MAD MEN “The Summer Man” Review

Mad Men "The Summer Man"
This week’s episode of MAD MEN entitled “The Summer Man” showed a lighter, or even enlightened, version of Don Draper. We open to find Don awake early and swimming. We later find him writing in a journal. He admits to having a drinking problem. He wishes he had graduated high school. And so begins an episode of Don trying to sort himself out. He tries to abstain for drinking and does quite well from a Don Draper perspective. He tries to get back into shape. And he tries to treat others better.

It was great to see Don Draper get a bit of self awareness. I liked how he traded coffee for liquor and how he commented that sleeping alone was one of the greatest things. We saw a different Don this episode. He was kind toward Miss Blakenship after she returned from surgery. He was a bit more gentler when he scolded Peggy for being a tattletale and telling her to go get the respect she wanted from the staff. We saw a lot of Don writing in his journal, alone in his apartment. Heck, even his apartment was a little less dark this episode. Is this a pathway for a new Don Draper? Will he reform himself again, but this time for the better?

At the office, tension is brewing between Joan and Joey. She considers him a petulant child. He considers her an uptight bitch. Things come to a head when there is a ruckus over the new vending machine that is eating everyone’s money. Joan tells Joey she wants to see him in her office. Pete pops out and ponders “when did we get a vending machine?” In her office, Joan scolds Joey for his behavior. Joey fires back with a comment about how Joan just walks around the office “trying to get raped.” The blow is evident on Joan’s face. Unfortunately, the agency needs to rework the Mountain Dew campaign and needs Joey full-time to do so. Joan is not pleased and tries to subtly tell Don that Joey is not the right man for the job. Joan then decides to leave early for the day to seek solace with her husband, the man who did rape her at the office. She finds him with bags packed ready to go to basic training. She wonders who she will talk to while he is gone and he tells her to talk to her friends at work. She has none.

Peggy has tried to be Joan’s friend. I believe Peggy feels that they are the strongest two women at Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce and that they should stick together and look out for each other. Joan does not seem to care for Peggy all that much and belittles Peggy’s every attempt. After Joey and the crew draw an obnoxious picture of what they think Joan and Lane do in his office entitled “Tally-Ho!” and tape it to Joan’s window, Peggy goes straight to Don. Don tells Peggy, for once in a semi-patient tone, that she needs to handle things on her own if she wants to get any respect. He tells her to handle it however she sees fit – yell at Joey, fire him, whatever. Peggy takes Don’s advice to heart and after yelling at Joey, ends up firing him. Proud of herself, she orders Stan to drop everything and take over the Mountain Dew account. Later on the way down in the elevator, Peggy proudly tells Joan what she has done thinking Joan would be happy. Joan points out that now everyone thinks she is just a meaningless secretary that needs Peggy to fight her battles for her and that Peggy just looks like a humorless bitch. That Joan can cut straight through a person.

Don is struggling with his transformation. We see him drink, but barely. One of the best scenes takes place in his office while they are going over the Mountain Dew campaign. Everyone is drinking but Don. The scene slows down to slow motion and we are focused on Peggy drinking. The sound fades completely out and we are focused only on what Don is focused on – the drink. There is a knock on the door, Joan enters, and the moment has passed. However, it shows how extremely hard it will be for Don to let go of the one thing he is really good at, drinking.

Part of Don’s transformation includes dating. He is back on a date with Bethany and they end up at the same restaurant as Betty and Henry. After an awkward introduction, Bethany accuses Don of dating other people and not wanting to get to know her. Meanwhile Betty drinks a lot, stares at Don on his date and locks herself in the bathroom. On the way home, Betty and Henry get into an argument when Henry accuses Betty of being a child, again. Betty is angry at Don for making her feel that way. Henry is angry at Betty for not getting over Don. On a different ride home, Bethany tries to get closer to Don by making him more “comfortable.” I have a feeling Don will not be seeing Bethany again. Moving on, Dr. Faye finally agrees to go to dinner with Don which goes remarkably well. On yet another ride home, Don and Dr. Faye get to know each other better and she offers to go home with him. Don declines and says he isn’t ready for that now. Is this a new Don? A Don that he is trying to be? He must really like Dr. Faye because he certainly didn’t turn down Bethany’s advances although he also did not go home with her.

I like this new Don. He is getting healthier (by the end of the episode he is swimming faster than the kid that asked him if he was okay when he was out of breath in his first swim), he is gentler toward the staff (while still maintaining a stern authority), he is a gentlemen on dates (at least with Dr. Faye), and he is taking time for himself, sleeping alone and journaling. He even shows up at his baby’s second birthday even though he wasn’t invited. Betty, to her credit, finally acts like an adult and tells Henry it is okay for him to be there. Even Henry is proud in this moment. Maybe the tide is turning for the characters on Mad Men. Maybe they are starting to find their places, their roles.

I will leave off with some comments about Miss Blakenship. I loved how she came in with four bottles of liquor for Don who declared he was “all set.” “For now” excalimed Miss Blakenship. She knows him well. I also loved how she jokingly called him “Roger” after she returned from eye surgery. It was particularly funny in light of last week’s confession by Roger of his affairs with Ida. From what I hear, if you are a fan of Miss Blakenship, the September 19th episode will make you happy. I know I will be happy.

What did you think of this week’s episode of Mad Men? Do you like the changing Don Draper? Do you think he can pull it off? Do you think a relationship will develop between he and Dr. Faye? Share your thoughts, comments and favorite lines from tonight’s episode in the comments below.

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