Mad Men, “The Summer Man”

In almost every piece of criticism I read about last week’s fantastic episode of Mad Men, the writers wondered if Don and Peggy’s night together signaled a turnaround for Mr. Draper. Well, I think “The Summer Man” answers that question fairly handily. Of course, it’s not going to be easy for Don Draper, but it looks as if he’s finally pulled on to the road to recovery. The summer of 1965 is almost here and as the season changes, Don wants to as well. He’s swimming at a local athletic club. He’s journaling (yeah, that took me a little bit to get used to as well). He’s trying not to drink. In essence, he’s trying to control himself, grab hold of the life that’s slipped away from him completely and had power over him. Expectedly, it’s not easy.

All the smoking and drinking he’s done doesn’t make swimming too easy. Having to face his issues and actually put them down on paper is definitely tough, even for someone who gets everything close to the vest anyway. And for someone who drank so much, so often, putting down the scotch — particularly when it is being passed around at work — isn’t going to just happen.

The more controlled Don Draper is confident enough in Peggy to let her fire Joey. He’s polite enough to Mrs. Blankenship after she has cataracts surgery. He’s suave and together enough to get Faye out on a date with him, and even more so that she wants to go back to his apartment at the end of the night. But this new, controlled Don Draper just doesn’t want sex, especially from Faye. He wants to get to know some one, but until he does, he’ll enjoy spreading out on that bed like he’s sky diving. Finally, he’s cleaned up enough to attend Baby Gene’s birthday party without causing a scene.

As Don slowly gains control of his life, Betty is still having trouble controlling her new circumstances, especially when she finds out that Don might not be as big of a mess as she thinks he is. Betty and Henry bump into Don and Bethany at a restaurant, and in the least shocking news of 1965, Betty cannot handle it and instead acts like a child. She chugs her drink, makes a scene at the table, pouts in the bathroom and then really wines in the car ride home. Thankfully, Henry calls her out for being such a brat because he recognizes that Betty’s constant “I HATE HIM” exclamations have to mean something. Perhaps Betty is just a child, or perhaps she is starting to realize that she rushed in to another lame marriage. The latter could be particularly true after her witnessing Don seemingly happy, sober and in control.

And because Betty gets all worked up, Henry finds himself losing control a bit as well. We haven’t really seen Henry be jealous of Don in the past (mostly because he sees Betty as the prize and Don as the loser bum), but Betty’s anger and slight jealousy reminds him that there is another man out there who has been with his wife, a man whose house he is still living in, a man who still has boxes in the garage. Henry pulls it together and tries to cut any final ties with Don and the Draper name by getting those damn boxes out of the garage, but he’s sure as heck not happy when Betty allows Don to come to the birthday party and play with Gene.

So I have to ask: Is it possible that Betty is going to start pining of Don again? Is she actually maturing when she realizes that Henry is right to be upset and Don has the right to see his son? I have to say, for once, I’m actually intrigued by a story involving Betty, so at least we now have to look forward to.

Back on the control front, both Peggy and Joan deal with it in the office. Joan’s obviously fed up with Joey and Stan’s boys club behavior, especially when it rubs off on people like Ken and Harry. She pulls Joey into her office and he completely disrespects her with comments about her dress and attitude, even saying something alone the lines of that she dresses that way just to get raped. Oh no, Joey. Sore spot. When she tries to exert some authority and prove she’s more than just a glorified secretary, Joey pushes back more*, leading Peggy to step in. As always, Peggy is the progressive trying to do the right thing. She fires Joey not in an attempt at control or power, but just to do the right thing. But instead of being happy, Joan’s simply frustrated with Peggy because she sees the move as a power play and now realizes that she’ll never been seen as anything more than said glorified secretary. And with Greg finally shipping off to basic training and leaving her alone, Joan has no one; she’s powerless.

*Interesting that Joey, someone from the “new” generation is just as disrespectful to women as the older men, if not more so (especially when referring to Joan).

Just another fantastic episode, though one that started off a little slow. I think the presumed multi-month time jump glossed over Don’s first steps towards recovery, but perhaps Weiner realized that we were ready for the turning point after last week’s events. It’s not as if Don’s completely healed and ready to be a new man, anyway.

Bullets!

  • No Roger this week, which means no Sterling’s Gold. Sad-face.
  • This episode is also light on Pete, who still hasn’t had much to do this season, even with Ken’s return. The last two seasons have featured less Pete and that also makes me sad. His one scene, where he storms in to the vending machine chaos and complains about having a phone call, was awesome though.
  • I found the voice-over to be staggering at first, but I grew to enjoy it by the episode’s end. I’m curious to see if the series sticks with it for a few more. I’m betting not, though.
  • It seems as if there’s any season that Jon Hamm is going to win an Emmy for, it’s gotta be this one. This season is so Don-heavy and every episode Hamm’s getting to show us a different side to Mr. Draper, each being just as awesome as the last.
  • Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interaction between Don and Peggy this week after the big episode last week, but I think that there was an obvious vibe there that was more friendly than in the past.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not this is the best season of the series, and while I think it’s too hard to reserve judgment at this point, season four has been the most enjoyable to watch and write about on a weekly basis. Consider that for what you will.

3 thoughts on “Mad Men, “The Summer Man”

  1. I may need to get my mind out of the gutter on this but seriously, how was I the only one who noticed the timing of “she was a nice girl” voice over narration starting right as a girl starts going down on Don in the back of a cab? Nice girls give sexual favors in the back of cabs apparently.

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  2. Correction it’s 1965, not 1964. Joan at the end of one of the recent episodes says, “welcome to 1965, gentlemen”. And also, at the beginning of “The Summer Man”, “I can’t get no Satisfaction” is playing, which was released in 1965.

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    1. Adrian: Thanks for the head’s up, I knew that. Totally got screwed up by looking at the wrong Ali-Liston fight on Wikipedia. Makes more sense, story-wise as well.

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