Mad Men s1e8: The Hobo Code

This episode informs a bunch of Don’s character through a flashback to his childhood. The Hobo Code is one of my favourite episodes in the series.

Before we get to the really meaty stuff, Pete and Peggy have an early morning bang in the office, and Pete proceeds to get all weird and deep. He’s talking about his wife and how she’s basically another stranger to him, implying that Peggy is a little more than that. See also, Things Men Say to Mistresses 101.

Contrary to this roundabout compliment, he’s a massively miserable prick at the bar that afternoon while celebrating Peggy’s successful copy in the Belle Jolie meeting. Mark your Man! She’s dancing and having fun, and when she invites him to join in he flatly tells her “I don’t like you like this”. Lighten the fuck up, Pete! It’s a nod at how closed off he really is, that being confronted with something real like Peggy genuinely enjoying herself, he’s got no goddamned idea what to do.

Though she’s upset by his supercilious remark, Peggy is finding her footing with the men at Sterling Cooper as well as her writing. She’s digging to find her true self, along with Salvatore albeit in a different way in a near-sexual encounter with Elliott at a hotel bar. Ah, Sal. Ya should’ve gone to see his view of Central Park!

So, Don is the guy with the escape plan. He’s likely mapped out every single possible way out within minutes of being in any one place, and when Bert Cooper gives him a $2500 check with a very close to home speech attached to it, he panics.

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“The hell did you just call me?”

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

Bert: “When you hit 40, you realize you’ve met or seen every kind of person there is, and I know what kind you are.. because I believe we are alike.”
Don: “.. I assume that’s flattering.”
Bert: “By that I mean that you are a productive and reasonable man, and in the end completely self-interested. It’s strength. We are different– unsentimental about all the people who depend on our hard work.”

Don doesn’t let much on about himself, so he’s fairly spooked by this bit of accuracy. He runs off to see Midge and is greeted by some ginger in an actual Fez. Whilst stoned in her beatnik paradise of weed and Miles Davis, Don remembers meeting a Hobo one day while growing up. Since it’s the Great Depression and all, he comes to stay on the Whitman family farm for a meal in exchange for some work. Though frightened at first, Dick is drawn to him.

Bert Cooper and this Hobo think themselves a cut above the rest of the world because they each follow a self-centred credo. They both share that wisdom with Don, hoping to show him how their way of thinking distinguishes them. As a kid, Dick absorbs everything the Hobo says with rapt fascination and understanding beyond his years. This is a kid who’s been looking for an escape route for as long as he can remember.

Dick: I’m supposed to tell you to say your prayers.

Hobo: Praying won’t help you from this place, kid. Best keep your mind on your mother, she’ll probably look after you.

Dick: She ain’t my momma.

Hobo: We all wish we were from someplace else, believe me.

Dick: Ain’t you heard? I’m a whore child.

Hobo: No. I hadn’t heard anything about that.

Dick: You don’t talk like a bum.

Hobo: I’m not. I’m a gentleman of the rails.. for me, every day is brand new. Every day’s a brand new place, people, what have you.

Dick: So you got no home, that’s sad..

Hobo: What’s at home? I had a family once: a wife, a job, a mortgage. I couldn’t sleep at night tied to all those things. Then death came to find me.

Dick: Did you see him?

Hobo: Only every night. So one morning, I freed myself with the clothes on my back. Goodbye! Now I sleep like a stone: sometimes under the stars, the rain, the roof of a barn. But I sleep like a stone. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving this place, that’s for certain. If death was coming anyplace, it’s here, kid, creeping around every corner.

The next morning post-work, Archie stiffs the Hobo the nickel that was offered and tells him to leave. As he’s walking down the street, Dick sees that their house is marked with a sickle – “a dishonest man lives here”. Not inaccurate.

When Don comes to his senses and goes to bounce, the beatniks really rail into him about ‘inventing the lie’ and all that other crap. Don offers some devastating nihilistic realness.

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.”

The episode closes the following morning with a flurry of typewriters and the minutiae of people chatting, closing in on his emblazoned office door; Donald Draper, a different type of dishonest man.

I mean, good lord. This episode packs so much into a couple of scenes, and Don carries these ideas with him throughout the show’s run. Through those flashbacks and his interaction with Cooper, you really learn what makes Don tick. He’s constructed this bulletproof disguise for the outside world, but Dick Whitman is still rattling around in there somewhere.

But eventually,  if you centre your life around yourself and escapism, pretty soon everything starts to look like a door.

Mad Men s1e7: Red in the Face

This episode offers some more depth to Roger Sterling. He invites himself to Don and Betty’s house for dinner, and a vague form of mayhem ensues. From the sounds of it, he’s sort of over his teenage daughter Margaret ruining his dinner options.

Roger is inferring bits about Don’s background. By the way he “drops his Gs”, he figures Don was raised on a farm. Confronted with this observation, Don immediately leaves in search of more liquor.

Roger drunkenly shares stories about fighting in WWII, but Don seems more interested in how he felt. We can tell that Don felt mostly fear while in Korea, and he generally doesn’t talk about it per Betty. Roger speaks of some dark experiences tinged with a bit of apathy. “Bored, what about scared?” Don is trying to see if his own fear was founded, if that’s how other men feel about their time in the army.

Betty’s friendliness is mistaken for flirting, and Roger takes it to a wildly inappropriate place out of nowhere. Poor Betty! And natch, Don blows a fucking gasket about it, as it was the style at the time. Apparently that mess is somehow Betty’s fault? Yeesh. She stands up to Don as best she can, but he ultimately has the last word.

An iconic moment appears in this episode, thanks to Pete Campbell’s subdued outrage that none of his Sterling Cooper pals know what in the hell this ceramic abomination is. IT’S A CHIP AND DIP!

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image courtesy of Imgur.com

Pete goes to return the redundant #chipanddip on his lunch break and attempts to charm the pretty customer service girl to no avail. He doesn’t have the inherent allure of his Hot Idiot friend Matherton, who happened to be in the department store at the same time. Pete classily lets her know that Matherton has The Clap, and buys a BB gun with store credit. Incredible. Of course, Trudy loses her shit at him so he meekly keeps the BB gun at the office.

The next morning, Pete delivers a particularly peculiar monologue about hunting deer to Peggy. She’s super into it, and immediately seeks out a massive fucking cherry danish. As you do.

Oh my god, and another iconic moment.

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WHAT DID THE FIVE FINGERS SAY TO THE FACE?

image courtesy of Buzzfeed

So, Helen is pissed that Betty gave her son Glen a lock of her blonde hair. All of this is too weird for words. Betty slaps her across the face in the produce section, and immediately bounces.

“My mother always said you’re painting a masterpiece,

make sure to hide the brushstrokes.”

Ruminating upon her day, she tells Francine that she’s not some perfect marshmallow sweet girl. But Betty believes that keeping her appearances up and being attractive to men means that she’s ‘earning her keep’. She’s working out a way to feel OK about Roger coming onto her in the kitchen that night, that just so long as he finds her desirable it’s all good? Sort of a mess, if you ask me.

“When a man gets to a point in his life when his name’s on the building, he can get an unnatural sense of entitlement.”

Roger tries to apologise with a very thinly veiled analogy about how ‘at some point we’ve all parked in the wrong garage’, and Don ain’t buying it. He exacts his own sort of revenge, sneakily arranging with Hollis the elevator operator to ensure the elevator is “down” later that afternoon.

They go to lunch for oysters and martinis, which sounds delicious in theory, but these motherfuckers plow through 48 oysters together on top of New York cheesecake. And then throw in 20-something flights of stairs..

Roger Sterling is a compelling character, and the one thing he’s obsessed with and desires most is youth– which he intrinsically cannot attain. This is something he’ll be faced with throughout the series.

Don drives that point home with his elevator prank.

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Today, I’m on the Roger Sterling diet.

image courtesy of Imgur.com

And for whatever reason, I can’t find the horns version of the Rosemary Clooney song that closes out this episode. RUDE. Here’s the 1952 original!

Mad Men s1e6: Babylon

It’s Mother’s day! Don is not fully engrossed in breakfast-in-bed-for-Betty, and promptly falls over while reading the funny papers on the staircase. Somehow, he narrowly avoids death. This falling-backwards-down-the stairs-thing is my actual nightmare, by the way.

He then reminisces about Adam being born, as we glimpse Uncle Mac and the gawky kid Dick Whitman once was. His stepmother named Adam after ‘the first man’ which is just so clever.

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S H A D E

image courtesy of TheWrap.com

Mother’s Day is sort of bittersweet for Betty, whose mother died semi-recently. When she tries to open up and express what she’s feeling, a totally normal thing to do within the confines of marriage, Don shuts it down with his fucked out views on grieving, alluding to it as “extended self-pity”. Jesus Rollerblading Christ, that’s dark. Please refer to Sophia Loren’s face, above.

Here is the start of delving into Betty’s obsession with appearance. Clearly her mother instilled these ideas in her head from the getgo, and as a result she’s very concerned and insecure about ageing. Don is dismissive for all the wrong reasons and looks bored, which is always encouraging (once again, please refer to the flawfree Sophia Loren). He tries to turn it all into a bang sesh, and Betty flips the script, attempting to reel him in with reminders that she’s only for him. Don looks taken aback and a little irritated.

This is the first episode where we see Joan and Roger together, in the hotel afterglow. Their relationship seems comprised of witty banter, though you can see that he does care about her. She’s flippant about their whole arrangement, being pragmatic and knowing that it won’t last. Unflappable as usual.

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image courtesy of BasementRejects

And hey, here’s the first appearance of Freddy Rumsen! Good god is this guy delightfully insulting/tonedeaf about women. Fun fact: when it looks like someone is drinking too much in 1960, that person is a certified lush.

Peggy is discovered for her creative prowess in the Belle Jolie brainstorming session, which really launches her character arc. Joan is clearly semi-bored by the brainstorming sesh, snark all the way. She’s really unlike anyone in that room and knows it; it’s the same idea with Peggy, though different in the execution. Peggy is thinking of ways to write for the product, whereas Joan is just enjoying being in charge. Peggy doesn’t want to be one of 100 colours in a box, and she’s starting to find her footing and her voice.

Joan is irritated that Peggy was recognised for her budding talent re:copy. Of course, Joan has been recognised in the office, but I’d guess not necessarily for anything like that. More behind closed doors, no shade intended. Their unconventional lady kinship will grow throughout the course of the series.

Working on an account, Don needs to know more about Israel and Jewish history than he can infer from Exodus and history books. Natch, he rings up Rachel. He is uncharacteristically super tryhard during his ‘working lunch’ with her– he’s nervous and not put together, being overly complimentary, and Rachel is having precisely none of it.

They speak about Israel, as Don is trying to find something real and unsentimental. He can definitely relate to exile, and that’s about it thus far. Rachel leaves him with a lot to chew on. She refers to Israel as “more of an idea than a place”. And, utopia/utopos; meaning the good place, and the place that cannot be. A perplexing and captivating idea, reality for all walks of life.

Later, she rings her sister Barbara to chat about Don and whatever potential may possibly exist. Wise beyond her 28 years, she methodically maps out bits and pieces of what could or could not be.

“Sometimes, things come. Good things, but there’s no future in them.”

Since he couldn’t get it in with Rachel, Don heads to the Village to see Midge. Watching him in the dim beatnik bar is pretty amazing. He seems a little more at home around those types somehow, he’s funnier and a touch more real. “I blow up bridges.” Midge’s friend refers to advertising as perpetuating the lie, and though Don follows up with a snarky response, he doesn’t entirely balk at the idea.

Don: “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”

Roy: “When you say people, I have a feeling you’re talking about .. thou.”

Preach it, proto-hippie.

The ending of this episode is pretty fantastic. You can’t help but feel the loneliness and isolation seeping from these characters.

Mad Men s1e5: 5G

There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, but first we go from the metaphorical Who is Don Draper to the .. wait .. hold the goddamn phone, Who literally IS Don Draper?

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image courtesy of Vulture

Adam Whitman pops up in the city, and Don is not pleased. Apparently someone does read Advertising Age after all. He comes to Don with love and acceptance, just happy to see his half brother after all this time and is met with stone cold rejection.

Mad Men gives us this suave untouchable symbol, this Don Draper and his illusion of complete control. He weaves bullshit webs, and Peggy gets stuck in one when she accidentally overhears his phone conversation with mistress Midge. When Betty and the kids turn up at the office for portrait day, Peggy assumes that Don’s gone off to get it in (when he’s really at lunch with Adam), and momentarily panics. As an honest person, Peggy doesn’t really know how to handle it but to Don, it’s second nature and he’s back with an effortless excuse.

He’s got it all in check until Adam shows up; his entire demeanour becomes the Don we come to know in the rest of the series moving forward. It’s almost like that Don didn’t exist until 5G. And then when he admits to Adam that he missed him, we see some warmth and hope, a glimpse at who he was.

“Of course I did”. The way Don’s face changes says it all. However, he stiffens at the end of the lunch, and his “this never happened” mantra begins. I feel like he’s not sure he believes it when he says it at this point, but it becomes true to him in time.

At first glance, this is a man who’s so deeply ashamed of his past that he’s pretty much panicking and launching money at the problem. But looking deeper, he feels isolated and this helps shed light on his actions; yet he does it to himself. He’s a self-haunted guy.

His entire façade crumbles then hardens– the tone of his voice resets, the whole nine. These are the roots of Don being a million miles away. He’s looking at an old photo of himself with Adam, whiskey in hand, burning it in an effigy to his past. He’s really driving home the tryhard THIS NEVER HAPPENED approach and it’s all so fucking dramatic, but it works in this context.

Brass tacks, all Adam wants is a connection with Don. Love, family, and companionship. Don isn’t prepared to offer any of these things, and only withdraws further over the course of the series/decade or so as the show goes on. It starts off as mysterious and interesting, but ends up being fucking depressing and infuriating.

“I have a life, it only goes in one direction — forward”.

Don’s fundamental misunderstanding of how human connection works is on display here. He’s plying Adam with 5 grand and quite literally cannot understand why he’s upset, cannot get why that isn’t enough. Don figures that he salted the earth of his past self and started over, why can’t Adam do the same?

One of the B plots in this episode is Kenny Cosgrove getting a short story published in The Atlantic, making the other Sterling Cooper guys jealous. Pete convinces Trudy to talk to her vaguely oily ex, and Pete is apoplectic that all she can “get” is Boys Life magazine.. haha. Roger jokes in a meeting that everyone at Sterling Cooper has the first ten pages of a novel locked in a drawer somewhere, Don quips that it’s actually five.. but all we see in his locked drawer is a bunch of Go Cash and things he’d rather forget. It’s all about projecting that image in whatever small way possible.

Seeing the stark contrast between Adam’s hellscape hotel room and Don’s lush master bedroom at home is pretty jarring. This thing Don has built for himself, he doesn’t want to lose that. He’s leaving behind that dismal past he doesn’t want in lieu of the persona he wants to attain, to play out.

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God-awful portrait aside..

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

At the end of the episode, Betty expresses to Don that she likes seeing her dad, a feeling he can’t relate to in the least.

“We gave you everything- we gave you your name”. 

“What difference does it make? People change their names”.

Mad Men s1e4: New Amsterdam

Let’s take a look at everyone’s favourite asshole, Pete Campbell– this episode shows that he’s not your average boorish dickbag. Pete’s waspy parents are over the top to a T with the boat shoes, shite comments, and plaid. It’s conveyed that they’re true Manhattan royalty, dating back many generations; what a shadow to live underneath. And his dad’s a total dick, natch; those dudes always are. “We gave you everything; we gave you your name. What have you done with it?”

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Well, this is sufficiently uncomfortable.

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia.

What’s in a name, anyway?

How can Pete individually define himself, as his own separate entity? He wants something different. Thus far, we’ve only seen Pete as a snarky weirdo who’s boned Peggy and been a general smarmy creep. However, no matter how hard he tries, his father is not impressed with his job (or him). Pete has to work his ass off to be one iota as charming and suave as Don, which is probably why he admires him. His wife’s family is ready to help at the drop of a hat, while his own parents do approximately fuckall in that department.

Looking at Pete’s parents versus Trudy’s parents, it’s essentially night and day. Pete feels like a heel, unable to buy the apartment on his own. He also assumes the cash from the in-laws comes with several strings because his own parents are lunatic WASPs.

In the midst of all this, Betty and Helen have a moment where she learns why Helen is divorced. “Turns out none of them were men”. Simple, but enough of an “oh fuck” moment for Betty, getting the wheels turning.

Trying to regain some sense of the upper hand, Pete pitches copy to a vaguely unhappy client, “cousins” included for a night of boozin’ at the St. Regis. Ah yes, the Bethlehem Steel schmuck and his hookers– he’s quick to dismiss Pete’s idea and get it in with the 19 year-old to his right. “I would’ve thought you slept all day and bathed in milk”.

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image courtesy of Reddit

The next day, said schmuck is suddenly SUPER into Pete’s idea and Don is livid. Don attempts to fire Pete with Roger on board, but Burt puts the kibosh on it due to who he is and his connections. Ironically, Pete’s name-identity has saved him much to Don’s chagrin. It reminds Don that he comes from nothing, and that the silver spoon types tend to get ahead in life no matter what, regardless of talent. Oy.

In their new apartment, Trudy and her parents are flitting around, delighted. Pete isn’t necessarily thrilled that their old bat neighbour is so into his lineage, but he’s lost in thought staring at the Manhattan skyline. Maybe his name has done something useful for him after all.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

PS, this episode concludes with one of my favourite songs in life. Give it a whirl!