Mad Men Episodes

2007, TV Show

Mad Men Episode: "The Color Blue"

Season 3, Episode 10
Episode Synopsis: Sterling Cooper celebrates a company milestone; Peggy competes with Paul for an account.
Original Air Date: Oct 18, 2009

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Season 3, Episode 10
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Length: 47:35
Aired: 10/18/2009
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Mad Men Episode Recap: "The Color Blue" Season 3, Episode 10

"The truth is, people may see things differently, but they don't really want to." — Don Draper
Because he's an adman, Don Draper is a master of perception. Or maybe it's the other way around, but I think he's bought into a little too much of his own way of thinking. In any case, Sunday's episode of Mad Men, like many in the show's history, dealt with the two-sided coin of perception. While Lane Pryce perceives New York City to be his home, his wife continues to rant about the city's worthlessness compared to London. Paul perceives Peggy to be his competition, while she looks at their assignment as a team effort. Anyone who doesn't know Roger Sterling as well as the audience might perceive him and Don to be the chummiest of chums based on the glowing speech he makes at the agency's 40th anniversary gala. And that whole celebration is an exercise in futility once it's revealed that Sterling Cooper is again for sale.

But what happens when perceptions are altered, or better yet, disproved? When Don gets some alone time with Miss Farrell's brother, Danny, Don preaches the message of his life to another impressionable youth. But his sermon falls on deaf ears. And when Betty meets Dick Whitman for the first time — or more accurately, the early life of Don Draper — everything her life is built upon comes crumbling down around her. I think it's about time Don started to look around and see just how he's really being perceived once all that applause finally stops.

"The faintest ink is better than the best memory." — Paul Kinsey
Harry Crane may have cemented himself the honor of Sterling Cooper's biggest dolt last week, but Paul Kinsey could give him a run for his money. The sad thing is, Kinsey has a brain, but he just can't get out of his own way. He's so concerned with being artsy and cool that he loses sight of doing the work that will earn him the attention he thinks can be earned only by being all those other things. Case in point: Paul gets furious when Peggy takes his concept for Aqua Net hairspray and gives it enough polish to meet Don's approval. Paul yells at Peggy for being spontaneous and Don's favorite (the latter is most likely true because of the former, not because, as Paul says, Peggy is a girl). Paul decides that he is going to outdo Peggy at all costs for the upcoming Western Union campaign.

Paul's strategy? Getting bombed in the office and masturbating to his Jackie-Marilyn Playtex ad from Season 2, probably his most valuable contribution ever to the agency. An epiphany finally comes to Paul while chatting with Achilles the janitor, but in his celebration, he continues drinking instead of jotting down his brilliant thoughts. The next morning, Kinsey is awakened by Lois to find his good ideas replaced only by a hangover. He has to face Don with only regret and a Chinese parable. Luckily, Peggy's ideas are no good, and when Paul finally admits he forgot to write down his idea, Don understands rather than scolds. The three use the parable and a little bit of Peggy's idea to ultimately come up with a campaign building block: Telegrams are permanent and phone calls aren't. Even better, Paul seems to have taken note of how Peggy and Draper's brains work from the ground up rather than hatching perfect ideas on the first try. Here's hoping he relaxes a little and tries the same.

"I don't care about your marriage or your work or any of that, as long as I know that you're with me." — Suzanne Farrell
Betty has gotten used to not seeing much of Don, who's "working too hard" and not sleeping at home. Don and Miss Farrell have gotten intensely cozy in their affair, with Don even giving his answering service Suzanne's number to reach him with Hilton's middle-of-the-night requests. (I guess Don is still trying to get him to the moon.) Similarly, Suzanne wants to share something of her life with Don, and, against Don's warnings, introduces him to her brother, Danny (Marshall Allman). Don stays long enough to learn that Danny is epileptic and has trouble keeping a job, but then bolts.

Out of fear of having someone else know his secret, Don doesn't call Suzanne as promised. Perhaps not getting the message (or more likely not caring), Suzanne tracks down Don on his train ride to work. She makes sure Don knows that she's in this relationship for him, and promises that Danny will soon be out of their hair. The line quoted above seems a bit obsessive to me, and I wonder how the woman who knew this affair was a mistake could let herself become so dependent on Don's attention. Like we already know, this can't end well.

And perhaps the bad ending will come because of Don. He agrees to drive Danny to Bedford, Mass., where he will report to his new job. They make about two-thirds of the trip (all the way to Framingham, Mass.) before Danny tells Don his plan was never to make it to Bedford. "I don't want to be cleaning toilets until I die," Danny says. Don reluctantly pulls over, but tries to give Danny some parting advice. He gives him some version of the Dick Whitman-Don Draper M.O. about how you can change your life with a little effort. But Danny is not Dick Whitman, nor is Peggy Olson. He refuses Don's advice: "I can't do anything that you can do. ... When I come to with piss in my pants, they stare at me like I'm from another planet. I am afflicted. It's not a question of will. I can't change that." Don lets him out of the car with the final warning that his sister would never forgive herself if something were to happen to him. I think it seems more likely that Suzanne will never forgive Don for not delivering her brother to Bedford.

"With the help of Sterling Cooper... America is teaching business to the world." — Lane Pryce
I was thrilled to have Lane back in the mix, even if his character's future doesn't seem all that rosy. Mrs. Pryce continues to be a pill, but her droning on about the horrors of New York is an excellent foil to the enjoyment we see Lane has taken in his new position. That, of course, makes it all the more sad when Saint-John Powell & Co. inform Lane that Sterling Cooper is for sale. Lane's task: Get the hesitant Bert Cooper to the anniversary party. They need "all the flowers in the vase" when they show off the company to prospective buyers.

Cooper's loathsome attitude toward the British has been present since this season's premiere, but he (and Roger Sterling) can't stomach sitting through the celebration of a Sterling Cooper milestone when the company is no longer their own. Lane appeals to Cooper with his worst fear: "People will think you're ill," Lane says. "How did you know I was vain?" Cooper asks. Ha! As Pryce says, it's quite obvious. Oddly though, Cooper and Pryce now share their misery. With the impending sale, both stand to see what they've grown to love change once again. And while Mrs. Pryce is giddy with the possibility of returning to England, it's clear Lane would no sooner return there than he would have been happy being sent to Bombay.

"You can't frame a phone call." — Don Draper
Yes, that's the line Don decides on for the Western Union ad, but how true it is. When the Drapers receive a phone call but no one responds when Sally answers, both Don and Betty tense up. Don fears Suzanne is losing control, while Betty wonders (hopes?) it was Henry Francis calling to check in on her. Suzanne swears it wasn't her (I think she's lying), and Henry, while glad to hear from Betty, tells her to make up her mind and stop making up excuses to call him. So Don's right: Phone calls sometimes leave no proof.

Telegrams, pictures and legal documents are a different story, however. When Betty finds the key to Don's desk drawer in his robe, she finds a lot more than Don's stockpile of cash. Instead, she uncovers the photographic history of Dick Whitman and family. And two sets of dog tags. And a deed to a house in California in the name of Anna Draper, who also seems to have at some point been married to a man with the same name as Betty's husband. While the evidence is damning in whatever way it's interpreted, Betty seems most fixated on the other woman. We may have the advantage of knowing there was never anything romantic between them, but Don's philandering ways will make that a tough sell — as will all the other buried lies. I'm not sure Betty will believe anything Don has to say ever again.

But Betty is just like that box. She's a scattered mess of emotions when she first sees Don's secrets. But just as she puts all the items neatly back into the box (and eventually back into the drawer after waiting well into the early morning to confront Don), Betty puts herself back in place. She puts on her gown and attends the 40th anniversary as the glamorous trophy wife the guest-of-honor needs to show off. But the man earning all the applause is a stranger to her now more than ever.

A few other thoughts:
• Since this episode is about seeing things different ways, I suppose my read on Kinsey's reaction is the more optimistic one. Arguments could be made that his "Oh my God," exclamation comes from realizing that Peggy really is better than him, even though he's always been (or pretended to be) the smartest guy in the room. I do hope he tries to learn from her, though.

• I love Roger Sterling, but it's hard to watch his disgust for Don. He still feels like he created Don and is angry that Don now wants nothing to do with him. How I wish all those things Roger said in his introduction of Don were true, as I really miss this duo firing on all cylinders together.

• Line of the night comes from Lane, who after having his speech called "rousing" by Mr. Hooker, asks: "Churchill rousing or Hitler rousing?" (I would have loved to hear Lane's speech at the party, after he learns that the company is up for sale.)

• A close runner-up is Peggy's accidental belch while spouting ideas into her Dictaphone. "Sorry about that, Olive," she says to her secretary who will later probably have a laugh as hearty as I did both times I watched the scene.

• Betty was reading The Group by Mary McCarthy during her bubble bath. I've never read the book or seen the Sidney Lumet film adaptation, but it definitely speaks to many of the issues Betty's facing in her life and marriage.

• How does Lois still have a job? She chopped up a man's foot with a lawn mower!

• After thinking on Betty's dismissal of Henry Francis last week, I began to think of why Betty gets close to certain men only to shut them down. (Remember Arthur Case?) I think even though Betty doesn't get what she needs from Don, she needs a man like him. She needs a powerful, charismatic man. Henry is the governor's errand boy, not someone who has enough sway to be a politician himself. When he came to her, she was excited; when he relinquished the power to her because she was married, Betty shut him down. The guy in the bar last season exuded confidence, and he got lucky. Of course, Betty could just be fickle. What do you think?

• Like last week, this episode reminded me of the pilot. Don changing shirts in his office after spending the night with Suzanne made me think of her as the new Midge even more than I had previously.

• Danny is a nice character to get at Don's internal conflict. He's a bit of a hobo, and we all know how Don/Dick plays off that idea. Also, I imagine it's tough for Don to see the closeness between Suzanne and Danny when Don's treatment of his brother, Adam, ended with his suicide.

• This season hasn't been shy in its approach to Dick Whitman. (Season 2 seemed to ignore it until the last few episodes in California.) Betty finding the Whitman stash was one of those ideas that's always kind of dangling, but you almost forget about it. As soon as I saw it beginning to happen I was instantly hooked, and watched the rest of the episode with serious anticipation for the confrontation. Of course, the show will make us wait, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Betty to do something drastic, perhaps in the middle of Don's golden moment.

• Speaking of which, who else wanted to hear Don's speech? We've seen him make plenty of pitches in the boardroom, but this is so open and public. We know Don isn't one for the spotlight (see: his extreme privacy with Suzanne and Danny), so it would have been interesting to see him in that moment.

What did you think of "The Color Blue"? Be sure to watch our 60-second recap of the episode:

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"The truth is, people may see things differently, but they don't really want to." — Don Draper
Because he's an adman, Don Draper is a master of perception. Or maybe it's the other way around, but I think he's bought into a little too much of his own way of thinking. In any case, Sunday's episode of Mad Men, like many in the show's history, dealt with the two-sided coin of perception. While Lane Pryce perceives New York City to be his home, his wife continues to rant about the city's worthlessness compared to London. Paul perceives Peggy to be his competition, while she looks at their assignment as a team effort. Anyone who doesn't know Roger Sterling as well as the audience might perceive him and Don to be the chummiest of chums based on the glowing speech he makes at the agency's 40th anniversary gala. And that whole celebration is an exercise in futility once it's revealed that Sterling Cooper is again for sale.

But what happens when perceptions are altered, or better yet, disproved? When Don gets some alone time with Miss Farrell's brother, Danny, Don preaches the message of his life to another impressionable youth. But his sermon falls on deaf ears. And when Betty meets Dick Whitman for the first time — or more accurately, the early life of Don Draper — everything her life is built upon comes crumbling down around her. I think it's about time Don started to look around and see just how he's really being perceived once all that applause finally stops... read more

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Premiered: July 19, 2007, on AMC
Rating: TV-14
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Premise: A look at the high-powered world of advertising in 1960s New York City, from the boardroom to the bedroom.

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