25
Oct
2009
Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 11
The Gypsy and The Hobo
Jordan
For the past few weeks, I have been lamenting the lack of Roger this season, and more specifically, the lack of development that left me wondering where his newfound hatred of Don and his matrimonial bliss left him as a character. "The Gypsy and The Hobo" goes a long way toward answering the latter part of that question, even if it does so only as a tangent to the episode's central plot.

This tangent is born when Annabel Mathis sweeps into Sterling-Cooper offering the firm the business of dog food company Caldecott Farms if they can help her ditch the rep she has from making the food out of horse meat. She doesn't want to change the company name, and she doesn't want to change the product, but somehow she expects to convince people that using horse meat is perfectly fine. She suggests labeling the meat, as we do when we call pig meat pork or cow meat beef, but people refuse to forget that Caldecott Farms peddles in horse meat. Her plight mirrors that of the erstwhile Dick Whitman, yet he was willing to make sacrifices Annabel will not. In order to become something more societally acceptable, Dick Whitman did change his name and became Donald Draper; He also changed the product, from a son of a whore raised in abject poverty to an ex-football hero who hated his father. Yet, at the end of the day, Don Draper is still the same horse meat he's always been in many ways.

That is all tangent to the real drama Annabel brings in her wake. It seems she and Roger were engaged in an epic romance in pre-war Paris, when he was an expatriate boxer and she his paramour. She recalls it like Casablanca, he, ever the cynic, points out that "That woman got on a plane with a man who was going to end World War II, not run her father's dog food company." Annabel left Roger for another man, and has regretted the decision ever since. As she tells him, heart-wrenchingly, "When I was burying this man, all I thought was that I would have rather had my heart broken by you every day. You were the one." To which Roger coldly responds, "You weren't." He may have loved her once, but his heart now belongs to Jane. It seems he has truly fallen for her carefree, youthful ways (which I find as inexplicable as Don does, though a bit more believable after tonight). Roger initially came off as a philanderer, plain and simple. He seemed even more rampant and carefree in his infidelities than Don at the series' opening, but I wonder now if that wasn't a misconception. Sure, Roger cheated on Mona with Joan, but he loved her dearly (and clearly still does). And when he began cheating with Jane, he quickly left Mona to be with her outright. Given the opportunity to cheat on Jane, even considering how unlikely it was that she would find out, Roger refused tonight because, after all, he is a married man.

It seems that for all his world weary cynicism, Roger Sterling is still a hopeless romantic at heart. He has more of Bogie's Rick in him than he would like, and he may have been spurned before, but he has found a woman he thinks he can truly love, and he plans to stick with her. Whether or not Jane is the dream he now believes her to be remains to be seen, but for the moment, he is content with what he thinks he has.

In a little apartment elsewhere in the city, his former dream girl (and, I would argue, still his perfect match) Joan is definitely not content with what she has. Greg has failed as a surgeon, and now it appears is failing at becoming a psychiatrist. As he whines to Joan, "You don't know what it's like to want something your whole life, to plan on it, to count on it and not get it." The wrongness of Greg's statement strikes the audience as fiercely as Joan strikes Greg with a vase in response to his tantrum. Joan knows exactly what it's like to dream of becoming a comfortable house wife, to plan through years of work at Sterling Cooper to land the man of her dreams, to count on a marriage to remove her from working life, and then to get none of what she was looking for, waiting for, hoping for in return. Instead, she is trapped in a marriage with a man unfit for her brilliance, unmatched for her wit, and unable to provide the life she so desires. It is fortunate then (if morbidly so) that Greg has signed up to be a surgeon in the army. He'll probably (not) just have a desk job, likely (not) in New York City, and if he ever gets deployed, it'll only be to West Germany, or Vietnam if that's still going on (spoiler alert: it will be).

This week's main event, however, comes back at camp Draper. With Betty and the kids gone for the week, Don gets to put in some quality time with the new mistress. Suzanne is sad throughout their encounters, knowing that as much as she wants Don, she will never have him. And Don puts on his much practiced "doomed romantic" face and tells her that her tragedy is his as well. It's an act we've seen before with Midge (as imdb tells me Rosmarie DeWitt's character was called) with Rachel, and with Bobby. Don Draper likes his conquests to be a challenge, and to be challenging. Where Betty exists as the trophy wife, who does his chores, cooks his dinner, raises his children and generally makes his life go smoother, his mistresses make his life more complicated, add that sense of romantic mystery that he so desperately needs. But perhaps that is not all he needs. It seems Don might also thrive on the "doomed" aspect of his conquests"”each of them wants him, as he wants them, but all parties involved know there is an expiration date (except Rachel, who came closest to winning his heart and was willing to accept no less). Don may want these women, but he may also want the freedom that comes along with a fleeting affair.

Don's mystery, and a bit more of his freedom are chipped away when he returns home (about to whisk Suzanne away for a few days) to find Betty waiting, and armed with all of her new information. She knows he was Dick Whitman, she knows he was previously married to Anna Draper, and she knows that he has a brother named Adam. Don has never been quite so craven as in the moment that he discovers his past has been laid bare for his wife whom has always been a creature he sought to protect from the evils of the world. He cultivated Betty's naivety even as he hated it about her, but the walls built around the man who calls himself Don Draper shattered as soon as Betty asked him to open that drawer. "I can explain" he meekly, repeatedly protests, but Betty knows of his facility at deception, his ability to sell what needs to be sold and round off the sharp edges and she will have none of it. What she gets instead, is the truth. Don looks longingly out the window of the kitchen, to where Suzanne and his freedom lie, but Betty sees this, and understands Don better than ever before, asking, "Are you thinking of what to say or are you just looking at that door?" Don knows that what freedom he had is gone, at least for now, and instead tells Betty of his past. He explains that he assumed the identity of a dead soldier, stole his reputation, divorced his wife (but only three months before marrying Betty) and became the man he wanted by shaping his personality himself. After he explains it, Betty pointedly asks him, "What would you do if you were me? Would you love you?" She asks this, at least partially because she has been taking her guidance from Don for most of her adult life, but more painful is the realization that no, Don would not love himself. He has never loved himself, and that is what has made it so easy for him to pretend to be what he so desired.

So his affair with Suzanne comes to a halt (At least for now, but something tells me permanently). She takes their separation as par for the course, heartbroken but prepared, and asks him, as only she would, if he is ok. Of course, he is far from ok, but the knowledge that she cares provides some cold comfort to Don, while simultaneously driving deeper the knife of their separation. Suzanne cared about him, and he cared about her, and that is over now. Perhaps that's what Don always wanted, but he was not ready yet, and their separation stings him as well. The episode ends with Sally and Bobby (fuck New bobby) trick or treating as the titular gypsy and hobo. At the first house they reach, the man who answers recognizes each of their costumes instantly and rewards them. Then he looks at Don and asks "who are you supposed to be?" That is the question at the center of Mad Men. Don Draper does not know who he is, or who he is supposed to be, and nor do any of the people around them, and so they struggle, day in and day out, to fit into the time and place they are forced to, and to fit more comfortably in their own skin.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-Mr. Hooker has arranged the secretaries alphabetically." "By cup size?" "well I know where you'd be sitting"¦" Ah, Roger and Joan. So perfect together.

-"Look at you figuring things out for yourself." Both are too proper to directly engage each other while they are married (though Roger less so in Joan's case), yet their feelings for each other are clearly still present, as is their aptitude for banter.

-"When people are protesting, I am on board!"
Tags: Mad Men
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