It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Recap: MAD MEN Episode 403

California knows how to party.

Another week, another episode of “Mad Men” to sink our teeth into. (Was that metaphor to vampire-y?) (Or am I hungry?) (Yes to both. Always.)

Don is headed to Acapulco for New Year’s, but he has a one-day stopover in Los Angeles– to visit Anna Draper. Back in New York, Joan and Lane Pryce and Lane Pryce and Joan and Dr. Greg. And also prostitutes.

Let’s do that thing where we talk about characters old and new. I liked doing that, last week. And now it’s tradition!

-THE GYNECOLOGIST! We haven’t seen this guy since the pilot! (It’s the same actor— I do the imdb footwork so you don’t have to.)

Remember how he was such a dick to Peggy and wouldn’t prescribe birth control, and then she GOT PREGNANT but pulled that didn’t-know-I-was-pregnant denial thing and had the baby in the Season 1 finale? Yeah, you probably remember that.

But for some reason this gyno is BFF with Joan. Like, BFFFF. And he gave her an abortion! (Is that the correct way to say that? He performed her abortion… on her?) And she had another abortion before that one, from a “midwife.” I’m wondering if Roger Sterling was the father. TIMES TWO.

(So I guess as BFF as this gyno is with Joan, apparently he wasn’t giving her the pill until she was married… or she was really bad at using it.) (Doubtful.)

Obviously Betty went to the WRONG place when she wanted her abortion. Because times have changed since… whatever, a year ago. But Joan’s abortions seem to predate Betty’s attempted abortion.

Whatever, Betty loves baby Gene now. She loooooves him. (Cue creepy music.)

And also: Dear Joan, Please don’t have babies with your creepy husband. Love, Everybody. (Of course, the doctor makes some remark about Joan being too old to wait.) (How old is she? 34? Back then 34 was old, I guess. They didn’t have all the fertility options we have now.)

And also also: the gyno thinks Greg is a crazy for joining the Army in wartime, with a wife and potentially-soon-a-kid. He’s like, what’s up with THAT? And later Joan asks Greg the same question, and they fight. Duh.

-ANNA DRAPER! AKA The REAL (dead) Don Draper’s ex-wife. (Only ex because the FAKE Don needed to divorce her so that he could legally marry Betty.) (That went well.)

Anna has a broken leg and a stain on her wall/ceiling from a leak, so of course she’s dying of cancer (it’s in her bones– eeeek). You have to put two-and-two together here. Decay=dying. It’s really sad because Don is losing the most important woman in his life. He almost never sees Anna in person, but she’s kind of his mother, sister, and wife all rolled into one. And (SHOCK?), I don’t think he’s ever had sex with her.

And he was going to introduce her to his kids in the spring. Wah wah wah wah wahhh. (For EASTER, which is a death/rebirth holiday.) (Yeah, I know enough New Testament stuff to be dangerous.)

But I’ll talk more about Anna later. Let’s not get bogged down in the cancer all at once. (Don doesn’t get bogged down by it until he finds out. I kinda brought it up early.) I want to talk about new people. Namely, Anna’s (judgy, conservative) sister and her (grass-toting) niece. Mostly about the niece.

-Stephanie. When we meet her she’s wearing a bikini top. (That’s a good indicator that Don will want to sleep with her.) She’s approximately 21 years old, and is a student at Berkeley. She’s a little bit political, but she isn’t going to the anti-Vietnam sit-ins. As she puts it: Somebody has to go to class!

I was taking notes on my phone as I watched the episode, and the first two lines I wrote about the California scenes were, “Don/Dick knows these randoms?” and “Please don’t fuck the Berkeley girl.”

I was weirded out because Stephanie and her mother KNEW Don, and they knew him as Dick. (Everybody in California calls Don by his real name.) It’s the “Mad Men” way of not filling in the whole picture for us.

Anna got rid of her sister and went to dinner with just Don and Stephanie. I was thinking, nooo Don, do NOT sleep with that girl. Noooo. (I know your name is Dick in California, but that’s no excuse.)

So Don’s driving Stephanie home, and Stephanie asks Don if he’s married or divorced. (I think Stephanie would know about the Betty situation, but whatever.) Don asks why he can’t just be single, and Stephanie’s like… yeah, no. She proves to be wise beyond her years.

This goes back to last week’s observation, about how Don seems to flounder without a woman around. Stephanie picks up on Don’s inability to successfully exist as a single guy.

Re: dating, Stephanie says, “Nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves. Everyone else can see it right away.”

I think we THINK we know what’s wrong with ourselves, but whatever we stress over is rarely what other people would pick as the worst trait. See: women who think they are really fat, but are in fact incredibly neurotic and/or vain.

Don tries to put the moves on Stephanie, but she pulls a Sassy Gay Friend line on him. (“What are you doing? What, what, WHAT are you doing??”) (That’s how Sassy Gay Friend says it, not Stephanie.) Thank GOD she stops him. Whew. But Don shouldn’t be trying, to begin with. (I REALLY like watching women turn him down.)

Then Stephanie kills the mood for SURE (MEGA SURE) by telling Don a big secret that has been weighing on her: Anna has cancer. But that’s not all: Anna doesn’t KNOW she has cancer. Stephanie didn’t want Don to leave town without knowing about it. Because Stephanie is my favorite.

Anna and Stephanie hold a meeting of the haven't-slept-with-Don/Dick club. Very small club. Also: the "not telling you about your cancer" club.

This is how I put it in the notes: “Anna has cancer. Oh snap! And she doesn’t know? Double snap!”

There are some major ethical issues at play, here.

I guess we should finish the Anna discussion first, so that we can end on a happier note. Which note is happier: New Year’s with a prostitute because your wife left you, or a medical emergency/spousal’s refusal to drive you to the hospital? This show is HILARIOUS.

Don drops Stephanie off SANS SEX (WHEW), and returns to Anna’s house. She’s sleeping on the couch, and Don carries her into her bedroom.

We probably never know, but do you get the feeling that MAYBE Anna knows about her cancer? When Don found out that she was sick, he indicated that it was very Anna, not to burden him with her problems. So maybe she knows that she’s sick, but doesn’t want her family to KNOW that she knows? I mean, she doesn’t want to paint over the water stain on her wall. That seems very… fuck it, I’m dying anyway.

When Don carried Anna to bed, the visual reminded me of  a page from a picture book that my mom used to read to me when I was a kid. The book was very much like that song “The Circle Game,” but actually MORE depressing. In short: An adorable little baby is born, and his mom takes care of him. Then one day the baby is a man, and he has to take care of his mom. And then she DIES.

The image I’m recalling is the old mom all curled up in her son’s lap while he spoon-feeds her. I want to describe it more, but I am crying at my desk. And if you’ve read this book, you’re probably crying too. SO depressing. Too depressing for children.

Looks adorable, but beware.

Seriously, if you read this book as a kid, I defy you to read this and NOT cry: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

According to Wikipedia, the story ends with the dad having a baby of his own. So it’s like… renewal. (EASTER?) But I don’t remember that part. I just remember the depressing death part. Thanks a lot, Robert Munsch. (Your name is hilarious. That helps a little bit.)

Anyway, Don tries to fight death (or just be nice?) by painting over the water stain on the wall. He’s wearing a T-shirt and boxers, and they’re white-on-white, which is the color of death in many cultures. And the color of hospitals in America. So… make of THAT what you will. I would argue that the painting is symbolic, is all I’m saying. (It’s “Mad Men.” Everything is symbolic.)

Anna sits on the couch watching Don. I can’t remember the exact context or if it comes out of nowhere, but she says to him, “I know everything about you, and I still love you.” At dinner the night before, Don told Anna about Betty’s reaction to his truth. He said that he realized that the lie wasn’t THAT bad, but he always knew that Betty would react badly to it.

What Anna says to Don is so beautiful because I think universally we hope that a deep, true love will be the state of being accepted unconditionally. I don’t think anybody can ever fully be known by himself or others, but imagine being fully known and fully loved, despite your flaws. (And we all know that Don has MANY.) This is a pretty romantic line, but it’s a totally platonic love.

I don’t know, sometimes it’s hard to be super-articulate about things that resonate, but that line was awesome.

Then Anna asks Don if he’s only going to paint over the stained part of the wall. “A patch of new paint’s just as bad as the stain.” Ooh, another packed line. I could see it being about Don’s superficialities– calling yourself Don won’t cover up Dick. But I could also see it being Anna’s way of saying that she KNOWS about the cancer. Like, you can cover it up but I can SEE the cover-up.

The judgy sister arrives and freaks out about how Don could be arrested? For painting in his boxers indoors? For wanting to sleep with Stephanie? Or– I guess there’s pot. I didn’t see it. And I didn’t smell it, because I don’t have smell-o-vision. Missing out! (Also–the sister seemed really scandalized to hear that Don was staying at Anna’s house.) (I mean, she’s not totally off-base about Don’s proclivities… but Anna’s an adult.) (An adult who has seen UFOs…? )

Don goes outside to confront the sister. He wants to take Anna to experts! But the sister already showed Anna’s x-rays to experts. And Anna contracted polio when she was eight years old. (I can’t remember if that was an issue last time he saw her, or if it was strictly a childhood thing…) I don’t exactly remember what that has to do with this… she’s had enough of medicine blah blah blah?

Don goes inside, and you think he’s going to tell Anna about the cancer, but… he doesn’t. Post-cancer revelation he had decided to stay with Anna for longer (this was just a one-day stopover on his way to Acapulco), but now he tells her that he’d better be on his way. Anna says something else that’s wise and maybe-she-knows-she’s-dying-esque… something along the lines of, I want you to do everything that makes you happy. Don promises to bring the kids in the spring… when Anna is dead. (He doesn’t say that.)

And then Don gets on a plane… back to New York. He’s not in the mood to stay and lie to Anna, nor is he in the mood to go to paradise. But he IS in the mood for hookers! More on that in a moment.

Back to Joan. She wants to get a few days off right after the holiday vacation, because Dr. Greg’s vacation schedule isn’t flexible. Joan tries to use her feminine wiles and fried chicken (breasts and thighs) to soften Lane Pryce into granting her those vacation days. But Lane is not amused. He’s like, you can use your wiles and chicken on me, Joan! (He actually says that, more or less.) He’s stressed about money. And… something else.

Alert the media! Someone is immune to Joan!

Hey, Peggy’s here! She looks great. Peggy brings Joan a big gold box (isn’t that beneath Peggy’s duties?). It’s a dozen red roses. Aww. (Too much.) Peggy and says something about how great it is to see an example of loving marriage. Joan’s like, if only you knew.

Also: Moment of catty-ness. Joan assumes that Peggy’s spending New Year’s with the girls, and acts kind of pity-nice to her. But Peggy corrects her– she’s actually spending it with boyfriend-Mark! (But we don’t see it… awww.) Joan huffs away, because she’s losing her groove… and because the flowers are NOT from Dr. Greg. (But they should be, because he and Joan had a fight… because she doesn’t want him to go to ‘Nam. Duh.)

Don’s secretary IS spending New Year’s with her girls. They’re going to Times Square, and Don’s reaction is kind of hilarious. Paraphrase: “So YOU’RE the people who do that.”

Anyway, Joan goes into Lane’s office to yell at him for sending her this Big Fucking Bouquet. Turns out Lane sent flowers to his wife AND to Joan? But his stupid secretary mixed up the orders. So Joan stops being mad at Lane and they band together and yell at/fire his secretary. Bonding moment! All is forgiven. (But she still doesn’t get the vacation days.)

Joan goes home to Dr. Greg and creates a luau New Year’s spread, because it’s still January 1st (or December 31st or Christmas or whatever) in Hawaii (so… it’s the weeee hours in NYC). Dr. Greg’s exhausted, and already ate. Ugh.

Seriously, what are we doing together?

Joan goes to cut… something? And ends up slicing her finger? It happened so abruptly, I almost thought she did it on purpose. But I guess it’s one of those TV things– we only see the dinners where crazy things happen. If Joan’s not slicing her finger or being forced to play the accordion, why show it?

Of course Joan wants to go to the hospital. But Dr. Greg has his bag of medical tricks, and is like, Stitches? I got this, babe. “Isn’t there some medical ethical law against operating on your wife?” Joan asks, and there really should be. Dr. Greg actually doesn’t have the worst bedside manner. He distracts her and jabs a shot into her arm (kiiinda creepy, but I guess it’s a doctor thing), and tells a joke while he fixes her up. (I can’t tell if he works with kids or what, because he’s acting like you would with a child, but I think the joke is dirty… I wasn’t fully following it.)

Guess what? Dr. Greg is maybe a shitty surgeon, but he’s pretty good at stitches, and bedside-mannering. Joan has been living under the assumption that he’s the worst of the worst (she REALLY wants to go to the ER), but he’s… y’know… a doctor. For real. I mean, I think we can all understand why Joan has no faith in him. But seeing her realize that he’s actually kind of okay… it’s interesting. And sad. It’s a side of him that he doesn’t really show at home. You know… the good side.

“I can’t fix anything else,” Dr. Greg says. “But I can fix this.” It’s kind of our first insight into the fact that they both know that things are shitty. Er… it’s Dr. Greg acknowledging that he’s not the best? And Joan cries.

So Don skips Acapulco and returns to NYC. But does he go home? No. He goes to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. And guess who’s there, when he ought to be with his family in London? That’s right: Lane Pryce.

What follows is an awesome buddy montage. Don and Lane drink. Don and Lane try to figure out which movie to go see. (I love the reading aloud of the movie listings. So lifey.) (I think one of the movies they consider is It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, hence the title of this blog.)

In maybe the funniest scene ever on “Mad Men,” Don and Lane sit in the movie theater, drunk. (I think it’s Godzilla.) (Er, it’s Godzilla, but the film is called Gojira.) (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

“You know what’s going on here, don’t you?” Don asks Lane, as if he knows about a legit conspiracy. “…Hand jobs.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You have to see it. Just trust me.

(And conspiracies don’t happen on AMC until the next hour. “Rubicon” shout-out!) (I haven’t watched it… yet.)

But they aren’t even in a porn theater. Just a normal theater. A middle-aged woman in a had turns around and shushes them, and Lane goes Japanese on her. (My biggest clue that it was Godzilla… other than seeing Godzilla on the screen.)

Don and Lane go to dinner. Lane tells Don that he reminds him of a popular guy at his school. Everybody used to follow that guy around, but he never noticed them. Eventually, that guy died in a motorcycle crash.

These little stories aren’t just random. I think this is our hint that Don is going to crash and burn, before the series is over. And maybe, die. (I kind of thought he might die last season, because… this show likes to do the unexpected.)

Lane reveals that his wife left him, and also pretends that his steak is a Texan belt buckle. But I guess he’s allowed. It’s an emotional night. And he’s super drunk. And when Don offers some prostitute-y action, he’s like… okay.

Don and Lane go to see a stand-up comedian, and get called out as a gay couple. “We’re not homosexuals,” Lane yells. “We’re divorced!” In the comedian’s defense, they make a great couple.

Bring on the prostitutes!

Don’s prostitute shows up (with a friend for Lane, too). The girls are both wearing green dresses. Is that a prostitute thing? Or a… sickness and decay-theme thing? (In that case, should the dresses be yellow?)

Feels as though Don is corrupting Lane, but… whatever. I feel sorry for Lane. I even feel sorry that he got a dim-witted prostitute. He probably had sad sex. Like, I don’t think he’s NOT missing his wife.

The next morning Lane exits his sex-room and wants to pay him back for the prostitute. Don asks for $25, and I think he’s just being nice? Because if that prostitute made $25 for the night… that BLOWS. (Ha.) I mean, she got all dressed up, she went to that stupid comedy show, she may or may not have spent the night. I mean, I don’t know what $25 was worth back then, but Sally’s Christmas necklace from Macy’s (last week) was $30.

I’m looking out for the prostitutes. Although on the plus side… at least Lane and Don are nice, attractive guys. Maybe they get the attractive-guy discount. (I don’t know how it works.)

I kind of wonder if Don is going to marry the prostitute. She knows everything about him… and is still willing to have sex with him. Kind of the opposite of the Betty sitch, eh? (And Don’s mother was a prostitute, so…)

Lane tells Don that despite all his kvetching about the finances (he doesn’t actually say kvetching), it’s been a great year for the business. (I don’t remember exactly WHEN he says this, but it happens.) So… yeah. Yay. It has definitely been a momentous year. I mean, last Christmas they were at Sterling Cooper. And here they are, with their names on the header.

It’s also interesting to see two men unmoored by the loss of their ladies. Who’s next? Looks like Pete, from the previews. This season is (apparently) about what happens when you’re stripped of everything and forced to start over. (Maybe I’ll actually locate an interview with Matt Weiner and link it… he said that in several interviews, so we can assume that he’s not kidding.)

Um… this was a little disjointed, because I wrote it over 2 days. Probably forgot some thematic stuff and just wrote too much about the plot. I’m going to meditate on this for a moment…

Oh yeah, so the episode ends on a wide shot of everybody sitting at a meeting together on the first day back at work, and everyone’s back to business. And everybody seems miserable. They’re all like, Happy 1965. Yay. Not.

They don’t really know each other at all. It’s funny. I mean, some of them have their secret this-and-that’s. (Like… Don helped Peggy with her baby, she bailed him out of jail once), but it’s… work. They’re colleagues. Are people more open now? I guess it depends on the job.

Oh also, I totally thought that Don’s CA-driving stuff was process/green-screen, but apparently not entirely because he’s a still of it…

Cruisin'.

And now I must be off, because I’ve got food from the Dim Sum Truck under my nose. Don’t worry– there WILL be a post about it. Duh.

But yeah, good episode. Lots to chew on. As always, looking forward to next Sunday night… but also sad that the seasons are so short. We’re 1/4 of the way through!

xoxo…

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One thought on “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Recap: MAD MEN Episode 403

  1. I love how you’re reading into EVERYTHING…because let’s face it, you have to.

    Also, pure speculation, but I think Bert Cooper’s gonna get whacked/get axed this season. I have a feeling about it. Mostly because he’s old.

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