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Mad Men: "The Doorway" OAD 4/7/13 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 12:48 PM

"The Doorway" opened into the 1967 Christmas season, with the show's creator and episode writer Matthew Weiner establishing this season's timeframe. South Africa's Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the world's first human heart transplant on December 3, 1967.

The successful executive Peggy Olson tells us the Green Bay Packers will win Super Bowl II. Peggy tells us this while struggling with a problem created by a comedian joking about soldiers severing of ears from Vietcong corpses to verify body count and wearing the ears as keepsakes on strings around their necks.

(The "body count" issue was both actually serious as well as being a morbid joke. The goal of the United States in the Vietnam War was not to conquer North Vietnam but rather to keep South Vietnamese independent. Since all the contested territory was theoretically "held", the US Army used body counts to show that the US was winning the war through attrition warfare.)

As we move on to New Year's we will see a New York Times headline proclaiming "World Bids Adieu to a Violent Year; City Gets Snowfall". While no one can quibble with the snowfall, with regard to 1967 being a violent year we know what happened in 1968 and know "they ain't seen nothin yet".

The other reference more obliquely giving us a time frame had to do with Don's reaction to a proposal for using "Love" in an oven cleaner ad. Weiner's time shift from Season 5 to Season 6 skips the Summer of Love, a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when up to 100,000 people (mostly under 30) converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. It is a key time line point reflecting a major cultural change when a large number of American's again became suspicious of the government. They also rejected consumerism. Of course some were uninterested in political affairs and preferred to immerse themselves in sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Don, who we know has mixed emotions about his time in the Army, chooses to take a pyschological stand on the trivialization of "love" which we know is reflecting many, many personal issues for him going back to his childhood.

Weiner hits us in the face with a theme of doom and death. The episode begins with a "point-of-view" shot through the eyes of a dying man, a doctor pounding on our chest, and then we fade to black, then to sparkling Hawaiian beach - to heaven.

Don and Megan are still together, ostensibly vacationing in Hawaii, until we learn that it was the illusion of Don's life continuing - he's actually working, and going to Hawaii may have caused Megan a problem at work.

It is from Roger Sterling's ongoing analysis that we learn about passing through the doorways of life. That his mother's death seemed to be considered by Roger to be trivial - she was 91, after all - offers another peak into the WWII generation's need to escape into life away from death and poverty. But it is Roger who ultimately presents us with the appropriate sense of tragedy when he's told his shoeshine man has died and he breaks down over the man's box of brushes and polish sent to Roger by the family because Roger is the only one who missed him - also an illusion of sorts.

Betty Francis brings into focus the sense of facelessness theme associated with the shoeshine man, the doorman, the guys working for Peggy on New Year's Eve, and so many others. When the cop stops her, Betty the model starts a process that would have worked before. But her mother-in-law decides to try to use the Francis name. Betty shares with the disappointed teen Sandy only to have her life minimized. She goes to Greenwich Village to find the runaway Sandy. But Sandy is already disappointed with the cold and grim Greenwich Village and is headed to California to find the remnants of the Summer of Love. Returning home, Betty strikes out at Henry as she is feeling the death of her identity - the model.

Because last night's episode was really two episodes combined, there was too much content to cover. We saw many of the regular characters and some new ones. But two things about Hawaii and Don must be mentioned.

First we have the inscription on Pfc. Dinkins’ lighter: “In life we often have to do things that just are not our bag.” Inscribed Zippos were a standard artifact among American soldiers in Vietnam. Don orders his secretary to get it back to Dinkins. His sense of dread is palpable. Whether by the end of the season we'll find out Dinkins is dead remains to be seen. But the Don Draper we know was created out of a battlefield death. And giving away the bride to Dinkins etches the man into Don's already tragic history.

Then there's the one-set-of-footsteps-in-the-sand ad presentation, an allegory Don meant to represent escape from the daily grind, but others in the room point out it implies suicide. There is a famous poem by Mary Stevenson which begins with there being two sets of footsteps - one belonging to subject person of the poem, the other the Lord - then scenes from the person's life flash before their eyes, then a look back reveals only one set of footsteps. The poem reads:

I noticed that many times along the path of my life
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.

What lessons Weiner intends to teach us from Hawaii are in the future of Season 6. But the irony of offering Elvis singing the "Hawaiian Wedding Song" in an episode where we see a soldier married just before returning to Vietnam cannot be ignored:

This is the moment
Of sweet Aloha
I will love you longer than forever
Promise me that you will leave me never

Here and now dear,
All my love,
I vow dear
Promise me that you will leave me never
I will love you longer than forever

"Promise me that you will leave me never" is a difficult promise to keep for a creature that dies. And heaven, for Don, isn't a positive either. “Heaven’s a little morbid. How do you get to heaven? Something terrible has to happen.”

Edited by phrelin, 08 April 2013 - 05:23 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   yosoyellobo

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 01:23 PM

Great work as usual Phrelin. Looking forward to another year of great TV and commentary.

#3 OFFLINE   sigma1914

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 05:14 PM

Small correction... It's Superbowl II that's about to happen; it was played on January 14, 1968.
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#4 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 05:22 PM

Small correction... It's Superbowl II that's about to happen; it was played on January 14, 1968.

Ah yes, one's memory gets a bit fuzzy with age. Peggy was right and I've corrected my post.:blush:

"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

"If you're good enough, they'll talk about you." - Tom Harmon
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#5 OFFLINE   sigma1914

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 05:27 PM

Ah yes, one's memory gets a bit fuzzy with age. Peggy was right and I've corrected my post.:blush:


I was actually watching this earlier and was trying to figure out the year, so I first looked for the Alabama vs Texas A&M Cotton Bowl. :lol:

Also, I really enjoy your recaps.
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#6 OFFLINE   1980ws

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 05:42 PM

First place I check to see what the he!! I watched last night. Love everyone's analysis of this wonderful show.

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#7 OFFLINE   sigma1914

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 05:54 PM

I was a little creeped out by Betty telling her husband to do things inappropriate to the 15 year old.
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#8 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 02:22 AM

That was Betty revealing she's bored with Henry's staid sexual persona so she wanted to shock him into becoming kinky and sexy Don, which can never happen. You know Betty, she gets very kinky and horny herself when she gets bored. Henry has turned her into a drudge and she wants to reclaim a little of her old glamor like when she did guys in bathrooms.

I didn't get the dying doorman/not dying doorman gag upon the Draper's return. First I thought Don was having a fantasy about him dying for some obscure reason, but then later they said it DID happen. Huh? When did it happen, when they returned? We saw both versions when they returned: collapsed and non-collapsed. Very confusing.

We never saw what happened between the Hawaii bar scene and the wedding. Did Don and him go out whoring all night?

Who in blazes was the violin girl?? Just the daughter's friend?

What's the nature of Peggy's agency, big or small potatoes?

How did Don explain to his wife that it took him 2 or more hours to get ciggies in the snowstorm (while he was banging the doc's wife)? He gets back to bed waaaay later and Megan doesn't even ask him where he's been. Huh?

I thought going with the funny faces w/the Koss headphones was fine the way it was, everybody gets it. But Peggy's copy was horrible and way over-worded: "Koss headphones sound so clear and present that you think you see things that aren't really there..." or something like that. Don would have slashed and burned that crap.

Though his own RH ad was very confused, a mixed metaphor and something old Don never would have presented. The violence/suicide overtone was obvious to everyone. How could genius Don have missed that? He looks like he's devolved down to Peggy's level now.

Don throwing away the soldier's lighter was like him throwing away his brother, and then him suddenly turning up again "out of the trash" as it were. Love the devastating soldier's line to cool, superior, remote, astronaut Don at the bar: "Just as lost as the married guy who can't sleep who comes down to a bar in the middle of the night and talks to strangers." Or something like that. That got Don's attention.

Edited by Maruuk, 09 April 2013 - 02:31 AM.


#9 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:04 AM

It is as much a pleasure to read Phrelin's dissertations as it is to watch the actual episodes. I look forward to them, and can only add my own meek opinions.

Don Draper wants to die.
Don Draper's entire lifestyle is dying.

I don't think that could be more obvious. Series creator Matt Weiner has been accused of being heavy-handed in his symbolism, but in episode one of a new season, it's probably merited.

Don is back to his old self-destructive ways, but here it is 7 years after the series began and nothing quite works as it used to. Don looks the same but everyone else has changed. The magic he worked in 1960 is still the same, but it doesn't work on the citizens of 1968. That much is obvious. What is less obvious is whether or not Don is deliberately self-destructing or simply allowing it to happen, mindful that his "type" is obsolete now.

Signs of Don's obsolescence are everywhere, even in other people. Roger loses the one woman who will ever unconditionally love him and the one man who never let him down. Betty tries to talk her way out of several situations and realizes that what worked for her as a young lady has stopped working. Peggy's star in on the rise but she never rises to Don's former level.

In fact the only one thriving is Megan, who rather symbolically saw her star rise as soon as she dropped the name "Draper." That's got to be a punch in the gut for poor Don.

Yes, Don wants to die. He almost can't wait for it. He turns every doorway into a symbol of the great beyond, from the elevator whose operator nearly dies to the door to his (suddenly renovated) office to the door out to the snow, and finally the service entrance to (ahem) service his neighbor. Every door is a worse turn for Don who has nothing to look forward to but Dante's Inferno. He knows it, and figures he better read up.

A little housekeeping here. Without phrelin's encyclopedic knowledge of the age, I spent much of the episode trying to decide if it was December 1967 or December 1968. I thought 1967 (and was right) but the wardrobe changes were, I thought, too extreme for a span of less than a year. Did "everyone" just let their freak flags fly en masse in September of 1967? It might have been more convincing to skip forward a bit longer.

Mr. Weiner was right, though, to skip the summer of love. It had no impact on Don Draper, not yet anyway. I suspect ad agencies were still dismissing the youth movement as a fad at that point. I further applaud him for his restraint when Betty went downtown; instead of showing the residents there as beaded longhairs with tie-dyed dashikis, he showed them as they likely were: poor, dirty bums. Only later would the privileged middle class invade the youth movement and bring fashion to homelessness.

My favorite moment by far was when Don made the pitch for the Sheraton in Hawaii. I too have stumbled on a presentation because subconsciously my own feelings showed up in my work. That's just what it looks like. Don wants to disappear, and he put his feelings in the presentation. That's why no one else gets it.
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#10 OFFLINE   sigma1914

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:13 AM

Stuart, you got me thinking about the fashion of 67 and I found this... http://www.thepeople...67fashions.html
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#11 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:33 AM

Phrelin, thank you for interpreting the show. For me, it might as well have been in Aramaic. Without your insightful reviews I would be left wonderering what the hell that was I just watched.

I was a little creeped out by Betty telling her husband to do things inappropriate to the 15 year old.

I was very shocked with what Betty was saying. Totally offensive. It was the lowest low point of a very, very dark episode -- like three-day-old garbage being shoved down a chute. Don, and former spouse Betty seem to be separately headed for a personal crisis, along with Roger and Peggy. Mebbe they will all end up in the same looney bin.

Who the hell was that 15 year old girl -- Sandy? My finger is hovering just above the delete button.

Edited by Nick, 09 April 2013 - 10:10 AM.

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#12 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 09:22 AM

I believe that it was very quickly explained that she was a friend of Sally's who was stayin with the Francises for the holiday break before going to Julliard. Her mother passed away within the last year and it would make sense for a father to let the daughter stay with a friend over the holidays if he had no idea what else to do.
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#13 OFFLINE   Ira Lacher

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 10:33 AM

Have to confess that I pretty much ignored the show for its first 5 seasons but I was intrigued at the last season taking place during one of the most turbulent periods of American history that I and my wife resolved to watch this season. I admit I don't know the characters intimately but that didn't stop us from enjoying that first episode.

I am a child of that era and was molded by what was going on, especially in 1968 and 1969. But of course I experienced it through the lens of an early teen and with early teen friends. Will be interesting to see how the writer portrays that era through the POV of adults caught up in that turbulence, suddenly realizing that all they lived through and the values they were brought up on were being torn inside out and upside down.
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#14 OFFLINE   spartanstew

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 12:09 PM

Always look forward to the recaps provided here, and while I still love the show I have to say that this episode was a bit of a let down for me. Maybe because it was two hours, not sure, but it just seemed to plod along a bit too much.

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#15 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 12:34 PM

Thanks, Stuart! Now what was the heart attack doorman duality all about? It wasn't a fantasy because they refer to it later, yet they also show an alternative scene in which he DOESN'T have an attack and just hands Megan her script. Huh??

They seem to be leading Don back to Betty in some circuitous way. Betty's bored to tears by Henry, Don's increasingly disconnected from and disoriented by his life in general and Megan in specifics, and really, these are both deeply dysfunctional people whose twisted needs kind of dovetail. I mean, here we have Betty so in need of excitement she's talking about watching Henry deflower a 15 year old girl. And I think she half means it! Maybe she'd like to watch Don do the same. My point is that both her and Don have become so seriously disillusioned and lost that they may finally realize they're perfect for each other. And how convenient, they have 3 kids in common!

Must say, I'm impressed by how devoted and loving Megan has remained even though she's off on set with handsome and horny young men with everything in common with her all the time. She seems sincerely devoted to Don, even while he takes 3 hours to buy ciggies in a snowstorm!

Interesting twist that the "Carousel" that Don touted so movingly long ago serves to deliver a deeply unsettling moment in real life for Don. An Army guy in jeopardy at the front, the missing 6 hours after the bar, Don off doing something radical as being best man on the beach without a word to Megan. And to her credit, Megan just sunnily snapped the photo and thought it was awesome Don had this "second life" while she slept. I'm really getting to like Megan, she is so loyal and positive--and almost in direct proportion to that Don is moving away from her. Perhaps the classic human syndrome that he doesn't feel he deserves love, and the more he gets the more he has to prove he's UNdeserving of it.

Edited by Maruuk, 09 April 2013 - 12:59 PM.


#16 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 12:53 PM

Thanks, Stuart! Now what was the heart attack doorman duality all about? It wasn't a fantasy because they refer to it later, yet they also show an alternative scene in which he DOESN'T have an attack and just hands Megan her script. Huh??

I had to replay that whole heart attack and Don and Megan entering the lobby twice to figure it out and then only by looking at how they were dressed. The heart attack incident occurred at one point in time, a very, very confusing "flashback" opening scene. The scene handing Megan the script occurred at another point in time, when concern about the doorman coming back to work too soon was offered.

There were elements of editing and maybe writing that were confusing in this episode which was actually planned as two episodes. AMC having a schedule for which they sell ads to pay for things constrains Weiner who may have written or even filmed another half hour just making all this clear. :sure:

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"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

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#17 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 01:46 PM

Ah, thanks! The confusing part about the script was the whole attention paid to Megan's absence and missing her soap scenes so it made you think she got the script on return.

Strange how useless Don was during the heart attack. He seemed utterly helpless.

#18 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 02:34 PM

I'm just projecting here... but it seems fairly likely to me that the heart attack was the original opening scene, followed by the doctor voiceover, then the scene of Don on the beach. That would have explained the timeline somewhat. If the decision was made very late in the process to move the heart attack scene then it would have been hard to shoot something to explain it.

Again, totally projecting here but to have the opening like that would have invited comparison to Alan Ball's Six Feet Under, an HBO production that was a rival of Matthew Weiner's The Sopranos and perhaps Mr. Weiner rejected the edit based on that.

Still, a 5-second slow fade out and fade back into a shot of traffic would have made it feel a little more comfortable. I guess with the show clocking in at 2:08 there wasn't time for that.
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#19 OFFLINE   litex2x

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 03:27 PM

I don't know if I misinterpreted things but was Don stressed the whole episode because he thinks Dinkins would try to track him down and ultimately discover his secret?

#20 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 04:50 PM

When it comes to Mad Men, I'm not sure of anything anymore, but how to explain those missing hours before the wedding? I hate to go there, but consider what Don and the pfc may have done together, in private, during that time. Such an impossibility would explain the turmoil and inner-conflict that Don has been manifesting of late.

Dead or alive, Private Dinkins will return to the storyline. How about a job at the firm after he returns from -- as my dear departed aunt, Eloise would have said -- the wah.

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