Sunday Open Thread

 Posted by on March 18, 2012 at 4:00 am  Season 4
Mar 182012
 

Today, AMC is rerunning the Mad Men episodes The Summer Man, The Beautiful Girls, and Hands and Knees.

I think The Beautiful Girls is my favorite S4 episode, or favorite besides The Suitcase. I’m sure the latter is almost everyone’s favorite this year, so what are your top three Season 4 episodes?

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  30 Responses to “Sunday Open Thread”

  1. The Rejected, Hands & Knees and The Suitcase (in this order): more Pete (my favourite character), less Sally in the first two, plus Suitcase is an obvious choice.

  2. 1 The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
    2 The first episode (don’t remember the name)
    3 The Beautiful Girls

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the Suitcase – but these episodes are structurally superb, beyond the sentimental (nothing wrong about sentiment, but this is what separates MM from soaps : sentiment and feeling are present, but so is the aesthetics that orders the narrative).

  3. 1. Tomorrowland
    2. The Beautiful Girls
    3. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (tie)
    3. The Suitcase (tie)

    I loved the way Peggy did her Don Draper impression while presenting to Topaz in Tomorrowland.

    There is so much to enjoy about The Beautiful Girls.

    I adore seeing Peggy riding the Honda around in the white limbo set.

    In The Suitcase although he would not admit it to her, Don realized the vital role of Peggy in Creative.

  4. Season 4 is my favorite season, and the last 6, from Summer Man through Tomorrowland, are a great narrative; you can’t separate them.

  5. Not to be Debbie Downer, but does anybody have episodes that they think DON’T hold up well to repeated viewings? Cause the eps below are ones I might not have loved the first go around, but then started to love after the 2nd or 3rd watch. But every time I watch the Season 4 premiere, I’m like, “ehhhh, fast forward”.

    *Leaving off The Suitcase off because it’s just too awesome for me to categorize.*

    1. The Rejected – Every time I watch it I’m surprised by all the great elements – the Ponds focus group, Allison getting her aggression out in Don’s office, Peggy at the house party, that look at the end between Pete and Peggy…incredible.

    2. Tomorrowland – Initially I thought that was a waste of an episode for all the characters besides Don and Megan, but there are great Ken and Peggy moments, and of course Peggy and Joan at the end. And a smiling Don Draper…what?

    3. The Summer Man – This one really holds up to repeated viewings.

    • GREAT question, MyPeople. Initially, I didn’t care for The Good News. I didn’t like the writing decision that killed off Anna, and the flower-switch coincidence is an old cliché. But it’s got great stuff in it.

    • For me I like every episode but I agree there are bits I fast forward thru:
      - Tomorrowland – most of the California stuff
      - The Good News – seemed a little slow in several places
      - Lane & the playboy bunny – I haven’t bought that side of him yet and I don’t know why

      But this is me, fiddling around the margins.

      • I was so disarmed by all of S4 (which I watched on DVR several times), that whatever critical faculties I may have had are instead replaced by fond familiarity.

        I, too, do not buy Lane and his “chocolate bunny”. My thought was that it was a doomed infatuation – if only because she would have cooled. As it turned out, the infatuation was beaten out of him – so to speak.

        I think we will not see “Toni” again.

        My take on other love interests:

        I might hope that Betty and Henry will grow closer but don’t expect it.

        Roger greeted Joan’s news about their baby with such ambivalence toward her, that Joan will hold him at arm’s length whatever happens with child and/or Capt./Dr. Harris.

        (poor Jane is but a trophy by now)

        I guess Hamm let slip (then denied – but you can’t un-ring a bell) that Don and Megan will have tied the knot (no big surprise, actually). The season will start with the honeymoon showing cracks. Teaser photos of Megan pursuing Don in a parking lot betrayed that.

        The Pryce’s: At best, we will see or hear Mrs. Pryce on a long distance call with Lane.

        Abe will want to marry Peggy, but she won’t accept – that is, if he swallows hard and proposes. Some real romantic tension could be sustained with that question un-asked.

        Pete and Trudy will be solid as a rock. His choices will involve other things.

        Sadly, the only things Bert Cooper has admitted to loving are his cattle.

        Don/Betty – perhaps a tryst – but nothing more (except #4?).

        Stan Rizzo – will the writers make him suffer that crush for two years?

    • I’m not saying “Hands and Knees” is not a good episode, of course it is, but I don’t enjoy seeing it (on repeated viewings) as much as the other episodes. Maybe because it was such a tense episode in many ways.

  6. Mine: Suitcase, Waldorf Stories, The Rejected. Seeing Peggy just OWN Stan in WS ruled my galaxy. And Rejected is loaded with unexpected humor.

  7. 1. Suitcase

    2. Public Relations. Through acting, dialogue, and cinematography it shows a man who has lost his way and is trying to redefine himself.

    3. Chrysanthemum and the Sword. I liked this episode because it really shed light on Betty. Before this episode I suspected she might have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. After I’m more sure.

    Many viewers who have NPD mothers (or NMs) recognize Betty’s behavior on many blogs. I’m one amongst that list. The best description of NMs is a list compiled by someone named “Chris “who wrote it under pseudonym. Here’s a link. Since there are no margins I would suggest pasting the text onto a Word document so it’s easier to read.

    http://parrishmiller.com/narcissists.html

    The list is extensive and not all NMs have all the traits. But if your mom has NPD the list is like a bolt of clarity.

    In C&S, Betty’s concern about what people will think rather than Sally’s feelings after the sleepover is casebook, public image over the child. Betty being angry at Sally after she cut her hair, not for disfiguring herself but because Betty always wanted long hair when she was a girl is typical. The NM’s daughter is supposed to be a copy of her and even if she thinks differently it’s punishable. Betty sending Sally to a therapist when she’s the one who’s crazy is the usual pathologizing of the victim. NMs sexually compete with their daughters. Glenn, enough said.

    Betty has displayed characteristics of a Narcissist (N) since the beginning of the series. She’s obsessed with appearances. After her accident she thinks it’s better Sally died than be scarred. She way she set up Sarah Beth with Arthur so project her guilt over her own feelings for Arthur is classic. Her strange reaction after sleeping with the stranger (eating the chicken) leg is not surprising if you know that a tell tale sign of a N is strange reactions to things.

    Betty gets much worse in S4, but if she’s a N that makes sense. Ns get worse if there’s severe damage to their self image. The divorce plus a shaky new marriage qualify and Sally’s getting the brunt of it. Also, Ns get worse as the years go on. If Sally had it bad in S4, S5 will be even worse.

    One of my “favorite” NDP moves of Betty is her set up of Don in “Summer Man.” Betty and Henry make it clear that Don’s not welcome at Gene’s b-day party. But when Francine asks if Don will be at the party Betty says, “I told him about it, let’s see if he comes.” Which is a lie. Betty believes Don won’t come because she and Henry basically have told him not to come. With her lie she can make Don look like a bad father to Francine (“See, I told him about it but he was more interested in sleeping with one of his girlfriends than attending his own son’s birthday party”).

    Interestingly, while I think Don is NOT a Narcissist, his dual persona is symbolic of one. Current theory says that a child can become a N if it is shamed at about age 6. The child then “hides” the real personality and creates a false persona. This is basically what Dick Whitman did when he created Don Draper. However, since Don is not an N he is still thinks of himself as Dick Whitman internally. With a N, the created personality is real to them. But the irony is that since it is created, then everything it does is “make believe,” in that there is no reaction in the conscience because it’s all pretend anyways. That explains Betty’s strange reaction after she and Don slept together in “The Inheritance” and Don thinks things are better. But Betty still kicks him out of the house saying, “Nothing’s changed. We were just pretending.” That’s correct to Betty, they were just pretending.

    Also, the actual book “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” deals with guilt cultures versus shame cultures. In a guilt culture, the focus is on the individual feeling guilt that they have done something wrong. In a shame culture you’ve done something wrong if others believe you’ve done something wrong. This is a quick simplification. But the concept works on an individual level for a normal person versus a Narcissist. If a normal person does something wrong, they will feel guilt even if no one knows (like Don with how he treated Adam before he told Betty). At the extreme end of the shame spectrum is the Narcissist, if no one knows they’ve done something wrong, then it doesn’t exist. Like Betty and the stranger at the bar. Since no one (she knows) knows, then it didn’t really happen and she can go home and have her chicken leg.

    Furthermore, in the same episode Betty sends Sally to a psychiatrist. From that point on we see the first healthy interaction with a psychiatrist in the series. The great irony is that even if Betty went to therapy there was only so much they could so since NPD was not added to the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1980. So Sally’s screwed. The best a psychiatrist could say was that someone was “childish,” as Betty’s psychiatrist tells Don.

    Another surprising trait of Ns is how easily they lie, especially about the past. A tell tale sign of a N is if they’ve shared a secret from their past with you and if you bring it up with them a few years later they will deny it happened and, moreover, they’ll deny they ever told you. For some of them it’s just being conniving, they’re messing with your head or “Gaslighting” you, a topic which has been discussed at BoK. But for others it’s more than that. When they tell you a different story about the past, it is because they BELIEVE that story. They’ve actually changed their own recollection of the past to fit their “perfect” image of themselves. So it’s basically Don’s, “This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened” taken to an extreme. And while Don says that, he cannot do so with Adam’s suicide and his past. Nor can Peggy do it with her baby. But if Betty is an N, then she can.

    Which brings up Betty’s recollections of interactions with men. Some people say JJ is a “wooden” actress and worse. But if she’s playing a N, I think she’s BRILLIANT! Most of her “wooden” scenes are when she interacts with men, the air condition repairman, the car mechanic, Arthur Chase. But are those scenes real, or are the “reconstructed memories,” thus they have to be slightly off kilter and stilted because they are figments of Betty’s mind? So did Betty have the air conditioning salesman just check her bedroom and later fantasized about him? Or was she angry at Don for losing her the modeling job by not taking the offer from McCann, slept w/the salesman as revenge, changed her memory because “good girls” don’t do that, but the real memory came up with the washing machine? Did Betty just bargain w/the mechanic and he was lazy by putting the flashlight in his mouth? Or was Betty angry at Don because he couldn’t “perform” with her at the hotel, needed to feel validated sexually, gave a blow job to the mechanic, and changed her memory because nice suburban housewives don’t do that. Did Betty ward off Arthur’s advances? Or did she sleep with him and then had to set up Sarah Beth to do the same so that Betty could project her guilt on Sarah? I know this can sound outlandish, but once you realize how Ns work, this is par for the course.

    Also, JJ has said that it’s difficult to play Betty because she says one thing but her face expresses another (paraphrasing). Which is typical of a N. Some of my favorite Betty scenes are when Don comes home and she has this look on her face that says, “this philandering no good mother effer is coming home and disturbing me after screwing some secretary in the city and now he expects me to get up and make him a meal, mother effer.” And then the mask falls on and Betty sweetly asks Don what he’d like for dinner. Seriously amazing acting. Also JJ has called, “straight up crazy.” If she knows she’s playing a N, that fits.

    I don’t mean to belittle Don’s psychological and emotional abuse of Betty. But it Betty has NPD, the bat shit we saw in “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” is just a preview of things to come.

    • Celina, amazing analysis.

    • Celina, I may reference this for a future post.

      • I would be honored. I realized I’ve posted that things are “casebook” or “typical.” I’ve used many sources for information, but one of the best in my opinion is the late Kathy Krajco’s blog “What Makes Narcissists Tick.” It is straightforward and usually describes Ns at the worst end of the spectrum.

        http://narc-attack.blogspot.com/

        NPD is a spectrum disorder, some people can be at the mild end, some at the extreme, and the rest somewhere in the middle.

        In my lay person’s opinion, Betty is in the medium/mild area in S1. She still has enough normal in her that she will defend her kids against her neighbor (shooting the pigeons). If she were medium/severe she would have sided with the neighbor and said that Polly deserved to be shot. At the severe end, Betty would have covertly killed Polly, framed the neighbor, and then enjoyed Sally and Bobby’s suffering. So in the Narcissistic spectrum, Betty isn’t as bad as it gets.

    • I felt you had built a decent case for Betty having NPD but then I think you go a bridge too far:

      Which brings up Betty’s recollections of interactions with men. Some people say JJ is a “wooden” actress and worse. But if she’s playing a N, I think she’s BRILLIANT! Most of her “wooden” scenes are when she interacts with men, the air condition repairman, the car mechanic, Arthur Chase. But are those scenes real, or are the “reconstructed memories,” thus they have to be slightly off kilter and stilted because they are figments of Betty’s mind? So did Betty have the air conditioning salesman just check her bedroom and later fantasized about him? Or was she angry at Don for losing her the modeling job by not taking the offer from McCann, slept w/the salesman as revenge, changed her memory because “good girls” don’t do that, but the real memory came up with the washing machine? Did Betty just bargain w/the mechanic and he was lazy by putting the flashlight in his mouth? Or was Betty angry at Don because he couldn’t “perform” with her at the hotel, needed to feel validated sexually, gave a blow job to the mechanic, and changed her memory because nice suburban housewives don’t do that. Did Betty ward off Arthur’s advances? Or did she sleep with him and then had to set up Sarah Beth to do the same so that Betty could project her guilt on Sarah? I know this can sound outlandish, but once you realize how Ns work, this is par for the course.

      It’s not necessarily outandish for a narcissist to act this way of course, but it’s definitely divorced from the reality of Mad Men’s storytelling perspective. Betty’s encounters with the men mentioned above are presented to us as real-time depictions of actual events. The scenes, with the exception of The Agitator-inspired fantasy about the air-con salesman, aren’t Betty’s recollections of interactions; they are third-person narratives presented as more or less an objective representation of what has occurred. There are no indications or hints that the narrative has deviated from the implied point of view. I don’t think it’s reasonable to interpret these encounters as “reconstructed memories” or anything less than a standard depiction of reality within the story.

      It doesn’t mean Betty’s not NPD, just I don’t think this type of conjecture is valid evidence of it.

  8. “The Rejected” – Pete’s reaction in the bar when he finds out Trudy is pregnant, the look at the end, the OLD COUPLE (who I ship after “did you get pears”), Allison laying the verbal smackdown on Don, and Peggy looking over the transom.
    “Hands and Knees” – I thought JH knocked it out of the part and I like how we were all kindof caught off guard on this old issue. I also think it led to the demise of Faye and his engagement to Megan

    “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” – I liked the caper aspect and I like the issue of dealing with cultural issues in their business.

  9. The 3 favorites, or the 3 we think are best? S4 is my least fave season, yet I think it is S1′s chief rival for best season overall. Not one episode has made me feel, on endless re-watches, ‘meh, fast forward’. Every season has one, (I’m looking at you Long Weekend, The Inheritance, Souvenir.) Tom B made me realize what I am not smart enough to figure on my own, eps 8-13 DO feel as part of one narrative, whole. Thank you, Tom. Those episodes approach the unparalleled stretch of New Amsterdam through The Hobo Code for sheer brilliance.
    Fave 3: Suitcase (it proves MM belongs to DD, and Beloved Pegs, only. The rest are very interesting filler.) Blowing Smoke. The Summer Man. Don writing in a journal floors me, whatcanitellya.
    Best 3: Suitcase. The Rejected. And the Beautiful Girls, Hands and Knees, Chrysanthemum in a three way tie for 3rd. Ha!

    • tilden, I understand that many people distinguish between favorite and best–I do myself. Favorite is what I asked for.

    • This is pretty much my list, although Christmas Comes But Once a Year nearly sneaks in for the Conga and Lee Jr’s immense entitlement.

  10. …………least favorites: Tomorrowland,(I’ve been spoiled by the first 3 season finales, all of which are in MM’s top 10, top 5 even. This ep was merely good.) Public Relations felt like a catch up episode. “Who is Don Draper?” Wha……..really? Disappointing. Deb has felt For Those who Think Young is a catch-up, this is mine.

    • Although I agree w/ your faves, I would disagree about Public Relations. “Who is Don Draper?” is what the season (and the show, largely) is about. In S4, it’s about the secretive Don having to be a public face of the biz. It’s also about who he is as a divorced man, which is why the interviewer with the phantom limb is there.

  11. Off topic, but has anyone seen the Newsweek cover with them on it? Incredible. I’m so happy to see this show get all of this press. Maybe the year and half hiatus was worth it in some respects!

    http://madmendaily.tumblr.com/post/19520258177/jonhammsome-presenting-this-weeks

    Okay, we resume our program in progress.

  12. I like the episode where Roger talks about jumping out the window. This of course is a “hint” on how Mad Men will end as a series. Don Draper will jump from his office window when he can’t run anymore from his past. The fall itself is supposed to represent the fall of the white man (a Jewish fantasy). It may even happen on an early final episode?

    Mr. Price (the father) was a great character. Seemed like an “old empire” type?

    Roger got “divorced” like he divorced his old wife. Roger calls Joan “beautiful” but it sounds phony (she just aborted Roger’s kid). Roger should have married Joan if she was so “beautiful” (Joan thinks).

    Joan is always disappointed and abused because she wanted the life of a traditional woman. The writers for Mad Men punish her often for wanting to be a wife and mother. Soon her husband (a stupid man who raped Joan) will probably be paralyzed in Vietnam? Her life must be a disappointment as a warning to the white gentile female viewers that this life is no good for them.

  13. 1. The Suitcase (The finest episode of the show, in my opinion)
    2. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Edgy, aggressive and showed a side of Roger we don’t typically see)
    3. Tomorrowland (Great, great finale to the season).

  14. Top three:

    Christmas Comes But Once a Year
    The Rejected
    The Suitcase

    I think so, anyway (yeah, I’m wishy-washy sometimes). At the moment, my next two choices (very close) are “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” and “The Beautiful Girls.”

  15. [...] a new poster over at BoK who’s arrived with a shedload of theories about the show and who’s currently pushing the idea that Betty suffers from NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), and some of her arguments are quite good. Now I know that for [...]

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