The Carousel: Revisiting Mad Men: S3E3 and S3E6 (“My Old Kentucky Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”)

The Carousel: Revisiting Mad Men: S3E3 and S3E6 (aka, “My Old Kentucky Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”)

Programming Note: This week we’re combining 2 of the top 4 most upvoted episodes, in order to be on track to discuss Season 4 in April.
Next week Miss Rim will take on “The Grown-Ups” and Spiny will close out the month of March with “Shut the Door, Have a Seat.” Both of which we expect a lot of discussion about!

Episode 3: My Old Kentucky Home 
(By Miss Rim)

To start with, this episode’s most enduring image for me, and probably most viewers, will always be Roger in blackface. It’s appallingly hilarious.

But let’s begin at the beginning!

We start by watching the guys ogle the woman auditioning for the Patio ad. Accounts and Television (aka Ken, Pete, and Harry) let slip that Roger and Jane are throwing a Derby Day party, which the creatives aren’t invited to. Peggy, Paul, and Schmitty will be stuck in the office all weekend thinking up vacation situations for Bacardi.

Jane runs into Joan while popping in on Roger at the office.
She looks out of place in her “grown up married lady” outfit, but manages to get a few digs at Joan (“I have to get my rings resized, I keep losing weight!”) in a delightfully catty exchange.

Paul, Schmitty, and Peggy drink some rum and get stuck. Looming in the background is Peggy’s judgy secretary Olive – who is there to provide a contrast between who Peggy could become and who she is becoming. Peggy could be the middle-aged Catholic from Brooklyn who is still a secretary in 20 or 30 years. But instead she is becoming:


And that is the best version of Peggy. The gang gets high thanks to Paul’s friend Jeffrey, the OTHER great coxswain of Princeton ‘55. Paul recites some T.S. Eliot, Schmitty giggles, and the boys are unproductive. Peggy uses her headspace to get some WORK DONE. That’s our Pegs!

Meanwhile, at the Draper household, Don is dreading Roger’s party, but decides it’s better than hanging around Grandpa Gene, who is blaming Carla for the $5 Sally stole. Gene is suffering from dementia and acts like a child, pushing away his dinner. Sally finally pretends she “found” the money and gives it back. Peace is restored, but this won’t be the last time Sally acts out. And notice Carla doesn’t eat at the table with the family.

At the country club, the Derby Party is in full swing. Don is hating it, Betty is in her natural element. Don gets fed up with Roger’s appalling performance – probably not because he cares about blackface. Don is just fed up with Roger in general these days.

Roger’s wife is barely 21, and Don’s old secretary. Don can’t stand to think about the role he played in Roger’s divorce, and how Roger doesn’t realize his happiness is fleeting. So he runs for the bar and meets an old man in a white jacket. They bond over the fact that they are both at work and neither are comfortable. They exchange sage anecdotes about growing up poor, working at clubs like this.

Most of the others are having a grand old time. Although Progressive Peter DYCKMAN Campbell is also appalled at Roger’s blackface. And Mrs. Jennifer Crane seems sad that Harry can’t distinguish himself on the dance floor, like the Campbells with their Charleston. Watching Pete and Trudy dance gives me hope for those two crazy kids.

Betty looks gorgeous in her lace dress, though she’s 8 months pregnant and self-conscious. That doesn’t discourage a mysterious older man who puts some moves on her. We find out he’s Henry Francis, a bigwig in the Republican Party.

Before Don and Betty can leave, they need to help an absolutely hammered Jane, who mentions their separation. Betty is pissed Jane knows. Don is pissed Jane blabbed. Roger intervenes and gets his child bride a glass of milk. Maybe feeling glad THEY aren’t Roger and Jane, Don and Betty have a lovely swooning kiss.
I wonder if THOSE two crazy kids are going to make it!

While much of the cast is off solidifying their identities with their spouses or careers, things aren’t all that great in the home of Joan and Dr. Greg McRapey. They host a dinner party for a couple docs who will determine the next year of Greg’s residency.

Turns out that Greg is not only a rapist, but a bad surgeon. He distracts everyone from that by putting Joan on the spot with her accordion. (Lovely version of C’est Magnifique by Cole Porter!) Christina Hendricks does a remarkable job portraying the contempt and humiliation she’s feeling.

She’s wearing a dress with blooming roses, BTW – look out for when Joan wears roses.


Stray Observations
Sally reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire to Gene, and pronouncing
“licentiousness” is something I find cute and weird. There are a lot of moments here when we see the bond between Sally and Gene grow. I think he reminds her of Betty.
“Code Pink.” Ugh.

Episode 6: “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”
(by Spiny Creature)
Where to start with this episode? The title is a joke, and a great one. Its centerpiece scene has been giffed to death. What this episode is really about, in a season full of people staying with what they know, is forcibly interrupting “what we know”.

Take that lawnmower scene: it deflates our built-up expectations of a new boss at Sterling-Cooper, but it also interrupts (and almost makes us forget about) two very meaningful scenes – people discussing Vietnam for the first time, and Peggy finally telling Joan how she feels. That’s comedic timing.


It’s also an episode full of reversals of fortune. Guy is the obvious one, but look at Ken riding triumphant on a lawnmower after getting John Deere vs. Ken in trouble for abusing it.

Look at Joan anticipating life with a doctor husband vs. Joan at a hospital, knowing her husband is NOT a doctor. Look at Don anticipating a huge promotion, and getting Conrad Hilton instead. And look at poor Lane.

The episode starts with a surprise visit from PPL, which Bert and Roger take to mean that Don is getting a presidency in London. Don, in a very un-Don-like way, is almost giddy about this idea, even asking Betty if she’d like to move. He doesn’t know any specifics and has never showed interest in London before… but it’s something new. Don always wants that. More on that later in the review.

Then PPL shows up, deflating Joan’s expectations for her last day. Joan might feel better about quitting (though we all know secretly she loves her work) if her replacement wasn’t Mr. Hooker. But he is, and he’s petty as fvck, even telling Joan about her surprise party. “What? Mrs. Harris knows everything, I’m sure she was expecting it.”

Joan’s revenge is just to remind him that he’s less competent than her, something he already knows. Nothing else needs to be said. Hooker is a mortal who forgets things. Joan is not.


We see that reminder that Hooker is mortal the next day – he set up a measly lunch in the conference room for PPL, but Joan found Broadway tickets and planned their dinner. And then again when she saves Guy’s life while Hooker stands there. Imagine how much MORE insecure and shitty Dr. Greg would be if he had any idea his wife was smart.

Speaking of Dr. Greg, he’s not cut out to be a surgeon. Credit to Sam Page’s acting: I’d never feel sorry for Greg, an entitled, handsome A student who’s probably never heard “no” in his life, ON TOP OF assaulting Joan.

But he makes you WANT to feel sorry for Greg in this scene. If he were any other character, you would. Page sells the feeling of realizing your life fundamentally isn’t gonna work out the way you planned. …A feeling Joan is about to become more familiar with too. She has to find work somewhere, and it can’t be Sterling-Cooper.

PPL’s visit isn’t just ruining Joan’s day. Lane’s reward for making S-C profitable is getting demoted to India to repeat the process there, like it’s a party trick. Don doesn’t get that promotion. Enter Guy.

The scenes with PPL can veer too close to broad British stereotype for my taste (though I suspect the writers did it on purpose, since in the early ‘60s English businesses were still class-stratified and run by Oxbridge graduates who would all be That Posh), but in this episode the evil-polite English tropes work. It’s all bullshit with a smile for PPL.

Lane is told his demotion is a promotion. Huge changes to the organization of Sterling-Cooper are announced as a “slight modification” via flowchart, with Roger casually left off. The PPL guys brag about Guy without saying who the hell he IS or why he’s even here. Their scheduling of the visit for July 3rd – a day no one was prepared for work – might even be a deliberate power move.

And Guy is the emptiest, most bullshitty bit of all. He’s young, he’s handsome, he went to Oxbridge. But his name is “Guy” for a reason. He’s a generic formula for success, not a successful person. Twice we see him repeat the EXACT same sentences: “I know everything about you. You’re a very impressive young fellow / woman” (to Pete and Peggy) and “I’m sure you all have a thousand questions” (in two different meetings).

It’d be interesting to see what sort of president Guy would’ve been. But that’s not how life works. Lane, given his job back, says he felt like he just went to his own funeral and didn’t like the eulogy.

He says he made the connection because of Tom Sawyer, and admits to Don he’s been reading a lot of American lit recently. That gives Lane some more depth – we get a sense what a lonely, strange guy he must be, to think he can connect to his coworkers via kids’ books. And we learn that Sterling-Cooper isn’t just some meaningless gig for him.

And then we go back home, where Sally has been terrified of the new baby, who’s named after dead Grandpa Gene. Don finally gets through to her, and the episode ends as they hold him. The connection to the rest of the episode isn’t obvious, but here’s my thought: a baby is a blank slate, the promise of something new with nothing else behind it – just like Guy was “something new”, with no specifics. Just like Joan’s new life is a blank slate with no substance.

Don – like I said earlier, about moving to London – likes anything new and unknown right now. It’s how he “pitches” the concept of a baby. “We don’t know anything about who he’s gonna be.”

As he said earlier in this season, the only ways to react to change are to throw a tantrum or to dance and say “Look, it’s something new”. Don is trying to convince his daughter that the dance, not the tantrum, is the right way to go.

Stray Observations
“I married you for your heart, not your hands” is just pathetically heartbreaking in this context. How’s this guy’s kind heart working out for you, Joanie?

Betty is so hard to read in the scene where she gives Sally the Barbie “from baby Gene” – is she trying and failing to joke around? Or does she really think a kid Sally’s age should believe that “babies get fairies to give presents”? Either way, it’s creepy.

This show takes place during a time when MOST living generations had been to war, and not being a veteran was kind of embarrassing. True in the US and the UK.
…And yet we learn that someone with a serious injury / disability can never succeed in Accounts (the ADA being a long ways off). It’s such a weird mindset to openly discriminate against the disabled, while living in a world where most men are veterans.