Mad Men: “A Night to Remember”

Sorry for the delay in posting this!

Another great episode of Mad Men is in the can… so let’s get right to it, shall we?

The episode begins with Betty having a rigorous morning ride on a horse. She returns home, only to pester Don into fixing an errant wall outlet. To say that the tension between Don and Betty is palpable is an understatement; it almost seems as if those two can’t even be in the same room with each other these days. For those of you keeping score at home, Don calls Betty “Birdie” for the first time in what seems like forever.

While all this is going on, Peggy visits her mother’s house. Father Gill arrives and asks Peggy if she’d do some pro bono work for an upcoming church dance:

On Monday morning, Duck gives Harry hell for a humorous gaffe from the television department: the night before, a Sterling Cooper ad for a Maytag washing machine called “The Amazing Agitator” ran during a movie about communist agitators. Maytag’s switchboard “lit up like a Christmas tree” with complaints, and Sterling Cooper was forced to eat the cost of the ad time. Duck tells Harry that, regardless of politics, clients are always looking for a way to get out of paying the agency, and that he (Harry) needs to be on top of situations like these. Harry then begs Sal, Ken and Paul for help in reading the scripts of upcoming shows so that Sterling Cooper’s ads don’t conflict with them; when it becomes obvious that they’re not going to help him, Harry looks around the office in a panic.

Meanwhile, Duck and Don meet about Heineken. The problem with the Heineken account is this: the company wants to compete in bars, while Duck and Don feel that the brewer should focus on “home sales”. Imported beer was something of a novelty in 1962, and Don wants to push Heineken to housewives planning sophisticated parties at home. “For women entertaining in the home, Holland is Paris”, Don says, as he comes up with a plan to test market sales in grocery stores by putting Heineken on end caps, away from the other beers, with cheeses, crackers and “toothpicks with cellophane tips”. Pete even suggests “shorting” the displays, to make it look as if the beer is already selling well.

In a further sign of Betty’s mental instability, she’s shown dusting the dining room chairs for the dinner party. One of the chairs, however, has a uneven leg. She rocks it back and forth on the floor, trying to stabilize it… and eventually smashes it to pieces.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Harry pleads with Roger for some help. He says that he needs a man for “broadcast operations”, someone who can focus on the actual nuts and bolts of putting commercials on the air, so that he can focus on sales and working with clients. Roger declines to hire anyone, and says that Harry will just have to figure out a way to do it himself. A few minutes later, however, Joan shows up at Harry’s desk, saying that Roger asked her to “send a girl over” to help Harry out. As Harry describes the job to her, Joan seems interested and says that she’ll hand it herself.

The weekend comes, and the Drapers host their party, with Roger and Mona Sterling, Crab Colson (of the Rogers & Cowan agency) and his wife Petra, and Duck in attendance. After some chitchat, Betty announces the “trip around the world” menu, which includes gazpacho from Spain, rumaki from Japan (it’s actually Hawai’ian) and some locally raised leg of lamb with German egg noodles. Guests will be able to wash it all down with a burgundy from France, or… a Heineken beer from the Netherlands! Duck asks Don if he’d brought home a case of Heineken from work. Don says no. Betty looks confused. It turns out that Don had arranged a Heineken display at his local grocery, and the Betty bought right in to his marketing plan.

After the guests leave the party, Betty launches into Don, saying that he embarrassed her at the party. She says that he knew that she’d buy that beer, and that he was just using her to prove a point. Don says that “I use our life all the time in my work… they pay me for that”. Betty is not satisfied, saying that they all laughed at her. Betty eventually tells Don that she knows he’s having an affair with Bobbie Barrett. Don denies the affair, and asks her how she knows. She says that Jimmy told her, which almost causes Don to laugh in disbelief. Don straight-up denies sleeping with Bobbie, and the pressure cooker that is Betty continues to reach a boiling point.

While all this was going on, Joan is sitting at home reading scripts for Harry. Her doctor fiancee, Greg, walks in with Chinese takeout. As Joan gets some dishes and drinks, she asks if it’s possible for someone to come out of a coma and not know who they are. Greg dismisses the idea completely, then tells Joan that she should be looking for a house and eating bonbons on the sofa watching TV shows, not reading the scripts for them. Although Joan brushes off his suggestions, I feel that there’s something… stirring within Joan.

Monday morning, Harry introduces Joan to two Maytag executives. They really like Joan, and after meeting her say that they’re completely satisfied with the service they’re getting from Sterling Cooper. Also satisfied are two Heineken execs, who agree to roll out a test marketing campaign “in regional markets” based on Don’s ideas. Meanwhile, Joan is so excited about the new soap opera she’s been reading scripts for – As the World Turns – that she convinces two reps from Sea & Ski suntan lotion to book ads on the show. Joan kicked ass in that meeting; one of the reps says “I love what she says, and I love the way she says it”. Joan is staring to deal with the business side of Sterling Cooper… and she likes it!

Back at the Draper home, Betty (still in her dress from the party) goes through all of Don’s clothes and his desk looking for signs of an affair:

She finds nothing, other than a bunch of cocktail napkins with marketing ideas on them. Sally later finds her passed out on the bed. When she goes to get up, she steps on a wine glass and gets glass in her foot. The woman is seriously starting to lose it. I wonder if she’ll end the season in an asylum or “fat farm” or something.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Roger tells Harry that he’s gotten some great feedback from both customers and the accounting department (in a week?) and that Harry can now hire someone to “replace” Joan. When Joan later stops by Harry’s office, she’s visibly disappointed that he’s hired someone to fill her role. I hope, hope, hope that this brief foray into the “real world” of Sterling Cooper makes Joan realize that she can be more than a bonbon eating housewife. Time will tell, I suppose.

At home, Betty continues to give Don the cold shoulder. The poor guy ends up sleeping on the sofa that night, where Betty comes to him for a heartfelt talk. She says she “doesn’t want it to be like this” but that she doesn’t know what to do. Don tries to touch her, and Betty tells him not to. She tells Don that he never says he loves her, which makes Don tell her that he loves her… and the children… and that “he doesn’t want to lose all this”. Which, of course, begs the question… if he hasn’t done anything wrong, why is he afraid of losing anything?

The next morning, Father Gill comes to Sterling Cooper to use the Xerox machine to print up the flyers for the dance. I haven’t mentioned Peggy’s storyline until now; part of this is because I found most of it boring, another reason is that I can condense it all down quickly here. After accepting Father Gill’s request for help, Peggy designed a flyer for the party. Father Gill initially liked Peggy’s ideas, but when Peggy and Father Gill meet with the “Morality Police” to discuss the themes and details of the dance, he throws her (and her ideas) under the bus. So while the Xerox machine is doing his thing, Father Gill asks her if there’s anything she needs to talk about. He leans on her quite heavily, although he’s more of a “good cop” than a “bad cop” (thankfully, it’s too early for the “hip priests” from the later years of the 60s). It’s a good conversation, and although I think that Peggy dismisses Father Gill’s offers of “help”, I think he does cut Peggy close to the bone. As Father Gill leaves, Peggy cross her hands over her belly… right where the baby was.

The episode ends with Betty at home, watching TV with the kids. As the Danny Thomas Show goes to break, we see the Utz commercial that Jimmy Barrett filmed. Betty seems to “snap” while watching it:

She calls Don and tells him not to come home, that she doesn’t want them there. We see a confused Don, then a montage of Joan rubbing her shoulder (does it just hurt from the bra, or is there a health issue there?), Peggy sitting in her bath tub looking sad (Father Gill’s words hurt, no?), Father Gill picking up a guitar and singing a song… and Don, sitting all alone in the office kitchen:


Poor Warren drooling like a schoolboy over Joan.

Peggy answering the phone when Father Gill calls, and pretending to be her own secretary.

Duck’s sad tale of almost getting lost on the way to the Draper’s house.

Was I the only one that thought of Captain Oveur from Airplane! when Duck said “Do you like baseball, Bobby?”

Speaking of Airplane! – how about Roger introducing Crab and Duck to each other?

When Don asks Duck if he’d like a drink, he says that he’d like tomato juice, which makes Petra Colson say “Oh, come on!” in a patronizing voice. I know that there have always been teetotalers out there… but was Duck asking for a non-alcoholic beverage that big a deal back in 1962?

Petra complains about the cost of owning a boat, saying “you might as well cut a hole in your pocket”. I guess some things don’t change, do they?

The Maytag exec asking if Joan was the woman he talked to on the phone, and after being told that yes, it was, saying that he would have combed his hair if it knew it was her.

Peggy the “undercover nun”!

The office girl that walked by Peggy’s office, saw Father Gill using the Xerox machine, then scampered away.

One Reply to “Mad Men: “A Night to Remember””

  1. The thing that gets me about the brilliance of the scriptwriters is that there’s not a single random word, even in the episode titles. Each character that appears in an episode in some way is connected to the title.

    “A Night To Remember” is also the title of a movie about the night the Titanic struck the iceberg that caused it to sink. Think of each character’s storyline in this episode and how the metaphorical icebergs they strike makes it impossible for each of them to sail onward as they had been doing. It’s brilliant.

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