Season 4, Episode 3: Breast Vs. Thigh, And What Pryce Lane?
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-- 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.")
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."
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.
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 stepson 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.
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.