Last night's episode, "Wee Small Hours," was full of high expectations and enormous letdowns.
The opener — Betty being caressed by an unseen man — who we just know is Henry Francis — was actually a dream. And Betty's first disappointment of the episode.
Don Draper is headed into work early when he sees Suzanne Farrell — Sally's teacher — jogging. Interesting that she's wearing a top from Bowdoin College: Harriet Beecher Stowe started writing her influential anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin in Bowdoin's Appleton Hall while her husband was teaching at the school. Also interesting: When talking about reading Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech to her class, Miss Farrell says: "It would be nice for them to hear an adult say it." Is she assuming parents aren't discussing such things with the children? (Is she correct? And is she disappointed that she's the only one who cares?) Don is clearly intrigued by a puzzle he can't solve, saying: "Who are you? Dumb or pure?" Alas, Don's adman coercion has zero finesse when he commands: "Have coffee with me." If you accept coffee as a euphemism for cheating on your wife, then it's especially wry when Miss Farrell says, "Maybe that's why you can't sleep. Too much coffee."
I like the hints that Don Draper and Suzanne Farrell are old school versus new school: Don's got his '50s tail fins on his car; she's jogging, ahead of the fitness craze. He's the buttoned-up businessman; she's a creative type, into current events.
Also, this scene and the next had sounds of distant thunder… A humid summer rain? Or foreshadowing of the storm that's coming?
Meanwhile, Betty makes a bold step and reaches out to Henry.
Henry reaches right back.
At the office, Sal is settling into his role as commercial director, yay! Only the client, Lee Garner — of Lucky Strike — can't be pleased. Boo. Lee's "long, wet lunch" adds to his mood; and he makes a move on Sal. Sal is not accommodating; Lee is upset. No one likes to be disappointed.
Betty's next letter to Henry is part flirtation and part cry for help: "But I do have thoughts." Her disappointment is clear: Her life isn't living up to her expectations.
More disappointment: Conrad Hilton is feeling so alone. Don tries to reassure him; Hilton says, "You're like a son." In fact, there's something more between Connie and Don than with Connie and his own kids, because, as Connie explains, "you never had what they had." Meaning the fortune of growing up with a rich father. This kind of talk taps into Don's daddy issues, and you can almost see his armor falling when he says, "Thank you… I mean it."
More disappointment at Sterling Cooper: The company's on the verge of losing Lucky Strike, thanks to Sal's refusal to engage in some man-on-man action with Lee Garner. Don is, in turn, disappointed with Sal. Don says, "Lucky Strike could shut off our lights." What he means is: "Obviously you fuck a client, if that is what the client wants!" Sal — recently told he was fired by Roger Sterling — was hoping Don would intervene. No such luck. Disappointment!
Sal was stunned/hurt/destroyed/disappointed as he packed up his portfolio. Sob.
While Don was at work dealing with disappointment, Betty had a surprise visitor: Henry Francis. Unfortunately, Carla interrupted their hand-holding in the foyer. When Don gets home, Betty feels the need to tell him about "that man from the governor's office" — and make sure that Carla can hear. Don's response: "I don't care." How very disappointing. As for Carla, she seems to know that there are shenanigans afoot. Betty may feel like she doesn't have to explain herself to Carla, but she can't help herself. The power dynamics between them are strained.
After Don and his team create a "great" campaign for Hilton, Connie is "deeply disappointed" in Don for not including a reference to the moon. More daddy issues, more let downs. It's hard to please your stand-in-father! And it's hard to have a psuedo-son who doesn't listen!
Even more frustrating: When your dreamlover penpal doesn't show up to the political fundraiser you only threw to get closer to him. Even though Betty is filled with desire, she doesn't want to do it on a desk or in a motel, come on. "It's tawdry." Henry Francis says, "I don't know what you want." Betty's disappointment seems to have many levels: This is not how she thought it would be. She wants romance, or meaning, or something. He should know what she wants. Except doesn't know what she wants, either… But a quickie on the office couch isn't it.
At home, Betty walks in as Carla is listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Eulogy for the Martyred Children', which MLK gave at the funeral for the four black girls killed in a Birmingham, Alabama church bombing on September 15, 1963. When Betty says, "You can leave it on YOUR station" — emphasis mine — she is reinforcing the idea that she is separate from Carla, and that black people issues are not white people issues or national issues. Betty's reminding Carla that she, Betty, is on another level. Betty pushes this further by saying, "It's really made me wonder about civil rights. Maybe it's not supposed to happen right now." Since she's already turned the radio off, poor Carla didn't have the chance to get up to the part in Dr. King's speech when he said, "We must not lose faith in our white brothers. …Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality."
Meanwhile, somewhere in New York (infamous gay hangout The Ramble in Central Park?) Sal is calling his wife while surrounded by lots of MENZ. Since turning down an encounter got him into trouble, he may as well go drown his sorrows in some al fresco sex.
Lastly, Don and Suzanne have a face off fraught with sexual tension: "I know exactly how it ends," she says. She's practical, guarded, pragmatic. When she says, "I don't think you've done this before this way," is she insinuating that she has? No matter: Don's aggressive and impulsive: "I want you. I don't care. Doesn't that mean anything to someone like you? " He's not willing to entertain the idea that she's not impressed by him: That would be too disappointing.
Earlier: On Mad Men, When Is It Rape?
Mad Men: Sex, Lies, & The Recline Of The Roman Empire
Mad Men's Appeal Is All About Joan
Mad Men: Drinking, Dancing, & Screwing
Mad Women Experience Frequent Aftershocks
Mad Men: It's All Fun & Games Until Someone Loses A…
Mad Men: Blood, Sweat, And Tears
Mad Men: "It's A Dead Man's Hat. Take It Off."
Mad Men: "I'm Peggy Olson, And I Want To Smoke Some Marijuana"
Mad Men: "Just Don't Get Pregnant."
Mad Men: Ann-Margret Gives Master Class In Womanly Arts
"His Name Is Dick - After A Wish His Mother Should Have Lived To See"