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‘Mad’cap Recap 4:8

This week, Kate’s Mad Men recap is interactive!  May we suggest for the analytical among you: print this article and use it to spur conversation before your next Mad Men viewing.  Invite over some intellectual friends, entertainment industry wannabes, or English majors and make a little study party of it.  For ideas on hosting a Mad Men cocktail hour, check this puppy out!

It seems like Don got an uncomfortably close look at rock bottom last week. His inner confession to himself that he might have a drinking problem was a small step in the right direction, but he’s still pretty miserable, and he’s still drinking. I noticed that this episode featured a lot of Don swimming. In TV and film language, being underwater usually represents either a death wish or a rebirth. Which do you think Don is experiencing these days?

I am almost never a fan of voiceover narration because I think it is often a lazy way to communicate a character’s feelings. However, I dug it this week because it’s not a typical Mad Men device, and because I like any glimpse we get of the real guy behind the mask, even when it reminds me how fundamentally sad he is. Not surprisingly, Betty was almost unable to recognize that Don’s “sad bastard” routine is not an act to garner sympathy. She knows that his name used to be Dick Whitman, but she still has very little idea who he is. What did you think of her inscrutable expression at the birthday party, watching Don play with baby Gene? Was she feeling superior to him, or was she starting to feel pulled toward him again?

Another atypical device that I loved was the use of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” over Don, in his crisp white shirt, lighting a cigarette and swaggering into his office. I bet the music department on Mad Men has been waiting a long time to unleash that very appropriate set of lyrics.  Did it work for you?

This was one of the few episodes where I preferred the personal drama over the SCDP shenanigans. Basically, when people pick on Joan, I want to hurt them. Severely. I think Peggy would understand that. Yes, she was flexing her own muscles a little bit by firing Joey (it wouldn’t be a true Peggy moment without a healthy dose of self-interest), but she also wanted to stand in solidarity with Joan when the guys were undermining and tormenting her. Problem is, Joan is so fragile that this act of kindness only crushed whatever self-respect she had recovered by telling the men off. I was personally caught off-guard when Joan told Peggy that all men have to do to regain the upper hand in any conflict is to turn a woman’s sexuality against her. I guess I always think of Joan as being Season 1 Joan, a woman in total control of herself and her environment, but I quickly realized that Season 4 Joan is anything but. Like Don, she seems to have everything and believes that she has nothing. Did you catch the way she flared up when Joey made that rape comment? Did you notice that her slimeball husband still absolutely refuses to take no for an answer when she doesn’t want sex?

One of the saddest moments of the episode for me was when Greg encouraged Joan to pretend that they had snuck away from work to a hotel room in the afternoon, which only reminded me of how totally awesome Joan and Roger were together. In spite of their claims to only have been using each other for sex, Roger respects Joan as a woman and as a person in a way that Greg never will. I still hold out hope that they will be able to walk away hand-in-hand when the story of Mad Men comes to a close.  Where would you like to see Joan’s story arc go?

Speaking of things that won’t happen on Mad Men no matter how much I want them, now that Joey’s gone, they’ve got an opening in the art department, don’t they? *cough*bringbackSal*cough*

Back to Joan for one last thought. Her assertion that men will always be able to take power over women by force surprised me because that kind of cruelty and sexism is not something I have ever encountered in my personal or professional life. Discrimination against working women obviously isn’t “solved” today just because it’s not the 1960s anymore, but watching this episode did make me grateful for all the fine co-workers of both genders I’ve had in the past and have now. Take some time this week as you ruminate on Mad Men and its messages to thank the people in your life who treat you with respect!

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