In the craziest — and maybe bravest — episode of the season, Mad Men remains at the top of its game.
Stan finds a comic written by Lou on the Xerox machine — these are the reasons life is worth living – and immediately shares it with the creative underlings. Not being able to get the joke out of their head, they even let Don in on the fun, who surprisingly does not engage. Guess he is still “part of the faculty.” After Lou discovers the mocking, he holds the whole team long into the night keeping everyone in detention. When Don warns Lou to not to give the kids an excuse to buck authority, Lou asks if he would just let them go for the night. “No, I’d let you go.” Vintage Draper.
The ice seems to be melting between Don and Peggy – she even smiles at him in the elevator — though she steadfastly holds her upper hand and rank above the ad-man, for now. But Draper has other looming responsibilities this week as a very pregnant Stephanie (Anna Draper’s niece) reaches out from LA, and Dick Don calls Megan for help with the young woman. Guess Megan cooled off as she is on Team Don again; she obliges without the slightest bit of whining…though when Stephanie shows up at Mrs. Draper’s door, Megan immediately comments on her beauty, fixes her some food, and shoots her the worst look of envy since the Wicked Witch. Over their conversations, Megan becomes increasingly self-conscious and envious, eventually writing a check and sending the pregnant siren on her way. When Don finally gets a flight out of New York – having been held by Lou just to f*&*# with him show him who’s boss – Stephanie has already moved on. Megan is throwing a party, and hats off to the writer/directors of this episode for placing Don on the balcony, watching Megan dance with a Charles Manson look-alike. He is apart from this action, from Megan’s world, and she is most definitely putting on a show for him. Later, Megan entices Don into a threesome with her annoying redheaded friend just to stay relevant in his life. That girl has some serious issues…and standing out in a series with flawed characters is saying something.
Henry and Betty play hosts to the neighborhood, and though the atmosphere says “party,” the conversations turn to politics — or rather, they are steered there by Betty. When Betty realizes that she and her husband disagree on the Vietnam War, each is embarrassed by the other, and Mrs. Francis refuses to accompany her husband to the other neighbors’ homes. The two argue later, and Bobby fears he may be witnessing another of the blonde bombshell’s ex-husbands.
Sally shows up for a quickie nose job after injuring herself horsing around with her friends. Of course this infuriates Betty – not the nose, Sally! Beauty is, after all, everything. Bobby uses his sister’s visit to cozy up and escape Betty for a few precious moments. Betty, still pissed at her husband for not allowing her to have an opinion, suggests that maybe she should run for office. She has ideas, you know! Dearest Matthew Weiner, please, please, please let this nugget of an idea develop before the show comes to a conclusion next year. Betty as the Iron Lady? Yes, Sir!
Soylent Green is People
In the weirdest story arc of the episode, Ginsberg becomes increasingly disturbed by the new computer’s hum. Hal 9000 is taking over, it would seem, turning all the men into homosexuals. He even reads Lou and Jim Cutler’s lips as they have a secret meeting in the computer room (he does not actually read their lips…he just thinks he can). Not able to work, or sleep, Michael comes to Peggy’s door and begs her to let him stay. After a little rest, he kisses Peggy, wishing to prove the computer has not yet affected him fully. Why does this stuff always happed to long-suffering Peggy?! It’s a miracle the woman is not on her way back to the nut house; alas, that is exactly where she ends up sending Ginsberg…after he cuts off his nipple – the valve with which the computer gets into you, natch – and presents it to her as a gift. And that’s all I have to say about that.
I’ll Take One Philip Morris Account To Go, Please
Prior to the ménage a trios at casa Draper, Harry Crane shows up at Megan’s party, and Don takes him out for a drink. While bonding – the only way Harry knows how: awkwardly – Harry reveals that Lou and Cutler are attempting to land an account with Commander Cigarettes, a Philip Morris company (guess Ginsberg did not hallucinate the meeting in the computer room, although, I doubt the two were professing their undying love for one another). You know what that means: Don’s out, having long ago alienated the company with his Lucky Strike attack ad. But the joke’s on the Lou/Cutler team when Don shows up at the meeting unannounced and offers to leave SC&P if they land the account. How very selfless of the dapper Mr. Draper! But of course, Don goes on to slyly sell himself as exactly the man Commander wants to lead the account…or the man the competition will want if they get rid of him. If you’re keeping score, that’s Don Draper: 1. Cutler-Avery: 0.
Final Grade: A-. Seeing Don back at the top of his game is old news at this point; the most interesting action of this episode comes from the lengths our characters will go when embarrassed, envious, devoid of a voice, or just plain crazy. These are all things Don wrestles with, but to see Lou, Megan, Betty, and Ginsberg struggling is a genius tactic.