Mad Men Episodes

2007, TV Show

Mad Men Episode: "Wee Small Hours"

Season 3, Episode 9
Episode Synopsis: Client satisfaction proves to be difficult for both Don and Sal; Betty decides to host a fund-raiser.
Original Air Date: Oct 11, 2009
Guest Cast Chelcie Ross: Connie Abigail Spencer: Suzanne Farrell Darren Pettie: Lee Garner Jr.
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Season 3, Episode 9
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Length: 47:28
Aired: 10/11/2009
Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and VUDU
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Mad Men Episode Recap: "Wee Small Hours" Season 3, Episode 9

I'm not sure that any other episode of Mad Men has so aptly represented the metaphor that the series' opening credits display each week as well as "Wee Small Hours." In the space of a few frames, Don goes from being Conrad Hilton's angel to being yet another son who has let him down. His perfect campaign is spit on, and the floor opens up right beneath him. Leave it to Roger Sterling to kick a man while he's down, as Don takes the blame when Sterling Cooper's other largest client finds fault with how his business is being managed. And with La Dolce Betty a distant memory (all she can think about is her new pen pal), Don does what he's always done when the chips are stacked against him: He cheats. Guess he really means it when he tells his staff of copywriters that he can't do this all by himself.

The episode divides those who generally get their way from those who are exasperated in the process of trying to deliver what their counterparts want. As already mentioned, Don can't give Connie the moon. Sal's unwillingness to let bully Lee Garner, Jr. have his way with him has serious consequences. And Henry Francis can't be Betty's lover because... well, because Betty can't decide if that's even what she wants. Let's start with Betty, who after last week's powerhouse performance, delivered this episode's least compelling story line.

"But I do have thoughts. I suppose I wonder too much where you are and what you're doing. I wish I had a clearer picture of you in my mind." — Betty Draper
The episode opens with Betty dreaming of being caressed on her fainting couch. The man is faceless, but if there's any doubt of who is on Betty's mind, she erases it when she begins corresponding with Henry Francis. (Of course, she only does so after making sure his secretary wouldn't read his mail anymore. Betty's no dummy.) Henry is, however. He drops by in the middle of the day, sending Betty into a fit of both nervous excitement and panic. Carla catches Betty with a strange man in the house, and despite Henry's lie about wanting to host a fundraiser for the governor's campaign, Carla knows something is going on. Betty is then forced to follow through with the fundraiser, but secretly can't wait to see Henry again.

But on the night of the fundraiser, Henry is nowhere to be found. He sends someone in his place, and the anger/disappointment on Betty's face is unmistakable. She drives to Henry's office to deliver the campaign contributions, and throws the coin box at him in her anger. (Did anyone else think the score behind the car ride to Henry's office was way over the top in melodrama?) Henry says Betty had to come to him -- not out of ego, but because Betty is married. As I suggested last week, Betty is calling the shots in this situation, even if it is Henry who initiates the kisses and shows up at the Draper house. Betty gets the final word, and on this day, that final word is no. She won't act out her dreams on Henry's desk or even in a motel room. (She prefers bar offices and rooms in Rome.) She is just like baby Gene: She wants what she wants when she wants it, and Henry may be just a day too late.

"It would depend on what kind of girl it was and what I knew about her. You people." — Don Draper
Some commenters last week gave the impression that I was being too hard on Betty. Given tonight's episode, I don't think I was, but perhaps I was too easy on Don. He's reminded us a few times this season what a complete bastard he is, mostly in his dealings with Peggy, but tonight in his handling of Sal's delicate situation. When Lucky Strike heir Lee Garner, Jr. wants Sal to be the dessert of his "long, wet lunch," Sal turns him down. Lee pretends to respect Sal's boundaries, but then goes behind his back to ask Harry Crane to fire Sal. Bonehead Harry does nothing.

So, when Lee shows up to see the commercial Sal directed and finds Sal sitting by the projector, he storms out of the office. Crane confesses everything, Roger fires Sal on the spot and Henry is left to ask Don to clean up the mess. (Roger's become petty: "Let Don solve it; he does it all now anyway," he says.) Don dismisses Crane and takes matters into his own hands.

Apparently Don's "limit your exposure" speech to Sal comes with a set of unspoken rules, at least when the person asking you to expose yourself is a $25 million client. Thinking he'd have Don's support after that plane ride back from Baltimore, Sal is absolutely heartbroken when Don suggests that he should have been Sterling Cooper's whore. Sal's attempt to replay the situation with a woman in his shoes doesn't faze Don: "I think you know that this is the way this has to be," he says, offering Sal his hand and showing him the door. Sterling Cooper has got to stop losing my favorite people, though Joan at Bonwit Teller is a vast improvement to whatever Sal might be getting himself into late at night in the park.

"You did not give me what I wanted. I'm deeply disappointed, Don... What do you want from me, love?  Your work is good. But when I say I want the moon, I expect the moon." —  Conrad Hilton
If Connie (and, by extension, Sterling Cooper) leaves Don with one leg to stand on when he signed that contract, then Mr. Hilton leans on that last limb with everything he has in this episode. Connie calls Don every four hours, even in the middle of the night, a privilege Connie's certain he hasn't worn out. This allows the audience a peek at why the hotel mogul is successful (and also why he's nutso): Connie isn't just building hotels; he's spreading Americanism to all corners of the world. Next stop: the moon.

Don's on board the rocket ship, even if he thinks Connie is just hyperbolizing. In an episode where it's easy to hate Don, you also have to feel sorry for him when you see how genuinely touched he is when Connie says he considers him a son. It's certain that Dick Whitman never got that kind of attention from Papa Archie, but it's more than that: I believe Don truly admires Connie, and he is proud to be his golden boy, even if he doesn't think Connie is King Midas.

Don tears through Peggy, Kurt(!) and Smitty's presentations on his way to building the perfect campaign: "Hilton. It's the same in every language." But somewhere between asking for fresh towels n Farsi and hamburgers (or fried chicken) in Japanese, Don leaves out the moon, and Connie isn't having it. And while we haven't seen a brilliant Don Draper pitch in a while, we have never seen him beg to have his work accepted the way he did with Connie. He and Connie both know the moon doesn't fit into this "great" campaign, but Don isn't willing to scrap his genius. And so, Connie becomes the second client to leave the offices of Sterling Cooper less than satisfied.

"You haven't done this before this way." —  Miss Farrell
And so, the floor opens beneath Don Draper. Roger Sterling, who has suddenly decided to be more than a figurehead, is waving to him as he falls. ("You're in over your head," he says as he puts him on notice.) And so Don runs away. But he isn't trying to steal away Rachel Menken or take a soak in the Pacific Ocean. This time, he goes a couple miles down the road to the home of Suzanne Farrell.

I've thought all season long about how horrible a mistake Don would be making to begin an affair in his own backyard, and it was painful to see that even Miss Farrell, who knows herself how huge an error of judgment this is for Don, can't talk him out of it. "I want you. I don't care. Doesn't that mean anything to someone like you?" Don says. Sounds a lot like baby Gene. And Betty. Or Conrad Hilton. Or Lee Garner Jr. Miss Farrell, however, is in the position to give her demander what he wants. And even though his lust is satisfied, I fear Don Draper is sill in a freefall toward a whole lot of pain.

A few other thoughts:
• Timeline check: The episode begins in late August. (Betty's newspaper says Aug. 25, Don and Miss Farrell listen to Martin Luther King Jr.'s Aug. 28 "I have a dream" speech on the radio.) It ends on Sept. 17, as Carla listens to the funeral of the girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing. (We're just creeping toward Kenndy's assassination, aren't we? I think Matt Weiner may take us right up to it and still skip over it, considering how much fuss was made about it in the offseason.)

• As soon as Roger told Don he was in over his head, I couldn't help but think of this season's brilliant poster, which shows Don on the verge of drowning.

• Pete coughing in the background of the Lucky Strike commercial was awesome. Also in this episode for one gag was Paul Kinsey, who reminded Harry that being compared to Perry Mason wasn't a compliment: "That's her way of telling you you're fat," he says.

• Best line of the night was Don to Kurt: "Now that I can finally understand you, I am less impressed with what you have to say."

• Worst line of the night was Don to Sal: "You people." He used a similar line when he referred to Miss Farrell as "someone like you." We could assume that in both cases, Don sees both of them as beneath him, but I think Don is genuinely taken with Miss Farrell and thinks she's special. Which leaves me with the aggravation that Don was beating up on Sal for being gay. For someone who has his own dark secrets, I would think Don could at least have chosen his words a little more carefully. (That's not to say that Don wouldn't have felt that way in 1963. I just feel he always respected Sal, and wouldn't have let the words slip as they did.)

• Peggy didn't say much in this episode, but that last glance to Don on the way out of the conference room was not the same as the one when Sal's Patio ad was a flop. I think she sees the cracks forming in Don, and she's worried.

• Maybe it's because Lucky Strike and Lee Garner, Jr. were in this episode, or maybe it's because Don ran to a woman who reminds me of Midge, but this episode brought back memories of Mad Men's pilot. Don's just not on top of the world anymore.

What did you think of "Wee Small Hours"? Be sure to check out our 60-second recap:

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I'm not sure that any other episode of Mad Men has so aptly represented the metaphor that the series' opening credits display each week as well as "Wee Small Hours." In the space of a few frames, Don goes from being Conrad Hilton's angel to being yet another son who has let him down. His perfect campaign is spit on, and the floor opens up right beneath him. Leave it to Roger Sterling to kick a man while he's down, as Don takes the blame when Sterling Cooper's other largest client finds fault with how his business is being managed. And with La Dolce Betty a distant memory (all she can think about is her new pen pal), Don does what he's always done when the chips are stacked against him: He cheats. Guess he really means it when he tells his staff of copywriters that he can't do this all by himself.

The episode divides those who generally get their way from those who are exasperated in the process of trying to deliver what their counterparts want. As already mentioned, Don can't give Connie the moon. Sal's unwillingness to let bully Lee Garner, Jr. have his way with him has serious consequences. And Henry Francis can't be Betty's lover because... well, because Betty can't decide if that's even what she wants... read more

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Premiered: July 19, 2007, on AMC
Rating: TV-14
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