Monday, September 13, 2010

Mad Men “The Summer Man” Recap & Review

All photos from AMC
Mad Men “The Summer Man” felt slightly different from other episodes this season. It was partly because of the intermittent voice over from Don Draper (Jon Hamm) as he writes in his journal, and partly because it seems Don is trying to cut back on his drinking. He’s exercising, his apartment looks a little brighter as it seems like he’s letting more light in. It also appears that Don, while he feels like he’s in a fog, is more than likely coming OUT of a fog.

But Don still hasn’t quit drinking. He substitutes a beer for the liquor, has wine at dinner, and seems to think twice about taking that sip of whiskey when in a meeting with his creative staff. And, when Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller), who is having vision problems after just recovering from cataract surgery, goes out and buys Don several bottles of whiskey, he tells her to take them back. I have also been waiting for a long time for the show to bring in a snippet of the Rolling Stones song, “Satisfaction” that includes the lyrics that pretty much describes what an ad man like Don Draper is supposed to do:

“When I'm watchin' my TV
and a man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be.
Well he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
the same cigarettes as me.
I can't get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.”

Don also seems to be moving on with his life, still dating the somewhat prudish Bethany (Anna Camp), and then deciding to make a move with Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono). The latter happens after he overhears her talking on the telephone telling her apparent boyfriend to “go shit in the ocean,” a Yiddish term which may mean that Faye is Jewish. At dinner, Faye also tells Don that her father is not with the mob, but he has a candy store and has some association with mob people. I found that Don’s behavior with Faye in the back seat of the car was more like how Bethany acts towards Don - a bit of a tease but not ready to take things to the “next step.” The next step for Bethany – and for Don – may seem like the same thing, but I don't think they are.

Meanwhile, back at the office, Joey’s (Matt Long) cocky, bratty, and immature attitude cause him to get fired. At first, he crosses the line with Joan (Christina Hendricks) when, after she chastises him for his behavior, he tells her "What do you do around here besides walking around like you're trying to get raped?” Despite Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) warning that Joey should not cross the line with the powerful Joan, he draws a cartoon of Joan performing a sexual service for Lane Pryce (Jared Harris). Joan tries to handle the situation in her own way, but when Peggy sees the cartoon, she runs to Don and he observes that it is bothering her too so he tells her to handle it, saying "You want some respect” and telling her to "Go out there and get it for yourself." When Peggy takes Joey aside, he makes the mistake of turning the problem onto her, and she fires him. Later, when Peggy tells Joan that she fired Joey, she finds Joan is upset about it. Joan was handling it in her own way and thinks that Peggy only fired Joey because Joey crossed Peggy, adding that "All you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch" and "No matter how powerful we get around here, they can just draw a cartoon." Peggy is one of those people who seems to need constant validation and approval from others, and maybe her firing of Joey was her way of trying to get validation from Joan, a person who always seems hard on Peggy. Joan may be right that Peggy’s action set back Joan trying to establish her own power base, but I think Peggy’s way of handling Joey showed that her new way of handling things – directly and to the point – may be where the real power lies. Personally, it was obvious that Joey’s days were numbered. His cocky behavior has been growing by the week, and even his belief that Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) is an “old fairy” coming on to him shows that Joey thinks a lot more of himself. OK, it WAS a little weird how Harry was gushing over trying to get a TV role for Joey, almost acting as his agent, but I chalked that up to Harry just wanting to give the appearance that he has some power with the Hollywood crowd.

We also find that Joan’s husband Greg (Sam Page) is heading off to basic training. Joan is worried for him but gets more upset when he tells her she will be able to talk to her friends at the office. Joan apparently doesn’t think she has any friends there.

Betty (January Jones) and Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) are having a little trouble of their own. At a dinner with a man who represents Congressman John Lindsay, who’s considering running for President and who wants Henry to run the campaign, Betty sees Don and Bethany at the same restaurant, and it’s all downhill from there. She has too much to drink and is clearly preoccupied with Don, and on the way home in the car, she and Henry have an argument. The next morning she seems to try to make it right. Henry, on the other hand, decides to run his car into the boxes of Don’s stuff that are stored in the garage, and later calls Don to come get them, using an excuse that he is buying a boat and needs the garage space. When Don comes to get them, the boxes are neatly stacked on the sidewalk, with Henry cutting the lawn with a manual rotary mower. Don takes his things directly to a dumpster and puts them in the trash.. Don has clearly moved on and apparently doesn’t want anything from that life.

Betty seems to make the attempt to at least appear that she has moved on, when Don shows up at Gene’s 2nd birthday party and she brings Gene to Don and refers to Don as Gene’s father. She had earlier told her friend Francine (Anne Dudek) that Don is "living the life," and that "He doesn't get to have this family and that." But Francine counters that "Don has nothing to lose, and you have everything.” Henry may think that her gesture of handing Gene to Don means that Betty is finally getting over him, but the look on her face gives the appearance that she really has not.

It was a bit of a relief to see that maybe Don hit bottom in last week’s episode, “The Suitcase” where Anna’s death, and Peggy’s pointed comments about Don’s behavior may have at least had him seriously reflect on where his life was headed. But, while his cutting back on his drinking is a positive step, until he stops altogether, he will always be at risk for jumping right back in to constant drinking if he hits another rough patch in his life. At least, while Don may not think he is completely clear headed, his life – and even his apartment interior - looks brighter.

Betty is still a simmering mess, though, and Henry’s tolerance for her may be wearing thin. If he does run the Lindsay campaign, he can’t afford to have a wife that is a liability. Betty may be trying to show a tougher exterior, but in reality I believe she is far more fragile than she lets on. Don should be the least of Henry’s worries; unless he gets Betty under control, she could wreck more that their marriage.

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1 comment:

Athanasios Tsiouras said...

Didn't the voice-over remind you of "Sunset Boulevard"?