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Mad Men: "Far Away Places" OAD 4/22/12 **SPOILERS**


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:20 AM

Before dealing with the main characters and the complicated stories in last night's episode "Far Away Places", I think we should note one historical element that created a character's backstory that rivals Don Draper's.

I'm really curious about the new Jewish copywriter...it's like he's hiding something after the scene last week when he returned home and yesterday with the viewing of the crime scene photos. Maybe it's his mother?

The actor Ben Feldman is 32. If the character is supposed to be about that age, he would have been born in 1934. All we know about him is that he has lived most of his life in NYC, he lives with his dad, mom's absent, he's Jewish, and he's horrified at senseless violent killings. We don't know what country he was born in....

We received confirmation last night that Michael Ginsberg was born in a concentration camp where his mother died. He said his father wasn't his real father but had located him in Sweden. What's this all about?

Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg was a Swedish diplomat and nobleman noted for his negotiation of the release of about 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps during World War II. About 1% were children. From The Care, in Sweden, of Polish Infants born in concentration camps: "Amongst the children who were liberated or released from concentration camps, there were a number of infants." It is highly likely that the birth fathers of these infants were German SS personnel. Hence, Ginsberg's statements on being an alien Martian.

But who doesn't like orange sherbet from Howard Johnsons?

Posted Image


That is much like the transitions in this episode. In fact, Matthew Weiner claims he was motivated by serials of short French films. And so this episode was constructed as three stories set as the same day viewed from the point of view of Peggy, Roger, and Don. Apparently for different reasons they share a common desire to escape to "far away places." But there is also a common thread of a sense of abandonment.

Peggy. Given the role of leading a team of young copywriters in the firm, we see her arising in the morning fretting about a presentation to the difficult Heinz beans people. She fights with her boyfriend Abe who's feeling used by this person who is so work oriented. She suggests if he's so unhappy perhaps they should break up.

She gets to work and Don not only abandons her but takes team-member Megan away for the day. The Heinz presentation, which seemed pretty good, blows up as she tells off the Heinz guy. After the Heinz guy leaves in a huff, Pete comes in to tell her she's off the account.

The wrinkle here is she then behaves like Don, drinking in the office and leaving during the day to smoke weed and have accidental casual sex in the movie, ironically "Born Free" set in a far away place. It is after this that she returns to the office to hear Ginsberg's story about being a Martian which she really doesn't understand.

Her escape over, she finally goes home, calls up Abe and asks him to come over, she always needs him.

Reset.

Roger Sterling has discovered a potential client, Howard Johnsons. As a historical note on the size of the potential client, according to Wikipedia in 1961 Howard Johnson's Company went public when there were 265 company owned and 340 franchised restaurants, as well as 88 franchised Howard Johnson's motor lodges in 32 states and the Bahamas. Roger, attempting to avoid a dinner party with Jane's friends, proposes to Don that they take a trip to the motor lodge in Plattsburgh. Don decides to take Megan instead.

So Roger goes to the dinner party with Jane. Except this wasn't our ordinary dinner party. Roger actually calls one of the people there "Dr. Leary." I don't know if this was a sarcastic reference or intended to place a historical character in the room, but in 1964, Timothy Leary coauthored The Psychedelic Experience, based upon the Tibetan Book of the Dead and while living on an estate in the town of Millbrook, NY, founded "The League For Spiritual Discovery", a religious organization based seeking legal use of LSD for religious purposes.

Anyway, Roger and Jane go on LSD "trips" neither one of which seem particularly wild. But it ends up with them calmly determining that their relationship is over, having seen the truth of their situation. (Whether this is a plot device Weiner is using to get Joan and Roger together - the baby is Roger's, after all - we won't know until some future episode.)

During this LSD trip scene, we have The Beach Boys’ “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from the album Pet Sounds released May 16, 1966, as our ironic background music:

VyhU2mVyFAk


Reset.

Finally we see Don and Megan's trip to the Howard Johnsons where they ostensibly have a fight over the way-too-orange-way-too-sweet-perfume-like orange sherbet. They have an angry exchange including Megan letting go on the subject of their work relationship versus their marital relationship and resulting in comments about each other's mothers. Don drives off, but comes back only to find Megan gone.

We end this bad trip with Don violently chasing Megan around their apartment at the end of which he clings to her waist expressing his fears that he would lose her. We see them coming to work, they smile at each other as they part, having made a peace, of sorts. But during this we have Megan saying: "Every time we fight it just diminishes us a little bit."

Reset to the real world.

Bert Cooper, who has been irrelevant as the partner emeritus, suddenly intervenes in the conference room telling Don he has been "on love leave." When Don stupidly says it's none of Bert's business, Bert says "this is my business" and walks out. And Roger, still coming back from his "trip" opens the door and says it's going to be a beautiful day.

Final scene - a somewhat clueless Don watching through the glass partition everyone parade by the conference room. You see, they didn't escape to far away places for long....

Edited by phrelin, 23 April 2012 - 04:40 PM.
typos

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#2 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 01:25 PM

You got a lot more out of this episode than I did, and as usual you write concisely and perfectly. Well done.

I ended up thinking this entire episode was kind of "meta," by which I mean it is both self-referential and immersive; the audience is treated to the same experience as the characters. At times I felt like I was the one on the acid trip.

All in all though, I found this episode to be inconsistently written compared to others. It's one thing to say that everyone has a range of emotions and actions and well-written characters should too. In this episode I felt almost like I was in the Bizarro world.

Don was weak, Megan was (w)itchy, Peggy was arbitrary, Ginsburg was sincere, Roger was an acid fiend, Bert was in control... isn't that a little too much for one episode?

Sure, everyone went to far away places, but it just didn't seem like these were even the same people.

On the other hand, kudos to the set designers for an extremely convincing HoJos and even a passable matte painting.

Not one of my favorite episodes... we'll see where it goes.
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#3 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:52 AM

I'm with both of you guys. I think Weiner's whole point was to take these characters to places far away from their normal existence. In essence, everybody was on an acid trip. And in so doing, reveal hidden sides of themselves. While it would seem these are not the same people:

Peggy has definitely been building to this self-righteous rage for a long time.

Don's newfound and true love for his wife makes him vulnerable and dependent for the first time, and he showed that new side of himself--to himself and us.

Ginsberg had involuntarily revealed a dark personal side in the phone call and in the father reveal to Peggy, so that set up his newfound truth telling. A change yes, but with motivation.

Meg was distracted and bitchy in the car because at the same time Don has been pulling away from the business, she has been getting fulfilled and involved in it. Clearly it has affected her whole sense of self-worth. So when she saw Don disrespecting this hugely important side of her, she snapped. To Don it's just "work". To her, it's her life. Thus yes, her snapout was a big change, but motivated.

Roger has been increasingly bitter and sarcastic over his loveless marriage and his disenfranchisement at work. So his joy at a potentially emotionally clean divorce, no matter the cost, left him feeling like a new man. A big turnaround for him yes, but a hugely motivated change. And in the background, there is no doubt that Roger the man is thinking about Joan who he truly loves (and she loves him) and his new hunk of immortality with the baby. This kid will not be the spoiled brat issue from his previous train wreck of a marriage. There is hope for this kid.

So while I agree each character seemed literally OUT of character at times this week, each stretch of persona was justified and motivated.

#4 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:56 AM

BTW, always loved Hojos fried clams (they're really clam strips), but could never stand their orange sherbert myself, I'm with Meg! But Hojo's ice cream was actually pretty damned good. And their hot fudge sundaes excellent.

I felt so bad for the sweet guy who only wanted to please the Drapers!

#5 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:28 PM

For me, Don has been the "out-of-character" character this whole season.

This was a surprisingly complex episode over-packed with information. I remembered the flashback to the scene set in the car, from an episode last year, that had Sally wishfully creating a young-mother-Megan, the person Don proposed to, a person who was as much of an illusion as anything one can find in Disneyland.

I then had to go back to my forgotten last post of last season, which was too long ago for my old, feeble memory, to discover this:

Should this episode have been titled "Fanstasyland" because Don's self-image includes being the "handsome prince" and, in his fantasy, Megan is "Cinderella?" Faye would have had trouble avoiding the "wicked stepmother" role with Sally. Megan will have trouble, but it will only be because she's trying too hard to be Maria Von Trapp.

One can't help but feel that Don is enchanted with Megan. She's the perfect French-speaking au pair (to use a word not commonly used for a "nanny" in 1965) for the kids. And she's smart, but at 25 not "too seasoned" and therefore not yet aggressively cynical. And she's attractive even if a bit "toothy." She thinks she knows Don, and in some ways she does know Don - she just doesn't know Dick.

But all in all, Don thinks he has found a way to replace Carla and Betty. And it is a significant improvement over the latter for the kids.

We don't really know anything about Megan who at ...what, 23 or 24?... moved from Montreal bringing her French Canadian heritage to New York City. And if we don't know anything, think how little Don knows about what "Tomorrowland" means to a 25-year-old French Canadian woman in 1965 in the United States.

What are these two going to talk about? When Megan calls home all excited about her engagement, Don wants to talk but Megan points out he doesn't speak French.

...And we all know that Don has no clue about Faye's comment: "I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things."

So, we end the season with Don staring out the window, the perfect immature teen angst love song in the background:

Cher: They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow
Sonny: Well I don't know if all that's true
'Cause you got me, and baby I got you

Why do I find that a bit foreboding. After all, it worked out so well for Sonny and Cher, and of course for Chastity Bono.

This season so far we've seen a nearly delusional Dick Whitman who moved "far, far away" from reality into The Don Draper Experience, so far that he just didn't see who Megan is - a work-oriented person like Don with the same aspirations as Peggy. Dick Whitman is there living an embellished illusion he recreated in Disneyland, holding Megan back because he sees her as the mother he never had, the mother his children don't have, the 1950's "homemaker" wife and mother few people ever had.

I used The Don Draper Experience as a simile to bring up the foreboding image of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the psychedelic rock band formed in 1966 led by the ill-fated Jimi Hendrix. Many of the "successful" musicians and singers of the '60's got their wish and lived an ill-fated dream

People who were raised in the early Disney years before Disneyland were heavily influenced by one song reinforcing the American Dream, the first two stanzas of which are:

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

"When You Wish Upon A Star" is from Walt Disney's Pinocchio.

In "Mad Men", a wishing dreamer Dick Whitman - Geppetto - creates Don Draper out of some "dead wood" - a Pinocchio - who keeps tripping over his nose.

And there is an irony about Pinocchio having been released in 1940, a story about a delusional Italian....

Edited by phrelin, 24 April 2012 - 12:35 PM.

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#6 OFFLINE   spartanstew

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 07:10 PM

Roger actually calls one of the people there "Dr. Leary." I don't know if this was a sarcastic reference or intended to place a historical character in the room,


It was Timothy Leary. Did you notice at the end of dinner, he said "let's continue this conversation after we turn on"?

That's a reference to "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out", Leary's most famous quote.

He also referenced the Tibetan Book of the Dead during the LSD trip, and the Closed Captioning referred to him as Leary throughout the scene.

I'm sure Directv can't wait to get their hands on your unit.

 
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#7 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:59 PM

It was Timothy Leary. Did you notice at the end of dinner, he said "let's continue this conversation after we turn on"?

That's a reference to "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out", Leary's most famous quote.

He also referenced the Tibetan Book of the Dead during the LSD trip, and the Closed Captioning referred to him as Leary throughout the scene.


As to CC, if the people doing it were going off the script, I'd say that is pretty definitive.

But too much ambiguity surrounds the scene. All kinds of people were saying "Let's turn on", or referencing previously obscure literature, and the character, once referenced also as "Professor", looked nothing like Leary, and Leary was a prof. at Harvard, not in NYC.

I am sure the question will be asked of Weiner, and we'll get a direct "hit" on his intentions.
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#8 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:17 AM

Of course it's all guesswork but I took the character to be a Leary fan or follower, not the actual Leary.
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#9 OFFLINE   spartanstew

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:27 AM

At first I assumed Roger was being sarcastic when he called him Dr. Leary and I could certainly see him as a fan or follower. Going back and looking at the CC, however, convinced me that he was actually Leary. But, that certainly could have been a mistake and IMDB doesn't list Leary as a character in that episode, so I'm probably back to thinking he was just a fan/follower as Stuart suggests.

I'm sure Directv can't wait to get their hands on your unit.

 
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#10 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:33 AM

The other thing I wanted to mention was the role of smoking in this episode. Sure it was the '60s and everyone smoked, but does Megan not smoke? Very interesting if that was a conscious decision to make her a non-smoker. Peggy smokes pot in a movie theater and Roger (apparently) smokes a slide trombone. It seems like this episode had a lot more to do with smoking than previous ones.

And although I didn't like this episode, I will give credit where it's due: The line, "It's not a destination. It's a stop you make along the way" (or close to it), uttered by Megan... you could apply that to so many things: life in general, marriage, etc. I'm sure it was meant that way.
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#11 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:23 AM

I'll be watching the whole show again, as I re-viewed only the dinner party-LSD scenes. I have to say, they were exceptionally well done. Other such scenes I've seen were overdone, though I can't recall even the title of any other films or tv shows where a trip was depicted.

Smoking did not pop out at me as much as in early eps where there was smoking in Drs. offices, by the Doc! and so forth. So again, a re-viewing is in order!
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#12 OFFLINE   trainman

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:30 AM

As to CC, if the people doing it were going off the script, I'd say that is pretty definitive.


I've heard bad things about the closed-captioning on "Mad Men," at least in previous seasons (numerous misspellings and such), so I would not assume that they're captioning based on a script, and I wouldn't take anything the captioning says as gospel.

I'm in agreement that it wasn't supposed to actually be Timothy Leary.
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#13 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 12:11 PM

It's difficult to figure out the Leary reference. From a historical standpoint it could have been.

Timothy Leary was living and working in a rambling mansion on an estate in the town of Millbrook (near Poughkeepsie, New York) in 1966 which was being raided by law enforcement, which included none other than G. Gordon Liddy. And as I noted above, on September 19, 1966, Leary founded the League for Spiritual Discovery. Beginning in late 1966, Leary toured college campuses presenting a multi-media performance called "the Death of the Mind" which attempted to replicate the LSD experience using art.

But...

In 1966 Leary was unmarried. I thought the character in the episode was the husband of the woman psychiatrist.

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#14 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 12:59 PM

I've heard bad things about the closed-captioning on "Mad Men," at least in previous seasons (numerous misspellings and such), so I would not assume that they're captioning based on a script, and I wouldn't take anything the captioning says as gospel.

I'm in agreement that it wasn't supposed to actually be Timothy Leary.


Just thought why (now, duh on me) it's unlikely the CC people were working from the script: Leaks! Though they could be e-mailed the script 15 minutes before the first airing.....

As Phrelin notes, Leary was single then, and living in Millbrook (not far from Vassar!), and it looked very much as though he—perhaps a disciple of Leary— lived with his wife in the elegant NYC apartment.
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#15 OFFLINE   trainman

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 11:13 AM

Just thought why (now, duh on me) it's unlikely the CC people were working from the script: Leaks! Though they could be e-mailed the script 15 minutes before the first airing.....


15 minutes before the first airing would be too late to do anyone any good. Most shows that aren't airing live have the captioning done at least a few days in advance -- if nothing else, the network needs to create the "captioned master" that they actually broadcast. (When I worked as a captioner, the most last-minute I ever did something was a half-hour sitcom that was airing on ABC that night -- I finished at about 1:00 Pacific, and it aired at 5:00 Pacific.)

Even if the show were being captioned live, 15 minutes wouldn't be enough time for the live captioner to prepare their stenographic machine with character names, etc.
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#16 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 11:24 AM

15 minutes before the first airing would be too late to do anyone any good. Most shows that aren't airing live have the captioning done at least a few days in advance -- if nothing else, the network needs to create the "captioned master" that they actually broadcast. (When I worked as a captioner, the most last-minute I ever did something was a half-hour sitcom that was airing on ABC that night -- I finished at about 1:00 Pacific, and it aired at 5:00 Pacific.)

Even if the show were being captioned live, 15 minutes wouldn't be enough time for the live captioner to prepare their stenographic machine with character names, etc.


Steno machine? Wouldn't today's captioner be using a computer with a lot of prepared Macros? Character names would largely be the same as previous eps.

So, wouldn't those who are facile at live captioning do a real good job with cut-n-paste from the script with a bit of hand editing? Obviously not ideal but doable, no?

Is it even possible Mad Men was done before hand, without benefit of a script? Or live? Or with script in all cases?
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#17 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 11:48 AM

Above is the title of a book I just ran across, and am posting it mostly due to the irony of the word "Madmen" in it.... then I decided to buy it, so:

"Timothy Leary and the Madmen of Millbrook is waiting for you in your Kindle library. Start reading by clicking 'Go to Kindle for Mac' below." Nearly 300 pages, but at 99c I figured I could skim..... Lots of cussing.
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#18 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 04:00 PM

Further to the connection between Leary's Millbrook time, the author of the aforementioned book goes to live at Millbrook, and his first acid trip is via Vodka infused with LSD, and later he tells of everything tasting like Vodka. It was a bottle of Stoly, was it not, that "produced" music when Slattery went to the drinks table?
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#19 OFFLINE   trainman

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:10 PM

Steno machine? Wouldn't today's captioner be using a computer with a lot of prepared Macros? Character names would largely be the same as previous eps.

So, wouldn't those who are facile at live captioning do a real good job with cut-n-paste from the script with a bit of hand editing? Obviously not ideal but doable, no?


No, live captioners use the same type of 24-key stenographer's machine that a court reporter uses. It is hooked up to a computer that translates the shorthand output into actual English -- one of the things they do to prepare in advance is making sure that various key combinations will translate into what they want them to translate into. For example, before they caption a sporting event, they'll make sure they know how they're going to "write" all the names from the team rosters, plus the coaches, the announcers, the referee...

Is it even possible Mad Men was done before hand, without benefit of a script?


Yes, it's absolutely possible. When I worked as a captioner, we got scripts for maybe half the shows we worked on; otherwise, we had to solely rely on our interpretation of the audio. (And even still, the scripts were never completely correct, since no actor ever does their lines exactly as written. :D )
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