“Indian Summer” Review
“Feeling the Heat.”
The most wholesome relationship in Mad Men belongs to Don Draper and Peggy Olson. That’s because there’s no romantic interest between them whatsoever. Their connection is purely platonic, which is a rare sight at the Sterling Cooper offices.
Don respects Peggy’s hard work and dedication as a secretary, but also recognizes her burgeoning talent as a copywriter. On the other hand, Peggy admires Don’s independence and expertise at the workplace. She doesn’t see him as a boss, and she doesn’t view herself as his secretary — in Peggy’s eyes, they are creative equals.
One of the finest scenes in “Indian Summer” features Don giving Peggy advice about the best ways to come up with an advertising idea. Even though Don has an insanely competitive ego, it’s heartwarming to see him help a fellow coworker. And for Peggy, it’s encouraging to know that not all men in Manhattan are misogynists.
Unfortunately, the rest of “Indian Summer” isn’t so wholesome.
When it isn’t focusing on platonic friendships at work, “Indian Summer” puts emphasis on unfulfilled sexual desires at home. For Betty Draper, that means fantasizing about cheating on her husband while sitting on top of a washing machine.
After #BettyIsBoring was cancelled two weeks ago, do we have to bring the hashtag back? Her hot-blooded daydreams are definitely erotic, but they don’t necessarily jive with the rest of the episode. In fact, I’d rather she just invite the air-conditioner salesman up to the bedroom and be done with it. If Don can get away with adultery, why can’t she? For now, the washing machine will have to suffice.
Across town, Peggy also finds out that machines can provide the same stimulations as men. She writes copy for a new weight-loss device, thus earning a raise, but she also discovers that the device works better as a vibrator. Her subsequent presentation is a success: “The Rejuvenator, you’ll love the way it makes you feel.”
At the end of the episode, after a failed blind date, Peggy pleasures herself with the new product.
“Indian Summer” is one of Mad Men’s lighter episodes — the masturbation jokes should be a clear indicator. But with only two episodes remaining in season one, the overall impact of “Indian Summer” feels underwhelming, especially when compared to the fantastic character moments that have occurred throughout the last few weeks.
A high-stakes moment arises when Roger suffers another heart attack, this time during a business meeting with Lucky Strike, which prompts Bertram Cooper to promote Don to partner. Meanwhile, Don’s new relationship with Rachel seems to be going well, but they only share one scene together. All in all, our brilliant leading man has a great week of work, but he’s not the main character in “Indian Summer.”
It’s typical of Mad Men to release a slow-moving episode right before the end of the season, thus amplifying the magnitude of the finale. And based on how good “Nixon vs. Kennedy” and “The Wheel” are, it’s fair to say that “Indian Summer” serves its purpose. But even though the leisurely installment is quite funny, it isn’t all that memorable.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
- The episode begins with Don’s half-brother Adam Whitman mailing a package addressed to Don and then hanging himself in his apartment. At the end of the episode, as Pete sits in Don’s office (Don was just promoted to partner, meaning Pete is also looking to climb the ladder), the package arrives, which Pete takes for himself. Although this scene sets up the season finale, the cliffhanger ending is something Mad Men rarely uses, and so it feels somewhat out of place here.
- Nevertheless, the bookending scenes are masterfully structured. Adam Whitman’s suicide and Pete Campbell’s knowledge of the truth fill the viewer with narrative anticipation, especially since the rest of “Indian Summer” is mostly self-contained. The episode is like a bell curve, with the boring stuff in the middle.
- When Bert Cooper promotes Don to partner, Don accepts the position on the condition that he doesn’t have to sign a contract. An amused Bert agrees and once again extolls the philosophies of Ayn Rand.
- Roger Sterling shares a tender moment with Joan, remarking on his near-death experience and the fact that he doesn’t regret their secret romance despite his newfound appreciation for his family. You can tell that there is definite true love between the two of them. (Meanwhile, Mona Sterling is played by actress Talisa Balsam, John Slattery’s real-life wife.)
- Peggy has recently been gaining weight, and actress Elisabeth Moss compensates by wearing baggy clothes and extra prosthetic makeup. When Peggy goes on a blind date with a man from her hometown, he rudely says: “You can act like you’re from Manhattan, but you don’t look like those girls.”
- And speaking of that blind date scene, Peggy does act a little haughty, but she didn’t deserve the hurtful comment from her date. She storms out of the restaurant, and thankfully that’s the end of that. She only cares about work and needs to accept it.
- Just like Don, Peggy is proud to put her past behind her — from growing up poor in Bay Ridge, to working as a secretary, and now becoming the first woman copywriter at Sterling Cooper since WWII. She was born in Brooklyn but wants to be from Manhattan.
- Betty’s encounter with the young air-conditioner salesman teases the different directions that the series might take. As an unfulfilled housewife, it’s only a matter of time before she begins an extramarital affair of her own. For now, however, that’ll have to play out in her head.
- Betty’s therapy sessions aren’t going well, as they seem to make Betty even more depressed, much to Don’s displeasure. He derides the psychiatrist during one of their secret phone calls. For the most part, this has been one of the most uneventful (and retrospectively inessential) storylines of the season.
- “Indian Summer” was written by Tom Palmer and series creator Matthew Weiner and directed by Tim Hunter.
- “He’s married but I don’t think he’s happy.”
- “You are the finest piece of ass I ever had, and I don’t care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.”
- “I used to think you couldn’t put a value on a human life. But I never asked Bert Cooper, did I?”