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?


  1. I agree - what an episode! I'm nervous about what the next three Sundays will bring. It was shocking to see Lane slapped by his father. I thought two heart attacks were about to happen - Don and Roger. Geez! My own heart was thumping!
    Although some of the blogs disagree, I'm with you on Joan, Cathy. Just not convinced she ended the pregnancy....there are two ways to read "Life goes on."
    I hated how Don looked at Megan at the end of the show. Yep, Megan is gorgeous and has been featured more prominently in the last few episodes...especially her warmth and nurturing of Sally. But, come on, Don. Didn't you learn your lesson with Allison? And it sounds like Faye is a woman who's not at all shocked that Don's not who he says he is...which is interesting. Is Faye not who she says she is too?
    Finally, my best friend's mom took two little girls to see the Beatles at Comiskey Park (now Cellular Field) - back in the day. We screamed. She wore earplugs. As ever, Mad Men gets it right.

  2. Oh, Mary, I am so jealous you got to see the Beatles live. It is one of my regrets in life that I couldn't do that. I was too young when they'd stopped touring, but my parents gave me my first phonograph for Christmas when I was six. That would have been 1967. One of the 45 records they gave me with it was "Hello, Goodbye" with "I Am the Walrus" on the B side. I was hooked. My other big musical regret is never getting to see John Lennon perform solo. I started high school--and going to rock concerts--the year Sean Lennon was born and John began his parenting leave from performing. That was such a cool thing for him to do in 1975, but he had just come out of that leave, recorded a new album and I hoped I'd get to see him do a concert to promote it when he was killed. I've seen both Paul and Ringo perform live--which was fun. But John...or all of them...

    Interesting pondering about why Faye was so quick to accept Don's deception. Does she have something to hide too or is it that her training as a psychologist has given her the experience to know that many people aren't exactly who they say they are?

  3. I have my suspicions about Joan too!

  4. I agree with you that Joan may still be pregnant. That look on her face in the bus scene was what made me think that. It would also be just like her to want to manage this herself - not involve Rodger. I think a lot about the similarities and just enough differences between Joan and Peggy and how potentially they could be such close friends but they are so cautious about letting down the wall between them.

    That lingering look from Dan to his secretary Megan at the last moment of the show made he feel uncomfortable. At first I was thinking he might be considering falling back into his old ways even with this potentially great relationship with Faye is blooming. But then I thought there might have been something else behind his look - like thinking about his daughter growing up. Or am I just naive?

  5. I'm voting with no abortion. Not even a hair was out of place on that bus ride home--even someone as perfect as Joan would have to end up a bit unkempt after her 3rd abortion--not to mention her healthy glow the next morning. And I suspect that our clever and cruel writers may not let us know until next season. Dammit.

    Cathy I don't agree with the "true love" between J and R. I found his response appalling--"Maybe I'm in love with you." Excuse me??? After all these years, he's still not sure. That's not a 60s thing, that's a spoiled brat thing. But then I don't believe in true love, so don't listen to me.

    While I loved Betty's defense of Don, she really had no choice--the scandal would have killed marriage #2.

    Mary you saw the Beatles!!??? Your sentence was a tad vague so I wasn't sure. (Been reading too many vague student sentences to be good at reading between the lines)

    While I found the Lane/daddy thing horrifying, I also find Lane a bit of a dick. How could he imagine that father would have been happy to meet his "chocolate (ugh) bunny." He put that lovely woman in an ugly position. Of course after meeting daddy, we can see why Lane is such a mess.

    I'm so relieved that Sally's happy!! YAY!!

  6. I did see the Beatles! From way atop Comiskey Park's highest seats. They were very little specks, but they were very cool specks!
    Not to provoke more envy but - I also saw the Stones :)

  7. You can have the Stones, Mary. No envy for that one. But, if you tell me you saw Hendrix...

    It's interesting, Tricia, that you bring up the similarities between Joan and Peggy and how they have the potential to be friends and resources for each other. That's true, but sadly, I can't see it ever happening. Joan has gotten the bit of professional power she has from men who have been willing to give up only so much of their own power. And, she got it through crafty use of her sex appeal and her body, figuring out how then to slide her intellect and organizational skills into the picture. In that kind of framework, women are in competition with each other. Joan has never had girlfriends; she's always put herself above the other women in the office. I don't know that she could change her perspective enough to put herself on the same level as another woman and be friends, rather than in competition. Peggy seems like she might be more open to the sisterhood perspective, but I don't think that will come with Joan.

    I'm assuming that Anonymous above is Elizabeth? I was being a bit flip when I called Roger Joan's "true love." But, I do think he's always been more to her than Greg and they are better matched. It could never work and yes, he is a spoiled brat. I don't think Lane really thought his father would be happy. I think he wanted to rub his father's face in something he would be upset about, but which Lane thought the old man couldn't control. Sadly, his father still can exert control over him. Lane can be a dick, but to see him reduced to his "yes, sir" while his hand was being smashed by the jerk's shoe. Another dysfunctional family to add to the MM pot!

  8. However did you recognize me? I saw Joan Baez introduce Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival--does that count? Any envy points out there for me????

  9. Did you want to remain anonymous? If so, I'm sorry. I realized after I named you that perhaps you wouldn't want me to...Your voice (I am a writing teacher) and the comment about student papers. But, anyway--the 60s Dylan! Newport Folk Fest! Yes, you get big envy points for that. I thought about writing Dylan instead of Hendrix earlier, but Dylan in his later stages isn't as appealing. Unfortunately, Jimi never got any later phases...

  10. Does Springsteen rate envy points? Like Springsteen, at Northwestern , in a small venue, who played encore after encore and finally quit around one in the morning? Ah - glory days :)

  11. I've done Springsteen at a university venue, too, if anyone wants to envy me as well :)