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