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Mad Men gets very experimental this week, in more ways than one, as we look at the lives and loves of Peggy, Roger, and Don.
We start with Peggy, as does the show, as she wakes up to a spat with her long time boyfriend Abe. Abe feels unwanted and used by Peggy who only gives him the time of day when work isn’t in the way; which is never. “Have a shitty day!” Abe says as he storms out of Peggy’s apartment and his wish more or less comes true. Peggy runs through a gauntlet of interesting experiences today, and she has never exerted more power than she does here. Whether this is a good idea is rather debatable. First she pisses off Heinz, and she does so by calling the representative out for basically being an idiot that has no idea what he wants. This being the 60’s, the rep treats her like a child and kicks her off of the account behind her back to Pete. Peggy knows she is right, and Elizabeth Moss has never been better, and she decides to continue her “shitty day” by going to see the movie Abe wanted to see with her. The spiteful viewing quickly turns into something more though, as Peggy shares a joint and a whole lot more with another patron. When her pot buddy tried to get fresh, Peggy flips the books and instead pleasures him in a shocking turn of events. Abe really pissed her off; no?
The day still somehow gets weirder as she has a couple of odd encounters with Ginsberg at the office. When Ginsberg rushes off his visiting father from the office their weird relationship only gets stranger, but it’s a late night discussion that makes Ginsberg even odder and sends Peggy back for her companion, Abe. Ginsberg gives us a strange story, claiming he is from Mars, and let’s slip that he might have been born in a concentration camp. The story is funny at first, then a bit haunting, and Ginsberg continues to be one of the most interesting characters this season. It is funny that this story would send Peggy back to reality, but her journey was an odd one that continues to show that Peggy is having an off year. She just seems to be in an endless rut this season and I don’t know what she is going to have to do to get out of it; her foibles this week certainly aren’t the answer.
The episode pulls a fast one on us by hitting the reset button on the episode and picking up the second act of the episode at the beginning of the same day we just saw Peggy go through; this time with Roger Sterling. Roger and Jane have clearly not been on the best terms this season. Roger slept around on her at least once this season, and they go through quite the adventure this week as they take LSD at a party. Mad Men has never been weirder than it was in these drug induced moments, and the show mined a number of laughs out of Roger’s hallucinatory state. Outside the laughs, the drugs are used to open up a much needed dialogue between Jane and Roger that leads them to calmly and honestly survey their marriage. Both want out and Roger is leaving in the morning, setting up an interesting second half of the season for a now single Roger Sterling; and he couldn’t be happier the next morning.
I must applaud the creative team for keeping the LSD scenes so grounded, yet conveying the insanity going on inside Roger’s head. The bits of hallucination they do show are perfect and the scene is going to be one of the more memorable ones in the show's history. Roger seeing Don in that mirror and letting him boss him around is quite telling though, this more subservient Roger is the only way he lets Don push him around.
Speaking of Don, the show hits reset once again and we see what happens with Don over this day as it has been teased to us throughout his counterparts stories. Don steals a not so happy Megan for a day upstate at a Howard Johnson’s, and Weiner and team make sure to let us know that the Honeymoon is certainly over for them. Don says earlier to Roger that Megan, “likes everybody” and his agreeable view of his new wife is about to change in a hurry. As the two head North, Don is giddy over the chance for her to eat some orange sherbet and when she doesn’t like it she think she is embarrassing him. Megan is sick of being pulled from work, doesn’t want special treatment by him there, and is sick of being the good wife. Her outburst with the sherbet is a bit absurd, yet warranted, and she doesn’t deserve to be left behind at the restaurant as Don drives off back towards the city. I mean, seriously Don, don’t be such a dick. Megan makes many a good point, and seeing Don handle her calling him on his shit shows that he still has a lot of growing to still do in his relationship.
Don makes up for his bailing on her a bit as he stays at the Howard Johnson’s all night waiting for Megan to return, worried sick, but they have one final blow up that gets pretty rough when he returns to find her in the apartment. Don’s meltdown and embrace of Megan before heading off to work shows that while they still have many bits to iron out, he is still quite committed to her. I don’t think Don is going to hop off that wagon anytime soon.
To make things even worse, Bert Cooper calls Don out on his work attitude, or lack thereof, and Don’s little field trip from reality seems like it is about over. He doesn’t know Peggy is on the verge of spiraling, his creative team doesn’t impress any clients, and Don Draper certainly isn’t the Don Draper we know and love. Maybe this week was the kick in the ass he needed.
Last week’s episode of Mad Men was a tough one to top and I think they couldn’t have picked a better opportunity to experiment with the formula. I don’t know exactly how necessary the structural mix up was this week, but they made it work. Seeing the characters' stories uninterrupted was nice and let us stay with their emotional arc, but I don’t think the show has ever had a problem keeping those through lines in its normal structure. The episode seems like the end of set up and the characters will have freedom to move forward from here on out. I am still not sure exactly where we will be heading this season, but the character work on Mad Men continues to be unmatched on television.
-“Have a shitty day!” Is that going to be an omen?
-Megan looks genuinely upset she is getting pulled out. Is she getting sick of Don’s lack of work attitude.
-I wouldn’t review movies if it was the 60’s. Too much smoke!
-Are we going to have a Peggy’s Excellent Adventure?
-“Just watch the movie.” This guy is getting quite the show.
-“Well, I’m the original.”
-What the fuck happened with Don?
-“Actually I’m from Mars.”
-Ginsberg is adopted? I like this reflection shot.
-Is he just suppressing memories? Creative way to deal with it.
-“One buzz for Don, two for Mrs. and Mrs.”
-“I remember twins and a hospital.”
-“I always say it that way, they hate it.”
-Oh, playing fast and loose with the timeline, is this a first?
-Jane has quite the outfit on.
-This is quite the dinner conversation.
-Roger on LSD, this could get interesting.
-This is the saddest drug plea I have ever seen.
-“I’ll be here to guide you.” Not what you want to hear.
-“You always say I never take you anywhere.”
-Roger finds LSD boring?
-That is quite the bottle of booze.
-What a sound effect. They are playing this wonderfully surreal and real.
-I want a Cooper dollar bill.
-“How can a few numbers contain all of time?”
-“I knew that, but I didn’t know it.”
-Peacefully coming to grips with their problems.
-Megan doesn’t like Don ordering for her.
-Don is so excited for Orange sherbet.
-The honeymoon is over.
-She was talking to Dick Whitman there.
-Cold blooded, Don. What a dick.
-Who wants to get wined and dined at a Howard Johnson’s?
-Guys, at least you can say, “I never left you at a Howard Johnson’s.”
-Maybe you can treat her better next time, Don.
-Oh snap, Bert calling Don out.
-“I have an announcement. It’s going to be a beautiful day!