Mad Men–Season 2, Episode 10: The Inheritance

Yeah, so I’ve been busy. I’m still busy, and I even fell asleep last night while watching the episode, but caught up just now and once more I am compelled to write about it immediately. I wish I’d written something last week, and maybe I’ll pick it up on the other side, but here we are.

With Pete.

Pete was not such a jerk in this episode. He was annoyed with Trudy, yes, but we haven’t seen enough of them lately and we didn’t see enough of them here to know if she was being annoying or not. And maybe she always dresses for bed in frilly nothings, but it struck me this time that she was dolling herself up to get his attention and to influence him. I do not blame her for wanting to go to the convention (and I can’t say if Pete is being unreasonable or not) and I do not blame her for wanting to adopt. I don’t think she was playing her cards very well to bring up that her parents were into the idea, too, however. Pete’s comment to her about how they must always think he always says no was interesting; it seems like Trudy usually gets her way, but Pete’s always portrayed as the bad guy. And Trudy doesn’t seem particularly upset about not getting to go to California, either, so I’m not worrying about why Pete isn’t bringing her. I am more piqued by the idea that Trudy can’t stay at home while Pete is gone. Can’t? Or doesn’t want to? Is she the kind of person who is easily bored? Who easily falls into funks? Or is this just a social thing? It’s just that I haven’t seen any particular stigma attached to even married women living without men, so it can’t be a chaperone/decency thing.

Regarding Trudy’s explanation of getting a good baby: Seems business-like, but not unduly harsh. Even today adoptive parents have to do a lot of self-promotion, whether or not it’s an agency or a birth mother doing the choosing. Pete’s mother calling them discards was pretty funny to me, which probably reveals more about me than I know, but I still liked it. And mentioning it gets me to the Big Question of the episode:

Is Pete a bastard child? A step-child? A foundling? Probably not a foundling, because he didn’t call into question his mother’s parent status, but the “your father/your husband” thing wasn’t fast enough to get by my notice. And now I have to worry again that Peggy’s baby is going to be ripped out of a home somewhere after living for two years with the only parents he’s ever known. Of course, Trudy might not be so keen to adopt his bastard, either, despite her insistence that one can love another without sharing blood. And a two-year-old isn’t a cuddly infant; he’s a cuddly toddler, who can probably talk already and ask for mama and he won’t mean her. I wonder if something like this is likely to be a season cliffhanger, or if Don/Betty will trump it. I hope Don/Betty will trump it, because it’s too stressful to think about what might happen to babies. Peggy and Pete talking about the baby and it getting back to Trudy would be fine with me. But perhaps I suffer from a lack of imagination but I can’t think of how Peggy and Pete would ever have this conversation. Obviously Don knows Peggy has had a baby, but I wonder how much he knows or cares about his parents. I hope Peggy’s sister keeps her mouth shut, too. Anita clearly knows who the father is, or can guess, or can stir up enough trouble so that everyone at work could guess.

Peggy and Pete’s little conversation was a nice callback to their earlier relationship. I like how she handled him, and looking back at season one I think she’s always handled him the same except that she had no authority to him because she was just a secretary. I appreciated, too, how classy it was for her to say merely that everyone has it hard and not to dump on him or blame him for her choices or vent about unfairness. I don’t know that Peggy was being dignified on purpose (if one ever is) or holding back on purpose or just being cold and suspicious, but she was magnificent in her austerity. I am choosing not to read anything into the costume choice for her–the blacks and whites all mixed up together but clearly still distinct–but she looked great and it reminded me of some outfit that Scarlett O’Hara wore in <i>Gone with the Wind</i>. I am absolutely positive that is a coincidence.

I suppose it is worth pointing out that sending Peggy on a business trip almost seems normal to Don, and so she’s come a long way, baby.

Now onto Don and Betty. I am pretty sure that Betty actually came out of bed to come onto Don, to put it crudely, and I am not surprised that she did so but it’s extremely telling that she did not invite him into the bed. I wasn’t sure for a while if it would turn out to be a Don Dream like at the end of the first season, but I’m convinced that it happened because of the conversation Don and Betty had after coming home. That was the “pretend” she was referring to. The unified front for the family was just keeping secrets–they weren’t pretending to themselves that they were on good terms, and Don jumping to her defense when her father groped her was just normal and him being closest and being the least affected by the father’s sickness. I wonder, too, if we are supposed to see the ugly head of incest rearing up in these scenes, but I think the father just is lapsing and Betty looks like her mother and the impropriety and embarrassment of it is bad enough. It’s bad enough, too, that her brother and father treat her like a child with no sense, or like a fragile thing that needs protecting. If Betty wants to hate on her stepmother, that’s fine with me. Whatever. I don’t think her stepmother is patronizing Betty, though–I think her stepmother is avoiding the issue of her husband being sick because she doesn’t want to face what will happen to her if he dies.

So speaking of <i>Gone with the Wind</i>, I wish I’d caught the name of the character I really don’t want to call Mammy, but will until someone corrects me. Betty was so relieved to see her, and I really can’t tell if it was for following reason A or following reason B. Reason A: She was more like a mother to Betty than her own mother was. Reason B: She is the only adult in Betty’s family who does not treat her like a child or tell her lies. I’m leaning toward Reason B. I know Betty, Don, Roger, and Mona talked about nannies and childhood at dinner many episodes ago, but I don’t remember what Betty said. I’m running with Betty’s remark to Don this season about how Carla (her own household employee) wasn’t there to raise the Draper children (which she isn’t). At the time I found that more of a statement about Don than about Carla, but Betty’s been so wrapped up in what her mother was or wasn’t and she is very interested in what other mothers do that I think Carla really is there to help with the house (not the family) and that Betty’s relationship with Mammy is not one of her being a Mammy at all–she’s just a person who knows Betty very well and has always respected her mind.

Interesting, though, to have Mammy and Sheila in the same episode, with two interracial physical expressions of affection. And all the baby stuff. And Kinsey telling Sheila he loves her (the likelihood of which is completely out of the scope of this blog). The foreshadowing of someone getting hurt in Mississippi was pretty blunt, and I don’t know enough about the details of the real incident to guess at whether there’s room to write our characters into that story, but I hope to god Kinsey comes back less pompous. How could he not? I know he didn’t really want to go, but he went, and I know nobody but Sheila was listening to him on the bus, but there he was… something is going to wake him up. He’s sort of living an image of a life instead of a life. And the idea that he and Sheila, really, form a family hangs on my memory of the program. Like if they don’t it’s because of him and Sheila, not because of the races. It’s sort of cool to put it against the backdrop of nannies and baby showers.

But the Hildy business of sobbing over Crane was a little too heavy-handed for me. Poor Joan is in pain enough to have to remind us that Crane chose his wife over an office fling. Roger left his wife for Jane. Jane! I don’t know how badly Joan had wished he would leave his wife for her, but she loved him. She really, really did. She had to move on and find someone else, and then Roger decides to be happy. Maybe he really does love Jane (probably not), but he was so horrible to Joan when they were breaking it off, and then so flirty with her still for all of this season, that I really got the impression that (well, he was a conceited ass) that he was cheapening his relationship with Joan because he couldn’t continue it and that he was sorry to see her move on. I’m sure Joan thought that it was only Mona holding them back. I can’t imagine how she feels. I half-expect to see Jane with a baby… I really do. I’ve lost track of why this struck me as so sad in any unusual way, except that Jane is no Joan and it seems to undermine everything Joan and Roger shared, and it’s back to him being an ass, and I am sort of afraid for Jane, and all kinds of things.

I don’t know what to think of Joan asking a secretary to cut the cake when Peggy was standing right there. I guess yay, Peggy, for not having to cut cakes anymore (although she was still serving it). You graduated! But do you feel bad that you never got your own baby shower? Or were you just prominently in that scene to remind us, again, that you had a baby? And to put you at the party so that we could hope you would get to ride to California on a plane–with Pete–after all before we learn that Don is going instead?

(So Don didn’t kick Pete off the trip… I hope Pete feels better about Don now.)

And now I am rushing things because the baby is waking up. Glen in the playhouse wasn’t that creepy, and I thought Betty interacted with him in a much more productive way this time than the last. She treated him like an adult to a large extent (versus acting like a child around him), and even holding his hand was remarkably sincere. I worried for a bit that Glen was going to try to kiss her, but we were spared that. I think it’s interesting Glen was dressed in Don’s clothes, but really–whose clothes was he going to wear otherwise? You could fairly question Betty’s motives for waiting until people came home to call his mother, but the kid did need attention. It is heartbreaking and sort of scary that he’s putting his sister to bed–scary because there are two kids all alone in the world but also sort of scary because the younger sister is being tended to by a brother who is sort of creepy and kind of sexualized. Helen does need to be paying attention. I wish Betty had been more stern with her during their conversation, but I am glad she confided in her, too.

I think this afternoon will put Don back in the house. Betty does not want to turn into a woman like Helen (not that there’s evidence that she would–Don would stay involved with the children, I’m sure, and would not start a new family). I wish she had more confidence in herself, though. She talks about worrying that she’ll float away without Don to keep her focused, but Don’s the one who has gone off on an airplane and living out of a suitcase with no secretary. Betty’s the one defrosting the icebox and relining the drawers with fresh paper and playing matchmaker (even just for fun) with her friends and helping other women take care of their children.

The symbolism of Glen hiding in the playhouse has to be the last thing I write about. That is the house that Don built. It’s empty, it’s pretend, it’s a place to hide in. What’s the house that Betty builds going to be like? And why the hell does she want that jardiniere in it?

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