Anton Chekhov once said that if a gun is introduced in the first act of a play, it has to be fired by the end of the second act. I never thought that the rule would be applied to a John Deere mini-tractor, but Mad Men decided to give it a go (although as Roger Sterling later said something like this has at some point had to have happened before in the advertising industry). At first it just seemed to be a good way for Ken Cosgrove to flaunt his latest account success, like the insufferable ass that he is (he’s getting so bad that I’m actually rooting for generally odious Pete Campbell to beat him in the race for the Accounts Manager position), but when left in the hands of an overenthusiastic Smitty, and a drunken Lois the result is that a young British hot-shot gets his foot cut-off. And it couldn’t really have happened to a more deserving man, as soon as he entered Sterling-Cooper Guy McKendrick oozed insincerity and condescension – it’s no wonder that Cosgrove took to him immediately – and the thought of him being in charge of Sterling-Cooper was not a pleasant one. His mere arrival at the office resulted in Lane Pryce getting relocated to Bombay, Roger Sterling removed from the company completely, and everybody effectively getting a demotion, except for Harry Crane – although Harry was too dim to notice this until Pete and Ken explained it to him.
Even before the Brits got to the office things were rather chaotic. Despite some initial excitement at the thought of their upcoming visit and his predicting that they were here to see Don and were going to whisk him back to the London office (something Don and Betty both got rather excited about), Lane betrayed his usual calm, British reserve and acted rather flustered, while his assistant John Hooker took it out on Paul Kinsey by asking him to shave off his beard (which didn’t work, instead Kinsey chose to rebel, in a rather non-rebellious way, by keeping the beard and playing a guitar in his office when the Brits came to look round) and the ladies of the secretarial pool and their choice of dress. Joan was busy trying to put things in order as she was due to be leaving Sterling-Cooper for a life of wedded bliss (supposedly). And to entire office’s dismay the Brits had, somewhat cynically, decided to visit just before the fourth of July, meaning that the independence day holiday was cancelled. So with all this going on, it was inevitable that something disastrous was going to happen – even if it was so unexpectedly grisly (the last time Mad Men strayed that far into gore was in showing Don’s war time experience, when he accidentally blew up his commanding officer).
The crisis did give Joan a chance to shine (not that she doesn’t do so generally – she still looked stunning after sleeping on the couch waiting for her useless, and drunken, fiancé to come home). Despite it being her last day, and her feeling rather emotional about both this and her fiancé’s utter failure in his career, she leapt into action, getting the hysterical Lois out of the way, stopping Guy’s bleeding and spending the last few hours of her time at Sterling-Cooper in a hospital waiting room, although Guy eventually had his foot amputated, she did manage to save his life.
Don meanwhile had managed to miss most of the drama by skipping out on the ‘fete’ (as Guy pretentiously insisted on calling Joan’s leaving party) to attend a surprise meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria. It turned out that Connie, the old man that Don met when he last hid from another work-party – Roger and Jane’s spectacularly racist affair from episode three – was hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. Hilton pretty much got Don to consult on an advert for free, before making cryptic comments about what he could offer Don and moaning about the inconvenience about being put on the cover of Time magazine – now he wouldn’t be able to anonymously hang out in country club bars as everybody would what he looked like and, even worse, in the photo he looked like ‘an A-rab’ (when actually, what he looked like was the spitting image of John Waters). During the meeting Don got a call from the office about the mini-tractor incident and raced off to the hospital, where he managed to have a tender farewell chat with Joan, and a share a Dr Pepper with the clearly relieved Lane.
In an odd way, everything turned out for the best – in addition to this being the last we’ll see of Guy, as the injury means he’ll never play golf again, apparently an essential skill in the advertising industry, Lane won’t be shipped off to Bombay, Roger Sterling won’t be pushed out of his company, even if nobody’s entirely sure what he does anymore, and the staff of Sterling-Cooper got their independence day holiday after all what with Lane closing the office ‘out of respect’. And all it cost them was a new carpet, an office wall and a dry-cleaning bill for Kinsey and Crane after they were squirted, quite spectacularly, with blood.
Elsewhere in the episode, Betty’s parenting skills continued to be incredibly lacklustre. With baby Gene to dote over Sally and Bobby don’t interest her any more– she didn’t even bother to tell them to watch TV this episode, instead settling for the much more sarcastic ‘Go bang your head against a wall’. To be fair her attempt to win Sally over by bribing her with a Jackie Kennedy-styled Barbie doll was sweet (albeit short as Betty isn’t the type to have heart-to-heart talks with anyone), but then she undid all the good she had done there by merely responding to Sally’s night terror with an exasperated ‘I have no words’ before storming off to dote on baby Gene some more. So it was up to Don to come to the rescue. Considering the way he behaves in the workplace – and the numerous hotel rooms that he hooks up with other women in – it’s still strange to see him act as the caring family man. But he’s proved to be good at it, even though he was admittedly the one who caused Sally’s screaming fit in the first place by bringing the slightly creepy Barbie back into her room after she had thrown it out of the window. Although his first plan, to get Betty to agree to change baby Gene’s name didn’t work, as she continues to childishly cling to that name as if it actually brings her beloved dad back from the dead, he managed to bring some sort of peace to the situation by taking the time to sit down with Sally, explain away her fears and properly introduce her to her new baby brother. And, with that scene nicely accompanied by a Bob Dylan song, that was the end of the possibly the best episode so far of Mad Men season three, what did you all think of it?