Mad Men, Season 4

Week 3: "I Love Deer"
Talking television.
Aug. 9 2010 5:15 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 3: "I Love Deer"

Julia, John:

I'll buy Julia's idea that Anna Draper's bungalow is Don's oasis, but I'm going to side with John that the scenes between Don and Anna were rather Hallmark. The emotions felt forced to the surface in a way that was all too reminiscent of my Catholic high school weekend "encounter" retreats. (The horror, the horror.) The other thing I kept thinking about during the California interlude was Atul Gawande's recent (rather staggering) piece in The New Yorker about how we should treat the dying.

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Anna's family decision to keep the fact of her incurable disease a secret roughly aligns with the theme of Gawande's piece: that Americans rarely have a plan for dying, and sometimes it's better, for everyone involved, to stop pursuing "miracle" treatments and let a patient try for a few good weeks at home before the end. The end of Anna had me wondering, not for the first time, just how period-correct the show was. How common was it for a patient not to be told she was terminal?

The one period detail that I would bet is certainly correct is the $25 for the services of Lane's "lady friend." The show appears to give itself a high-five in the pause before Don relays that number to Lane. John, in answer to your pop quiz, I liked the Barnard line best, but my favorite exchange was when Don quips, "Norman Mailer shot a deer over there," and our Barnard grad replies, "I love deer." But, wait! That was only my second favorite non sequitur in the show. The first was when Lane stifles his fear of being alone with Don by declaring, "I have a sandwich in the refrigerator."

Matthew Weiner is just a wee bit obsessed with structure, so I am guessing we're supposed to compare Don's California oasis with the "welcome distraction" that Don provides for Lane in New York. But from my view, a Draper-led night on the town does not appear to be all that restorative. Lane emerges from Don's bedroom with jacket and tie perfectly correct and then offers halting goodbyes as Don does his staring, no-need-to-explain routine. Was Don really helping out Lane or just putting another co-worker under his thumb with some extracurricular fun? Armchair psychiatry tells me that Don's own foundation is shaky and he gains security by undermining the foundations of those around him.

Except this season, where he doesn't move the world for the beautiful, outspoken youth. This episode had another strikeout for Don in an automobile. (Which leads to an aside for Mad Men obsessives: Can you point to an episode in which Don doesn't get laid?) I'm surprised that neither of you mentioned the casting of Kate Hudson as Stephanie. Or do I have that wrong? Anyway, Stephanie was our SDS-lite eye candy. Did you catch the weirdly gratuitous slight against born-again Christians? (Or Anna's weird joke about whether there are more Mexicans in California or in Acapulco?) I'm with you, Julia, that the show hasn't really established its footing in the counterculture. Or maybe the counterculture really was all about meeting alluring young women.

Here's a sandwich,
Agger

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.