Mad Men: “The Hobo Code” for This Guy’s a Jerk

Last time on Mad Men:

We were more than half-finished with the season!

Joan went on a trip and left Roger feeling whiny, so he drank all of Don’s booze and fondled his wife, so Don made him puke oysters in front of some political bigwigs. Peggy continued to work two jobs with no extra pay and even less respect. Oh, and Betty slapped a bitch up in the supermarket.

Pete walks across a very shiny floor to the elevator, where Peggy’s voice calls for the operator, Don’s surreptitious revenge accomplice from last week, to hold the door. They greet each other and Pete says that he’s surprised she’s in early. Peggy couldn’t sleep, she was full of nerves, about”¦ something? Not clear yet. The elevator operator, whose name I don’t know, which is probably a deliberate choice on the part of the writers because I doubt many of the main characters know his name either, says that the service elevator is out and asks if it’s okay if the cleaning crew, also black, ride up with them. Peggy and Pete do not mind, and Pete prattles (side note: “prattles” is, I feel, the word I have been constantly searching for in the previous seven recaps to describe how Pete talks about things and has remained on the tip of my tongue until now) about his white people problems, chiefly that he is moving to a fancy Upper Manhattan apartment with his lovely wife today. Peggy sympathizes that indeed that is a big day. Pete has the decency to ask Peggy what it is that she’s nervous about, and she explains that Freddy Rumsen is presenting her Belle Jolie lipstick copy to the company. Pete pretty much just grunts at this, and then changes the subject to complain about the fact that they had to make an extra stop to let the custodian off. The elevator operator apologizes without rolling his eyes, which is impressive.

Pete is staring off into his empty yuppie soul when Peggy knocks on his door asking if he’d like her to bring him up a coffee, she’s going down to get some. He doesn’t want coffee, but he does call her in to talk to him. “Talk,” if that’s what the kids are calling it these days. He tells her to close the door, and she, not getting it at first, says that there’s no one around. He tells her again to close the door, and she complies. “Peggy, do you know how hard it is to see you walking around here every day?” and then they totally do it on the office couch. I’m telling you guys, heroes of the show: couches. He pulls her hair and rips her shirt, which is not necessarily what I would have expected from Pete.

Outside, the custodian, who is wearing the best glasses, can see their silhouettes against the frosted glass of the office walls. He smirks. As do we all.

After that terribly romantic interlude, Pete and Peggy get dressed. The collar of Peggy’s shirt is ripped a bit, but she’s got some super cute yellow kitten heels that I want to reach through the screen and snatch away from her. Pete says he thinks it’s a good time to clear the air, and admits he never read her copy. Peggy’s relieved, since she thought he just didn’t like it. “Peggy,” Pete starts again, and Peggy says she knows what he’s going to say, but Pete says she doesn’t because she hasn’t been right once. Uh. Okay?

Pete’s got a lot of feelings. He thinks about Peggy sometimes, he thinks he and Trudy are supposed to be one person and they aren’t, he feels like she’s a stranger”¦ as opposed to Peggy, whom you clearly know everything about? I mean, really, Pete. Peggy says he’s not alone in this, “this” being, I dunno, life? I guess? She leaves, but not before grabbing an empty folder to make the whole thing look vaguely like a legitimate visit. Pete whispers that he’s sorry for ripping her blouse and she forgives him.

In the switchboard room, Lois the switchboard girl is eavesdropping on a conversation in Italian. It’s Sal talking to his mother. The other girls make fun of her a little, but she is totally smitten even though none of them know what he looks like. Joan comes delivering cookies and a request for Mrs. Sterling to be put through directly to her when she calls that afternoon. The other girls suggest that Lois ask Joan about her Italian crush, and Joan relays that he is tall, dark, and handsome and doesn’t wear cheap cologne.

Upstairs, Don is arriving at work. Peggy greets him and tells him that Mr. Cooper wants to see him. When Don says to tell Mr. Sterling he’ll be there soon, Peggy clarifies that it’s just Mr. Cooper. Don looks equal parts surprised and concerned. He thanks her, and asks what happened to her blouse. She “caught it on something,” then only slightly smugly adds that she might start keeping a spare. Oh, Peggy. I hate that you are being smug and happy about the prospect of Pete ripping off your shirts on a regular basis.

Don waits with trepidation, shoeless in Bert’s office. However, his worries are baseless because he is there to receive a bonus and Bert’s thanks for his talents. He asks if Don’s read Ayn Rand. Don has not, but he tries to get around giving Bert a direct no. Bert thinks that once you hit forty you’ve met every kind of person you’re going to meet, and he thinks that he and Don are kindred types of people. Don hopes that’s a compliment, and Bert clarifies that he means that he and Don are both productive and self-interested, unsentimental about the people in their lives. Productive, sure, self-interested, yes, but unsentimental? I’m going to go with “no.” Don might be callous sometimes, but I don’t think you get to be as good at reading people and projecting their desires as he is without a certain amount of sentimentality. Bert suggests that he take part of his $2,500 bonus and buy a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and Don promises he will. Bert goes back to trimming his bonsai.

Down in the art department– okay, so this might be a good time to admit that my sense of direction within the walls of Sterling Cooper is not that great, but I’m pretty sure that the typing floor is up, and the art department is down, and the switchboard is down below that. I could be wrong– Lois has wandered in to satisfy her curiosity about Sal. She gets hit on by the art department dorks at their drawing boards. Sal, it turns out, is everything she hoped he would be, and she lays it on a bit while pretending that she’s looking for accounting. He gives her directions, and as she turns to leave, before she can help herself, she says, “Ciao, ciao!” It’s embarrassing.

Art Dork #1 says he loves it when they flirt with him, but Art Dork #2 punctures his inflated head by reminding him that she was flirting with Sal. Sal makes gestures about the fact that it must have been the tie some salesman said would draw in the ladies, but the Art Dorks whine that the girls always talk to him and it’s probably because he dresses expensively. Sal: “I told you, you don’t need money to dress better than you do, Dwayne,” and tosses some papers on his desk.

Pete is swirling liquor in a glass with ice in his office, which is the extent of his professional responsibilities when there are no clients around I guess, when Hildy buzzes in that it’s his wife. Pete sighs and, taking it upon himself to tell Hildy her business, reminds her to light up a line so he can pick it up. Hildy, who is the best ever, responds that no, actually, she’s standing outside his door, “”¦in person.” Pete shoves some files aside so he can put his drink down in his desk drawer and close it.

Trudy is wearing a little black and white polka dot ensemble, and is as adorable as ever. She thought she’d drop by, and she and Pete walk up to the apartment and pop some champagne together. Pete doesn’t want to walk thirty blocks, and begs off because his day of drinking is going to be busier than he thought. Trudy, disappointed but undaunted, says they can drink some champagne in his office then. She plops down on the sullied couch with the bottle, and Pete rushes over and, while her back is turned for a hot second, flips the other cushion over. Pete, ever the jackass, starts to berate Trudy for making him look unprofessional by dropping in to see him. Now, I’d guess that banging the secretaries is a little higher on the scale of lack of professionalism. “How do you think it looks?” he demands, and she, ever the reasonable human being he doesn’t deserve, responds, “”¦Like you are beloved by your wife.” Pete goes all look what you made me do, and says that when she shows up unexpectedly they fight. Trudy is not going to take all the blame that easily, though, and is basically like congrats, asshole, you’ve ruined my good day. He apologizes and reiterates that he has more to do that day than he thought, and she apologizes too because I don’t know why. They agree to have a glass of champagne together in the office.

In the conference room, Freddy is presenting Peggy’s campaign to Belle Jolie. The idea is to sell women on the idea of a signature lipstick with the slogan, “Mark your man.” One guy isn’t buying it, stuck on the previous idea that women want lots and lots of different colors, but the other guy thinks it’s a pretty cute concept. Older dude is bent on strawmanning the idea and suggests that they only make five shades, then, or one. Ken says that he’s not going to tell them what to do, but it’s a very fresh approach. Don gets up and announces that they may as well end the meeting because clearly the head honcho is a “non-believer, so why should we waste time on Kabuki?” Lipstick Executive: “I don’t know what that means.” Heh. Don lays it out: their company is number four, they enlisted his expertise and are choosing to reject it, so fuck “˜em. The lipstick executive says they didn’t pay him to totally refocus the core of their business strategy, but Don is on a roll. He likens advertizing to Jesus: either you believe in it or you don’t. He repeats Peggy’s original words to Freddy, saying that a woman doesn’t want to be one of a hundred colors in a box; she’s unique. He says that the mark your man concept will give every girl who wears their lipstick the gift of total ownership of her identity and her partner. Well, okay. If you say so. The lipstick executive tells Don to sit back down, but Don refuses to do so until he has a guarantee that he’s not wasting his time.

We cut to all the Kabuki participants piling out of the conference room and chatting. They say goodbye to the Lipstick Mafia, and the Smarmies fall all over themselves to congratulate Don on the win. They all file into Don’s office, straight past Peggy, without pausing for even a glance. It’s pretty shitty.

I probably don’t have to point out the irony Peggy’s feeling of selling lipstick based on the idea of self-ownership to women when the concept for the campaign doesn’t even belong to the woman who came up with it.

Peggy listens to the laughter inside the sacred boys’ club walls, and it’s made even shittier when Don buzzes out to call for ice. She calmly walks in with the ice, and asks Don how much he wants, but he surprises her by saying that it depends on how she takes her drink. Freddy smiles, and says, “Home run, ballerina!” Don says quick, take her drink before Joan sees, and Peggy takes a sip. Freddy is like PSSH, SIPPING BEVERAGES IS FOR GIRLS, so Peggy chugs the glass and smiles. She asks to see the product, and when she does she points out that they changed her copy slightly. Sal says she might indeed be a writer, she’s arrogant enough. But when Don offers her another drink and she declines, they all agree that she’s not a writer. She asks if she can keep a presentation board and Sal is like uh”¦ no. It’s all pretty cute, though.

In the break room, Lois is writing her name on a piece of paper on the bulletin board. One of the other switchboard girls, lest we forget that we are in the sixties, runs up and tells her never to put her name on a list because hello, Joseph McCarthy. Lois is like but it’s the bowling team? I’ll interrupt here to say that I read something recently about how Walmart will discipline employees for using the word “committee” or “organization” in any kind of office group, even, or perhaps especially, if it’s “party planning committee.” Bitches be organizin’, am I right? The other switchboard lady is saved explaining the seditious nature of bowling teams by Peggy skipping in to say that her copy was a success. She’s pretty thrilled, so you know that Joan is lurking nearby to take her down a peg. Which she does. The other girls refuse to let anything dampen their enthusiasm for Peggy’s success, or in Lois’s case her enthusiasm for Peggy having a drink with Sal in the room, and all agree to go out at the end of the day. Joan rolls her eyes and heads in the opposite direction.

There’s more boozing going on in Pete’s office, and Harry wonders where the champagne bottle came from. Pete says a client gave it to him. Whatever happened to, “I like doing things for my wife!” Pete from last week? Paul says he thought Pete was moving, and is disappointed that he didn’t get to see him in a pair of coveralls. They all gripe a little bit about bitches be asking for help with major life events like moving, am I right? Peggy sticks her head in, and they all congratulate her on her copy. Harry adds that she can trust Ken’s opinion because he’s a published author. Paul points out that Ken can’t write copy, and Ken congenially says he doesn’t like to limit his words, oh, and he hates puns. They have a laugh at one of Paul’s recent toilet pun campaigns and Paul gets pouty.

Peggy invites them to her celebratory get-together after work, and most of them are like WHY WAIT? Sterling, Cooper, and Draper have all left the building, and Freddy’s already at the bar without having been invited to the party. Pete pretends that he has to set a good example for the staff, and then pretends that he is committed to making his wife happy before being convinced to come by Peggy. She smiles and bids them all “toodleoo” before skipping, literally, back down the aisle to her desk.

Down in the art department, Sal answers the phone. It’s Lois doing a bad imitation of someone who has a call for him and then accidentally disconnected it. Sal is not fooled. What she really wants is to flirt some more and invite him out to Peggy’s party. He says he’ll be there.

Don is knocking on Midge’s door, which is answered by a man in glasses and a fez. Fezzes are cool now, haven’t you heard? He asks a confused Don if he can help him find anything a couple of times before the slimy beatnik from a couple of weeks ago says he can come in. Don saunters in and gives Midge a big kiss, to bored applause from the other assorted Village characters in attendance. These people are so full of shit you can taste it.

The real purpose for his visit is to invite Midge to Paris with his bonus check. She’s tempted, but she has plans. She and the assorted company are going to get high and listen to jazz. Really? Over Paris? Don agrees with me, but also agrees to stick around for the pot.

Later, they are all lounging in various states of awareness, and Midge asks Don if he likes it. He feels like Dorothy: all the colors just turned on. Roy the slimy beatnik says that Don is good with words.

Blah blah blah, they’re all high and irritating. Don goes to the bathroom and stares at his reflection in the mirror. And it’s time for flashbacks.

Don is back on the farm with his father and his non-mother when a hobo shows up asking to work for food. Don’s father isn’t feeling generous, but his non-mother says nonsense they’ll feed the guy, but only after she boils his clothes. Then she yells at Don/Dick to stop digging holes and go build a fire. Then she yells at him again. The hobo smiles and says he’s reminded of himself as a boy. She sneers and says that doesn’t surprise her at all.

They have dinner together and we establish that the hobo is from the New York area, has not farmed but has worked, is not a communist. We also establish that non-mother doesn’t think communists can be saved by God, and father is not fond of city folk. They offer him a little bit of money to do some work the next day. It’s all very uncomfortable. Dick is silent.

We fade back to present, and Don wonders what he has done to earn his keep.

Sal walks into a bar. He is meeting up with the younger lipstick executive from earlier at the hotel bar he mentioned. They go roundabout in coded talk for a while. JUST TWO GUYS, HANGIN’ OUT IN A BAR.

At Peggy’s party, she is dancing with Freddy Rumsen, and I enjoy that we get to see their friendliness early on because I think it’s easy to forget in a couple seasons that he was the first person to see her potential. Joan is there, snarking. She says that she’s not saying that Peggy doesn’t have stuff going on upstairs, but what happens with the secretaries of Sterling Cooper is generally happening in the downstairs department. Joan’s surprised that so many people showed up to support Peggy. She’s freaking out Lois, who is looking for Sal, who, to her disappointment, is not there.

Joan and Paul dance a little. Freddy spills his drink on Peggy. Pete is sullen, and I mean SULLEN. “The Twist” comes on and all the girls shriek and hit the dance floor. Harry asks Hildy to dance. Peggy, adorably, is dancing by herself in the middle of the floor when she spots Pete being a jerk in a corner by himself. She twists over to him and asks him to dance.

Pete: “I don’t like you like this.”

What, HAPPY AND ENJOYING HER SUCCESS? PETE, you are such a bastard.

Peggy is completely crushed. She goes back to dancing by herself, but halfheartedly, and wiping tears from her eyes.

Pete leaves.

Pete, I’ll fucking punch you.

Sal and the Lipstick Mafio are having dinner together and continuing to flirt. It’s all very First Date. Lipstick Mafio asks Sal what he wants to do, and Sal thinks he means in life. Lipstick Mafio just wants to know if Sal’s coming back to his room to, uh, see his view. In the dark. Their conversation is as if someone went though and censored every other word, which is essentially what is happening. Sal isn’t ready for any of this. Lipstick Mafio asks, “What are you afraid of?” and Sal says, “Are you joking?”

Sal gets up, buttons his jacket, shakes hands, says it’s been a pleasure, and walks out as if his heart is about to explode. It’s pretty fucking sad.

At Midge’s Marijuana Dispensary, they are all, with the exception of Don who has apparently been in the bathroom all this time, doing the bunny hop. They hear police sirens and freeze for a moment before Midge says it’s probably the guy in another apartment beating his wife again. Don snaps a picture of her and Roy the slimy beatnik on the bed.

Flash back to flashbacks. Dick brings some blankets to the hobo and instructs him to say his prayers. The hobo thinks Dick should probably quit praying and stick close to his “mother,” and things will be okay. Dick clarifies that he is a “whore child.” The hobo says he hadn’t heard that. Dick ventures that the hobo doesn’t talk like a bum, and the man says that indeed he is not a bum, he is a “gentleman of the rails.” Dick thinks it’s sad that the hobo has no home. The hobo thinks it’s not. He used to have a wife, mortgage, all that jazz, but death visited him all the time, so he split and now things are better. I wonder how things are for your wife and kids, good sir. He warns Dick that if ever there were a place that death was coming, his farm is it.

He makes Dick an honorary gentleman of the road, and explains the symbols they mark in chalk on the front gates of every house. One for good food, one for bad dogs, one for a dishonest man. He tosses Dick the chalk and tells him not to be scared: “Y’ain’t a man yet.”

But current Don is a man. He develops the Polaroid of Roy and Midge and sighs. He knows exactly what is going on. It’s funny how film can capture things we can’t see with our eyes. He says the two of them are in love. Midge says it’s ridiculous, but Don knows because he creates images of people in love every day. Roy thinks love is bourgeois. Fez Guy attacks Don, despite Midge’s assertion that the grownups are talking and he should butt out. Fez Guy says advertising doesn’t solve anything. Don thinks that neither will drinking cheap wine and pretending to be a vagrant in Grand Central. Fez Guy wipes his ass with the Wall Street Journal. Don suggests disgustedly that Fez Guy stop talking and make something of himself, and that gets Roy back into the fray: “Like you? You make the lie. You invent want. For them, not us.” Don hates to rain on his beatnik parade and all, but, “There is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.” Don’s totally harshed Fez Guy’s buzz. You deserve it, Fez Guy.

Don rolls his eyes, grabs his hat off the blonde party guest, and makes a last ditch attempt to convince Midge to go to Pariswith him. It’s not happening. He signs his bonus check over to Midge and tells her to buy herself a car. He starts to leave, but Roy smugly reminds him that the cops are out there and he can’t leave. Don smugly reminds Roythat actually, it’s them that can’t. He can do whatever he wants because he’s wearing a suit. Actually all he says is, “You can’t,” with a punctuating movement of his hat in his hand, but it’s all there.

Out in the hall the police are arresting Midge’s neighbor who beats his wife. The officer bids Don a good evening.

Don returns home and trudges up his stairs. He sits down on Bobby’s bed and gently shakes him awake. He tells Bobby to ask him anything, anything at all. Bobby is too sleepy to understand the magnitude of this request, and when prompted again, asks Don why lightning bugs light up. Don has no idea, but the point of this little late night exercise was to tell Bobby that he will never lie to him. I’m going to go ahead and call shenanigans on that. Bobby reaches up and wraps his arms around Don’s neck.

We fade back to the farm again, and Dick watches his father send the hobo on his way without the promised payment. Dick runs out and checks the fencepost where it is carved, more permanently than chalk, that his father is a dishonest man.

Don in the present falls asleep in Bobby’s bed.

The next morning, Peggy comes to work early, but Pete is not there. Alone in the office, she starts to type.

All the Smarmies saunter in together later, and Pete doesn’t spare Peggy a single look.

Even later, Don arrives. Peggy says good morning, and his office door closes. We focus on the DONALD DRAPER on his door and listen to the office cacophony of typewriters and ringing phones.

Next week:

Betty and Pete have something in common.

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(e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

4 thoughts on “Mad Men: “The Hobo Code” for This Guy’s a Jerk”

  1. I was reading this recap and idly thinking when I realized something: you know how you mentioned in a previous recap that you were pretty sure you had dated Paul? I just realized that every guy I’ve ever liked really reminds me of Pete, and that I would probably date Pete. This is a problem. :S

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