Mad Men Recap: A Long, Strange Trip

It’s a toss-up for whose life will change the most as a result of what happened on this week’s Mad Men. The same set of hours unfolded three times, from the perspectives of Peggy, Roger, and Don, and gave us a lot to ponder. Let’s review “Far Away Places.”

Peggy is becoming Don | Peggy, nervous about her second attempt to woo the Heinz people after her disastrous bean-ballet pitch, picked a fight with boyfriend Abe when he asked her to meet him at the movies that evening. At work, she was shaken even more when Don and Megan took off, leaving Peggy as the lead for the client meeting. The slogan she pitched, “Home is where the Heinz is,” didn’t meet the beans exec’s standards. “You have to run with this,” Peggy demanded. “It’s young, and it’s beautiful, and no one else is going to figure out how to say that about beans.” Now imagine Don saying those exact words, coolly, just after a tobacco-filled exhale: It would’ve sealed the deal. Scotches all around! But Peggy was angry, and female, which was just too much for the Heinz guy; on his way out, he demanded that Pete take her off the account. (He did.) Irked, she downed some booze and left the office to see a movie. Though Abe probably wouldn’t love that she was at a flick without him, I’m thinking he’d probably care more about the happy ending she gave a fellow moviegoer who offered her a toke of his joint. (That wasn’t a double entendre. They actually smoked pot first.) Back at the office, Peggy washed her hands (ha!) and briefly met Michael’s father before falling asleep on Don’s couch. A call from him woke her at 8:30; Peggy apologized for booting the pitch, but her distracted boss didn’t seem to care. Later, during a late night work session in the copy room, Michael told her that he’d been born in the concentration camp where his mother had died, and that the man Peggy had met earlier had adopted him from a Swedish orphanage when he was five. But he’s Michael, which means he told the story in a weird way, unsettling her so much that she went home and beckoned Abe to her apartment for a little TLC. “You need me, huh?” he said. She replied, “I always need you.” Congrats, Peggy! You can now cross “leave work in the middle of the day,” “commit skeezy sex act,” and “use others’ sincere emotions to blunt your pain” off your “How to become Don Draper” list.

Roger is becoming enlightened | We rewound to the previous morning to see Roger selling Don on a business trip to a Howard Johnson motor lodge in upstate New York. Don thought the trip was a great idea… for him and Megan. So he grabbed her from the copywriting room (which we saw earlier from Peggy’s POV), leaving Roger to suffer through dinner with Jane and her friends. But the real fun began when those assembled gathered in the parlor to drop LSD as the Beach Boys played on a reel-to-reel. “I told you, we’re going to take LSD with them,” Jane said in her best weary wife voice. “You were supposed to clear your schedule.” After the cubes melted, Roger declared that the drug had no effect on him. Yeah, Rog, those auditory and visual hallucinations, including seeing Don appear in a mirror advising you to share “a moment of truth” with Jane, would seem to say otherwise. And FYI, Jane’s Princess-Leia-at-the-awards-ceremony ensemble, complete with pearls woven into the braid wrapped around her head, wasn’t a drug-induced vision. But it was totally awesome. Anyway, when the party ended, the tripping didn’t quit. The best visual of the night came from an overhead shot of a fresh-from-the-tub Mr. and Mrs. Sterling, laying on the floor, their heads wrapped in identical pink turbans as they had a detached discussion about their marriage’s imminent end. (Revealed: She never cheated on him, but she thought about it a lot, and the dinner hostess/LSD supplier was actually Jane’s shrink.) “You don’t like me,” she concluded. “I did,” he said wistfully. “I really did.”

Don is becoming Betty Another rewind brought us back to Don whisking Megan away for their trip north, with her unhappy about missing the Heinz presentation. In the car, as he nattered on about how they would get the royal treatment and how she just had to try sherbet, her anger built. When they reached the motel in all its glorious orangeness, they sat in a booth very similar to the one where the spilled milkshake of desperation love kicked off this whole fiasco. But this time, it was Megan’s turn to have the freakout. “You like to work, but I can’t like to work,” she spat, rejecting the sherbet, which sent him storming out into the parking lot. “Get in the car! Eat ice cream! Leave work! Take off your dress! Yes, master!” she shouted as a fed-up Don hopped in the car and three-point-turned his way outta there, alone. When he returned, she was gone. Don waited, worried, called Peggy, and then drove home to find Mrs. Draper had caught a bus back to the city and had locked him out of their apartment. He kicked down the door, she lunged for him, and the ensuing chase around the apartment made it pretty clear that this argument wasn’t going to end in black lace housecleaning sexy funtimes. He ultimately caught her and stumbled, sending them tumbling hard into their sunken living room. “How could you do that to me?” she sobbed, and Don looked like he wanted to die. As she stood, he kneeled and buried his face in her belly. “I thought I lost you,” he whispered. It’s interesting to note that while Megan has pretty much stood her ground so far this season, Don is the one who’s doing a lot of apologizing, worrying, and paranoid fretting —much like Betty did when they were a pair. Anyone else think that a lot of his anger came from the waitress’s story that Megan had been talking to a bunch of guys after Don left her stranded? And did you pick up on him nastily assuming that she was complaining about him to her mother in French on the phone? All he needs is a riding crop and an odd friendship with a neighbor boy, and he’s Season 1 Betty. Regardless, it looks like the new Mr. and Mrs. Draper realized that the fighting-as-foreplay thing they do might just be fighting, and that might be a really bad sign.

What do you think? Will Don heed Bert’s advice to get his head back in the ad game? Will Roger’s impending bachelorhood have any effect on Joan, now that she’s a single mom? And most importantly: What’s up with Don’s weird sherbet-pushing? Let’s hear it in the comments!

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