Mad Men: “My Old Kentucky Home”

This episode begins with Paul, Peggy and the rest of the Creative team auditioning Ann-Margret lookalikes for the Patio commercial. Harry annoys Peggy by asking the actress, Hillary, to “do the twist” one more time. Peggy tells him that he is not part of Creative and his input is not needed. Hillary leaves, and Pete and Ken walk in to announce that Bacardi is coming in on Tuesday, and that Don wants copy by Monday morning and art by Monday night. So it seems that Creative will have to work over the weekend. Ken points out the “good news”: that he and Pete will be attending a party hosted by Roger and Jane on Long Island and thus will be “out of your hair”. Harry asks if Ken and Pete will be wearing seersucker, because he “doesn’t want to look like a barbershop quartet”. The rest of the Creative team seems surprised that Harry was invited, and after Ken, Pete and Harry leave, Paul whines that they were all hired at the same time. Sal points out that he worked there six years before Paul was hired. Peggy says that management hates Creative.


Meanwhile, we see Jane walking through the office. She spies Joan and a couple of the other “office girls” and stops to talk. She says that it’s great to see them… but then she cattily says that she’s at the office because Roger was getting her rings re-sized because she “keeps losing weight”. She then dismissively asks Joan where she and Greg are living now (when Joan says that they’re looking at places in The Bronx, Jane snootily says that she “gets a nose bleed above 86th street!). Jane then asks Joan for a favor – there is construction in front of Sterling Cooper’s building, and Jane had her driver circle the block. As if to show her complete dominance over Joan, Jane asks if she can “send one of the girls down” at 1:15 to flag him down.

Peggy has a new secretary, Olive, who, not knowing Peggy’s preference, had made her cups of tea and coffee. Peggy takes the coffee, then Olive says that Lola (Peggy’s former secretary) told her that Peggy gets edgy after a second cup. Peggy advises her to forget everything that Lola told her, and also tells her to not invite Harry to any more meetings.

Later that night, we see Don coming home from work. The kitchen is a mess, because Gene, in his dementia, thought he was back on “KP duty” in the army. Don says that they don’t have to go to tomorrow’s party. Betty says that she wants to go, and that she bought a dress for the occasion.

We next see Sally reading from volume 2 of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to Gene. She stumbles over some of the more difficult words (especially licentiousness), and then Don walks up telling Sally that it’s time for bed. “All hell’s gonna break loose” (the the book), Gene tells her.

The next morning, we see the Creative team in Peggy’s office. Things aren’t going well. The gang tries drinking rum for inspiration, but the boys agree that marijuana would be a better help. Paul tells Peggy to go get a blender to turn their drinks into a frappe, and when she arrives in the breakroom, Peggy sees that Olive is there. Peggy asks what she’s doing there on a Saturday, and Olive says that if Peggy’s working, she’s working. Meanwhile, Paul looks in his wallet for the name of a drug dealer to get some weed.

At the Draper home, Betty gets dressed, and asks Sally to zip her up. The cherub-faced Sally tells Betty that she gracefully walked backwards up the stairs, but Betty is not impressed. She tells Sally not to bother Gene and to watch TV. Sally slinks off, dejected. She goes to Gene’s room, only to find Gene in the bathroom. She spies his money clip on the dresser and steals $5 from it.

Jane and Greg are busy cleaning their apartment for a dinner party with some of the doctors from Greg’s hospital. The two nearly get into an argument over the seating arrangements: Greg wants to put Ronald Ettinger, the chief of surgery at the head of the table, while Joan wants a traditional setting with the host and hostess at the head of the table. The argument escalates until Joan suggests a buffet-style dinner where everyone can pick their own seat.

As Don and Betty get ready to leave for the party, Gene storms in and says that someone has stolen $5 from his money clip. Betty is dismissive on him, thinking that he simply lost it or spent it and forgot about it, and she offers to give him the missing $5. When she can’t find any cash in her purse, she asks Don to give Gene the money, and as Don extends his hand, Gene says that “you people” think that money is the answer to every problem. “No, just this particular problem”, Don says.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Paul’s college friend Jeffery arrives with a giant bag of drugs. After offering a vast choice of illegal substances, Smitty says that they just want a couple of joints. Smitty gets Paul to stuff his treasured Mohair sweater under the door to block the fumes, then the three of them light up.

We then see the Sterling Cooper crowd at the party: Don and Betty, Pete and Trudy, Harry and Jennifer, and a stag Ken. The co-workers trade some chit-chat, then break off into groups. Don lights a cigarette, and Pete walks up to him and says that the “second in command” of DuPont and another high ranking man from Pam Am is at the party. Don warns Pete not to give them his business card.

Peggy wakes up from a nap in her office, and gets up and asks Olive if Paul and Smitty are still here. Olive says that they are, but that Peggy “doesn’t want to go in there” because she knows that they’re smoking marijuana. Peggy ignores her warning and heads to Paul’s office. Although the boys try to convince her to leave, she decides to stay.

“I’m Peggy Olsen, and I want to smoke some marijuana.”

Paul says that she won’t like it, but Peggy counters that he has no idea what she’ll like. Jeffrey hands her a joint, and she tokes up:


Back at the party, Roger sings “My Old Kentucky Home” in blackface to Jane and the guests. Everyone seems to get a kick out of it except Don, who asks Betty if they can leave yet. Betty says that she wants to stay, because the horse race hasn’t even started yet, and she also wants to dance. Don wanders off and finds a bar. He asks the older man there for an Old Fashioned. The man, whose name is Connie, indicates that he’s a guest, too. Don then takes it upon himself to go behind the bar and make drinks of the both of them. The two then talk about their humble beginnings over the drinks. Don tells a story about how he parked cars at a roadhouse when he was young. He wasn’t allowed in the roadhouse because he wasn’t high-class enough, so when he needed to go, he’d open the trunk of one of the cars and pee in there.

At Sterling Cooper, Paul eats a bag of chips while Smitty keeps trying to come up with ideas for Bacardi. Jeffrey tries to help, but his ideas are so bad that everyone else laughs at him. Jeffrey insists that he could “do the job”, but Paul says that he already has a job: a drug dealer. This sets Jeffrey off, and he starts telling stories about Paul at college, like how he had a “Joysey accent” and how he was a on scholarship. Paul demands that he leave, to which Jeffrey says that he is arrogant and can’t sing (they were both members of the “Tigertones”, a musical club of some sort). Paul insists that he quit because he had mono. Jeffrey then challenges him to sing and let Smitty and Peggy decide if he can sing. Paul does, and his audience claps for him. He keeps on singing with his hand out, extending an invitation to Jeffrey to join him. The two then sing the rest of the song and appear to bury that hatchet.

We next see Betty waiting outside the women’s restroom at the party. She is approached by a strange man who asks her questions about what pregnancy feels like. He then asks if he can touch her belly. The act, although innocent to the outside world, is totally sexual from Betty’s point of view. Just as things might get a little too wired, Trudy exits from the bathroom and the two of them walk away… but Betty turns around and gives the stranger a look as she does.

The dinner party is underway at Greg and Joan’s place. Drinks are passed around, and Honey, the wife of one of the doctors, cracks the men up by offering to “cut the cheese”. She then mentions “code pink”, a secret code used over the hospital’s PA system whenever an attractive woman is brought in. In the kitchen, Irene (Ronald’s wife) advises Joan not to get pregnant; Honey then says that Joan can do whatever she wants.. if (not when) he becomes chief resident.

Back at the Draper home, Carla and Gene butt heads about eating dinner. Gene is still angry that his money is missing, and Carla is angry that he keeps calling her “Violet” (the name of his own maid) and that he possibly suspects her of the theft. Sally overhears the two of them arguing, and pulls the money out of her sock, throws it on the floor, and pretends to find it. Gene doesn’t say anything, but he strongly suspects that Sally is behind its disappearance.

At Roger and Jane’s party, Harry and Jennifer approach Don, Betty, Pete and Trudy’s table. Jennifer tries to engage in some small talk about dancing, just as Bert and Roger (and their wives) walk up to the table and introduce them to Henry Francis, then man that had been feeling Betty’s belly earlier. He apparently works in Governor Rockefeller’s office, and has just come from the home of Laurance Rockefeller (the governor’s brother), where Nelson married Margaretta Large Fitler Murphy. Cooper calls it an act of “political harikari”. Jane asks why they married, to which Henry replies “they’re in love”. This makes Jane melt, and she gives an “Ooooo!” to Roger. Pete and Trudy then hit the dance floor, where their perfect rendition of The Charleston draws admiration from the crowd.

Paul and the gang are still at the office, and they’re all still high. Paul lies on the floor quoting poetry:


This causes an exasperated Smitty to say that they “get” that Paul is educated. Smitty and Peggy talk about their alma maters, then Paul says that thinking of rum makes him think about Cuba, and that makes him think how we’re all going to die (i.e. the Cuban Missile Crisis). Smitty then suggests that they go on the roof, and this gives Peggy some ideas. She then tells the boys that they can leave, as she’s in “a very good place right now”.

Peggy walks beck to her office, and Olive chides her for leaving her purse. Peggy wonders aloud who would steal it on a Saturday. Olive then reprimands her for smoking marijuana. Peggy, still philosophical from the weed, says:

“The thing is… I have a job. I have my own office with my name on the door. And I have  a secretary… that’s you. And I am not scared of any of this. But you’re scared. Oh my God… you’re scared. Don’t worry about me. I am going to get to do everything you want for me. I’m going to be fine, Olive… I really am.”

Olive then says that Peggy’s expense report is on her desk. Peggy asks her to set up the Dictaphone and get her a glass of water, and then she can go.

Back at Joan’s, Joan asks when Honey is due, then advises her to visit a friend of hers at Lord and Taylor (further cementing Joan’s reputation amongst the hospital wives). The conversation then turns to medicine, when it’s revealed that Greg had some kind of mishap in surgery. An awkward silence happens, then Honey suggests that they play Charades. Rick insists that Honey’s is terrible at Charades, and instead suggests that Joan entertain them with a bit of music. He gets out an accordion, and Joan begins a perfect rendition of “C’est Magnifique”:


Back at Roger and Jane’s party, a tipsy Jane spills a plate of food in the buffet line, then falls over and has to be helped up by Don and Betty. Jane apparently notices for the first time that Betty is pregnant, and says that she looks beautiful. She then says that she knew that they (Don and Betty) would get back together, “no matter what the problem was”. Betty gives Don an angry look, and Don says that he’ll “take care of her”. Betty walks away, and Jane then grabs Don by the belt and asks why he doesn’t like her. Roger walks up and asks what’s going on. Jane looks at him guiltily, and says that she should have eaten something. Roger then loudly asks if someone can get her a glass of milk. Don starts to walk way, but Roger asks him for a word. Roger asks what he did to get under Don’s skin, and that he thinks his mother was right in that it’s a mistake to be conspicuously happy. Don coldly replies that “[n]o one thinks you’re happy… they think you’re foolish”.

By now it’s bedtime at the Draper home. Sally gingerly walks to the door of Gene’s room and wishes him a good night. He angrily tells her to come in the room and sit down… but instead of yelling at or disciplining her, her pulls down the book and asks her to start reading aloud to him again.

Back at the party, we see Don walking through the crowd, watching Roger and Jane slow dance. Don walks across the moonlit lawn to find Betty, who is looking up at the stars. The two share an embrace, and the screen fades to black.


– How quaint is it that no one from Sterling Cooper apparently thought to have the real Ann-Margret do the Patio ad? In our age of “marketing synergy” and “cross-over promotions”, it would seem to us a no-brainer that Ann-Margret would do the commercial. Yet, while actors had been doing ads for years (e.g. Ronald Reagan’s commercials for Chesterfield cigarettes), it never seems to cross the minds of the Sterling Cooper folks.

– Hillary (Amy Scott) claims to have played “the nurse” in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and “Dorine the maid” in Molière’s Tartuffe, ou l’Imposteur. Both plays are several hundred years old, and both are arguably the most well-known of each author. One would imagine that these would be standard stuff for anyone attending acting school, or for a member of a college’s drama club. I like how Hillary slowly pronounces the name Molière, even though she was in one of his plays.

– Pete says that Roger and Jane’s party is for “Derby Day”, the day on which the Kentucky Derby is held in the United States. The Kentucky Derby was run on Saturday, May 4 in 1963, so this episode begins on Friday, May 3. Also, other English-speaking countries have their own “Derby Days”: in the UK it’s when the Epsom Derby is run, while in Australia it’s when the Victoria Derby is run.

– Joan says that she and Greg are looking for a home in Riverdale. This is a three square mile upper-class community in northwestern corner of The Bronx. Joan says that they’re looking near “Columbia Pres” (Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, now known as Columbia University Medical Center, which is located at 622 W 168th St). Famous residents of Riverdale include composer Béla Bartók, actress Yvonne De Carlo, baseball players Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays, TV personality Ed Sullivan, actors Tracy Morgan and Abe Vigoda, singer/songwriter Carly Simon, former New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.

KP duty is “kitchen patrol” duty in the army. Also called “mess duty”, it is used an a punishment for minor infractions.

– Sally reads Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to Gene. This massive book was published in six volumes, starting in 1776 and ending in 1789. The book(s) were so massive and thorough that Gibbon is considered the first modern historian of ancient Rome, and his writing style has been adapted by numerous authors over the years. The exact passage that Sally reads, from volume 2, can be found here.

– In Peggy’s office, Paul uses Harry’s fraternity paddle to putt golf balls into Peggy’s trash can. A longstanding American college tradition, potential recruits (pledges) for fraternities are often required to make them, and they are often kept as souvenirs.

– According to his paddle, Harry is (was?) a member of Alpha Delta Phi, “the fourth oldest continuous Greek-letter fraternity in the United States and Canada”.

– Olive’s husband is Phil, and her son Steven is at Boston College.

– Nice to see that Betty is still needlessly cruel to Sally.

– Anyone else think a physical altercation almost broke out at Joan’s and Greg’s house until she came up with the buffet idea?

– Don is listening to the news on the radio as he gets ready for Roger and Jane’s party. The news is about a scandal with New York State’s liquor licensing agency. Here’s an article from Time magazine about it dated April 12, 1963, and just to prove that corruption never really goes away, here’s an article from the New York Times about a raid against an office of the same agency in April of this year.

Nelson Rockefeller was the 41st Vice President of the United States, but at the time of this Mad Men episode, he was the 49th governor of the state of New York. Although he was a Republican, he had liberal social views that earned his followers the nickname “Rockefeller Republicans”, a derisive term only abandoned recently with the birth of a similar word – RINO: “Republican In Name Only”.

– Jeffrey offers Paul and Smitty Dexedrine (“dexys”), Benzedrine, marijuana (“boo”) and heroin (“junk”).

– Jeffrey sells Paul and Smitty four joints for $10, which is $69.60 in 2008 dollars. Either that’s some incredible weed he’s selling, or marijuana was much more expensive back in 1963!

– When we first see Roger and Jane’s party, the band is playing a jazzy rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, a famous Negro spiritual. However, the song was actually written by a man named Wallis Willis, a Choctaw Indian, sometime before 1862.

– Jeffrey’s last name is Graves, and he was a member of the class of 1955.

– Wow… just wow:


– Connie says that he was born in “San Antonio, New Mexico” before it was a state. Since New Mexico was admitted into the Union on January 6, 1912, the man is at least 51 years old (and much older, judging from his appearance).

– The film Connie talks about – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – was released in 1935. Based on the Shakespeare play (the second direct Shakespeare reference this episode), the film won two Academy Awards for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Film Editing”, although it was nominated for two more (“Best Picture” and “Best Assistant Director”). The film’s director, Max Reinhardt, could not speak English, so future director William Dieterle had to act as an interpreter; also, filming had to be rescheduled when Mickey Rooney broke his leg, a delay that infuriated studio boss Jack Warner. Personally, I can’t imagine Mickey Rooney doing Shakespeare. In fact, my mind just can’t conceive of it.

As far back as 1899, “to cut” was slang for expelling intestinal gas. “Cutting the cheese” appeared a) sometime between 1965-1970 in this same context; b) sometime in the 1950s; or c) originated in 1985 with the phrase “cut no cheese”, which originally meant “to have no weight or value”, as in “a knife so useless that it couldn’t even cut cheese”.

– What was with Jennifer storming off when Pete and Trudy began to dance? Is she jealous? Although not frequently seen, Jennifer has traditionally been the most level-headed of all the office wives.

Margaretta Large Fitler Murphy Rockefeller (known as “Happy”) was the second wife of Nelson Rockefeller. She divorced her first husband, virologist Dr. James Slater Murphy, who worked at the Rockefeller Institute and was a close friend of Nelson, on April 1, 1963. She and Nelson were married on May 4, 1963. They remained married until Nelson’s death in 1979. Needless to say, the marriage was controversial, and Happy was sometimes called the “Duchess of Windsor”, after Wallis Simpson, the American woman who cost King Edward VIII his crown in the UK in 1936.

Harikari (also known as Seppuku) is a Japanese form of ritual suicide where a person uses a sword to disembowel himself. Originally reserved for samurai warriors, harikari was committed rather than be captured by enemies, as a means of capital punishment for serious offenses, for reasons of shame, or at the death of their masters (which is specifically known as oibara).

– The poem Paul quotes whilst lying on the floor is “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot. The lines that Paul quotes (“This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper” might be the most quoted of all of Eliot’s work.

– Smitty went to the University of Michigan, and Peggy went to Ms. Deaver’s Secretarial School (something which we knew before).

– The Cuban Missile Crisis played a key role in the season 2 finale, “Meditations in an Emergency”.

– What a bombshell about Greg and his problems in surgery! It was bad enough the Joan was marrying a date rapist who might become chief of surgery, but what happens if Greg fails to get the promotion?

– “C’est Magnifique” was a popular song written by Cole Porter from his 1953 musical Can Can. Depite the fact that the song did poorly on the charts, it has since become a standard.


I liked this episode on second viewing, but I didn’t care for the dance number or for Joan’s singing. Actually, I liked Joan’s singing, I just felt that the whole thing was a time waster. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of this in this episode.

There’s something I just don’t like about this season of Mad Men thus far. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still my favorite show on TV right now (by far)… but there’s just something… different about this season. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something’s just… different. It’s not just me – the Lipp Sisters have noticed it too. I’m not too worried though: as they also point out, anything involving Matt Weiner really needs to get to episode 5 before it really starts to click. Seasons 1 and 2 of Mad Men were just like that: both of them good quality television, but then everything hits high gear in episode 5 and you’re in for the ride of your life, begging for more more more by episode 13.

5 Replies to “Mad Men: “My Old Kentucky Home””

  1. did you catch the name of the pan am guy that was at the party? my sister’s granddad was a head guy at pan am that became ceo in 68 and it would be too funny if it was him. love your recaps!

  2. What was with Jennifer storming off when Pete and Trudy began to dance? Is she jealous?
    It’s been a week or so since I re-watched this episode, but IIRC, it wasn’t when they started to dance, as when everyone, Harry included began to make way for them and they turned into the solo (duo) performers. Jennifer seems to have been angling to help Harry get in good with his superiors, and taking a back seat to Pete and Trudy isn’t the way to do it. Notice elsewhere in the episode how she and Trudy are subtly competing for Betty, with Jennifer using her mothering experience over the childless Trudy, and Trudy taking Betty’s arm to get chummy with her.

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