Sword Fighting with Golf Clubs
Prior to watching the episode, I had three things on my mind:
-- Everyone hates Lou, the boss from hell, whom most of us know all too well, and how awful will he get?
-- Lots of people are wondering “how Don will die,” as if his death were a foregone conclusion and all that is in question is the means: will he jump from a tall building or turn into a drug-addled beach bum wasting away and finally drowning one summer day in some shabby Florida town?
-- Why did the magnificent Jessica Parre, toothily grinning, pose nude in a swimming pool and panty-clad in the kitchen for an Esquire photo shoot?
As you are not featured in the episode, my dear Joan, it was awfully kind of you to come over and watch it with us, knowing, as you did, that questions one and three would answer themselves. Here, as promised, are the notes I took, the observations you and I and Stacey made, so you can share them with Bob Benson.
I notice that Don spells out “strategy” to open the episode, which closes with his unexpected appearance at a strategy session for a cigarette manufacturer at the Algonquin.
Stacey, also present, gets points for noting the symmetry in wifely party-giving: Betty Draper throws one and so does Megan Draper, on different coasts, with different costs, casts, and results.
Speaking of symmetry, when Lou sadistically keeps Don from taking his flight to Los Angeles, he says he’s going to “tuck you in” for the night – the same locution used by Megan’s friend Amy when she initiates the threesome with Megan and Don after the party in LA, where he flies to comfort his niece – that is, Anna Draper’s niece, Stephanie, seven months pregnant – but whom he never sees, because Megan, jealous of the affection her husband has for the girl, sends her on her way, albeit with a check for a thousand dollars. “I know all his secrets,” Stephanie artlessly says, pushing Megan over the edge.
You were right, Joan: when you consider the sexual shenanigans, it’s hard to get worked up over the Esquire photo shoot. Anyway, even at her meanest, Megan is a lot easier to take than Betty, on whom Henry finally loses his temper. Betty remains in favor of the war in Vietnam when even Nixon goes on record wanting it to end.
Lou, sealing his status as a certified asshole, turns out to be a cartoonist (“Scout’s Honor”), who compares himself to Bob Dylan (!), rhetorically asking a room of incredulous associates, “Is he hip enough for you?” And then to clinch the deal: “You’re a bunch of flag-burning snots.” Ugh.
“Hip,” also “out of sight,” “bread,” “solid,” “dealing grass,” are among the week’s linguistic markers, and Amy says she is going “to split” meaning “to leave” the morning after she and Megan and Don share the connubial bed. As for fashion, there are the hideous plaid sports jackets that even Don dons, and Harry Crane sports an ascot where a tie should go, while a bearded Stan, joint in mouth, wears a bandanna in the same place.
But more on Lou, whom I dislike so much I feel sorry for friends of mine named Lou who spell it that way. Best line of the night comes when Lou, disgusted with his whole staff, asks Don whether he should let them all go (whether for the night or for good). “I’d let you go, Lou,” says our dapper hero (in real life an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, but we who root for the Dodgers or Mets won’t hold that against him.) The sadistic shithead leaves the office and lets Don know that he can wait until Monday for the work, after all.
Oh, those days of joints everywhere, of Blood, Sweat, and Tears on the radio, of musicians who drop out of Berkeley and get busted for dealing dope, of adult content and sexual situations, of girls wearing hair bands or sword-fighting with golf clubs, and, alas, of guys named Ginsberg who flip out and get carted off to the nut house. Cutting off one of his nipples and presenting it to Peggy in a gift box takes the cake for sincere craziness. But in this very satisfying episode, he is also responsible for perhaps the cleverest most ‘69 moment, so to speak. It happens when he spies on Cutler and Lou talking and watches their mouths move, imagining what they are saying – just as Hal the computer reads the astronauts’ lips in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, released in 1968 but on wide screens everywhere a year later.
Joan, I do not think Don is going to jump out of a window, or die on a deserted beach. I think we get a glimpse of his future when he barges into the Algonquin and offers to resign from the firm if it means the Philip Morris account. And then he turns into Don Draper, the man who can sell any concept to any executive, who has worked ten years on tobacco and is the only cigarette man who has conferred with the opposition and arranged a “stay of execution” for the industry in 60, in 62, in 64 and 65. Makes my hand go reflexively to my breast pocket and pluck out an unfiltered Lucky to light up.
Yours in sincere admiration,
Dapper Dave, author of “The Drape(r)s of Roth”
PS Speaking of nipples, did you see Rihanna’s on Instagram?
On Tue, May 13, 2014 at 11:26 PM Amy Gerstler wrote:
Mad Men “The Runaways.”
I am worried sick about Ginsberg. I fear our resident, wisecracking Jew is going to be subjected to shock treatment, and perhaps thereby be silenced, leaving an entirely goyishe office. He has been descending into something like paranoid schizophrenia since the season began. (Wonderful acting job by Ben Feldman!! Looks like he’s lost weight, his face intermittently flushed as though he were coming down with scarlet fever, and he seemed persecuted even by his own dark, handlebar mustache, as though by some tarantula.) As you recounted, poor Peggy had to be the one to make the call and have him hospitalized, after he sliced off his nipple and offered it to her in a bracelet box. Peggy being an (ex?) Catholic, there was something straight out of the lives of the martyrs about that self mutilation / lovingly proffered body part (which made Peggy scream.) The later shot of her puffy, pink, tearstained face as she watches Ginsberg being rolled down a hospital hallway, strapped to a gurney, still wildly gesticulating and blabbing, gave us a glimpse of a former, more tender-hearted Peggy I have to admit I miss, though I well understand it’s better for dramatic development, for intensity of character and storylike, etc. etc. if she continues on her path of becoming Don’s Dark Sister. But when was the last time Peggy looked sorry for or fond of anyone? It was high time. (There’s still no silver bullet for treating schizophrenia, if that’s how Ginsberg ends up getting diagnosed, and back in 1969 options were fewer and grimmer. Will he be forcefed Thorazine? (Lit Footnote, just cuz I looked this stuff up: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was published in1975, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar didn’t come out in the US till 1971, after it’d appeared in England at first under a pseudonym.) I was hoping it would to come light that Ginsberg had merely been dropping tons of acid. Alas, it appears to be something more insidious. (All this evokes, as you so rightly note, another family of highly verbal, east coast Ginsberg’s travails.)
Mad magazine (who can resist this confluence of Mad Men and Mad magazine) but felt that the most spot-on reference, to George Baker’s Sad Sack, remained unmentioned. There’s a giddy, cruel, boyish, schoolyard atmosphere that pervades these scenes. The school bully (Lou) is found out to have a vulnerable point (his secret life as a comics artist) and for a while the younger boys of the creative team take merciless, giggling advantage, unable to stop mocking him behind his back (or so they think) even while taking a leak (the revelation of the sketches being an inadvertant “leak” of another sort, I suppose.)
AND: Here’s a toast to Betty’s contribution to the ‘progressive dinner,’ where guests move from house to house to sample various courses (at which she demonstrates her decidedly unprogressive politics! as you noted, situating herself to the right of even 1969 vintage Richard Nixon, not to mention her politically ambitious husband.) Oh! but I drink here to the fussy and disgusting foods of the era: crab louie on toast points (not so bad), rumaki (one of the grossest culinary inventions of all time, in the opinion of this lifelong liver-hater) and “little franks in barbeque sauce” (not recommended by the surgeon general). For the uninitiated, since I’m old enough to remember rumaki and to have been severely traumatized by it (“Just taste it! That’s all you have to do…”) here’s a typical ingredient list for that dreaded hors d’oeuvre (in case you think I’m harshing Betty’s buzz unnecessarily.)
a 4 oz. can of water chestnuts, drained and sliced
1 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
12 ounces fresh chicken livers, halved
a teaspoon of minced garlic
12 slices bacon
1 quart oil for frying
There are recipes aplenty online if this appeals to you. ENJOY!
Sally’s broken nose seems a symbolic precursor to loss of virgnity. Was she telling the truth about how it happened? I liked the intimate scene between her and younger brother Bobby if for no other reason than we’ve never really seen them join forces before. Sally’s escaped to boarding school but poor Bobby is stuck watching his beautiful, angry, twisted up mother smolder and fume through the ides of her second marriage and grow restless in the throes of a kind of incipient feminism which is not reacting well with her knee jerk reactionary tendencies. “I have a stomach ache all the time” Bobbie says to his big sister in a small voice, and “the other night they were really screaming at each other.” Poor kid.
I am jonesing for more Joan. Not happy when she’s absent. I am wondering if the appearance of Don’s pregnant hippie “niece” (speaking of plot harbingers) is somehow a teaser for the fact that Megan will find herself pregnant before the series is through. I hope Don doesn’t die at all, and especially that he doesn’t die of lung cancer. I LOVE the way he whistles for a taxi.
Till next week! I am already having withdrawal symptoms! How can there be so few episodes left this season????