Sunday, September 12, 2010

MAD MEN 4.8--"The Summer Man"

First of all, let's give a shout-out (partly because I forgot to the first time I was supposed to because I promised--sorry, D--Work has done in my brain something fierce.) to the illustrious Diana Kingston-Gabai, who will be picking up this show very soon. Quite intrigued to see her thoughts on the show! Naturally, this means AMC will start sending checks to my house any day now because I'm such a good ambassador for this show.

Yeah, that'll happen.

"You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Vodka and Mountain Dew is an emergency."

So last week, despite Anna Draper dying, we left on a hopeful note, which we desperately needed, given that I don't know if I can take 5 more weeks of Don turning himself into a drunken mess. Because Don and Peggy had reconciled and there was the flicker of hope that he might be able to find the kind of unconditional love he had with Anna, and while it wouldn't solve all his problems, it'd at least convince him that solutions might not be located at the bottom of a tumbler full of rye.

Meanwhile, in another place and time, Betty Draper wore a ridiculous hat.

This week, Don narrates the episode, trying to write his way through his drinking problem and taking up swimming laps, which inadvertently (or not) gives us something for the ladies and Joan has to ride herd on the creative types to stop them bashing in a cigarette machine, which ends up causing Joan to come down on her, and while Joan may not be in the place she wants to be in terms of her life, when Joan is in the office and wears the Gold Pen of Ultimate Authority, she is Not To Be Questioned. Joey does him no favours by treating her with naked contempt and alluding (without knowing) of her rape two years ago, which causes Joan to go ballistic and leave for the day.

Sadly, this means she has to deal with the ever-present asshole doctor rapist who is off to basic. Joan raises my hopes when she mentions they use live ammo in basic training, which raises my hopes that he'll get good and fragged, and he does his usual patronising job of trying to allay her fears, and while she's in tears, he tries to make a move on her.

Meanwhile, Don writes. Betty's barred Don from going to baby Gene's birthday and ruminates on the circumstances of Gene's birth and his life. Most of all Don is trying to get a handle on his life--writing about it is a way of exerting control and giving it some kind of perceptible shape and focus.

It's not always easy. Over a meeting about pitching for Mountain Dew (even mentioning the hillbilly who has recently shown up on the Throwback packaging) which, according to Don, requires a re-think requiring Joey's take on it, which runs counter to Joan's plans to fire his sorry ass. Joey really proudly waves his asshole flag, mistaking Harry for trying to come on to him, and disses Joan in such a way that even Peggy tells his ass off for. The reason being is that Peggy, just like us, knows that Lane Pryce and Joan run the machinery of the place, which allows the creative staff to function and make money.

Meanwhile things get ugly and complicated as Don's supernumerary quizzes Don on which member of the Odd Couple he is, which intersects awkwardly with Betty and Henry's dinner date, which goes as well as you might expect. The venom and condescension in Betty's look is so withering if you have a plant close to the TV, it will die. Betty compounds this by giving them the stink-eye all through dinner while Henry's political future is discussed. Betty finally gets called on her bullshit by Henry (and for all I think Henry is a milquetoast, he is the only person who gets to speak truth to power when it comes to Betty) This comes to a rather unpleasant head in the car ride home. Those fights are never fun, are they?

Meanwhile, things are going rather well for Don, as he stars in a very special episode of Taxicab Confessions. It was kind of nice to see him doing well after so many fumbled passes, but he ultimately knows that it's not going anywhere, because Don isolates himself from people to an extent, and he likes to. Over and over we've seen that he's not very good at self-promotion, partly because most of his adult life has been spent keeping a secret about himself and in a sense the role has become the actor--Don Draper Does Not Let People In because he doesn't let them in. At some point, and I think everyone does this, you do something because it's what you've always done, which is a call back to refutation of Dr. Faye's statistical research.

Meanwhile, Joan continues her plan to get Joey fired and get rid of the vending machine. Joey continues to be an asshole, and Peggy's sick of his shit. Curiously, Henry calls Don (who looks just as shocked as everyone else) and gets him to move his stuff (all of which was marked "Draper," and already sick of Betty being so hung up on him, ran his car into them) the day before Gene's birthday party in one of those dick moves that the new boyfriend inevitably pulls on the old one. To compound it, his stuff is left on the curb like that week's trash.

Joey, meanwhile, crosses a line. Joan hits him between the eyes by getting a big speech wherein she basically hopes they all go to Vietnam and all die. Christina Hendricks gives great venom here. Peggy takes up for him with Don, who, after briefly criticizing his compositional style invests Peggy with the power to fire him, which she does after blowing his last chance to keep his job and while she doesn't decimate him as he so richly had coming, it's a Pyrrhic victory, as Joan points out that she inadvertently undermined her authority, being that this is still a man's world, she's highlighted that Joan's just a secretary and Peggy's a humourless bitch. Again, Hendricks gives good venom in this scene and her turning on a dime is just astonishing. This is why you don't fuck with the girl with the golden pen, y'all.

Meanwhile, Don asks Dr. Faye out again and gets shot down again . . .sorta. Meanwhile, on the eve of Baby Gene's birthday party, Betty complains incessantly about Don and Don picks his stuff up and throws it away, despondent about the family that's not his anymore, the place he's not welcome in anymore, and the life that he doesn't have anymore, throws them away. Over dinner with Dr. Faye, he explains where he is and how this struggle with getting control of his life is going. Dr. Faye says she keeps her life in focus by keeping her eye on the future, and explains that "kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win out where force fails," which leads to Don Draper having yet another hot cab ride (no one has had more luck on public transport in the history of the entire apparatus) but restrains himself from closing the deal by just walking her to the door, recognizing he's not quite ready to go any further, and later, Don decides to show up at Baby Gene's birthday party after all because he's the Juggernaut bi--no, wait, he's Don Draper. While Betty and Henry run to the other side of the room, he's able to have one moment of connection with the son he was quite ambivalent about ever having in the first place, and that he's managed to make it through the episode without collapsing into alcohol-soft self-pity, well . . .maybe he's turning the corner.

NEXT TIME: I give up predicting these things, nor even making up crazy things about them. Instead, courtesy of AMC, here's a clip from next time:

OK, it totally wasn't, but trust me, it makes about as much sense as AMC's previews for the show and probably has just as much to do with whatever gibbering madness they edited together to paint a misleading picture of the episode. Next Episode--"The Beautiful Girls." Be there. Aloha.

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