Conditions are not ideal for binge watching today. There is construction outside my apartment, and a symphony of jackhammers is accompanying me through my watching and writing of however many episodes I decide to cover over the course of my free Thursday
I could do anything today. It’s beautiful outside. Maybe I should a run to the Art Museum, or go watch the Phils game at a bar in the city. Maybe I’d run into a cute girl if I put myself out there like normal people on the first nice day of Spring.
But alas, I have more important things to attend to. After writing Part 1 of this project, big news in the world of Netflix/Binge Watching was announced: Arrested Development was given a release date. As the show is now run by Netflix, the new season will be unleashed upon the world in one fell swoop (the same way they did House of Cards) on May 26th.
This was a sign. I need to be dutiful with this Mad Men process so that I can be prepared for the future of writing about television, because this very well might be the future of writing about television. So I decided to dedicate my Thursday to you and Mad Men, with the hope that good things will eventually come of it.
Episode 4: Mystery Date
I’m going to try a new format, just going through each of the characters in their individual story arcs; there wasn’t much crossover here.
Don Draper – He’s sick at the office, and he and Megan run into one of his ex-hookups while riding the elevator. Don ends up going home after a meeting, and having dreams about his ex coming back to his apartment for sex. They hook up, but when Don’s dream-girl asks to go another round, Don refuses and chokes her to death, symbolizing his suffocation of his own desires to be unfaithful to Megan. His story ends with Megan entering the bedroom, worried about his illness, and his assurance to her that he’s going to be fine.
Peggy – After Roger forgets about an upcoming meeting with Mohawk Airline, he enlists Peggy to work up a campaign for him. He uses her negotiating skill and her power in the given situation to get Sterling to cough up $400 for the task. Later, Peggy finds Don’s black secretary Dawn sleeping on the couch, afraid to travel home due to the riots across the country. Peggy takes her to spend the night at her place, and they bond. Peggy shares her insecurities about “acting like a man” at the office. She was clearly proud of her handling of Roger, but she’s not sure what her ability to overpower men says about her own identity. Part of her just wants to be a girl sometimes.
Joan – Her husband Greg is coming home from the war. They have their blissful return-home coitus, but are shortly torn by the news that Greg must return to Vietnam sooner than expected, and that it was his choice. Joan freaks out, and Greg leaves for what may be forever. The most interesting implication here for me is Joan’s hatred of Greg for making the decision to go back to work without consulting her. It’s the same thing she did with returning to SCDP. Granted, they are obviously differing situations, but Joan herself said that Greg wouldn’t be able to control her decisions, yet now she feels a right to control his. I may be comparing apples to oranges here, but they are both still fruit.
Sally – She wants to be a big girl and learn about the murders that have been on the news, but she is stuck with her Grandma who believes the information is too horrifying for a child’s eyes. Her grandma, while strict on her stance not to let Sally know anything about the story, is also oblivious, leading to comical shots such as that shown above.
Ginsberg – He pitches a solid campaign to Topaz shoes and makes the sale, but while cleaning up after the meeting one Topaz representative asks why there wasn’t a Cinderella angle. Ginsberg goes on to beautifully articulate how a Cinderella could look, but that the negative imagery of “a girl hobbling with one shoe” was too dark, and invoked fear. The client asked to do the idea anyway and Don would yell at Ginsberg afterward. The theme here though is that Ginsberg is not a business man, he is an artist. While Don wants to make good work in order to make a sale, Ginsberg wants to make good work and be heard. This difference in views will be mirrored later in the season within Don’s relationship with Megan.
Finally, a radical darkly inside joke that this episode provided for its audience.
When Don is dreaming about choking his “Don Juan demons” to death, the camera cuts away from the action to show this extremely deliberate shot:
A girl with one shoe struggling. Ginsberg was right; that is some dark imagery. Don goes on to stuff the dead body under his bed, only to find it has disappeared when he wakes up, you know, because he was dreaming.
One last note: the ending credits roll over “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals. If you have never heard the song, you should listen to it. It’s amazing to think that this was an actual song that existed not so long ago.
Episode 5: Signal 30
Lane and his wife go to a pub to watch the Brits win the World Cup. While there, they become friends with another couple, who happen to be affiliated with Jaguar automotive. Lane would later attempt to bring them in as a client, prompting Roger to give him the following pep talk (pardon the quality):
Lane is too boring for the man from Jaguar’s taste, so Roger, Don, and Pete take him to a whorehouse instead. Everyone but Don gets laid, and Pete gets all angsty about it at Don. At the meeting of the partners the next day, Lane is furious that they’ve lost the account because the man from Jaguar’s wife caught him…well…
Pete jokes that Lane is no longer necessary to the company and they fight. I’m including it here, because if you watch this show, chances are you’ve wanted to see Pete Campbell get the snot kicked out of him.
This whole storyline goes back to Lane’s inability to assimilate into American life. The man from Jaguar has given up on the Brit inside him, making him just another person that Lane fails to understand. He sees bad people get want they want, and laugh at the misfortune of others. He sees people without an ounce of empathy in them and he can’t take it. He’s not in a good place.
He did get to kiss Joan for a second though. So that’s something.
One other highlight of the episode was Pete and Trudy Campbell’s dinner party. It’s not often we get to see Don Draper in a sports coat, and we need to enjoy the few chances we get.
At dinner, the adults discuss the Charles Whitman murders, once again addressing the dark time that our characters find themselves in, and the overall mood of 1966.
Near the close of the dinner party, the sink breaks. Pete rushes upstairs to find a toolbox, Don rips his shirt off and dives into plumbing.
It’s reasons like this I’m glad I wasn’t born in the ’60s. If I had to fix a sink to impress a woman, I wouldn’t know where to begin.
While the scene served as comic relief, the film student in me sees an easy essay that could be written here- this scene exemplifies Don’s infidelity. I would argue that Don has entered another home (the Campbell’s) and assumed a duty usually reserved for the man of the house (fixing the sink) and proved himself more capable than the home’s owner (Pete). This is the same thing he would do back when he was a cheater of a husband. He’d take over the husband-ly duties of another man, and outperform them.
Just a thought. Maybe I think about Jon Hamm’s plumbing a little too much.
Episode 6: Far Away Places
Three of our favorite characters each have an interesting day.
First, Peggy is nervous for her pitch of the Heinz campaign. She and her boyfriend get in a fight over it, and he accuses her of putting work before their relationship. Peggy’s bad day carries over to the pitch, where Heinz is unsatisfied, and Don isn’t present to tell them it’s what they want. She gets overly aggressive to sell the idea, and Heinz ends up leaving dissatisfied, but still with the agency, only Peggy will no longer work their account. To blow off steam, Peggy goes to the movies, gets high, and gives a stranger a handjob.
It’s weird, but I think it goes back to Peggy’s desire to figure herself out, especially in terms of her identity as a woman working in a man’s business.
On the happier side of things, Roger is reminded that tonight is to be a big night for him and Jane, as they are about to drop acid.
He has a life altering experience, and while “in the truth” with Jane, they both mutually realize that they can no longer be together. After the trip however, Jane is less keen to split. It ends up happening, but she warns that it will be “very expensive”.
Finally, Don goes to visit a potential client, Howard Johnson’s. He takes Megan with him, stealing her away from the Heinz pitch team. This leads to an argument that builds to a fight that concludes with Don driving away leaving Megan behind. This is the ultimate relationship power move. I don’t know if this happens in all relationships, but I imagine it happens in most- one person begins to walk away, and the other one won’t move. It becomes all about power, who will be the first one to flinch.
When Don drives back to where he left Megan, she is gone. Concern for her safety is high, as the show has already mentioned the Charles Whitman killings in Texas, the Richard Speck murders in Chicago, and riots across the country.
Don eventually gives up his search and finds Megan safe back at their apartment. They have a sprawling fight that moves through every room, again stirring the idea of civil unrest within the show.
They make up, Don tells Megan how worried he was, and they go back to the office a happy couple once more. Just as it feels like the episode is about to wrap up, Bert Cooper asks to see Don, and proceeds to explain that his work is slipping because he has been on “Love leave”. This is Don’s first indication that other people might believe him to be softening up, and he seems a bit unsettled by it.
Episodes 7, 8, and 9 coming tomorrow.