Mad Men, Season 4

Week 7: Unnecessary Orchiectomies
Talking television.
Sept. 7 2010 4:07 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Week 7: Unnecessary Orchiectomies

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). Click image to expand.
Peggy in the restroom

Julia, I suppose there were a lot of bathrooms in that episode. Love how Peggy is weirded out by the urinals, but I found the graffiti lacking: "For a good time, call Caroline" and the intials "PC." (Pete Campbell!?) C'mon writers, we expect more from you! We also know why Bert Cooper probably has a private toilet, poor guy. And we've learned more about the mysterious Dr. Lyle Evans, purveyor of "unnecessary orchiectomies."

I originally speculated that the good doctor was a "Google bomb" meant to send us all scurrying to the keyboards in a display of Mad Men's cultural influence—a hoax in keeping with John's observation that the show has become very meta. This week, Patrick Keefe, our venerable TV Clubber from Season 3, wrote in with this insight:

Advertisement

"Remember last year there was that whole kerfuffle about Kater Gordon? She was Weiner's assistant, who was then promoted to his writer's assistant, and then to staff writer, and then co-wrote a script with him for which they won an Emmy. Unlike, say, David Simon, Weiner is always listed as co-writer on every episode, which you could interpret either as generosity (he's sharing credit with the young members of the writing staff) or selfishness (he sprinkles a little Weiner dust on someone else's script just before they shoot it, and that entitles him to equal  credit). I don't know which it is. It's probably impossible for us to know. But there was a suggestion, in his body language during the Emmy acceptance last year, that he wasn't entirely happy sharing the spotlight with his protege. And then for some reason Kater Gordon was fired. Remember all that? I think it's impossible to read Don's speech to Peggy last night as anything but an apologia for the boorish tendency of creative-genius-mentor types to want to run the awards-ceremony victory lap alone, and a commentary on the whole master-and-apprentice relationship played out both in the Mad Men writers' room and at SCDP."

Sounds plausible to me, though head-spinning: Is Matthew Weiner countenancing veiled critiques of his own management style in his show? And also taking credit for them? I think I need to reread The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.

This episode also offered some conflicting takes on the creative process. Don admires Liston's workmanlike approach to boxing, and he himself is prepared to toil through the night on Samsonite. (Conveniently, this dedication allows him to avoid making that important call to California.) Yet when Peggy shows him the revised Samsonite pitches, he dismisses them with this line: "I don't care if you work 10 seconds, if you bring me something I like." His own flash of insight comes in the morning after seeing the Liston-Ali newspaper photograph. So which is it? Hard work or an innate ability to come up with great ideas? Obviously a bit of both, but I like how the swirl of advice conveys how hard being "creative" can be. It's not just a simple matter of putting in the hours.

And didn't you think Don's idea was just so-so? Peggy's critiques were right on.

While I'm on the subject of direct criticism and unnecessary orchiectomies, lots of commenters have been beating me up on how I wrote that Don let Duck win the fight. My sense was that Don called "uncle" at the moment in the battle when he could have chosen to go beserk, to go beyond a drunken shoving match. But, upon further review, I see that Duck had Don pinned and Duck's hand clutched in such a way that the bottom of his palm was exposed. This is how I was taught, during "self-defense" day in seventh grade, to deliver a blow that would send someone's nose bone into their brain and instantly kill them. My bad.

Now that we've settled that, does anyone care to speculate how Don will react when he finds out that Pete is the father of Peggy's baby? Or, is that never going to happen?

There's a kernel for you,
Agger

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

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Nov. 25 2014 3:21 PM Listen to Our November Music Roundup Hot tracks for our fall playlist, exclusively for Slate Plus members.