Thursday, March 19, 2015

Re-watching ‘Mad Men’: S3/Ep11, “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

Nearly three seasons of storytelling come to a head in this episode when Betty confronts Don about his past. Finally, everything is laid out in the open between the two of them (OK, well, most everything), and by the end of the episode we’re left wondering what will happen to their relationship: Can Betty forgive and move on (as her lawyer advises), or not? Meanwhile, the first half of the episode is focused on Roger, who encounters two lost loves from his life—one recent (Joan, looking for a job) and one from his youth. The scenes with Roger are wonderful and add depth to his character, but they get blown away by the action in the Draper home. And, oh yeah, Joan’s oaf of a husband joins the Army so he can stay in medicine.

Best Scene: Betty’s confrontation with Don spans 13 consecutive minutes at the heart of the episode. Broken into three parts (the office, the kitchen, and the bedroom), it is without question one of the best, most intense sequences in the entire series. There is so much packed into these segments, I could write a dissertation on them alone (someone probably already has). The writing, acting, and direction are impeccable. It’s useless to try and capture all of the greatness here, so I just want to point out a few tiny details:
• Watch how Betty treats Don’s shoebox of mementos; she slings it around the kitchen like trash—the same way Don himself was treated as a child.
• Even when he’s at his lowest and his cards are literally all out on the table, Don still can’t be completely honest with Betty. He tells her the Army “made a mistake” when they switched his name with the real Donald Draper, but we know that’s not true—he took Draper’s dogtags before the medics arrived. He chose. He acted. It wasn’t an accident.
• This is a good scene to return to if you ever need the Cliff’s Notes version of Dick/Don’s history.

Best Line: Betty to Don: “Are you thinking of what to say, or are you just looking at that door?”

Grade: A