Monday, September 13, 2010

Mad Men on the Rebound

Not the show, just the man?

Is Don Draper on the way back?  I guess moving from heaps of whiskey to a Budweiser (too bad there were no microbrews in the 1960's) and a nice Chianti (yes, whenever I hear that word, I think of Silence of the Lambs) is an improvement.  At first, I thought Don might actually be at some kind of recovery place--the pool, the writing table, and so forth.  Can you bounce back entirely on your own?  AA says no, but Don seems to be making an effort.  By writing!  More than 250 words at a time!  Funny that he never wrote more than that before.  And he writes a bucket list complete with a trip to Africa and a modicum of self-control.

  Is this for real?  Or will he fall further?  The graphics at the beginning of the show do not suggest that optimism is in order. And the music, Rolling Stones' Satisfaction, could be read in a variety of ways.  Still, given how Don acts the rest of the episode, especially towards booze, I guess we can feel pretty good about moving in the right direction..... for now.

I like both of Don's dates.  You can tell he is far more into Faye than Bethanny, or perhaps I am projecting?  Faye is far more interesting, and a better representative of the new generation of women--she works hard, has keen insights, gives and gets respect (more on Peggy in a minute), and so forth.  My DVR was a bit funky so I missed some of her phone booth call at the beginning.  Faye does have issues.  I love the fact that Don asked about her father (and didn't talk about his) given her first appearance on the show, asking questions about fathers.  Then, she hits Don with Aesop's fable about wind and sun.  Being cruel to be kind is not the way, apparently.

Faye wants to go further at the end of the date, but Don says he cannot go any further!  "Not what I expected," she said.  Indeed.

Anyhow, Bethanny seems overly turned on that he tossed Betty aside and took up with her.  I guess she thinks that if Don chose such a beautiful wife, then Bethanny cannot be too shabby either.  Anyhow, I can see where the Taxi Cab confessions guys got their ideas.  Oh my!

I was pretty disturbed by the Joan plot--by the behavior of all non-Peggy people.  Joey makes a reference about rape which would be shocking and disturbing even if we did not know that Joan was raped by her husband.  And her hubby has all the sensitivity of a dish towel, a horny dish towel.  I half-expected her to get raped again in her scene with Dr. Dumbass.   Joey gets his comeupannce--and I am confused about Peggy's role here.  I think she did the right thing, but I can see how Joan might not want someone else fighting her battles.  I don't think her "I hope you enjoy Vietnam" rant really had the impact that she would like to think.  Joey was insubordinate and was spreading an ideology that needed to be stamped out, but Peggy may be as successful with that as the US was in Vietnam.  I do like that Don empowers Peggy to make the decision--she has some real authority now: "You want some respect.  Go out and get it yourself." Indeed.  So, how do others feel about Peggy's decision to fire Joey?

Betty and Henry showed a different dynamic.  Henry is pushing back, as his new trophy wife may be endangering his political ambitions.  Funny that Nixon beat the rest of the reasonable Republicans in this era, including whoever Henry ended up working for.  And also interesting--planning on 1972 since one could be expecting in 1965 that LBJ would be winning re-election in 1968.  But Vietnam got in the way.  And it showed up in nearly every storyline in this episode.  Back to Henry, he is full of steel in this episode and Betty ends up doing what he wants.  But given her look at Don and Gene at the end, I am not sure how long this will last.  Betty is as broken as Don, so both can fall apart with a gust of wind.

Lots of heavy lines (lines heavy with portent/meaning/whatever:
  • "I should have finished high school.  Everything could have been different." (Don)
  • "I was blind but now I see."  (Mrs. Blakenship).
  • "I pretend I am Margaret Mead." (Peggy)
  • "Born into a mess." (Done about Gene)
  • "Big ragu."  (Joey's nickname for Joan)
  • "We want them to be who we want them to be."  (Don)
  • "Vodka and Moutain Dew is an emergency, not a cocktail."  (Peggy)
  • "Handsome two-bit gangsters." (Faye)

Clearly, this episode was a change of pace from the previous ones.  It cannot meet the standard set by "Suitcase" but it would be unrealistic to think every episode could do that.   And no Roger or Roger's memoir.  Hard to hit the top if you are missing that crucial ingredient.  Again, the big question is whether the changes seen here are a blip or for real.  We are rooting for Don, as Americans love a good second act and second chances.  How about you?

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