The Summer Man
I had a reader pop in here last spring and get very angry with me. She started at the beginning of my season one comments and started reading through. She never made it to the end because my remarks about Betty Draper really got to her. She responded with a series of angry posts, one of which was so angry and abusive that I deleted it, and then she left and never came back.
What really bothered her was my returning, again and and again, to Betty's childishness. I doubt she enjoyed last night's show much. And it's a shame really because Betty actually grew up a tiny bit last night.
The best part is that she did so because her feeling of rivalry towards Francine. Why is that good? Because people who love Betty almost always seem to hate Francine. Probably because Francine has often said the thing that triggers stupidity from Betty in the past.
Boys and girls behaving badly
This was a very good episode. It was not great—which is what the last few have been— it was merely very, very good.
The first four minutes were magnificent. I love the bit where Don sitting in the locker room at the athletic club looks over at the transistor radio another man has put down. We hear a song faintly but we don't know what it is. We can hear what sounds like static, which is perfect for the technology. Don can hear though and he steps out on the street and bang, there it is in all it's Keef playing the most distinctive riff ever in all its fuzz box glory.
I have to gloat, and it's not just a gloat but one of those gloats that deals with stupidities that only matter to boomers, but damn but I love the way Matt Weiner has dissed the Beatles and not just because I predicted he would.
As long as I'm glorying in my successful predictions. Here is what I said about Bethany after the Chrysanthemum and the Sword episode:
Assuming we get to see Bethany again, I wonder how she will respond to being ignored. She was clearly chafing at the lack of romance last night. Will she offer sex in attempt to get romance or would that be too depressingly like real life?Exactly as predicted, one pleading for more closeness over dinner followed by one unreciprocated blowjob in the back of a cab. Depressingly like real life? You bet—the same thing was probably played out only 17 million times last Saturday night— but there you are.
(We had the boys behaving badly too. I wonder if anyone else has noticed that the younger generation of men is actually a step down into the sexism pit? That part is also right in terms of history. The sixties was one of the nadirs of sexism.)
Anyway, back to poor Bethany. Her big move gets her nowhere. Don quickly realizes how much better the company of adults is and he ends up having dinner with Dr. Faye Miller who doesn't indulge in such childish schemes.
It's telling that they don't have sex. It's a nice touch whereby Don lets Faye know that he takes her very seriously. As opposed to Bethany who lets Don know that he doesn't need to take her seriously.
The Pinky POV
That's an obscure reference to a Pinky and the Brain episode that only fanatics like me will get. Anyway, the playing of Satisfaction on the soundtrack is a hint that we are inside Don's brain. This episode splits neatly between scenes where we are inside Don's world view and the scenes where we are out with the children. For much of the show, these are like snapshots from different perspectives and we assume that there is a wider frame that includes all these shots but there isn't.
There are two crucial moments that show us how they don't fit together. One is when Peggy walks from the office into Don's office wanting him to do something about Joey not respecting Joan and gets some completely unexpected respect herself. The second is when Peggy and Joan are in the elevator and we realize with a jolt just how different Joan's way of seeing the world is from Don's way.
I'm going out on a limb here but I think Joan is now very dispensable. Not as dispensable as Joey but the two have something in common. And that something has to do with attitudes towards sex. Joan is more like Bethany in that she wants to be taken seriously but then starts using sex to get it. Joey's comments about Joan are way out of line but not because they aren't true.
Step back a moment and try and predict how these characters will age. Joey is not going to be a Don or a Roger. He just doesn't have the class. And what is Joan's long-term destiny? Okay, this will rub some people the wrong way but as of this moment is there any reason to believe she won't turn out like Miss Blankenship?
(And has anyone else noticed that the supposedly irredeemable "Dr. Rape", has become the strong one in that relationship? Not unrelated, the easiest prediction of all is that the panel over at Slate will have a lot of trite and immature things to say about this episode.)
How do they get babies to act?
Baby Gene pays no attention to Don. This man isn't his father. How did they get him to do that?
Anyway, rivalry is a good thing in the end. Don responds to Henry's rivalry by becoming more of a father. Betty responds to Francine's rivalry by growing up. By the way, can you imagine trying to dissect the intersecting rivalries in this episode?
- Betty sees Bethany with Don and is jealous.
- Bethany gives Don a gratuitous blow job in response to the imagined competition from the other women she imagines Don is seeing.
- Betty, resenting Henry calling her on her immaturity, tells Henry a whopper of a lie about Don being the only other guy she's had.
- Henry decides to pull a power play pushing Don further out of his house.
- Francine comes over and reminds Betty that she and Carleton are still together inspiring her to try and prove to herself and Henry that their marriage is solid.
- Joey shows disrespect for Joan which gets Peggy upset that she can't get these boys to act more appropriately.
- Dr. Faye Miller walks in and immediately senses how close Don and Peggy are and she feels a rivalry that only she can see with Peggy.
- Joey is such an immature brat that he feels rivalry towards everyone who tells him to grow up. When Peggy tells him to apologize to Joan he refuses in a way that makes his firing the second-most richly deserved firing in the history of the show. (Pete Campbell in season one, was the most richly deserved firing.)
- Then Don picks up the boxes that Henry has childishly put on the sidewalk and Henry is so peevish he can't even acknowledge Don.
- The younger man, who looks at first like he might be Joey, starts to pass Don at the pool and that inspires him to push harder and then gives him the push he needs to go to little Gene's birthday.
Throwing away the old boxes
The most important moment in the show is when Don is driving away from the house after picking up the boxes. Henry is cutting the lawn so driven by his rivalry that he cannot make eye contact or say good bye to Don. Don sees him and pities him, loves him even. Here is what he says:
When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere. Just ask him. If you listen, he'll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going. And then he woke up. If you listen he'll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect. and then he'll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn't perfect. We're flawed because we want so much more.That's almost Zen like; in a good way.
And then Don takes the cardboard boxes and throws them in a dumpster. This is important because he couldn't throw the cardboard box he got from his brother. Don's secret identity is a MacGuffin. Everyone has a secret identity. The real point is not being able to throw away that box.
It still bothers him. That admission that he never finished high school and, more importantly, never wrote anything longer than 250 words are crucial admissions about that secret dick running behind him always threatening to catch him.
Back to Bethany for a moment. The bit above is prefigured by the moment earlier when Don brushes her off (to his diary, poor thing she'll never know that she, if you'll pardon the expression, "blew" it).
She's a sweet girl. And she wants me to know her but I already do. People tell you they are but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.By bye Bethany and by bye Joey. I can't say I'll miss you and I doubt anyone else will either.
Season 4 blogging begins here.
For anyone crazy enough to go even further :
Season three blogging begins here.
Season two, if you are interested, begins here.
Season one begins here.