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 5 (but really it’s 6 because they are counting the first episode as 2):
Well, shoot. If there were any date related references in tonight’s episode, I missed them. Did you see any? This was a weird, weird, weird episode. I’m still trying to work everything out. Two of the scenes (Roger and Jane, Don and Megan) in the episode lasted way longer than the series’ scenes normally do, or rather the story lines weren’t interspersed with other story lines like normal. Additionally, chronology of the episode was jumbled. Coupled with the variation of shots last week, I can only come to one conclusion: They’re messing with us! I don’t know if the way the story is told is supposed to be instructive, but there are definitely changes to how the show is presented this year. Have you noticed any other stylistic changes?
-The episode titles are now a crutch for me, so let’s just get it over with. “Far Away Places.” Everyone is traveling somewhere, and even Roger and Jane are tripping. Just a literal list of pieces from this episode that refer to the title, Don and Megan going away, Roger and Jane tripping, Cooper saying, “Everyone has somewhere to go today,” Ginsburg talking about being from Mars, the way Abe and Peggy talked about the literal distance between their homes (‘Come all the way up here to make love’) instead of just come over, Megan talking about Howard Johnson’s “It’s not a destination, it’s on the way to someplace,” taking a bus back after the fight, and Don being on ‘Love Leave.’ To a certain extent, the theme of Heinz pitch was a trip, kids off somewhere else. More abstract, Peggy is far away from where she wants to be professionally. I’m getting the feeling that everyone in 1966 was terminally unhappy because clearly, they all want to be somewhere else. Pretty sure that the movie Peggy went to see was Born Free, a film about a British couple who raise a lioness in captivity and return her happily to the wild. I bet I could write only about how the movie relates to Mad Men, but I’m not gonna! I will say that the lioness could refer to 3 or 4 characters on the show.
-Oh, Peggy. Her and Abe are fighting because she’s distant, working too hard, trying to be Don (professionally at least). “You sound like my dad.” Abe compares Peggy to his dad and it’s interesting because Peggy is striving toward being accepted in the world of men, but Abe has pretty much given up on it already. I don’t know if I was supposed to take that as seriously as I did, but it struck me. She goes into the pitch prepared, and somewhat confident. Stan calls Don blowing off the meeting a vote of confidence, and it is. I read somewhere that Don’s unique ability is being able to sell his ideas to clients. The ideas are good to great, but his ability to make the client think they’re great is what sets him apart. Tonight was Peggy’s Kodak Carousel moment, using nostalgia and fond memories to sell a product. But the angle doesn’t fit perfectly with a can of beans. It seemed the client was on the fence, and instead of guiding him over, Peggy knocked him down the wrong side. “And your words are always, “I don’t like it.” And then she was off the business. She celebrates by going to the movie theater, smoking dope, and jerking a dude off. Oh, Peggy.
-I thought the scene with Don and Peggy on the phone was a dream, and there have been a few other scenes like that this season (to say nothing of Roger and Jane tripping). And it was here where the chronology gets a little screwy. I didn’t take great notes on the chronology, because I didn’t expect to be watching Madmento (Madmento!!!! I slay!), but until I realized what was happening, and after the LSD party scene, I thought Don’s call meant something had happened to Roger. So we see Don take Megan. Peggy pitches and goes to HJ Cinemas, falls asleep on the couch, wakes to Don’s frantic call, Roger and Jane go to the party and trip… Then after that I can’t remember. In any case, they showed Don taking Megan at least twice. WHY! Why would they do this? What does the disrupted chronology mean to the storyline? Simple answer is everyone’s life is always getting disrupted.
-Ginsburg is from Mars. He claims the man he lives with is not his father. At first I thought this might be true, but the more he kept hitting the alien thing, I think he was being figurative. Peggy doesn’t think it would be possible for him to have been born in a concentration camp, but at least chronologically, it’s possible. Peggy caught him twice having a conversation with his father, first on the phone, and then when as the father wanted to use the photocopier for his “case.” Is he a crackpot? Peggy was high during the ‘alien’ conversation, probably taking it more seriously than she would have normally. “Are there others like you? I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find any.”
-1966 ritzy New York LSD party! Woo. A study of things that are true and not true and on and on. “It’s a myth that tracing logic all the way down to the truth is a cure of neurosis.” Who is normally trying to trace logic? Who is neurotic? It doesn’t sound like this profound bit of dialogue refers to any of the characters, but maybe it’s instructive in the sense that figuring out who all these characters really are will result in any understanding of their actions. This was a funny scene. “Dr Leary, I find your product boring.” Roger not feeling anything until hearing music when opening the vodka bottle, and then imagining he was at the 1919 Black Sox World Series (frauds like him). Roger and Jane’s breakup was remarkable in it’s peacefulness. I wouldn’t have expected him to give up knowing how much it was going to cost him “It’s going to be expensive”, so either he’s been supremely inspired by Don’s happiness, and/or business has been improving. “Are you leaving me?” “We’re leaving each other.” “I don’t know German.”
-“Dawn I need you to get me out of everything.” I don’t know much what to say about Don and Megan’s fight except the trip started off on the wrong foot. Megan is trying to establish herself professionally and Don’s not honoring that. I don’t think he minds her working, but I think he didn’t really expect her to want to work. She’s only 5-10 years younger than Betty, but she’s got a completely different mindset, at least at the moment. Also, there’s no way this scene would have worked if everyone had a cellphone. Eventually she would have picked up. The flashback to coming home from last September’s California trip, when they were happiest, to them lying on the floor after a semi-physical fight, paraphrasing, “Every fight we have diminishes this a little bit.” Megan is going to keep pushing back, and it’ll interesting to see how Don reacts. At least tonight he was contrite.
-The fight also gave us an opportunity to see the layout of their apartment, which is huge.
-“I have an announcement to make. Today is going to be a great day.” It seems like people on the show are constantly making announcements. I think Pete’s used the phrase at least twice. Don and Megan at the end of last season. Lane last week.
-Bert Cooper tells it like it is, Don has been shirking work to hang with Megan, and I’m curious to see what the result of this conversation is. I still wonder what Bert’s role in the office is besides talking about the oncoming scourge of socialism. And he still doesn’t have an office. Maybe this is it. Keeping all the others in line. Was he a creative before turning into management? I don’t think I can see that.
-And no Betty again. Or Lane. Or Joan. Or Pete past that line. Joan and Betty at least were more central characters last season, but they’ve been somewhat replaced by Megan. On the other hand, they’ve both had shows where their storyline was primary.
What did I miss?