This! Is! Mad Men! – The Summer Man

[This! Is! Mad Men! recaps the newest developments of Don Draper and his ragtag group of cohorts. In the spirit of the show, it will often be sexist and drunk. Apologies ahead of time.]

Ok, here we   go again – my unedited, stream-of-conscious thoughts about this week’s episode of Mad Men:

So we start with Draper reflecting on the fact that he never finished high school, has been drinking too much, and has never managed to pound out more than 250 words at a time. Is this the beginning of the upward swing we’ve all been waiting for? God I hope so.

Oh shit – John Draper’s smoking a butt in his sunglasses while the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction plays. As a straight male with a fulfulling relationship, nothing has ever been more homosexually tempting. This guy is a fuggin’ stud through and through.

Ha – Miss Blankenship has got some fuggin’ “goggles” on her head, thick sunglasses to help with some surgery. She’s a real wildcard and I hope her quasi-senility is further highlighted.

Joanie is chewing out Joey for being a wise-crackin’ young freelancer…and then he calls her “some madame from a Shanghai whorehouse.” Gahdamn, shit’s getting tense at SCDP. Joey seemed like a cool dude at the beginning of this season, but maybe he’s just another misogynist. Damn.

Blankenship is carrying bottles of liquor to Don’s office; he tells her to take them back to the storage room and snag some cigarettes instead! Again, more evidence that Donnie’s going to quit the sauce! Yes! Well, smoking isn’t a great habit either, but it’s a helluva lot better than getting tanked, puking in the office and blacking out for days.

Ok, so Joan and Greg are having a heartfelt moment. He’s heading off to train as an army doctor and Joanie’s scared that he’s going to wind up in Vietnam (which, I’m going to guess he is). He seems to be a source of affection for Joan, but didn’t he rape her last season? Or was that two seasons ago? In any case, he’s still a suspect of ill-repute in my eyes.

We cut back to Draper and he’s scratching away at a journal again. He’s lamenting the fact that he can’t go to Gene’s birthday and even says that his third child’s birth was the result of a messy situation and probably shortsighted. I like this take on the character, a man who is finally looking Life in the face and trying to see it for what it actually is.

But we’re back in the office and Donald can’t help himself from taking a nice sip from a dewy glass of liquor. A quick pan into a close-up of his face shows that this is a decision he enjoys but knows is wrong.   He’s trying to deal with his personal life, this Mountain Dew account, and his own demons. Shit.

Don refers to Blankenship as “Ray Charles.” Fuggin’ hysterical.

After Joey tells off Joanie, she tells Draper/Peggy not to put him on a job. Peggy tries to warn Joey, explaining that Joanie and Lane basically run SCDP themselves but he shrugs her off. I predict a tumultuous situation for this babe-faced newcomer.

//First commercial break//

…And we’re back! Henry Francis and Betty are going out to eat at a fancy-pants bourgeoisie joint. She peers into the dining room and sees Donnie snacking away with a new lady. She obviously doesn’t want to go in. We cut to Draper and his babe, Bethany. She’s basically saying that every date feels like their first one. As though she wants more from him. Romantically. Personally. Hell, maybe even sexually. She’s singing him praises when Henry and Betty interrupt to say hello. It’s uncomfortable of course.

After she takes a seat at a table with her new man, Betty can’t help but stare across the dining room at her old flame. It’s quite clear that Donald and Bethany are having a good time, joking and laughing and at the beginning of something enjoyable. Hell, maybe Betty’s realizing that even though Draper lied to her about his life, she had forced him out. She never accepted the notion that maybe Dick Whitman could be a good man if given an honest chance.

Henry Francis and Betty are in the car, driving home. Once again, this dude proves to be an even-tempered and well-mannered guy. Betty keeps complaining, saying how much she hates her ex-husband. He reprimands her, saying, “Hate’s a strong word, Betty. I hate Nazis!”

Ooh! Spicy! Now we’re watching Don and Bethany being chauffered home from the restaurant. The babe unbuckles his pants and “makes him more comfortable.” So wait…Did this girl just give Draper oral in the back of a cab? I think so. Draper’s voice-over cuts in and he reveals that he enjoys solitude. “I like sleeping alone.” He’s a dude that can survive on his own, because there’ve been so many times in which he had no other options. Now that he’s being given a chance to have another companion, he’s not so sure he wants in.

Does that make him a bastard? Or just honest?

//Second commercial break//

Don can’t help but overhear SCDP’s buxom blond psychologist getting into an argument on the phone. He wants to keep listening, to get an upperhand for potential courtship, but he heads into the office anyway.

Yet again, more fuggin’ drinking in the office. This time, Joey’s mixing up some Mountain and liquor (vodka maybe?). This sounds like something that OL could get down with. Actually, it’s some shit that we’ve actually done in our younger and more foolish years. It appears as though part of SCDP’s campaign for the Dew will be conjuring up a sick cocktail.

Once again, Joey is making lewd suggestions about Joan – he’s describing her as being taken from behind by Lane. I really hope something terrible happens to this punk.

Henry Francis phones Don at work. He asks Don to remove some boxes from the garage and he obliges. Henry then asks Don to do it sooner rather than later, in order to have matters settled before Gene’s birthday bash (which Draper isn’t even going to). Again, Don obliges but knows that this is a sort of emotional offensive. The master ad-man then gazes at his bottles of booze, but remains strong and asks Miss Blankenship to bring him some coffee!


//Third commercial break//

Peggy and Joanie see one of Joey’s sketches – a bit of sexual harassment that would end in termination and a lawsuit. Joan asks who did it, and they laugh her off. She then tells Joey and the other shitheads that when they’re stuck in Vietnam in a year, they’re going to wish that someone as helpful as her was around. They realize what scumbags they are and Joan struts off.

Peggy wants Don to take care of Joey and the other buffoons, and he tells her to tell them off herself – as a means of gaining respect. Peggy fires Joey after he shows no remorse. It’s a bold move and I fuggin’ love it. This kid is a sexist bonehead and he has no clue what the future has in store for him. The fairer sex is going to prevail. Take that, slimelord!

Don asks Dr. Faye Miller, SCDP’s psychologist, out for dinner. Sure, he overheard the fact that she was having relationship problems…But he isn’t forceful. He isn’t anything less than charming and chivalrous. I really hope that something comes of this.

//Fourth commercial break//

Betty being visited at home by neighbor Francine. Wait…So now, it seems as though Don might be invited to Gene’s birthday. Is he going to show up? I don’t know. but Betty’s pretty cheesed that Don’s life isn’t completely in the shitter. What a wench.

In the elevator, Peggy tells Joan that she fired Joey. Peggy claims that she defended Joan, but Joan sees this as someone else taking care of her problems for her…thereby proving her lack of value. She essentially says that Peggy’s firing of Joey shows that Joan has no power and that Peggy is a humorless bitch. Yikes.

Draper’s monologues in this episode are some of the best fuggin’ writing this show has ever featured. As he picks up his boxes from his old house, he equivocates on his existential crisis:

“We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”

Don and Faye have their night out and it’s filled with some more musing about life. Draper admits that he admires the doctor’s work, even though he hasn’t always acted so. She recounts a favorite Aesop fable and he ends up giving her his coat. The attraction between these two is almost palpable. And when they’re headed home in a taxi, they kiss with a passionate that Draper never would have given to girls like Bethany.

But lo and behold, the man tells Dr. Faye Miller that he’s going to take her home tonight. He’s not going to jump into things, because her door is as far as he can go tonight…I think this dude is really striving for a lvelv of personal perfection that we haven’t seen before in this series. Not in comparing himself to others, or trying to be what the world at large wants him to be…but to be the best man he himself is capable of being!

Don shows up to Gene’s party. Bobby and Sally are both happy to see the man. Henry Francis asks Betty why he showed, and she tries to comfort him by saying, “It’s ok – we have everything.” But clearly she doesn’t – because as she looks at him, she realizes she doesn’t have Don anymore.

//Final Thoughts//

This is the most promising Don Draper has looked in a long while. He’s trying to give up the booze. He’s trying to master his life through earnestness and self-awareness. No more prostitutes and Eff-Buddies. He’s in the pool everyday, swimming as hard as he can. And for the first time in his life, he’s swimming against the current so that he can be his best.

I don’t know where Mad Men is going. But I have higher hopes than I have in a long time. SCDP is doing well, women are gaining more ground in the work place, and Draper’s quest for self-actualization is making him look sexier than ever.