Every week, Aaron Cohen (@UnlikelyWords) writes a recap of Mad Men for his blog Unlikely Words, and I illustrate something from the episode to go with it. Here’s Aaron’s recap for season 5 episode 3 (but really it’s 4 because they are counting the first episode as 2):
I’m calling this Mad Men Episode 3, assuming the 2 hour first episode counted as Episode 1. However, AMC called tonight’s episode Episode 4 and I don’t know what to do. EPISODE TITLES ARE IMPORTANT FOR WEB TRAFFIC DON’T YOU KNOW?
OK, let’s quickly go over the real stuff referenced in this episode. On July 13th, 1966, Richard Speck murdered 8 student nurses in Chicago. Also, for six or so weeks starting the 2nd week of July, 1966, 35K airline workers were out on strike shutting down a big portion of summer air travel.
There were so many symbols in this episode, I’m tempted to just list symbols and what I think they mean. I’ll probably do that anyway. I should also mention I felt so analytical and brilliant about last week’s recap until I saw the title of the episode (Tea Leaves) and realized that the themes had been telegraphed pretty clearly. To avoid that happening again, I looked up the title of tonight’s episode at the first commercial break. I saw it called, “You’re Married to Me Now,” something Megan said to Don early on in the episode. I thought this made a good title. Then the advisory council said something about “Mystery Date,” and I was like, “Yes, Sally was watching that television program, what of it?” Anyway, this isn’t interesting to you, but suffice to say, I thought the title was “YMTMN,” but it was actually “Mystery Date,” which makes more sense. There were a lot of mystery dates this episode. They could have also called this episode “Sleep,” because that tied everything together, too.
I can’t remember if I mentioned it last week or not, but Don has not really been the focus as much this year as last year. The majority of this episode in particular wasn’t about him, and I’m curious if it was a choice by the writers to start relying more on the other characters this season. Regardless, it’ll make “Everything Don Draper Said Season 5” much easier to do.
In the first scene with the creative team, they’re talking about pantyhose, and “Why is transparency important?” was said. I’m noting it because so much of the show is about lack of transparency, about pretending to be one way, and being another. And then Stan had the pantyhose on his head like he was a burglar. Or a nurse murderer.
Two or three things about Michael Ginsberg. I like him. It’s weird that he’s been there a week and they’re already letting him pitch clients, right? Also, he was pretty shaken by the nurse murder pictures that Peggy’s friend brought in (also, she’s still around). He called everyone sickos, but Don is the sick one this episode. F. This whole episode folds around itself over and over like a pretzel. And then the pitch. Ginsberg nailed it, and it was almost like the pantyhose executive was hitting on him. Then the Cinderella thing where he goes on and on for no reason. The image I got in my head during the Cinderella story was of Joan. Not totally sure why, but it’s not out of place either. Then, after a funny scene at the bar, Ginsberg disappears. “He’s so decent.” “You know you almost got fired just now?” Also during the pitch part of the show, they brought up Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. I wasn’t cluing in on the ‘sleep’ tie in so much then, but two fairy tales having a lot to do with sleep. Eh? Eh?
Greg’s coming home. And then he’s home. Then he’s going back. And staying. Then he’s leaving for good. Joan wanted Kevin there when he came home, because she didn’t know how Greg was going to be. I forget how she phrased it to her mother, but she wanted to start gaining more control in the marriage. When it was clear later in the episodethat wasn’t going to happen, she decided to end it. “I’ve got my orders, you’ve got yours.” I wonder if that’s the end for Greg. On the first morning, Joan slept very well. On the morning she kicked him out, she mentioned how she hadn’t slept at all. Also, the dinner was super awkward, a “painful charade” (a phrase that could describe the lives of at least half the characters on the show). Joan’s mom interjecting about Joan playing the accordion… Gold. “You’re not a good man. You never were. Even before we were married and you know what I’m talking about.” Clearly Joan hadn’t forgotten, and this obviously had an impact on their marriage. Maybe it’s even a reason Greg decided to go back to Vietnam? He didn’t know how to live with Joan after what he did? That’s a pretty sympathetic take on his thoughts. One last note about Greg, I thought his opinion on race (paraphrasing ‘they’re plenty brave’) was interesting. Kind of a throwaway line that added depth to his character.
Oh, Roger. How many times this season will he use all the money in his pocket to fix one of his mistakes. After not assigning Michel Ginsberg to the Mohawk account yet, he’s got to give $410 to Peggy, who was looser, giddier, more confident in that scene than usual. She knew she was in power, and she played it just like Crane did with the office switch. She played it like a man, and she seemed super pleased with herself. “The work is $10. The lie is extra.” Was Roger asleep when Pete came in to tell him about Monday’s meeting? Is he totally slipping, or just having a bad run?
Peggy took Dawn home to sleep at her house after catching her going to sleep in the office. It’s important to point out that Dawn had only been there a week or two, too. Maybe Peggy’s just that nice, or maybe we’re supposed to feel like it’s later in the summer than the two time-marking events mentioned above. In any case, they had an interesting conversation. Peggy talks about having to act like a man all the time and sometimes not wanting to. She asks Dawn about wanting to be a copywriter, and seems kind of taken aback that Dawn might not want to (or more likely, Dawn realizes that won’t happen soon). “I know we’re not in the same situation, but I was the only one like me for a long time.” As soon as Peggy said something like, “We have to stick together,” I knew something was going to go wrong, though I figured it would be a couple episodes from now. And then the part with the purse was brutal. Peggy was drunk, forgot about the purse, realized her money was in there, glanced at it a second too long, and Dawn noticed. I think I have more to say about this scene, but it’s late, and I’m not feeling quite artful enough. It’s frustrating, though, because I don’t think it was necessarily racism for Peggy to be nervous about her purse, and I don’t think it’s quite fair to Dawn to make her character reflexively react to Peggy as if it was racist. It’s as if there’s a complexity to Peggy, but not to Dawn. See what I mean about not being artful enough?
Mystery Date of the episode? Sally is stuck with Pauline and Gene, and woo boy. Pauline has an arbitrary sense of discipline inspired by her father, “That was for nothing, so look out.” Pauline is a funny foil to Grampa Gene (it even rhymes with Pauline), who Sally got along with swimmingly. I wonder if there will be more Pauline/Sally or if this is it. “Watch the sunset from your bedroom window. It’s the saddest thing in the world.” What a funny thing to say. So Sally’s premature preoccupation with sex led her to terrify herself reading about the Chicago Nurse Murders. After going downstairs and startling Pauline (with the carving knife for protection), they split a sleeping pill and knock themselves out. Sally sleeps under the couch, reminding us of the one nurse who survived by hiding under the bed. So Sally is safe now? Or is Sally now addicted to pills?
Don, Don, Don… He’s sick as a dog in the elevator and bumps into an old flame, Andrea. Megan is jealous, because she knows Andrea was had while Don was married. (Allison and Faye get a pass because he was divorced.) I couldn’t really tell if they’d run in to other former flings or not. “All I can think is you feel guilty which makes it worse than I thought.” She’s challenging Don more than I would have expected from what we knew about her last year. It’s a good thing for him. I liked them using the dream sequence to address the infidelity issue. (“A mistake you love making” is a clever turn of phrase.) So far, Don doesn’t seem to have slipped, and he resisted it during his hallucination, but only for a time. Then, when he saw he was losing, he killed Andrea and – ready? – shoved her under the bed. He feet sticking out referenced both the Wicked Witch of the West, and the pantyhose pitch earlier that day. I don’t know what either of those things mean in this context, though, so let’s ignore them. Maybe Don hiding her under the bed was a reference to him saving himself from his past? From his infidelity? I’m a bit concerned that now he cheated in his hallucination, he’ll do it in real life. Like he was OK while the topic hadn’t come up, but now that it’s out of the box, he won’t be able to stop himself. “Everybody probably thinks that she did this, but I know it was you.”
Sorry, you’re not getting a conclusion tonight.