Mad Men Recap: Dishonorably Discharged

Longtime Mad Men viewers got quite a payoff this week, as our Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce favorites reverted to unfaithful form (kinda), reflected on how far they’ve come (but weren’t sure they wanted to go farther), and finally kicked an unresolved plot point from three seasons ago back to Vietnam where it belongs (hallelujah!). And all we had to do in exchange was become privy to some truly gruesome details about one of the most heinous murders of the ’60s. Fair trade. Let’s take a look at the major developments from “Mystery Date,” shall we?

Megan is still pretty great | We’re supposed to think of Megan as a pretty, French-crooning confection, but she handles Don like a pro. Betty would’ve iced out the dapper Mr. Draper if an old fling (played with tawdry fun by TV vet Mädchen Amick) cuddled up to him in her presence. But when it happens in the first few minutes of the episode, Megan quickly dismisses Don’s excuse that given their office’s midtown location, it’s only natural that he’ll run into former co-workers like Amick’s Andrea. “You know, there are parts of town we can run into people I’ve worked with,” she reminds him, but doesn’t let her annoyance at his past behavior crowd out her concern about his hacking cough and rapidly rising fever. She orders him to stay away from cigarettes and to head home to bed, advice he eventually follows.

But Don is still pretty sleazy…in his fevered mind, at least | Turns out, a few more degrees on the thermometer is all it takes to burn away Don’s desire to keep his wedding vows. As the flu cooks him alive, he answers the door of his super mod apartment to find Andrea ready to pick up where they left off. He pushed her toward the service entrance, threatening to toss her over the balcony rather than have Megan see her leaving their pad, but the vixen later shows up in his bedroom to goad him into another fling. She barely has time to purr, “Remember that night at Lincoln Center when you took me back to the loading dock? Your wife was waiting inside,” before he’s got her unzipped and on her back. When he wakes up later and tells her it can’t happen again, she disagrees, taunting him that he loves being sick and twisted. Before you can say American Horror Story, we’re watching a naked Don straddle his former “co-worker,” choke her until she dies, then stuff her body under the bed before climbing back under the covers for another snooze. The next morning, as a drained Don realizes it was all a fever dream, he reassures Megan, “You don’t have to worry about me.” Methinks you probably should anyway, Megs. (Anyone else think it was a nightmare from the beginning, then doubt yourself, then doubt your doubts?)

Peggy’s come a long way, baby | In his ongoing campaign to best Pete, Roger offers Peggy $10 to do some after-hours copywriting he can present to Mohawk the next morning. Several things about this scene flat-out ruled; here they are, in no particular order:

• Peggy’s lime green pumps, kicked up on the table as she and Stan celebrated SCDP’s signing of Butler footwear, were fierce. I want them.

• Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery don’t get many opportunities to engage in quick, funny banter, and that’s a pity. How great was it to see Peggy, slightly drunk from booze and very drunk with power, shake Roger down for all the cash in his pockets and then threaten to take his watch, too?

• Compare the Peggy in this scene to the Peggy of Season 1 and you have a master class in slow, thoughtful character development — made even better by her later reflection with Don’s secretary, Dawn, that she’s not even sure she’s got it in her to maintain the swagger that a woman in such a male-dominated profession needs. (We’ll just overlook the fact that, without thinking, Peggy eventually alienated Dawn by giving in to a very lame racial stereotype. Girlfriend is a work in progress, after all…)

Good riddance to a rapist bad husband | Dr. Greg came home on leave from Vietnam (Side note: He rang the doorbell to his own apartment. Weird, right?) and barely had time to coo over baby Kevin and bed a radiant Joan before announcing that he was going back to the war for another year. The redhead was displeased but eventually came around — until dinner with his parents revealed that Greg had volunteered to re-up. The next morning, Joan announced that Greg should go, and he was happy until he realized she was talking about forever. It got ugly fast, starting when he roughly grabbed her wrist. The pivotal exchange was made of awesome:

Joan: “I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man, because I’m sick of trying to do it.”
Greg: “The Army makes me feel like a good man.”
Joan: “You’re not a good man. You never were, even before we were married, and you know what I’m talking about.”

As someone who couldn’t stand to see Joan violated so terribly in Season 2 — by someone purporting to love her, no less — I thought this scene was bittersweet vindication. Fingers crossed Mama Harris (and maybe Roger, dare we hope?) can provide the support that the comely office manager and her kiddo so sorely need.

What did you think of this week’s Mad Men? Was everyone’s fascination with the Chicago nurse murders creepy or a fitting motif? Is Sally’s Secanol popping an amusing anecdote or the first step on a not-so-great path? And did Michael’s orange shirt-psychedelic tie-seersucker jacket combo distract you as much as it did me? Let us know in the comments! —Kimberly Roots

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. madmenfan says:

    I freakin love this show! Love the way characters develop and I’m hoping this year Jon Hamm will get an Emmy for best drama actor.He deserved it 5 years ago!

  2. Chenell says:

    Definitely my favorite episode of the season so far.

  3. TD says:

    I think your characterization of Roger’s “ongoing campaign to best Pete” is off the mark–Roger is barely keeping up with Pete! He FORGOT that he was supposed to do the Mohawk campaign, no doubt because he feels he is (in effect is) “working for” Pete now. His getting Peggy to do it was an act of desperation because he forgot to ask Ginsberg to do it. Also, I don’t think the Sally/Grandma Secanol was an amusing anecdote–this is certainly an ADDITIONAL step toward Sally’s substance abuse that she will no doubt face. (There was also a scene a couple of seasons ago when Sally “ran away” to Don’s downtown office, had to stay there the day, and sipped on everyone’s booze/dregs throughout the day and got drunk.)

    • TV Gord says:

      Entertaining post, TD. You’re making me nostalgic for my childhood with your comments about Sally. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed that my parents never counted their Valium! ;-) I don’t know how I grew up to avoid a substance abuse problem, but it was fun while it lasted!

      • april-ann says:

        LOL TV Gord, best comment EVER! Also, someone texted me and I’m not clear on what transpired between Peggy and Dawn when Dawn was spending the night at Peggy’s. Can anyone fill me in? Thanks. Also, this is picky, picky…..but if it’s 1966 and Megan is 26, she was born in 1940, and I really don’t think people started naming their daughters “Megan” until the late 70’s. It just seems odd to me that her name is Megan. Betty, Peggy, Joan, Dawn, Trudy, yes, but Megan?

        • Meg says:

          Maybe in Canada they did since she’s Canadian? Just throwing that out there.

        • cathiecat says:

          Peggy noticed her purse w/$400 inside on the coffee table as she was going to bed. She looked at it, considering whether to take it with her, which thanjfully she didn’t. Dawn could not have missed that pause.

          • april-ann says:

            Thanks, cathiecat. Oh, dear. I guess I can overlook it this time because I think she will learn from it and grow more because of it. Also, love the line from the article “Girlfriend IS a work in progress, after all…”.

      • TD says:

        This is a TV show, not real life. It’s the old “Checkhov’s gun” device–if there’s a rifle on the wall in the first act, it must go off in the second or third. The SHOW is setting Sally up for substance abuse. I remember sipping my parents’ cocktails myself in the 60s and turned out fine.

    • You’re mixing things up. Sally ran away to Don’s office last season, she met Dr. Faye and went to the museum (or zoo?) with her father. The episode where she drank the ends of several cocktails was back in season two when Don had to go into the (old) office on a Sunday, but Bobby had burned himself on the stove and Betty had to attend to that, so Don got stuck taking Sally to the office..

  4. donna walton says:

    I enjoyed it

  5. Elizabeth says:

    There were lots of yummy things in this episode, but I was simply thrilled to see Joan kick that weasle to the curb.

  6. DaisyJoe says:

    The only thing that gave me pause — when Sally’s detested step-grandmother turned off the TV with a remote. A REMOTE? In 1963? Did this bug anyone else, or will a mid-century-modern telecom expert set me straight?

    PS: I so agree with column above on Peggy and Joan — delicious, satisfying scenes!

    • 1965.

      Take with an appropriate grain of salt, bu via Wiki: “Remotes had first appeared in the 1950s…”

      • Laney says:

        Mid-July 1966, actually. (Richard Speck committed his crimes on 7/14/66.)

        And remote control was real, although not super-reliable in the mid-’50s. If you search YouTube for “1959 Zenith space command” you can see video of a still-working model from the ’50s. It was a very expensive toy back then, but apparently the Francises would have been able to afford it. Along with their all-you-can-eat Bugles.

    • TD says:

      Yes, 1966–and remember, these are rich folks. Remotes were quite a luxury, no doubt.

    • znachki says:

      One of my dad’s friends had a remote back then. I can remember visiting them and being totally fascinated by it. It would make this clunking noise when you pushed the button, and you had to go up and down the dial, no skipping stations. Of course, there were only about 4-5 stations then anyway, the three networks and a couple of separate local stations!

  7. Karen says:

    Elizabeth Moss and John Slattery NEED to have some more scenes together… QUICK! Great chemistry, which I would not thought was there.
    And go Joan!

  8. Natalie says:

    Ugh, I love Joanie! Thank you, Matt Weiner and Christina Hendricks for making her so awesome. Love this show.

  9. Johnny says:

    Every tv show needs an episode or two with Madchen Amick. Damn!

  10. ilovgoogle says:

    Megan is amazing. I think there was more to the ‘fever’ scene then you’re letting on.

  11. Mark says:

    “He rang the doorbell to his own apartment. Weird, right?”

    No, what would’ve been weird is that he’d been carrying around house keys in Vietnam for a year and then pulled them out of his pants pocket. That would’ve been weird.

  12. topsyturvy says:

    Sally Draper breaks my heart.

  13. Jack says:

    Anyone else think Michael is gay????

  14. Lorie says:

    So now we know how Sally’s eventual pill addiction started.

  15. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Overall I found it to be a strange episode, but I think it was the creepiness of the nurses murders and Don’s murder fantasy that did it. The ending with Joan saved it for me because I have always been bothered that incident was swept under the rug. I do think Sally’s pill pop is the start of darker things to come. I can’t see any way Weiner doesn’t make Sally into a fullblown hippy by the end of the 60s. And I disagree about Megan, I still can’t stand her. This last episode she just looked petulant and childish to me and I wanted to smack her. I am totally rooting for Don to cheat on her and ruin her at this point. The part with the remote control for the TV did bother me a bit, because I’m pretty sure my family didn’t have a remote control TV until the late 80s at the earliest. But I just figured it must have been something super rich people could afford to own back then. Matt Weiner is nothing but meticulous when it comes to those kinds of details on the show. If it hadn’t been something that was possible in that era, he wouldn’t have had it in there. Mad Men doesn’t have goofs.

  16. Barb says:

    My friend’s family had a TV remote in 1966. I remember thinking what a weird thing it was (after all, there were only 4 channels back then!).

  17. Nero theTVFiddler says:

    I’m going to need to watch this episode again – I think I may have missed something. I’m sorry, I have to be honest [and I’m afraid I’m in the minority here] – I did not like this episode – at all. It’s the first episode of MM I really didn’t like since season 2 – I couldn’t stand the Jimmy Barrett and Father Gill characters, and I really disliked 75% of season 2 because of those two characters. It wasn’t until Don made his trip out to California /’Jet Set’ and ‘Mountain King’, that I really got into S2. Those final few S2 episodes were outstanding – my favorites of the entire series thus far.

    This episode “Mystery Date’ made me think of those Season 2 episodes I didn’t like – they were a bit too dark for my taste. The Sally-Grandma Francis/Seconal interplay was creepy, and not in a good way. I doubt Betty or Henry [or Don] would appreciate Sally being given pills by her ‘grandmother’. I’m not sure where MW is going with this Grandma Francis story line, and I trust MW 100% – he knows what he’s doing, so I’m not going to question his judgement. However, I’m not sure Grandma Francis is a character who can be sustained in the storyline all season long. She reminds me of Jimmy Barrett and Father Gill – when her character is on screen, the show stops cold. It’s not a knock on the actors or the writing – it’s just that their characters (in my mind) don’t fit in with the rest of the characters on the show. They seem odd and out of place in a ‘why are they here?’ sort of way.

    Frankly, I’d like to see more of the Madchen Amick/ Andrea character – that dynamic of how Don and Megan deal with their ‘past friends’ would be interesting, and perhaps necessary to better understand the Don-Megan dynamic. I don’t want to see Don ‘American Horror Story’ his ex-flame…that’s not necessary, even in a dream.

    Better to challenge both Don and Megan’s relationship by having them deal with their ex-flames [like Andrea] on an ongoing basis in S5, for better or worse. They can’t run away from this stuff – Don’s ex-flames are all over NY – that’s what makes Don’s life and relationships with women so interesting – he can’t escape that, and I wouldn’t want him to. I don’t doubt Megan has ex-boyfriends from Canada to NY. Good looking people have this ‘baggage’ that they have to carry into their new relationships. There’s nothing wrong with that… it happens. The dream sequence is not the way to ‘resolve’ a core component of who Don really is. It needs to play itself out – for better or worse.

    • becsmithchase says:

      It’s funny isn’t it, but this was my favourite episode of S5 so far (in Aus we are a few eps behid the US so I’ve only just watched it). And it was my favourite for all the reasons you didn’t like it. It was dark and creepy and funny and sad and heroic all at the same time. Fantastic. I’m SO gad Greg is gone! And someone above asked if Michael is gay (and how great is he!!) — I don’t think so, but I think Greg is.

  18. dragonmir27 says:

    Up until Mystery Date, I had been more than a bit disappointed with Mad Men this season, probably because we waited so long and it was so hyped. However, this episode was everything I LOVE about the show. Talk about a “Shock and Awe” campaign. In the dream sequence, when Don killed Megan and went right back to bed, I kept wondering if might have killed a girl somewhere along the line – because as we all know, Don is capable of absolutely anything. I also started to wonder how much of the Don Draper story is true or did Dick kill Don and just get lucky there was a bombing. This episode could make anyone a total conspiracy theorist.
    Sally, sweet Sally. I have a bad feeling that some ominous things lie in wait for the Draper daughter. She is the child who will suffer the most from having parents who don’t care, especially a parent like the ridiculous Betty who is a child herself. Something tells me the writers are really going to push her as far as cable is allowed to go. I do not think Sally is going to end up a hippie flower child. She’s headed down a very dark, boozy, drug and random man filled path that will only end in rehab (which there wasn’t a lot of in the 1960’s) or permanent addiction.
    It was AWESOME in every sense of the word to see Joan FINALLY take her power back from that rapist, whining husband of hers. Joan is my very favorite character on this show. Make no mistake about it, her name may not be on the SCDP door, but she is always in charge… except that episode where her husband drags her into Don’s office and takes her power from her, with no fight from our Joanie. In Mystery Date, Joan finally fights back and good riddance to bad rapists. I’m gonna be a mean girl for one second and say thank you Lord that baby is Rogers’. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s grateful the baby is not related rapist husband Greg.
    Oh Mad Men, it was so good to have you back. I missed Bert and Lane, but any time there’s no Betty is a total bonus!

  19. One says:

    Did anyone notice that at the couples’ dinner, Don corrected the sniper’s name… “Whitman”? Just like his real name. Nice touch

  20. JezJen says:

    Wouldn’t Joan’s mother be “momma Holloway?” Harris is her married name. Correct?