Mad Men: The Hobo Code   Rewatch 
June 25, 2014 6:19 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Don is tormented as pieces of his secretive past begin to haunt him. Peggy's new success at work and resulting boost in confidence threaten her office relationship. Salvatore gets a little too close with a client.
posted by Sweetie Darling (20 comments total)
Love the touch of Bert not lending Don a copy of Ayn Rand, and telling him to buy it out of the bonus (although in a later episode he offers to give Pete a copy).

Maybe Bert really is like Don. He offers Don money to solve a problem like Don does to Adam and Peggy.
posted by drezdn at 7:29 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, Peggy. Stop fucking married men already. Especially jerky ones who don't want you to have success or fun.
posted by donajo at 8:07 AM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Hobo, who is from New York, tells Dick/Don that he had a life back home, a mortgage, and a job, but that "death came to find him" – then he says he’s got to get out of this place because death is creeping all around it. This death obsession all sounds extremely familiar... and foreshadowy of Don's father's impending death.

In hobo code, every house has a mark. The moment when we see the mark on the fence of Don's father's house was IMHO one of the most eloquent scenes of the entire series so far. Such beautiful, nuanced storytelling.
posted by hush at 8:14 AM on June 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

I guess we know what he's going to do with that quarter.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2014

People on other boards make fun of Bowlcut Dickie Whitman, but I think the actor has done a pretty good job with the material he's had, with the added challenge of growing up out of sequence with the flashbacks. (Trivia: He plays the victim of the oldest trick in the book in the Geico commercial and also was little Michael Bluth in AD flashbacks.)

I don't think I understood the purpose of the hobo flashback, or I guess the lesson he taught Dick, until the third or fourth watch. (Sometimes I get distracted by worrying about what's going to happen.)

And I adore Joan's hairdo in this episode. It's kind of un-officy but so, so cute.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:41 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The whole office (minus the execs) partying at a bar is one of my favorite scenes of the first season. Especially Peggy doing the cha cha with Freddy Rumsen.
posted by donajo at 2:52 PM on June 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don learns from everything. He is a survivor. He learns from the hobo. A bad man lives here. You can see Big Don in Little Bowl Haircut Don, in that he doesn't say much, but he watches and observes.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:24 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is the first real episode of Mad Men that functions wholly on its own as a piece of brilliant fiction and within the context of the show as we know it now. So much to say about everything that happens here. But frankly it doesn't even need explicating. This is a cards on the table moment and like so many other of my favorite episodes, weaves the experiences of the main character's past life into a web of experiences that trap the other storylines in place.

The other thing Don learned from the hobo is that symbols are far more powerful, lasting, and honest than words. More than anything that is his job--accessing the Logos.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, what is he going to do with that quarter? Don's stepdad or the hobo? I thought the hobo would buy food with the quarter but his stepdad (real dad?), do you mean he will go hire a woman?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bowlcut Dickie Whitman

posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 PM on June 25, 2014

I never fully appreciated a story my grandmother told me until I saw this episode the first time.

In the late 1940's my grandparents were living in their first house. My grandmother was very happy during this period of her life. She often spoke of it to me. One of the stories she told me was that the house was on a street near railroad tracks. During the day, particularly in the spring and summer, men would often knock on the door and ask for a meal. She would have them sit on the back porch and she would bring out what she had available to eat. After a while, the knocks on the door and the requests for meals became quite a regular thing. She began to buy extra food to feed them. Then one day, one of her visitors, after he had finished eating, asked her if she had a lot of visitors asking for food. When she answered yes, he offered to show her the reason why this was so. He walked to the front of the house and pointed to the curb. "See this mark? It lets people know that the lady who lives here will feed you." I do remember asking her if she left the mark on the curb. She said, "Yes." I asked if she kept feeding anyone who knocked. She said, "Of course."

When I was older I realized the men asking for food were hobos. I understood that the mark was code, but I thought it was just a local thing. I didn't realize until this ep. that there was a universally recognized hobo code nationwide. No wonder she had so many visitors.

That's the only hobo story I have.
posted by cwest at 11:56 PM on June 25, 2014 [17 favorites]

There were several people in this episode being dishonest with themselves, mostly unconsciously.

Don tells Bobby "But I will never lie to you." He says this sincerely. But Don is already lying to his son, Bobby doesn't even know his father's true name.

Midge denies to Don that she is in love with Roy, but clearly she is. She doesn't seem ready to accept this.

Peggy is hoping beyond hope that she will have some kind of life or steady relationship with Pete. But this will never happen.

Sal says that he knows what he wants, but does he?

Also, keeping with the marks/signs theme, Don signs his bonus check over to Midge and then stuffs it in the front of her blouse. She leaves it there. Don's "mark" tells us that the relationship is over and that in his mind Midge is a whore. Here's money for time spent.
posted by cwest at 12:54 AM on June 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

When the hobo says, "Death came to find me," do you think he mean that literally (i.e. his wife died) or did he have an existential crisis?

Also, is Midge still with Roy when she finds Don later and sells him the painting?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:27 AM on June 26, 2014

Man, I sure miss Sal.
posted by ChrisTN at 10:15 AM on June 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think Sal and the Belle Jolie guy would have made a nice couple.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:38 AM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think Sal and the Belle Jolie guy would have made a nice couple.

They could vacation with their wives...I dunno, could be fun.

As for the Hobo Code, I learned it from having lunch at the mall with my Mom at Hobo Joe's in Paradise Valley, AZ. It was on the menu.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:12 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, is Midge still with Roy when she finds Don later and sells him the painting?

No, it's some other dude. "Perry", according to the Mad Men wiki.
posted by donajo at 2:43 PM on June 26, 2014

When the hobo says, "Death came to find me," do you think he mean that literally (i.e. his wife died) or did he have an existential crisis?

I don't think he meant it literally. The hobo once had all the responsibilities that an adult in American culture usually had at that time. Which, when you think about it, is not so different from today. He had a spouse, possibly children, a job, a mortgage, insurance premiums and taxes to pay, worries about the economy, worries about his family's health, ect. Some people thrive under the responsibilities that are required of them as an adult in this culture, others feel or begin to feel, it is a death sentence. You are on a treadmill you will never get off of until the day you die. But the real feeling is that you are already dead or dying psychically. A psychic death. You see nothing before you but a sterile wasteland, unending routine, nothing out of the ordinary, and unending worries. For people like this, it's the death of their soul.

So the hobo left his life and says he now sleeps "like a stone." And everyday for him is something new, people, places, and experiences. His answer to his psychic death was to become a vagabond.

The hobo makes Dick an honorary member of the hobo brotherhood. And when chance presents an opportunity for Dick to flee his life, he takes it. He flees and becomes "Don Draper." This is Dick Whitman's answer to the sterility of his life.
posted by cwest at 12:34 AM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

After reading cwest's story about hobo feeding, I remembered that my maternal great-grandmother also had a reputation for feeding hobos. Was nosing around, looking genealogical records and obituaries online, and discovered a PDF of the 5-year diary of my grandmother's nephew's wife, starting in January of 1965. It is part of the archives of a university collection of folklore. My mother's mother was very close to her nephew and wife, as he was raised at home with his grandparents after her much older sister divorced and remarried. It is fascinating, because 1965 was the year my grandfather died, and I was too young to remember it. She mentions my mother coming to visit when he took ill, and them going to see my grandmother in the next town over, when my grandfather took ill, and when he died (Halloween, 1965). I remember this woman quite clearly, we visited her and her husband often when we went to see my grandmother. I have no idea how her diary ended up there, it says it was purchased.

They got a Maytag wringer washer that year. Maytag comes up later on in Mad Men (when Joan reads the scripts). She also mentions the astronauts dying in 1966. Most of it is mundane, doing washing, ironing, calling on people, etc. But I can't stop reading it and looking for mentions of my mother and grandmother.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:37 AM on June 27, 2014

A little more on the symbols used by the hobo code. We should remember that the symbols are about survival - how to avoid potentially deadly situations as well as how to get what you want even at the price of deceiving your hosts. As the article points out "The code demonstrates that to be a successful hobo, you have to trust while being untrustworthy, and distrust while being honest."

With Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" and Chubby Checker's "The Twist" I thought we got a nice feel of how things were changing in the 60s.
posted by rongorongo at 11:05 PM on July 31, 2019

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