I miss Salvatore!

He all but disappeared toward the end of the first season. His last great moment was his kiss with Joan in Nixon vs. Kennedy.

I find it amusing that there was ever any guesswork for viewers regarding Sal’s orientation. Ever. But I’ve been around the message boards, and some people were surprised by the ‘reveal’ in Hobo Code. Some people said they had “guessed early on”. Guessed? It was established the moment we met him in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

Salvatore walks into Don’s office while Don is using one of those chest flex thingies (that are also a handy chest hair waxing alternative). Sal leaps right in with Oh, look at you, Gidget. Still trying to fill out that bikini?

Now I grant you that there was then, is now, and will likely always be awkward homesexual/genderbending-oriented humor amongst guys who are trying to show they are guys. So that line doesn’t have to mean he’s gay.

Then he shows Don the drawing he has done for the Lucky Strike ad. It features an attractive, bare-chested man (he’d used his neighbor as a model). When Don directs him to sex it up, to hire a girl, Sal offers an enthusiastic, I love my work! This is followed by the discussion of how they both don’t go in for bachelor parties, and Sal cites as his reason, If a girl’s gonna shake it in my face, I want to be alone so I can do something. (And he then segues into a drink.)

My point is… we weren’t supposed to believe him. I mean, Don was, but we weren’t.

Then comes my favorite Salvatore moment in the episode. It is his response to Miss Dr. Guttman’s presentation of Freud’s ‘death wish’ theory, which suggests that people are subconsciously attracted to danger.

So we’re supposed to believe that people are living one way and secretly thinking the exact opposite? That’s ridiculous.

(Umm… Sal’s speech patterns? His body language? Fine. I’m not even going to try. How can I say that he just. fucking. has. the gay accent without causing all kinds of tsuris. So I will not bring it up.)

(But please.)

I found the following slice of brilliance, entirely lifted from a Facebook comment from many months back, (as will be apparent), from a guy named

Sal is “out” in the way a gay man could be out in 1960: He drops little bon mots here and there…

…The gay man who worked for the lipstick company in last night’s episode spoke in the code that gay men had to use in 1960 and flashed visual identifying hints — note the pink shirt and pink tie, the attention to the hotel’s renovation. In the bar, Sal dropped a showtunes reference as a way of coding back to him. Any oppressed or outside-the-mainstream group that fears oppression speaks in code — early Christians had symbols and signs they used to identify each other for fear of Roman persecution. You can also see the signals and code between Sal and the lipstick dude as being similar to the hobo code that Don learned as a boy in the flashback.

Sal of course knows he has to drop subtle hints about his machismo and straightness around the office (his comment last night about his new tie “working” after the operator flirted with him), not so much to keep himself from being lynched, but to keep his male coworkers comfortable. He knows that if he helps them keep their illusion that he’s straight, everyone will continue to be comfortable and work will go more smoothly. Though probably most of the guys — certainly Don, who is whip-smart — know Sal is gay.

I disagree with that last part. I don’t think anyone knows anything, especially not the guys… except yes, maybe Don. In that very same scene from Smoke, it could be interpreted that Don knows, doesn’t care, and is doing his best to keep Sal at ease, gently steering the conversation away from the awkward moments, while just as gently reminding Salvatore to gear the campaign toward the heterosexual world out there. This is all interesting to contemplate.

Regardless, I don’t think Weiner’s intention was ever to conceal it from us. I’ve said this before… Salvatore was one of the elements that first drew me to the show. Putting a scope to this world where no one (for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s no one) knows that Sal is gay, while no one watching the show believes for one moment that he’s not.

Except it turns out I was wrong, and that some viewers, or okay, perhaps many viewers, didn’t get it.

Anyway. I miss Salvatore. Bryan Batt captures it all, and I cannot wait to see what happens next to him. 1962 is still a long way off from Stonewall.

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