Mad Men: “The Summer Man”

This episode begins with Don alone in his apartment. He is now keeping a diary, and we hear his thoughts via his narration. He talks about his drinking problem, and how it’s affecting his work. He talks about how little he writes, and how he wishes he would have finished high school. We then see him having an early morning swim (and having a coughing fit whilst doing so!) and then getting dressed and heading into work. On his way in, he asks Ms. Blankenship, who has just gotten cataract surgery, for Bethany’s phone number.

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Meanwhile, Joey and the boys are up to their old antics. SCDP has apparently gotten a new vending machine, and Joey has gotten his watch stuck in it while trying to get a Clark bar out for Ken. A couple of the women, including Peggy, stand and watch as Joey and Stan pick up and drop the machine, and Harry offers the guys ideas for getting the watch out. They create such a ruckus that Joan comes to investigate. She orders everyone back to work, and Joey replies to her with a sarcastic “sorry, mom!”. Joan asks him to repeat that, and Joey asks her what he was supposed to do. She tells him to call the complaint number and “let an adult” handle the situation. Pete then walks into the hallway, asking what all the noise is, as he was on an important call. Joey tells Pete that Joan was “handing out demerits”, which makes Joan call him into her office.

In her office, Joan tries to dress down the cavalier Joey. But when she says that Stan might be better at his job than Joey, he asks her what she does around the office, “besides walking around like you’re trying to get raped?” He then calls her a “madam from a Shanghai whorehouse” and leaves the office. Peggy then walks in, attempting to use Joan’s office as a shortcut. Joan snaps at her and tells her to stop doing that, and that she could “use the extra steps”. Peggy, seeing that Joan is upset, quietly apologizes. Joan leaves.

We then see Ms. Blankenship carrying several liquor bottles to Don’s office. Don, who is looking for some cigarettes in her desk, stares at the bottles for a few moments, then tells her to take them back to the storeroom and get him some cigarettes instead. Ms. Blankenship then says that Betty called and will not let Don see the kids this weekend, as it’s Gene’s birthday and they’re throwing him a party.

Joan arrives at home just as Greg is getting out of the shower. He is getting ready to leave for Basic Training, and calls her visit a “pleasant surprise”. She seems worried about his departure, but instead of talking, Greg wants to have sex with her. Joan cries, and it’s obvious to the viewer that she’s not in the mood… but Greg talks her into it.

At home, Don opens a can of beef stew and watches the news from Vietnam. We then see Don writing in his journal, where he notes that he hopes Vietnam “doesn’t turn into another Korea”. He also says that he “feels like a girl”, writing all his thoughts down. He then writes that Sunday is Gene’s birthday, and that the poor kid was “conceived in a moment of desperation, and born into a mess”. He then opens a beer and takes a swig before making a list of things he’d like to do with his life, which include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or going anywhere in Africa, and getting control over his feelings.

The next day, Ken, Peggy and Stan meet in Don’s office to discuss new ideas for Mountain Dew, who has rejected the agency’s latest idea. Ken says that many of Mountain Dew’s southern bottlers don’t like the idea of a witch in their ads, which makes Don ask him about the hillbilly in their existing ads. Ken shrugs and says that in the “sodie pop” business, Pepsi is only the tail to the bottler’s dog. Don calls out to Ms Blankenship and asks her to get Joan; while waiting, the sound fades out and the camera lovingly focuses on the drinks in Peggy and Ken’s hands. Don picks up his glass, stares at it for a second, and takes a small sip. Joan knocks, breaking the spell of the booze. Don tells her to hire Joey full-time for a couple of weeks for the Mountain Dew campaign. Peggy watches as Joan vaguely alludes to Joey’s behavior of late. Don tells her that boys will be boys and to hire him anyway.

We then see Joey talking to Harry, who enthusiastically tells him that he could be in television. The intercom buzzes, and Harry’s secretary says that Peggy is looking for Joey. He bolts out of his chair and, once alone with Peggy and away from Harry, calls him an “old fairy”. Peggy can’t believe it, and dresses him down for insulting Joan. Joey says that there’s a “Joan” in every company and that his own mother was a “Joan”. He says that she even “wore a pen on her tits”, like Joan does, to get attention. Peggy tells him to knock it off, as Joan and Lane run the business end of the agency almost completely.

Later, we see Henry and Betty walking in to a restaurant to have dinner with Ralph Stuben, an aide for Representative John Lindsay. However, out of the corner of her eye, Betty sees Don and Bethany eating dinner. Don and Bethany have apparently just seen a play, and the two talk about it for a few moments before Bethany says that she’d like a bigger commitment from Don.

Henry then walks over to uncomfortably say hello to Don, who introduces them to “Miss Van Nuys”. They then go to their table, where Stuben thanks Henry for getting Governor Rockefeller’s support for Lindsay’s mayoral campaign. As the men talk business, Betty can’t help looking over at Don and Bethany. Betty quickly downs a drink and goes to the bathroom to smoke… and almost cry.

On the way home, Henry and Betty argue over Don; Henry says that Don is taking up too much space in her life, and maybe her heart as well. On Don and Bethany’s way home, she gives him a blow job in the back seat of the taxi.

Later that night, Don writes in his diary: “She’s a sweet girl. She wants me to know her, but I already do. People tell you who they are but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be”. He thinks back to when Bethany said “to be continued later” as she got out of the cab. He writes that she must have spent all night thinking up that line, and that he “looked up at the Barbizon, and I thought of all the women in there, one in every room, touching themselves to sleep.” He then writes that he likes sleeping alone, “stretching out like a skydiver, cool patches to roll on to” and that he should appreciate that more.

The next morning, Don walks into the office and overhears Faye in a telephone booth, loudly breaking up with someone.

Meanwhile, Betty apologizes to Henry for her actions the night before. She says that she can’t help it, as Don is the only man shed ever been with before him. Henry goes to leave, and runs his car into some boxes marked “Draper” in the garage.

At the office, Peggy and Joey are working on cocktail recipes for Mountain Dew. Joan walks in to Lane’s office and says that Don wants to put Joey on full-time for a couple of weeks. Lane agrees. She then sits down and says that she feels that the vending machine is a “troublemaker”. Lane thinks it’s great, and wants to put in a sandwich machine as a means of keeping people working during lunch. Joan insists that there are complaints. Back in the creative lounge, the boys wonder what Lane and Joan are doing in his office, and Joey draws a pornographic sketch what he thinks they’re up to. Peggy tells Joey to stop, but he refuses.

Don is staring out his office window when Henry calls. He asks Don to pick up the boxes from the garage… on Saturday. Don, taking the hint to not show up on Sunday, agrees. When Don hangs up the phone, he stares at a bottle of whiskey for a second before buzzing Ms. Blankenship and asking her for coffee.

When then see Peggy walking in to Joan’s office to complain that the vending machine has taken her money. Joan goes to get Peggy some change out of petty cash drawer, and looks up to see Joey’s drawing taped to the window of her office:

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Joan walks into the creative area, where none of the men admit to drawing the cartoon. She’s quiet for a moment, then says:

I can’t wait until next year when all of you are in Vietnam. You will be pining for the day when someone was trying to make your life easier. And when you’re over there, and you’re in the jungle and they’re shooting at you, remember you’re not dying for me because I never liked you.

Peggy takes the drawing to Don, thinking that he’ll discipline Joey. Instead, Don tells her to just go fire him. Peggy hesitates, but Don tells her to go out and get respect for herself. She then asks Joey to apologize to Joan. He refuses. She then fires him. He then understands that Peggy’s not joking, so he offers to apologize. Peggy won’t bend, though: Joey is done.

Meanwhile, Don and Faye are going over some research. He offers to continue their work over dinner. She razzes him for not asking her out for a “proper” date, so he invites her to dinner on Saturday night.

Betty, at home in Ossining, tells Francine about seeing Don at the restaurant. Francine asks why Betty cares, and she says that Don is “living the [high] life” as a single man in the city. She then says that Don shouldn’t be able to have a family and a swinging single life. Francine tells her to be careful, as she has everything and Don has nothing to lose.

Back at the office, we see Peggy and Joan get on the elevator to leave. Once the door closes, Peggy proudly tells Joan that she fired Joey. Joan sarcastically says that she did, and Peggy ask what the problem is. Joan says that Peggy has now solved her (Joan’s) problem, and now people will think she’s important in the office. Peggy says that she was only trying to defend Joan, to which Joan says that she was defending herself. Peggy says she was only trying to help, but Joan says that if she wanted Joey gone should could have had dinner with Mr. Kreutzer from Sugarberry Farms and gotten Joey taken off the account. Peggy says both plans have the same result, but Joan says that even if Peggy becomes a “big shot”, they can still draw cartoons of her. All Peggy’s done, she says, is “prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humorless bitch”.

Saturday morning rolls around. We see Don writing in his diary yet again:

“When a man walks in to 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 the time he thought he was an angel, and dreamt of being prefect. 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. We’re ruined, because we get these things and wish for what we had.”

While Don’s narration goes on, we see Don picking up his boxes in Ossining, which Henry has stacked by the curb. Henry is out mowing the lawn, but doesn’t look at Don for even a brief second. We then see Don back in the city, tossing the boxes into a dumpster. Betty, making a cake for the party, looks up at Henry, who has finished the lawn and is now shirtless and heading upstairs. When then see Don, ready for his date with Faye, pouring himself a tiny amount of whiskey in a glass and taking a small sip of it.

The next thing we see is Don and Faye at dinner. She says the he smells nice, like chlorine. Don admits that he’s been swimming a lot lately, as it clears his head. He sort-of apologizes to Faye by saying that he’s been “out of sorts” lately, and talks about how swimming helps him.

Faye says that she’s been looking forward to their dinner, and Don mentions how hard it is to get a reservation there. Faye says she should have called him, as she “knows a guy”. Don asks who, and Faye says her dad, who is known in the restaurant supply trade. Don uses a gesture to ask if he’s in the Mafia, and she says that he isn’t, but his friends are. He owns a candy store, she says, implying that he does “other business” there too. Don asks what he’s like, and she says he’s a “handsome two-bit gangster like you”. Faye then says that she’s she feeling down, she looks at the calendar, and looks for something important coming up.

Don says that Gene’s birthday is tomorrow, but he’s not going to the party. When Faye asks why, Don says that he’s not welcome there, and that Gene thinks that Henry is his father.

Don says that, although he doesn’t always act like it, he admires her work. He then asks Faye how she gets people to do what she wants them to do. She mentions a fable by Aesop in which the Sun and the Wind try to get a man to remove his jacket. The wind blows and blows, causing the man to pull the jacket closer to him. The Sun, by contrast, starts shining, causing the man to take his jacket off. The moral of the story? Kindness wins where force fails.

In the taxi on the way home, Don kisses Faye, but he refuses to take things further. Faye seems simultaneously disappointed and impressed with the gesture, and the two go back to kissing.

Don wakes up, alone, in his apartment Sunday morning. He takes another swim, this time beating a younger man and not coughing when he’s done.

We then see the Gene’s birthday party. Don walks in, and Henry asks Betty what he’s doing there. Betty says that it’s okay. She then walks over, picks up Gene, and takes him over to Don. Surprisingly, she’s smiling. She then walks back to Henry and tells him that they have everything. But she can’t help staring at Don as he lifts Gene over his head and laughs.

OTHER STUFF

– The journal entry that begins the episode is dated June 15, 1965.

– Don is apparently a member of the New York Athletic Club. Founded in 1868, the NYAC was primarily formed to bring order and set standards for US athletics. The club organized and hosted the first “US championships in boxing, wrestling and outdoor track and field”. The club is located at 180 Central Park South, around 2.7 miles from Don’s apartment and is less than a miles from SCDP. Although the front of the building shown on Mad Men looks pretty close to the real thing, it’s not. The real club does has a green awning, although theirs doesn’t have the “winged foot” logo on it… which is the actual club logo, by the way.

– “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released on June 6, 1965, a little over a week before this episode. It was the Rolling Stones’ first #1 single in the United States. And it rocks, BTW.

– If you weren’t brought up in a religious household, or have just never been to a funeral, you might not know that Ms. Blankenship’s “I was blind and now I see” line was lifted from the hymn “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” The hymn, written by John Newton and published in 1779, is one of the most recognizable songs in the English language. There is an urban legend about the hymn that Newton, a slave trader, wrote it in the midst of a horrific storm whilst out at sea plying his trade. This isn’t wrong, but it’s not correct, either. Newton was a sailor, and was known for being incredibly profane; he was so ribald that even other sailors thought he was over the top. And he did, in fact, survive a terrible storm at sea. This was the cause of his conversion back to Protestantism, but the hymn wasn’t written until several decades later. Read more about it at Wiki here.

– The candy in the vending machine includes: Life Savers 5 Flavor and Pep-O-Mint, Wrigley’s Spearmint and Juicy Fruit gum, Adam’s Clove gum, Hershey chocolate bars, Snik Snak (M&M Mars’ version of Hershey’s Kit Kat bar, which was actually created by a British company called Rowntree’s, who were bought by Nestle in 1988), Butterfinger, Planter’s Peanut Bars, Baby Ruth, Mounds? (it’s hard to tell, even with a 720p screen cap), plain M&Ms and Clark bars, originally made by the D.L. Clark company, one of America’s largest candy companies at the turn of the century.

Margaret Mead was an American “cultural anthropologist”, known for her work with “primitive” groups of people in the South Pacific and Asia. In the 1960s, she was frequently consulted by, and often appeared in, the American mass media. Her research into the sexual mores of “primitive” peoples laid the groundwork for much of the Women’s Revolution later in the 1960s.

Loved Pete’s “when did we get a vending machine?” line… since the machine is a MacGuffin!

– You have to wonder if Joan’s line to Greg (“You said they use live ammunition…”) is foreshadowing, no?

– I’m not at all certain about this, but when we see Don eating beef stew and watching the news, it appears that the newscast is talking about the Battle of Dong Xoai, which took place a few days earlier. This battle was the largest of the war to that date, and involved both US and South Vietnamese paratroopers. Although the American and South Vietnamese forces were double the size of the Viet Cong troops (1000 vs. 500), the Communists won a great tactical victory here, killing 190 South Vietnamese soldiers and 7 Americans.

Loved Harry’s autographed photo of Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett:

mad_men_s4_e8_0xThe Beverly Hillbillies was amazingly popular in its day. It was the #1 show on television for its first two seasons before falling to #12 in 1964-1965. It was ranked #8 in 1965-1966. The show, which still got decent numbers in its final year, was a victim of the infamous Rural Purge at CBS, in which advertisers demanded the the network make its programming more “sophisticated”. As a result, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee Haw were axed.

I can’t see the autograph in enough detail to be sure, but it looks fairly authentic. I’m guessing it’s not real, but it looks like whoever did it had a genuine autograph to base it on. Also, I looked on the ‘Net for copies of Ebsen’s signature and noticed that he seemed to prefer signing his name on two lines instead of one. So instead of “Buddy Ebsen” on a single line, it should look like this:

Buddy Ebsen signature

Peyton Place was mentioned in “Waldorf Stories”, when Harry kept the men from Life cereal entertained while the rest of the agency were at the Clio awards. The “Ryan” Harry mentions is Ryan O’Neal, who played Rodney Harrington on the show.

– I just don’t even know where to begin with John Lindsay. He was born in New York City on November 24, 1921 to a fairly well-off family (though they were not nearly a rich as his opponents would later claim). He enrolled in Yale, where he graduated early in 1943. He then joined the Navy, where he became a lieutenant and won five battle stars for seeing action in the Mediterranean and Pacific. He then spent a few months as a ski bum before enrolling in Yale Law, where he again graduated early in 1948. He got involved in politics, and in 1958 was elected to Congress as a Republican for Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A staunch supporter of Dwight D. Eisenhower in the early 1950s, Lindsay would become increasingly liberal, and in 1965 he was elected mayor of New York. He was reelected in 1969 and in 1971 officially switched from the Republican to the Democratic party. New York had several pressing problems during his administration, and his deep political (not personal) unpopularity in the city caused him to launch a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. In this he failed, and it ended his political career. He went back to practicing law and also appeared on Good Morning America as a regular (but occasional) commentator. He was also active as a patron of New York’s theatres and several charities. He was eventually diagnosed with Parkinsons’s and had both a heart attack and a stroke. When news leaked to the New York political establishment that Lindsay’s medical bills had him near bankruptcy, then mayor Rudolph Giuliani appointed him to two mostly ceremonial posts, thus allowing him to get city-provided health insurance. He died in 2000. One last bit of trivia: he met his wife at the wedding of Nancy Bush, daughter of Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush and the sister of future President George H.W. Bush. He was an usher and his future wife was a bridesmaid.

– When Bethany asks Don if he’s a “Felix” or an “Oscar”, she’s referring to the two main characters in The Odd Couple, a popular play by Neil Simon that debuted on Broadway in 1965. The play is about two recently-divorced men who are compelled to be roommates: Felix Ungar, a newswriter who is a hypochondriac and an almost obsessive-compulsive neat-freak, and Oscar Madison, a sports writer who is a slob on his best day. In its original Broadway run, Art Carney played Felix and Walter Matthau played Oscar. In the popular 1968 film, Jack Lemmon played Felix and Matthau reprised his role as Oscar. In the TV show than ran on ABC from 1970 to 1975, Tony Randall played Felix and Jack Klugman played Oscar. In my mind those two are the real Odd Couple.

– When Stuben talks about how Lindsay “doesn’t want to run for the White House”, Henry says that Lindsay “hasn’t seen the cover of Life magazine”. Lindsay was featured on the cover of Life in its May 28, 1965 issue:

1965-May-28

– The Barbizon Hotel for Women was mentioned in the previous episode “Public Relations”. Check out the “Other Stuff” section of that recap for more information about it.

– As mentioned in the “Other Stuff” section of the recap for “The Rejected”, Mountain Dew was originally intended to be a mixer, not a drink on its own.

– Stan calls Joey a “haircut” as he works on drink recipes for Mountain Dew. Any ideas what this means? This page says that it’s black American slang meaning “to be abused in some way by a woman”, although a cursory Google search doesn’t find anything else to back that up.

– “Narrative? Forced perspective? Are you sure Joey did this?” – Don, when Peggy shows him Joey’s obscene drawing of Joan.

– “Poontang”, a slang term for vagina, is an Americanism that dates back to sometime between 1925 and 1930. The origin of the word is unclear. For years, the consensus was that it came from Louisiana via the French word putain, or prostitute. In recent years, scholars have dismissed the French connection, and place the origin in China, Sierra Leone, the Philippines or with American Indians (take your pick). John F. Kennedy is alleged to have said that his “poon days” were over after he was elected president; however the first recorded instance of the shortened “poon” dates to 1969.

– Check out the surprising (and muddled) origins on Don’s “nose tapping” gesture (at dinner with Faye) here. Apparently it means either “I have a secret” or “I’m no fool”, although I can’t find anything that specifically links it to the Mafia.

– The fable Faye mentions at dinner is called, appropriately enough, “The Wind and the Sun”. True to Don’s comment, Aesop’s story is only a few sentences.

– Faye lives somewhere near the intersection of 72nd and Broadway. According to a quick Google search, the two main apartment buildings now at this intersection (The Alexandria and The Corner) did not exist until 1991 and 2010, respectively. I just don’t have the energy to look into the history of that intersection at the moment.

MY THOUGHTS

Another solid episode of Mad Men.

I guess the first thing I should bring up is the dichotomy between Peggy and Joan. It was interesting to see them butt heads over Joey, and see how each handled the situation. Peggy, the modern woman, discussed the matter with Joey and fired him. Joan, the old-school woman, wanted to work behind the scenes to get rid of him. And now Joan resents Peggy for being ambitious, although Peggy was just trying to defend Joan’s honor. I guess Joan’s way hasn’t completely gone away in modern times, but it’s interesting to see the painful birth of the modern woman. I guess I never really thought about how the biggest critic of early feminists were… other women. This put that into perspective.

So now Don and Faye have gone on their first date. I don’t get all the hate for Faye out there in Internetland. I think she’s pretty, and is an intellectual equal with Don, if not his superior. “She’s boring”, some people say. But that’s only because her character hasn’t been fleshed out yet. We learned a bit about her tonight, and I liked what I saw. If Don can’t go back to Betty, then Faye is my first choice for her replacement.

Which, of course, brings me to… Betty. I’ve always found it interesting that she complained about him all the damn time. As in, way too much. It’s always been clear that she’s never been over him… but this episode was different. To me, her jealousy at the restaurant and her loving stares at him when he showed up at the party only mean that she’s still very much in love with him. Not just “emotionally scarred” or “I have to see him all the time because of the kids”, but actually in love with him. It looks like Betty isn’t getting the one thing she really wants – sex – from Henry, either. Which again raises the question I’ve been asking since this show first came on the air: why doesn’t Don want to sleep with Betty?

A couple of minor points:

Am I the only one who was squicked out by Harry’s conversation with Joey? Harry isn’t gay… we know he’s married to Jennifer and had a one night stand with Hildy. You could easily argue that Harry is in the closet, since it’s 1965 and all. But I think he really loves Jennifer. So why all the man-love for Joey?

What was the deal with the vending machine? As stated in the “Other Stuff” section, I get that it’s a MacGuffin meant only to drive the story along… but why a vending machine. Lane acts like they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread… but haven’t they been around, like, forever? The first modern coin-operated vending machine in the United States was built in 1888, and we even saw Lane standing in front of a row of such machines at the hospital in “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this.

Of course, the biggest thing about this episode is that Don appears to be turning the corner. He’s working out, cut his whoring down a lot, and has massively cut back on his drinking. We saw him drink a Budweiser with dinner one night, have a small glass of whiskey before his date, and have a couple of sips of wine at dinner. Nice. Even better, we saw Don opening a can of beef stew at home, which seems especially important as many people have said “you don’t eat” earlier this season. I’m just really glad that he seems to be handling this himself, informally. No AA or preachy stuff for Don. He still drinks, but he’s cut down significantly. And notice how Betty is longing for him just as he starts to get his act together… that’s no coincidence, right?

Oh, and I’m not a fan of Bethany, but I hope he lets her down gently… if he lets her down at all, that is.

And it made me sad to see Joan so powerless in this episode. She’s such a great person who doesn’t deserve to be pushed around by the likes of Joey and Stan. Does anyone think that she’ll somehow end up with Roger again before the show’s over?

I can’t wait until next Sunday!

4 Replies to “Mad Men: “The Summer Man””

  1. Hey Jim,

    I was looking for your insight about your episode…
    I think this episode gives a weird big hommage to Taxi Driver and to Scorsese as well.
    First: Don’s thoughts about loneliness recalls Travis’ diary for me.
    Second: Don’s sunglass is exactly like the one De Niro wore.
    Third: Ms Blankenship remark (the I was blind) is at the end of Raging Bull.
    Fourth: getting a bj in the back of a taxicab.
    Fifth: in the end, there is a lot of music, and it’s clearly recalls the score of Bernard Hermann.
    Sixth: Travis will be a veteran of the Vietnam war…

    What do you think?

  2. Nice catch, Nick. We know that Weiner loves him some Hitchcock, but I totally missed all the “Taxi Driver” references! I guess he loves Scorsese, too! 🙂

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