Mad Men Recap: Nipped in the Bud

Mad Men Season 7 RecapWell, that was unexpected.

I’m not talking about the fact that, in this week’s Mad Men, Don makes like Roger and simultaneously has sex with multiple partners – though that is interesting, but maybe not for the reasons you’d suppose.

I’m also not referring to the reappearance of a character we haven’t seen in several seasons, nor the condition in which she pops up.

I’m talking about how the always-a-little-off Michael Ginsberg acted even nuttier than normal for the first 50 minutes of the episode… and then completely lost his mind (as well as an ornamental body part) in the last 10.

Got your attention now, don’t I? Read on for a rundown of “The Runaways.”

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SEE YOU IN THE FUNNY PAPERS | Some papers accidentally left on the copier clue Stan in to one of Lou’s secrets: He’s created a Beetle Bailey-like cartoon called Scout’s Honor, and the bearded one makes that information known around the office. Everything explodes at a meeting where Lou turns his embarrassment into anger (“You’re all just a bunch of flag-burning snots!”) and forces everyone to work late on a Friday – forcing Don to miss a flight to California.

That’s notable for a couple of reasons. First, Anna’s niece Stephanie has called him; she’s “around seven months” pregnant and broke in Los Angeles. (Aw, he looks so happy to hear from her. It’s cute.) He tells Stephanie not to worry, that Megan will take her in, and he’ll be there soon. Second, he and Megan are still together (?!) — or together enough that she doesn’t act surprised or angry when he calls, and she seems pleased that he’ll soon visit. Lou keeps Don just late enough that he misses the last Friday flight… then dismisses him until Monday. Lame, Lou.

Stephanie makes it to Megan’s bungalow well in advance of Don, and Mrs. Draper greets her warmly – until she realizes that under all that dirt and macramé lies a very pretty hippie who has a past with Draper that Megan doesn’t share. So Megan passive-aggressively suggests that Don won’t be happy with Stephanie’s situation, then throws a check at her; I loved the way Megan asks, “Will $1,000 get you far enough?” when what she really means is “far enough away?” The younger woman, who truly is luminous, assures Megan that “nothing ever happened” between her and Don. “Of course not,” Megan says breezily. Still, by the time Don arrives the next morning, Stephanie is gone – with Megan lying that she tried to get her to stay.

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FANCY MEETING YOU HERE | But since Don’s already there, he might as well attend Megan’s party for her acting-class friends, right? Draper looks highly bored and slightly uncomfortable as Megan and her pals get high, start a jamboree and dance, but he perks up when Harry walks through the door. He’s there as someone’s date, but he’s soon forced to ditch the woman when Don decides the two men are going out for a drink.

At the bar, Harry starts babbling about how the “solution” is to move Don to Los Angeles – and Don realizes he hasn’t a clue what the problem in question is. Harry realizes he’s said too much, but keeps on talking anyway: Jim and Lou are pursuing Philip Morris’ Commander Cigarettes account, and if they get it – which they think they can – it means Don is out of the firm. (You remember Don’s Season 4 New York Times ad, which said his firm would no longer represent purveyors of such a terrible product? Yeah, so does Philip Morris.)

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WHERE THE KISSES ARE HERS AND HERS AND HIS | Don returns to the bungalow, where everyone but Megan’s kinda-annoying friend Amy has gone home. Both ladies are hella high, so they follow Don into the bedroom where he’s partially disrobed and getting ready to go to sleep. “Kiss her. You know you want to,” Megan instructs her husband, and when he protests that he doesn’t want anything, she checks his pocket polygraph and purrs, “Don’t lie.” (Side note: It’s refreshing to see Don get groped with the same fervor – and show-it-all wide shot – that most of the female characters on this show have been subjected to for years.) Pretty soon, with Don looking like he’s not really sure what’s going on, the Drapers and Annoying Amy are engaged in a three-way.

The next morning the Drapers seem fine – cozy, even — until Stephanie calls from Oakland. She doesn’t reveal Megan’s duplicity, but Megan still doesn’t like the affection in Don’s voice as he instructs his “niece” to let him know when the baby comes. A few minutes later, he’s getting ready to go back to New York to deal with the Commander situation, and Megan’s upset at how everything turned out. (Side note: Show of hands – who among you is still invested in Don and Megan’s relationship? I care more about which neckerchief Stan will show up in.)

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MORE THAN A PRETTY FACE | During a progressive dinner (remember those?) in Betty and Henry’s neighborhood, Mrs. Francis invokes her husband’s ire by expressing her feelings about the Vietnam War – particularly because they clash with his. As much fun as it would be to stay at a party where all of the women look like they’re dressed in stuffy nightgowns, Betty feigns a headache and retires upstairs, forcing Henry to continue on to the other homes/courses by himself. “From now on,” he fumes nastily when he returns home, “you keep conversation to how much you hate getting toast crumbs in he butter, and leave the thinking to me!”

This just in: I don’t like Henry much right now. And neither does Betty, which is why she’s all revved up for a fight when Sally has to come home after getting whacked in the face with a golf club while goofing around at school. During a brief but awesome bitch-off in the foyer, Sally mocks her mother’s preoccupation with her daughter’s “perfect nose,” which took a beating. “It was a perfect nose, and I gave it to you!” Betty spits. Later, Sally takes pity on Bobby, who’s worried that the Francis family is coming apart, by letting him crawl into bed with her.

But Henry and Betty aren’t done sniping at each other. During another brawl that starts as a neutral interaction, he shouts, “You’re so smart, why don’t you run for office?” FINALLY, someone in that household is talking sense! Give my girl a pantsuit and a platform, and we’ve got a proto-Hilary on our hands! Can’t you see it? “My name is Betty Draper Francis, and I approve… of very little, actually.”

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CUT IT OUT! | While working at Sterling Cooper & Partners over the weekend, Michael Ginsberg thinks the hum of the new IBM is having a strange effect on him. This sense is compounded when he sees Jim and Lou having a conversation in the computer room… and naturally jumps to the conclusion that the computer’s emissions are causing all of the males in the firm to turn gay. “That machine makes men do unnatural things,” he warns Peggy when he shows up at her door, begging for a quiet place to work for the evening.

It gets weirder: She wakes up to find him crouched over her, and a minute later, he’s trying to “reproduce” with her in order to get rid of some of the “pressure” that the computer has built within him. She kicks him out, and we all think, “Oh, what a weird scamp that Ginsberg is”… until Monday morning, when he shows up in her office and announces that 1) he has feelings for her, and 2) he’s found a way to relieve the anxiety that plagued him. He gives her a bracelet-sized box, which she unwraps TO FIND HIS RIGHT NIPPLE INSIDE. When I’ve griped in the past about seeing more male body parts, Mad Men, this isn’t what I meant. The appendage is “the valve” that releases the pressure, he happily informs her. So Peggy asks him to sit, creeps out of the room and holds herself together long enough to call for help. Our final shot of Ginsberg is of him leaving SC&P, tied down to a stretcher and yelling, “Get out while you can!” while Peggy cries. Adios, Ginsberg. I never really got you, but I will miss you nonetheless.

SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU’VE GOT ‘EM | But what does Don do with the Philip Morris knowledge, you ask? He crashes a private meeting between Lou/Jim and the tobacco company and suavely agrees to quit if SC&P lands the account. However – and here’s Draper’s genius in full effect – he also manages to sell himself as exactly the kind of guy they’d want on the account, the Times letter notwithstanding, and subtly threatens to work for the competition if he does, indeed, leave SC&P. After the meeting, Lou’s ticked. “You’re incredible,” he says, shaking his head. “Thank you,” Draper replies. (Ha!) Sing it with me, even if it’s just in reference to this scene: Well you can tell everybody, yeah you can tell everybody, go ahead and tell everybody, Don’s the man, Don’s the man, Don’s the man.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think about the episode? Have you come to terms with the fact that there are only two hours left before the break? Did you miss Joan, Roger, Pete, etc? Sound off in the comments!

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