Mad Men. Jesus. I don’t even know where to begin.
Typically, when I write these reviews, I have a pretty good idea what I’m going to focus on around the forty minute mark. Very rarely do I change my trajectory because of the last ten minutes or so, for obvious reasons. But guys:
GINSBERG CUT HIS NIPPLE OFF! HE CUT OFF HIS NIPPLE, DAMMIT! HIS NIPPLE!
I don’t even know how to process the rest of the episode around this. I’m literally so scrambled that I can barely remember the rest of the episode.
But that’s why I take notes, dear readers. So let’s get to it.
The episode starts off with an exchange between Don and Peggy. I’m not a 100% sure how much time has passed, but it’s enough that the two are professional and a little awkward-friendly with one another. They are clearly just feeling each other out (Peggy more so than Don), and are trying to find a good middle ground. It’s really nice to see; if Peggy is growing more affectionate with Don, then that mean’s Don isn’t being an idiot and is continuing to get better. That can only spell good things for the rest of the season.
But the best part has nothing to do with them. As they banter awkwardly back in forth, there is a dude just behind Peggy. He’s a normal looking white guy; he has glasses and hair and a face and whatever. But as Peggy and Don get out of the elevator, he has the most horrified and scared look on his face. It’s such a small moment and so stupid but it nearly brought me to tears. I hope that was intentional because it is such a great reaction.
CAITY LOTZ ALERT! If you don’t remember (and I sure as hell didn’t) who Caity Lotz is, that’s okay, because Mad Men really doesn’t care. She plays Stephanie Horton, the niece of Anna Draper that Don tried to get with four seasons ago. They don’t make that very clear; it’s not like you’d see on any other tv show where they’d do everything but stop the show and break the fourth wall to remind you of who she is. Stephanie is back because she’s pregnant, and Don is the only person that can help her. At the end of the phone call, she calls him “Dick”, as in Dick Whitman, Don’s real name. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the concept that this show is built upon is that of a man who sheds his identity for another. On second thought, I take that back.
Stephanie is in LA, so Don has her go to Megans. Small thing: he calls Megan to tell her that she’s coming. It’s a really tiny, nice moment, but it’s also the kind of normal behavior that Don just wouldn’t do in previous seasons. It’s not hard to imagine Season 3 Don just letting Stephanie go to Megan’s and letting the chips fall where they may. But he doesn’t. Don is both happy and concerned to hear from her; his affection for her is genuine. Don decides to go up to California that day after work, but, unfortunately, runs into a little snag.
Around the time that Don and Peggy are having their little elevator moment (SHOUT OUT TO HORRIFIED FACE GUY), Stan finds an folder on the photocopier. It’s filled with comics done by Lou Avery, our fearlessly stupid Creative Director, called Scout’s Honor. It’s some hokey piece of garbage that is about patriotism, or whatever. Stan and the boys have a good laugh over it; they constantly reference it throughout the day. They think Lou doesn’t hear, but he does; Lou hears all, “from your first fart to your last breath.” He knows they are mocking him for the comic, and he takes great offense. Don, for the first time maybe ever, just bursts out laughing. It’s part joy at seeing Lou being embarrassed, but also part smug satisfaction because you can be damn sure that Don Draper would never be caught writing something as garbage as “Scout’s Honor.” Then-
LOU: “You know who had a ridiculous dream and got laughed at?”
It’s pretty much over at the point. The whole room goes silent for like a millisecond, like when your friend cusses out a teacher or your sister calls your mom the b-word; it’s the eye of the storm, before Hurricane Lou forces the whole creative staff to stay in after work. Lou is clearly hurt by the laughter behind his back, which is pretty weaksauce. And he’s also ruined Don’s plans, and Don is stuck in the office.
Meanwhile, Megan is being super-nice to Stephanie; she is only vaguely bitchy and its really cool to see her take the time out to help Stephanie feel comfortable. There is a weird back and forth between her and Don as Don finds out he can’t leave, and the tension between the two grows just a little bit thicker. Megan also has a friend named Amy; I don’t mean to shoehorn her into the story like this, but in my defense, she does just kind of appear. But she is important, so remember her.
Back in New York, Don is trying to catch the 9 pm flight to LA. He brings in his finished work to Lou, wearing his hat and coat, and Lou sniffs him out immediately. He tells Don he can’t leave, even asking Don (sarcastically, sort of) what he would do: would he let them all go now, message sent? Don instead tells Lou that he would let him go, to which Lou tells him it’s a little too late for that. Don tells him to get a thicker skin, to which Lou replies that he won’t be taking management advice from Don Draper. It’s quite a witty back and forth, and it further illustrates the genuine dislike many members of upper management have for done. It’s a little puzzling; I understand frustration with his Hershey mistakes, but damn, they legit loathe him. Later on, as Don is doing his work, Lou tells him that it can wait till Monday, and lets them all go. It’s an obvious power play, and a petty one at that. I’m no Machiavelli, but if you’re going to spend your powder, don’t use to inconvenience someone. If you’re going to make a move, then commit. Point is, Don is now free to go to California to see Stephanie.
Only, she isn’t there. While Don was dealing with the Lou problem, Megan was getting all up in Stephanies business. Once Megan sees how beautiful and young and interesting Stephanie is, she turns into this super duper passive-aggressive monster, negging the hell out of Stephanie and basically kicking her out of the house. She gives her a thousand dollars, and that’s all she wrote; Stephanie is gone. There is a really weird jealousy vibe here; I thought, at first, that Megan thought that Stephanie was carrying Don’s baby, but it’s even simpler (and sadder) than that: Megan thinks she’s replaceable.
When Don gets there, he’s legit disappointed that Stephanie was gone. Megan spins some lie about her leaving on her own free will, and Don is visibly disappointed. I’m really glad that Megan turned out to have this darkside; that was the one side of her we really haven’t seen, and I think it rounded out her character nicely.
Megan throws a party for her actor friends at her house. There are musicians there too, and they play a really excellent bit of music while sitting in Megan’s living room. Then, Megan begins dancing with a guy, and sparks begin to fly. Megan and this dude clearly know each other, and they dance well together. Megan, several times, makes eye contact with Don, and it’s clear that he isn’t enjoying it all. I think she was trying to make him jealous, but it did the opposite; his disgust at her blatant power play left him uninterested. It’s a nice parallel for when Megan danced for Don at his birthday party. That was the moment they really became husband and wife, really came together, and this dance was the moment that they started to come apart.
Don then meets Harry at the party. Harry is there with a young actress (i.e. trying to boink her), and Don basically forces him to go out for a drink with him. There, at the bar, Harry is very drunk, and he tells Don that Jim Cutler and Lou Avery are going after Commander Cigarettes. This is a big fish, but it presents something of a problem for Don; he’s the dude that took the stand against cigarettes, so he’s gotta go before they can get the work. Don is stunned by this news, and when he comes back to Megan’s house, all he wants to do is go to bed. But that isn’t going to happen.
Megan comes in with her friend Amy, who is red-headed, incredibly hot, and has a thing for Don. Megan is stoned out of her mind, and she initiates a threesome with her, Don, and Amy. The next morning, Don is affectionate, but no different; Megan was clearly looking for Don to be someone different because of this. The threesome was supposed to reawaken Don’s vigor for her, but it didn’t; Don is still Don, but better. When he finally gets to talk to Stephanie and the genuine affection comes out in his voice, Megan realizes that she’s not getting replaced by love. She’s losing the battle because Don’s not playing by the same rules he was before. Megan realizes that the affection that Don has for Stephanie doesn’t really translate over to her, and it hurts her.
Betty Francis (AND HENRY FRANCIS) make an appearance in this episode. Henry is still in political office, and he is discussing politics with a couple at a dinner party. Betty voices the opinion that the reason they are losing the war is that the young men don’t have the right mindset. Henry takes a big ole’ dump on that idea, and things grow visibly awkward. Later on that night, Henry screams at Betty, telling her to leave the thinking to him. It’s a very revealing moment; Henry is incredibly sexist. He’s not the man of the year that everyone thinks he is.
This storyline is a little messy, I think. There’s a point where Sally is brought home by Henry after she gets her nose and face bruised, and Sally tells her mom that she’s nothing but a pretty face and that she lets men control her. It’s a little more subtle than that, but not much. Sally is then banished to her room. Later on, Betty and Henry get into another fight, and Betty makes it clear that she’s not stupid, and that she’s not going to told to shut up anymore. I was glad to see that she took that stand, but it was a little out of left field, I felt.
Here’s the important bit, though: Bobby has heard Betty and Henry arguing, and it’s really starting to affect him. Then, Bobby proceeds to break your heart:
“I have a stomach ache all the time.”
It’s a really brutal, sickening moment. We get caught up in these peoples lives and the ones they’re supposed to be raising and protecting are suffering the consequences. We don’t see it much with Sally, because she’s always been explorative, and more mature, but Bobby is still just a kid. To think that he sits in his room, trying to be quiet, trying to not bother anyone or give a reason to fight, kills me. It makes me want to cry for the kid. He’s so afraid and in so much pain, and nobody gives a crap except Sally, and she’s too young to steal him away from all of it. It’s awful.
Things continue to go down hill. Ginsberg is cracking up because of the computer. He puts tissues in his ears and stops the constant humming of the machine, bringing relief, but then he sees Jim Cutler and Lou talking by the computer. We can’t hear anything, but Ginsberg thinks he gets it.
Ginsberg rushes over to Peggy’s place and tells her that he thinks the machine is turning the men in the office gay. He is on the edge of sanity, soon to fall off entirely, and he stays at Peggy’s apartment to do work. Peggy wakes up in the middle of the night to see Ginsberg standing over her, and he basically tries to rape her to get the gay off him. He realizes his mistake afterwards, and flees after a half-apology, and that seems to be it.
BUT ITS NOT. Ginsberg comes to the office and tells Peggy that he’s better now. As he puts it, the data from the machine was making him crazy but now he found the value to release the tension. He handS Peggy a box AND INSIDE IS HIS RIGHT NIPPLE HE LEGIT CUT OFF HIS RIGHT NIPPLE SO THAT THE COMPUTER DATA COULD FLOW THROUGH HIM LIKE A SIEVE. Peggy sits Ginsberg down in her office, and calls the police, and they take him to the hospital. Peggy is shaken, and stares at the computer in accusation. It’s hella bizarre; I’m not a 100% what to make of it, but this has been coming a long time, before the computer. Ginsberg finally cracked.
Don, meanwhile, wedding-crashes the meeting between Cutler, Avery, and Commander Cigarettes. Don offers himself up as a sacrificial lamb to get Commander, but then offers them a deal: how would it look if they made Don apologize for his article, and make him a “servant” to them? How would it look to competitors and customers that the man who was so against the cigarette industry suddenly works for them? Wouldn’t that be positive PR?
Afterwards, Don is hailing a taxicab. Lou and Cutler come out, and Lou stares at Don open-mouthed and tells him he’s “incredible.” Cutler is less than pleased; though it seems they got the deal, he still despises Don. He asks Don if Don thinks this will save him, and Don responds by literally closing the door on Jim Cutler.
I thought the Betty/Henry storyline was a little rushed, but still really, really good. Just another overall excellent episode of Mad Men. Let’s hope that the kids find some peace before the show ends.
See you next week.