Mad Men, Season 4

Week 3: The Gay Divorcés
Talking television.
Aug. 9 2010 1:26 AM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 3: The Gay Divorcés

Don Draper.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men

Michael, Julia,

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

"I'm not going to fight watching Dick Whitman paint my living room in his shorts," said Anna Draper as Don did his best Bob Vila impression. Well, if Anna won't fight it, I will. For the first time this season, Mad Men bored me. I'm on record stating that Season 2's West Coast sojourn was a low point for the series, and this episode's return trip, though mercifully contained to half an episode, wasn't any improvement. I can't bring myself to care about Anna—with her tarot cards and her UFOs and her grass smoking and her complete devotion to the man who stole her husband's identity. While I'd never wish the big C on anyone, I can't say I'll miss watching Don/Dick staring meaningfully into Anna's eyes with that droopy nobody-understands-me-but-you look on his face. At least we were spared the sight of Don bedding Anna's not-quite-counter-cultural niece, whom Anna essentially offers up to him on a platter. Hasn't she given him enough already by letting him run around calling himself Don Draper? Does she need to furnish him with comely co-eds, too?

I was working myself into a lather during the going back to Cali segment of this episode, but whatever annoyance I was feeling at the halfway mark was more than mitigated by this episode's riotous second half, starring my new favorite odd couple, Don Draper and Lane Pryce, aka, the gay divorcés. With nowhere to go and no one to love them over the New Year's holiday, they embark on a truly hilarious night of debauchery. Michael, Julia, which did you think was the funniest moment:

A) Don's suggestion that copious hand jobs were in progress at Godzilla.

B) Lane's earnest inquiry as to what percentage of the movie house's patrons were engaged in said hand jobs.

C) Lane's bizarre performance at dinner, specifically the moment when he turned his steak into a Texas belt buckle.

D) Lane's retort to the stand-up comic: "We're not homosexuals, we're divorced!"

E) Don's sage observation that Lane's prostitute did not go to Barnard.

The list could go on. (The flower mix-up, which seems to have been the nail in the coffin for the Pryce marriage, was also a wonderful comic set piece—I loved how Joan turned on a dime, redirecting the wrath she'd been throwing at Lane toward his bumbling secretary.)

It was nice that Don took pity on Lane and treated him to a good old-fashioned Sterling Cooper night on the town. But, perhaps you'll agree, it was also depressing to see the heretofore incorruptible Lane Pryce corrupted. Unlike the philanderers he works with, Lane is committed to his wife, if not as committed as he is to his work. (His wife can't understand why he is so devoted to SCDP, a place where he is treated largely with disdain. She caustically suggests to Lane that the entire staff is on vacation somewhere without him.) Don says he knows better than to give advice in these situations—so he just supplies the hookers then gets out of the way?

The other main plot strand this week was between Joan and the man our friends at Vulture refer to as Dr. Rape. The Harrises are thinking about conceiving (something Joan has already done twice), but the timing is complicated by Greg's imminent deployment (to Vietnam, Joan fears). This plot reached its climax when Joan cut herself preparing some fresh-squeezed O.J. for Dr. R. Michael, Julia, what did you make of that scene? I wondered at first whether Joan had cut herself on purpose, to see her butterfingered hubby in action. But she seemed to not trust him to do it properly. Greg assures her that sewing up a cut is to his line of work what filing papers is to Joan's—to which she responds that she has other girls do her filing now. Though numbskull Greg doesn't pick up on it, that was a telling remark. Joan clearly takes pride in the role she occupies at SCDP, and while she's frustrated that she's not high enough up the food chain to take vacation whenever she wants it, she seems to recognize that part of the reason for that is because she's become indispensable. It's surely no accident that the episode ends with Joan sitting at the head of the new SCDP conference table, at a meeting that begins when she says it does. I don't think Joan's going to skip out on work as Greg suggests she should, do you guys?

A few stray thoughts before I run out to get some fried chicken:

—Was it me or was Don flirting with Allison? At the very least, the cold front seems to have lifted.

—Menschy of Dr. Rape to work Yom Kippur.

—Did Don quote Faye Miller's line about the difference between what you want versus what is expected of you to Lane over dinner?

—Very interesting to hear Don's impression of what Betty felt when he came clean about his true identity. Sounded about right to me.

Darling, I've been an ass.

xxJohn

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