Season 4, Episode 3: Breast Vs. Thigh, And What Pryce Lane?

Season 4/Episode 3 An excellent episode, all about East vs. West, medicine, men and their use of meat, it opens in a doctor's office, with Joan talking babies with her smoking ob/gyn. She admits to having had two "procedures" (abortions? with Roger's babies?) but is given the all clear, fertility- and conception-wise. The purpose of the visit surprised me, since I thought that by then, her marriage, and hubby with the rapey tendencies, had disappeared into the ether.

By the same token, due to Don's marital, and seemingly emotional breakdown, the timing seemed ripe for him to pay a visit to his uncomplaining, all-accepting, West Coast wife. Again, I was surprised: when Don carried his suitcase over the picket fence and first laid eyes on Anna on her front porch, hobbling with a cast on her leg, I couldn't believe that Matthew Weiner was at it again -- so soon, and so wantonly! -- indulging in his Compromised Limb Fixation Theater. Wasn't it heavy-handed enough that he had made the poor widow woman a polio victim with a limp? (Nowadays, of course, she'd be called a polio "survivor.")

But another insight the show picked up on brilliantly was how much the treatment of -- and behavior around--Season 4/Episode 3 disease has changed dramatically for the better since the early 1960s, especially with cancer. Then, the big C was considered a death sentence, rarely talked about, and often, patients were kept in the dark about the severity  -- or even the existence -- of their own illnesses.

In those days, there were no walks, runs, marathons, or national events devoted to raising money to "fight for the cure" or to de-stigmatize the whole diagnosis/treatment experience. That was true both for the sick, and for their loved ones.

So the idea that Anna's bitchy sister would keep the truth from her was dead-on, as was the possibility that as the patient, she somehow knew what was going on, but didn't want to trouble anyone about it.

But to me, the switch to the West Coast, with its candy-colored fantasy bungalow, and Anna's Polly Purebred-looking wig and saint-like personality, is always a little too caricature-ish, or perhaps dreamlike. (Or maybe I'm too affected by "Inception.")

Season 4/Episode 3 Still, I'm always happy to see Don act as his best self with Anna, and really sad to hear about her cancer. He's going to be rudderless (and mudder-less?) without her. So I was really creeped-out, not to mention offended, that he would even try to make a move on her niece. Whether or not he and Anna had had a physical relationship, it's still emotional incest. I guess the guy is pure id, and it's the only way he knows how to work. (Although, perversely, it seemed that the sainted Anna was almost being a madam, offering up the young woman in the bikini top to Don. )

The Berkeley co-ed, in her anti-materialist, nature-girl way, reminded me of the teacher-mistress, Suzanne Farrell, who, as the first known jogger, was running one night on a deserted road when Don picked her up in his car. Similarly, he wanted to drive Stephanie home to protect her from "creeps." Originally, she wanted to "hitch" just like Suzanne's hitchhiker brother.

But it seemed to me that the most important thing that Don told Anna was about Betty: "The minute she saw who I was," he confessed, " she never wanted me again."

I guess that's true, although I think the sheer act of lying, and keeping up the ruse for so long, might have hurt Betty more than finding out who he actually was, since she was physically in love with her bad boy. (And that area seems a bit weak with her current husband.)

That's when Anna professes her pure love: "I know everything about you and I love you."

And that's when we get another heavy-handed metaphor: Don paints over the problem patch of wall. AnnaSeason 4/Episode 3 responds that sometimes, "a patch of new paint is just as bad as the stain."

Speaking of stains, Patty, Anna's sister (same name as Marge Simpson's sister!) shows up, freshly mad at Don for bringing her daughter home at 2 in the morning. She sees him painting in his boxers and asks if he can ever keep his pants on. (Good question.)

At that point, he seems to want to intercede on Anna's behalf, and take her to the best doctors and proceed with treatment. But what the sister says to him outside seems to cut him to the quick. Because the sentiment seems to echo how Betty now feels -- that he doesn't matter anymore; he's "just a man in a room with a checkbook."

Before leaving, he poignantly signs "Dick and Anna, 1964" on the wall -- to show that he does have a large and concrete place in her life? Sadly, it's a visual touch that will no doubt show up in a flashback or funeral scene.

Thus dismissed, and cut to the quick, it makes sense that Don would kill his trip to Acapulco and head back to the office. It's the only place he has where he can feel safe and accepted, grounded and in control. To his surprise, Lane is in much the same situation.

Season 4/Episode 3 So it's cultural compare/contrast time, kids. West Coast: light, ease, hippies taking over the universities, marijuana, Jan and Dean. East Coast: dark, Japanese horror movies, Lenny Bruce-like comedians, Bob Dylan music. (And by then, Dylan had famously gone electric in Newport.) But it seems to me an anachronism that the stand-up comedian, to whom a drunken Lane confessed he was "divorced" and not a "homosexual," was dressed messily in an untucked buttondown shirt. Lenny Bruce performed in suits and ties.

The idea of a date was big: as Stephanie put it, the awkwardness of "sitting and asking each other questions." Don responded that it was " a means to an end." (Especially a date with a hooker.) She said, "Nobody knows what's wrong with themselves and everybody else can see it right away."

For my money, Don's steering of Lane's holiday weekend social life was far more benign that that famous time when Roger picked up the twins and made Don stay for the office fun -- and the heart attack.

Jared Harris, the actor, (who, as a commenter pointed out, is the son of Irish actor Richard Harris and the stepsonSeason 4/Epidsode 3 of Rex Harrison and whose putty-colored face and pock-marked skin allowed him to play Andy Warhol in a movie) is fantastic in the role. After all that buttoned-down accountant stuff, Lane letting loose (with a big piece of meat) is a sight to behold.

The previous interaction with Lane and Joan was also a formidable, highly enjoyable scene. He's always got a stiff upper lip. She went out on a limb to try to secure her vacation, offering him a "breast or thigh?" and he shut her down, saying that although she makes men "dizzy and powerless" consider him the "incorruptible exception."

Incorruptible except when it comes to hanging out with Don. And having his secretary mix up the flower orders. I loved how Joan went right from fury into fixer mode, firing the secretary -- she and Lane were back in business.

There was another great scene, post-comedy-club date, back at Don's apartment, when it dawned on Don that the rough-trade girlfriend was "not a Barnard graduate." Funny reference to deer and Norman Mailer there ("I love deer," she said! ). And "Deer Park," the novel, was about the corruption of Hollywood values; Mailer's next would be about living in the West Village and shooting his wife, Adele Morales.

I was also excited to hear the explanation of Don's apartment: "It came this way." I was wondering where he had found so much old furniture. In this episode, his apartment seemed less dark and depressing and more functional.

Certainly, giving Lane the bedroom, and sleeping on the couch, which Don seems to prefer, allowed him some privacy. But in the end, even Don has his standards, and stripped the bed of the stain of Lane before he could take a nap.

Season 4/Episode 3 I thought Joan's accident would be a way of showing that she has a better grasp on a tourniquet than her surgeon hubby. But instead, (the show was full of surprises!) he took care of her gently and carefully. (Albeit with a donkey dick joke.) And perhaps he will use his to inseminate her before he goes off to Vietnam (and dies?). Joan clearly prefers sitting at the head of the table at budget meetings, even if she doesn't acknowledge it to herself.

Don made a joke about Pinocchio's wooden dick. And I'll let you make the final connection (and joke) about Don, Dick, and the lies of Pinocchio.

Tags: mad men, tv
Recommend (64)
13 comments about "Season 4, Episode 3: Breast Vs. Thigh, And What Pryce Lane? ".
  1. Marilyn Casey from MC Public Relations , August 10, 2010 at 4:35 p.m.

    Great recap and great bit of knowledge about Jared Harris (Lane). He's an exceptional addition to the fine cast of actors on the show. He's a great foil for Joan (also one of the fabulous actors on the show). Thanks for sharing!

  2. Richard Brayer from Car-X , August 10, 2010 at 4:52 p.m.

    back in my ill spent youth I took a road trip with one of the agencies accounting geeks to a client meeting for a media audit ; took him out the night before and somehow he got overserved, danced at the hottest disco ( showing my age ), and watched him crash into the mens room stall where he threw up on an the patron utilizing said stall and then he ended up being late to client meeting

    he never questioned our teams expenses again

    funny how that worked

  3. Ruth Kimbrough-bent from Miami-Dade County , August 10, 2010 at 5:41 p.m.

    Great picking up on the meat symbolism. I always miss those connections. Lane doth protest too much methinks. He and Joan will be an item by Episode 5, mark my words. And what a deliciously odd couple they'll be -- almost as odd as Glen and Sally.

  4. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , August 10, 2010 at 7 p.m.

    No Roger, Betty, Pete and very little Peggy makes for a dull episode.

    Before I faded to zzzzz's during the episode's 2nd half I caught a line that seemed 45 years ahead of itself when Anna mentioned Acapulco and asked Don, "Do you think there are more Mexicans there or here?". I was expecting Don to reply, "Don't you worry, one of these days the 14th Amendment is going to be changed and we'll get our country back".

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , August 10, 2010 at 7:47 p.m.

    Not one of The best episodes, but Dorothy, with your knowledge and writing, it makes it all the better. Though I am sure most people were not able to pick up the details.

  6. Paul Collins , August 10, 2010 at 8:52 p.m.

    I found a lot to savor in this episode. And enjoyed another great Mad Blog writeup. Fried chicken indeed.

    AMC could have a contest: "Find the Compromised Limb in this episode and win a carton of cigarettes!"

  7. Elizabeth Mayberry from Emmaco Inc. , August 11, 2010 at 2:17 p.m.

    Loved the bags of groceries from "Pronto Market". Patty (Anna's sister) brings them along from her home in South Pasadena, which is where Pronto Market was located. The bags are vintage. The research done is awsome. Pronto Markets evolves into Trader Joes Markets, which I believe is now owned by the British firm, Sainsburys.
    I love this whole show and all the work done on it.

  8. Scott Curtis from Studeo , August 11, 2010 at 4:59 p.m.

    Dick Whitman will die with Anna and I think he realizes he is saying goodbye to both. He will indeed be rudderless, family-less and alone.

    P.S. Joan's husband is a gonner.

  9. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , August 11, 2010 at 10:01 p.m.

    Interesting dynamic between Joan and Lane. He's the only man in the office who calls her on her game and the only one she argues with like an equal. It seemed to surprise them both, and he was doubly surprised (and impressed) when she switched from combatant to ally and took charge of dealing with Lane's inept secretary. He may be the only partner capable of seeing Joan as more than an office manager and sex symbol. He may also be the only partner capable of fidelity. Ruth might be on to something about the potential for romance.

  10. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY , August 11, 2010 at 10:05 p.m.

    If Joan conceives within the first quarter of the year, she'll give birth the same year Matthew Weiner was born. She could be his mother or a friend of his mother.

  11. John Berard from Credible Context , August 12, 2010 at 2:03 p.m.

    It seems odd that professional sports (save for jai alai) never intrudes at a time there was much to occupy New Yorkers in the Fall of 1964.

    That was Shea Stadium's first year and the Yankees went to the World Series.

    The Giants and Jets were dismal, but New York was not a pro football town yet. Notre Dame ruled football and 1964 the team was 9-1 under first year coach Ara Parseghian.

  12. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , August 12, 2010 at 5:37 p.m.

    New York was a very big pro football town then; 1963 was the last year you could go up to the Stadium on Sunday and buy a ticket as season tickets were all you could buy from then on. The Giants were, however, beginning to go into a deep descent. And the Yankees, too, were about to collapse and their CBS owners realized they didn't know what they were doing
    Nothing I ever saw in the ad business was like these people except perhaps Roger Sterling and Peggy.
    There's a remarkable NY Times Magazine article from November of 1966 written by Victor Navasky in which he tied various schools of philosophy with various ad agencies. Remarkably clarifying even though done largely with a tongue in cheek

  13. Alex Rock from The Place...For Mastering, PC , August 12, 2010 at 8:50 p.m.

    Doesn't Lane remind you of the Geico gecko? Only when he nervously fiddles with his oversized spectacles, of course.

    I, too, thought the end of Anna was the end of Dick's history...but what of Pete? Didn't he learn some of Don's past when he opened the sad little box left by Dick's brother?

    And I keep wondering about Don's dilemma. I was initially gravely disappointed by his not enlightening Anna about her condition...but upon further reflection...perhaps he did show steely restraint.

    Another Fabulous recap, Dorothy! Each one makes its episode more meaningful.