Sunday, October 17, 2010

"I Got You, Babe"

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Thirteen, "Tomorrowland"

WELLLLL, wasn't that a surprise? (Except the part about Joan still being pregnant; I figured that was the case. And while I'm sidetracked here, I know that there's no old-fashioned Victorian novel-type justice in war--or in postmodern drama and television--but Dr. Greg is going to get blown up in Vietnam, right? The only thing "important" to him is whether her boobs are getting bigger--what an idiot. Well, guess what? It's not even your baby, jackass!) Okay, back to Don. What was that man thinking? I don't know, but rather than sign off after just one paragraph, I'll give it my best shot:

I thought that the conversation with the American Cancer Society people was quite interesting. Don's observation that there's no point in trying to persuade smokers to quit, but a campaign targeting a new teen audience is where they should put their efforts was insightful. Of these younger people, he said they're "mourning for their childhood more than looking to their future." Is he doing something similar in asking Megan to marry him? He's clearly missing Anna; he wants someone with whom he can be himself again ("I feel like myself when I'm with you")--but not TOO much of himself. Faye's reminder at the beginning of the episode that his stomach pains might have as much to do with repression of his past life as with his work troubles, just served to highlight that she knows more about him than perhaps he's comfortable with. He wants the feeling of comfort that being himself with someone brings, but doesn't want the full disclosure to the world that Faye urges upon him. I was impressed that he answered Sally's question--"Who's Dick?--honestly, even if he did add "That's my nickname sometimes." As we've seen a lot this season, he wants to be Dick "sometimes." He might have felt that Faye would push to be Dick all of the time. So, he tells Megan that she doesn't really know him and that "I've done things..." She naively asserts that she does know him now. This veiled insinuation of a past is all she's going to get from him. And, unlike the probing psychologist, Megan will accept his assessment of himself without question--and get what she wants (maybe?) So, missing Anna, he gives Megan Anna's engagement ring that she got "from Don."

Does he really believe his assertions that he's fallen in love with her? She says it happened so fast. Well, yeah! Too fast for me to buy it. But he has been Mr. Impetuous lately--most recently with the letter to the Times. And, he's recently come out of a pretty bad depression and bout of excessive drinking. That's really not the time to make such a major decision, but maybe he just feels too good and that's novel right now. And, he's in California--the land of sunshine, hope, and fresh starts. Stephanie tells him, "I've got the rest of my life ahead of me. So do you." And, she is good with his kids. The look of surprise that Don, Sally, and Bobby all displayed when Megan took the spilled milkshake in stride was so telling. She's not Betty in this regard. But, she is glamorous--save the teeth--and she speaks French. But, she's also told Don that she'd like to have a job like his or Peggy's someday. Will he promote her career and make her a copywriter as Joan thinks? Or will she be the next pretty Mrs. Draper? I still don't like her much, but I hope it's the former. Or, as my sister pointed out, it's just an engagement; maybe they won't actually get married. But, Faye--hurt Faye--did tell him early in their acquaintanceship that she knew his type and he'd be married again in a year. Perhaps she does know him too well.

And then, in contrast to Don's rapid life changes, there's Betty, lamenting that things are different, that there's too much change. Those were a couple of poignant moments when she and Don stood in the empty kitchen, sharing a drink out of an old plastic cup. She confides in him, in a way, that her new marriage isn't all she'd hoped for with her childish perspective on things: "Things aren't perfect." He tries to comfort her, "It's okay, Betty." She's just glad to know that the debutante Bethany isn't the one who snagged her ex and tries to be gracious, offering him congratulations. But, it's Henry who asserts to Betty that "there is no fresh start." Will this end up being a commentary on Don's life as well as on Betty's?

I lack time to explore Betty's firing of Carla in depth, but what all was going on there? Does Betty somehow see, through Carla's response to Glen coming by, that she's over-reacting to all of this and not being the best mother? Carla has always done more parenting of those kids than Betty. Is Betty feeling that when she asks, "Since when did you decide you're her mother?" I was glad to see Carla assert herself with Betty: "It was a mistake. There's no need for that kind of talk" and "You best stop talking now." Good for you! But for Betty to then refuse the woman a letter of recommendation! Again, Henry has to point out her unreasonableness to her. The honeymoon there seems to be over pretty quickly.

I love that Peggy and Joan finally found a way to be allies over Don's announcement of his engagement. The scene in Joan's office was great as was Joan's carry-over of the time with Peggy into her conversation with Greg: "And he's smiling like a fool, like he's the first man who ever married his secretary." Ouch! As she's carrying Roger's baby after he dumped his first wife to marry his super-young secretary. These working women are finally starting to see what "bullshit" it all is, as Peggy asserts to Joan.

And season four ends with a sappy, rather goofy pop song that might capture the sentiment of Don's situation with Megan ("I've got you, babe"), but only made me think about the singers: an older man who married a younger woman whose career he started promoting. Are Don and Megan Sonny and Cher? What a depressing thought. And, we've got to wait nine months to find out what happens next! Thirteen episode seasons are way too short.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"A Certain Kind of Girl"

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Twelve, "Blowing Smoke"

A much better episode than last week's. After his almost season-long descent into depression, alcohol abuse, and worse than usual behavior, Don is bouncing back into the take-charge, creative risk-taker who reinvented himself, slid his way into the ad business, and started Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. Tonight's title alludes to the very first episode of the show, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," which was about the old firm's relationship to the tobacco industry. But, in that episode, Don and his cohorts were blowing smoke at the public to obscure cigarettes' harmful properties. They wanted to show tobacco to be a stronger product than it is. This time, Don uses the unhealthy properties of cigarettes to blow smoke in the public's eyes again--but this time to create the impression that his firm is stronger than it is. When their consultant suggests they go after the account for the new cigarette for women, he tells the partners, "You're a certain kind of girl and tobacco is your...boyfriend." With Don's letter published in the New York Times, he asserts himself in a typically masculine way to grab back the advantage and break up with his girlfriend, the newly feminized tobacco. Before writing the letter, he rips out all the earlier pages of his journal--those pages that he'd said made him feel like a little girl writing in her diary--symbolically ridding himself of the negative events about which he had written. He aims to be back on a stronger path again. Tonight's show also hearkens back to the first of this season in which he kicks out the bathing suit clients, telling them that they need to decide what kind of company they want to be: "comfortable and dead or risky and possibly rich." Like in that segment, Don shows himself with the New York Times ad to opt for 'risky and possibly rich.' We'll see if it pays off for him or if his partners are right.

The show also offers Betty as a smoke blower--literally blowing cigarette smoke in Dr. Edna's office, while she tries to persuade the psychiatrist that Sally still needs her, but she--Betty--is not in need of a shrink. "Why can't I talk to you?" Betty asks, when Dr. Edna tries to refer her to a colleague. The response that "I'm a child psychiatrist" is sadly--and humorously--ironic.

But, Betty's not the only one of Don's exes blowing smoke. I felt so bad seeing Midge as a heroin addict. She was so strong in Season One as Don's bohemian lover. I always liked her a lot. How could she allow herself to get to this place--the dark pit of an apartment, the fellow addict, pimp of a 'husband?' Yet even in her weakened state, she inspires Don. Her painting of the 'after-image,' that asks, according to Mr. Playwright, "What do we see after closing our eyes? What's more real?" is what Don spends time reflecting on before deciding to write the Times letter. He's seemed to ask himself, 'what does the corporate world see of us after they've closed their eyes to SCDP?' The Times ad is an attempt to shift that perception--what a good ad man/woman always does. Though it also feels like there needs to be more to bringing Midge back than just what we got this evening.

Finally, Sally is showing herself to follow well in her parents' footsteps. She's learned to craft a deceptive image of herself to present to her mother, telling Dr. Edna, "She [Betty] doesn't care what the truth is as long as I do what she says. . . . She just doesn't know that I'm mad." At least the psychiatrist reminds Sally of the importance of her anger: "Just as long as you know it." Sally's shown herself to be cynical about popular ideas like heaven, telling a rather surprised Glenn that she doesn't believe in it. She equates it with 'forever,' a concept that she--like her father--finds upsetting. It's interesting that she's chosen the advertising image for Land of Lakes butter as her emblem for what 'forever' means--something never-endingly self-referential. What a bright kid! She's sadly so upset at the end at the prospect of losing her friend, but Betty's instincts about Glenn are not wrong. She just doesn't let Sally know her complicity in a bit of Glenn's 'badness.'

A few closing observations:

--I'm back to disliking Faye again. Her dismissal of Peggy's frank admiration and offer to be friends was rude. She's right, of course, that Peggy doesn't understand ways that Faye, too, has had to play games. But, tonight she seemed to be back closer to the nasty manipulator of the Ponds focus group session earlier in the season. And, "have your girl make reservations?" I don't like Megan, either, after last week, but please. Successful women so condescending to other working women are too much.

--I wonder what happened in London that Lane now has his family with him again. Did he and his wife have a genuine reconciliation? Did his father somehow coerce the situation? What about the young woman whom he had claimed to fall in love with?

--Bert Cooper is finally making his non-participation in the work of the firm official. After the staff have been speculating about who will get fired and Bert comes in to make his farewell, Stan saying "I didn't think they'd start with him" was quite funny.

--The secretaries crying so loudly after getting fired was done in such a caricatured way. It gets Don's notice as the ending song urges, "Trust in me," perhaps highlighting how he feels the weight of everyone who's losing a job, but still comes off as a sexist depiction of them, especially after Danny has just maturely shaken Don's hand, thanking him for the opportunity to have worked there.

--Don paying Pete's share of the fee to the bank was decent, considering what Pete had done when they gave up the defense contract. I liked the subtle bows of the head they gave to each other after Pete found out.

Just one more week--will the final episode of the season take us into a further descent in the lives of characters or will Don's gamble lead them in a different direction?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Insider Information

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Eleven, "Chinese Wall"

I had never heard the phrase "Chinese Wall" until I went to AMC's website for the title of this week's episode right before it started. I didn't have time to hunt for a definition then, so was just puzzled trying to figure out what it meant in the context of the show. So, I learned something new tonight: accordng to Internet sources, a "Chinese Wall" is a symbolic barrier erected between different parts of a business to avoid conflicts of interest and to protect insider information. After reading that, the episode--which struck me as a bit dull and uninspired, if it did perform the necessary work of dealing with the fallout of Lucky Strike's defection--did seem to be more coherent. In the first instance, there's a Chinese Wall where there shouldn't be one (Roger keeping the "inside info" of Garner's bombshell from his partners); beyond that, there are too many cases of "insider info" bleeding across borders that should have a wall around them.

Roger, sad to say, is not only appearing momentarily pathetic here and there, but we--and he and his colleagues--are starting to realize just how ineffectual and superfluous he's been for years. In last week's lunch scene between Roger and Lee, Jr., we learn that Roger inherited the Lucky Strikes account from his father. He did nothing creative to win it. Tonight Don berates Roger for neglecting the account for ages. "He wouldn't have done that!" Don asserts, pointing at Pete. Everything Roger does in this episode is basically an act--from the charade of a conversation with Lee while his finger is pressed down on the phone so the line is dead to his retreat to a hotel outside Midtown while he's supposed to be in North Carolina to the Hollywood/Broadway exaggerated placement of his hat on his head while leaving Joan's apartment. When we last see him, he's sitting on the couch with the young trophy wife he cares little for, holding his memoirs--a very thin volume--looking miserable as he, I presume, is reflecting on how thin his life truly is. This Lucky Strikes episode is the one time the firm didn't need a Chinese Wall. They shoud have had the time to make a plan so when the news did leak, there might not have been as many phone calls from clients jumping ship. Don thinks he can shore it all up with his words to all the employees: "Nothing should change. Nothing will change." But, can they pull that off?

Don might be jeopardizing the possibilities with his participation in leaks of "insider info" and his growing inability to keep his personal and professional lives separate. He tells Megan, "I can't make any mistakes," and then proceeds to do so. He's already crossed that boundary of having sex with one secretary on his couch at home. Why not here? This after Faye has refused to grant him a leak of insider info from other clients of hers who might be dissatisfied with their ad agencies. She's insisting on boundaries between their work lives and their love life, asserting that the "standard of ethics in this business is low enough." (Ain't that the truth?) When Don says he'd do it for her, she hotly responds, "I'd never ask!" Good for you, I thought. She's going to maintain her focus on being a professional woman first. But, she relents and gives him Heinz as a potential client, putting Don first. Don thanks her, but this is after he's already had the liason with Megan. While Megan assured Don she wouldn't go crying about this the next day--"I just want you now"--there will be complications arising from this. She told Don she wanted to work with him so she could one day have a job like his or Peggy's. She calls herself an "artist" and makes a snarky comment about knowing so much more about him than he knows about her. She wants him to have this "insider info" about herself even though she says she understands that he judges people on their work. "Everything else is sentimental." But, he's certainly laid the groundwork for some big emotional explosion somewhere down the line.

The scene of David Montgomery's funeral was intriguing and seemed important, but I'm not sure in what way. The SCDP men go to the funeral hoping to pounce on some of Montgomery's clients who are morose about having lost their ad man. What they hear are a couple of speakers addressing the dead man's wife and daughter about things he did while working that showed his love for them--more boundaries crossed. Don has a thoughtful look on his face while listening. I wonder why. What's he thinking?

A couple of other observations:

--Is there a stronger symbol of how the mid-1960s gender roles were still being strictly enforced than a man at work getting the news that his wife had just given birth to their daughter, accepting quick congratulations from his colleagues, and then looking at his watch to observe that they'd better get going to their next appointment? Dealing with babies is only for women. Working is for men. Pete tries to put a toe over that line by putting in an appearance at the hospital during Trudy's labor, but his father-in-law tells him to go back to work: "I was at a ballgame when Trudy was born."

--What about Peggy and Abe? That whole scene at the beginning as they're returning from the beach and end up in her bed seemed to come completely out of the blue. Why her sudden infatuation with him?

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Do You Want to Know a Secret?"

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Ten, "Hands and Knees"

Quite the episode, wasn't it? I love how the Beatles framed the show. Mad Men has frequently contextualized itself in the politics of the era and sometimes in the emerging drug culture, but it hasn't really done much with the music of the sixties until a couple of weeks ago when Don's journal soundtrack was a Stones song--and now this. How cool a dad is Don that he's taking Sally to a Beatles concert? She's just young enough not to be embarrassed at the idea of being seen in public, at a rock concert, with her father. Okay, he'll have ear plugs in, but I've seen and heard footage of that Shea Stadium concert. I'd want ear plugs too. Thousands of girls and young women shrieking non-stop, in unison, the way Sally did over the phone. That was so cute. And Betty looked genuinely pleased at the idea. Good for her for not throwing cold water on Sally's excitement. It was a neat and rare shared moment between the three of them. The choice of ending song--in instrumental form only--was perfect. It got at the theme of secrets being revealed, sometimes even being thrust upon an unwilling hearer ("Listen," George sings in the version with words, giving an imperative before the question, like Lane pushes his father to listen to the news that he's had a secret.) The song also highlighted the differences between the Beatles of 1963--when "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" came out--and the 1965 Beatles whom Sally and Don will be visiting. In the two intervening years, the band was maturing, shifting from the creation of what John Lennon would later term "silly love songs" to the more musically and thematically sophisticated and varied songs of "Help!" (which was released right before the N.Y. concert) and "Rubber Soul," that appeared late that year. Likewise, there are some signs our main characters are maturing in the midst of the complete mess that plays out. On the one hand, we see some growth. On the other, there's the classic denial, deception, and desire just to "get rid of it" (as Don explicitly tells Pete about the North American Aviation account.

Note to Don and everyone else: Read what you sign, dude! It was interesting, if painful, to watch Don deal with the stress of the DoD investigating him. As others have recently noted as well, he's seemed to want--and to allow--Dick to emerge from behind his wall more and more this season. But, he's not yet ready for full disclosure. And we, as viewers, were forced for perhaps the first time to consider the legal ramifications for Don's Army desertion and identity theft. In the past, it's come up more as an issue in his personal life. Now the criminal aspect of it is at the fore. It was tense watching the scene with Betty and the government officials. I really wondered what she would do. In the midst of it all, though, they managed to insert some humor: "Would you describe him as loyal?" Poor Betty. The government's single-minded focus, though, on "radicals," "subversives" and Communist sympathizers means they miss a lot about Don and the integrity issue. But, beyond the personal, the consequences for Don's actions in Korea are now laid at the doorstep of his business partners. They lose out on this $4 million account--at a time when they're also losing Lucky Strike (good riddance, Lee! Maybe Sal can come back now? That is, if there's still a company to employ people after the desertions and rejections of big accounts.)

Don has to confront the issue of his past head-on with Pete. Confronting things head-on is not what Don likes to do. He also doesn't like owing someone and he's going to owe Pete big-time for this. I can't imagine Pete will let him forget it. But, Pete...Yes, this is unfair to him, but the self-deception on his part was also staggering. He tells Trudy--to whom he can't really tell anything--"No one knows--except the honest people who have to pick up the pieces." Honest, Pete? You're referring to yourself as one of the honest people? Sitting there on the couch with your hugely pregnant wife, who believes she'll soon be delivering your first-born child? You, the rapist of the down-the-hall nanny while Trudy's in the Hamptons? Give me a break. (And--I can't help but be catty here. Was there anything more ridiculous looking than an about-to-pop Trudy in those super short, pink baby-doll pajamas? Eeek! The costume people had to be contributing to a comment on how absurd that scene--and Pete's ideas--were.)

But, in the midst of the tension, disquieting confrontations, and the fear of strange men in hallways, Don is moving forward. He tells Faye his secret. "I'm tired of running. . . I'm damn tired of all of it." And she's understanding, offering her comfort for the night in what appeared to be a non-sexual way. This is growth for Don. I worry, though. At the end, she tells him "We'll figure out what to do." Don has never been a part of such a 'we' before. Does this frighten him? Why else the look at Megan, applying her lipstick, as the song begins and the episode ends?

Turns out Lane has a secret too. It came upon us so suddenly (last we knew, he'd had a night with a prostitute at Don's place and that was it as far as him acting on the dissolution of his marriage; now he's in love? really?) I'm not sure if I can believe it's genuine--or if he just wants it to be genuine--or if he's just trying to shock his prick of a father. He's clearly throwing her and their intimacy in the old man's face. He and his father clearly have a nasty history. Lane has always seemed so old and stodgy compared to most of the men at the firm. To see him treated like a little boy by an abusive father was shocking. But, is Lane also maturing some? Moving enough into the American 1960s to have a real inter-racial relationship? Or is he trying too hard to "get rid of" his old family and his dictatorial, aristocrat of a father's hold on him? Or might it be both? I don't know at this point. I do know, though, that him referring to her as his "chocolate bunny" was the grossest line of the evening.

And, finally, Joan. Oh, my goodness, how I felt for her. We've seen how she wants so badly to have a baby that she goes off the pill as her husband's getting ready to deploy to war. We've heard her ask her doctor if the fact that she's already had two abortions would hurt her chances to conceive. Now this. To find out that she has conceived--in a dark alley with a married man who's not her husband. The fact that he likely is her true love just makes it worse, I expect. Roger "gallantly" assures her that he'll 'take care of it' (i.e. "get rid of it"). He does express regret and listen to her, even suggest that she could keep it and pretend it's Greg's. He might come home and not "do the math." But, the baby would never be his. She seems, of course, to be handling this maturely. She's all business-like, stating unequivocally that of course, they will avoid this "scandal." But, does she go through with it? I have my doubts. The young mother and daughter in the abortionist's office had to be there for a reason. The woman tells Joan that she had her daughter when she was fifteen and didn't regret it. She now cries over the daughter's abortion. When Joan, always comoposed, responds to the woman's question about her daughter's age, Joan says, "Fifteen." Has she realized that if this woman could have a child at fifteen and not regret it, that she could do it in her thirties? There was just a quick shot of Joan on the bus coming home. She had a bit of a smile on her face. The music playing was serene. I think she'd come to a decision she was content with. I'd be surprised if she actually ended this pregnancy. But, we'll see. She's the consummate manager, calling to order the meeting of the partners in which everyone of them--except Bert, who's superfluous--was lying about something. Does she have a secret too?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"More Beautiful Than Answers"

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Nine, "The Beautiful Girls"

During a commercial break, the AMC tagline jumped out at me: "Stories Matter Here." I've seen this hundreds of times before, but for some reason, it set my mind wandering tonight and I landed on a line from Mary Oliver's poem "Snake"--"so many stories/more beautiful than answers." "The Beautiful Girls" didn't make for a beautiful story, but it certainly did leave me with more questions than answers, the strangest one having to be, 'So a mugging is now an aphrodisiac for Joan? WTF?'

The episode seemed largely to be about how to sell--how to frame something people don't really want in such a way that they will be compelled to buy it. The literal business example involves Filmore Auto Parts wanting to persuade middle-class, white-collar men that they want to be like their mechanics and shop for auto parts too. Or, at least the Filmore brothers want the middle-class men's business; they're ambivalent--or divided--about actually wanting non-macho mechanics attracted to their store. Don, Ken, and Faye have to sell them on the idea. Since neither Don nor Ken work with their hands, the Filmores seem to put them in the same category as Faye--they might as well be women. It's Faye who comes up with the good line: "Filmore Auto Parts--for the mechanic in every man." Sale a success.

Not so much for the other attempted sales of the evening--the more complicated political and personal attempts to persuade: 1) Abe tries to sell Peggy on the idea that corporations, the advertising industry, and SCDP in particular, are unethical entities involved in the repression of people's freedoms--case in point, she's working on a campaign for Filmore Auto Parts, which refuses to hire "Negroes" in the South; 2) Peggy tries to sell Abe on the idea that "In advertising, we don't really judge people." Instead, ad agencies try to "help" their clients out of these situations; after all, this restrictive hiring is bad for their business; 3) Peggy further tries to sell Abe on the idea that white women like her are actually as discriminated against as "Negroes"; 4) Roger tries, in the most pathetic attempt on view tonight, to sell Joan on the idea of getting back together with him--or at least having dinner with him: "I'm going to go to my favorite restaurant and order a glass of cyanide...or you could come with me." Roger can be so urbane and witty, yet this snivelling come-on is the idea sales pitch that wins, revealing how low Joan is about Dr. Greg getting called up to Vietnam; 5) In the saddest of all the attempted sales exchanges, Sally repeatedly tries to persuade Don to let her come live with him and Don works to sell her on the idea of going "home"; 6) Finally, the closing shot, framing Joan, Peggy, and Faye in the elevator door is so intentionally and artistically done--the storytellers are trying to sell us on something about these "beautiful girls." What is it?

The exchanges between Peggy and Abe were great at concisely representing so much about the racial and gendered politics of the period. She feels the pain of her struggles to make it in a man's world--and with last week's episode fresh in mind, it's impossible to blame her for her resentments--but they lead her to a lack of understanding/empathy for the struggles of Black people fighting for their rights. Abe is right that "they're not shooting women to keep them from voting," but his condescension is too much. "Alright, Peggy, we'll have a civil rights march for women." Yep, sweetie, in a year that's what you'll be seeing. She puts defensive walls around herself and the job she's worked so hard to get and keep when he tries to sell her on the unethical nature of what her company is doing in working for the Filmores. When Peggy attempts to defend what they do, Abe is right that "civil rights is not a situation to be fixed by some PR campaign." While the paper he's written for her is hyperbolic in its title--"Nuremburg on Madison Avenue"--the implication that ad people are only following orders probably hits too close to home. Peggy does spend much of her time doing just that. While she's proud to have made it as far as she has, she's there following Don's orders, creating ad campaigns that get Don's stamp of approval--or are tossed out. When she finally does raise the question of why they're doing business with a company like Filmore Auto Parts that won't hire Negroes, Don retorts, "Our job is to make men like Filmore Auto Parts, not make Filmore Auto Parts like Negroes." And so that's what she participates in.

While the political focus in the business part of the episode highlighted the complications in everyone's positions, the personal focus in the Sally and Don scenes was just sad. I know that this is 1965; Don's place is in the world of business, at his office; Betty's place is in her home, caring for her children. So, it's not surprising that Don should be so upset at Sally transgressing that boundary and showing up at his workplace. Since it's 1965, it was also unheard of for a divorced father to take custody of his child/ren. And, in 1965, most people still held to the creed of not talking about unpleasantries and not airing dirty laundry. Even so....isn't anyone ever going to ask this child why she so hates it at her house? Is it only that Betty's cold, harsh, and doesn't understand her? (Not that those are small problems). Or is something more going on in that house to hurt her? It was nice to see her and Don on the couch together waiting for the pizza. I love that he took a morning off to take her to the zoo. They looked so cute, walking down the hall of his office, almost smirking, as he came in to work late that day. It was heart-wrenching, though, to hear her attempts to persuade him to let her live with him: "I'll be good!" I'll take care of my brothers. Her comic attempt to be the responsible breakfast maker with the rum bottle that looks like Mrs. Butterworth's. "Is it bad?" "Not really." All Don can do in response is to insist on the sales pitch that she has to go home. He has no good reasons to back up his argument. So, resentment radiating out of every pore, she's deposited with Betty, who's also not too happy, though she pretends to be concerned.

All through the episode, I kept wondering who "the beautiful girls" were supposed to be. The closing shot answered that--or so it seemed: Peggy's make-up-less, unglamorous lesbian friend, Joyce, gets on an elevator on the right; Joan, Faye, and Peggy get on one on the other side. They're all pretty, made up, dressed-up in their own ways. Each represents a woman who's struggled to make it in a man's world, though are in different places: Joan has always used her sex-appeal to push herself ahead of the flock, though she's at least as smart as the other two; Faye has made, with no regrets, the choice to be a career woman and not have children. "I don't view it as a failure," she tells Don. She couldn't be more different than Betty in this regard. Between Joan and Faye stands Peggy. Peggy, who has worked to use her brains and talent to get herself where she is, foregoing Joan's sexual option, but, unlike Faye, she isn't so certain about giving up on the husband and children route. They're three similar, yet different, women. Framing them in the final picture of an episode entitled "Beautiful Girls" seems to define them--the struggling-with-their roles-white-women of the 1960s--as the beautiful ones. But, I have to wonder about what the frame leaves out. There are all those Black women who are marginalized in Peggy's story of getting ahead. Carla is mentioned several times tonight, but never seen. She was supposed to pick Sally up; she taught Sally to make French toast. She's invisible, however. Joyce is consigned to an elevator on the other side--not a beautiful girl. Finally, and I know the arguments over calling grown women "girls" hadn't really started yet, but...What about the only person on the show who really is a girl--Sally? What's going to happen to that beautiful girl?

So, what is Weiner trying to say with the title and the closing frame of the three women in the elevator? Who gets to decide who's deemed beautiful? What does it mean that Joan, Peggy, and Faye are beautiful when they're trying to struggle to make it as professionals? What about those left out of the picture? This episode doesn't hand out easy answers, just "girls"/more "beautiful" than answers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Let the Fun Begin

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Eight, "The Summer Man"

A self-reflective Don Draper--the writer. The show had a completely different feel using the device of the voice-over. "Mad Men" has always been quite literary, but with this chapter, Matthew Weiner said in the short interviews AMC puts on its website after an episode has been aired, they got as close to a short story as they've ever been able to get. As Don strives to become the narrator of his life, to reassert some control, to gain--as he writes--"a modicum of control over how I feel," he takes some important steps forward to pull himself out of the quicksand in which he's been sinking over the past year. Even though he sees this writing as making him like a "little girl" jotting things in her diary, the process gives him insight. He recognizes that his excessive drinking is making it impossible for him to think. Instead of trying to divorce himself from his past, he now knows that "when a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him." He's both Don and Dick and he needs to keep the two together. We've seen him do that more lately. Perhaps Anna's death will play a positive role, rather than forcing him to hit bottom. Or maybe hitting bottom is still to come. But, it was nice to see him trying tonight: limiting his drinking (the slow motion/silent sequence in which he watched the others and then himself drink in the meeting was fascinating, while sending the 'blind' Mrs. Blankenship back to the store with the four bottles of booze was funny); controlling himself sexually with Faye; taking charge and asserting himself as Gene's father. It was so sweet to see him with the baby at the end. I thought of that late last season episode in which he sat rocking the newborn Gene in his bedroom in the middle of the night. Perhaps Don is growing up.

And--surprise, surprise--perhaps Betty is starting to grow up as well. We had another scene in which Henry was shown to be the mature adult in that relationship. While I'm not sure what brings Don to Bethany, I'm also not sure why Betty cared. Is she jealous of him because she really believes, as she told Francince, that he's living "the life?" Is it, as she told Henry, because he was the only man she'd been with (except for the anonymous guy in the bar that one night)? Does she resent the "imposter" she now knows him to be getting access to another country club girl? She's used the line, "I hate him!" before, sounding like a petulant school girl. I like how Henry called her on it tonight. "Hate is a strong word. I hate Nazis." When he tells her that he gets bothered by his ex-wife sometimes too, but doesn't hate her, Betty says, "You're a saint." "I'm an adult," he retorts. Go, Henry!

But, it seems to be Francine who turns Betty around, if only for a bit. "You've got everything to lose. Don has nothing." Or, rather, Don already has lost everything: his kids, Anna, his self, even Betty? "We're flawed because we want so much more," he writes in his journal. "We're ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had." Perhaps a bit melodramatic, but insightful. He seems to be trying to figure out what he does want in women. Is his periodic going back to Bethany an attempt to figure out if a wife like Betty really is what he wants? He seems to recognize that it's not: "She's a sweet girl. She wants me to know her, but I already do." He next asks out Faye. This time when he's sober. And he seeks her psychological advice, letting her know he's feeling out of sorts because of Gene. While he's been feeling the victim here: I can't go to the party; I'm not welcomed there; he thinks that man's his father, she wisely counsels him that "all he learns of the world is what you show him." She then passes on the Aesop's Fable about the wind and the sun trying to get a man to take off his coat: kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win. We'll see...

On the office front, though, kindness, gentleness, and persuasion don't work with the cadre of male chauvanist pigs Peggy and Joan are stuck with. Tonight Joey showed himself to be as bad as Stanley did a few weeks ago, but while I cheered Joan on during her "I can't wait until next year when you're all in Vietnam" speech, I was with Peggy more when she fired the idiot; I can't agree with Joan's snarky speech to Peggy on the elevator. It's interesting that both Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Moss--in the AMC mini interviews I mentioned above--saw Joan as right in rebuking Peggy. And I suppose it could just be my position from 40+ years later that can't allow me to accept that, but I think that even back in 1965, Peggy was right to do what she did. (And Don was right to urge her to do it herself or they'd just think she was a tattle tale.) Those men already saw Joan as just "a meaningless secretary" and Peggy as "a humorless bitch." Peggy firing Joey didn't cause that. Joan looking forward to seeing them die in Vietnam--as cool and collected as she was in delivering that speech--was still a reflection of powerlessness. Joan has always seen her power to lie in her sexuality. Now she's stuck with a bunch of young men who aren't moved by that; not only are they not moved by it, they scorn her for it. Joey compares her to his mother (ouch!) So, let them think of Peggy as a bitch--sometimes that's what women have to be in self-defense. Sexist men have used the "you've got no sense of humor" line for more than 40 years; some still use it. Racists use it when listeners don't like their anti-black jokes; homophobes use it when people don't laugh at their anti-gay jokes. They still need to be stood up to--not agreed with. And Peggy did that admirably. While Don left the Y early in the episode to Mick Jagger singing, "I can't get no satisfaction," recognizing something about his life, I say Peggy should take a lot of satisfaction in asserting some control with Joey. "The fun is over," Joey says to the other guys. Maybe for him, but I hope that for Peggy, it's just beginning.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Wanderers

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Seven, "The Suitcase"

I like seeing "Written by Matthew Weiner" cross my TV screen during the opening music; it usually promises an extra-rich episode. Nobody gets at the depths of Don's character like his creator. An amazing amount happened last night, yet the episode did not feel too busy; it was just an incredibly deep and rich hour of drama, in which the typically reserved Don travelled an immense emotional terrain. The 'suitcase' metaphor/device worked well on a number of levels.

I loved seeing Don and Peggy as fellow travellers. They're both on a journey; both are wanderers, trying to remake themselves, figure out who they should/want to be. I think back to the late last season episode "The Gypsy and the Hobo." In writing about it, I reflected on how Don has always been something of a gypsy--traveling from identity to identity, from woman to woman, always with this sense of restlessness. As we are made to watch him fall apart and self-destruct this season, we're allowed into a different type of wandering on his part, more internal. And in this episode, he was able to explore those wanderings with Peggy by his side. While "The Gypsy and the Hobo" happened on Halloween--that night where the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is rendered more translucent--"The Suitcase" occurs on the night when Anna Draper is leaving this world. Don's awareness of this sad fact seems to propel him into his night with Peggy. While I was troubled by his inability to call Stephanie back right away, that piece of paper in his shirt pocket all day burned into his psyche the knowledge of the passing of the only person who truly knew him. It seems to have propelled him into a level of honesty and openness with Peggy that he's never allowed himself before.

For quite awhile, Peggy's been the one person at the office who knows him best. That deepened this evening. Did Don somehow realize that with Anna's death he really needs someone else to whom he can turn and with whom he can be himself? Peggy is the natural choice. They already know each other on a deeper level than most at work. They're equals in a lot of ways. Their relationship is non-sexual--something that allowed his relationship with Anna to be as rich as it was. Someone wrote last week after the waitress called Don "Dick" that Dick apparently wants to come out and Don is allowing that to happen more and more. While last week it happened as part of a drunken blackout, this week he dropped pieces of information about Dick while fully aware of what he was doing: from 'I grew up on a farm so I know what a mouse looks like' to 'when I was on my way to Korea, some kid who was a bigger hick than I was...' to sharing that he too had watched his father die and that he never knew his mother. Peggy hears all of these bits of information that are so central to making Don who he is--whoever that might end up being. And, she's there to witness his phone call to Stephanie and his subsequent sobbing, which he does not attempt to put off until Peggy is no longer there. When she rubs his back and tells him that it's not true that Anna was the only person who really knew Don, we can see that perhaps Peggy will help to fill the void left by Anna's death. And I can't help but think that Anna would approve. When her spectre appeared to Don, suitcase in hand, ready for her journey out of this world, she smiled at him, as if bestowing a benediction. I can't help but think that she was happy to see him peacefully sleeping with his head in the lap of a woman who truly cares about him, who possesses some understanding of him.

And Peggy's not afraid to call him out. While Don was being a jerk to her earlier in the episode, she gave as good as she got, yelling at him for being so drunk that he stole one of Danny's ideas and had to hire the idiot. (Did Danny really have a pipe in his hand in the first scene? Is he going to become the next Kinsey?) When he asked her to make him a drink after he'd spent time throwing up in the bathroom, she point-blank asked him, "How long are you going to go on like this?" He needs Peggy. And the best part was that on the morning after, he acknowledged that. Unlike after his sexual episode with Allison, he let Peggy know (although wordlessly) how much their evening meant to him. That moment where he put his hand over hers before sending her off to rest at home and then bring him ten tag-lines was so sweet and redeemed much for Don, who's been so unlikeable the last few episodes.

And Peggy's wanderings with Don were something to watch too. For the first time, they talked about her time in the hospital. Instead of just telling her she shouldn't think of such past difficulties, he asks her if she ever thinks about it and she replies that it can be hard not to when she goes by playgrounds. Her revelation that her mother believes Don the father of her child because he was the only one to visit her was fascinating. The dynamics between her mother and her via the phone calls to Mark at the restaurant were so revealing. She's right to break up with Mark, but it was sad to watch her process what it means that he doesn't really know her. The contrast between Mark as ex-boyfriend and Duck as ex-boyfriend is too stark (though at least Duck serves to remind us that there are bigger asshole drunks than Don out there). But, through her ruminations with Don, she seemed to work to an understanding that she does want to be a career woman; she doesn't want to succumb to the cultural and familial demands that she become just a wife. "I know what I'm supposed to want. It never seems as important as what's in that office" is quite a self-revelation.

Finally, I just have to note that rarely have we been treated to such an in-depth view of the creative process these characters engage in. Don and Peggy's all-nighter--ostensibly on behalf of Samsonite--while showing much of themselves to each other also revealed much about how the minds of these two characters work and how their creativity travels from seed of an idea to full-blown campaign. The way that their personal experiences and the context in which they find themselves shapes their thinking was readily apparent. From musing on the Parthenon picture on the diner wall ("What's the most exciting thing about a suitcase?" "Going somewhere.") to the final product being a mirror of the Liston/Ali photo on the front page of the paper, ideas pass fluidly between permeable walls that barely separate minds, real-world images, past experiences. Don's rebukes to Peggy's tirade about the Glo-Coat ad were in part self-serving, but also brought up crucial points about collaboration that still get discussed in academia with regard to plagiarism. When does an idea truly belong to someone? If you hear someone else's idea and use it to develop it into a new direction and it ends up being something else, is it yours or that of the person who came up with the original seed? In collaborative work like that which happens in an ad agency, to whom does a final product "belong?" Don tells Peggy that all ideas belong to the firm. "I give you money; you give me ideas." To her protest that "you never say 'thank you,'" he loudly retorts, "That's what the money's for!" Is he being mean? ungrateful? jerky? or a realistic businessman? After sharing a night of brainstorming ideas, is the final product of the fight-related Samsonite ad Don's or Peggy's and Don's together or SCDP's? It was an interesting glimpse into some important questions.

Final thoughts I don't have time to delve into more fully:

--the context of the Liston/Ali fight and what it meant for the culture at the time and all those who went to see it, including a visibly pregnant Trudy, putting on her white gloves, talking about being ready for some "blood sport." As my husband noted, it's interesting to see an ad man like Don be disapproving of Muhammad Ali's self-promotion. Isn't that what advertising types do all the time? Many people didn't like that about Clay/Ali. Is it because he's Black? Peggy seemed to hit on that when she mentioned how her father got rid of all of Nat King Cole's records when her mother made an approving comment about his looks, much as Peggy had revealed to Don that she thinks Cassius Clay is handsome. Don: "I don't like him." Peggy: "You're not supposed to."

--the other pugilistic references and subtexts from Don and Dick's fight over Peggy to Peggy's revelation that at age 12 she'd watched her father die of a heart attack while watching a violent sporting event so that she's never liked sports since.

--Mrs. Blankenship and Bert Cooper? "Bert Cooper has no testicles?" I guess that's a metaphor they can explore more fully in another episode.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Six, "Waldorf Stories"

I suppose it's a bit clever to air the episode about Don and SCDP winning a top award at the Clios on the evening the Emmys bestowed two major awards on Mad Men. Let's hope the similarities end there, so we don't see the show barreling toward the Abyss as rapidly as Don is. Sheesh! A forty-eight hour blackout during which he's seen stealing ideas he hated from a young man he scorned, hitting on Dr. Faye (yeay to her for saying 'no,' recognizing what a messed-up state he's in), bedding two different women--one of whom he falls asleep on while she's going down on him, the other of whom he apparently told his name is Dick--and blowing off his date with his children. I haven't sympathized with Betty in awhile, but here, she was completely justified in her tirade against him. How much farther does he have to go--do we have to see him go--before he hits bottom? Is that going to be Episode 13 of the season, with Season Five opening on him in an AA meeting? Nice eight month long cliff-hanger?

The Life cereal rep thought Don's ad might be too sophisticated for readers to get: "I think it's kind of smart for regular folks. The irony part." Mad Men writers don't underestimate their audience's ability to get irony. This show featured several good examples: the self-referential bit about winning awards while on the way down; ending an episode in which we watched both a success for Don and his tumble into darkness with the upbeat singing of "up the ladder of success"; and highlighting the flashbacks of Roger's initial encounters with Don in which we discover that he thought Don not worth hiring, but did so in a drunken blackout, similar to the one that led to Don having to hire Danny. Is Don being compared to Danny, whose idea he stole to make the Life men happy? Might Danny prove to be extremely creative like Don can be? Or is part of the point that Don isn't as good as he and some others think he is? (BTW, I see from the previews that Tom Lenk [Danny] will be back next week. He's still just that creepy Andrew from "Buffy" to me. I don't know how long I'll be able to watch him if that doesn't wear off.)

And, finally, shifting focus a bit: We know what Don did to receive Joan's punishment of that secretary. What did poor Peggy do to deserve that asshole Stanley? She sort of showed him up, taking his bluff about working in the nude to "liberate" the mind, but I expect he's the type who will never accept that he might be wrong--especially from a woman--and double especially from a smart woman like Peggy. She seems to have pegged him: "You're lazy and have no ideas," but where's that going to get her? She also had to deal with Don's lack of acknowledgment of her role in the floor polish ad to the point of not even inviting her to the awards. Even Joan seems to be tiring of these men as she left Roger in a pool of drunken self-pity at the bar, clearly disgusted with him.

Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot the final irony of the quick ending ad for the iPhone ap that challenges you to mix your cocktails as well as they do on Mad Men! You too can head for that alcoholic abyss....and have fun and glamor while doing it, Mad Men-style!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shame and Guilt: Ain't It Fun Being a Girl?

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Five, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword"

Another excellent ironic use of music for the closing song: "When I have a brand new hair-do . . . I enjoy being a girl." Enjoy, indeed. Poor Sally. The episode could be subtitled "It sucks being a 1960s little girl with a rigidly 1950s mother." Tonight's show was so interestingly balanced. On one side, we have the office scenes of increased competition between advertising firms and the generationally-divided response to the Japanese (with Bert Cooper on the side of the younger crowd here, but he would have been too old to fight in the war as Roger did); on the other side, we have the drama of the home front with Sally facing increased competition for her parents' attention and the varying responses to childhood masturbation in this decade of the "sexual revolution." (For an interesting article about the growing sexual openness urged on post-WWII parents by child-rearing books through the 1960s, check out this link; it's by an MIT media studies prof and isn't overly long. I found it when I did a quick search to ascertain that a more permissive attitude was already present in 1965:

The inter-ad agency competition is becoming so fierce that Don is fielding phone calls from a newspaper advertising columnist who wants his reaction to comments by someone at the firm that got the Clearasil account after SCDP cut it loose. Don sets out to prove himself once againg the risk-taking ad man in his bid to win the account with Honda. For this, he recruits the younger, more forward-thinking members of the firm--Pete, Peggy, and Joan--who do a masterful, and funny, job of staging their non-attempt to shoot a motorcycle commercial. It pays off; while no one gets the motorcycle account, Don and Co. are awarded an account for Honda's new small car. Lane's funny description of this car shows the generational gap between theirs and mine on the subject of small cars, when he describes the Honda as "a motorcycle with doors. The nice thing is it has windows" so you can see your brains splatter when it crashes.

It was interesting to me to hear Roger's reaction to doing business with the Japanese. I expect there were many veterans of the Pacific war who felt as he did. While he made some nasty racist comments and was being an ass--an alcohol-enhanced ass as usual--he also gave us a window into how hard it is to move on from traumatic experiences. To Pete's reasonable assertions that it's been twenty years and these businessmen from Honda are "not the same people" who fought WWII, Roger rather poignantly retorts, "I'm the same people." He tries to tell Joan a story about one of the men on his ship, but she--wife of a soon-to-be-shipped-to-war doctor--doesn't want to hear it. She tries to soothe him with, "You fought to make the world a safer place and it is." Roger's not sure he's buying that though. He asks, "Since when is forgiveness a better quality than loyalty?" Pete and the others, though, aren't just moving on, they're after money. Pete baldly points out that he needs this account as he's going to be a father. But, in the midst of the anti-Japanese sentiment and the desire for money were the office's attempts at cross-cultural understanding (even if they were self-serving). They all had copies of The Crysanthemum and the Sword, though Don might be the only one who read it. According to Wikipedia (don't tell my students I'm referencing Wikipedia; this isn't a research paper, though), this book was published in 1946 by Ruth Benedict, an American anthropologist, commissioned by the Office of War Information to do a cultural study of Japan. She did so by studying Japanese newspapers, novels, and other cultural artifacts as well as by interviewing Japanese-Americans. The book made famous the contrast between "shame cultures" and "guilt cultures" (those of Japan and of the West respectively). It's a quote about shame that Don reads to his partners in madcap crime as he outlines his plan to beat out the competition.

While the "shame culture" v. "guilt culture" distinction was being used to classify Japan, it also sheds light on the travails of young Sally Draper. There's enough guilt and attempts at inducing guilt to more than go around the Draper and Francis households/famililes/whatever they now are. The family scenes also start out with a focus on increased competition. Bobby and Sally are at Don's when a babysitter arrives so Don can go out on a date with Bethany (why???). She tells her dad, "I don't like that." Not only does she perceive Bethany as a threat, but she wonders about the babysitter--who is young and attractive so not unthinkable as a Don target--and is so bold as to ask the sitter if she and Don are "doing it," then informing the woman, "I know what 'it' is. The man pees inside the woman." I remember being Sally's age, sitting in my first sex ed class (this would have been six or seven years later than the setting of this episode), and someone asking the teacher if male peeing is indeed what happens during sex. My teacher was a source of accurate information. Unfortunately, Sally's source was just another kid at school. The babysitter wouldn't clarify, just recommending that Sally talk to her mother, which, not surprisingly, Sally did not want to do. Sally then goes into the bathroom to chop half of her hair off, presumably in an attempt to compete for her father's attention.

Don's good at inducing guilt in the sitter, who was--apparently--supposed to follow Sally into the bathroom, leaving Bobby unattended on the couch to do who knows what. When Don gets the kids back to their mother and step-father, Betty--ever the attentive mother, accuses Don of being a lousy, inattentive father, slaps Sally, and reveals that the reason this is an issue is because she always wanted to have long hair as a girl, but her mother wouldn't let her. Hmmm. The woman is nothing if not self-absorbed. Henry, surprisingly, turns out to be an advocate for Sally as he also reveals that he's learned how to handle his childish wife, by affirming her self-centeredness. Here and in the later scene after Sally is brought home from the slumber party, Henry gets Betty to soften by essentially telling her he knows how hard this all is on her. And, of course, with Betty it always has to be about her. She tells the child psychologist, "I feel like Sally did this (masturbating at the friend's house) to punish me for all this" [the divorce, etc.] If Betty had read Dr. Spock, she would have been advised to be accepting of her children's explorations of sexuality. People were clearly conflicted about this more open approach to sex and children, though. The characters do tacitly acknowledge that this advice is out there. The slumber party mom tells Betty, "I don't know what's permitted here, but at our house, that's inappropriate" (or something to that effect). Betty lets the shrink know, "I know that children do this," but she's upset about it being in public. Is the public nature (sort of--she was the only girl awake at the time, with no one else around, but was just sitting on the couch so the mom could find her) of this another cry for attention? What will the psychologist's approach be? (Meeting with her four days a week?! Yikes!) It's interesting that Don is not only opening up to learn something about the Japanese, but to learning something more about the whole concept of therapy. He confides in Faye that Betty thinks Sally needs a therapist and actually shares his conflicted feelings about his children and their situation (I see them and don't know what to do; drop them off and feel relieved, but then miss them). A new Don Draper? While Betty meanly tells the psychologist, "I doubt you'll ever meet him [Don]. That's his level of interest," Don is showing that he might be willing to take a step away from guilt and shame to figure out a way to be a better father.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Got Pears?" So Much to Reject

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Four, "The Rejected"

To begin, I just have to say that this is the first episode of this season that I've really liked--not just found interesting--or touching. It felt more like the "Mad Men" of old; it brought out serious themes; Don was both sympathetic in places and a complete jerk in places; and it had a lot of humor. There were several very funny, quick bits of visual humor (Peggy peeking over the top of the wall into Don's office after Allison chucked something at him breaking the glass over a print; Bert Cooper hanging out on the reception area couch in his stocking feet, fanning through magazines and eating an apple. Does that man do anything for this new firm?) John Slattery is clearly a very talented director as well as actor.

The title of this episode is very evocative. So much rejection--of people and ideas--is depicted here, some of it quite necessary to do; some of it is just plain sad. We've got the women in the Ponds focus group, who are manipulated by the psychologist Faye until they're dwelling in pools of tears shed over men who've rejected them; Pete's father-in-law's company is rejected in favor of Ponds (conflict with Clearasil) until Pete gets rather nastily assertive, demanding the account for all of the Vicks products as well; Peggy's early-on rejection by Pete and her rejection of motherhood and Pete's baby is coaxed out again by the news that Trudy is pregnant; and traditional ideas about marriage and women's need for men at the center of their lives are tried on (Peggy playing with Faye's engagement ring during the focus group), argued over, and rejected by some. It's 1965 and we're finally getting some explicit feminist philosophy articulated when Peggy's new friend informs her that her boyfriend "doesn't own your vagina." Peggy's quip, "No, but he's renting it," is humorous, but it's all too clear that for the women on this show, if the men don't own their vaginas, they do have way too strong a hold on their hearts and minds. And it's this angle that is most intriguing to me.

Peggy is a strong woman who's forged a new path for herself as a career woman. And she struggles with a desire for marriage (and children too?). How much of this is social pressure and how much of it is something she really wants for herself? At this point, she seems not to know. She's told the traditional Freddy that she does want to get married, something he assumes of all women; Don smiles a bit wonderingly when he sees her twisting Faye's engagement ring on her finger; and Peggy is clearly affected by the news that Pete will be a father. Pete has the grace to appear uncomfortable at her congratulations and glances. And what's behind the looks they give each other at the end? The whole ending strikes me as very symbolic: the good-old-boys in their suits are standing inside the office preparing to close a deal. Peggy's new hip friends stand outside. She's dressed in a coat that looks like it could be Pat Nixon's "sensible" coat from the Checkers speech, but she leaves the world of the office to join the new generation, glancing back at Pete, however, as he looks at her too. Trying to determine which world she belongs in, which attitude she should take to gender issues seems to be her big quandary of late. Like her response to the film at the party, she's Catholic; she knows she's not supposed to like it (the film and evolving, more liberated roles for women), but she's willing to experiment--with pot, with the counter-culture, and with a new group of friends who, unfortunately, are not the best representations of the counter-culture. These folks in the real world did have many among them who were narcissistic and shallow, but there were also elements of this culture providing a much needed critique of the society. Weiner mostly reveals the counter-culture at its worst so far. It will be interesting to see how that develops. (But then, one could argue that he shows most of '60s culture at its worst.)

The other angle that I find intriguing is Don's strong understanding of advertising's power to get into people's heads and influence them, planting new ideas. To Faye's suggestion that they change the Ponds campaign to link the cold cream to matrimony--"a veiled promise"--Don replies, "Hello 1925. I'm not going to do that." Yeay, Don! He argues that if women in focus groups spent a year watching his ads, they'd be talking about different ideas when the psychologist brought them together. It can be disturbing to watch the deliberate machinations of these folks, but there is also so much truth in what he says. People have a hard time thinking outside the box of the ideology they were born and raised into. Culture plays a strong role in introducing us to new ideas--and as television expanded, advertising became an even greater force in our culture. It's interesting that he doesn't want to be responsible for reinforcing the idea that all women should desire to get married. His lousy experience with marriage has likely helped him to get to this place. Betty is certainly someone who was too strongly influenced by that ideology despite clearly not relishing the traditional woman's role. I liked the ending picture of the old married couple to which Don comes home: "Did you get pears?" "Did you get pears?!" What buying the culture's dominant ideology can lead you to. Perhaps after that, Don didn't feel so bad opening the door to a wife-less apartment.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Being Dick

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Three, "The Good News"

This episode moved me and its title is intriguing. I'm interested to know of other interpretations you might have of it. It is an ironic title. There really isn't any good news in this segment. The only reference to "good news" is in Stephanie's story of her college roommate who started reading the bible one night and Stephanie woke up the next morning to the woman asking, "Have you heard the good news?" Don and Anna laugh over that and dismiss the religiosity. Indeed, the entire episode deals with serious questions and issues without any consideration that religious answers might be meaningful. The idea that answers simply found in a book could fully address the heavy themes explored here doesn't make sense in the context of this world. And, I'm glad for that. The theme of being onesself v. being who others expect one to be was directly addressed in last week's episode. The question of how much control one really ever has over life's circumstances was explored rather powerfully in the season opener. Tonight they both came together.

Anna Draper came up in the comments on my last week's blog. I've been hoping to see her again. Sadly, this might be the last time. And, this is wrenchingly sad for Don/Dick, since it's only with Anna that he can truly be himself. As she said to him, she knows everything about him and she loves him just the same. He was back to looking good tonight as he was cruising down the California highway in the convertible. He's relaxed when he's with her. He talks openly with her about his feelings. They give each other genuine hugs that seem to express much caring. It's too bad they can't be a conventional couple. She's good for him. And, she's dying.

In the too-typical 1950s/1960s way of avoiding discussion of anything unpleasant and unhappy, her sister and niece acquiesce to the medical establishment's arrogance in presuming to know what's best for everyone, concurring with the doctor that Anna shouldn't be told she has bone cancer. As her niece tells Don, she doesn't have long, so why tell her? Don is justifiably outraged at this and insists she be told. I'm fascinated by his relationship with this woman. He is so different with Anna than he is with anyone else. While he does have a progressive side to him where some women are concerned--e.g. furthering Peggy's and Joan's careers--and he chooses mistresses who are intelligent and interesting, his idea of what a wife should be is completely conventional and many women are just sex objects to him. And he can get very controlling where all of these women are concerned. Some of last week's comments speculated on the origin of Don's exploiting women side. But, we don't see any of that with Anna. To him, Anna really is a person who has rights. They have a mutually nurturing relationship. He allows her to take care of him emotionally and he seeks to do the same for her. They have discussions in which important questions are discussed casually: She tells him she's seen UFOs (which he suggests might be down to her pot smoking) and seriously says that wondering if there might be another planet with intelligent life has gotten her "thinking of everything I know to be true and how flimsy it all might be." Don retorts, "You don't have to see a UFO to figure that out." These epistemological questions began to be asked anew with a vengeance by post-modern philosophers and theorists in the 1960s and beyond. Don and Anna discuss them comfortably while he's painting her wall in his shorts and she sits on the couch smoking a joint. While two episodes ago, Don seemed too old for the newly modern office, a relic of the 1950s about to be lost in the new decade, he seems to fit right in to the '60s mileu here. Is the dynamic of his and Anna's relationship possible because there's no sex involved? Or is it because he can just be Dick with her (as opposed to being a dick with his secretary and some other women)?

Yet, she's dying and Don has no control over that. He's even powerless to control the circumstances surrounding her illness and impending death. When he complains to her sister that she should be told, the woman tells him, "You have no say in the affairs of this family. You're just a man in a room with a checkbook." Ouch. To Anna, though, he's so much more. I have to suspect that she already knows something bad is wrong with her. Did she smoke pot before or is she doing this to manage the pain? Don does decide not to tell her, though. He accepts his limited role in her life. But, he leaves her after he's signed the wall he's painted with "Dick + Anna '64." When he returns to New York on New Year's Eve, having foregone his planned trip to Acapulco, he's back to being Don, but his evening with Lane--whose wife has also threatened to leave him and stay in London--shows a different side of him. He's sought out Lane's company (the old thing about what misery loves?) and the scene of the two of them watching "Godzilla" in the theater was hysterical. Lane is a very funny drunk. The comedian at the club they're attending mistakes them for a homosexual couple and makes a few jokes about/at them. But, Don is serious too, bringing up one of the key questions of the season. When Lane tells Don of his wife's announcement that she plans to stay in London, he says to Don, "You're supposed to tell me to get on a plane." Don replies with a question: "Is that what you want or is that what people expect of you?" The evening ends with two prostitutes Don has procured (back to being Don again), but he's got a new relationship with his newest partner. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Finally, the theme of lack of control over one's circumstances is illustrated through the poignant Joan and Greg sub-story. Dr. Greg is so tender with Joan in the scene in which he's stitching up Joan's hand that I almost forgot what a nasty jerk he was to her last season. Joan would so like to plan for their future, but the Army is taking it's sweet time in calling him to basic training and deployment. While I don't understand why anyone would think it's a good idea to plan to have a child in such uncertain times, I think it's Joan's way to create an orderly timeline. Once pregnant, she knows what the next nine months of her life are going to be. Unless something goes wrong, babies come on a fairly predictable schedule--give or take a week or two. She might end up being a single mother for the time Greg is in Vietnam--or a single mother forever if he's killed there--but she'll have made sure that the part of her life plan that calls for her to have a child will have been fulfilled. But, she's smart enough to know that things really are uncontrollable. Greg tells her, "Everything's gonna be alright." Her response, "When?"

But, at work, she can assert control. At the office meeting to set out the finances and timeline for the new year, she has the opening line of the meeting and the closing line of the episode, "Shall we begin 1965?" They can begin; they can plan; but they can't know or control what's really in store.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reflections on Power and Self-Medication

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode Two, "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"

If Christmas is going to be like it was in this episode, it's a blessed thing that it only comes once a year. Sheesh-- We see the return of Freddy (not a character I've missed, but, as I'll explain later, I think there's a good thematic reason for his re-appearance tonight), the creepy Glenn (still not sure what all to make of him), and the super creepy Lee Garner, Jr. (extra boos and hisses at him for having driven Sal away). The ending song was, appropriately enough, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," typically a humorous look at Christmas Eve night through the eyes of a child who still believes in Santa and so assumes her mother is committing the faux pas of kissing someone other than her husband. But, since the audience knows that Santa is actually "Daddy," it can be sung in a light-hearted, fun way. We know there's no problem. Not so in the world of "Mad Men." The bouncy, happy singing of the song at the end was in jarring contrast to what we'd been watching during the hour before.

The little girl here--Sally--is sophisticated enough to know that there is no Santa, that her daddy typically played that role. So, she sends her and her brothers' Christmas requests addressed to "Santa Claus c/o Don Draper." But she also, sadly, knows that this year her mother won't be kissing Santa Claus. "Santa" won't even be allowed in the house on Christmas. The closing line of her letter is poignant. She's asked for a locket with her initials engraved on it, but what she really wishes is that "you could be here Christmas morning to give it to me." Don's secretary is reading this letter to him, so he tries to mask the feeling this line evokes in him; he's only partially successful. The second saddest line of the night was Don telling his neighbor Phoebe, who's accused him of hating Christmas: "I don't hate Christmas. I hate this Christmas." But, that's pretty much the last of Don as sympathetic character this episode.

Then there's Roger, who's made to dress up as Santa to kiss Lee Garner, Jr.'s butt. The riff on "Mommy Kissing Santa" goes from sad to perverse here. Garner's upset that they don't have a Santa at the SCDP Christmas party and at first tries drunkenly to cajole Sterling into putting the suit on. When Roger declines, however, Mr. Lucky Strikes (69% of the new firm's business once they've acquired the Ponds account) orders him: "Put it on, Roger," sounding like a man ordering a woman to put on some sort of risque costume she's uncomfortable with for sex. The firm gives him a gift of a Polaroid camera that he later uses to photo each employee sitting on Santa's lap, barking at them to do so against their will in a strange, rather perverted parody of department store Santa rituals with children. First creepy abuse of power we see.

Next abuse of power is Don with Allison, his secretary. She reads him his mail, shops for gifts for his children, and--when on the night of the office Christmas party, Don leaves his keys at work, not realizing this until he's home at his door, drunk--brings his keys all the way to his apartment for him. She tells her friends that she'll have to meet them wherever they're going after the party since she needs to deliver his keys and will probably "have to get some food in him." A man (her boyfriend or date?) says, "He's pathetic." Indeed. When she shows up to let him in, he's almost passed out on the floor by the door. Declining her offer to make him something to eat, he lands on the couch. She walks over to say 'good-bye' and he makes a move on her. At first unresponsive to his kiss, she tells him, "Don't." I was hoping for another response like that of the blind date last week. Don needs more women to tell him 'no,' but Allison acquiesces. They have a quick go at it on the couch without even undressing and she leaves to "meet someone." The next morning at work, she is clearly anticipating something from him as he tells her to come into his office. She wants this to go somewhere. He makes no mention of their sexual encounter, though, merely thanking her for bringing him his keys and giving her her Christmas bonus. As she opens the envelope back at her desk, she sees two $50 bills and Don's note: "Thanks for all your hard work. Don." She puts a piece of paper in the typewriter and gets back to her work as "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" begins to play. Don's been her Santa with the bonus; he's more than kissed her; and now he'll pretend that nothing happened.

It may look like Don the Asshole is back in full force after half a season or so of him being much more sympathetic. And he is certainly a jerk here. But, put this in the context of the extra excessive amount of drinking he's apparently been doing (and I'm saying this about someone who's always drank a lot without appearing to be intoxicated). Phoebe, his down the hall neighbor, mentioned that he's drunk every night when he puts his keys in the door. This attempt to self-medicate seems to me to have to be connected to the sadness and guilt he feels over being separated from his kids, especially during the holiday season. Last week saw him paying a prostitute to "punish" him. So, what is he doing with Allison? Using her as he uses booze to try to blot out the awareness that he's alone in this apartment with no family? This, of course, is a poor way to deal with his problems, but as we see with his refusal to take the psychologist's test, he's not willing to probe his past to "sort out [his] deepest conflicts" as she names the task psychologists try to fulfill in their work. He'd rather just numb the pain. (I'll leave aside for now her odd assertion that psychologists and advertising creators are in "the same line of work." That seems like just her way of trying to justify using her skills in the service of selling consumer products more effectively.) So, has Freddy, the recovering alcoholic, been brought back to highlight the contrast between facing one's issues and the path of self-medication and the abyss Don has sunk himself into? They certainly represent antithetical ways to use one's power over one's own behavior.

There are other reflections on power presented in this episode as well: Peggy attempts to figure out how to use the power of her sexuality in the relationship with her new boyfriend. While I love Peggy, I've never gotten her taste in men, from Pete to Duck. This new one seems so young in comparison to her. What does she see in him? He's so naive, thinking he'll be her "first." But, why does she hold off on going to bed with him? Might she really think she'd like to marry him? Or is she just feeling a desire to be married period? When she confesses to Freddy her uncertainty, he advises her not to have sex with him if she wants to marry him. When she says, however, that she's not sure if she wants to marry him, Freddy tells her not to lead him on. The next thing we see they are in bed together. Why? Has she decided she doesn't want marriage and figures Freddy's right that he won't want to marry her if she's slept with him? Does she decide she should just be herself and not lead him on? What is it about marriage that she wants? Is she the evening's representative of what the psychologist refers to as the conflict between who we really are/want to be v. who we're expected to be? Is she feeling the social or familial pressure to marry?

It was an interesting episode, but all around, one of those Christmases I'd just be relieved to see over.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Bikini: To Reveal or Not to Reveal

Mad Men, Season Four, Episode One, "Public Relations"

The main client we see in this episode is a nice "family company" that produces two-piece bathing suits, not to be confused with bikinis, which are too immodest and lead to ads that, according to one of the company's reps, look like they belong in "girlie magazines." They come to Don Draper to help them keep up their market share without revealing too much. While Don complains to Roger that the men from this company are just "prudes," it turns out that he has the same problem himself: his new partners expect him not just to be the creative guy he's always been, but to reveal himself in interviews with newspaper reporters as part of the new firm's attempt to sell itself. He's as reluctant to talk about himself on the pages of Ad Age as the bathing suit guys are to show too much flesh in a two-piece ad. The struggle over how much to reveal, the changing nature of (both bathing suits and) identity, and resultant punishment are just three of the themes in this overly-busy episode.

Ever since we first met him three years ago, Don Draper has been the consummate crafter of image, a talented creator of desire--for clients' products and for himself. Until late last season, he's always been able to focus attention away from his identity (or lack thereof) and cast a spotlight elsewhere. But, now things have shifted. His identity--always in flux--has changed: from creative director to partner in a fledgling firm; from philandering husband, never at a loss for the company of women he desires, to divorced man attending an arranged date with a woman who tells him 'no' and paying a prostitute to bed him. He wants to continue creating ad campaigns and keep the lid on himself: "My job is to write ads, not talk about who I am." But, his new job--and new partners--won't allow that. When he refused to reveal much to the Ad Age reporter interviewing him, all hell broke loose over the Draper the writer constructed in his article. Don tells Bert Cooper: "Who gives a crap what I say anyway? My work speaks for me." Cooper sets him straight: turning his creative work into new business for SCDP "is your work."

And Don's creative self is doing quite fine work. His TV ad for Glo-Coat floor polish is--we're told--revolutionary for not even seeming to be an ad at first. He wanted to make it "indistinguishable from the movies." And it does look like the beginning of a film with a focus on what appear to be jail bars, bars with a young boy behind them. But, as the camera pans out, we see that the boy is just playing jail under the kitchen table with an upside down chair in front of him. Don's becoming a film maker and, as so many film makers, we can see something of himself in his creation. Who is this boy? Is it Don as a child? Bobby? Is he reflecting his trapped childhood? Is he worried about Bobby, trapped with Betty? An image of a child being punished reflects another theme here. There's a lot of punishing going on here: the child in jail, Don's prostitute slapping him at his demand, Betty's passive-aggressive jabs at Don (staying out past the time she told him to bring the kids home, having the baby gone when he comes to pick the kids up). The punishments that relate to Don seem to offer us a glimpse into his feelings about all of the changes wrought in his life in the last year. Thinking about the ways he's let his kids down can lead to guilt.

As his personal life offers its challenges, he lets some of that spill out at the office. Which leads to a resolution of sorts: in the final meeting with the bathing suit guys, Don presents them a provocative visual ad he had to know they wouldn't care for. But, he knows it could work. "You'll get them [customers] into the store. Isn't that the point?" When the gentlemen express their doubts, Don pushes them: "You need to decide what kind of a company you want to be. Comfortable and dead or risky and possibly rich." He storms out of his office and as Pete is trying to patch things over, Don heads back in and kicks the would-be clients out. He's decided what kind of ad man he wants to be: creative and risky. We next see him at an interview with a Wall Street Journal reporter, regaling the man with stories of how he got out of Sterling Cooper and got the new company founded. He's recognized that professionally he will have to sell himself as well as ad campaigns. He's donned the bikini.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Divide--or the Problem with No Name

Mad Men, Season One, Episode Two, "Ladies Room"

"There's something to remember, something to forget. As long as we remember, there's something to regret...." The closing song of this episode is called "The Great Divide" and is by a Swedish band, The Cardigans. Unlike most of the MM closing credit music, this song--first recorded in 1996--was created long after the 1960s; the real life Dons, Bettys, Rogers, and Joans would not have known it. It feels more directed to the new show's 21st century audience, reminding us that we can choose to remember or forget what life was like fifty years ago. Obviously, Weiner and his compatriots hope we'll opt for the former--and watch their show as a means of interpreting that era. And, if we do remember, we're exhorted to realize that there is "something to regret" in this time period. This show isn't about romanticizing the 1950s, which is basically where we still are at the beginning of the series. (Well, maybe we can romanticize the cool clothes.) The death knell for the '50s has rung out; these folks are on the cusp of the new decade; but, the attitudes are still decidedly those the Beat poets and civil rights protesters were struggling against. The chauvanism of the era--male chauvanism, white chauvanism, upper class chauvanism--is heartily on display in this series so we can remember, reflect, and compare.

In this episode, the "Great Divide" is clearly that between men and women. "Ladies Room" actually does such a fine job of dramatizing what Betty Friedan called "The Problem with No Name" that I've used this episode in my 1960s themed composition course to help prepare students to read that chapter of The Feminine Mystique. And, the students REALLY get it. In ways they didn't in semesters before I used MM, they understand what made the Second Wave women's movement so necessary. They are horrified at all the instances of what they're able to name as 'sexual harrassment,' most not realizing that phrase wasn't coined and didn't have any legal standing until many years later. They give the same "No Way!" gasp of shock that I always experience when realizing it's Betty's psychiatrist that Don is phoning from the dark study after the late evening dinner in Manhattan.

Friedan realized ways that mainstream social expectations of American women were toxic to white, middle and upper class women. It would take other writers to highlight the injustices against other women. But, Friedan, who had studied psychology at Smith, understood the way that ideology can enter the psyche, constructing identities that conform to it. And, human psychology then works to perpetuate the ideology--which is why such a 'problem' can be so difficult to free onesself from. Friedan's book devotes a lot of space to the role psychiatrists--and the valium they prescribed--played in the lives of those American women who could afford them as they struggled to discover why they weren't as happy as everything and everyone around them asserted they should be. At this point in the series, it's intimated that Betty is suffering from this affluent women's malaise--a malaise hard to identify, accept, and claw one's way out of when all women heard were statements like what Don says to Betty: "I always thought people see a psychiatrist when they're unhappy. But I look at you, and this, and them...and I think, 'Are you unhappy?'" What can Betty do but respond, "Of course I'm happy"? Was she really one of the many housewives suffering from deep dissatisfaction with the cultural script she was handed? Or, as Season Three suggests, was she unhappy with a husband whom she--at some level--knew was unknown (and unknowable) to her? I don't know that this question has been settled yet. My posts from last season reveal an increasing frustration with--and anger at--Betty. But, in Season One, I have to sympathize with her.

What this episode also does such a good job with is suggesting the extent to which the great divide between men and women was based upon--and perpetuated--a lack of knowledge men had about women (those oppressed--women here--always have to understand their oppressers more than they are understood by them). This lack of understanding is pathetically blatant among the Sterling Cooper men--Kinsey admits to having "stopped trying to figure out what they think" and Roger responds to Don's "What do women want?" question with "Who cares?" Don, though, clueless as he is, does try to discern answers to the question. While he puts Betty on the spot with the question I quoted above, he also tries to puzzle Midge out as well: "I can't decide if you have everything or nothing." Unlike Betty, the beatnik Midge doesn't feel compelled to give Don an answer that will make him happy, instead offering the Zen koan-type response "Nothing is everything."

The theme of lack of knowledge of the other is also highlighted in Betty's puzzling over the identity of Don: in bed one night, she whispers to the sleeping Don, "Who's in there?" This both serves to further the theme of Don as hero with a mysterious past, an identity that is quite complex and perhaps false, and highlight the chasm between men and women--and Don and Betty specifically. Reflections on more great divides will follow in Mad Men, but this episode was a quite fruitful early introduction to them.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Smoke Gets in OUR Eyes--Back to Season One

Mad Men, Season One, Episode One, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

I've decided, in this hiatus between Seasons Three and Four, to watch Seasons One and Two again and see what they look like from this vantage point--knowing what we now know. And, it's so interesting. I'll periodically file reports from the land of the earlier seasons.

The pilot, fittingly enough, dives right into an early '60s controversy with its focus on the attempts of cigarette companies and their "mad men" to blow smoke in the eyes of a public that was finally being informed of the negative consequences of smoking. Roger, Don, and their cohorts are introduced to us as image crafters, manipulators, and--to put Don's more positive spin on their work--happiness purveyors. As he tells his colleagues and the Lucky Strikes execs: "Advertising is based on one thing--happiness. . . . It's a billboard screaming on the side of a road that whatever you're doing is okay. You're okay." But, we're not to be fooled. They all know that this is B.S. At one point in the meeting with the cigarette execs, Roger disingenuously blames "manipulation of the mass media" for the public's "impression" that cigarettes are the cause of some fatal diseases. Garner--of Lucky Strikes--barks, "Manipulation of the media--that's what I pay you for."

But what couldn't be clear when we viewed the pilot as our first ever "Mad Men" episode--but is now from a distance of thirty-eight additional episodes--is the extent to which Matt Weiner and Company were also blowing smoke in our eyes, presenting mere images as characters, images that would gradually be peeled away over the course of three seasons to allow insight into what have turned out to be characters of incredible and fascinating substance. I am not in the least bit being critical of Weiner and his colleagues when I claim they've been blowing smoke too. I think it's genius. We get to participate in the construction of these characters out of images in ways that are much more meaningful than in your run-of-the-mill show. While it's probably obvious to anyone, even in this first episode, that Sal is gay (Woman they pick up at the strip club: "I love this place. It's hot, loud, and full of men." Sal: "I know what you mean."), the trajectory of the other characters is so less clear. Joan is glorying in her role as the Marilyn-shaped sex object who functions as the madam of the office, sending Peggy off to the gynecologist for the new birth control pill, the better to perform her job. Peggy--mousy and insecure--obliges, having sex with the soon-to-be-wed Pete her first day on the job. She's so surprised to discover that he wants her. Her "me?" after his clumsy seduction is sad now that I know the outcome. I could never have predicted what feminist role models the illusions of Joan and Peggy were masking.

And Don: we aren't even let in on the fact that Don has a wife and children until the very end of the episode. He sleeps at Midge's apartment, flirts with Rachel, never mentions or hears mention of his family. What a surprise it must have been the first time watching to see him walk into that house to a beautiful, smiling, warm-looking Betty. As Julie wrote in a comment here recently, Don really is a dick in this season. But, wait--we aren't to find out about Dick for a number of episodes yet. And Betty? Warm and smiling? How many times in my posts on third season episodes did I refer to her as "cold?" So much is to be revealed about the two of them too. The only one who has pretty much stayed the same is Pete. When he knocks on Peggy's apartment door after his bachelor party and drunkenly says to her, "You must think I'm a creep," I said, "Yep." And three seasons later, I still say "Yep" to that. Oh, well, there has to be some anchor here in this realm of illusion. Or maybe the pulling back of the image that is Pete is what we have in store in Season Four.