Three episodes left in the season and last Sunday there were panic attacks in every form. Don had a panic attack, Lane gets kicked in the face by his own father, and Lucky Strike left Roger after Roger found out Joan is pregnant (is she still pregnant by episode’s end?). All the panics involved secrets in one form or another, and how secrets take a toll. Soap, 99.44% pure.
Last week’s episode had confrontation after confrontation,
But my absolute favorite fact about the show is that the abusive Robert Pryce informs his son Lane that he will be staying at the Warwick Hotel until Friday. Warwick Hotel? That rang a bell. As readers are no doubt weary of hearing, I was a clerk in New York City in the summer of 1965. Although I couldn’t score a ticket to the legendary Beatles concert in Shea Stadium on Sunday night, August 15th of that year, I followed the daily saga of that week’s British Invasion of NYC. Especially memorable was the riot that occurred as a mob of (mostly) young girls surrounded the Warwick Hotel where the Beatles – and Robert Pryce! – were staying.
The mob scene at the Warwick occurred on the morning of Friday the thirteenth. It would have been well nigh impossible to exit the hotel that morning. Did the Pryces miss their flight to London? Or did Robert Pryce use his horrible skill with his walking-stick-as-weapon to beat their way through the chorus of teenyboppers-in-heat. (Their whole father/son thing seems to confirm the worst stereotypes of what British boarding school abuse leads to).
The preview for tonight’s episode doesn’t seem all that exciting, with Peggy being stuck in a car with the Communist guy, a most uninteresting character,
Last Sunday’s episode, The Summer Man, featured an introspective Don controlling his alcohol intake while pondering his problems. The episode starts with Don swimming at the NYAC, doing one lap & bursting into a cough. Later in the episode he was fit enough to race another guy in he adjacent lane, and win. It was fascinating at the same time of being reminiscent of the Burt Lancaster classic film The Swimmer (1968), which in turn was based on a John Cheever story first published in 1965, the year in which this episode takes place.
Unlike Cheever’s Swimmer, Don’s life has not careened out of control. Even when he admits that his mind is a jumble, Don realizes that he can attain a modicum of peace, introspection is not a bad thing after all, and sleeping alone is actually pleasant. As the WSJ’s recap put it,
Mick Jagger can’t get no satisfaction—but last night’s installment of “Mad Men” made it seem like Don Draper might be able to.
Let’s hope he does.
Another very interesting plot twist involved sexual harassment by Joey-the-freelance-illustrator who ends up being fired by Peggy; however, Joan clarified to Peggy how Joan would have handled it – and kept power on Joan’s hand, instead of Peggy’s – illustrating the changing strategies women faced as the working world evolved.
During her dates with Don, Fay brings up the fable of the wind and the sun, which neatly tied all the story lines together at the end of the episode. Or does it?
The episode started with Mick Jagger singing Satisfaction, and ended with the credits silently rolling by. Toril Moi asks,
Who can’t get no satisfaction in this episode? At first, it may look as if it is Don, since the song plays when he stands outside the gym watching the women go by. (The Rolling Stones’ song was released in the U.S. in June 1965.) But this episode is more about Don’s redemption than about his frustration: he is the summer man who will flourish after his winter of hibernation.
Of course Don’s not going to remain the controlled, introspective swimmer in each and every episode, since this is a soap opera after all, but the series’s writers have managed to merge well-realized fictional characters, history, advertising products, and the changing sex roles in the workplace, simultaneously maintaining and renewing our interest.
And now for the superficial stuff:
Other highlights were the brilliant Miss Blankenship recovering from eye surgery, and the women’s fashions. You can’t help but notice the impeccable fit on Peggy’s blue dress with red gores, and how every female character is wearing exactly her personality. Of course Jon Hamm fans will love the swimming scenes, and Christopher Stanley (Henry) looks very fine while shirtless.
Tonight’s episode, The Beautiful Girls, airs at 10PM Eastern; here’s the preview:
In Jon Hamm news, The Town is now playing at a theater near you, so Hamm’s out promoting it. If you click on the link, the article says that Hamm’s being considered to play Superman.
After last week’s episode, the baggage-loaded The Suitcase, one may just wonder when will they end up in bed?
If the writers have any sense, the answer will be: on the series’s final episode. Those two end up in the sack and the show will either jump the sack or be a televised version of Adam’s Rib. Or worse, a continuous festivus where the two air their grievances, as they did last week, timed to the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight:
Peggy’s hesitant about the ad, but she tells Don she likes it. Finally, she turns to go home and take a much-needed shower. As Peggy leaves, she asks Don whether he wants the entrance to his office to be open or closed. “Open,” he says. We’re pretty sure he’s not just talking about the door.
Alcoholism is now a central theme in the plot:
Don may be self-destructive, but no amount of anachronistic moralizing about health and drinking is going to get him to stop. He can’t stop until he finds his own reasons for doing so. Will he need to experience genuine tragedy (killing a man in a boat) before he can turn things around?
The thing that grabs you about Mad Men is not just the actors, the retro sets and clothes, and the soap opera plot; it’s also, as Walter Dellinger points out,
One of the many aspects of “Mad Men” that separates it from soap operas and other dramas is the extraordinary way in which it is so deeply situated in a real time and place. The almost perfectly realized world of early summer 1965 is not simply the period “setting” for this production: it is the prima materia of the drama itself.
Tonight’s episode is titled The Summer Man, and the preview features Miss Blankenship, whom I have learned to love,
“I’m telling you, I was blind, and now I see.”
Can’t wait for Miss Blankenship to dye her hair blue and stand next to Joan for contrast.
If you miss Mad Men on AMC, you can catch the episodes on iTunes.
Last week Don took his date to Benihana, a restaurant chain that managed to sustain business for decades. Even I was taken to Benihana on a date (but not in 1964!), and I wonder if there’s still a Benihana somewhere slicing, chopping, and dicing to entertain the diners.
Cripes Suzette has the Laughing Bhudda mug. Suzette collects enough vintage tableware the Mad Men props people would love her.
Jon Hamm was intoxicating during the third season of AMC’s advertising-driven period piece “Mad Men,” as his suave Don Draper lied, cheated, smoked and drank his way from coast to coast and lost just about everything he created along the way. Hamm’s cerebral character, anchoring the Emmy-winning best drama the past two years, was mesmerizing as he continued to crack apart but never fully fell to pieces.
Good news, Mad Men fans and office-furniture enthusiasts: The eagerly anticipated charity auction of Mad Men paraphernalia to benefit the lung-cancer program at California’s City of Hope hospital is finally under way on eBay (it ends August 22). Have you always wanted to hold Peggy’s diaphragm in your hands? Well, unfortunately you can’t do that, but what you can do is buy Betty and Joan’s dresses, conference-room abstract paintings, and a vast amount of Sterling Cooper office furniture. You could literally fill your (small) house with Mad Men chairs alone — 46 of them are available. To help you make your bids, Vulture’s selected the best of the 116 items available — not including the walk-on role, which is currently going for $2,000.
The Catch-22 of Don’s plight is that he can’t really afford to do anything that would effectively deconstruct the “Don Draper” he has become; too many people count on him for their very survival. Still, it appears that Don’s disassembly is inevitable, whether he wants it or not, and the only choice he has in the matter is in managing the collapse — assuming he wants to manage the collapse at all. I often wonder if Don actually wants to self-destruct, and more, inflict some collateral damage upon his mad culture as he blows up. The season 3 promo pic of Don sitting in a flooded office, the water rising, sums him up for me. Don is drowning in his circumstances — and he’s letting it happen. And if it warps the trendy Swedish furniture and ruins Roger’s fancy art in the process, well, even better. (Seriously: Do you really think Don actually likes his job, his culture, his life?) If he ever did submit to psychological evaluation, I think both Dr. Greta and Dr. Miller would agree: “Don Draper” has a death wish.
I do hope Don can be saved. And in fact, my hope for Don would be that he recover and reconcile with his inner Dick Whitman, but without demolishing all of Don Draper. Because Don Draper has brought him some good things, including, I think, the epiphany of his true calling. The man’s an artist. He got a great eye, he’s got a wealth of story ideas, and he has an uncanny knack for knowing how to move an audience. Here’s hoping he can reconcile his warring identities, become a cohesive, well-realized, creative whole, and claim his true destiny: a Hollywood studio chief.
Here’s my take: Don/Dick would do well at any job. He’s self-motivated, he is very very good at his current job, he’s creative, understands what sells, and knows what works. All of these valuable skills are useful in any line of work.
As to the question, Seriously: Do you really think Don actually likes his job, his culture, his life? There are two answers to that question: In real life, Don would. He loves the work, the suits, the money, the women, the drinking, the smoking. He loves being Don. That’s exactly why he is Don instead of Dick (even when Don can be a dick at times).
However, since this is a soap opera, of course there has to be conflict, and barring a Jerseylicious-type antagonist, he can’t, or the writers wouldn’t be able to sustain our interest for two episodes, never mind four seasons and counting. Hence, we get the Ayn Rand question, “who is Don Draper?” in all its varieties – overdrinking included.
The Mad Men are back, and I’m not the only one loving it. Jeff Jensen has Four Fearless Predictions for Season Four, which are,
1. Henry Francis Will Dump Betty, Not Vise Versa.
2. Betty will slap Don. And then… ???
3. Advertising Age Will Expose Don Draper’s Dick Whitman Past.
4. Lucky Strike is going to put its account in review.
Jensen may be on target – we’ll find out soon enough, but my best bet is that item #1, Henry drops Betty, is the most likely.
One of the many things I enjoy about Mad Men is how the writers weave in real brands, such as London Fog, Hilton, Utz and Jantzen, in the storylines. Having grown up in Puerto Rico where my father worked at Hilton, and where Jantzen was a preferred brand of swimwear, it makes the program distant and familiar at the same time. Too bad Don told Jantzen to get lost in last week’s episode – I would have loved to see what the agency would have come up with for promoting the brand.
BTW, we’ve included a hedcut of Draper with this story, but we should note that the Journal’s signature dot-ink portraits weren’t launched until 1979, and this season “Mad Men” takes place in 1964. But you have to admit Draper’s hedcut looks pretty cool.
Which brings up the issue of memory: memory is a funny thing. I have been reading the Wall Street Journal since the early 1970s and could swear they always had hedcuts.
Clearly, they didn’t.
Those of us who do/don’t recall the “John & Marsha” skit Peggy and her assistant joke around with in last week’s episode can find it on YouTube,