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· Hall Of Fame
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It has been the subtle messages delivered in "Mad Men" that have made the series so interesting. Subtlety was absent in last night's episode. The show's creator/producer/writer Matthew Weiner may have had reasons for that. But the shift from subtle to an over-the-top, heavy-handed, obvious, in-your-face style was not well-received by either of us last night.

In our household, episodes of "Mad Men" usually generate emotional responses. This one just didn't stir emotions.

First of all, for whatever reason, neither of us could even remember Richard Speck's name though we both remembered the murders. That puzzled us until I reviewed Speck's Wikipedia entry. It was one of those "oh, that's right, that sad life" moments for me:
After Speck's death, Dr. Jan E. Leestma, a neuropathologist at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery, performed an autopsy of Speck's brain. Leestma found apparent gross abnormalities. Two areas of the brain - the hippocampus, which involves memory, and the amygdala, which deals with rage and other strong emotions - encroached upon each other, and their boundaries were blurred. Leestma made tissue section slides and presented them to others, who agreed that his findings were unusual. There was no further analysis, however; the tissue samples were lost or stolen when sent to a Boston neurologist for further study, and Leestma's findings were inconclusive.

Dr. John R. Hughes, a neurologist and longtime director of the Epilepsy Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a colleague of Leestma, examined photos of the tissue in the 1990s along with brain wave tests performed on Speck in the 1960s. Hughes stated, "I have never heard of that [type of abnormality] in the history of neurology. So any abnormality that exceptional has got to have an exceptional consequence." Hughes attributes Speck's homicidal nature to a combination of the brain abnormalities, the violence Speck suffered at the hands of his alcoholic stepfather, and his own drinking and violence in Texas.
It's clear that Weiner chose to shadow this episode using the murders and Speck. I don't know whether Weiner included in his bits of historical research the ironic fact that five days before the murder Speck was to ship out to Vietnam as a merchant marine, but lost out to a more experienced seaman. Anyway....

I prefer to remember that this episode focused on Joan and Peggy and Sally, plus Dawn and Megan and new-grandma Christine and creepy step-grandma Pauline "The Knife" Francis.

And the episode did subtly juxtapose the impact of war and violence on three generations of American men.

The most significant event in the episode is Joan ending her marriage with the hapless doctor, Captain Greg Harris, who failed to achieve any goals as a civilian doctor but is getting recognition in Vietnam. For Joan, his lying about signing up for another tour was more than she could accept. And his previous violent predilections were obviously there.

There is a dark theme here - male violence towards women. But there is also a stated recognition that properly directed male violence was encouraged by proper American society, even surrounded with opportunity for recognition for swell guys like Greg, and if the encouragement didn't work - well, we'll just conscript our guys and teach them to kill.

In the feverish dream Don has, imagery of violence, the single red shoe (think Wizard of Oz), all offers an impression of sex and violence. Don, however, has nothing positive to say about his experience in Korea. Don/Dick would never have volunteered to go back to war.

But getting back to Joan who seems to be taking control of her life, one of the three best images of this episode is this one:


I don't know what Weiner intended here. But what we have is a male child trapped between two strong women, his mother and grandmother, a boy not acknowledged by his biological father, and his legal father doesn't even know he's not the biological father.

The other image of the episode with strong, life-impact predictive meaning was this one:


That's "Seconal Sally" Draper lying beneath Pauline "The Knife" Francis, having just learned a "valuable" life lesson from grandma. Are you fearful, upset, having trouble sleeping? Grab a butcher knife and take a barbiturate derivative drug with sedative and hypnotic plus fairly addictive properties. Also called "dolls", widespread misuse of these pills was a play on words in the title of Jacqueline Susann's 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls, whose main characters use secobarbital and other such drugs.

The fascinating Hitchcock-like development of Sally's curiosity about the murders, Sally watching a commercial for the Mystery Date board game being marketed to young girls while weird grandma talks on the phone about the nurses being murdered (talk about psychosexual trauma), leading to a somewhat less than thoughtful explanation from Pauline resulting in Sally's fears. and then grandma gives her a barbiturate - this was perhaps the amusing and disturbing part of the show IMHO.

In addition to the drug's real side effects, we can easily imagine Sally using drugs in her college years which will occur in the late 60's to early '70's. We can also imagine Don lecturing her while smoking like a chimney and drinking his eighth drink of the day before 5 pm.

Peggy is having a bit of a problem with gender roles as evident from these scenes:


She's different, she wants to be just one of the guys. Or does she? She certainly has no problem negotiating aggressively with Roger, from $10 to $400 as she could see her absolute advantage in this game and moved in quickly for the kill. But she tells Dawn, just before unconsciously behaving in an insulting manner, she doesn't think she can be like a man.

As usual, there's a whole lot more in this episode. But I can't ignore the song at the end (sorry but I couldn't find it without a commercial):


Here's everything you didn't even know to ask about the song.
 

· The Shadow Knows!
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Phrelin, your reviews are better every time. Well done.

"I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore."

In 1966, that song was five years away. Still, the seeds of women's liberation were everywhere. Women reeled at the Richard Speck murders, and found within themselves a strength they never knew they had. They reached out to other women in ways they never expected to: across generations, across races, across time, really.

Mad Men isn't afraid to show us what women in 1966 were thinking and feeling. A sense of sisterhood had begun to brew. Sally finds herself unexpectedly aligned with her stepgrandmother, and Pauline with Sally, as they both search for ways to feel safe in an unsafe world.

Dawn (whose name does not sound like Don, sorry) and Peggy almost bond -- almost -- until Peggy shows that for all she's grown, she's still not quite past assuming a black woman would steal. This after she faces down Roger Sterling, once the leader of the pack and now a mewling shell of his former self, one step removed from Willie Loman.

Megan bonds with, who, really? Betty? She takes the role of "Mrs. Draper" and runs with it. She stands up against Don's former self when presented with one of his paramours. It's amazing how well Jessica Paré plays this. Her emotions are tightly controlled but her displeasure is palpable. She has conquered Don Draper, at least Don's present self; she handles herself perfectly in the non-argument of the day.

The strongest woman has to be, of course, Joan Harris. After so many years she finally gets the strength to kick out Greg [strike]Marmalard[/strike]. Good for her; she's always deserved better. She and her equally strong mother will make good role models for young Kevin.

In the meantime, the feverish Don clumsily spars with Ginsburg in a segment that didn't really work for me. I think this was meant to show Don as he is now, and Ginsburg as Don once was, but the whole character is not working for me.

Once Don goes home though, he spars with his own past, in the form of a woman, and shows all women why bullies exist: they're really afraid of being controlled by those they bully. I'm not quite sure Don's conquered his past, though. We'll see.

Interesting contrasts in this episode, between Madchen Amick's character going under the bed after Don's "killed her" and Sally doing the same after Pauline's drugged her. Both Don and Pauline think they're doing the right thing, when the only one under the bed who truly makes her own way is the sole survivor of the Richard Speck murders, who similarly hid under the bed.

A good way to bring the news of a grisly murder to a new generation, and a way to show how much things are about to change.
 

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phrelin, excellent write up as always. You could easily teach a sociology class that focuses on MM.

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?
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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Excellent synopsis and expo. I agree it was a bang, bang, bang style of story development, and I hope they spin them out a bit more gently over the next few eps.

Was the matter Joan referred to as she was booting her husband out the door solely about physical violence?

When Don wakes up from his nightmare, I truly expected him to glance under the bed as soon as Megan turned away. Did not happen! But I was taken in, not realizing it was a nightmare until it was over.

Pauline The Knife is a real piece of work! How precious was it that she at least bit the pill in two before popping it to her step granddaughter! At least she didn't offer Sally a couple of 'em.....

From previous episode: Did it strike anyone that Pete's ascendency was not documented well? And that his unveiling of the Mohawk statue and announcements, including insulting Roger, were more like that of the Senior Partner than a partner, much less a junior partner??
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Why was Roger dissed over Mohawk? He wanted to handle the account and he is.

What specifically is wrong with Greg? We know he spurned many advances by Joan just like Sal spurned his wife. Then raped her on Don's office floor. But they don't seem to be implying he's gay. Just "lacking in manhood" or something? "Inadequacy syndrome"? Which leads to rage and violence? Kinda confusing. Sounds like one of those fake mental conditions guys went to shrinks in the 50's over for 10 years.

How is "Don" not exactly like "Dawn"?

Agree the "New Don" Jewish guy is so obviously "Old Don" and that's what's upsetting him. Too on the nose and heavy-handed.

Nice to see Joan feeling relieved after her decision: she doesn't have to live a lie over the baby's dad any more (well she does but way less so!), and her sham marriage is done. Bonus! Divorces have been overdone on the show so I imagine they'll just kill Greg off in 'Nam. Clean and quick.

Great to see Don really enjoying his wife! I was so sick of "Birdie", that uptight, frigid popsicle stick neurotic who could never give Don the warmth or love he deserved. Good riddance.

BTW, how did they get JJ all fat like that? Makeup and CG?
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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Don is pronounced "dawn" only in some parts of our great country.

I'm not at all sure that the new kid represents Don Draper as a very young man.

Pretty sure that Ms. Jones weight gain is prosthetics and makeup. Perhaps a bit of Gaussian blur added, but not CGI to any real extent.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Well the new kid is obviously very unlike Don in most ways, but his pitch was right on the "Old Don" money. You could almost hear the echoes of that magic Carousel spinning around.

Dawn is Don is dawn. Maybe there's some weird regional patois somewheres that splits the two, but I've never heard it.

So what's the deal with Greg, anyways?

It is amazing what they can do in CG these days in terms of the human form. Things that used to be makeup/prosthetics.

Poor Betty. They de-sexed her, they made her neurotic, unlovable, a beach to her kids, a perve with the boy next door, a helpless little daddy's girl, a scorned woman, and now fat. JJ must be going "What did I do to deserve this?"
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
sigma1914 said:
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?
You've raised an interesting question. It may be the context that gives us a clue.

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....
 

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Maruuk said:
Dawn is Don is dawn. Maybe there's some weird regional patois somewheres that splits the two, but I've never heard it.
As is apparent from these posts, on the West Coast, where the show is written, the names are identical. But in New York City, where the series is set, the names are clearly distinct, as was noted by others in last week's thread.

There, the O in Don is pronounced with an "ah" sound, like the A in father or the O in monster.

The AW in Dawn is pronounced like the OU in fought or the AU in plausible.

For those my age, recall the Four Seasons' hit Dawn. Did you ever think they were singing about a guy?
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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lucky13 said:
As is apparent from these posts, on the West Coast, where the show is written, the names are identical. But in New York City, where the series is set, the names are clearly distinct, as was noted by others in last week's thread.

There, the O in Don is pronounced with an "ah" sound, like the A in father or the O in monster.

The AW in Dawn is pronounced like the OU in fought or the AU in plausible.

For those my age, recall the Four Seasons' hit Dawn. Did you ever think they were singing about a guy?
":icon_da: Go away, I'm no good for you...."

Please don't lump N. CA in with Hollywood. We know our dawns and Dawns from dons and Dons.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Now that you mention it, I have heard the Long Island and Wisconsin nasal Dahn thing. This kid from WI always said "Pahnd" for pond (pawnd). I come from New England and live in Central Coast CA and it's all the same in both places. Don = Dawn.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Finally caught up with my Mad Men off the DVR and would tend to agree that this episode wasn't one of the best. As phrelin indicated, the story was uneven and rushed.

Most of the episode came across flat for me, especially Betty's breakup with clueless Greg. Her scenes are normally sharper than this, but the guy playing Greg is such a weak actor, that she doesn't have much to play off of. The scene at the restaurant felt like something out of a (bad) Lifetime/Hallmark movie.

Also like phrelin, I loved the scene with crazy knife-weilding granny and the pills and also Peggy's complete domination of Roger over the $400. I love how Peggy's character has evolved on the show and the lesbian/I can play with the boys overtones are fun.
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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Dang, you're a few eps ahead of the rest of us.... I haven't seen Betty get with Greg yet....:D

I like your ref. to Hallmark, and agree, the Greg guy is either the weakest actor or has the worst role to play. 1D.
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Laxguy said:
Dang, you're a few eps ahead of the rest of us.... I haven't seen Betty get with Greg yet....:D
Sorry, I'm really bad with character names.
Too many shows & names to keep it all straight.
 

· Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense.
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mreposter said:
Sorry, I'm really bad with character names.
Too many shows & names to keep it all straight.
No sorrow needed! I hope my quip met with a smile by you as well as others. Like the old vendors at the ballpark, "You can't tell the players without a scorecard!"

~A Serenity Prayer~
"God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference."
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Laxguy said:
~A Serenity Prayer~
"God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference."
!rolling

Now that's one I've never seen before.
 
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