Mad Men: “The Mountain King”

Wow! Just… wow! After last week’s less than stellar episode, this week’s Mad Men was just… amazing! So let’s get right to it, shall we?

“The Mountain King” begins at the Draper home. Betty yells at the children to clean up their mess. She then goes into Don’s office and endorses his paycheck (which is dated October 11, 1962). She goes to light a cigarette and finds something amiss. Betty gets up and quietly walks around the house… until she finds Sally sneaking a cigarette in the bathroom. Betty locks Sally in the closet as a punishment. Sally threatens to “tell daddy” when he comes home. Betty tells her that she is welcome to do so. From the other side of the locked door, Sally says that Don left “left because you’re stupid and mean”. Sally’s comment cuts Betty to the bone:

We next see Don getting off a bus in San Pedro, a small town around 25 miles south of Los Angeles.

Back at the agency, Ken and Sal sit with Peggy in her “office” trying to think of a way to sell Popsicles year-round. Ken complains about the noise and people constantly coming in and out (the Xerox machine is in Peggy’s office, remember?). Sal complains about the lack of “refreshments”, which causes Peggy to reach in her desk and pull out a bottle of Scotch. While Peggy pours, Sal says that his mom would buy him a Popsicle and break it in half, “like Jesus at the Last Supper”. This gives Peggy a flash of inspiration: everyone breaks Popsicles in half, and that is something you can do year ’round. She compares it to Communion, saying that the breaking of a Popsicle is a Christian behavior, if not a Christian action. Peggy says “and let me tell you something, the Catholic Church knows how to sell things”.

We next see Pete, who is walking back to his office. He asks his secretary Hildy if there are any messages. She says that Burt Peterson called with a question about an expense report… oh, and that Trudy has gotten them an appointment at Spence-Chapin, an adoption agency. Hildy then gives a brief speech about how wonderful it is that Pete’s adopting an unwanted baby. Pete, with clenched jaw, thanks her for the messages.

Alice Cooper (heh), Bert’s sister, arrives at the office for lunch with Bert to discuss the merger. Amusingly, she refuses to take off her shoes in his office, Bert’s all-time pet peeve. I guess it just shows what sister can get away with, huh? Anyway, Alice says that she likes the deal, and appears eager for the dollars that will roll from it. She asks Bert what his problem with the deal is. He says that he promised to take care of Roger, and that he’s afraid of becoming a figurehead. Alice reminds Bert that he apparently has a palatial home in Montana, complete with cattle. Bert says that he misses the cows, but that he simply “can’t trust the Brits”.

Back in San Pedro, we see Don approaching the door to a house, a house with someone playing Grieg’s In The Hall of the Mountain King on the piano. Before Don rings the doorbell, we see a flashback to a scene that must have taken place shortly after the flashback shown in “The Gold Violin” (episode 7). The same blonde from that episode has followed Don back to a hotel room, where she tells him that she just wants to know what happened to her husband… Don Draper. Don insists that it’s a misunderstanding, producing several legal documents in Draper’s name. He says that there are many “Don Drapers” out there. The blonde woman agrees, but says that he’s the only “Don Draper” that used her husband’s driver’s license number to apply for a new one. Despite Don’s protests, she insists that she can see it in Dick’s face. Don continues to (lamely) protest, and the woman eventually tells him that she knows he’s lying, and that she doesn’t want to have to do something drastic. Don then… tells her the truth:

“He died. I’m sorry.”

She looks faint, so Don grabs her a chair and a glass of water. Don sits, and begins to tell her the true story about what happened to her husband. Well, mostly the truth: he says that “they” (the Army) mixed up Don and Dick, and that he just had to get out of Korea (implying that he was terrified of combat). He doesn’t tell her the full truth – that he himself switched the dog tags – but it’s as close as Don has gotten to telling the truth in several years. He says that he has some money, and that he owes her money, and that he owes her more than money. He offers her Don’s dog tags and Purple Heart. She says that her name is Anna, and that Don Draper really wanted to marry her sister. She asks for, and receives, Don’s real name, then asks what she’s going to do with him.

Back at the door in San Pedro, in present time, Don rings the doorbell… to be greeted by a smiling Anna Draper:

Holy crap!

Anna is giving a kid a piano lesson. Anna introduces Don as “Dick” to the young boy. Don tells the boy that the tune is “scary”. As soon as the kid leaves, she asks why Dick’s in town. He says that he’s there “on business” but he isn’t specific, nor does he seem to have any luggage. She asks Dick if he’s in trouble. He says no. He begs her for a shower and a lie-down.

Back in New York, Pete is home and he’s pissed. He calls for Trudy as he walks through the door. He tells her that they are not adopting a baby. Period. To emphasize his point, he grabs a large platter with a roasted chicken on it and chucks it off the balcony. Trudy storms out of the room.

Meanwhile, Joan and Greg are having problems of their own. Joan tries to get frisky with Greg in bed, but is shooed away… especially after Joan tries to get on top. Greg apparently isn’t “down” with girls being on top during sex. Perhaps we’ll find out more about this later…

Back at the office, Peggy lights up a cigarette. Everyone else is gone. The shot is amazing:

Back in California, Don is having a drink with Anna on her porch. He compliments her on the porch. She says that she’s glad that he likes the house, since he bought it for her. She says that she thinks about Dick often. She asks about his children. It’s clear that these two have known each other for a while. Don says that he “ruined everything” with his life in New York. He tells her about his brother coming to see him at Sterling Cooper. Anna says she didn’t know he had a brother. Don marvels that he’s told Anna things that he’s never even told Betty. Anna says that he does it because he loves Betty, and that Betty surely has some secrets that she’s kept from him.

At Sterling Cooper, Roger walks in to Bert’s office to ask if he’s seen the latest proposal from Putnam, Powell and Lowe. Bert says that he’s not happy with the idea of selling out just because Roger wants to get divorced and needs money. Roger says that he’s given the company 20 years of service and that they’ll all be able to keep their jobs. Bert calls for a partner’s meeting. As Roger turns to leave, he tells Bert that he really loves Jane. Bert doesn’t care.

Meanwhile, Pete’s father-in-law calls. He says that he wants the Clearasil account reviewed. Pete says that the results have been wonderful. Tom says that perhaps his unhappy home life is affecting his work. Pete instantly figures out what’s going on and tells him that perhaps Tom should just pull the account now and leave them alone. Pete has apparently cost the agency a great deal of money.

Back in San Pedro, Anna has gone out and bought Don some clothes that actually fit. As Anna walks into the kitchen, Dick flashes back to a Christmas Eve at Anna’s place. He’s glowing, as giddy as a school boy. He says that he’s finally met “The One”… a model named Elizabeth. He’s completely head over heels in love with her. Anna thinks it’s wonderful… but then Dick explains that they (Don and Anna) have to get divorced before Dick (Don) can marry Betty. He asks if they can get a “quickie” divorce, and that he’ll pay for it and take care of her. She says that he doesn’t owe her anything. He disagrees. She thinks a family be a good thing for him. Anna is afraid that that will be their last Christmas together.

Back in New York, Peggy pitches the “communion” idea to the Popsicle folks. And she kicks ass! Notice the Christian motifs in the artwork Sal prepared:

The mom is in the traditional “Mary” pose, and the circle around her head reminds us of the halo often seen around Mary’s head. One of the Popsicle folks even says that the mother in the drawing looks familiar! Regardless, they love the idea… So score another one for Peggy! Woo-hoo!

In a strange scene, Betty calls Sarah Beth… who admits that she slept with Arthur Case. Sarah Beth blames Betty for the entire incident, and Betty plays dumb. While it’s true what Betty says – that no one forced Sarah Beth to sleep with Arthur – Betty totally set them up, and now she’s acting as if she had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I suppose we’ll learn more about this scene later.

The Xerox repairman gives Peggy a right dressing down for the way the office girls abuse the copy machine. Seriously, he talks to her like she’s a 12 year-old. This really pisses her off, so waits outside Roger’s office. When he emerges, she asks for Freddy Rumsen’s old office.

“You young women are very aggressive…”
“I didn’t mean to be impolite.”
“No, it’s cute… there are 30 men out there that didn’t have the balls to ask me.”

So Miss Olsen has an office now! Hell yeah! You go, girl!

As Peggy and Roger are finishing up, Joan and Greg appear. Joan introduces them to Roger and Peggy, and she then walks Greg over to her temporary desk outside of Don’s office. Greg asks for a drink from Don’s office. Joan is hesitant at first, but then agrees to “pretend he’s her boss” for him. Greg then forces himself on Joan. The man that “wasn’t in the mood” earlier in the episode… now date rapes his fiancee:

For the love of God, Joan… please go back to Roger. I know that you’re just a fictional character on a TV show, but please… you deserve so much better than that! Greg shows himself to be especially skeezy when he waits outside Don’s office for Joan to “freshen up”, even hassling her about not being late for their dinner reservation. What a classy guy! Joan leaves the roses he bought her on her desk.

The next day, the partners hold a meeting to decide what to do about the merger offer. Bertram calls the roll and notes that Don is absent. Alice asks where he is; Bert says that his 12% share doesn’t matter. Still, Alice would have liked to have heard what Don thinks about the merger. Bert asks where Don is. Roger says that he went to California on a business trip and taking a few extra days due to “marital problems” (he then tells the secretary taking minutes to not write that down). The partners vote in favor of the merger. Bert orders the firm’s attorney, Mr Whitehouse, who is also present, to come up with a counteroffer. In beautiful long shot, we see everyone exit the conference room… leaving Bert (who really doesn’t want to sell) all alone:

Back in California, Don is walking back to Anna’s house when he spies a bunch of gearheads working on their cars. He goes over to talk to them, and mentions that he used to sell cars. Don asks them if they need any help, that he’s looking for work. He also says that he’d like to see them race. They tell him to show up at Lions Dragstrip in Long Beach on Sunday.

Peggy has a male assistant help her move her things into Freddy’s old office. She pauses to make some small talk with Joan, including complimenting her on her cute fiancee. As the two talk, Ken, Harry and Paul walk up, Paul having just gotten back from Mississippi. Paul says that “something’s different” about Peggy (it’s her hair, stupid), but Peggy waves him off, asking how things went in Mississippi. Harry says that Sheila “dropped him after three days” (thank you, Lord!). The three guys ask what’s going on with the office. Peggy says that it’s her new office. Harry can’t believe it: “I’m the head of television and I spend the day staring at an orangutan!” While walking away, Ken advises Peggy to get a new couch (and since it was Freddy’s couch, Peggy thanks him). Peggy then asks Joan who she needs to talk to about getting Freddy’s name taken off the door and hers put on. Joan says that she’ll handle it. She also says that she’s getting married at Christmas (Peggy asked just as the boys walked up). “That’s wonderful!” Peggy says… as she dismissively closes the door on Joan.

Back at the Draper house, Betty calls Sally into the living room. Betty tells Sally that she’s been unfair to her, and, to make amends, she has a present for Sally. Sally eagerly opens the box… to find some riding boots! Betty now apparently thinks that Sally is old enough to go riding horses with her. Betty points out how Sally’s “becoming a big girl”, and she uses that to explain to Sally that Don and Betty are having a “disagreement”, and that she doesn’t know where he went or when Daddy’s coming home.

Back in San Pedro, Dick repairs a chair while Anna does a tarot reading on him. While he waits for Anna to sort out the cards, he spies a book on a shelf:

Now we know who Don sent the book to early this season! Dick asks if she read the book. Anna says yes, but that it reminded her of New York and made her worry about Dick. He asks her about the tarot cards, if he should be worried. Anna says that he’s only unhappy because he feels alone. Don asks what he should do if that’s true. She says that people can change. Dick disagrees.

Back in New York, Peggy is drinking in her office when Pete stops by. Pete says that she should put up some pictures in the office. Peggy says that she wants to put up her campaigns. Pete asks how she got all this. Peggy jokes that she’s sleeping with Don. Pete tells her that they’ve lost the Clearasil account. Peggy asks how that happened. Pete says that his father-in-law thinks he’ not doing his job. Peggy asks if “something happened” in Los Angeles. Pete says that Don simply disappeared, that he didn’t even check out of his hotel. Pete says that it didn’t surprise him, that Don might not be coming back, and that he’s done it before.

The episode ends with Don walking into the ocean… perhaps as a form of baptism:

UPDATE:

I just wanted to add a couple of things to this recap. They should actually go in the “Other Stuff” section, but I’ve added them here so they stand out:

- Is Jon Hamm a great actor, or what? The subtle difference between Don Draper and Dick Whitman is amazing. Don Draper always looks like he has a terrible headache, but Dick Whitman always looks relaxed and almost happy!

- I’m personally SICK AND TIRED of all the Pete-bashing going on out there on the Internet. Look, don’t get me wrong: Pete’s a jerk. But Trudy is a whiny little rich girl that runs to Daddy every time Pete doesn’t give her what she wants. Does anyone remember season 1, when Trudy wanted the apartment? Pete liked it, but knew it was out of his price range. Since Trudy wanted it so badly, he asked his father for the money (and, being broke, his dad refused). He then had to go to Trudy’s dad for “help”, and we remember the pressure his father-in-law put on him. Then there was the Clearasil account. Now this. I’m actually PROUD of Pete for telling his father-in-law to get lost, although throwing the chicken off the balcony (and the overall way he talks to Trudy) leave a lot to be desired.

- One of the latest conspiracy theories: that the little boy seen playing the piano is Peggy’s kid. I don’t buy it, for two reasons: a) he’s far too old to be Peggy’s kid; and b) he left after the lesson.

OTHER STUFF:

- Don’s paycheck is #1682 and is for the amount of $947.75 (which is $6431.13 in 2007 dollars!)

- We also learn from the paycheck that Sterling Cooper’s address is:

405 Madison Avenue
New York, 17,
New York

The “17″ is the “postal zone”, which the United States Postal Service implemented in large American cities in 1943. On July 1, 1963, ZIP codes were introduced, although they were not mandatory until 1967, when the USPS required them for second- and third-class bulk mailers (periodicals, junk mail, etc.) Interestingly, when the USPS set up zip codes, they simply added numbers to existing postal zone codes in cities that already had them. So Sterling Cooper’s “17″ postal code became the zip code 10017.

- Does anyone know how often most employers paid their employees back in 1962? If the paycheck shown in this episode is weekly, then Don makes $334,428 a year in 2007 dollars… which is some nice coin! If he was paid bi-weekly, then his income is “only” $167,209 a year – which is still nice, but not nearly as nice as what has been implied in the show. Also, in the few references to salary on the show, it’s always been given in weekly pay… so I guess Don is making really big bucks at Sterling Cooper!

- Don’s employee number is 402-970-303.

- It’s sort of… sweet that Sally loves her Daddy so much that she’s taken up smoking and drinking to be like him. I know, I know… she’s 8 years old. But still, it reminds us that someone at the Draper home misses Don.

- Like so many other things in Mad Men, Spence-Chapin is a real adoption agency. According to the organization’s website, the agency “traces its origins back to the early 1900s and the pioneering work of Clara Spence and Dr. and Mrs. Henry Chapin, who independently established nurseries out of concern for homeless infants left in hospitals and shelters”. The two independent organizations merged to form Spence-Chapin in 1943. Incidentally, Spence-Chapin was the first major adoption agency to actively seek out black families that wanted to adopt. They made placing black babies in black homes a major priority in 1946.

- Didn’t Bert Cooper tell someone something in season 1 about promising Roger Sterling’s father that he would “take care” of Roger? This isn’t the first time that’s been mentioned, right?

- As mentioned in the recap, the piano music playing as Don approaches Anna’s home is “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907), a Norwegian composer and pianist. Although the piece, which was written for Henrik Ibsen‘s play Peer Gynt, is the composer’s most popular piece of music, he reportedly hated it, writing to a friend that “I have also written something for the scene in the hall of the mountain King – something that I literally can’t bear listening to because it absolutely reeks of cow-dung, exaggerated Norwegian nationalism, and trollish self-satisfaction! But I have a hunch that the irony will be discernible”.

- Who the hell is Burt Peterson? One of the accountants? Or did the actor mean to say “Bert Cooper”? The debate rages amongst the “Maddicts” at the AMC forums.

- The Purple Heart medal is given to any American soldier “wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military on or after April 5, 1917″. The award was originally established on August 7, 1782 by direct order of the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, George Washington. Only three Purple Hearts were given out during the War of Independence, and the award existed (but was not issued again) until World War I.

- Roger says that Don stands to make $500,000 from the merger. That’s $3,392,840.24 in 2007 dollars – a nice chunk of change!

- Lions Drag Strip was, yet again, a real place. Sponsored by (and named for) Lions Clubs International, the track was featured in an episode of The Munsters and closed in 1972 after noise complaints from neighbors.

- Joan tells Peggy that Greg is a “thoracic surgeon”. Thoracic surgery is “the practice of medicine directed toward the surgical treatment of diseases of the chest including coronary artery disease; cancers of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall; abnormalities of the great vessels and heart valves; birth defects of the chest and heart; tumors in the organs contained in the chest cavity; and transplantation of the heart and lungs”.

- Joan also says that Greg “stitches up Negro children” at Harlem Hospital Center. Yes, it’s a real hospital, located at 506 Lenox Avenue in NYC. Founded in 1887, the hospital has been called the “bedrock” of the Harlem community.

- The scene where Betty gives Sally the riding boots ends with Sally saying “Mommy, you’re bleeding!”. Did Betty unexpectedly get her period? Or did something else happen? Maddicts are arguing about whether Don knocked Betty up in the previous episode. Betty sure took it casually, though, so I’m guessing it’s just a period.

- Someone far more knowledgeable about tarot than myself has written up a bit about Don’s reading at the AMC forums here.

- The song playing as Don walks into the ocean is “Cup of Loneliness” by George Jones. The lyrics are pretty telling:

I see Christian pilgrims so redeemed from sin
Called out of darkness a new life to begin
Were you ever in the valley when the way is dark and dim
Did you ever drink the cup of loneliness with Him

Did you ever have them laugh at you and say it was a fake
The stand that you so boldly for the Lord did take
Did they ever mock at you and laugh in ways quite grim
Did you ever drink the cup of loneliness with Him

Did you ever try to preach then hold fast and pray
And even when you did it there did not seem a way
And you lost all courage then lost all your vim
Did you ever drink the cup of loneliness with him

Oh my friends ’tis bitter sweet while here on earthly sod
To follow in the footsteps that our dear Savior trod
To suffer with the Savior and when the way is dark and dim
To drink of the bitter cup of loneliness with Him

8 thoughts on “Mad Men: “The Mountain King”

  1. Lee

    In a strange scene, Betty calls Sarah Beth… who admits that she slept with Arthur Case. Sarah Beth blames Betty for the entire incident, and Betty plays dumb. While it’s true what Betty says – that no one forced Sarah Beth to sleep with Arthur – Betty totally set them up, and now she’s acting as if she had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I suppose we’ll learn more about this scene later.

    It’s interesting. Neither Sara Beth nor Betty are really taking any responsibility for Sara Beth’s affair with Arthur. Yet, fans seem more willing to place the blame on Betty for setting up the lunch than on Sara Beth for giving in to temptation and screwing Arthur.

    For the love of God, Joan… please go back to Roger. I know that you’re just a fictional character on a TV show, but please… you deserve so much better than that!

    Roger has just dumped his wife of 25 years for a 20 year-old secretary in order to feel young again. Why do people assume that he can rescue Joan? Only Joan can rescue herself from her situation with Greg. She can leave him.

    Harry says that Sheila “dropped him after three days” (thank you, Lord!).

    Not into interracial romances are we? It’s typical that a racist like Harry would be the one to crow over Paul’s failed romance with Sheila.

    ”It’s sort of… sweet that Sally loves her Daddy so much that she’s taken up smoking and drinking to be like him. I know, I know… she’s 8 years old. But still, it reminds us that someone at the Draper home misses Don.”

    Why should she, since “Daddy” conveniently disappeared on them?

  2. Jim Post author

    Yet, fans seem more willing to place the blame on Betty for setting up the lunch than on Sara Beth for giving in to temptation and screwing Arthur.

    Well, I might agree with you about the “fans”, but this fan in particular just doesn’t get THE WHOLE THING. The whole storyline. Is Betty trying to make herself feel better by bringing everyone down to her level? What’s the whole point behind this story?

    Why do people assume that he can rescue Joan? Only Joan can rescue herself from her situation with Greg. She can leave him.

    Well, I agree with you there. But I’m not sure that a woman of Joan’s time could easily break off an engagement. She’s 32, and feeling “over the hill” compared to the rest of the office girls. Now, I wasn’t alive back then, but given what I know about that time, I assume that cops responded to domestic disturbance calls with a “hey buddy, just knock it off, OK?” to the perp instead of the instant jail time it is today. Joan may look up to Peggy’s feminist side, but I don’t know that she’s ready to go thee herself. I’m not sure that Joan would dump Greg by herself, so having Roger “rescue” her makes more sense to me, storywise.

    Not into interracial romances are we? It’s typical that a racist like
    Harry would be the one to crow over Paul’s failed romance with Sheila.

    No, I just think that Paul’s one of those liberal douches that does stuff just to be noticed for being a liberal douche. You HAVE to remember the scene from the party in Paul’s apartment where he was practically introducing Sheila as “his black girlfriend”. “Dig me! I’m cool! I have a black girlfriend”!

    I don’t have a problem with interracial relationships or liberal views. I just can’t stand people that use such things to be seen as “cool” or “liberal” by the white mainstream. If Paul really loved Sheila, I’d feel bad for him. I just think he used her to show off his “hipness” instead.

    Why should she, since “Daddy” conveniently disappeared on them?

    Well, he’s her father, for one. Two, it hasn’t been made clear to Sally WHY Don is gone. In fact, Betty snaps at them more and more often (while at the same time Don has been taking the kids out to dinner and other “fun” stuff), so from Sally’s point of view, you have a) mean mommy and b) sweet daddy that’s been missing for just a while (remember, we don’t know how long Don has been gone, and before he left for LA he had been visiting the kids often.

  3. Lee

    “She’s 32, and feeling “over the hill” compared to the rest of the office girls.”

    Actually, she is 31 years old.

    “I don’t have a problem with interracial relationships or liberal views. I just can’t stand people that use such things to be seen as “cool” or “liberal” by the white mainstream. If Paul really loved Sheila, I’d feel bad for him. I just think he used her to show off his “hipness” instead.”

    I know why Paul was dating Sheila in the first place. But Matt Weiner could have used the storyline for something more interesting than Sheila simply dumping him after three days . . . with no explanation to the audience. And instead of viewers asking for details on what led to their breakup, they are easily excepting Paul’s words and simply sighing with relief that the romance is over.

    It seemed as if Weiner ended the Paul/Sheila story on a vague note – his first foray into the Civil Rights movement – and I found it unsatisfying. I also found the fans’ easy acceptance of the story’s ending rather irritating.

  4. Jim Post author

    But Matt Weiner could have used the storyline for something more interesting than Sheila simply dumping him after three days

    Well, you’ve got a point there.

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