The Summer Man
|"The Summer Man"|
|Mad Men episode|
Joey's obscene drawing depicting Joan Harris in the midst of a sexual act with Lane Pryce.
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Phil Abraham|
|Written by||Lisa Albert
|Original air date||September 12, 2010|
|Mad Men season 4|
"The Summer Man" is the eighth episode of the fourth season of the American television drama series Mad Men, and the 47th overall episode of the series. It aired on the AMC channel in the United States on September 12, 2010. The episode was written by series creator Matthew Weiner and writers Janet Leahy and Lisa Albert. It was directed by Phil Abraham.
Don becomes more self-reflective and physically active as he attempts to curb his drinking. While Don pulls himself out of his existential tailspin, he pursues the company of Dr. Faye Miller. A subplot also deals with Joan's role in the office as she clashes with an obnoxious insubordinate employee.
The episode was well received by television critics and bloggers, but the use of voiceover was controversial. The episode was watched by 2.3 million viewers on its original airing. Christina Hendricks submitted this episode for consideration as of her nomination for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.
Following the death of Anna Draper, Don has taken a self-reflective turn, writing his thoughts into a journal in an attempt to steady his mind. His attempts at swimming reveal to him that he is not the physically imposing man he once saw himself as. He also begins the process of cutting back on his drinking, though it is difficult with the copious alcohol use in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices.
Meanwhile, at the office, Joan tells off raucous creative Joey. Joey undermines her to her face, telling her that she does nothing but dress like she "wants to get raped". He continues to undermine her behind her back, even drawing an obscene cartoon of Joan giving Lane oral sex and taping it to Joan's office window. After talking with Joey, Peggy is personally offended and goes to Don, who tells Peggy to fire Joey herself. Peggy tells Joey to apologize, but he says it was funny and makes sexist remarks about working with women, so Peggy fires him. In the elevator, Joan is upset with Peggy for firing Joey on her behalf, as it only reinforces the stereotype about working women that they are frivolous, humorless, and vindictive, as well as shows Peggy is "important", while Joan is but a "glorified secretary".
Don goes on another date with the much-younger Bethany. Bethany and Don awkwardly run into Betty and Henry while out at a restaurant, causing Betty to have a minor anxious outburst at Henry. Henry and Betty fight in the car as Henry wonders aloud whether Betty is still in love with Don. The next morning, Betty apologizes and explains (disingenuously) that Don was the only man she had ever been with. Henry purposely rams his car into the boxes Don has stored in the garage in the Ossining house, then phones Don at work and asks him to remove his boxes, cruelly suggesting Don do so before Gene's birthday, silently emphasizing that Don is not invited. When Don arrives at the appointed time, he finds his boxes piled on the curb near where Henry is mowing the lawn, studiously ignoring Don.
At dinner, Bethany presses Don to move their relationship forward. On the way home, Don gladly receives a blowjob from Bethany in the backseat of a taxicab but does not see her again. Don officially asks Dr. Faye Miller out on a date, where the two bond, engaging in a romantic kiss. Don, content, walks into his son's birthday party at the Francis household. Betty stops Henry from confronting Don (who wasn't invited), reasoning "we have everything".
Don's voiceovers of his journal entries and the lonely man quality of his existence in this episode lend "The Summer Man" a film noir quality. Additionally, his desire to visit Mount Kilamanjaro, his birthday gift of an elephant to baby Gene, and other elements of this episode are nods to Ernest Hemingway, in particular multiple entries in Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, such as "The Snows of Kilamanjaro" and "Hills Like White Elephants". Other evocations include John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer" and Clare Boothe Luce's play The Women.
Don asks Peggy to have "Ray Charles" clean up the post-meeting detritus in his office, referencing the fact that Miss Blankenship's recent cataract surgery has temporarily impaired her vision and requires her to wear goggles with dark lenses while recuperating.
At dinner, Faye tells Don the Aesop's fable "The North Wind and the Sun". She says the moral is, "Kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win where force fails", and Don jokingly pretends to misinterpret her point as a request to borrow his coat.
"The Summer Man" was viewed by 2.3 million viewers in its original airing and was watched 0.7 million viewers in the age demographic of adults 18-49.
The episode was received warmly by most television critics. Many were critical of the use of voiceovers, an aspect unique to the episode; the voiceovers were used to articulate Don's journal entries. The A.V. Club writer Keith Phipps said the voiceovers were "still a representation of Don, not Don himself", saying, "How Don writes about himself says a lot about how he sees himself", comparing the style of the episode to lonely man film noir. Matt Zoller Seitz of The New Republic said the episode was "one of just two true ensemble episodes" in the season, the other being "Public Relations". He referred to the Joan subplot as "colorful and tense" but wrote, "the ultimate resolution of the plot blunted potential charges of didacticism. It was agonizing watching Joan struggle to deal with Joey's swinishness with cutting remarks that barely scratched his thick skin."
James Poniewozik of TIME magazine said the use of voiceover "undercuts one of Mad Men’s greatest strengths, which is its use of irony and understatement to show how characters' words and actions often belie their real thoughts and meaning." Poniewozik also noted: "As we get farther into what we usually think of in pop-culture terms as 'the ’60s,' it gets harder even for a show as brilliant as Mad Men to avoid overfamiliar takes", singling out the scene where Don watches Vietnam War news reports. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix said, "'The Summer Man' is an episode I expect I'm going to need to revisit a time or 20 before I decide how I ultimately feel about some of its stylistic departures from the Mad Men norm", referring to the use of voiceover and the camera effect of Don's pulling away from the office when he isn't drinking. The Huffington Post writer William Bradley called the episode, "another very fine and very consequential episode of Mad Men".
- Sepinwall, Alan (September 13, 2010). "Mad Men - The Summer Man: I demand satisfaction". Hitfix.com. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Gorman, Bill (September 14, 2010). "Big Sunday For Cable Ratings: True Blood, VMAs, Jersey Shore, Iron Chef, Kardashians & Lots More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- Phipps, Keith (September 12, 2010). "Mad Men - "The Summer Man" AV Club Review". AV Club. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 13, 2010). "'Mad Men' episode 'The Summer Man'". The National Review. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Poniewozik, James (September 13, 2010). "Review of Mad Men, "The Summer Man"". Time Magazine. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Bradley, William (September 13, 2010). "Mad Men: "The Summer Man" is clearing his head". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2012.