Monday, August 9, 2010

Mad Men “The Good News” Recap & Review

All photos from AMC

It seemed like there was no good news in this episode of Mad Men titled “The Good News.” Well, maybe the only good news comes when Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) tells Don Draper (Jon Hamm) that the company is still financially in a precarious spot, but that 1964 was a magnificent year for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

The rest of the episode provided a mixture of sadness and laughter, salty and sweet, and placed its focus on the New Year holiday and the lives of Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Layne Price, and Don Draper – AKA Dick Whitman.

Joan is paying a visit to Dr. Emerson (Remy Auberjonois). She and her husband Greg (Sam Page) appear to be planning a family and Joan wants to make sure that, despite two abortions, she can still have children. The doctor, who unabashedly smokes in the examination room (typical for the times) gives her the all clear. When Joan tries to use her feminine wiles on Lane to get a few days off in early January (to spend some baby making time with Greg), Lane sees right through it, saying "I understand that all men are dizzy and powerless to refuse you, but consider me the incorruptible exception" and adds "Don't go and cry about it," causing Joan to storm out of the office in a huff. The news that she can't get the time off makes Greg less than happy, and Joan is worried that he will be off to Vietnam before they know it. The predictable outcome here would be for Greg to be killed in Vietnam, but all we can do is wait and see what happens. While I previously thought Joan’s marriage was long over, it seems the two of them have patched things up. When Joan accidentally cuts herself in the kitchen and Greg uses his medical skills to stitch her wound, it is almost as if one can see what made the two of them fall in love and get married to begin with. While Greg used typical doctor distraction technique in order to get Joan’s focus off her cut, there still seemed to be some love in that marriage.

Don, meanwhile, has planned a trip to Acapulco, with a stop in California first. He’s there to see Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton) and is surprised to find her with a huge cast on her leg from a bad break. He’s there as Dick Whitman, and meets Anna’s sister Patty (Susan Leslie) and Patty’s daughter Stephanie (Caity Lotz). They are both there to help Anna with her chores since her broken leg hinders her ability to move around easily. Stephanie is college age and beautiful, instantly making me worry that Don will make a move on her. In fact, I was a little surprised that Anna seemed completely unconcerned that Don would do exactly that. Knowing what she knows about Don, if I were her, I would keep any female family member away from him.

After spending some time with Anna and Stephanie at a restaurant, Don offers to take Stephanie home and of course makes a move on her. Don can’t seem to control himself when he’s attracted to someone, even if she’s young and the niece of his friend Anna. Stephanie resists his flirtation and then drops a bomb on Don that Anna has advanced bone cancer – the one thing that seems to stop the sex addict in Don right in his tracks. The other big problem is that Anna does not know she is sick and Stephanie swears Don to secrecy. He is appalled that they are keeping Anna in the dark and we see Don sitting up all night, seemingly thinking about what to do next.

He decides not to go on to Acapulco and spend some quality time with Anna, which included painting a water stain on her living room wall. (Nothing like waking up and seeing Don Draper in your living room in his skivvies with a paint roller in hand. By the way, maybe it was just me, but in this sequence of scenes, it seems Don’s paint job on the wall looked different in a few of the shots.) When Patty arrives and sees Don in his underwear, painting, she gets upset and storms out. Don follows her outside – of course he had the sense to put on pants before doing so – and Patty tells him he does not have a say in what happens to Anna, all he is to Anna is a “checkbook.” Don does the right thing and leaves, signing "Dick + Anna '64" on the bottom of the wall he painted. In my opinion, I think Anna knows that she has something more than a broken leg and she wanted Don to go so he wouldn’t have to have any guilt about doing so.

Rather than go one to Acapulco, he heads back home and to the office. When he gets back to the office, he is surprised to find Lane there. Lane was supposed to head to England with his family for the holiday. Earlier in the episode, Lane had sent flowers to Joan to apologize for his earlier behavior towards her, and also wanted to send flowers to his wife as well. There is a huge mix-up with the flowers, causing Joan to receive a dozen roses from lane saying, "Darling, I've been an ass. Kisses, Lane" (which were meant for his wife) and Joan flings the flowers at him in a rage. When he questions the secretary and she blames the florist, Joan fires her on the spot. Needless to say, with Lane’s marriage already in a precarious position, the flower mix up didn’t help - his wife got the note and flowers meant for Joan.

After Lane commiserates with Don over some liquor, Don decides they should hit the movies. After an extensive review of what was currently playing, they land on a (I think) Gamera movie, with Lane having a blast, yelling out Japanese gibberish to the annoyed theatergoers. He and Don later have dinner, with Lane drinking ever more, and using a huge porterhouse steak over his groin, he yells out to the other diners, "I got a big, Texas belt buckle. Yee haw!" Lane also tells Don that his wife has left – and that he loves New York City.

Later, at a nightclub, a comedian sees Lane and Don together and makes jokes that they are gays, but changes his tune when two lovely ladies arrive to keep Lane and Don company. The foursome makes a quick exit for Don’s place, where both Don and Lane are "serviced.” The next morning, Lane pays Don back for the girl – Don saying it was only $25. Lane, back to his reserved demeanor, tells Don "Thank you for the welcome distraction."

Back at the office, the holidays over, Joan sits at the head of the conference table with Lane, Don, and other key staff members saying, "Gentlemen…Shall we begin 1965?"

“The Good News” was an excellent episode bringing a whole range of emotions, moving from seeing the heartbreak on Don’s face when he finds out Anna is dying, to Lane having huge fun and letting loose. We also saw a different side of Joan – usually portrayed as a woman in complete control, she completely panics when she accidentally cuts herself. But there was also a sort of depressing cloud hanging over the happy parts. We all know what Vietnam will likely mean for Greg – even if he doesn’t get killed, he will see a lot of senseless death; and even though Lane has his moments of fun with Don, he still seems lonely and empty. And Don, leaving Anna when he knows he will likely never see her again, goes on with his life of hookers and booze. When all is said and done, it may be a new year, but not much has really changed.

All Text Content (Recaps, Review, Commentary) © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, at I Like To Watch TV, here.

1 comment:

Mad Men Girl said...


I've entered a contest to win a walk-on role on that retro-licious TV show, "Mad Men".

If you wouldn't mind taking a couple of seconds to vote for me, go to my blog, or copy and paste the following link which goes right to my picture:

Thanks a bunch!