"We Have Everything": Mad Men Recapped
Because of S.T. VanAirsdale's commitments up north at the Toronto International Film Festival -- and perhaps because of last week's knock-down-drag-out twelve rounder -- the part of your trusty Mad Men recapper will be played by... me. Welcome all! Pull on your best pair of swimming trunks and click ahead for some thoughts on "The Summer Man."
"June 29th. I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight."
Ahem. This week's edition of Mad Men felt odd from the start, and not just because Matthew Weiner decided to give Don an inner monologue that would make Travis Bickle proud. The season's are changing at an absurd clip during this fourth go-around of Mad Men, and with summer on the way, Don is in training (never has swimming laps seemed so dramatic) and keeping meticulous handwritten notes for his manifesto. He has to get organezized.
If "The Suitcase" was Don's rock bottom, then consider "The Summer Man" the start of his resurrection. He's drinking less now, though it remains a constant battle; it's hard to stay sober when underlings like Ken Cosgrove (bloated and fratty as ever) constantly offer El Jefe a tumbler of his favorite libation. Still, in the comfort of Casa de Draper, Don can resist his customary hard liquor in favor of a can of Budweiser (product placement!) and some Jack Handey-like Deep Thoughts. It's a start.
The clarity of not being a fall-down drunk ("that sad bastard" as we find out that one former neighbor calls him; they don't know the half of it) has allowed Don to gain control of his love life too. He reconnects with Bethany (nothing says courtship like three dates in five months), and acts gentlemanly enough so that she doesn't think twice about going downtown on him in the back of a taxi. Scandalous! Cue some more pointedly on-the-nose voice-over.
Suffice it to stay, Don's inner monologue -- despite offering fans a chance to hear Jon Hamm's Mercedes Benz-ready pitchman voice -- was not one of Weiner's better dramatic inventions. It cheapened what makes Mad Men so great in the first place: The silence. Hamm is at his best while giving stoic looks that force you to read his mind. The voice-over robbed all of us of that treat.
It didn't rob Don of anything though. The fairly sober ad man also finally got his long-awaited date with Faye Miller. Her father's a gangster! Her accent was bigger than ever! (Cara Buono letting her Mrs. Christopher Moltisanti voice seep into the character for the first time.) She likes the Chianti! Their date goes so well that by the end, even Faye wanted the Don Draper Special. That Don politely declined was proof that Faye is being positioned as his next great love. He wants to take it slow with this one, not get on the next episode of Taxi Cab Confessions, 1965. The only problem with this? Hamm and Buono have zero chemistry. Alas.
Let's see what else... oh! Did I mention that Don and Bethany awkwardly ran into Betty and Henry while out to dinner? No? That's probably because it was laughably contrived and ultimately pointless. Weiner basically tossed up the white flag during "The Summer Man" with regards to Betty Draper Francis staying relevant to the story. What's her point, exactly, besides to get yelled at by the various men in her life? Henry had that honor instead of Don during this episode, which was good since it yielded what could have been the funniest exchange on Mad Men this season:
Betty: I hate [Don].
Henry: Hate's a strong word, Betty. I hate Nazis!
Don't we all, Hank. Once again, "The Summer Man" showed Betty to be vindictive, out of touch and typically chilly. Weiner simply seems to have it out for Bets. Take the final moments of the episode, when Don heroically crashed son Gene's birthday party. "We have everything," Betty says to Henry, seemingly trying to convince herself. Spoiler: They don't, and the more we see of this marriage, the more it seems to be headed for another flight to Reno.
Elsewhere, poor Joan, again, found herself as the butt of Joey's bad attitude and sexist jokes (saying Joan was slinking around the office asking to be raped, really?). Here's a funny thing about this season of Mad Men: We've come to accept that the men of Roger and Don's generation are sexist pigs, but between Joey, Stan and Harry -- hilariously still talking about Peyton Place and trying to get Joey cast because he's so handsome -- it's the tykes of the office who have been so incredibly incorrigible.
The last straw for Joan is a picture that Joey drew of her and Lane having some fairly graphic sex. Too far and too gross. Sorry, no one wants Lane to have sex with Joan; we want Don to! (Just me?) Upset about Greg shipping off to basic training (and then Vietnam), she takes the piss out everyone in the office with a speech that might as well have been titled, "You ungrateful bastards are all going to die in Vietnam."
Peggy won't, of course, but that doesn't mean Joan can't cut her off at the knees too. After Peggy stands up for Joan and fires Joey -- her transformation to Don taking another step forward -- Mrs. Holloway Harris lays into Little Ms. Olson for making them both look bad. It's kneejerk and old school and Joan's above that kind of girl-on-girl crime, but since Greg is leaving, let's cut her some slack. Sure, Joanie. Whatever you say.
And then there's Mrs. Blankenship. Movieline's favorite racist secretary continued to be a source of constant smiles, recovering from cataracts surgery and drawing more off-screen laughs than she had any right to draw. As Peggy said when she stormed into Don's office to discuss the fate of Sexist Joey, "She's still patting around for the buzzer. I'm sorry." Metaphorically speaking, Don still is too. "The Summer Man" showed him perilously close to finding it though. Hope springs eternal, right?