“He was conceived in a moment of desperation and born into a mess,” writes Don Draper of his infant son Gene. In Episode eight, titled “ The Summer Man,” Don has taken to swimming laps and writing down his thoughts. Attempts, no less at self-improvement as he finds that the seasons are changing, and his chain-smoking, constant drinking and limited visitations with his children are all taking a toll on his mental and physical health.
His solution; to change, gain control of his feelings and do all the things he can think of (within his scope of reasoning) that would re-make him into the great “man” he knows himself to be. Thus he cites grandiose things such as climbing mount Kilimanjaro and states that he likes sleeping alone, stretched out like a skydiver.
While Don seeks ways to reaffirm his manhood, some of the scenes in the workplace in this episode exemplify the misogynistic wiles possible in the decade by men.
The full-figured Joan (Christina Hendricks), stuck somewhere between professional woman and pin-up girl, struggles for an apt way to stand up for herself, as she increasingly becomes the butt of the jokes of young creative artist, Joey (Matt Long). Intent on being respected for her all-too-important role at the firm; her attempts at discipline come off as cautious, as if she is mentally aware of the lines that were drawn in generations before between males and female in the office.
Peggy, young, naïve, but capable of much bravery, is more intent to see wrongdoers pay, in a palpable way. A thoughtful scene with both women in the elevator however, draws viewers out of their 21st century thinking and directs them back into the zeitgeist the 60s, as Joan gives her thoughts on the possible repercussions of how the situation was resolved.
These scenes may serve as foreshadowing of the changing times in the setting of the series. As it progresses, no doubt the women’s rights movement will edge its way into the doors of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
On the opposite side of this coin is Betty. She left the first man she was ever with (Don) to immediately marry another well-off “important” man. From past seasons, it has been apparent that she maintains her stepford wife composure until she reaches the point when she absolutely cannot. In this episode, she once again appears to be beating her wings against the cage of being proper and being married, a struggle that will no doubt be compounded as her husband’s political ambitions balloon. When Betty’s neighbor tells her, “Be careful, Don has nothing to lose and you have everything,” she puffs on her ever-present cigarette but looks unsure.