Mad Men Season 5 Premiere Recap: All You Get to Do Is Watch

Happy birthday…?

AMC’s Mad Men opened its long-awaited Season 5 by celebrating, in assorted and at times very, ahem, “interesting” ways, Don Draper’s 40th birthday.

The two-hour premiere opened with no familiar faces, but a fraternity of Young & Rubicam flunkies pranking protesters on the streets below their office windows; that tomfoolery would ultimately feed into Joan’s story (making her question her job security at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce), then bookend the opener with a bevy of African-American job applicants in the agency’s lobby, deftly dealt with by Lane.

In between all that, here’s what happened, in June of 1966, with:

DON | Yep, he’s married – and inhabiting sprawling, mod new digs with wife Megan. They commute to the office together, where for the past three months she’s been working as a copywriter (for cents-off coupons, but still). Despite the legitimacy of their union, the office still murmurs — and perhaps no more so than after Megan throws a surprise birthday party for her husband. During the soiree, Megan gifts her man with a song (“Zou Bisou Bisou”) and dance – if swaying hips, jutted legs and wandering hands compose a dance. It is, if not for all the right reasons, a crowd-pleaser, and in a labyrinthine way winds up scoring Pete a new office. Later, Don cops to being embarrassed by Megan’s efforts, but when she, still sulking days later, takes leave from the office, he follows her home and an oddly psychosexual game of semi-naked house cleaning ensues. All is forgiven. (P.S. Anyone else think Megan was going to pitch herself off the balcony after her and Don’s tiff?)

PEGGY | Still partnered with Stan and now overseeing newbie scribe Megan, Peggy is still putting in long hours and longing for professional satisfaction. Don’s failure to stand up for her (awful) “beans ballet” Heinz campaign — coupled with plentiful party cocktails — leads Ms. Olson to uncork some of her feelings at her boss’ 40th. Later reminded of her obnoxious actions by Megan, Peggy expresses remorse to Don.

JOAN | Yep, she’s a mom – and her own mother (hey, it’s Desperate Housewives‘ Martha Huber!) is helping take care of her little man. But for how much longer? Tensions are running high between the ladies, especially when Mom has Apollo the swarthy plumber over for too long a visit. And then even more so when Joan sees the ad placed by SCDP in the Times (merely to taunt Y&R). Cue a visit for Joan and baby to the agency, where apparently Big Bang Theory‘s Bernadette now works in reception. After run-ins with colleagues including Roger (does he suspect he’s the father?) and Peggy (still loathe to handle a newborn after all these years), Joan meets with Lane, suspecting she’s about to get the hook. Instead, Lane – God bless him – reiterates Miss Holloway’s critical importance to the works, in a really nice scene for Jared Harris and Christina Hendricks.

LANE | Speaking of the flirty Brit, he’s as financially strapped as SCDP, and angles to shield his Mrs. from the depths of their debt. He has an odd little arc involving a regular Joe’s found wallet and the comely lass whose snapshot resides inside. Will we ever meet Delores, or was this bit simply to exemplify the age-old tale of how a man takes his mind off a domestic woe (e.g. finances) with a a shiny object? I suspect the sweet scene with Joan was to say to us, “Know what? Lane is not that guy. He’s got a heart of gold. Just allow him his imagined dalliance.”

PETE | The no-longer-quite-so-young Mr. Campbell, as a relatively new dad, is on a mission to claim his rightful space – geographically – at SCDP. To that end, perhaps cheesed off one time too many by Roger’s antics, he calls a partners meeting in his “s–thole with a support beam” of an office to leverage the business he’s been bringing in into claiming Sterling’s sweet space. And while S, C, D and P largely shrug off his power play, Roger shows us a bit of something by compelling (newly svelte!) Harry into trading offices with Pete – which he does (in exchange for $1,100 from the partner’s pocket). No matter how it came to be, Peter chalks up a “W” and starts dreaming big – as in “in-ground pool come springtime” big. Careful, champ, don’t pull a Griswold. (P.S. Were they hinting that Trudy suffered from post-partum depression?)

ROGER | As brash and with highballs big as ever, he makes his first Season 5 splash by trying to commandeer Pete’s confab with Mohawk Airlines. Elsewhere, he unwittingly foils Megan’s surprise party, makes a toast to Don that seemed to irk trophy wife Jane and, in a final, humorous moment, fell prey to one of Pete’s ploys, scurrying off to hijack a 6 am pow-wow with Coca Cola that simply ain’t happening.

BETTY | MIA, but apparently now living in some sort of McCastle. (Hence Don’s dig quoted below.)

All told, it was a leisurely paced two hours pinned on no particularly aggressive narrative device – in other words, save for the party, just another day in the life, instead leaving the small time jump and how it had shifted the chess pieces some to provide most of the color. Before we hit the comments, some memorable lines:

“Here, why don’t you buy yourself a fancy hat… or a mask, or something.”

“Give Morticia and Lurch my love.”

“A ten? Are you buying his formula or yours?”

“You’ve never seen me throw a party. Everyone is gong to go home from this and have sex.”

“Stable is that step backwards between succeeding and failing.”

“I’ve got tickets to the bean ballet and the curtain is about to go up.”
“Never gets old.”

“You ever read Johnny Got His Gun? No eyes, no ears, no nose, tapping out his last wishes in Morse code with his deformed head….”
“I thought there were gonna be girls here.”

“Why don’t you sing like that?”
“Why don’t you look like him?”

“That was quite the soiree. Did Masters and Johnson come in yet?”

“This apartment has never had any trouble getting [the plumber’s] attention.”

“I saw his soul leave his body.”

The seemingly unscripted toot coming from Joan’s baby boy, while in Lane’s arms. (Both Hendricks and Harris appeared to break.)

“Don’t! I don’t want people to think you’re getting this… You don’t get to have this. Go sit over there…. All you get to do is watch.”

What did you think of the Mad Men premiere? Worth the wait? Did anything surprise you?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Stephanie says:

    I definitely thought Megan was going to throw herself over the balcony. I was relieved that it was just an artistic shot though.

  2. Mfleigle says:

    Joan already told roger the baby was his. It was in the recap at the beginning of the episode

    • Dinosaur says:

      How did the author not know this? Pay attention. Roger knowing is the reason his “There’s my baby” line was so funny.

    • Peggy says:

      However there was also that scene where they discussed an abortion and him wanting to go with her. I am pretty sure Roger thinks she had an abortion.

      • Jessica says:

        And then what….got pregnant from her absent husband the next day? Unless Roger is much dumber than he seems he has to know it’s his baby.

    • lauren says:

      Actually last we know Roger thinks she had an abortion. Maybe _you_ only watched the recap clips?

      • Peggy says:

        See I was kind of wondering the same thing, would Roger realize it was his but since I am a new fan of “Mad Men” I just watched season 4 and I know Roger was left with the impression that Joan got an abortion. I guess we missed out on anything that came after we saw her telling her husband that she was pregnant because this season starts up after the baby has been born.

  3. My guess is that the gas was scripted — since the client was Heinz Beans. Was waiting for someone to break wind the whole episode.

  4. Katt says:

    WAY WAY WAY TOO MUCH MEGAN………not one person gives a rat’s ass about her or her storyline………….every single thing bounced off of her tonight……….I wish she would have jumped off that balcony…….at least something eventful would have happened…waited 17 months for her to show us her boobs and black underwear?? come on, Weiner….you can get Don’s journey to be a little more mysterious than for us to guess the obvious…you always did before….
    She’s an uninteresting character who does not deserve all that in the opening number……….why didn’t they just hire Katharine McPhee…….same outcome!

    • YowzaPowza says:

      You are completely misunderstanding the point of Megan. It’s really not even about her so much as it’s about Don. Will she become another shrill like Betty because of him? Or will she take another route and prove that Betty is the way she is because of herself, and not Don. She started off as this young-ish fun loving woman and she’ll likely turn into a bitter shrill, slowly but surely, or will she? Her story has actually become super interesting and I can’t wait to see how it plays out this season. It’s less about her, and more about Don.

    • ElKabong says:

      Woah… slow down with the haterade. I didn’t think much of Megan last season. But she’s jumped to the top of my favorites list tonight.

    • Emily says:

      I give a rat’s ass about Megan and her storyline. I’m very interested to see what happens with her ambitions and with her relationship with Don. Besides, what were we going to do, watch Don speed date his way through the rest of the 60s? Much more interesting if he does that while married again. And I think her character is excellent. She’s hard to pin down; I can’t tell what her priorities are or what she’s going to do next.

    • white monkey says:

      Megan is the counterpoint to Betty – young, modern, fun, happy, enjoys life. You know she decorated that apartment (well, at least he white carpet). The question is, can Don loosen up and enjoy life in the new, sunny modern way, or will he stay in his rut of darkness, lies and self-deception. Either Megan brings Don out of his shell and they end up (by the end of the series) moving to California, or he stays in his rut, dumps her and never finds happiness. This season will be about her furstration trying to convert him…

      • flora says:

        Megan is also the counterpoint to Don. Remember the opening of last season? Don’s realization that the world is changing and that youth market demographic is now younger than he is…while the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” played? They played around a little bit with Don’s old school generational/cultural divide with Midge, the beatnik, in season one, but now we really get to watch how the fledgling sexual/youth/anti-conformity generation comes into play not only in how it changes Don’s personal relationships but also at SCDP and changes in advertising.

        Mad Men has long played with these differences between the stodgy old school and the new waves of consciousness slowly seeping into all facets of life in the 60s. (Think of how hard young Pete tries to act like the established guard of the office, for this difference going in reverse. Or Roger really not getting any of it, but laughing that his trophy wife can’t remember “Which one is Mussolini?”) Now we get to see it more personalized with the main character of the show.

  5. bad kevin says:

    I vote for the season premiere of MAD MEN an A. AMC continues to feel their pain and it definitely was “mad as hell”.

  6. Jen says:

    I was rather sad there was less Peggy storyline except for Abe and her getting together which I predict he will either propose to her or they will breakup and she will have a little fling with Stan(I don’t see the show ending without that happening)

  7. greysfan says:

    1word. Overrated. This show is the most overrated show on tv.

  8. Nero theTVFiddler says:

    Just finished watching the show out here on the west coast – I really enjoyed this S5 premiere episode – Jon H did a great job of directing – lots going on. That party scene at Don and Megan’s ranks up there with the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s…odd but strangely compelling and inviting. In my mind, I’ve been thinking for months during the S4->S5 break about what type of new home Don and Megan might have – would they go modern or more traditional (as appears Betty and Henry have done)? I was hoping for modern – bingo, that’s what we got. The set for the new Don/Megan home is spectacular.

    I have a feeling the new home will fit the mood very much for this coming S5 season. Megan represents the ‘now and future’ – where things are headed – youth and new ideas. Everyone at that party seemed to fit right in except the ‘older guys’ – Don, Roger, Bert, Lane. That’s the question for Don now – can he pull this off? Can he keep up with Megan and the new home – does he really want to?

    Is he ready to move into the future, a future which will move forward with or without him, or is he stuck as a captive of the past he helped successfully create? One way or another, Don’s ability to get into that future is tied to his ability to escape his past and move forward – quickly. The mid-60’s will move very quickly, and will make a relic of those from the early ’60s. Don’s got to make a pivot, and Megan and that new home {however temporary they may become] are his path to getting into the late 60’s and staying relevant. I’m betting Don will be able to pull this transformation off successfully, one way or another.

    • Dinosaur says:

      Jon Hamm didn’t direct this week’s episode. He directed next week’s.

      • Nero theTVFiddler says:

        Thank you, I stand corrected. After I wrote that note late last night, it hit me later half-asleep in bed that Jennifer Getzinger indeed directed this 2 hour episode – she did a terrific job. Will be fun to see next week’s episode to see how Jon did with his directing assignment.

        The only question I had from last night’s episode was about old Bert – I wonder how he got back into the firm after last season’s resignation? Alas, he’s still looking for an office. Maybe he can share a desk with Don and Roger’s secretary Caroline? Bert’s the best.

        I do worry a bit about the future of SCDP. Their two lead money-makers, Don and Pete, appear to be distracted at this point. Don is cutting out paper photos from magazines and chasing is pretty wife around the office, and Pete is staring out the window all day.

        • Human Being says:

          I totally wondered that about Bert too! I sort of was surprised to see him there at the office. I wonder if the show hadn’t had to go on hiatus for so long if we would have seen more to the story with that.

  9. Coolio Jackson says:

    That was a huge let down after waiting so long. It’s sad to see the character of “Don” reduced to a sniveling fool pushing his wife into his workplace. I hate the Megan character almost as much as “Betty”. Pete is especially sniveling this year and Peggy deserved some kind of storyline. This could have been much better, especially given the more than year wait. The best scenes were between Joan and Lane

  10. Holly says:

    How about 2 more Desperate Housewives alum? Joan’s mother, as you mentioned, and Susan and Mike’s little boy MJ is the new Bobby.

  11. Lauren says:

    I think the biggest shocker in the premiere was learning that Don has come clean to Megan about his secret! Maybe he really has learned a lesson or two from his marriage to Betty. The hardest part is that I actually find Megan likable but I feel certain that she is doomed. Isn’t anyone who’s in a relationship with Don?

    • Lorie says:

      I, too, was surprised that Megan knew his secret. Because I think their age difference will eventually end their marriage, I hope she doesn’t use this info against him during a bitter divorce. I can see her blackmailing him.

  12. Peggy says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize how good of an actress, Bernadette from BBT is, but I totally didn’t realize the new reception was her! I thought the episode was interesting but I am a new fan just having watched the first four season on DVD. What I find interesting is the new Don now that Megan is in his life, I am not sure I care for the change but I am interested to see where they go with it. I too thought she was going to jump off the balcony.

    • Carrie says:

      I didn’t think that was actually Bernadette from BBT I thought this was just a reference to the receptionist’s voice but maybe that was just me? I watched this scene after the recap was posted and was looking for her.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

        Correct, it was a “joke.”

        • Peggy says:

          LOL! I got that the second time I watched it. The first time I wasn’t really paying much attention to the receptionist and since I know a lot of actors appear on “Mad Men” and others shows at the same time it made sense to me. When I watched it the second time I noticed her voice and that is when it hit me that it was a joke.

  13. Jessica says:

    I’m pretty sure that even if they had Lane mic’ed up with a Lavalier the sound equipment wouldn’t pick up a baby poop audatory. Totally scripted, with surprise coming from great acting. Otherwise why not redo the shot?

  14. Lyn says:

    It was great to see the MM gang again, though a little dismaying that they’re all so miserable. (I’m sure even Don & Betty had a “honeymoon” phase!) I do hope it doesn’t turn into a nihilistic “American Beauty,” with all the adults screwed up and craven and all the kids weirdly wise. That said, loved New Bobby’s line when Don asks, “So when you’re 40, how old will I be?” — “You’ll be dead.”

  15. Scooter says:

    “Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire.”

  16. Human Being says:

    It sounds like both you and Aus were underwhelmed by the premiere, Matt. That makes me sad, I thought it was wonderful. It was everything I had hoped for and more. I liked it so much, I watched it twice!

    I think Roger would have to know the baby is his. I mean, the guy can do math, right? Sure, she told him she was going to abort his baby, but once she started putting on pounds and getting sick in the ladies’ room, I think he had to have put two and two together. Her husband has been in Vietnam since before she said she was going to have the abortion, so I think he would have to know there was no chance she got pregnant again with her hubby’s baby. Plus, he did look like a very proud papa holding his newborn. I think Roger’s proud daddy smile was Weiner dropping a subtle hint that Roger knew. He likes to let people in on answers to questions they have about the stories with those kinds of barely noticeable details. He is never obvious with any plot points.

    I still despise Megan as much as I did last season. Maybe more now. Weiner seems to like the actress very much, but I don’t find her the least bit interesting or attractive, even in a micro-mini. She annoys the crap out of me, and I think she manages to beat Betty on feminine manipulation. And I do hate women that use their feminine wiles to get what they want from men, and she has done it from her very first episode on the show. Speaking of Betty, where the heck was she? Two hours was a long time to go without a single appearance from January Jones.

    Other things I noted…Harry did look great, I am crushing on him now. Well, I was before too. The funniest parts of the episode were Roger singing Frere Jacques and doing his sexy dance and Stan setting up Harry with Megan standing right behind him. “What would you do to her?” I think I need to see more of Vincent Kartheiser and Alison Brie together as they have always had great chemistry. I do think she had/has post-partum. And I now want to see more of Lane and Joan together. That was the best scene in the whole show.