Mad Men 4.8 – Power of the Poontang

Oh, come on: that line was screaming to be the title.

When we first see Don this week, he’s going for a swim…and, by the sound of it, he’s also going to be coughing up a lung in the near future. Surely someone in the firm is going to be developing lung cancer from their constant smoking, but I always thought Don’s liver would fail him first. Maybe I’m wrong…? Time will tell. We also hear him in voiceover as he bears his soul into a journal. I don’t know if he’s been inspired by Roger’s excruciatingly awful ramblings for his memoirs or if the loss of Anna has caused him to realize that someone someday should be able to know the real Don Draper, but whatever the case, these are some seriously deep thoughts that we hear over the course of the episode. Nice use of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” by the way, especially having the line about “the same cigarettes as me” roll off Mick’s lips just as Don’s preparing to put a cigarette to his.

Elsewhere around the office, Mrs. Blankenship has had eye surgery (I’m looking at her in a different light since the revelation that she used to be quite the hellcat back in her day, and I’m wondering if that might’ve been Matthew Weiner’s way of sidestepping critical accusations that she’d been less a character than a punchline), and the office neanderthals are beating the living hell out of the new vending machine. Clearly, it deserved it, what with first not doling out a tasty treat, then for swallowing Joey’s watch when he tried to go after said treat. I laughed out loud when Peggy said, “I feel like Margaret Mead.”

Yes, it’s definitely still a man’s man’s man’s world at Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce, as evidenced by the treatment Joan has to put up with from the jackasses in the office…emphasis on “asses,” if you were watching closely during the discussion she was having with Peggy. Speaking of which, I thought that was a particularly nasty jab about how she could do with taking a few extra steps, but we soon realize that it isn’t (entirely) the goings-on at the office that have gotten her riled up but, rather, the fact that her husband is preparing to head to basic training. Given Don’s subsequent viewing of Vietnam footage on the telly and Joan pointedly referencing it in her later verbal attack on the guys (“Remember, you’re not dying for me, because I never liked you”), it’s hard to conceive of a scenario where she doesn’t end up as a widow in short order.

When Don began to space out during his meeting with the team, I thought for one moment that he was looking at Peggy in a different light after last week’s episode…but, no, it was much more likely the effects of the alcohol. That, or the simple fact that his mind just isn’t on his work the way it once was. Either there’s too much going on in his personal life or there’s not enough of what he wants there to be in it, but either way, this is not a happy camper that we see before us. An attempt to drown his sorrows in an evening with Bethany might possibly have worked, but however he might’ve anticipating things going, things changed at the precise moment that Betty and Henry stopped by their table.

Frankly, I was surprised that they did so, as I figured Betty would want to just run far, far away, and as quickly as possible. It makes sense, though, that her obsession over Don would inspire a need to find out more about his dinner companion. Another laugh-out-loud line for the episode: Don describing Betty and Henry’s dinner companion as “some slob who’s about to have the worst dinner of his life.” As it turns out, the gentleman has profound political aspirations for Henry, but Betty isn’t paying a lick of attention: she’s dwelling on Don and Bethany and, based on the way she’s suddenly smoking like a chimney, is having a pretty serious anxiety attack about it. I guess I wasn’t really aware ’til this episode that Betty, too, is now using alcohol to battle through her memories of her broken relationship, but that’s clearly the case, given how Henry calls her out for her use of the phrase “I need a drink.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bethany is turned on by having seen “the competition,” and she promptly takes Don to third base in the back seat. A happy ending, indeed…at least for Don, anyway.

Betty’s apologetic the next morning, and Henry seems to be somewhat receptive, if ultimately a bit cool on the idea of further conversation. He enjoys the opportunity to be a little vindictive before leaving the garage, however, bashing into some of Don’s stuff. He must’ve gotten off on it, since he then proceeds to call Don and basically tell him to get his shit out. Sure, he couches it in claims of needing the space for a new boat, but Don recognizes it for the dickish move that it is. What he also does, however, is view it as a wake-up call to move forward with his future: he picks up the stuff…and promptly throws it away. He hears the beautiful blonde doctor battling through some personal problems on the phone, and he decides that the time is right to make his move: they go on a date and, instead of rushing things, he takes a page from Bethany’s book and takes it slow. This doesn’t bode well for Bethany, unfortunately, but you can’t say he hasn’t learned something from his time with her, at least.

Back to the office. Despite how well they’d been getting along when the season began, Peggy’s clearly pissed off with Joey. Well, actually, she’s pissed off with all of the guys who are refusing to acknowledge women as equals, but for my part, I thought she was more pissed off with him because they’d had such a good working relationship once upon a time. Just doing the artistic rendering of Joan and Lane was bad enough, but the fact that he’d actually put it in in Joan’s window for her to see it…well, hell, I’d think that’d piss anybody off. It’s just a shitty thing to do. I don’t think there’s any question that Joan handled the situation about as well as she could have, offering that aforementioned line about Vietnam, which was scathing, but nor do I think that it was wrong of Peggy to want Joey to suffer further disciplinary action belong just a tongue-lashing, especially when she pointedly told him not to do the drawing in the first place.

The brief one-on-one between Peggy and Don confirms that something changed about their relationship after last week’s episode. I mean, I guess you could just chalk it up to Don just being desperate to avoid having to actually get involved, but, no, I think he actually does view Peggy a little bit differently now, and he trusts her to be able to fight her own battles…which she does. Joey was pretty well asking for it by the end, and I was impressed that Peggy didn’t back off but, indeed, let him go. (I don’t necessarily think we’ve seen the last of him, though: I can’t believe the scene where Harry observed that he thought Joey had potential as an actor was there for nothing.) It’s no surprise that Joan didn’t agree with the way that Peggy handled the situation: Joan has convinced herself that she’s happy with her station in life, while Peggy’s convinced herself that she can make more of hers. They’ve never seen eye to eye on matters of women in the workplace, and it’s underlined here that they almost certainly never will. Meaningless secretary…? Meet humorless bitch.

To wrap up, let’s revisit Don, who has taken a cue from his beautiful blonde doctor and decided to attend baby Gene’s 2nd birthday party after all. He’d been so close to just throwing the child to the wolves, i.e. Betty and Henry, but in the end, he does the right thing and stakes his claim as the lad’s father. Has Don turned a corner? Is he climbing out of the abyss?

Let’s see what next week brings…

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

7 responses to “Mad Men 4.8 – Power of the Poontang”

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>