Mad Men Monday: What Did You Think of ‘Love Among the Ruins’?

Last night was Season 03, Episode 02, “Love Among the Ruins.”

As straightforward as Episode 1 seemed last week (pretty much poising everyone on the brink of change), this week’s episode seemed very … hmmm … not so straightforward?

What I liked:

  • (Superman caught this one, and had to point it out to me, but …) I liked that Sterling’s daughter is planning her wedding for November 23, 1963, which will be the day after Kennedy is shot. Superman looked over at me, when they showed the invitation, and said, “Hm. There’ll be a problem with THAT.”
  • I liked that they, once again, tied everyone’s struggles to the current ad campaign. Don comes up with his ad campaigns from what’s going on around him, but sometimes what’s going on around him seems to mimic the campaigns, in very cool twists. This week he was touting, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” He was saying it to the Madison Square Garden folks, who were having to deal with angry mob-mentality reactions from NYC, but, sure enough, Don played it out himself: this time with his brother-in-law. Don actually stepped in as a hero for his wife (for once!) and “changed the conversation” his BIL was playing out about what to do with their father. (“You’re going to go out there and say …”).
  • Similarly, Peggy realized she’d have to “change her conversation” if she wanted what she wanted — attention from men. I felt bad for Peggy, but I liked that the theme played outside of Don, too. Peggy didn’t like what was being said about her (Sterling tells her in the elevator that she’s “unlike” the other girls), so she adopted Joan’s “conversation” –offering the flirtatious lines she saw Joan use, almost line for line, to the men in the bar, just to attract a little attention for herself.
  • Sterling, too, seems like he’s plotting something to change his own “conversation” — when he asked Peggy in the elevator what would she have to hear from her father to not invite him to her wedding. Not sure where they’re going with that one, since her answer was pretty grim. (“My father passed away. …”)

What I didn’t understand:

I didn’t get the last scene where Don is watching the Maypole dance. I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to take from that. He was watching Sally’s teacher dance and was reaching down to feel the grass. I believe it was simply that he wanted to feel what she was feeling with her bare feet — I thought perhaps to convince himself that she was “for real,” and her joy was for real? (Am I way off, here?) My hubby Superman thought maybe he simply wanted to feel a little of that youthful joy himself? But he seems to have acquiesced a point to Peggy in the next scene — as if he realized she was right. (And she realized he was right, too.) Her point earlier had been that the Ann Margaret character was “fake,” so I thought maybe the Maypole dance showed him that that youthful joy CAN be real, if you find it in the right place. Ya’ think? What are your thoughts on that scene?

Chime in! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole episode!

Also, there was a very cool post over here by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, with some details and footnotes about the ad campaigns and era-specific jokes from last night’s episode (including “Yetta Wallenda”! — thank you!).

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9 thoughts on “Mad Men Monday: What Did You Think of ‘Love Among the Ruins’?

  1. I admit dissecting TV shows is not my forte, but I am really enjoying the start of this season. It seems to me that Matthew Weiner is coming at this season with a bit more assurance that the series will continue. He doesn’t seem to be tieing most things up or answering too many questions in each episode. He’s letting things go on and keeping us constantly guessing and mostly guessing incorrect I assume….
    That being said I really liked last night’s episode. I DO think that Don wanted to experience the realness and joy that the “earth mother” was feeling in the maypole dance. Maybe he felt he could start to “feel” again by touching the grass that she was so obviously enjoying in the dance. Plus that scene,to me , was straight out of the movie “Hair” or any number of other 60s scenes, a hint of the times sure to come in the 60s.
    I also think that Peggy is in a way starting her transformation into becoming the “female Don Draper” but she won’t take to it as easily as Don did when he became Don Draper. It’s fake and she shows she can be fake but probably doesn’t like it.
    Can’t wait for next week!!!

  2. Good thoughts on the show!

    Draper is always working, even when he seems to be enjoying himself in the moment (which, in itself is rare). In that maypole scene, I noticed he had a can of soda on the ground near his chair. My sense is he was analyzing the grass and the joy and the whole scene as a potential way to pitch the diet soda campaign. Give the show another few years, and it’ll be Draper pitching the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” campaign to aging flower children. 🙂

  3. Matthew Weiner is a master of leaving you wanting more! Everyone I know who watches Mad Men is talking about the scene with Don feeling the grass. And you know what? That’s the point. If you think back to season 2, when Don and the boys are dissecting the VW Beetle ad, Don points out that good or bad, the ad has had them talking about it for 15 minutes. This is exactly what Weiner was going for in that scene.

    Granted, it will tie in to the show, but to run that scene in slow motion was deliberate. Whether the viewer realized it or not, we knew we were watching something truly significant about Don and the show. As a result, we are all talking about it.

    So, beyond generating buzz, what did the scene mean? Well, as Don faces change in his home life (child on the way, father-in-law moving in), and at work (bought out by the British, no longer knowing who is really in charge), I think the true meaning will play itself out in a flashback scene in a future episode. Whatever that memory turns out to be, it is going to trigger something in Don (not unlike the Kodak Carousel did) that leads to inspiration. Don’s fixation on the Earth Mother in the Maypole scene was, in my opinion, the embodiment of what he told Peggy: guys want to be with her, women want to be here. There is a lot of drama in Don’s life because of his relationship with Betty. We saw in season 1 when he wanted to run away with Rachel when there was turmoil at home. I think Don is wishing things could be simpler and he saw that in the Earth Mother. Does this make sense? I feel like I am babbling now. 🙂

    I agree with you that Don and Peggy had a pivotal moment in their relationship. What really struck me is that nobody ever challenges Don’s ideas at work except Peggy. It seems to me that Don doesn’t really respect women, as evidenced by his philandering, yet Peggy is the the only woman that has thrown herself at Don that he has turned down. I think on some level Don has a respect for Peggy and that respect manifests itself in a type of mentor-protege relationship. I also think that Don’s respect gives Peggy confidence and we saw her carry herself with confidence at the bar. Peggy seems ripe to embrace the upcoming sexual revolution. I would like to see more scenes with her and Don matching wits.

    Can’t wait for the next episode!

  4. Didn’t Pepsi have a commercial where it incorporated a maypole? Or was that Coke? I’m pretty sure I recall a beverage commercial in the 1960’s with a maypole. Anyone concur?
    The second episode was more entertaining than week one. So many issues I’ve dealt with personally. Peggy trying to be taken seriously and not be one of the chit chatty secretaries. Peter being ‘tricked’ into thinking he was the only Account guy. Wanting to believe Don was being the good husband by heating up the milk, only to have him pick up the stewardess.
    The story lines are a remarkable reflection of the era and the ad biz, I know first hand. Chameleons.

  5. Great post!

    I think the maypole scene is about his longing for a time of innocence and joyous youth. As he watches the young teacher dance barefoot in the grass around the maypole, he lets his arm sink to the ground and his fingers touch the grass. That was the closest he could get to feeling that freedom and carelessness.

  6. Hi, all! Thanks for all your thoughtful comments — seems like everyone is reading the Maypole scene similarly: That Don sees the dancing young woman as kind of an “Earth Mother.” I saw someone mention on another site a really crucial thing, too — Earlier, when Don was talking to the MSG people, he said “You can embrace change like a dance, or … [something about throwing a tantrum and refusing to change].” So maybe, when he sees the Maypole girl dancing, he sees it as “embracing change like a dance,” and maybe he’s learning that he, too, has to do so.

    This also makes sense for the next scene, when he stands in front of Peggy’s door and just watches her for a second. He seems to be thinking about how much things are changing, having a woman be one of his top copywriters. And a woman who’s often right and forward-thinking (she, after all, gets it right about that campaign, not Ken Cosgrove).

    But meanwhile, Peggy, too, seems to have given Don a point. She told the young man at the bar “I work for a jerk.” But she does take his advice and acquiesces that maybe men do want an Ann Margaret type, and she even does her best to put that role on.

    So I love, love, love the stalemate they have in the very last scene. They just sit there quietly, both probably realizing the other is right. They are an interesting set of characters to have growing together!

  7. My husband caught the Kennedy assassination allusion and predicted during the maypole dance that Don had found his next conquest. Touching the grass was his way of [vicariously] caressing her.

    The family power struggles were interesting and went to great, painful lengths: Don brought a troublesome man whom he dislikes into his home merely to prevent his brother-in-law from moving into/taking over the family house. Meanwhile, Roger admitted over a martini that he didn’t care about his own daughter’s wedding, he just wants to ‘win’ the battle it evoked.

    I don’t get Peggy. Her singing in the mirror looked a little like mental instability. And her hook-up seemed out of character. Could she be schizophrenic? Her mental state following childbirth certainly looked like a psychotic break.

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