Mad Men Season 7 Premiere Recap: Keeping Up Appearances

Mad Men Season 7 Premiere RecapOne small step for man, one giant step backward for Don Draper?

The watershed year 1969 blinks open its eyes in Mad Men‘s seventh season premiere, echoing a rough start for many current – and one former – Sterling Cooper & Partners associates.

This is the year Nixon takes office, the year Neil Armstrong first treads on the moon, the year of Woodstock and the Stonewall Riots and the Manson family murders. A lot of change, both good and bad, is about to happen very quickly. In short, if Don, Peggy, Roger and the rest feel a bit out of sorts at the outset, they’re in good company.

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Yeah, I know – that idea’s about as comforting as waking up in a pile of naked, strung-out hippies. But when world-changing events happen in history, they’re always made up of smaller, yet just-as-crucial choices made in individual people’s lives.  (Side note: I just realized I inadvertently paraphrased Buffy‘s Parker Abrams, and I am ashamed.)

“Time Zones” kicks off Season 7 by showing us some of those choices in action, and I’m intrigued to see how these little decisions – whether or not to tell a spouse about your job situation, whether or not to forgive a lackluster parent, whether or not to step up even if you’re not quite sure you’re ready – weave together with the tumultuous year ahead of our characters. So let’s get it started with a review of what happened in the season’s first hour.

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MEET THE NEW BOSS | We open on a shot of Freddy Rumsen in top form, pitching a kickass campaign for Accutron watches. Though Peggy quibbles with the tagline, she reluctantly deems the concept “a home run… That is not what I expected.” I loved both his response (“There’s a nice way to say that, and there’s the way you just said it”) and the fact that he’s freelancing for her when he was the one who recognized her genius in the first place.

Unfortunately, the exchange with Freddy is probably the high point of the episode for Peggy. The moment she arrives in Don’s old office for a team meeting led by his replacement, Oldie McNotFunnyNorSuave (aka Lou Avery) from Dancer Fitzgerald, it’s clear he does not think she’s the tam-wearing special snowflake Don did. He doesn’t like her tagline for the Accutron pitch, and later in the episode when she tries to start over with him, he’s uninterested in that, too. “I guess I’m immune to your charms,” he says patronizingly. Ick.

If that’s not enough of a downer, Peggy also spends half the episode dodging Ted, who’s back in the office for a brief visit from California; their interaction over the percolator in the break room is so icy, it prompts even the obtuse Stan to offer an astute, “None of this seems related to coffee.” She later channels all of her hurt and rage into a diatribe aimed at the art team (“You’re all a bunch of hacks!”), a toilet-fixing-related standoff with the boy who lives upstairs (which she loses) and a sobbing fit alone on her apartment floor. Cheer up, Pegs – at least you’re doing better than Don is.

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YES I AM, AND I CAN’T HELP BUT LOVE YOU SO | Speaking of the silver-tongued Draper, we catch up with him in an airplane bathroom as he freshens up before arrival. He lands in California, backed up by Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man,” and is picked up at the curb by a leggy, Priscilla Presley-haired Megan in a minidress. From appearances, it looks like Mr. and Mrs. Draper are still together, but you know about this show and appearances…

Don’s weekend in the Golden State begins with a meal with Megan’s agent, who delivers the happy news that she’s got a callback for an NBC pilot. “I’ll say one thing about this girl: She evokes strong feelings,” the Hollywood player remarks – and boy, do we have the comments archives to back that up.

Back at Megan’s place – a remote bungalow in the hills that Don refers to as “Dracula’s castle”– Mrs. Draper is too drunk for nookie. Don puts her to bed then falls asleep watching TV on the couch. (Side note: Given both last year’s Sharon Tate parallels and how hard the show pushes the fact that Megan lives somewhere Don feels is mildly unsafe, I feel like Matthew Weiner & Co. are just messing with us now, no?) The next morning, Megan gets ready for an acting class and mentions that Don is going into the office?! Is Mrs. Draper unaware of her hubby’s firing?

PLAID PANTS, GOOD VIBES | It seems so, because the only office he visits is Pete’s West Coast outpost, and that’s just for a few minutes after they have a nosh at Canter’s deli. Life in LaLa Land has done Pete some good; “The city’s flat and ugly and the air is brown, but I love the vibrations,” he enthuses to a skeptical Don over pastrami-and-coleslaw sandwiches. Don stops by SC&P’s western branch just long enough to meet Pete’s bunny of a real estate agent (played by Jessy Schram, aka Logan Echolls’ Season 2 mind game Hannah), then he rolls back to Megan’s with a giant new TV in tow.

She’s less than pleased – an expensive, state-of-the-art set isn’t the best accessory for someone playing starving actress Barbie – and falls asleep later on as Don watches Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon on TV. As you might’ve guessed, things still aren’t great between the Drapers – they’re awkward around each other, and at one point she stops a fight just because they don’t have enough time to argue and make up again before he returns to New York.  (Not exactly “Zou Bisou Bisou,” is it?)

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PARTY OF TWO | And if Megan’s unhappy about the TV, she’d be really ticked that Don gets flirty and cozy with his lovely seatmate – Party of Five‘s Neve Campbell as grieving widow Lee – on the flight home. Lee even says as much, leading Don to engage in some uncharacteristic honesty. “She knows I’m a terrible husband,” he says. “She doesn’t know that much, but she knows.” Oof. True, but oof.

Back in New York, Lee offers him a lift that’s likely more than a lift, and Don turns it down with what sounds like a blow-off: “I’m sorry, but I have to get back to work.” But – shocker! – he’s telling the truth again, in a way. We later see him meeting with Freddy at the apartment, where it becomes clear that Don’s been feeding Freddy stellar content (like the Accutron pitch) to peddle at various ad agencies around town.

Later that night, Don sits on his terrace in boxers, tee shirt and a bathrobe, for once looking like the sad sack he is, while Vanilla Fudge’s cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” plays in the background. Even on the very pretty Jon Hamm, Don’s desperation? Not a good look.

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ORGY FATIGUE | Please, Roger – lift us outta this funk with your… new naked friends? When we catch up with the silver fox, he’s just the way we like him: without clothes, possibly hungover and definitely strewn among other nude bodies (I count five, maybe six). A call from daughter Margaret summons him to brunch a few days later at the Plaza; she wants him to know that, even though he’s a terrible father and grandfather, she “simply” forgives him. Rog is instantly suspicious. “Are you going to church?” (Heh.) He returns home, exhausted, to find a lovely young hippie chick and some guy asleep – passed out? – between the sheets. “Move him over, too,” Roger says tiredly, making it seem like her reminder that “anyone’s welcome in this bed” might’ve seemed a lot more shiny a few weeks before.

JOAN TAKES A MEETING | What about Joan, you ask? She takes advantage of Ken the Pirate’s (too soon?) inability to keep up with his workload by stepping up to meet with Butler Footwear’s new head of marketing… who wants to cut costs by firing SC&P. Joanie buys the firm few days before the big decision and uses that time to pick the brain of a business professor she thinks is propositioning her (fair, if inaccurate). In the end, Joan kind of owns the weaselly shoe guy but confesses to Ken that she’s not sure how successful she really was in retaining Butler’s business. What you really need to take away from all of this, though, is that Ken tosses Joan’s earring to her, it flies wild – depth perception no longer being his strong suit – and she sighs loudly. The throw alone is pretty funny; Joan’s reaction to it made me howl.

Now it’s your turn. Are you wondering what’s up with Sally, Betty, Henry and the boys? How about Bob Benson out in Detroit? Has it hit you yet that this is the beginning of the last season? Sound off in the comments — and if you’re curious, press PLAY below to watch a 1969 promo for Bracken‘s World, the pilot for which Megan has a callback. (RIP Jeanne Cooper!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fXb4fmIfW4

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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53 Comments
  1. NJIdoloonie says:

    so happy I have something to watch on Sunday nights after Long Island Medium!

  2. SUSO says:

    Meh. Was genuinely hoping for more, but this felt like season six leftovers.

  3. Ashley says:

    at this point Matt Weiner is toying with the Megan = Sharon Tate theorist. lol

  4. Meg says:

    I was kind of bored. Maybe it will pick up next week.

  5. april-ann says:

    As usual, the recap was leaps and bounds better than the show and that’s nothing new. (sorry for that phrase – I’m going retro in a boring way, just like this show). Nothing new on the show, either. And again (or is a better word, “still”?) no Betty, Henry nor the kids. A disappointment but not a surprise. Although I did enjoy – H. Salt’s Fish & Chips and Bracken’s World.

  6. anna says:

    The only interesting thing about this episode was Pete. Everyone else is the same. Megan is as boring as ever and I have no idea why she and Don are still married. Where’s Betty? I’m so sick of Weiner giving her no screen time.

  7. Macguyver says:

    After How I Met Your Mother ended exactly the way many “the mom is dead” conspiracy theorist had been saying all along, my fear is this show is going to end on a downer too with Megan getting killed in a Manson family style slaying and Don being so distraught by Megan’s death recreating the often questioned now infamous falling man sillohette in open credits. I hope I’m wrong as I dont think I can handle another show ending where the end is so damn depressing that it overshadows the entire story.

    • anna says:

      *sigh* Megan is not going to get murdered. Why are people still touting this theory? And she’s not a beloved character so killing her off would be pointless since most of the audience wouldn’t care.

      • Macguyver says:

        True , Megan is a polarizing character so many wouldnt care if they killed her off, but the domino effect if she gets killed will most likely cause Don a final blow to his ego which if the first episode of this season is any indication of where he’s headed would probably cause him to throw himself off that high rise balcony of his. Especially if she gets killed in L.A while he chose to stay in NYC. Megan being killed might not be important to viewers but remember her death would be important to the demise of the very fragile 1969 Don Draper.

      • Ari says:

        Sometimes killing a character isn’t about impacting the audience, it’s about impacting the other characters. Killing Megan would have a significant impact on Don.

    • N tTVf says:

      I think things will work out okay for the Mad Men gang. Nice to know someone else out there was/is watching both HIMYM and MM. The two series (HIMYM and MM) have been my two favorites these past seven years. Will miss both when they ride off into the sunset.

      I don’t want to go too far off topic here, but I’m okay with the HIMYM ending – but it helped me that I made peace with ‘the mother’ not being core/central to the story. In the end, she was not, despite the show’s title. In my mind, it was Robin, always Robin who was core central to the story – she drove both the Ted and Barney story lines almost the entire series. That’s quite an accomplishment. And we don’t know if she/Robin wound up with Ted or not – that’s left up to the viewer to decide… maybe she went back with Barney. Maybe it was that journey, the getting to 2030, that was key to the story telling of HIMYM, and not who wound up with whom in 2030.

      With Mad Men, it is all about Don – he’s the center of the universe – everything revolves around him (per Anna’s tarot cards). In a sense, it may not matter who (what woman) Don ends up with when the series ends. It is the journey, the getting there, that makes the story so interesting and compelling. In that sense, MM is very much like HIMYM.

    • Michele says:

      I don’t think Megan will be killed. Megan is represented by the little hot rod she’s driving. She’s just going to drive off to better vistas. Don will go on to his third wife – Lee (Neve) – who like the third bear in Goldilocks was “just right”.

  8. Mary says:

    That was Neve Campbell? Wow-didn’t see that at all. She seemed a lot older!

    • Michele says:

      I think that she seemed older emphasized the fact that she was a better fit for Don. I think she’s supposed to end the show as Don’s 3rd wife.

  9. cfm says:

    Guess I’m in the minority but I thought it was good.

    But I didn’t get Neve Campbell’s comments about her husband dying. He was thirsty? They were all going to die? Who are “they” and what is “thirsty” in this context? I didn’t follow.

    Anyone? Bueller?

    • Leslie says:

      He was an alcoholic and, probably, died from cirrhosis of his liver.

    • QueenCeleste says:

      I know, odd. My only thought was that he was an alcoholic and went to a clinic to dry out, but just couldn’t kick the sauce.

    • I was shocked to see Sydney Prescott on Mad Men. Of course she is already tied to someone that died. It wasn’t alcoholism, it was her boyfriend Billy. Although I am curious to see how her role evolves…

  10. Sharia says:

    I too am worried that the falling man in the credits is going to be Don. Only because 1) You put it in my head and 2) if it was supposed to be symbolic I totally missed it. Lol. As for Megan, well lets just say I couldn’t care less what happens to her. But I would like to know what’s up with Little Miss Attitude aka Sally.

  11. Star Foreman says:

    Am I the only one to notice that Peggy still hadn’t taken out her Christmas tree? That touch of sadness…

    • AnnieM says:

      I didn’t catch that, but there have been a number of years that our family didn’t get around to doing that till the end of January! Lol.

    • Roz12 says:

      Right? Aren’t details like these that make Mad Men’s greatness?
      I liked the episode, it set characters in their pole positions for what is to come. Joan’s plot was great. She was great. Roger, well, like wine, improving with age. Peggy made me cry. Don’s trip promises to be tough compelling one. Pete’s trousers!
      I still haven’t found a single plotline in Mad Men created just to shock the audience -this is not Scandal, thank God- so, as someone said, if something happens to Megan or any other character it will be in order to make the characters progress.

  12. Teag says:

    I’m in the minority that really liked it too. I’m thinking Megan will be murdered by a stalker.

  13. I also liked it. I didn’t expect them to start a whole lot of new story when they needed to establish where everyone was since we saw them last. No one seems to be any better off, except perhaps for Joan. I love this show and am going to be so sad to see it end.

  14. Jenny says:

    Have we ever consider that the silhouette of the man falling in the opening is just a metaphor for Don Draper’s downfall, which has pretty much been what the whole series is about (Don the invincible from season 1 to the sad sack he is now)?

    • Jenny says:

      *considered

    • Lyn12 says:

      Yeah, I think people who are fantasizing about how he and everyone else can have happy endings on this show are in for a hard slog as it moves toward the end. (Serious fans might want to look up David Zurawik’s interesting preview over the weekend, Baltimore Sun.) Must admit I do want a happy ending for Peggy, in particular, and am worried about her! Afraid Matthew Weiner intends to make her the poster girl for women who tried to move past “the feminine mystique” and failed miserably.

    • N tTVf says:

      ^This. You are correct. The man (Don) who is falling is indeed a metaphor for Don Drapers’ downfall – booze, women, illusions created for a happy life, and then difficult if not impossible to attain those illusions, and if attained, impossible to hold onto.

      Don is not going to fall out of a window. Not to give too much away, but I’ve read many interviews on MW, and he’s said as much – Don will live to a very old age, and there is a chance that MW may end the series in the year 2015 – Don would be an old man in his late 80′s at that point, but he’d still be around.

      That would be the ultimate story telling – Don Draper lives amongst us today. He’s helping Freddie Rumsen sell advertising ideas in 1969 – perhaps Don does that his entire life, working in the background with other ad men to help sell ideas, create illusions and ‘want’.

      Now that would be something – not only are those poor people in the 1960′s buying into the illusions of the American Dream that Don Draper is creating, but we’ve all been buying into those same illusions for decades, and the man behind the puppet-strings of the American Dream machine that all of us have been dancing to these past decades?…. Don Draper.

  15. fransoc says:

    Great comment by Megan’s agent about having her teeth fixed. Has bothered me since her first episode.

    • Vicki-loo says:

      The lOok on her face was priceless, also it just shows that in show business, they will fix you to their specifications.

    • pam says:

      Thank you! I think she is sooo unattractive. I don’t know how she gets work. I really don’t care what happens to her.

  16. Someone please tell Leslie Knope were to find Neve Campbell now.

  17. Doug says:

    Didn’t Megan’s agent mention something about getting her teeth fixed? Yes, please.

  18. Tom Mc says:

    Sometimes when I am reading comments sections to Mad Men reviews, I think that a better name for the show would be “Pearls Before Swine.”

  19. story arc wish says:

    I was happy to see that Joan is getting a storyline here — I think that she is the most interesting character and has the most to offer in showing the evolution of the times. I hope that they don’t have the Peggy character fall into a cliché of the career woman who becomes embittered as she reaches the glass ceiling. In a perfect story arc I would like to see these three disenchanted characters, Joan, Peggy and Don come together to form a new agency. Joan could take over accounts, Peggy, creative and Don overseeing the agency. (After all, women are going back to work and are coming important buyers of products.) Don is the master of character re-invention as he has done so already so I think he can overcome this slump and evolve with the times. Perhaps, (in a perfect world) Betty can go back to school and get her CA and become the accountant for the group (but this would be hoping for too much.)

    • N tTVf says:

      Or, perhaps a spin-off series in a year or so after Mad Men wrap up in 2015? I know MW is not thrilled with the idea of a spin off (he’s mentioned this a few times in interviews), but a spin-off series with Peggy and Joan navigating their way through the 1970′s would be pretty cool.

  20. Jen says:

    I definitely missed Betty which was highlighted even more by the overabundance of Megan. I hate that January Jones’s role as Betty has been diminished the past few years when Megan joined the show since Betty is 1000 times more interesting as a standalone character and in her relationship with Don. Last season’s best episode was the one with Don and Betty re-connecting at the cabin. I still love Mad Men and hate to say its quality has diminished all because of Megan but I know my enjoyment of it has gone down especially since the cost is hardly any Betty.

    • Kay says:

      Omfg yes. GET RID OF MEGAN!!! I really never thought it was possible to dislike a show based on the hatred of one character. And I used to LOOOOVVVEEE MM. :(

  21. leo21 says:

    Am I the only one freaked out by Margaret’s behavior? If the show does end with a falling man, perhaps that man will be Roger.

    • Michele says:

      I agree that if it’s anyone actually falls off a building it would be Roger. I saw Margaret’s forgiveness though as merely closure with his family. But he really has nowhere to go from where he is. He’s completely superficial and incapable of love. But does a superficial guy kill himself? Usually not, I think.

  22. Jeanne Peacock says:

    Did anyone notice when Don turned the tv off he just clicked something. In 1969 we still had to go to the tv and turn the dial off. For all you young ones- yes once we had to turn a dial to change the channel, raise the volume, or turn the tv off. You actually had to get out of the chair!

    • Tom McC says:

      The first remote control for television was developed in 1950. By 1969 there were many TV sets that came with them, usually they were very expensive – it’s easy to believe Don has the money to buy one

    • 49erfevah says:

      Remote control has been around for a very long time. Since the 50′s I believe. But in the early 80′s I was still my parents remote control, as we had a big console tv until almost the 9o’s :-)

  23. Auburn says:

    Everyone we love best in advertising is “out in the cold.” Maybe they will all find each other and the magic again. An agency with Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan, Freddie… First Don has to do right by women, starting with Peggy. In this way he will redeem himself and end up winning Megan’s authentic love back. Don will change from being old-school Nixon-liker to new-school man who can authentically support women in their beauty and strength rather than simply use them as surrogate mothers and escape hatches.

  24. Auburn says:

    The Falling Man in the opening sequence is and always has been Don Draper. His freefall into “sin” (women/advertising/illusions) every time he steps into his office with his briefcase is exactly the place where the man in charge on the couch derives his power.

  25. Auburn says:

    I like Megan, but I’m really sick of her teeth. It sounds like her agent is going to have her get them fixed. I think a big reason people hate her role over January Jones’s role is because Megan’s hard to look at with those teeth. (But I’m a dentist’s daughter. I notice that more than other people tend to.)

  26. Jo says:

    Why doesn’t anyone see the metaphors for Don and Peggy – Don with the broken balcony doors and Peggy with the broken toilet – broken like they are at this point.

  27. Eve says:

    The “falling man” lands on his feet – EVERY time. I’m hoping Sally’s little “Glenn from the hood” brings back some “sinisterism” – maybe something to do with his past obsession with Betty? More Joan! Spin off – Mad Women! Puh LEZ!?!? I love love love MM!!!

  28. My Nom is Brod says:

    Sallys old boy friend will catch up with her somewhere. He will get her in a “family way”. This does not go over well for Betty. She goes off the deep in and is admitted to a psych ward. That leaves the younger children with Megan, who is not ready to be a full time mom, she walks, ends up in Canada. Don moves to Hollywood, accidently smokes too much wacky, wrecks a classic car, can’t find work. Pete takes up skeet shooting. While cleaning his gun, it goes off to his chest. His wife finds him and a note saying . . . . . . . . stayed tuned for next weeks . . .

  29. Terri says:

    i FIND THEM ALL VERY SAD. I HOPE THEY ALL FIND HAPPINESS EXCEPT DON….WHO SEEMS TO DESERVE WHAT HE GETS.

  30. 49erfevah says:

    Wow, I see that the “I hate Megan” band Wagon is still rolling at a full head of steam. Although I think it’s more of a “I love Betty” band wagon. Seriously though, I don’t think a faithful Don Draper could have stayed married to Betty (she’s such a rip).
    I really really liked this episode. I think we are already getting more substance in one episode than we have the last few years. I expect there will be no more pointless filler this final season, seeing how there’s barely enough time to tie up the ends we already have.