Mad Men Chat, Episode Eight: “Since when do we have a vending machine?”

Mark: Last time, I said that Don looked refreshed when he gave Peggy the suitcase idea at the end of the episode. In this one he looked revitalized: do you think his opening up to Peggy was the start of this? Or does it have something to do with his life?

I ask because he didn’t look any better then he did near the end of the episode, after he threw out all his old boxes. It was like he made a clean cut from the past and is ready to move on.

He even looked ready to cut out, as Roger once put it, ‘The Brown Stuff.’ Not completely, mind you, but I’ve never seen him so hesitant when it comes to drinking – he really seemed to weigh each possible drink. He’s even turning away women, too: I feel like old Don, even two-weeks ago Don, would have gone as far with Dr. Faye as he could have. Instead Don seems to be savoring the relationship (is courting the right phrase?), letting it come to him. Definitely a new leaf.

So, what does this mean for Don? His creative juices are back, he’s actually writing in a journal (a really great plot device btw) and he seems to be in better shape then I’ve seen him in some time.

Jenn: Don certainly seems to be turning over a new leaf. Last week he hit rock bottom pretty hard, I’m glad that he’s starting the upswing. He’s working out, drinking less, being more of a gentlemen on his dates, caring about work and writing in a diary. I like the idea of don draper exploring his feelings and trying to piece his life together.

Heather: In this episode, I noticed Don making changes for the better. He’s swimming now, he’s trying to cut down on the sauce, and he’s being less of a man whore. I’m not sure what Peggy is to him. Some kind of protege? I’m not even positive I spelled that right. I think he wants her to succeed, and he wants her to have a back bone. My father did this with one of his installers.

He was the best he had, but he was yound and started acting like a pre-madonna, so he cut back most of his jobs and started treating him like he wasn’t such a big deal. He cracked down on the poor guy simply because he wanted to stop him from letting how well he was doing and how good he was from going to his head. My Dad’s pretty old fashioned, but the kid now owns his own business and still looks up to my father. He thanks him for his success and is in constant touch with him.

I wonder if something similar is going on here, or is he falling for her? Can’t be. He’s dating other women, and he’s actually “courting” them and keeping his hands to himself for the most part. I’m excited to see where this leads.

Jenn: Was anyone else freaking out when Don looked at Peggy? Ididn’t realise he was having an alcoholic moment and thought the slo-mo silent stare was the beginning of his love for her. Terrifying.

Heather: I really enjoyed the journal narrative. Gives us a little more insight as to what’s going on in the mind of Dick Whitman.

Jenn: The voiceover was a little off-putting. It’s kind of an easy plot device. It’s so much easier to tell the audience what the characters are thinking instead of showing it, and it was a little disappointing to see Mad Men, normally a very deep and smart show, taking the easy road. I hope it was just a one-episode deal anyway, and not the new format of the show.

Mark: One thing I think Don’s upswing brings is how he’s making some enemies in Betty and Henry.
Those two rushed so fast into their relationship that only now I feel like they’re getting to know each other. Just seeing Don is enough to set off Betty and give her a panic attack (or, as Janurary Jones acted it, an attack of gas). I know I’ve been there after a particularly stupid breakup, but that was over within a month and I was 15; It’s been at least two years, hasn’t it? How is Betty not ever Don yet?

Heather: Betty is a princess, a child. She’s starting to cause the same petty problems she did with Don now with Henry. Henry telling her to “shut up, you’re drunk” was pretty awesome. Do I not recall Don saying the exact same thing to her one night when she was all uppity about something?

She had a lot of reason to be upset while she was with Don, especially after finding out about all of his other women, etc. I can imagine that being pretty heart breaking. She started going with Henry for revenge. I think everything she’s done with Henry has been for revenge against Don and I think Henry is starting to notice that. Maybe.

Jenn: Henry Francis is slowly learning what he got himself into. he found Betty, this sad, lonely woman, and had his mid-life crisis fantasies of whisking her away and having a new life together. And then it happened. And she is still a sad, lonely woman. It was so easy for him to blame all her problems on Don, and think that once she was with him everything would be perfect, but people don’t change that easily.

Betty obviously has emotional issues (and possibly a drinking problem? “shut up, you’re drunk” seems to be happening to her a lot). January Jones said Betty’s attitude comes from constant repression and not being in an environment where she can be herself or speak her mind. Do you guys agree? Do you think Betty’s a product of her environment?

Mark: Well, I think everybody’s really a product of their environment, more or less. But I almost want to say Betty’s just insecure. Why else would she take so much else personally (or striving for perfection)? This ties into drinking, which is a pretty easy coping mechanism for feeling of inferiority.

When it comes to their problems, I can’t say I really blame Henry, though. I’m getting the impression that he doesn’t so much hate Don as he hates what Don does to his wife. I feel like he feels Don is driving a wedge into his marriage and driving Betty away from him. I don’t think Don actually is – I think Betty is needy and clingy and basically a damaged person – but I at least understand and can sympathize with this point of view.

Heather:  Henry is very protective of the pretty gem he has standing beside him. Don isn’t driving a wedge between them, Betty is.

Mark: Of course, he’s a political hack. Maybe he is just this cold hearted and has a vendetta against Don. If so, I’d be worried.
It’s nice to see Peggy steadily growing in confidence. Before she was calling people’s bluffs and working in the buff, now she’s taking charge and firing them to set an example. It was interesting to see how she rose to the occasion and fired Joey for being, as I understood his character to work, Joey. You’d think that would buy her some respect.

But Joan doesn’t think so. Joan told her – in that really great Ice Cold way only Joan can – that she set herself up as a humorless bitch and the boys aren’t going to learn anything. “They can always draw another cartoon.” That’s a really cold and blunt observation, especially to somebody who tried to just help you, but I wonder if Joan’s going to be right. The guys can always draw new stuff. And they know it will get a reaction out of Joan (although her put down would probably do the same thing, really. There isn’t any stopping those guys unless Don or Lane get involved. Roger would just give them a drink and laugh. Pete will get all flustered and sweat heavily.)

But is her view fatalistic? She is going through a rough patch: her office is treated as a walkway; her husband is headed off to basic training and then Vietnam; she’s getting a bunch of crap in the office. That’s enough to make anybody stressed and rather bitchy.

Heather: I think Joan is right, as much as I thought about how awesome it was when Peggy fired that jack ass. Peggy did the right thing, but at the same time, I think Peggy is going to get a lot of flack for it now. She’s still a woman in a time where men aren’t entirely on board with the whole equality thing just yet. Notice how Joey was at the swimming pool with Don? I wonder what was up with that. Joey’s up to something, being all competitive and stupid.

Jenn: Oh Joanie. you break my heart. I felt so bad for her for most of this episode, then wanted to scream at her by the end. The look on her face when joey made the rape comment was painful. I wanted her to slap him so bad! Then she breaks down crying to her husband, I really felt for her in a way I rarely do. Since Joan’s so fierce and awesome at the office, I don’t really think about how lonely she must be. She’s not close to anyone at work, we never see her with any friends or anyone other than her rapist husband, and can she really talk to him?
Heather: I feel sorry for Joan. She’s dealing with some pretty harsh stuff. I also think she’s going to meet someone better while her husband is away. I hope.

Jenn: I think Joan v. Peggy is yet another example of those who are adapting with the times and those who aren’t. Joan’s way of handling things would have worked amazingly in season one. She’s still of the mindset of using her ‘feminine wiles’ and backstage politics to get the job done. Not that it wouldn’t work, but Peggy is a woman of the times now. She asserts her power in her office without having to use her looks, and I think that’s what really sets Joan off. Joan always tried to guide Peggy to follow the way she does things, and Peggy never once followed.

Instead she forged her own path, and the fact that it actually worked is driving Joan bananas. She does everything in her power, and Peggy friggin Olsen manges to walk in here and get better results? Joan knows Peggy never slept wth Don and actually got to where she is on her own merit, and it must be frustrating for her to see Peggy succeeding where she is failing.

Mark: So, what would you all have done? Would you have gone to Don for advice and fired Joey? Would you have let sleeping dogs lie and hope it all blows over? Would you have fired back on their terms with a cartoon or something – which is what I actually expected Peggy to do.

Heather: Personally, I would have threatened Joey with termination and then given him a warning as he was walking out the door to apologize to Joan, although I know his apology would not have been sincere. Something else would eventually happen where I would then fire the moron on the spot. Joan stuck up for herself quite well, and made them all feel pretty sheepish (which they probably would never admit). Running to Don or Lane does exactly what Don said it would, portrays you as a tattle-tale, which unfortunately doesn’t represent holding any kind of power at all. In Peggy’s position, the tattle-tales should be running to her, or any one of the partners.

Mark: When it comes to Mountain Dew, Chuck Klosterman invented the best cocktail in Fargo Rock City: Tequila cut with the Dew.

Heather: It was funny, when they were talking about Mountain Dew on the show, I had just cracked one open. I hadn’t consumed that beverage in years. Kind of blew my mind.

Jenn: Finally, the best moment of the episode: “Since when do we have a vending machine?” Pete Campbell, how I love and hate you.


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