Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mad About the Men: My Old Kentucky Home

Spoiler Alert. Season 3, Episode 3:

Supposedly Stephen Foster's original title for “My Old Kentucky Home” was “Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night!” Need we comment on ol’ Roger serenading his young wife in blackface? Others say the song’s inspired by Foster’s visit to the opulent mansion of his bluegrass state cousins. Opulent garden parties don’t stray far from spectacle either, and last night’s episode was all about the new separating from (or clinging to) the old- that is, old guard. Roger shows off his wealth and rank with a lavish garden party dripping with yore, while Paul (who also tries to prove his worth with his throwback to Hello, My Baby), Peggy and Smitty- left to grind their noses at the office- instead focus on their own devices. As always Don observes the spectacle for what it is- the Old's denial to its demise- as he attempts to exit during Roger’s Al Jolson moment of horror. When Betty, dressed in updated old lace, insists on staying he escapes to the bar for some “old-fashioneds” (touché). Meanwhile Harry and his wife are uncomfortably caught between the disparity of old power and young up-and-comers struggling to gain a foothold. They’re forced to step off the “dance floor” to make room for Pete and his wife, who flaunt their desperate desire for approval. Their approach- to translate the old with their rehearsed-to-perfection Charleston, exaggerated to the point of camp. Will Pete never disappoint?!

At last, how satisfying to hear Don speaking his mind to Roger: “No one thinks you’re happy; they think you’re foolish.”

Meanwhile, Betty clues in she’s an objet du desir (even in her most pregnant state) to men in power no less. What she’s capable of, we shall soon watch…

Ah, multi-talented Joan. Young meets Old again as Joan plays hostess to her fiancee’s colleagues and wives. She runs her home as efficiently as the office, solving problems while carrying a big stick. His older boss’ wife looks longingly at Joan or at what once was, projecting her own regrets while blissfully reminiscing about “the olden days” as Joan’s pressured to provide an obsolete form of parlor entertainment.

Youth and age meet again in the Grandpa Gene and Sally story. They’ve an understanding and God knows poor Sally needs some. No-nonsense Carla, reminding us she’s not another Viola, stands up to Grandpa in one of her infrequent appearances as witness to the Drapers’ crumbling reality. While everyone tiptoes around, her voice is fearlessly direct.

If last week showed us Peggy’s sexual awakening this week shows her spiritual rebirth. When trying to prove to the guys there’s more beneath that surface, and it’s not square-shaped, something turns on inside her. She floats proverbially (“I am so high.”), inches above the carpet, on which Paul lies and reflects on the uncertainty of life amid the recent events (“I’m thinking of Cuba”), while she looks straight ahead and expresses the brink of her potential. She exits the “smoke-cloud” and into lucidity. Just as she’s at the threshold her new secretary Olive acts the judging old biddy, having only come into the office to support her like some bizarre guardian angel of morality (oh Father Gill, you have many evangelists doing your work, don’t you?). Olive implores her on her future (“I know what goes on in there.”). But Peggy, as if possessed by Don, looks her squarely in the eye and articulates the tangibility of her power before moving past. She knows who she is and where she’s going- practically surpassing Don’s own self-worth (or is it self-prophesy?) in her moment of clarity.

Side note: what’s up with the Tom Cruise look-alike?

LINE OF THE WEEK: “You can come here and be happy and you get to choose your guests.” Roger to Don.

Usually construed by E. Nolan, but this week substituted with humble analysis by Val.

Photo by Carin Baer

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