I don’t know even know where to start with last night’s Mad Men, “The Runaways,” an episode that included a threesome, and it wasn’t even the most memorable scene of the episode. In fact, as threesomes go, the one between Don, Megan, and Amy was kind of sad, both in the way that it subtly recalled the way Dick Whitman had been sexually abused by a prostitute when he was a kid, and in the way that it demonstrated just how desperate Megan is to make an emotional connection with Don.
It began with the re-appearance of Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece and the woman who informed Don of Anna’s death (Emily Arnett, the prostitute from earlier this season, definitely triggered thoughts of her in our minds). Seven months pregnant and full-on dirty hippy, Stephanie reached out to Don for help, and while Don initially had a flirty relationship with Stephanie back in the day, the two of them ended up bonding over Ann’s death and making a strong connection. Don was quick to offer Stephanie — living out in Los Angeles — some assistance, and invited her to stay over at Megan’s place until he arrived.
Since last we saw Megan, when she had basically told Don that their marriage was over, her and Don have clearly made up. The angry, nasty tension between them was gone, but there also felt like some distance, and when Stephanie arrived and reminded Megan of a connection with Don she’s never had, Megan clearly felt jealous and threatened. That’s why she wrote her a $1,000 check (or around $6500 adjusted for inflation) and basically sent her on her way. Stephanie was bright enough to get the hint (plus, honestly, all she really wanted was the money to begin with, and she could sense that her presence was interfering with Don’s life, something she promised Anna she’d never do).
How does Megan try to bridge that emotional gap she has with Don? With a threesome, of course, which is the second worst way to try and fix a marriage after “let’s have a baby!” Don didn’t seem to be to into it, but then again, he is a man, he has a pulse, and his penis seems to be in fine working order, so he did what 98 percent of men would do after seeing their wife make out with a woman who looked like Amy from Delaware. “Kiss her. I know you want to,” Megan said to Don, and his face basically said, “Well, I hadn’t really given it much thought, and I’m pretty tired, but a threesome? Oh, well, OK. F*ck it. You twisted my arm.”
It did not, however, give Megan what she had hoped to get out of the threesome: A stronger emotional connection to Don, which was clear the next morning when Don beamed during his phone conversation with Stephanie and didn’t seem to give a second thought to events that transpired the night before with Megan (or express any jealousy at the idea that Amy seemed to be practically living with and getting high with Megan, and probably had spent some time making out with her before that night). It was just sex to Don, and he was far more anxious to get back to New York and save his job than stick around for another encounter.
Speaking of New York, some of the funniest scenes of the series’ run occurred back in the offices of Sterling Cooper after it was discovered that Lou was drawing silly cartoons on the side (I’m sure many of us thought of Jonathan Banks in Community).
Stan is amazing.
That whole sequence was rife with brilliant one-liners, like “From your first fart to your last dying breath,” and Lou’s ridiculously out-of-touch allusions to Bob Dylan. That whole subplot was absolutely hilarious and illustrated what a petty little f*ckwad Lou Avery is. Don, meanwhile, had clearly bought into Freddy Rumsen’s advice, and was respectfully eating sh*t while biding his time, even as Lou continued to turn up the asshole volume (“I’m not taking management advice from Don Draper.”).
Don finally got his opening when Harry — who unexpectedly showed up at Megan’s party — revealed that Lou and Cutler were in cahoots to sign on Commander cigarettes and push Don out. Don, of course, wrote the letter a couple of seasons back to Lucky Strike trashing the tobacco industry, and there’s no way Commander would sign on unless Don was fired first. Don — who’s got his magic back — turned that entire scenario on its head, interrupted Lou and Cutler’s meeting with Commander, and reeled in the client like a f**king BOSS. That was early season Don Draper conjuring a spell over the client, and it was terrific. Even Lou agreed, both earnestly and sarcastically: “You’re incredible,” he said to Don.
“You think this is going to save you, don’t you?” Cutler asks Don after the meeting. Don responded by shutting the cab door in Cutler’s face and basically saying, “You’re damn f**king straight it is.” (Unfortunately, no one told any of them that the very next year, Nixon would pass a law ending tobacco advertising on TV and radio.) There’s some suggestion that maybe the threesome the night before had given Don his mojo back, but he had it back even before the that. Don’s confidence returned the morning Freddy lectured him, which was obvious when Don brazenly told Lou what he’d do if he was in charge. “I’d let you go.” Don’s just been waiting for his opportunity, and the Commander pitch was exactly the opening he needed.
Meanwhile, there was a small Betty subplot, which revealed a few things: 1) She’s still a terrible mom (“Next time I will break your arm,” she said to Sally, who broke her nose in a swording incident with golf clubs), 2) She’s very Republican and very pro-war (not a surprise, especially given her fondness for firearms), 3) Henry doesn’t want anything from her except to shut her goddamn mouth unless she’s talking about getting toast crumbs in the butter, and 4) Betty is tired of Henry’s sh*t. She’s not stupid, dammit. SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN. Maybe she will run for office, thank you very much.
Betty is clearly tired of playing housewife, while Henry has revealed himself to be an awful guy (“Leave the thinking to me.” F**k you, Henry). Divorce is imminent. Maybe post-divorce, a career will finally give Betty some meaning to her life, which might allow her not to be, in the word’s of Malcolm Tucker, the world’s worst “F, star, star, C**T.”
And then there was Ginsberg. There have been telltale signs of Ginsberg’s mental illness since he arrived on the show, since his honest-to-God claim to Peggy two seasons ago that he was from Mars, that he was “full-blooded Martian,” or last year’s admission that he heard voices. The guy spent the first five years of his life in a concentration camp, he still lived with his father, and he was clearly psychologically fragile (see also his meltdown last season). That computer was just the thing to set off his paranoid schizophrenia (and there were two lines that subtly recalled his concentration camp upbringing: Ginsberg’s line, “That machine came for us, and one by one …” at the beginning of the episode, and Harry’s line later to Don about Commander cigarettes being “the final solution.”)
The truth is, Ginsberg’s psychotic break was both sad and inevitable, but everything about it was so hilarious and ultimately so shocking that it was hard to recognize the ultimate tragedy of it. I mean, from his belief that the computer was turning everyone into “homos” to his line to Peggy, “We gotta reproduce.” You can’t f**k the gay away, Ginsberg. The nipple in the box? The valve that released the pressure? That was the clincher. It was sad and tragic, but mostly, it was really f**king funny.
Alas, that’s probably the last we’ll see of Ginsberg. With Ben Feldman’s new sitcom being picked up and the prospect of losing the actor, Matthew Weiner clearly decided to, uh, nip that in the bud.
— Peggy and Don seem to be getting along fairly well enough now. Don clearly sucked it up, and let Peggy be the boss. For now, anyway.
— My favorite line in the episode was Stan’s response to the notion notion that Don was “still part of the faculty” when he walked off with Lou’s drawings. “Nah, he’s going to stroke to them later.”
— Speaking of Stan, holy Scooby Doo that ascot.
— “She can handle the homework. I’ll handle the silver.” Happy Mother’s Day Betty. Always remember, no matter how horrible her husband is to Betty, she’s worse to her children. I feel no sympathy for her, only loathing for Henry.
— Did anyone else notice that Lou didn’t use soap when he washes his hands. F**king figures, doesn’t it?
— I’d totally forgotten that Megan is wearing Anna’s ring. That made the Stephanie/Megan interaction even more charged. I think Megan is right, though, that the ring will probably end up back with Stephanie.
— That short Bobby and Sally scene was really affecting. See? You let the same kid play Bobby Draper for two whole seasons, and he actually manages to provide a decent performance.
— I hope Ginsberg doesn’t survive long enough to see the Internet, because if he does, it’s going to kill him.
— Interesting quote from last season:
— There’s only two episodes left this year, “The Strategy” and “Waterloo.” I hope the “Waterloo” is in reference to Lou’s defeat, and not Don’s.