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Mad Men recap: The Parent Trap

After Don deals with the effects of one father’s legacy at work, he then has to go home and deal with Betty and the scars her father left her with

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Mad Men Season 3

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

Can someone please give Kiernan Shipka an ice cream sundae? The young actress, who plays tortured Sally Draper, certainly earned a special treat with that performance on the front stoop (”no! no! no!”) and later in the kitchen amongst the adults. It was an episode about family, and the fraught tether that binds its members. Parents demand too little or too much, inevitably disappointing in small and large ways. Children crave recognition and approval, even when they’re breaking free of legacy. And nobody dealt with their familial pain and longing better than little Sally, who seemed to experience all seven stages of grief in the one hour.

Some mourn in broad fashion. Take Peggy’s Ma for instance. The Pope has died, along with her television. The woman is a crabby mess, her tiny world rocked by distant losses and the threat of her daughter moving a borough away. ”You’ll get raped, you know that!” she told Peggy, in that feverish gnashed-teeth tone of fear-mongerers everywhere. But Peggy is moving on to a different world, and she needs a roommate. She posted a dear little ad that assured the world she was clean and responsible, if snuffly around cats. Joan, in a bit of dream big-sistering, helped her get a clue. Proving once again that she should have a corner office and the stalled Patio account, she rewrote Peggy’s very DNA on the fly. ‘Fun loving girl, responsible sometimes. Likes to laugh, lives to love. Seeks size 6 for city living and general gallivanting. No dull moments or dull men tolerated.” Peggy later tried out said playful side with a silly girl who doesn’t look forward to Fleet Week. This was an otherwise hard and moving night of TV. So the scene of Peggy pretending to be fun (”no sailors, I agree!”) was a delightfully welcome one.

Speaking of roommates…Kitty popped out of the bathroom in adorable apple green lingerie, hoping against hope that she might coax Sal into her arms. They are oddly the most functional couple on the entire show — tender and respectful and loving with each other. And yet Sal was clearly going to stay buttoned up in his pajamas on his side of the bed. ”I’m not myself,” he soothed a worried Kitty, neatly summing up his closeted existence. ”I do have one horrible flaw,” she said. ”I love you.” Oh sister, if you only knew. But then a sad awakening crept across her face during Sal’s breathless reenactment of his Patio treatment. As he fluttered around the room, Kitty’s smile sagged dreadfully. It was as if she was seeing her husband clearly for the first time. That new gauzy number is going to have lonely life folded up in her dresser drawer.

While Kitty’s dreams of married life crumpled before her eyes, Sally was blooming in Westchester. Grandpa trusted her behind the wheel, and she could barely believe her luck. While Gene treats his granddaughter like an adult, he has a daughter who stamps her foot and demands to be tip-toed around like a little girl. When he tried to acquaint her with his will, she looked like he had just told her that she couldn’t go to the school dance. It’s always so strange to see Betty in house clothes, her hair lank and face free of makeup. While Betty huffed on her cigarettes, her Dad lobbed a sneering sense of dismissal back her way in return. He thinks she married badly. He thinks she’s too sensitive. She’s just like Scarlett O’Hara, plugging her ears and playing dumb in the face of a storm. Betty had heard enough and she had one final plea for her aging father. ”I know it must be horrible to look at whatever you’re looking at, but can’t you keep it to yourself!” This is a woman whose very being recoils from intimacy.

NEXT: Gifts of the father


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