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2014-05-18

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May 18, 2014 - 4:01pm

'Mad Men' RECAP: Boldly going where no "Mad Men" has gone before

BY MADDIE THOMAS AND CHLOE GILKE

AMC

Maddie Thomas: I'm super excited to talk about this episode because I have NO IDEA what to make of it.

Chloe Gilke: I tried to piece this episode together thematically, but all I could really gather is that everything is starting to fall apart. It's not just the new technology (although Ginsberg credits the computer for turning him a little "homo" and admiring Stan's broad shoulders). Betty and Henry are squabbling, Sally's got a broken nose and plenty of sass and Bobby can't wait to run away with his sister. This was a pretty pessimistic and dark episode to begin with, but when Ginsberg handed Peggy a box with his severed nipple inside, I was thrown. I laughed at him coming on to Peggy ("we gotta reproduce!"), and his beef with the computer seemed silly. But there was something so sad about seeing one of the most seemingly sane characters on "Mad Men" rolled away on a stretcher. I couldn't help but think of another time that a violent occurrence rocked SC&P — Lane's suicide. Sure, only a nipple was lost here, but this was a strange episode. I'm not sure how to feel. I think my face might be frozen in a version of Peggy's look upon seeing what was in that box.

Maddie Thomas: This episode just reminded me that Matt Weiner is absolutely not afraid to "go there." Tonally, it almost reminded me of the iconic lawnmower episode of season three. In terms of Ginsberg, I'm at a loss for any worthwhile analysis. I've heard that there may be some more Kubrick references lying in that plotline, but I haven’t been able to pick up anything concrete. Ginsberg has always been a wacky character I suppose, but his ultimate cutting- of-the-nipple came out of nowhere. Because I was so confused by Ginsberg, I focused my energies on the Megan story. The scenes between her and Stephanie were my favorites this week. There was such blatant contrast between the very real hippie life Stephanie leads and Megan's faux-bohemian image. The two separate images of each of then wearing the same bathrobe only made it even more obvious. Megan's desperate attempt at controlling her relationship through a threesome was certainly interesting as well. I sort of get her logic: if Don is gonna sleep with someone else, she at least wants to be involved. Last time Don and Megan were in an episode together, we hypothesized that maybe their relationship had finally reached a breaking point. But we found them this week still hanging on by a thread. I wonder how much longer that can realistically last.

Chloe Gilke: Megan is usually confident and bubbly, so it was interesting seeing how uncomfortable she was around Stephanie. Maybe it's the aftermath of their big fight, but Megan was especially self-conscious around her houseguest. Like you said, Stephanie is the genuine version of the hippie lifestyle that Megan is trying to emulate — except instead of cute boho dresses and big earrings, her baby daddy is in jail and she's got an enormous amount of debt. Even with Stephanie gone, Megan is still self-conscious and haughty when Don is especially engaged and excited with her on the phone (if only her conversation were so pleasant). Maybe Megan is so eager for a threesome because she needs to assert her place, not only as Don's wife, but as the most important figure in his life. Like you said, if Don is going to have sex with another woman, Megan wants to be sure to be there for the whole thing.
Also: This episode aired on Mother's Day!

Maddie Thomas: Do you think that was planned? I was trying to figure out if Mother's Day could have had anything to do with the story. I guess anything can have meaning when you think hard enough about it. We did get a pregnant hippie and plenty of Betty bitching at Sally. Speaking of Betty, what did you think about her storyline with Henry this week? The way he told her to mind her own business and let him do the thinking made me NAUSEOUS but at the same time, I can understand how the Vietnam War might not exactly be the most appropriate topic of conversation for a dinner party. My mom asked me a question which got me thinking: do you think Betty will go to work by the end of the series? I personally don't care if Betty Francis gets a job as long as she has some sort of realization about the way she treats her kids — especially the still impressionable Bobby and Gene. Betty is old fashioned, and if there's anything I know about "Mad Men," it's that characters don't necessarily have to change or really learn anything at all. But I'll be interested to see what happens with Betty, and what kind of statement Weiner makes with her character.

Chloe Gilke: I love Betty, but I can see why some might be frustrated with her, especially in later seasons. She is caustic and rude, probably not due to any fault in her personality but because she's so damn unhappy . I know in earlier seasons, she was quick to remind everyone that she graduated with a degree in anthropology from Bryn Mawr (don't ask me how I remember this tiny detail), but now, she just whines, "I'm not stupid. I speak Italian." Motherhood is draining for her, especially when she has to deal with Sally, who couldn't be more different from her. Sally doesn't appreciate the finer things in life (mainly, the delicate nose that Betty blessed her with), and even her marriage with Henry is turning sour. I'm not sure she would be as successful as Peggy or Joan in the workplace, or if that would even be enough to make her happy. I'm not sure where Betty is headed, but I feel like she and Megan, despite their mutual dislike for each other, could have some interesting stuff to talk about. Speaking of desperate housewives, what do you think of Don's desperate and impulsive pitch at the Commander meeting? He's certainly got his old confidence back, but he's barely hanging on by a thread, and Cutler is losing patience.

Maddie Thomas: It felt pretty great to watch Don own a room again. But I'm still wary of the effects that meeting will have. You seem to have a much better memory than I do, but if I'm not mistaken, Don basically just backtracked on one of his most iconic moments in this series with that pitch, did he not? Selling out for a tobacco pitch is not exactly the most admirable move. I was definitely excited to see some momentum finally going, but I'm a little worried that it was not quite the big success he thought it was. As you pointed out, Cutler is clearly losing his patience. Also, this is unrelated, but what did you make of the whole Scout's Honor bit with Lou? Was that a detail thrown in there for comedic effect and to reinforce the fact that Lou is not and never will be the suave Don Draper? Or was there a deeper meaning there that I missed? Also: WHERE WAS JOAN THIS EP? And the question persists: WHERE IS BOB BENSON?

Chloe Gilke: I just took the Scout's Honor cartoon as another strange element in a batshit episode. I think we're just supposed to gather than Lou is a bit of a quirky dude, and even though he is in a position of power, he certainly doesn't have the respect that Don had in his heyday (how weird it is to be talking about Don's influence in the past tense). Either way, it was hilarious to see the creative crew's reactions to the comics. As much as this episode felt like it was all over the place, it was weirdly narrow-sighted, leaving out Joan and Roger completely. I did catch a glimpse of Joan's mom in the preview for next week's episode, although "Mad Men" is not known for its straightforward episode previews. Perhaps "Mad Men" is taking more of a "Game of Thrones" approach and rotating characters. Hopefully, Bob Benson is queued up for a re-appearance next week. I miss him more and more every week. I'm still worried about Ginsberg, though. And I don't think Peggy will take anything he said to heart, but I hope she doesn't investigate Ginsberg's claim of a Lou/Cutler romance (Tumblr, make it happen!). Cutler is one of the most competent and clear-headed guys in the office, and I don't want to see his reputation tainted by the crazy ranting of some nipple-less lunatic. Really, though. I hope Ginsberg is okay. I liked him.

Maddie Thomas: I loved Ginsberg! For the brief moments between his make out with Peggy and The Nipple Incident I was fully ready to "ship" the two of them as a couple. Peggy really can't seem to catch a break romantically, can she? It's sad to see that she's a workingwoman who really can't have it all. I guess that's the reality of the times. Her last love interest was married and then Ginsberg and the mutilated nip. I'm definitely not saying she needs a man in her life, but I'd love to see Peggy find her own form of happiness, whatever that may be.

Chloe Gilke: Stan and his beautiful broad shoulders need to make a move. If I were to "ship" Peggy with anyone, I feel like Stan is the only guy at SC&P who could respect her independence and strong personality. She definitely doesn't need a man, but she could use a Stan. (That's a beautiful and snappy rhyme, Hire me, SC&P!) Between Peggy/Ginsberg, Betty/Henry and Megan/Don, this episode was pretty cynical about relationships. Everybody harbors deep feelings of resentment and paranoia, and lapses in communication had varying results (scathing arguments, threesome, nipples in a box). Stan seems okay for now, but then again, so did Ginsberg. The quiet guys are always the ones who surprise you (with nipples).

Maddie Thomas: I totally agree — everything's always circular. Always!! My mom was commenting on how literally no one was happy in this episode (shout out to my mom whom I definitely reference in all of these reviews) and I feel like that same thing can pretty much be said of the entire show as a whole. Discontentment is of one of the biggest reoccurring themes of "Mad Men," especially in these recent seasons. I feel like not much has really happened plot-wise so far in these first episodes of the seventh season, and with only a couple of episodes left, I'm wondering which characters (if any) will be able to find peace by the series' end. This episode was truly an enigma to me. Maybe it's all meant to foreshadow something ... The moon is known to do weird things to people, after all. Here we go #moonlanding

Chloe Gilke: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Matthew Weiner. It is riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is THE MOON." (Actually, with all the references to "2001: A Space Odyssey," I feel like the moon landing will have some enormous significance in the coming episodes.) No one is happy, but nothing stops this train. Time rushes by, leaving some feeling old and irrelevant (Betty, Roger). Technology is advancing at a frightening rate, and it's difficult to keep up knowing that the machine might overtake you (RIP, Ginsberg's sanity). And for others, the culture of 1969 is just less inclined to put up with the bullshit that was so essential to success in 1960 (sorry, Don). I just quoted Walter White and went on a long philosophical tangent. I feel like this is exactly what Matt Weiner intended with this episode.

Maddie Thomas: I think you've played into Weiner’s game and I love it.


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