Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men” was many things, none of which was a typical episode of “Mad Men.”
It was “Rashomon.”
It was “Pulp Fiction.”
It was that “Simpsons” episode where Homer eats those insanity peppers and meets a coyote who talks like Johnny Cash.
It was pretty much every “Twin Peaks” episode ever, right down to the bit where a tripping Roger Sterling looked in a mirror and saw his silver hair turn half black. Seriously, if John Slattery had started singing “Mairzy Dots” a la Leland Palmer at that point, I would not have been fazed.
In short, it was the weirdest episode of “Mad Men” to ever air on AMC.
What did all of it — the multiple narratives set during the same time table, the pot-smoking Peggy, the LSD-taking Roger, the Megan-tackling Don — mean? Certainly there was a running theme here about escaping from one’s reality. In Peggy’s case, she toked up at the movies to take her mind off her second Heinz pitch failure. In Roger’s, he dropped acid with wife Jane’s friends, and actually wound up confronting a harsh reality — that his marriage is over. And Don seemed to realize he’s been living in a bit of a fantasy land regarding his marriage to Megan.
Oh, and per that shot of Don watching old Bert Cooper leave the conference room, followed by Peggy heading in one direction, then young’uns Stan, Ginsberg and Megan headed in the other, we were reminded for the 85th team that Don Draper is getting old and feeling generationally displaced. Of course, the even older, and quite possibly still tripping, Roger Sterling then burst onto the scene to announce that it’s going to be a beautiful day, so obviously not every “mature adult” has this issue .
His words confirmed that the takeaway from this week’s “Mad Men” is this: if Angela Chase’s mom from ”My So-Called Life” offers you drugs, take ‘em.
No, wait. That can’t be the message, can it? That would be wrong.
Look, I’m not sure what to make of all the bizarre details in this week’s episode. So I’ll just make a list of the major, freaky-deaky things that happened during the “Mad Men” episode called “Far Away Places,” but which I have decided to call “Rashomon Mad Men,” because I feel like it and because, like Peggy Olson, I am a woman who does not necessarily aim to please.
Weird stuff from the Peggy portion of “Rashomon Mad Men”
—Her Heinz pitch was kind of creepy, wasn’t it? “They’re safe from whatever’s out there in the night, in the darkness. It’s the beans that brought them together, on that cool night at the end of the summer.” She followed that up with the slogan “Home is where the Heinz is.” But for a second, I thought she was going to say, “And it’s the beans that actually ... have hooks for hands! Wa ha ha!”
— Also, she really lost her cool when the donkus from Heinz didn’t like her proposal. He was indeed condescending and clearly uncomfortable because Peggy’s female. But Olson usually doesn’t lose it quite so easily. That being said, I respected her for asserting herself the way her mentor, Mr. Draper, used to back when he gave half a care about his work. Also, the next time someone disagrees with my ideas during a meeting, I promise I will utter the following words, verbatim: “It’s young and it’s beautiful and no one else is going to figure out how to say that about beans.”
—Then Peggy just left and went to the movies! And then she bummed a joint off some dude and stuck her hand down his bell bottoms to assert her control over men. Which is what everyone did during matinee showings of “Born Free” in 1966. It’s true. Look it up.
—Also, she found out Ginsbgerg is a Martian. Well, that’s what he said initially, until he explained that he was actually born in a concentration camp, where his mother subsequently died. Was this real? Was Peggy still high? Was I high even though all I consumed while watching this episode was a glass of water?
—Then Peggy called Abe from her apartment. Actually, she appeared to be calling from a film noir, what with all the shadows across her face. Wait ... what was that? In the darkness, behind Peggy? Was that .... a Heinz bean?
Weird stuff from the Roger portion of “Rashomon Mad Men”
—Oh man. There is no way to list everything. I’ll just start by reiterinating that Angela Chase’s mom — that would be Bess Armstrong, playing the role of a therapist who hosts super-hip dinner parties — gave Roger and his wife Jane LSD.
—Then Roger opened a vodka bottle and symphonic music started to play. Look, I said this was really weird, okay?
—Roger’s cigarette briefly turned into a horn. And “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” started to play. Because an acid trip isn’t an acid trip until you can hear the sound of Brian Wilson singing.
— That business with Roger’s hair happened, followed by a hallucination in which Don told him to go to Jane because “she wants to be alone in the truth with you.” Part of me loved this scene and the stream-of-consciousness, symbolic surreality of it all. Another part of me thought someone did something really strange to my Britta filter.
—Roger and Jane left in a cab, where Roger saw a vision of Bert Cooper on a $5 bill. Then he got home and believed he was watching the 1919 World Series from his bathtub.
Then Roger and Jane agreed that they should separate while Jane was wearing a robe that looked a little like J. Lo’s dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards .Divorce — it’s really best to agree to it while on LSD. Am I right?
Weird stuff from the Don/Megan portion of “Rashomon Mad Men”
At Roger’s urging, the newlyweds went to a Howard Johnson’s near Lake Placid, a potential client. Don was super-excited about going to a Howard Johnson’s. Which was kind of weird, wasn’t it?
They got into a fight over orange sherbert, which Don loves but Megan didn’t care for very much. Really, the argument was about how Don doesn’t respect Megan’s work responsibilities. But more importantly: since when does Don feel so strongly about the sherbert at Howard Johnson’s?
Don got mad and left Megan at the Howard Johnson’s. Which was ridiculously rude.
Then he went back to the Howard Johnson’s. Because, really, why would he leave a Howard Johnson’s? He loves it there. It’s where they have orange sherbert.
Then he thought Megan was missing and panicked, calling Peggy to ask if she had gotten any phone calls. But Peggy was half-asleep and still semi-high (see Peggy portion of “Rashomon Med Men”) so she had no clue what was going on.
Eventually Don went home and found Megan in their apartment. And then she screamed at him and called him a pig, and he chased her around their apartment, and he tackled her, and then hugged her waist like a 5-year-old seeking comfort from his mother. The whole thing was disturbing and does not bode well for this marriage which may be, as Megan said of that HoJo near Lake Placid, “not a destination” but “on the way to someplace.”
At least that’s what I think. But after all this talk of LSD, I may not be thinking straight. Please, tell me what you thought of this decidedly unconventional episode of “Mad Men” by posting a comment.