OK. This episode was about legacies, and parts of it almost made me cry (OK, just the Gene parts), but first I have to gush about some stuff.
Like Sal’s flirty bedroom dance.
Like Gene salting spoonfuls of chocolate ice cream right out of the carton. I have totally done that! It’s awesome.
Like Peggy’s new roommate–KAREN–wearing a yellow Mad Men dress. When I Madmenized myself, I wore a yellow Mad Men dress. It was meant to be:
Like Jai Alai! I am trying to figure out where we were living when I was a kid that had a jai alai fronton. We drove past it on a regular basis. I think it was Connecticut, but it could have been San Diego, maybe in National City off of the 5. But there was a very famous fronton in Tijuana, so I can’t believe that there would have been one in SD. I have learned tonight that there was a fronton in Bridgeport and in Milford, so that could have been it, except I am a little fuzzy on my Fairfield County geography (never having driven there).
Like peaches giving poor Bobby a rash! Peaches give me a rash! Well, a skin rash. If I can eat a peach without the juice touching my skin I’m fine, but I’m even sensitive to peach-scented lotions. TMI, but everything’s coming up Karen this week!
Exhortations and exultation complete.
I think I could write a thousand words about any of the following characters, but I think the legacy theme has been very well established across the various storylines of this episode. I am going to cop out and make a list, in no particular order.
1. Legacies fathers leave to their sons. Gene is a war hero, trying to share the triumph of survival with Bobby, since William appears to be an unworthy beneficiary of his experience. Don, or Dick Whitman, is an actual war victim and maybe not a pacificist, but he does not like war trophies, and does not want his son to be caught up in us versus them. We also see Horace Sr. admitting his disappointment in HoHo Jr., although he does offer HoHo Jr the courtesy of letting him live his own life and make his own mistakes. We also learn that Bert Cooper has no children (perhaps I learned that before and forgot it), which makes you wonder what he thinks his mark upon the world will be and also makes you reflect on Roger Sterling Jr, who is not a wastrel exactly but is basically the end of the line–especially in the context of the company being bought by a foreign institution anyway.
2. Joan’s legacy as a hip young thing in the city. Peggy is not quite as good in real life as she managed to be on paper (after some copy help), but she found herself a roommate, even if it was just a Swedish travel agent who hates sailors.
3. Gene’s wife/Betty’s mother/Sally’s grandmother. We’ve heard such horrible things about her from Betty and I have had some very unforgiving thoughts about her, but now I don’t know what to think! Gene’s comment about his daughter and ice cream seem to corroborate every neurosis that Betty has developed, but the way he treats Sally as a girl bubbling with potential and how he cherishes the memory of the smart, professional woman he married, and how he regrets selling Betty short on her potential… it’s so sad, and amazing. Is this even a real memory? Gene has seemed mostly with it this episode–even the Sally driving scene could be excused–and my instincts tell me that these memories of his are true. How did Betty go so wrong? Has Sally had enough personal encouragement and grandfatherly love to carry his belief in her abilities through adulthood. Regardless, I am loving these glimpses of working women throughout the ages. Now we’ve got Grandma Gene, Bobbie Barrett, Joan Holloway, Peggy Olson, and hopefully Sally Draper to round things out in the future.
4. The legacy of war. I don’t really feel like analyzing war beyond what Don and Gene said about it, but we’ve got WWI in Gene, WWII with Horace Sr., the Korean War with Don, and Viet Nam looming on the horizon via the news broadcast.
5. The legacy of television as a social and cultural force. I don’t know a huge amount about broadcasting, or the history of the networks and media structure, and I am going to mangle this, but there was a lot of emphasis on what television is and isn’t, and what is fraudulent and what is futile, and when an imitation is good enough. Sal–the knowing fraud–is now a commercial director (advertising AND television, which is not the same as life even if it looks like it is)… jai alai never does replace baseball, even if Patxi is perfect for television close-ups and could make the ladies swoon… Peggy is not “That Girl,” even though she says she is to Anita right at the beginning of the episode and even though she apparently knows how to write copy for it, and even though “That TV Show” hasn’t aired yet to compare her to, even Karen the Swedish Travel Agent Who Hates Sailors can sort of tell (but wants to live in Manhattan and have a successful roommate so she can overlook the fact). Plus there’s that awful facsimile of Ann-Margret selling Patio, which is not authentic which nobody likes and which Peggy called two weeks ago.
ASIDE: On That Girl: In 1965, Marlo Thomas would star in a television show called “That Girl,” about a young single working woman who moves to the city. /ASIDE
6. Not really a legacy, but the sibling rivalry between Peggy and Anita was awesome. Anita is so supportive of Peggy against the legitimately petulant and whiny and melodramatic mother, but did you catch her expression after Peggy broke the news about the Manhattan move and went home? Anita is very, very happy to be the better daughter. Hooray for Peggy being snubbed by her mom! It’s what Anita always wanted.
7. Also not really a legacy, but did you see how many wheels were spinning in Mrs. Sal’s head as she watched him channel Ann-Margret? Just when she thought she had her troubles pinned on the decline of his illustration career, she gets a shoulder shimmy. I think I could watch that scene for days. If it shows up on YouTube, somebody send me the link.
8. Don smashing the ant farm open is too symbolic, too foreshadowy, too fraught with meaning for me to attempt to address. A younger, more earnest student of the literary/television arts with MLA database access and more time is going to have to tackle that one. But don’t you wonder just how far some of those ants got away before Joan sprayed the room?