It's been a while since our last Mad Men Style Recap--blame New York, London, and Milan Fashion Week--so this week we're combining the last two episodes into one. Look for the Episode 10 recap tomorrow afternoon.
Starting with episode eight, The Summer Man, Mad Men took a turn away from debauchery towards mild mannered manliness. The episode opens with Don diving into a swimming pool in creme trunks, a literal fresh start for Mad Men's tragic hero. Cut to Don sitting in his Waverly Place apartment in a brown plaid shirt and khaki pants writing in his diary about how he's going to get his life back on track. Mad Men has been cheesy before (I'm thinking of the flashbacks that always ended with a stern, troubled, vaguely wistful look on Don's face.), but seeing Don write in a diary was almost too much to believe. But it happened, leaving Don's voiceover to continue throughout the episode.
Adding to this episode's cringeworthy moments was the scene of Don leaving the sports club looking more dapper than ever while the Rolling Stone's "Satisfaction" played. Cinematic it was, but it felt more like a scene from a 1960s parody movie than a scene from a serious, detail-oriented drama set in 1965. But there's a lesson to be learned in every scene of Mad Men, this one being if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards can't get no satisfaction on the amount of drugs and alcohol they're using, there's no hope for the rest of us. Don straightens out in slim gray suit pants, and skinny black tie, and gold framed sunglasses, while all types of people pass him by, from sailor to new mother.
The rest of Don's plot line, however, is incredibly well done. From his date with Bethany, where he runs into Betty looking like a cross between the neighborhood wives in Edward Scissorhands and Dior Resort 2011 with Oscar SS11 hair in a seafoam green mini dress with accent beading, to his later date with Faye who looks stunning in a bright green patterned dress, Don handles himself calmly and like a proper gentleman. His date with Bethany is a formal affair: Don wears a black suit and Bethany dons a blue-toned, full-skirted floral dress, and crystal earrings and bracelet, until they take a cab home and it gets frisky fast. Whereas Bethany is a society bred, sexually daring version of Betty, Faye is the mob connected, brainy Betty that Don truly desires. Their date develops quickly into meaningful conversation and is instantly more relaxed form the start. Don gives Faye his creme plaid jacket, the same jacket he gave to Stephanie in a previous episode. Faye doesn't get (give?) the same happy ending that Bethany does, because Don is working on his upstanding gentleman image. It turns out just fine for Faye in the next episode, I now know, but less great for that lamp....
Finally, Don squares things off with Betty and Henry at Gene's birthday party. While it's obvious to the viewers and to Henry that Betty is not over Don, and may never be able to let him go, Don arrives at his son's party with the sole intention of showing his care for his children. Henry and Betty look purely old guard, he in a red gingham shirt and her in a lilac full skirted dress with embroidery. Don walks in looking overwhelmingly cool in an ivory blazer, black polo, and gray pants, a giant stuffed elephant swung under his arm. The final shots of Don smiling and playing with Gene are heartwarming even to the most jaded Mad Men watcher. It's finally looking like Don is starting to become the man he aspires to be.
While Don is working on behaving better, the rest of the boys at SCDP are still behaving badly. The ruckus around the newly installed vending machine is the catalyst for a war between Joey and Joan. Joey, whose outfits must be sourced from an American Apparel window display, is in a yellow shirt, green pants, and a brown tie, while Joan looks perfect in a shocking pink dress with light pink trim. Stan is in yet another blue polo, while Ken Cosgrove and Harry Crane are both in suits, but jacket-less, since it is snack time. Peggy watches the initial debate unfold in a gray plaid dress that I am completely certain is identical to one produced by Marc by Marc Jacobs in Fall 2007, and brown, heeled mary-janes. Another thing I'm completely certain of is Ken's line "You know what Harry, I think this is a show." It's a blatant Seinfeld reference, and if it's not, should be. Why Jason Alexander hasn't been cast as a cranky client yet evades me.
Joey's disrespect starts with a few sharp words, and escalates to a crude drawing and accusing Joan of "walking around here trying to get raped." Finally Joan stands up to him and the rest of the chauvinist men with a eerie speech about Vietnam. While she looks stunning in a teal dress with a ruffle adorning the neck, it's her husband that gets sent to Vietnam in the next episode. Joan's harsh words aren't enough for Peggy, however, who asserts her dominance by firing Joey. Peggy's navy blue ensemble with flashes of red in the pleats of her skirt makes her look more youthful than normal, although the hint of red is a warning of her power. Joey's closing ensemble is a pink shirt with gray pants, definitely not the way you'd want to go out. The confrontation between Joan and Peggy in the elevator puts Peggy in her place, as Joan, as always, is right about what happened.
Episode nine goes out to the ladies. The women of Mad Men are the backbone of the show, and yet, the world, in 1965 and on Mad Men, is a man's world.
In this episode all the women's lives collide, intermingle, and explode pushing everyone into a new mindset by the episode's end. The eldest one dies, the youngest one runs away, and all the women in the middle get mixed up romantically.
First there's Faye.
I was downright shocked when I saw Don and Faye having a somewhat stable relationship in this episode. Faye looks overjoyed in Don's bed, but that soon turns to outrage as Don continually asks Faye to deal with Sally. Faye handles Sally at home in a yellow patterned dress and gigantic pearl earrings, and her signature double stand pearl necklace. She admits to being bad with children, but this interaction, while awkward, seems to have gone just fine. It's later when Don asks Faye to diffuse Sally's outburst that Faye can handle playing mommy no more. Back to dressing like a flight attendant, Faye wears a navy blue skirt suit with a yellow, striped tie-neck blouse and her hair perfectly done in a flip at the nape of her neck. In a speech that will resonate with many viewers, Faye declares that she chose her career over children. Ending in a kiss, Faye and Don appear to have something real between them for now.
The next woman to cause a stir this episode is but ten years old. Sally Draper, one of the most charismatic and intriguing characters on Mad Men, makes a dramatic escape from Betty to try to live with Don forever. Looking on trend for SS11, Sally wears a white mini-dress with neon flowers and white sandals. Sally's running away is totally justified, but neither Betty nor Don are mature enough to discuss options for bettering Sally's living situation. While Don is angered at Sally, he acts like a great father to her in this episode, disciplining her while still taking her out for some fun in Manhattan. The problem is he can't commit to playing dad one hundred percent of the time, furthering his need for a woman to play wife/mother.
When Sally and Don have a problem, so does Betty, the woman with the best wardrobe and the worst attitude. Answering Don's phone call in another SS11 trend, blue lace, and later showing up at SCDP in a blue toned floral dress with white gloves, Betty has no patience for Sally or Don.
Outside of Don's family problems is Peggy, who has enough problems of her own. Looking adorable in a white short sleeved polka-dot blouse with a navy bow at the neck and a navy skirt, Peggy is invited to drinks by Joyce, of the turquoise necklace fan club, which ended up meaning drinks with Abe, of the leather-jacket-with-everything tribe. Women with center parts are always deceiving. Abe tries to woo Peggy with his political talk and yellow turtleneck, but she'd rather talk about their shared Brooklyn heritage. Ultimately Abe offends Peggy by mocking her quest for equal rights for women.
Not to be easily defeated, Abe shows up at SCDP the next day working his version of business casual (leather jacket, white shirt, skinny tie, brown pants), to convince Peggy that he's the right man for her with a piece of political literature. Yet again he strikes out with Olson, leaving him dejected in the elevator lobby with his writing ripped in quarters. But it wasn't all a waste; Peggy brings up the civil rights issues with Fillmore Auto, even if Don says it's not their job to "make Fillmore auto like Negroes."
Peggy is channeling Marc by Marc Jacobs again this episode, wearing a navy vest over a blue button down, and a red plaid skirt. Unfortunately, it's Peggy that finds Ms. Blankenship morte at her desk. Ida's deadpan comedy will be missed, but at least she went out wearing Prince's suit ensemble from Purple Rain.
Ms. Blakenship's death rattles Roger, as he's almost died in his office twice before. Looking like he's dressed for a funeral in an all black three piece suit, Roger finds solace in Joan, who is also rattled by her husband being shipped off to Vietnam. Joan first wears an orange printed silk blouse and navy skirt, but post-massage she resumes her lager than life stature in a red dress with a side bow. Roger and Joan lunch at their old haunt, and later dine out, only to be mugged at gun point. Trauma after trauma, Joan and roger hook up beside a townhouse. The next day, however, the promise of a relationship is shattered by Joan, while wearing a mauve floral dress. I still have my fingers crossed, though, that Joan and Roger will work it out.
Finally, there was Megan, ex-receptionist turned emergency secretary. The only woman calm enough to handle all the drama, Meg starts the episode in seafoam double buttoned dress with a matching scarf and later saves Sally in a yellow mini-dress. All the emotion of the day leaves her near tears at the desk.
In the end, all the women take the elevators to leave, each with different outlooks and problems, trying to control their men and their lives.