The Fog (Mad Men)

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"The Fog"
Mad Men episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 5
Directed byPhil Abraham
Written byKater Gordon
Original air dateSeptember 13, 2009 (2009-09-13)
Running time48 minutes
Episode chronology
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"The Arrangements"
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Mad Men (season 3)
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"The Fog" is the fifth episode of the third season of the American television drama series Mad Men. The episode was written by Kater Gordon and directed by Phil Abraham. It was originally broadcast on September 13, 2009, on AMC. The employees of Sterling Cooper continue to contend with Lane's efforts to reduce spending. Pete Campbell encounters resistance when pitching a new marketing proposal to a client. Betty and Don welcome their third child into the world.


The episode opens with Don and Betty meeting with Sally’s teacher, Suzanne Farrell. It is revealed that Sally has pushed another girl into a drinking fountain, causing a fight on the school grounds. Ms. Farrell asks if anything has changed at home that would explain Sally’s recent aggressive behavior, leading to Betty admitting that her father has just died. Betty leaves the meeting, overcome with emotion over discussing the death of her father. Ms. Farrell later decides to call the Draper residence on the basis of apologizing for bringing up the loss, though the conversation seems to be more of an excuse to make another contact with Don. The conversation is full of tension and flirtation, with Don eventually hanging up the phone when Betty begins to go into labor.

Meanwhile, at the office, Lane continues his effort to cut back on company expenses. The rivalry between Pete and Ken continues, leading Pete to work even harder to obtain and retain accounts. Faced with poor sales coming from a television company, Pete and Paul devise a strategy to target black buyers, as the sales in cities with large minorities are demonstrably stronger than elsewhere. Pete’s pitch to the company representative’s backfires when they object to the idea of shifting their business to target the black consumer. Pete is subsequently called in and chastised for offending the company. It is explained to Pete by Burt Cooper that, “Admiral Television has no interest in becoming a colored television company.” After the yelling is over, Lane concedes that Pete was not entirely in the wrong for looking ahead and states that, “It does seem that there is money to be made in the Negro market.”

At the hospital, Betty begins hallucinating and seeing her father, Gene. The birth of her child is stressful and violent, with the nurse repeatedly ignoring her requests to be seen by her personal physician. The visions of her father only increase with the administration of drugs and sedatives. She encounters Gene in her house, mopping up a pool of blood with a bleeding Medgar Evers sitting at the kitchen table. Betty also sees her mother, Ruth, who points to the blood and says, “You see what happens when people speak up? Be happy with what you have.” Betty eventually wakes up from her drug-induced haze to a baby in her arms, immediately deciding to name the boy “Gene” in honor of her late father. At the same time in the waiting room, Don encounters another soon-to-be father, Dennis Hobart. Disconnected from the drama (and trauma) their wives are going through, the pair strike up a conversation and an unlikely bond. Dennis, a prison guard for Sing Sing, pledges that he will be a better man following the birth of his first child and makes Don stand in as a witness. Later, as Don passes him and his wife in the hallway, Dennis avoids eye-contact, suggesting that he has already failed in his promise of self-improvement.

All the while, Duck Phillips continues to recruit Peggy and Pete. This time, Duck moves beyond wooing with gifts and invites the pair to lunch (without Peggy and Pete knowing the other has been invited.) Pete, offended that the invitation was extended to both him and Peggy, abruptly leaves. Still, Duck’s message that Sterling Cooper will never reward his ideas and risk-taking seems to strike a tone. While Pete leaves in a huff, Peggy remains in the restaurant. Duck’s powers of persuasion are on full display as he plays into Peggy’s drive to succeed and her frustration with income inequality at Sterling Cooper. Duck opines that, having no mortgage and no children, she should “strike while the iron’s hot.” He ends his pitch with the simple yet impactful statement, “This is your time, Peggy.”

The episode concludes with Peggy asking Don for a raise after he returns to work from the hospital. Peggy comments that she does the same amount of work as the other members of the creative team, often with better quality. Don seems annoyed at the proposition, adding that with Lane’s austerity measures hitting the office, the odds of her successfully obtaining a pay increase are unlikely. Their meeting ends with Peggy asking, somewhat rhetorically, “What if it’s my time?” The episode closes with Betty getting up in the middle of the night to tend to a crying baby Gene, a testament to the fact that she will continue to be the primary caregiver for the family.


“The Fog” was written by Kater Gordon and directed by Phil Abraham. It aired September 13, 2009. All of the office scenes at Sterling Cooper were filmed at the Los Angeles Center Studios (LACS.) The house used for the exterior of the Draper residence can be found at 675 Arden Road Pasadena, California. Like the offices of Sterling Cooper, the scenes involving the interior of the household were filmed at LACS. Like many episodes of Mad Men, "The Fog" employs the single single-camera mode of production. This gives the audience the sense of being a direct witness to the action and lends itself well to the style of the narrative. Additionally, many scenes are filmed from below eye level, giving the audience a view of the ceiling and surrounding environment. In “The Fog” this can clearly be seen during the birth of Gene.

Critical reception[edit]

Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club gave “The Fog” an A-. He talked about the overall title of this episode and how it fit perfectly with all the scenes stating, “I wouldn't have chosen “The Fog” from all the possible titles, and yet it fits perfectly.” He also stated, “...all the characters seem in a haze this week, stuck between where they are and where they want to be.”[1] Alan Sepinwall, another critic, went into detail about the scenes of this episode says “ almost feels like the first four episodes were just an extended prologue, and the story of season three genuinely begins here.”[2]

Cultural references[edit]

Medgar Evers[edit]

Episode Five includes periodic references to the slaying of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers. This first occurs early on in the episode when Ms. Farrell reveals Sally has been asking questions about the murder in school. Footage of Evers’ funeral can also be seen playing on the hospital television as Don and Dennis wait for news of their wives and newborns.


Conflict is generated when Pete Campbell's plan to appeal to the black consumer backfires when Admiral resists becoming a “black brand.” The client appears to be based on the Admiral Corporation which manufactured electrical appliances during the time period. Pete’s forward-thinking represents the growing realization on the parts of many companies and advertising agencies of the diversification of the consumer market.

The Twilight Sleep[edit]

Betty’s medicated labor and hallucinations are a reference to the “twilight sleep.” Throughout much of the 20th Century, mothers were given a cocktail of morphine and scopolamine as soon as they went into labor. It was under the heavy influence of these narcotics that mothers would give birth to their children. However, the birth itself was far from pain-free. The women still experienced all of the sensations of childbirth, also having to contend with hallucinations and a distorted sense of reality.[3]

The Equal Pay Act of 1963[edit]

Towards the end of the episode, Peggy asks Don for a raise citing the recent passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It was signed into law by President Kennedy as part of his New Frontiers program. Providing basic protection against workplace gender-based wage discrimination, the law laid the groundwork for future labor laws aimed at protecting women and minorities, including Title IX.


  1. ^ Phipps, Keith. (September 14, 2009). Mad Men: "The Fog" AV TV Club. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  2. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (September 13, 2009)."Mad Men, 'The Fog': Waiting for my real life to begin" What's Alan Watching. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  3. ^ Renata Aron, Nina. (January 17, 2018). "Restraints, hallucinations, and forgotten pain were the norm on midcentury maternity wards" Medium. Retrieved April 4, 2018.