‘Mad Men’ recap: ‘We’re idiots, okay?’

May 12

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson. (Justina Mintz/AMC)

Hey, so uh, “Mad Men” fans? I’m gonna ask you just one little question: What… was… that?

For a show whose viewers are pretty okay with things being a little creepy (think of the first season’s Glen Bishop and Betty hair debacle), this was… a lot. When I say a lot, I mean a lot of creepiness with Stephanie (who we will talk about at length later), a lot of creepiness with Megan and Don’s threesome, and a lot with Ginsberg giving a part of his body to Peggy. Someone please send help.

Let’s start with the nipple. (Wow, what a sentence.) Ginsberg, in all his infinite wisdom, gave Peggy his nipple. In a box. It’s actually like that “SNL” skit but not funny because it’s 1969 and they’re in an office and Ginsberg is now officially mentally ill and he is definitely not Justin Timberlake. Again, someone send help.

In the beginning of this episode, we see Ginsberg is driven mad by the constant hum of the IBM 360 in what he calls the “air-conditioned lair.” “That machine makes men do unnatural things,” he says. And this is before chat rooms. He sees Lou and Jim having a close conversation in the computer room and is drawn to the conclusion that they’re romantically involved. “It’s the computer’s plan to turn us all homo,” he says. Of course, Michael is just going insane. After asking to work in Peggy’s apartment to escape the constant hum, he admits his affection for her and makes a move, but she throws him off. The next day in the office, Ginsberg approaches Peggy with a tiny box. “I removed the pressure,” he says, referring to the waves from the computer. And there, in that box, is a bloody nipple carved from Michael Ginsberg’s chest by Michael Ginsberg himself, probably without an anesthetic.  (Peggy is literally Brad Pitt in “Se7en.”) The boy we thought we could all root for is now someone in desperate need of help. The last we see of Michael is him being taken out of the office on a stretcher still looking sweaty and unnerved. Peggy deserves a promotion (even though she got one last week) ten times over.

Also creepy: Stephanie (played by the very talented Caity Lotz.) For those unable to remember her from seasons past, she is Anna Draper’s niece. The last time we saw her in the last episode of Season 4, she was giving Don the ring he would eventually give Megan, a ring once owned by Anna that was originally given to her by the real Don Draper. Stephanie is now seven months pregnant and homeless. She seems like a sweet girl, albeit drugged and crazy-eyed, but there’s also something too neat about it. What does Stephanie add to the show, other than a decoy into a subplot or perhaps the major climax of the season? She could be so easily looped into a cult – a certain Manson cult in particular. I hate to bring this up again and again, but Matthew Weiner also seems to want it brought up again and again.

This is a pregnant woman calling Don for a place to stay and for some sort of support. He tells her to go to Megan’s canyon home to find some solace. Now with this situation, we’ve got an actress (Megan), a far-along pregnant woman (Stephanie) and the canyons. Why doesn’t Charles Manson just walk in from stage left? Oh, but of course, we’ve still got two episodes left.

What happens between Megan and Stephanie is also awfully shifty. After scoping out the house and taking a bath, Stephanie sits down for a steak with Megan. From there, the conversation only makes things more concerning. After Megan makes it known that she’s unsure about having kids with Don, she asks about the father of Stephanie’s baby. “He was a musician,” she says. He dropped out of school. They panhandled and got busted for dealing grass. He’s going to be out in a month. All signs are pointing to Charles M. here and then comes the line: “Pretty sure he’d murder someone just to stay in jail.” Uh oh. Is Matthew Weiner really making it this easy? I will never give into this theory but this episode in particular was highly helter skelter. There’s lots of bad vibes in that house now, and Megan should be watching out.

How Megan ends things with Stephanie shows the former’s true character. Megan, who has been unlikable for a while now, gives her haters some juice when, in an act of insecurity, jealousy and rudeness, she decides to boot a pregnant woman back onto the streets with a $1,000 check before Don can see her. This is a lot like the time Don paid off his brother Adam to leave him alone in Season 1 — and that certainly didn’t end well.

My instincts, as poor as they may be, sense this won’t be the last time we see Stephanie this season. There is a strong sense of imminent doom here and all signs point to a death of some sort, and probably a brutal one at that.


Jon Hamm as Don Draper. (Michael Yarish/AMC)

Now, to move onto the scene that made “Mad Men” viewers question the real direction of this season: At last, Don Draper gets his threesome. He very well could have had one before but from what we’ve seen on “Mad Men,” this is his first. It’s also incredibly out of place.

When Don notifies Megan that Stephanie will be coming over and he’ll be stopping in over the weekend as well, she tells him she already has a party planned on Saturday with a few of her friends from acting class. We already know how out of place Don will be and how he reacts to all these young people is no surprise. Everyone is smoking grass and in either vests or mini skirts while Don is in a tailored plaid suit trading eyes with the window and drinking something brown. Megan also performs a dance with a man in a denim suit that looks more like two tranquilized cats taking their last steps together than a seduction.

Luckily for Don, Harry Crane steps into the party and leads Don off to a bar far away from the banjos and headscarves. They talk business and Crane admits that he’s aware of a sort of coup happening at SC&P and that Don should look out for Lou and Jim’s ultimate plan. When he gets back from the bar, Don is looking to get some rest but as he’s undressing, Amy enters the room. “I’m supposed to tuck you in,” she says while moving closer to the bed. “And what about your friend?” Don asks. In comes Megan, wearing a drooped bouffant and Pucci dress and the two seduce Don. In this one-minute scene, AMC veers into Cinemax territory. The three wake up in the same bed together before Amy from Delaware exits with a pretty smooth walk of shame out of Don and Megan’s canyon house. “I’m gonna split,” she says. You do that, Amy from Delaware. You do that.

But of course, we see this threesome was not really sheerly for pleasure, but done for a reason. Megan was attempting to bring Don back into her life. Because she knows no real emotion exists between the two of them, she tried to see if having another body between them could help.

In a Lou update: He’s still terrible. Before faking Don out into staying late on a Friday, he was bent out of shape over a comic of his Stan found on a printer in the office. It’s called “Scout’s Honor” and he and the rest of the creative team can’t get enough. Lou is also now responsible for setting the bar impossibly high for tense office meetings. Upon hearing some snickers about his comic, he says, “You know who had a ridiculous dream and people laughed at him?” To which Stan responds, “You?” “Bob Dylan,” Lou says. “Is he hip enough for you?” Oh, Lou. You are a far, far cry from Bob Dylan. To talk actual business for a minute, it looks as though Lou and Jim are conspiring to kick Don out of the office (Don knows this through Harry) and the episode actually concludes with Don walking into a meeting between Lou and Don and Philip Morris, who are still upset about Don’s letter concerning Lucky Strike. In a bold move, Don says,  “I’m prepared to leave the agency. Just know that the man that wrote that letter was trying to save his business, not destroy yours.” Lou and Jim hate him for this because he’s just made his own case to Morris and it looks like they’ve bought it.

In a very different part of New York, we see Betty and Henry hating every bit of one another. Their marriage is on the rocks and Sally’s coming home only makes things worse. She’s back to visit a doctor because she’s broken her nose while “sword fighting with golf clubs.” Betty is outraged that her daughter would inflict such trauma on such a valuable entity for Betty. “It was a perfect nose, and I gave it to you,” she says. “It’s a nose job, not an abortion,” Sally snaps back. Then Betty threatens to break Sally’s arm. Happy Mother’s Day, Betty!

After an episode like this, no one knows what’s up Matthew Weiner’s sleeves. A plane crash? A bird flu breakout? A fire? A death? For a show that has been painfully even-keeled, maybe Weiner is waiting for the last few episodes of the last few seasons to really pep it up. I have to admit, however, the shallow plots make me yearn for more about Don’s past. Stephanie was an exciting person to see since she knows the real Don and could be hugely important in the next few episodes. She’s a character with depth as opposed to Amy from Delaware, who I’m hoping we’ll never see again. The sense of doom is growing stronger and we only have two episodes left of this season to see how it plays out.

My hopes for next episode: Stephanie. Although she is creepy, there has to be something more there. Some part of Anna has to be with Don by the end of this. Also, we didn’t see any Roger this week so expect him and hopefully some Margaret commune goodness next time around.

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