last week's episode was set on Halloween, but I actually thought it would happen in the season finale. But they addressed it tonight.

They say November 22, 1963 is the day America changed, and I would say that the lives of the people in and around Sterling Cooper changed too, in various ways and for various reasons.

The Kennedy assassination is a tricky thing to tackle. It's been done so many times in so many ways in pop culture that I wouldn't have been surprised if Weiner and company had skipped it altogether (well, they couldn't do that, but they could have touched on it lightly). But really, you can't have a show set in the early 60s and have it not be covered in a major way and affect the characters in a major way, so I'm glad this episode completely revolved around that week in November.

Here's how it has affected the characters:

- Betty is already messed up by the Don/Dick revelation, and now she is overwhelmed by JFK's death, then the Oswald shooting, and her feelings for Henry. If Betty's seemingly new found love for Don after the revelation was surprising, her stunning admission that she no longer loves him was even more surprising, and really puts the Drapers in a tailspin as the season finale comes up. Sad, really. I thought the two were stronger.

- I was really impressed by Pete and Trudy in this episode. Pete gets screwed over at work again and decides to leave for home early. When the news bulletin comes on TV about Kennedy, Pete is the one who wonders why Harry is just looking at his papers worrying about which commercials won't be shown. Pete is the one who wonders why the hell they're going to go to a wedding on a day like that. And just when you think Trudy is going to pester him about it, she actually is happy he's going to stay home, watching the TV coverage with him, and she knows he's been pushed around at work too. I've always liked Trudy.

- I wonder if Don and Peggy are going to have to scrap that ad campaign for Aqua Net. I think a lot of shows wouldn't even have discussed the ad campaign in an earlier episode and would have just shown the drawings suddenly in this episode so we see the resemblance to what happened. I didn't even think of that. But Mad Men is good at foreshadowing things like that, and I love being reminded and surprised.

- Duck seemed genuinely concerned about calling his kids, but he certainly doesn't let JFK's death get in the way of his hotel romp with Peggy. He didn't even tell her about it! I hope she remembers that before going to work for him.

More thoughts:

- I love how the Kennedy news was revealed in this episode, in Harry's office while he was talking to Pete, the TV on in the background but the sound turned down low. If you're not the type of person who looks for things in the background (a must for this show) you might have missed it. Harry was watching the CBS soap As The World Turns.

- I haven't figured out why the show opened up with the office so cold, but I love the little touch of Lane taking off his glove to shake Pete's hand. So proper and sincere, too.

- Does every wedding Roger is involved in turn out odd? At his own wedding he dresses up in blackface, and now his daughter's wedding is on the same day as JFK's assassination. (Update: a reader reminded me that Roger did the blackface at a party, not his wedding.)

- I love how Roger not only called Joan (glad to see Christina Hendrick's in this episode, even for just a little bit - for a while there it looked like she wouldn't be in it), but he called her right in front of his wife! She was shit-faced, sure, but still! It's great how Roger and Joan are friends, as well as ex-lovers.

- Great to see Betty and Carla sharing a smoke!

- I wish this episode had at least a little Sal.

- So who were the grown-ups in this episode? Or did every character turn into a grown-up tonight?

Quotes:

"I think it's good you're being picky. Finally." - Peggy

"Then why are you seeing him?" - girl, to Peggy, about Duck not being married

"Just because she went to India doesn't mean she's not an idiot." - Mona, to her daughter

"I don't know what kind of world you live in, but I'm the good person here." - Jane

"They're a couple of homos. Tell them you have plans." - Duck, to Peggy

"I know a nooner when I hear one." - Paul, to Peggy

"How would you know what a monster looks like?" - Jane, about Oswald

"He was so handsome. And now I'll never get to vote for him." - drunk Jane, about JFK

"Everthing's going to be fine." - Don
"How do you know that?" - Betty

Mad Men' Photos

    Actors John Slattery, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss and cast of "Mad Men" on stage at the TNT/TBS broadcast of the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. 17498_MC_0473.JPG

    Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com

    The cast of Mad Men January Jones, Alison Brie, Kiernan Shipka, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks poses in the press room at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

    Steve Granitz/WireImage.com

    The cast of Mad Men poses in the press room at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

    Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: (L-R) Actresses January Jones, Alison Brie, Kiernan Shipka, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" pose with their award for Outstanding Performance by an ensemble in a Drama Series in the press room at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** January Jones;Alison Brie;Kiernan Shipka;Elisabeth Moss;Christina Hendricks

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: (L-R) Actresses January Jones, Alison Brie, Kiernan Shipka, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" pose with their award for Outstanding Performance by an ensemble in a Drama Series in the press room at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** January Jones;Alison Brie;Kiernan Shipka;Elisabeth Moss;Christina Hendricks

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actress Emily Blunt (R) presents the cast of "Mad Men" with the Ensemble in a Drama Series award during the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Emily Blunt

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actress Emily Blunt (L) presents actor Jon Hamm the Ensemble in a Drama Series award for "Mad Men" during the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Emily Blunt;Jon Hamm

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actor Jon Hamm (C) and the cast of "Mad Men" accept the award for Ensemble in a Drama Series during the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jon Hamm

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actor Jon Hamm (C) and the cast of "Mad Men" accept the award for Ensemble in a Drama Series during the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jon Hamm

    Getty Images

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 18: 'Mad Men' actor Bryan Batt attends the Obama Pajama Party at the Ronald Reagan Building on January 18, 2009 in Washington, DC. The inaguration charity ball will benefit children in need. (Photo by Abby Brack/Getty Image) *** Local Caption *** Bryan Batt

    Getty Images

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Bob Sassone

JBob: I guess you didn't read the beginning of the review.

November 03 2009 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JBob

how does ""Everthing's going to be fine." - Don
"How do you know that?" - Betty"

make it in to the quotes but...

"You've been drinking?" - Trudy
"The whole COUNTRY'S been drinking!" - Pete

doesn't?

another great episode for a great show!!

November 03 2009 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Agustin

The Carla/Betty scene is perfect as a symbol of union and equality of classes upon pain and uncertainty.

Such moments suspend every prejudice, rank or authority to show us how equal we are behind social standards.

Sit together, cry together, smoke together. Two human beings trying to understand.

November 03 2009 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Becks

This was not the way it happened. The overuse of the television intruded on the story and was more appropriate to a 9/11 storyline than the Kennedy assassination. We were not glued to our TVs as most of us did not have them. Radio was how Americans primarily followed this event. Too much time was spent on the newsclips. As the episode piled on more and more of the "most important/historical" television moments of coverage it overpowered the characters. I was only a boy at the time, but a neighbor of my parents--who worked in advertising at the time--still lives down the street and viewed the episode. I was so distressed by this episode that I paid him a visit. To his experience, this portrayal was nothing like what he and his office mates experienced. To his memory, it was both more emotional and less connected to the television. He was a Kennedy supporter, but most of the people he worked with on Madison Avenue had not voted for Kennedy (if you remember, he squeaked by in the election). For him, what was most remarkable was the reaction of those who were disgusted by Kennedy the man/president, but were destroyed by the idea that anyone would kill him. With that in mind, I think the writers of MAD MEN missed the appropriate angle to present this episode. Remember, this is the firm that was hired by Nixon and went to bed thinking they'd scored a win. The reaction of Pete was entirely out of character: if anyone at Sterling/Cooper is a Republican, it would be Pete. This exemplifies what I believe is the false tone of this episode. There is no connective emotional connection between these characters we love, their lives as we know them, and the assassination. In this episode, our characters spout writers' assertions and seem, throughout, to be disconnected from their core. In the end, it is the very poor choice of a boring European director for this episode that highlights the disconnect between this episode, it's characters, and how this American tragedy played out. Additionally, while the Don/Bets throughline was well done in it's matching the "End of Camelot" with the end of their love, I think the most important opportunity was lost in not leading into this with the very important emotional context that like Bets, the Kennedy's had just had a child. Her child with Don survived, but the Kennedy's child died. Dallas was the first time since that death that the Kennedys appeared together in public. This should have been the focus for Don and Betty's episode arc.

November 03 2009 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gwin

oh yeah, that's what I meant :)

November 02 2009 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gwin

Yes, the wedding was the day after the assassination. When they show Roger's daughter in her wedding dress, it was probably a last fitting or something.

I thought the "grown-ups" thing was ironic. Roger's daughter and his new wife both behaved like spoiled children, not adults.

Betty may not love Don anymore, but she is a fool to think that she could be in love with Henry, and that he will definitely marry her. They barely know each other!!

Also, wasn't the girl talking to Betty her roommate?

November 02 2009 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gwin's comment
MK

You mean the girl talking to PEGGY? Yes, it was her roommate.

Awesome episode! So tastefully done!

The grown-ups in that episode were Pete and Trudy to my surprise. I found myself respecting and really liking Pete for the first time.

November 02 2009 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

Roger's wife was my favorite "grown-up" in this episode. The scene with her on the phone with Roger was great!

Only one week to go? When does Breaking Bad start up again?

November 02 2009 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim

The wedding was the day AFTER Dallas.

And remember - none of the characters have seen the Zapruder film yet. The fact that the AquaNet campaign is almost a shot for shot recreation will certainly get the concept scrapped.

No convertibles in commercials for YEARS!

November 02 2009 at 9:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Argette

I knew the show's writers would not be so cliché as to end the season on Nov. 22. How the events of that weekend affect the characters is the real story here.

The original footage was well handled, woven seamlessly into the background of the show. The dark, almost shuttered Draper house and equally dead SC offices showed how we felt that weekend.

It was so powerful, I kept thinking something awful had happened in real life. That's how accurately the feeling that weekend was depicted. It was a defining moment in our lives. Sad when it happened, but it certainly influenced us boomers.

November 02 2009 at 9:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

I was 10 years old on 11/22/63 and remember a lot but what stands out most is seeing all the grown-ups crying. The scene when Sally and Bobby came home from school was amazing for me, I relived it all. When Karla lit up I remember one of my mom's friends who hadn't smoked in years do the same. For most watching that is what we remember now...the grown-ups.

November 02 2009 at 7:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lisa's comment
Cheri

I loved this episode! From reading the reviews and stories on TV Squad I knew we were all waiting for the Kennedy episode. I thought it was brilliant how the news break came on in Harry's office but he and Pete didn't even hear it. Hearing it in the background as a viewer I felt like ah, here we go...! It was sort of like a hint to us that this was going to be the big episode. Although I do admit when they ignored it, I almost thought maybe the whole episode would as well.

As for the Aqua Velvet ad, when they pitched it weeks ago I missed the similarity and foreshadowing but as soon as I saw the image drawn on the board I knew they wouldn't be able to use it.

I loved the end of the episode...the whole world is crashing down and the country is not going to be the same after the assassination. And like the country, Don;s world is also falling apart at the seams. Great job. The last two episodes have been so amazing I can't imagine what next week's finale will be like.

November 02 2009 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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