Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 8: The Summer Man

"We're flawed because we want so much more. We're ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."

If you ever wondered what the usually tight-lipped Donald Draper was thinking, this episode gives us insight into Don's thought via voiceovers.  He starts his day at the club, clearing his mind in the quiet suspension of the pool.  Then he suits up for his day, lights up and takes in his surroundings.  Summer is coming and with that promise of rebirth and renewal, a new Don Draper.

Don is trying to change things.  He's acknowledging he has a drinking problem.  He's exercising, going for long swims. And he's journaling, trying to keep a diary or sorts. Of his thoughts, his dreams. He lists three things he wants to accomplish.  Climb Kilimanjaro or go anywhere in Africa. "Two, gain a modicum of control over the way I feel.  I want to wake up.  I don't wanna be that man."

His attempt at cutting down his drinking goes nowhere, he's far from teetotalling.  Yet he is not drinking automatically, reflexively, but noticing each sip, making a conscious decision each time whether to imbibe or not.  And, sadly, painfully, still drinking.  There is a chasm between wanting to change and changing.

The winter of Don's discontent is ending and he's looking at a bright and shiny new world.  We see for once that the dark, dank apartment he's been holed up in actually can let in some light.  What will the summer bring?  For Don, it is three different blondes.

First is Bethany, the cute young "modern" woman who wants to move their relationship further.  She speaks her mind and asks for more from Don.  She's a sweet girl, but we've never seen Don with the sweet girl before.  We assume maybe that's what Betty was like when they first met.  But every girl since then has been dark and mysterious and independent.  Maybe it would be a fresh start for Don to choose someone with no baggage, who is just a happy spirit.  But she doesn't seem fulfilling.

At their date, she notices the chill.  Every date feels like a first date and the inscrutable Don is impossible to get to know.  Kudos to Bethany for not finding his aloofness sexy and mysterious but rather a wall to keep anyone from penetrating.  She asks the big question, "Don't you want to be close to anyone?"  And that is Don's problem in a nutshell - he's afraid to get close because if anyone discovered who he really is, he fears, they couldn't love him.  So he keeps everyone at a distance, letting them see the product he's selling - "Don Draper" - rather than the real man.  If he even knows who that is.

The second is Dr. Faye Miller.  Despite her hair color, she is more in line with the women he's cheated with in the past.  She's smart, successful and no-nonsense.  She can joust with Don, go toe-to-toe with him.  He's attracted and she's suddenly available (we hear her break up with her boyfriend on the pay phone outside the office).  If Don is going to change, clean up his act, take care of himself, wouldn't Faye be the ideal person with whom to do this?

But Faye is by training and education a student of the psyche.  She understands people, who they are, why they do what they do.  If Don wants to keep himself shut off, Faye would not be the right person.  But if he wants to explore an adult, in-depth relationship, Faye would be the perfect person.  She sees right through Don, says he reminds her of her father, "a two-bit gangster."  She gives Don good advice: to try love and kindness instead of bombast, to be what he wants to be to his child.  She's wary of him and reluctant to get to know him outside of the office, yet he has a certain unquestionable charm that even she can't resist.

The third is Betty Draper.  They are split up and she's already remarried.  But because they have three children together, they are inextricably tied together.  She has power over him stronger than sexual power.  She can tell him when he can and can't see his kids, she can bring another man into their home, she can make him obsolete.  This was supposed to be his weekend, but he can't have the children because it's Gene's birthday party.  The boy who was a symbol of their last moment of desperation, is growing up as someone else's child.

But Don has power too.  When she sees him with a younger version of herself, she gets upset.  It's okay for her to move on with her life, but she doesn't want to see that he's moving on as well.  She wants him to be miserable and suffer and while Henry pretends that he doesn't understand the depth of her hatred towards Don, he feels it too.  Running his car into Don's boxes, making Don come and collect them by having them left out of the sidewalk, making sure Don knows he's not invited to his own son's birthday.  Yeah, Henry has some hostility towards Don too.

At the office, the new art freelancer, Joey Baird, is acting like Ken Cosgrove back in 1960.  He's belittling and demeaning to Joan, including telling her she walks around the office like she wants to be raped, then posting a derogatory drawing of Joan and Lane Pryce having sex.  He's beyond the fratboy level of insensitivity and it's ironic that he thinks Harry Crane is propositioning him.  Yes, Joey, you're the victim of sexual harassment here.

Maybe under normal circumstances Joan would be able to put Joey in his place or ignore his juvenile attitude, but she's consumed with worry about her husband Greg going off to basic training.  Already on edge, being the butt of Joey's jokes really sets her off. She even snaps at Peggy. 

Joan tries to dissuade Don from upping Joey's hours without any luck.  Peggy decides to step in and fix the problem. She fires Joey and then goes looking for some sisterly appreciation from Joan.  But Joan is not appreciative, just the opposite.  By Peggy firing Joey both she and Joan came out badly she tells her.  I'm just a lowly secretary and you're a humorless bitch.  This is the conundrum facing women in the workplace.  If you don't laugh at the sophomoric jokes or look the other way at sexual innuendos, you're a stick in the mud.  If you do something about it, you're a bitch.  Rather than bonding over their shared experiences as women in the workplace, Peggy and Joan were at odds.  Nobody won.

In the end, Don recognizes that Bethany is not the answer.  She's sweet and innocent but there's no substance there and he feels he needs that.  Faye has that depth and so he takes it slow, hoping not to replicate the mistakes of his past.  She could help him be a better man.  And Betty, always Betty.  She recognizes that she has it all - the husband, the kids, the perfect life.  So she puts aside her bitterness and resentment and gives Don a gift, letting him be part of his son's birthday.  Don wanted more than his marriage to Betty, than his kids and their home together.  And now he has none of that and wishes he hadn't let it slip away.


We get a small bit of information about Don; he never finished high school.  It's one of many regrets he has and it makes him wonder if "everything could have been different."

Harry name drops Bernie Kowalski who was a real producer/director in the 60s, responsible for, among other shows, Mission: Impossible. He does it when he's suggesting Joey might consider going into acting.  Joey misinterprets Harry's intentions and decides he was being hit on at the office.

Don looks so out of place and time as he steps out into the sun, dressed like it's 1955, and walks into the summer of 1965.

Peggy mentions that she feels like Margaret Mead as she was watching the guys try to beat up a vending machine.  Mead was a cultural anthropologist. :)

Great comic relief courtesy of Ida Blankenship.  Her interaction with Don upon her return from cataract surgery was priceless: 
Don:  How was your surgery?
 Ida:  It was a nightmare.  The ether and the blindness, and then I got the goggles.
Don:  So, everything's good?
Ida:  I'll tell you, I was blind and now I see.
Don:  Well, good.  If you need more time ... 
Ida:  I'm fine, Roger.  I'm kidding around here.

Bethany asks Don if he's a Felix or an Oscar, which refers to the two lead characters in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.  The play would have just come out on Broadway by this time (summer of 1965) so it's likely they had just seen the play and were having dinner afterwards (Henry's friend asked what play Henry and Betty had just seen).  Bethany stays at the Barbizon Hotel Apartments in Manhattan.  This was a women's-only hotel that was frequented through the 1960s by young women trying to make it in the big city.  Interesting Vanity Fair article about the hotel here.

"Satisfaction" by Rolling Stones


Don:  They say as soon as you have to cut down on your drinking you have a drinking problem.

Ida:  I'll tell you.  I was blind but now I see. 

Peggy: I feel like Margaret Mead. 

Pete:  When did we get a vending machine? 

Joey:  What do you do around here besides walking around like you're trying to get raped?

Bethany: Don't you want to be close to anyone?
Don: I do. 

Don:   That was actually my ex-wife and her husband, and some slob who's about to have the worst dinner of his life.

Henry:  That is not something you're allowed to say.
Betty:  Now you decide what I can and can't say? I was in a marriage like that before.

Betty:  I hate him.
Henry:  Hate's a strong word, Betty.  I hate Nazis.  I 
have an ex-wife.  She bothers me.

Don:  People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be. 

Francine: Why do you let him bother you? We see him walking out with the kids some weekends.  Carlton calls him "that sad bastard."
Betty:  That's an act.  He's living the life, let me tell you.  He doesn't get to have this family and that.

Joan:  Well, no matter how powerful we get around here, they can still just draw a cartoon.  So, all you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch.

Don:  When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere.  Just ask him.  If you listen, he'll tell you how he got there, how he forgot where he was going and then he woke up.  If you listen, he'll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect.  And then he'll smile with wisdom, content that he'd realized the world isn't perfect.  We're flawed because we want so much more. We're ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.

Don: I've been a little out of sorts lately.

Faye:  He's a handsome, two-bit gangster like you.

Faye:  All he knows of the world is what you show him.

Faye:  Kindness, gentleness and persuasion win where force fails.

Whore references:
Joey telling Joan, "I don't need some madam from a Shanghai whorehouse to show me the ropes."  The title of his pornographic drawing was Tally Ho.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read until you're caught up!)

Joan and Peggy will continue to have different ways of dealing with gender issues in the workplace.  Joan will be offered a partnership in exchange for sex, Peggy will be passed over for promotion in favor of a male boss.  Both will be sexually harassed.  Peggy will suggest that maybe Joan brings some of the negative attention onto herself by how she dresses. Joan will be propositioned and demand justice - she'll ultimately have to leave and open her own company.  Peggy will end up with a peer-level romantic relationship at work and will ignore the old boy's network and rise through the ranks. 

Joey tells Stan, "You love her," in reference to Peggy.  Joey, it took five more years, but you were proven right after all.

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