Slate’s TV Club Chats With Readers About the Start of Season 5

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
March 26 2012 5:10 PM

Humming Along to “Zou Bisou Bisou”

Our Mad Men TV Club chats with readers about the show’s season premiere.

(Continued from Page 1)

John Swansburg: It's true that this episode eased us back in a bit, but I also appreciated some of its elisions. For instance, we last saw Bert Cooper storming out of the SCDP's offices. Now he's back, with no explanation for how long his resignation lasted or how/why he returned. But it made sense. I didn't need the details.

Brian Dalek: Thoroughly enjoyed the show's return. People were singing or humming Zou Bisou Bisou in the office most of the morning.

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John Swansburg: Julia has a great theory in her post about Harry Crane: He's gay. What do you all think? I agree with Julia that his sex talk with Stan in the kitchenette sounded like a man protesting too much. He was also very eager to tell Roger all about what he did to his wife after the party.

Brian Dalek: Regarding Harry, the people I watched with were just assuming that Harry wasn't married anymore. Maybe just trying to play up his macho side despite not really having anybody at home?

June Thomas: I don't buy your Harry is gay theory. He's just socially inept and horribly crass. Or he's full of beans after his weight loss. But not gay, I think.

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Julia Turner: You may be right that Harry's not gay—but what do you think accounts for his newly aggressive behavior?

June Thomas: My theories for his crassness are a) feeling his oats at his weight loss; b) perhaps some relationship problems at home; c) he still hasn't grown up. Let's face it, he's an idiot! I think not gay, though, because Mad Men doesn't tend to reboil its cabbages, and we already had our gay moment with Sal. HOWEVER, when we get to June 1969, I do expect a trip to the Stonewall Inn for someone on the show.

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Joseph Clift: My overall impression? It was just such a pleasure to be reintroduced to these characters! There were some fantastic one-liners: I loved Don imagining Betty as Morticia Addams in her strangely castle-like new home (didn't it look dimly-lit in the episode 2 preview, too?). Jane's riposte to Roger at the party was also just delicious ...

John Swansburg: Totally agree. And Henry Francis is totally a Lurch.

Marc Naimark: But Lurch isn't married to Morticia ...

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Julia Turner: I'm curious to hear what you all made of Meghan's dance—and what you think Don thought of it. Afterward, he was miffed, but in the moment, he looked to me like he was enjoying it, in spite of himself. Do you think he liked her shimmy shimmy?

Brian Dalek: I find it funny today that SCDP employees were having fun with Meghan's performance but nobody raised an eyebrow at Roger's blackface performance from season 3. Obviously the times are different, but I think it shows a sense of "only certain people from the office can do things in public like that" mentality.

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Marc Naimark: I really didn't get the wallet thing. My first take was that it was tied to the racism theme: because there was so much money, he was worried about leaving it with a black driver. And why should money be so tight? Is he personally financing the SCDP credit line?

John Swansburg: I think that's a great question: Why is Lane so cash poor? I think we're supposed to wonder about that. Roger's carrying around $1100 in cash; where is Lane spending his money?

Julia Turner: Good point about Lane's cash-poverty. Too many nights at the Playboy Club?

Jon Lutz: I'm here to defend the Lane subplot! Obviously there's some financial shoe about to drop in his life, but he's also kind of lecherous on the phone. But then he's able to show Joan true compassion without, as I was fearing, trying to cop a feel. Maybe there's no mystery; he's got kind of an identity crisis: Den Mother Lane versus Playboy Lane. He sometimes gets carried away with fantasies of the latter when he's much better at the former (which I believe was the point of the exchange with the guy who says he's a gentleman). If anything, it was such a nice arc for his character I'm afraid he might be on the way out? Not sure.

John Swansburg: You make a good case, but I still found it a little hard to believe Lane would consider an assignation with this woman. I'm completely with you on the Joan scene though—that was so sweet. He did such a good job of making Joan seem essential. Though he was markedly wounded by Joan's comment about Don's handsomeness—made me wonder whether that was just a general sadness about his allure, or about something with respect to Joan specifically.

Aaron Mosher: The other partners had major dollars (from various partnership sales) to bring to SCDP ... Lane is probably the least-liquid of them all. Coupled with the fact that he's not a native with locals to borrow from ...

Julia Turner: John, it's interesting you thought Lane was disappointed by Joan's compliment to Don. I didn't catch that, but between that comment, Joan's mother saying Megan wouldn't want Joan "around her husband," and Don's warm greeting of Joan, I wondered if we might not see something cooking there ...

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John Swansburg: Anyone here a veteran Metro-North commuter? I was interested to learn that you used to be able to rent cards and a board to play on from the conductor. They should bring that back.

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