Mad Men
The Summer Man

Episode Report Card
Couch Baron: B+ | 2 USERS: A+
Half the Battle
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

We start with a long shot of Don diving into a laned pool as he voices over that it's said that as soon as you have to cut down on your drinking, you have a drinking problem, and I'm glad that he's finally becoming aware of his alcohol abuse, even if it sounds like the "they" in this case is Bazooka Joe. Cut to Don writing these DVOs down in a journal as he goes on that his mind is a jumble and he can't organize his thoughts, "and typing feels like work." And I'm guessing with Miss Blankenship as his secretary, he's having to do a lot more of it to cut down on random spelling errors and his correspondence ending up in Timbuktu. By the way, even though Don is home and this is apparently a day off work, he's dressed and groomed and not entertaining women whose names he forgot/never knew/is not interested in because they're prostitutes, so between this and the journal, it seems like last week's interaction with Peggy plus the closure of Anna's death may have inspired him at least to try to pull himself out of his downward spiral. Also, while we're here, it's definitely a departure for this show to employ voice-over so heavily when (a) I don't remember it ever having used it and (b) it by definition somewhat sacrifices the subtext and ambiguity that the show revels in. However, I think it makes sense for this episode given that, thanks to both the increasing prevalence of people talking about their feelings this season and him being at a real crossroads, he's engaging in self-examination for the first time in his life; we really do need to know what he's thinking in order to advance the story they're trying to tell here.

Anyway, Don sips some coffee as he confesses he's never written more than two hundred and fifty words at a time, not even in high school, and if he actually existed I'd love to show him a recap so he could blanch at the length and then laugh at me. He pronounces his old self lazy and then expresses his regret that he never graduated, as "everything could have been different." If he's saying that he then could have gone on to college, I hate to disappoint him, but he wouldn't even have made it past the application process writing only two hundred and fifty words. Either that, or I did it waaaaaaay wrong.

Cut back to the pool, where Don finishes up a lap and then coughs in such a smokerly way that the lifeguard asks him if he's okay, and Don waves him away all "Just let me hack some yellow stuff up into your pool and then I'll do another couple laps." Not that he's the only one, I'm sure.

Later, Don sits contemplatively in the locker room while the viewing audience contemplates him in a towel and nothing else, and then we cut to the exterior of the building, which lets us know that he's at the New York Athletic Club. Well, nice workout if you can get it. The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" kicks up as Don takes in the surroundings for a bit and tells us that summer is coming -- he can smell it. And I think the point of this scene is to let us know that Don is waking up and seeing the world around him again, which is good, but if I were going to pick a place and time to reignite my olfactory senses, New York on the verge of summer would not be my choice. I mean, he's on Central Park South here -- that's where they have the horses, you know?

Anyway, the song continues as Don strides into the office but cuts off abruptly when he reaches Miss Blankenship, possibly because the thick dark glasses she's wearing startle it. Don asks how her surgery was (we'll learn it was for cataracts, unsurprisingly), and she says it was a nightmare, what with the ether and the blindness, "and then I got the goggles." She says she's okay to work, though, but when he offers her more time off if she needs it, she assures him, "I'm fine, Roger." To be fair, it wouldn't exactly have shocked me if she made that mistake before the surgery. However, she's just kidding around, which makes me wonder if they gave her some ether to go, so he asks her, since he left his book at home, to get him Bethany's number...

...while up the hall, Stan and Joey are manhandling the office candy machine, while Harry tries to direct and Peggy amusingly tells a female co-worker, "I feel like Margaret Mead." Heh. All this effort is in aid of trying to retrieve some change that the machine denied Ken and also Joey's watch, which he lost in the rescue effort, but after a particularly loud attempt to jiggle everything loose, Joan strides out and demands to know what's going on. After some explanation that goes nowhere and some sharp words between Joan and Joey, Pete comes out and, apparently having used his week off to work on his patrician accent, asks what all the fuss is about, since he was in the "midst of an extremely important telephone call." Joey snarks that Joan was just handing out demerits, prompting her to order him into her office, and on the way, he shows off to the guys by saying it's going to be a "private spanking, just like my dream." If it doesn't work out that way, Don's got a number you can call. Pete hilariously wonders when they got a vending machine, and that's all Vincent Kartheiser has to do this week. No wonder he loves this gig so much.

In her office, Joan tells Joey that as a freelancer, she knows he spends time in other work environments, but the way he's behaving won't be tolerated here. "I should let you know that there's a problem now between us." I hope I transcribed that correctly; I can't bring myself to watch it again, given that those words coming from Joan make up the scariest sentence in the universe. Joey wonders why she's always on his case, given that Stan is worse than he is, and hilariously, Joan considers that for a moment like she knows it's absolutely true, but offers that perhaps Stan is better at his job. Not that I'm not on her side, but that does seem like the kind of response that's designed to escalate things, but after Joey laughs and she calls him arrogant, he asks, "Me? What do you do around here besides walking around like you're trying to get raped?" Oh, Joey, I didn't think you could make my Dead To Me folder, but that was offensive enough to skip any deliberation about it, even without knowing about the incident from two seasons ago. The only good thing about that comment is that if Joan wanted to, she could tell Roger about it and he'd eviscerate you with his bare hands.

On his way out, Joey sneers that he's not some wide-eyed young girl and as such doesn't need "some madam from a Shanghai whorehouse to show me the ropes," and I will say that at least when this kid burns a bridge, he doesn't half-ass the job. It's intriguing and terrifying to see Joan, always a master of getting both fascination and respect from men, being given neither from this new generation of men, and it obviously is difficult for her even to grasp what just happened, so when Peggy comes in the other door, Joan impotently tells her this is her office, "not a thoroughfare. Take the extra steps -- you could use them." Unjustifiedly nasty, certainly, but Peggy at least brings it down by saying that Joan's right, at least about the part where she shouldn't be barging in, and Joan's anger deflates and she tells Peggy to go ahead -- she's leaving anyway. Peggy wisely still withdraws the way she came, and as Joan gets ready, she hears and sees the boys laughing in the other room. Whatever it is, Joan, you don't want to know, and having seen the episode once already, I know of what I speak.

Miss Blankenship is shuffling back toward Don's desk, and her awkward gait is not merely due to her orthopedic shoes -- she's laden down with a refill of Don's liquor supply, and if she's the one who has to fetch the stuff regularly I'm surprised she doesn't have sciatica as well as cataracts. As soon as she's there, though, he tells her to take the bottles back and get him some cigarettes, and while I'm all for him cutting down on his consumption I thin

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