For most of Season 4, Don Draper has been on a downward spiral, drinking and breaking his own personal boundaries. In this episode, The Summer Man, we see Don is trying to control his drinking and turn his life around.
As soon as you have to cut down on your drinking; you have a drinking problem Don Draper
Realizing that his drinking has become a problem and that his life is out of control. “My mind is a jumble. I can’t organize my thoughts.” Don limits his drinking, starts swimming and begins to keep a journal. It is this journal that gives us insight into what Don is going through. He is a man who has lost what meant most to him-his family. Don write some goals in his journal, such as visiting Africa and gaining “a modicum of control over the way I feel.” It is in his journal that Don reflects on his what his life has become. This self-reflection shows us much more about the man, Don Draper/Dick Whitman and the merging of the two personas.
Baby Gene’s second birthday is approaching and Don realizes that his son is growing up without him and will call another man father. Still resentful, Betty has asked Don not to attend Gene’s birthday party. Almost two years after her divorce from Don and marriage to Henry Francis, Betty still has deep feelings for her ex-husband.
At a dinner with one of Henry’s political colleagues, Betty and Henry see Don on a date with ‘Betty-lite‘, Bethany. Betty becomes really upset when she sees them together. It is jealousy? You can never tell with Betty. I think she just doesn’t want Don to be happy, because she is unhappy.
After dinner, on the ride home, Betty tells Henry that she HATES Don. Henry says, “Hate is a strong word. I hate Nazis”. And like the father figure he is, Henry scolds Betty for letting Don take too much space in her life and perhaps her heart . I think Henry is beginning to see the real Betty and realize that his mother might be right about her.
Joey and Joan
We have seen Joey youthful hijinks in past episodes, but when Joan when reprimands him for making too much noise at the vending machine, his attitude turns to outright disrespect, saying she looks like a “madam from a Shanghai whorehouse” and that she walks ‘around like you’re trying to get raped‘. He takes it even further by drawing a pornographic cartoon of Joan and Lane. This was way before the women’s movement and the advent of sexual harassment lawsuits.
Joan has a lot on her mind. Her husband, Greg will soon depart for Vietnam, leaving her alone. So when Joan sees Joey’s drawing taped to her office window, she handles the situation in true Joan fashion. She tells the guys in the creative lounge that she can’t wait until they’ll be fighting in Vietnam.
Peggy handles the situation by firing Joey, which she thinks will finally gain Joan’s respect. On the contrary, Joan explains that Peggy only confirmed Joey’s opinions about working women.
“All you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humorless bitch.”
In The Summer Man, we see Don Draper taking some control of his life. His dinner with Dr. Faye might be the beginning of a real relationship, not just another in a string of affairs. Instead of letting Betty, control access to his children, he goes to Baby Gene’s birthday party. Where is this leading? To a better Don Draper or the real Dick Whitman?