Mad Men Episodes

2007, TV Show

Mad Men Episode: "The Grown Ups"

Season 3, Episode 12
Episode Synopsis: A candidate makes an impression on Don; Peggy's taste in men proves questionable; and Pete faces a major decision about his career.
Original Air Date: Nov 1, 2009

Full Episode
click to playclick to play
Season 3, Episode 12
Subscription | Netflix
Length: 47:01
Aired: 11/1/2009
Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and VUDU
play more info

Mad Men Episode Recap: "The Grown-Ups" Season 3, Episode 12

After dominating the last two episodes, Don Draper, Dick Whitman and , well, everybody really, take a back seat to the most speculated-about moment of Mad Men's third season: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Creator Matthew Weiner put the drama of the event front and center, but still managed to show the changes happening in the lives of those sitting transfixed on their couches, those unable to look away from the situation that kept going from bad to worse. Betty finally realizes that her feelings for Don no longer exist. Pete, after being less than graciously not promoted, convinces himself, then Trudy, that leaving Sterling Cooper might be his only move. And Roger Sterling, unable to crack wise about Kennedy's death like he does everything else, realizes only one person can make him feel better after his daughter's train wreck of a wedding ends.

But how exactly do we cope with tragedy? Do we, like Don, talk it away by focusing on the hope for a brighter tomorrow? Or do we react like Betty by immersing ourselves in it and allow it to break us down? Could we be like Pete and misplace our anger at those around us? Or do we take Roger's approach of just  being baffled by it, knowing that with persistence we'll pull through? All of those initial reactions, however, give way to reflection, which gives way to honesty. And it's in those moments of honesty that the realizations listed above are made, for better or worse.

"He basically said I care too much about my clients and they notice it. How could that be bad?" — Pete Campbell
Before the country came to a screeching halt, Pete learns that Lane has decided to make Ken Cosgrove the senior vice president in charge of account services (or "senior something of something accounts," as Pete hilariously calls it in his retelling to Trudy), while Pete remains head of account management. Lane's rationale is simple: "You are excellent at making the clients feel their needs are being met, but Mr. Cosgrove has the rare gift of making them feel as if they haven't any needs," Lane says. Pete takes it like a man (and doesn't lose his temper to Trudy's great relief), but heads home early with the intent to take Duck up on his offer, despite Trudy's warnings to the contrary.

Once the president is dead, however, Pete sees his colleagues for what they really are. He's infuriated that Roger won't cancel his daughter's wedding. ("One thing to go and act like I don't hate them. It's another to go and act like the president hasn't been murdered," Pete says.) He is disgusted that Harry Crane crunches numbers about how many commercials aren't airing while the news coverage dominates the TV. Eventually, Pete brings Trudy over to his way of thinking. She encourages him to gather his clients and take them with him. Maybe we will see how many like seeing Pete tend to their needs after all.

"I'm glad he's not home. I had to talk to you." — Roger Sterling
Not that the Roger-Joan conversation necessarily proves my theory that Roger views Joan as "the one," but it certainly proves he's happy to have these conversations back in his life. (Though in truth, his phone conversation with Mona also proved that those two have some pretty natural chemistry, at least as it comes to parenting -- manipulating? -- their bratty daughter.) Margaret is in hysterics that Jane bought her something new and blue, and just plain upset that Jane exists at all. Roger calms Margaret's tantrum about Jane attending the wedding by threatening to cancel the whole thing. If he only knew...

When Margaret sits in front of her TV in full bridal attire wailing that "it's all ruined," she's absolutely right. The wedding is a poorly attended nightmare: The seating assignments are worthless, there's no wait staff, the cake wasn't even delivered and Roger can't keep Jane out of the kitchen long enough to make his toast. When he does give his speech, he makes the best of a bad situation just like he did with his introduction of Don a couple weeks ago. The man has a way with B.S., but Joanie cuts through all that. She may not be the one, but permadrunk Jane certainly isn't. So Roger turns to Joan while Jane lies passed out next to him. And because Greg is out healing the sick and wounded, which keep on getting sick and injured while the rest of the world stands still, she indulges him and adds what comfort she can in his time of need. And isn't that kind of what she always did?

"I want to scream at you for ruining all of this. Then you try to fix it and there's no point. There's no point, Don. But I don't love you anymore. I know that. I kissed you yesterday. I didn't feel a thing." — Betty Draper
While Roger perhaps discovers feelings that are still burning, Betty learns that no amount of stoking her heart's coals can reignite her fire for Don Draper. She smiles when she sees Don up in the middle of the night tending to a crying baby Gene. He's an attentive husband and father while his family grieves the loss of the president. But all that perceived happiness goes out the window when Henry Francis strolls into the Hargrove-Sterling wedding reception.

Betty can no easier take her eyes off Henry than she could her TV set. Don mistakes it as her continued distress over Kennedy's death and asks her to dance. He tries to convince her that they will survive the tragedy (and the marital rough patch?) with a passionate kiss, but the heat isn't returned. Betty later emerges from the bathroom with both Don and Henry standing side by side. We know who she wants to walk to, even if the beautifully shot sequence makes us wonder who she will actually lock arms with until the last moment.

And then Betty pulls a Dick Whitman. She can't face the horror of the TV any longer, so she runs to the arms of another man. Henry doesn't mince words: He wants to marry Betty. He wants to take her to see her favorite movie (Singin' in the Rain). She, of course, can't answer him, but she can unload on Don. He tries to tell Betty she will feel better tomorrow, to sweep this spat under the same rug beneath which he's (unsuccessfully) been trying to push her emotions about the Kennedy assassination. But Betty knows that's not true, and so does Don, who sits crumpled and defeated in true, frightened Dick Whitman fashion in a chair in his bedroom. This is certainly what he wanted to (and maybe thought he was able to) avoid when the shoebox finally came out of the drawer.

"My mom was crying and praying so hard that there wasn't room for anyone else to feel anything." — Peggy Olson
So the old Don Draper emerges from the bedroom the next morning. The remade family man heads into work on a national day or mourning. There he finds Peggy, the fellow pea in his pod, also working instead of feeling. No doubt she took her roommate's thoughts on Duck to heart. Not that she needed to after she saw that he is sleazy enough to turn off the coverage of the assassination so as not to ruin the mood for their "nooner." Like Don, work is Peggy's only escape, and so there she sits at her typewriter. But she's not quite as hardened; she takes a break to watch the funeral while Don pours a drink and mourns a different death: that of his marriage.

"Everything's going to be fine." — Don Draper
"How do you know that?" — Betty Draper
I'm not comfortable calling Don an optimist, but he knows how to talk the talk. In truth, "Everything's going to be fine" is a lie that most parents tell their kids at some point or another. The honest statement is that it's going to be OK until it's not. Don feeds the line to his kids and Betty numerous times, but he's not the only one. Harry Crane tells petulant Pete the same, and even Henry Francis gives the advice to Betty. We've heard it a lot this season, but of course, we had the benefit of knowing just how not OK things were going to turn out.

So when Betty calls Don out, asking him how he knows things will work out, she basically jeopardizes his life's M.O. Don has raised himself on the "move forward" mentality that lets him walk away from struggle, watching the city burn in his rearview mirror. When Dick Whitman's secrets were revealed, Don finally stopped running. And so he can only stay, he can only sit in the ruins of his life and marriage. While Betty is already eyeing the door, Don has no idea how to move forward from this.

A few other thoughts:
• I have never had much to complain about when it comes to Mad Men. And as much as I enjoyed this episode, especially on second viewing, I felt a bit of a letdown with the handling of Kennedy's death. Maybe it was that previous seasons' penultimate episodes set the bar super-high. Maybe it was that we've all obsessed over how and when Weiner would finally tackle the assassination. Maybe it's that I honestly wanted Don and Betty to work things out.

I think it's a combination of all those things, but mostly I think it's because Kennedy, unlike, say, the Cuban Missile Crisis in the Season 2 finale, was as much a plot point in the episode as Betty telling Don she no longer loves him. I understand and respect that the coverage of Kennedy's death no doubt dominated the lives of Americans in November 1963, but I've always preferred the history as background noise in Mad Men. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

• I did enjoy seeing all the original news footage in the episode, however, particularly the iconic image of Walter Cronkite taking pause to compose himself moments after announcing Kennedy's death. Nice to see Chet Huntley and David Brinkley get some equal time as well.

• I like how it was cold then hot at Sterling Cooper, but at the Draper house, the episode started with warm feelings and ended with icy stares.

• Peggy's real reason for being at the office probably is most wrapped up in the fact that no one wants to watch a hair-spray commercial featuring people in a convertible when the leader of the free world just met his demise the same way. Back to the Aqua Net drawing board!

• This season has reminded us again and again how different Betty and Carla are, and even though they both sat on the sofa weeping and smoking cigarettes, the distance between the two women was tremendous.

• It was nice to see Sally support her mom in that moment. She, like Margaret in Sterling's toast, was being strong for the grown-ups rather than the other way around.

• Sad as it is, line of the night belongs to Don, who, when asked by Peggy why he's in the office, says, "Bars are all closed."

• This show always picks era-appropriate songs that so accurately speak to the content of the episode for the closing credits. Tonight's choice: Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World."

What did you think of the episode? What do you think will happen in the finale? Share all your thoughts below and check back next week to see how it all wraps up.

show less

After dominating the last two episodes, Don Draper, Dick Whitman and , well, everybody really, take a back seat to the most speculated-about moment of Mad Men's third season: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Creator Matthew Weiner put the drama of the event front and center, but still managed to show the changes happening in the lives of those sitting transfixed on their couches, those unable to look away from the situation that kept going from bad to worse. Betty finally realizes that her feelings for Don no longer exist. Pete, after being less than graciously not promoted, convinces himself, then Trudy, that leaving Sterling Cooper might be his only move. And Roger Sterling, unable to crack wise about Kennedy's death like he does everything else, realizes only one person can make him feel better after his daughter's train wreck of a wedding ends.

But how exactly do we cope with tragedy? Do we, like Don, talk it away by focusing on the hope for a brighter tomorrow? Or do we react like Betty by immersing ourselves in it and allow it to break us down? Could we be like Pete and misplace our anger at those around us? Or do we take Roger's approach of just  being baffled by it, knowing that with persistence we'll pull through? All of those initial reactions, however, give way to reflection, which gives way to honesty. And it's in those moments of honesty that the realizations listed above are made, for better or worse.

read more

Related Links

Other Links:
Mad Men
Tags:
Breaking News, AMC

Are You Watching?

Loading ...
Premiered: July 19, 2007, on AMC
Rating: TV-14
User Rating: (1,139 ratings)
Add Your Rating: 1 stars2 stars3 stars4 stars5 stars
Premise: A look at the high-powered world of advertising in 1960s New York City, from the boardroom to the bedroom.

Cast

Shop

Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style, and the 1960s
Buy Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style, and the 1960s from Amazon.com
From Duke University Press Books (Paperback)
Usually ships in 24 hours
Buy New: $25.16 (as of 07/27/14 9:03 PM EST - more info)
The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men
Buy The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men from Amazon.com
From Grand Central Life & Style (Hardcover)
Usually ships in 24 hours
Buy New: $10.80 (as of 07/27/14 9:03 PM EST - more info)

More Products

TV GUIDE Users' Most Popular