‘Mad Men’ Recap (Season 5, Episode 6): Who Are You This Week?
Sooner or later, every American marriage goes through a fight that will include somebody being left at a Howard Johnson’s parking lot. Alternatively, you might divorce your wife while on LSD in a bathtub.
Gosh darn-it, nobody did well this week. Some for tragic reasons, some for silly reasons, but one thing was consistent, everybody ended up on their backs, exhausted, looking like they’d stepped on a bullshit-landmine. Peggy, Roger, and Don all had their own trials, and perhaps most disturbing was that they have all become such pros at duality that they can come into work the following day and lie pathologically to anybody as if they still had all their arms and legs attached. The world has asked them, and they’ve been quite complicit, to be multiple people in order to endure in their lives.
Who should you be this week? Let’s go through this one person at a time.
1. Peggy Olsen is a miniature Don Draper in the making. She is chided by her boyfriend for being nervous about work and when they began to fight, he remarked, “A normal man wouldn’t even have this conversation. A normal man would just leave.” By that logic, Peggy ought to file that in the You Should Be A Woman column. At work, Don has confidence in Peggy and her ability to present to Heinz; one point to You’re The Man, Do The Job column. She sparks a cigarette, hoping she’s okay without Don as a safety net after he absconds with Megan for the afternoon (but we’ll get to that story in a sec, it’s a doozy). In what feels like five minutes later though, she’s asked to remember that she’s a woman when the Heinz client throws the pitch back in her face, not because it was bad, but because she was insensitive to his indecisiveness. They were highly-Draper words coming out of her mouth, but, again, because there’s always a but, she’s a woman, and can’t get away with that, reminding the client of his daughter.
Her face is smashed hard into the glass ceiling.
Kicked off the account, Peggy goes to the movies to watch a documentary about lions, smokes some reefer (it’s not the first time, she has smoked some of the drugs before), and she gives a guy in the theater… an HJ? Was she being masculine or just sexually aggressive with that move?
The move kind of makes no sense until Peggy does the Don-Lie Down back at the office. It’s pretty much the same shot as when Don took a nap way back in the series premiere. Her transformation is now complete, evidenced by the bottle she kept out in the open by her typewriter for the rest of the episode. She’s swapping between various avenues of desire to keep sane, just like Don. Speaking of Don, he calls her that night from a payphone with his hair askew (meaning something is actually wrong with him). The conversation is brief and Peggy went home to summon her ex(ish)-BF back over to her apartment because she: “Always needs him.” Take that however you want.
As an aside, Ginsberg was born in a concentration camp. I take back all the nasty stuff I said about him being a twat.
2. Roger Sterling hates his wife. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hates his wife. He and Jane had to eat dinner with Jane’s shrink and her snooty friends to talk about the legitimacy and necessity for truth. You know, 1960′s stuff. And then they took LSD (sometimes this show is like fucking mad libs: Roger barfing in the first season in front of clients, the lawnmower incident, Don dream-choking that girl earlier this season, Peggy and the HJ, Roger and the LSD; it can be charming, but also random as all hell). How do you think Roger Sterling does on LSD? Exactly like you’d expect. He tried at first to booze and smoke, pretending like he can’t smell colors or travel back in time to the 1919 World Series, but then the drugs really started to kick in and the truth came out like somebody took a sledgehammer to a bathtub. Sweet hallucinations in the bathtub. Sweet hallucinations on the cash money. Sweet hallucinations when he looks in the mirror, aging infinitely-faster than Don.
Roger and Jane share the real-real truth, haunting and calm as hell, revealing everything they’re thinking about to each other, wearing bathrobes and pink towels on their heads. In mutual honesty, they understand that they don’t like each other. Unfortunately, the following morning, sober Jane forgot that LSD-Jane existed. Too late, you said “divorce.” And yeah, they both know it’s going to cost a lot.
3. Don Draper desperately needs a woman. He and Megan escape upstate to Howard Johnson’s (the original?). Megan actually has work ethic and feels bad about leaving work, leading to the discussion about when is she on duty as Don’s wife and when is she on duty as his co-worker. Don doesn’t much care, she’s on Draper-time! Something tiny, in this case Megan’s refusal to orange sherbet, sets off the bomb. “It tastes like perfume.” Nice one Megan, but tells us how you really feel. Don served up a meatball to her, dragging how Megan always yammers in French on the phone to her mother, who speaks English.
Megan’s answer: “You call your mother.” Deep cut. Don’t drag mothers into it. Don leaves her at a Howard Johnson’s parking lot — a trial by fire that every American marriage goes through.
Returning later, he finds her sunglasses on the ground in the parking lot after the waitress reported that she had a conversation with some fellas. “Couples fight in here all the time,” she assured him. Fuckin’ Howard Johnson’s, man. Distraught Draper-Hair in full-effect and it’s eerie that Don manages to stay in-character while on the phone with Megan’s mom, acting like nothing’s wrong. And while he’s talking to the manager.
Don Draper is always a pro. And it is creepy.
In a flashback, Don whistles In Wanna Hold Your Hand, reminiscing about when he and Megan were in blissful ignorance. He eventually gets home and the slide-chain is on. Don is relieved, but angered because he is frequently a desperate psycho, if nothing else.
Kicking in a door — a trial by fire that every American marriage goes through. That led us into the scariest chase through the apartment imaginable. Was anybody else worried there might be a Million Dollar Baby moment and some freak fall / accident would leave one of them (Megan) terrible hurt?
The chase ends with a tackle and both of them sprawled on the rug. Wow, Don needs Megan a woman. Dude, face it.
The real stinger was Bert Cooper outta left field the following day, calling Don out for fucking up royally.
“It’s none of your business,” Don says.
“This is my business.”
This season’s self-destruction is somehow much more depressing than last’s. Everything is going wrong and it’s requiring separate, deliberate decsions, not just: “Oops, drank / slept around too much.” No, these guys are all very willing participants this year. Don is falling apart, and fast. Roger is almost at the bottom. Peggy is somewhere in the middle. Not long now.
Still bored? Read my recap from last week’s episode and my recent piece on the 9 best albums for writing and spacing-out over on GhostLittle.com — and as always, you can keep up with my thoughts on Twitter. Til next week!
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