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!


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. Erika says:

    Did anyone else catch Stephanie’s line about the father of her baby? “He’d probably kill someone to stay in prison”?

    We’re all gonna pretend that’s more red herring stuff and not more evidence of the Megan/Manson theory? Right? It can’t be that easy…

    • Annie says:

      Yeah it’s like they’re just toying with us now, and not in a nice way.

    • Maryann says:

      when she said that, i immediately paused it and told someone sitting in the room (who isn’t up on everything) that it was either the writers messing with us some more, or it’ll actually be Stephanie who gets stabbed a month or two later, which would be the timeframe of the Tate/LoBianca murders… when the season started, which depicted January of 1969, i thought for sure the sex Don and Megan had produced a child so that she’d be ripe by August… but obviously she didn’t get pregnant, otherwise, by now they would have her showing or at least telling Don the good news… Stephanie asked her about her having children in this episode, so if Megan were pregnant, she would’ve probably said so… i’m not sure if Weiner is messing with us or not, and that’s how he wants it… we’ll just have to tune in!

      • Britta Unfiltered says:

        I think we learned a few seasons ago that Megan has no interest in having children, so she takes the birth control pill. The one time she got pregnant and miscarried last season she said happened because they were on vacation and she got careless with the pill.

  2. anna says:

    The Ginsberg stuff was sad but apart from that I hated the episode. I don’t care about Megan and her boring LA life. That threesome was lame. Don didn’t even seem interested and her beef with Stephanie was dumb. Why was Megan so threatened by her? I hated Henry telling Betty to not think for herself. I thought he was supposed to be a good guy. I’m glad Betty stood up for herself.

  3. Curly says:

    I wish that I had not watched the show live, because every time Megan was on screen, I pushed the fast forward button to no avail! Why must we keep seeing her storyline, when there are so many other characters I am more invested in and want to see in this shortened season. Divorce her already and move on Don! Ginsberg took the cake for the grossest thing I saw all night and this was after watching Game of Thrones first.

  4. Bonnie king says:

    I do not care for Megan. Love Sally. The threesome was weird becos Megan is jealous and would never “share” where did that come from? Never liked Ginsberg so glad he is gone but what a shocker on how they got rid of him. Don will land on top and It will be great to see the sorry faces of Lou and Jim.

  5. Forwardad says:

    Didn’t get the Ginsberg story. Was Mad Men just trying to do a lame shock story? Didn’t work. Go away Megan. Betty is much more interesting. Boring ep. Great recap.

    • The Beach says:

      Yep, the actor who plays Ginsberg is starring in a new show coming up so I guess this was their way of ditching him but I agree it felt like too big a jump too fast…very manufactured.

      • Britta Unfiltered says:

        I respectfully disagree, I feel they have been building up to this with Ginsberg for awhile now. They have dropped a lot of hints in past seasons that he has problems with paranoia. It was the same thing they did with Lane’s suicide, and finding out Bob Benson was gay. On the surface it seemed shocking and sudden, but if you look at it closely, there was a slow build up. Weiner loves to drop subtle bread crumbs. I actually thought Ginsberg was going to do something much worse than he did. I thought he was going to be the perpetrator of some office slaying.

    • nicole robertson says:

      We already knew Ginsberg was mentally ill when he told Peggy that he was not from Earth. This was just the break in his schizophrenia. This episode kept surprising me and that’s a good thing. But I don’t get all the Megan hate. She’s great. She wants to give Don what he needs in a controlled environment with someone she trusts. Besides, she was stoned. Yes, I care more about their marriage than Don does.

  6. JMill says:

    Maybe the best episode of the season.

    Ginsberg. Low grade genius, drugs, paranoia, a rapidly changing world and a lingering old world upbringing. A bad, bad, cocktail. But highly entertaining.

    Is Megan a Betty Draper for the 60s or what? She’s hard to pin down. Self absorbed. Needy. Up and almost running on shaky, new born foal’s legs of a liberated woman, but still a little married to the past in the form of being ‘the wife of Don Draper’. Except when he’s not there. And she’s stoned. And, yeah, that three way she had with Don was the first one she’s ever had. Really.

    And of course Don slipped back into his big dog pants and schooled Heckle and Jeckle in the art of the ‘deal with it’. The meeting, any meeting, is Don’s house when he’s on his game. Just sit back, watch the show, and try not to get your eyebrows singed by the magic.

    • RNichols says:

      I agree, this was a terrific episode – I don’t get the “boring episode” comments at all. This was the penultimate Draper Rising scene that those of us who are rooting hard for Don have waited to see. When Don is on his game, there’s nobody better…and he was in fighting shape last night. Thought the threesome simply underscored Megan’s massive insecurity regarding Don…what length will she not go to in order to try and hold on to him, even when she isn’t sure she wants him anymore? I’m not, obviously, a Megan fan, so her manipulations of Stephanie infuriated me, as did her sophomoric attempts to make Don jealous. The fact that it’s Harry Crane who tips Don off about the Cutler/Lou machinations, is genius. And poor Michael Ginsburg…lonely, boy-wonder, who could not escape his father’s tragic past. The world grew just a little too big for Ginsburg, and his breakdown was tragic. How often do we see Peggy cry? Bobby too, was hesrtwrenching. He needs his father, but has instead a sister who comforts him when she can, which isn’t often. Parallels to his fathers life of needing maternal affection and receiving it from women other than his mother. A great, jam packed episode !

    • Curly says:

      I had read that NBC (I think) on Saturday announced a new show called A to Z would be on its Fall line up & that Ben Feldman (Ginsberg) was one of the stars. I immediately thought, “good for him, he has work lined up for when the show ends”…who knew they would cut him loose for his new show so soon? Still such an odd way for him to be written out. After reading your assessment of the factors ; unstable times with his anxious personality,complicated background with father and his increasing drug use, I can see how his paranoia got ahold of him. I hope his new show does well, I’m curious if he acts differently than Ginsberg- I may tune in to see.

  7. Maryann says:

    i guess i’m in the minority, then, because i love Megan… i think she’s good for Don, but he’s done so much damage he’s ruined the innocence in their relationship and it’s probably irreparable at this point… i, too, wondered why she was so happy to hear from him when we’d left off last week with her crying on the phone, saying it was too late… it’s confusing, but then again, it’s confusing for people in that situation, so they’re only reflecting that, i suppose… but i’ve always found Megan to be a cool chick with so much positivity in her… i hope Don moves out to L.A. and they patch up their marriage and live happily ever after, but this being a Weiner project, i won’t hold my breath (for too long)!

    another thing i found pretty interesting is Don’s liberal/conservative streak when they were coaxing him into a threesome… you would think with all the sex we’ve seen him have, all his philandering, and the fact that he was raised by whores, he would jump right into that scenario with gusto… but as it’s been pointed out several times in different ways, Don is also very set in his ways and they’re old-fashioned ways… look at how he reacted to the modern technology entering the office… he’s not fond of progression, in general, although he’s not entirely close-minded, either; he experimented with substances a couple of times when all the cool kids were doing it… i’ve always had the impression that he’s curious enough to try something new, but if it doesn’t completely wow him on the spot, he’ll cling to the old and familiar… so this newfangled open marriage idea seemed odd to him at first, but him being human and enjoying being touched, he simply gave in… i don’t think we’ll be seeing that happen again, though… i think he enjoyed sex outside his marriage more when it was a secret because that was half the fun: the thrill of getting away with something…

    anyhow, the Ginsberg thing threw me for a loop, and i’m not happy about it… i liked that character and wanted to see him finally find his niche… i’m also a little disappointed for Peggy, because at the beginning of the episode, she was chirping happily at Don in the elevator (i kept remembering her telling him he wasn’t missed) and it seemed her difficulties and depression were finally going to turn around… it was good to see her smile again… however, this could very well be something else that puts Stan in an even better light in her eyes… he’s stable and a constant in her life… she even calls him at 3am when there’s a rat in her apartment… they could end up being platonic friends for the rest of their lives, but they could also end up married… i hope for both their sakes it’s the latter, not the former…

    two more episodes left and then i’ll have to find something else to keep me occupied for another year…. holy smokes! i don’t want this show to end!!

    • KenM says:

      One other thing that seemed to point to Peggy being in a better place was her apparently improved relationship with the neighbor/tenant kid who is now using her apartment to watch TV.

      • Amie says:

        I kind of thought that was a nod to Mother’s Day. We have a pregnant woman showing up at Megan’s to illustrate that Megan is not maternal at all, Betty being a terrible mother so her daughter Sally has to fill in when she can with poor Bobby, and Peggy stepping in to be maternal with the neighbor boy and, in a way, with motherless Ginsberg. I haven’t fully thought this through (and I definitely haven’t thought the episode through — it was kind of a puzzler for me) but I do think there’s some focus on mothers and maternity in this episode for a reason.

  8. FtheFreys says:

    This was the best episode of the season so far. I hope Ginsberg comes back. More of Lou being despicable. I like seeing Don back on top of his game for at least a moment. I missed Joan, Peter, and Roger. The momentum is going well now but they are going to screw that up by cutting the season in half.

  9. Fred says:

    We need to see more of Julio in the show. What program would he and Peggy watch? And what kind of chips did she serve?

  10. TD says:

    Loved the 2001:A Space Odyssey reference with Ginsberg watching Lou and Jim talking in the computer room!

  11. Gail says:

    Bring back Bob Benson.

  12. BrianR says:

    Don needs to move to LA now while Megan is feeling really sexy and hot. More threesomes…………

  13. Amie says:

    I thought Don was resistant to the threesome not because he is conservative or old school but because he has been trying to clean up his act. Meaningless sex, tons of drinking, screwing up his marriage and his job and acting irresponsible in general are what he has been trying to avoid. So smoking pot and having a threesome at Megan’s party are the opposite of where he has been trying to keep himself these days. Oh well. Not sure what the fallout will be of the threesome or barging in on Cutler and Lou (oh, look, another threesome!) but I don’t think it will be smooth sailing for Don on either the marriage or the job front. I want him to start a new firm in California with Peggy, Pete, Stan and Harry. And maybe Freddie and/or Roger. Joan and Bert can stay with Lou at the ridiculous and stupid Scout’s Honor agency.

  14. Lynn says:

    I agree completely that they will screw with the momentum by splitting Mad Men in half. It’s just not that kind of show that sustains that kind of build up. It’s always been more of a slow burn -as evidenced by this being the 5th episode & it’s just getting started. Too late for them to change their minds now but I’m afraid this will completely affect the perception of the end of the show.

  15. Delia says:

    Some thoughts about the episode:

    –Ginsberg’s nipple delivery reminded me of a twisted reinterpretation of Vincent Van Gogh sending part of his ear to a woman he loves.
    –I thought the framing of a crying Peggy and a couple other against the glass, with the computer showing in the background, as Ginsberg was led away in the stretcher, was a great camera shot.
    –Stephanie’s boyfriend is NOT Charles Manson. Charlie was living in Laurel Canyon at the Spahn ranch by spring 1969 and had been out of prison for two years. It is possible Stephanie could die a la Sharon Tate.
    –Jim and Lou Avery weren’t having a gay rendezvous, obviously; they were using the hum of the IBM S/360 to hide their plotting to get Philip Morris and dump Don.
    –Nice to see the old Don swagger again as Waylon Jennings’ “I’m the Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” ends the credits.
    –I wondered if Amy from Delaware and Megan had started a lesbian relationship due to absence of Don and any love he could bring. They did kiss each other rather passionately during the three-way. Ginsberg’s clunky comments about “homos” also touched on gay subject matter. It is also 1969, the year of the Stonewall uprising. Will Sal Romano return for a swan song?

  16. Heathers says:

    I enjoyed the episode, but please don’t compare Betty to that left wing commie nutjob Hilary Clinton. Betty is a total conservative. Poor Ginsberg. I thought it was weird that he snapped so suddenly. Seemed a little overdone. I like that Lou got bit in the ass twice- once for his silly ass cartoon, and then again by Don.

  17. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I’ve been waiting for Ginsberg to do something terrible for a couple of seasons now. It seemed so inevitable. Is he paranoid schizophrenic? I can’t decide, but this seemed like something they were building to for awhile through some pretty big hints. It was a little Van Gogh, wasn’t it? I think the first time I noticed Ginsberg would probably go off the rails someday is when he was on that blind date in the diner.
    This was the first time in awhile that I’ve strongly disliked Megan. Her treatment of Stephanie was awful, and she was acting like a very spoiled child who didn’t want to share her husband with anyone. Unless it was under her terms. Oh man, that scene was a shocker, but it makes sense. Megan doesn’t want her husband to be emotionally involved with another woman, so she makes up for it by letting another woman have him physically. It was all so gross, like the Roger blowjob scene with Megan’s mom, and it made me wonder if Megan has been doing this for awhile with her friend, because they didn’t seem very awkward about it, did they? They were pretty comfortable with the whole thing, like it was nowhere near their first time together in a threesome. Has Megan been cheating on Don?
    This season has not had nearly enough Vincent Kartheiser.

  18. forwarddad says:

    I love your recaps. I wish more people would comment. 😟

  19. Curly says:

    I really dislike that we are calling these 7 episodes a season & must wait another year for the season to end?? So lame- just call it 2 seasons when you split it or show all of them & call it one season. I never realized how much I miss Pete(who knew?!) -Ii hope they move him out of California & back to NY ASAP!

  20. CourtTV says:

    I was so surprised to see Caity Lotz as Stephanie. I didn’t remember her as the character. I’ve gotten used to her on Arrow.