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Mad Men Recap: The Summer Man

September 12, 2010
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It Sucks To Be Joan

If there is one thing that drives me nuts on Mad Men, it is that I have no concept of time during a season. Does a season go on for weeks? For months? For years? I was rather startled to learn that Don’s son is already two years old. That means that Betty has been with Henry for more than two years. I thought they were only together for a year at the most. But I digress.

After the emotional bruising we experienced watching last week’s stellar episode, I was quite confident the writers would swing the pendulum the opposite direction this week, offering up a light, airy episode to chew on. Wrong. This was a quiet episode, but there was plenty of melancholy to fuel the hour.

It appears that Don has been keeping a journal, and we see him swim laps in a pool while we hear Don’s voice reading his written thoughts. Don acknowledges he might have a drinking problem, and drinks are a running theme throughout the episode.

The camera lingers on them being poured, sipped, slammed and stirred, almost like Don is seeing them for the very first time.

The voice-over confesses that Don has never written more than 250 words in his life, not even in school (astonishing, because I can whip out 250 in the time it takes Don to zip his trousers.) He was lazy, and wishes that he would have finished high school. Things certainly would have turned out differently.

Did anyone else find it odd that a man who designs ad campaigns has never strung together 250 words? I guess technically speaking, he specializes in short and snappy phrases, but still.

Back at the office, the advertising frat boys are shaking a vending machine, trying to get it to release its contents. They look like a bunch of buffoons.

Peggy, who is watching the spectacle explains that she feels like Margaret Mead. That was my favorite line of the evening, as Mead was a famous and influential cultural anthropologist who wrote several books, one entitled Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. I love the idea of Peggy watching the men as an inquisitive anthropologist.

Joan chastises the men for their antics, and tells Joey to get an adult to fix the problem. Joey is rude, telling everyone that Joan is passing out demerits again, and Joan calls him into her office.

While she is lecturing Joey, someone (Stanley, I think) is mooning Joey through the window behind Joan’s back. This causes Joey to laugh, which infuriates Joan more.

Joey must have a death wish, because I could not believe what he said to Joan next. “What do you do except walk around here looking like you are trying to get raped?” Honestly, I was shocked at his audacity. What a hateful thing to say, but he doesn’t stop there, comparing her to a Madame from a Shanghai whore house.

I cannot believe that Joan didn’t slap the shit out of him. I honestly think she was in shock and didn’t know how to respond to his nasty remarks. She lets Joey off with his balls intact.

Peggy makes an ill-timed visit to Joan’s office, and Joan jumps down her throat and says she is leaving for the day.

I felt really sorry for Joan. She doesn’t dress like a slut. She has some of the highest necklines on the show. The fact is, she has a bombshell body, and she would look sexy in a suit of armor. She is professional to a fault. What the hell else can she do? I guess she could wear looser clothing, because she is already covering everything up.

Joan goes home to her husband, who is packing for basic training camp. A frustrated and obviously lonely Joan loses it and sobs. Naturally, this cues her husband that Joan is in the mood for sex. Poor Joan is once again sexualized, when all she wanted was a shoulder to cry on.

Mrs. Blankenship tells Don that Betty said he can’t have the kids this weekend, because they are having a birthday party for Gene (Don’s son.) She asks, “Did you want me to buy him or her a gift?”

Now the only reason I mention this is that it struck me really odd that Mrs. Blankenship wouldn’t even know the sex of Don’s child. It was very indicative that Don never, ever discusses his family, and must not even have any photos of them at work.

The voice-over is back, talking about the birthday. Don says Gene was “conceived in desperation, born into a mess.” He lists some things he would like to do-climb Kilimanjaro, and have control over the way he feels. The usual.

Back at the office we get that long linger over the cocktails. Don watches Peggy take a drink from her glass in slow motion, and damned if she didn’t look sexy. I thought they (the writers) were going there, but then he focuses on other people pouring cocktails, etc.

Joan is called in and informed that they will be hiring Joey for about three weeks full time to work on a project (he usually free-lances.) She is obviously irritated, and tries to dissuade them, finally admitting that Joey is not a gentlemen with the girls. That is an understatement. I don’t know if it was her pride or what, but why didn’t she just say exactly what he said to her? Why did she tiptoe around it?

Peggy is putting two and two together and knows that Joey has upset Joan. She warns him in the hallway not to mess with Joan. She runs things. He laughs her off and says that there is a Joan in every office, someone who bosses everyone around. Even his own mom was one, and wore a pen around her neck so “people would look at her tits.” Hmm, mother issues much?

At long last, we get to to see Betty. I almost forgot what she looked like. She’s beautiful, as always. She is at a restaurant with Henry, who is talking politics with a congressional aide. She sees Don on a date with Bethany, and visibly looks sick. She leaves dinner to visit the ladies room and is having cold sweats and shaking. She steels herself with a cigarette in the bathroom. It was a very convincing performance by January Jones.

Bethany is lightly pressing Don about their relationship. She believes that he is seeing someone else, and doesn’t understand why he calls so infrequently. How can they build a relationship without prolonged exposure to one another?

The two neck in the back of a car on the way home and Bethany um, services Don. His voice-over: “She wants me to know her, but I already do.”

Meanwhile, Betty and Henry have a tense ride home. It is clear that the bloom is off the rose for Henry. He is humiliated that Betty said she needed a drink at the restaurant. “What are you, a wino?”

Then they argue about Don. Henry thinks Don takes up too much space in Betty’s life, and possibly her heart. I really liked the phrasing of that.

The next morning, Betty apologizes to Henry, still wearing her makeup from the evening before. He is not in a forgiving mood. When Henry gets in his car (in his garage) he sees all the boxes marked “Draper.” He runs into them with the car.

Some lighter moments come courtesy of the Mountain Dew campaign. The frat pack and Peggy are trying to brainstorm cocktails that require Mountain Dew as an ingredient. Rocket fuel is Mountain Dew and Vodka, and the boys are sampling the wares. Peggy says that a cocktail must have three ingredients, so back to the drawing board. Vodka and Mountain Dew is not a cocktail, it is an emergency.

You’re right Peggy, it is an emergency of deliciousness. Have you ever tried Mountain Dew (well, Diet Mountain Dew) and vodka. It’s sheer perfection.

Joan visits Lane to tell him to remove the vending machine. Lane was actually thinking about adding another with sandwiches, so people will stay and work through lunch. Joan snarls that they will end up with a pool of fat secretaries with a never-ending supply of sandwiches.

Outside Lane’s office, the frat boys (Joey, specifically) are making crude drawings of Joan committing a lewd act on Lane. Peggy tells them to knock it off.

Joan sees the drawing taped to her window and marches outside her office, demanding to know who did it. No one will fess up. Completely out of character, Joan tells them all she can’t wait until they are all in Vietnam, being shot at. She hates them all.

Peggy is upset for Joan, takes the picture and shows Don. She wants Joey fired. Don tells her, if you want respect, go get it for yourself. She has the authority to fire the slimeball.

When Peggy calls Joey in and fires him, he behaves like a child and dumps his files all over the floor.

Don meets with Dr. Faye Miller at work, and once again asks her to dinner. This time she agrees, as long as it is not tacked onto work. During dinner, Don asks Faye how she gets people to do what she wants. She relates an Aesop fable, and says that kindness, gentleness, and persuasiveness do the trick.

The two have a nice dinner, and afterwards kiss on the way home. Faye propositions Don, and for the very first time (at least that I can remember) Don declines. Could he finally be growing up?

Later, he shows up at the birthday party, and it is by far the most paternalistic I have ever seen him. He acts like a real father. He has also told us in a voice-over that he wishes for what he had.

I feel like Don’s character took a huge step forward as a person this evening. Let’s hope it is not short-lived.

Finally, Peggy and Joan are on an elevator. Peggy looks pleased with herself, and tells Joan that she fired Joey. Instead of gratitude, Peggy is blasted for undermining Joan and making herself feel important. “No matter how big we get around here, they can just draw another cartoon.” Joan says. Sad, but true. I do wish Joan would have been a bit nicer to Peggy, who really stuck her neck out.

What did you think of tonight’s episode. Did anyone else find that whole Faye Miller screaming on the phone part odd? It seemed so unprofessional and unhinged. Is she as pristine as she acts?

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9 Responses to “ Mad Men Recap: The Summer Man ”

  1. Maya on September 13, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I enjoyed your recap Shannon! I found the episode a little depressing in terms of the sexist remarks and firing, but I did enjoy the voiceover with Don, and how handsome and put-together he looked (in contrast to the previous episodes. I felt bad that Joan and Peggy didn’t relate to each other, but I feel like I’ve already seen many scenes in which this happens–they just don’t gel!

    I didn’t really get that much but tense feelings from the firing of the cute young guy, but I found it interesting that the guy also felt he was getting hit on by other men (the scene with Harry).

    All I got from Faye’s angry scene was that this was a set-up for her breaking up with a boyfriend and now being available to date Don. I’m not sure I like Faye for Don and I hope they don’t get married. She does seem to be helping him grow as a person but they don’t make a cute couple to me!

    I liked how you analyzed Joan going home just to be further sexualized. I didn’t catch that but now I get it.
    Take care!!!

  2. Judy on September 13, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Great recap! A couple of things I noted: Don notes in his journal that his son Gene “was conceived in desperation and born into a mess” much the same as he was. Also, we learned a little more about Don, most specifically that he didn’t finish high school. This was common in his generation and economic status, but strange given the job he now has.
    The interaction between Peggy and Joan was interesting. It showed that Peggy was starting to get the idea that women should stick together which was a strong tenet of the feminism to come, while Joan is stuck in the old fashioned notion of women competing with each other. Joan still has not forgiven Peggy for moving from secretary to copy-writer – and rather than being happy for her and seeing it as a positive thing for women, she is jealous and vindictive.
    I like the way this episode shows how things were changing in 1965 – and that sexual harassment, so accepted as part of the workplace, was not being tolerated as much anymore.

  3. Shannon on September 13, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    @Maya Yeah I thought that whole “Harry hit on me” thing was so random, I didn’t even include it.

    I agree that they were establishing that Faye is available to date, but I thought it was weird how dramatic it was-felt like it was foreshadowing or something.

  4. Shannon on September 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    @Judy Great observations on the Joan and Peggy thing.

    I thought it was pretty shocking that Don never finished High School as well.

  5. jaime on September 14, 2010 at 2:18 am

    I’ve never seen this show. @ Shannon should i pick up the first season & take a look?

  6. Shannon on September 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    @Jaime,
    You should definitely check out the first season. It is a cultural phenomenon here in the states. Some of the finest acting in television.
    Warning: it takes several episodes to get fully hooked. My husband and I did not understand what all the fuss was about for the first few episodes, but I think by episode 4 we were 100% hooked. Let me know what you think of it.

  7. jaime on September 15, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Cool,i know what i’m doing this weekend. :)
    thanx mate. :) p.s i’ll let you know what i think.

  8. amanda on September 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Maybe Don thinks he’s a sex addict and thus needs to abstain for a while. Along with cutting back on his drinking. Of course in the ’60s there probably wasn’t the term “sexual addiction.”

  9. Debbie on September 17, 2010 at 4:04 am

    Don didn’t graduate from high school as “Dick Whitman”, his real identity.
    Most likely, as “Don Draper”, he is a high school & possibly college graduate. So this revelation didn’t surprise me. Peggy has been getting some of the best lines lately, especially the Margaret Mead remark. I’ve watched this series since episode one & its evolution of characters has been fascinating.

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