‘Mad Men’ Recap (Season 5 PREMIERE): “A Little Kiss”

Mad Men is back after a prolonged hiatus and to simply call it a return to form would be an insult.

Oh hot damn, we’re back! Yes, it’s still good. Roger’s still a drunk, Pete’s still a stiff, Peggy’s still an overachiever, and Joan’s still a redhead.

And Don. Umm. Don is, what’s the word — “kind?” Treachery! Yeah, Don’s all chipper and content now that he’s happily married to his secretary, and what better way to get people talking about him behind his back than to force them all to keep the secret about his surprise 40th birthday party at Don’s hot new swinger-pad complete with wall-to-wall carpeting and unsupervised children amongst shitfaced adults.

But we’ll get to the party in a minute.

First, we have to cover where everybody’s been since last time, like all good season premieres should. Fortunately, everybody was able to get their fair share of screen time with two hours to work with.

Beginning with Don, naturally, our main man with the new wife, new apartment, and cheery new disposition. Happy Don is an interesting fellow. At least at the beginning of the episode he was happy. Megan was predictably promoted to copywriter after the expedited nuptials, a task that she isn’t very suited for, drawing ire from Peggy most of all. I predicted that Peggy and Don’s relationship would be strained this season, a fact that shone through when she fumed about him losing his edge, replaced by contentment and complacency. While Peggy was trying to sell beans to Heinz (and, holy-WTF, dating that proto-hipster journalist that writes for underground newspapers that you probably haven’t heard of!), Roger was hijacking accounts from Pete, notably Mohawk Airlines.

“Nobody better at turning at meeting into a bender.” On the point with the zinger, Ken!

Also on that topic, want to know what Roger’s been up to during his summer vacation? Nothing. He’s the exact same acid-tongued sycophant. Pete, meanwhile, was stuck, at least in his mind, being a disrespected stiff commuting by train from an undesirable little hamlet. He had a house, a wife, and a baby, all of which he has already begun avoiding. Pete remains a whiner who’s demeanor at home runs in parallel to his status at work. By the end of the episode, things had turned around for him at the office, and he stopped hating the train so much, playing cards with his fellow semi-depressed, lonely train-bro’s.

At least Joan has an excuse to feel lonely. She has her newborn and a passive-aggressive mother insisting that her still-absent doctor-man will “not allow her to work.” Joan’s replied with a one-two punch of, “ALLOW me?” and then a follow-up about how well married life worked out for her mom.

For better or worse, Joan missed out on Don’s pivotal birthday party at his new apartment. This was a fairly sedated sequence that showed a great deal about what kind of a place Don is in right now. At work, he was almost unrecognizable, as Peggy was quick too point out, and yet when his home was full of unwanted guests as a result of Megan’s well-meaning spontaneity, you could tell just how private a person he continues to be. He told Megan about his original identity as Dick Whitman (something that will inevitably come back to haunt him, because it will), which was a big step for him, but he still admittedly does not want to be the center of attention when he’s away from the office. He knows the things that he likes, and you can count Megan among them — maybe as the manic, free-spirited pixie that she is, maybe as the trophy that everybody else can’t help but ogle over.

Which brings us to Zooby-Zoo. Ahh, Zooby-Zoo. It’s moments like this one that elevate Mad Men up above the other bullshit that’s broadcasted these days. A solid chunk of time at Don’s birthday was devoted to Megan’s breezy, calypso-style song and dance, her own birthday present for him, performed in front of everybody. It was very sweet in the most French way imaginable — and it was the catalyst for all the friction that sparked up in the premiere’s second half.

At SCDP, the women hate Megan and the men want to bang her. She catches flack from Peggy for not doing as much work as she should, and she walks in on Harry detailing some casual sexual harassment directed at her. That led Harry to a priceless exchange with Roger, who also had mocked Megan’s song right to Don’s face. The side-plot with Pete and Roger’s budding rivalry were the seeds of something for later — Pete got Harry’s office, a good get for him because Pete’s old office was “a shit-hole with a support beam in it,” as Harry so eloquently put it. Pete also needed a new desk, his old one was much too big. Or maybe a new chair, it was much too short. It was all so… ill-fitted.

If anything else interesting happens on that plotline, I’ll keep you posted.

No, this episode was all about Don and Megan, and how they, as a couple, are finding themselves at work and at home. After heading home upset by Peggy’s comments, Don finds her cleaning. That turned into a nothing argument. Oh, wait, did I type “nothing?” I must have misspelled “angry floor-sex with Don on top of spilled, three-day old Chex Mix.” They later remark they should get a new carpet. Kinda gross, dude.

There was also a final side-story with Lane finding a wallet in the back of a cab. It went nowhere interesting, acting more of a reminder that he’s a middle-tier creep-ball. The bigger thing that Lane did was welcome back Joan with open arms because the new girls are useless. Joan brought in her baby, potentially just to make everything super-awkward for all the people that have ever had secret-sex at SCDP. Peggy and Pete had to stand next to the carriage and pretend like they don’t have a child toddling around somewhere in the world.

Roger preferred to smoke while he held Joan/his baby. Then later, he left his wife in the middle of the night to go to Staten Island. No monogamous man has ever said those words in succession. My money’s on secret-family! On Staten Island. Heh.

Staten Island.

And apparently Betty comes back next week but I could not possibly give fewer fucks.

Image 1, 2, and 3.

Still bored? Read my predictions for the upcoming season, and you can always keep up with my thoughts on Twitter. Til next week!

Alex Crumb is a writer that grew up on a dirt road in between two sheep farms, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Alex learned how to swear by watching ”Blazing Saddles” on a regular basis be ...read more


Follow Us