Mad Men Musings: The Runaways

If you’re a Mad Men fan, join us regularly for Mad Men Musings – a space to discuss selected highlights, low points, or just plain water-cooler worthy moments of each episode.

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There were multiple moments that left me a little slack-jawed this episode – this felt like a classic Mad Men throwback with power plays, violence, and off the chain weirdness. Let’s get right to it with our latest Mad Men recap:

Ginsberg is still having issues processing the new computer, but the rest of the office dudes have more important things on their mind – namely, ridiculing a corny and painfully earnest comic that Lou left in the photocopier.

Now, the “Scout’s Honor” comic is justifiably lame, but might I point out that Stan, whom I adore, is also wearing a kicky printed ASCOT for much of this episode? Glass houses, Stan. Glass grow houses, actually, considering how much pot was smoked.

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In a true blast from the past, Don receives a surprise call from Stephanie Horton, Anna Draper’s niece. Hey, as long as we’re not going back to the Dick Whitman era whorehouse, I’m happy to get this glimpse of Don’s old life. There’s something sacrosanct about it, something pure (I mean, as pure as a stolen identity and reconstructed fake life can be, anyway) and Don is genuinely thrilled to hear from her. Stephanie is family to Don, in a deeply complicated but important way, and so when she tells him she’s pregnant and in need of cash and care, he immediately jumps in to help.

Stephanie is in California, so Don insists that she find Megan and stay with her; he plans on catching a flight out that night and visiting, to make sure she’s okay. There’s one flaw in that plan, though – Lou. When Lou overhears Stan and company joking about the terrible comic, he’s furious: “You’re a bunch of flag burning snots!” he snarls. As punishment, he makes the entire group stay late to work on the Burger Chef pitch. Consequently, Don asks Megan to look after Stephanie until he can fly out the following morning.

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Sounds fine, right? It would be, until a glowing, beatific Stephanie shows up on Megan’s doorstep. Megan is so stymied by how young and pretty Stephanie is that she’s kind of a loss for words. Megan tries to be nurturing at first, but the tension gathers, and it gradually becomes clear that Megan just wants this vibrant reminder of Don’s secret life to vanish as quickly as possible. Despite Stephanie being hugely pregnant and clearly adrift – broke, her baby daddy in jail – all Megan seems to see is a threat. So she makes up some stuff about how Don wouldn’t like the entire situation and essentially buys Stephanie off, writing her a check for a thousand dollars.

When Don arrives the following morning, Megan lies, telling Don that she tried to get Stephanie to stay but she wouldn’t. In related news, Megan is starting to work my last nerve. I mean, why is she persisting in this marriage anyway? Don’s actions are totally indefensible, of course, but for all Megan’s talk of being an independent woman, she’s basically become Betty 2.0: bitter, trapped, and unhappy.

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Later that night, Megan throws a big party at her pad. Typically, Don is on the periphery, watching Megan’s pretentious acting friends dance, get high, and emanate stink waves of patchouli – and Megan’s girlfriend Amy, acts a bit too interested in Mr. Draper. Megan does a little dirty dancing, but Don’s like, meh…he’s much happier, in fact, to see Harry Crane unexpectedly show up. The two go out for a drink, and a sloshed Harry divulges that Lou and Jim are secretly going after Philip Morris. This spells certain doom for Don; remember that scathing letter he wrote back in Season 4? Yeah, so do the PM execs.

There’s one more surprise waiting for Don – a two-for-one deal from Megan and Amy. This just seemed desperate on Megan’s part, an attempt to reassert power through sexuality. Don is reticent at first, but as Megan points out, the old Hammaconda (sorry, I had to) doesn’t lie, so a threesome ensues. The next morning is terribly awkward, of course, and when Don gets a call from Stephanie, Megan is clearly not happy. Amy slinks off, Don goes off to shower, and Megan is left alone.

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Don has one more trick left up his sleeve, though, and it’s a real power play, a true return to form. Using the intel he got from Harry, Don crashes the PM meeting in New York, and it is pretty badass. As Lou and Jim stare, Don points out that no one knows the tobacco world like he does and intimates that if he is forced to leave the agency, he’ll go straight to PM’s competition. Well played, sir, well played. Lou and Jim are shocked, of course, but Don’s back – the old Don, the one that strategizes and plays the game like nobody’s business. Hot damn!

Meanwhile, in a different kind of power play, Betty and Henry are butting heads. During a progressive dinner party, Betty makes the mistake of talking about the war to the neighbors – her pro-war stance embarrasses Gov. Henry and he belittles her. I mean really belittles her; later that night, he snaps, “Hey Emily Post, why are you talking about the war…leave the thinking to me!” Per usual, the message that Betty’s job is to stand around and look pretty is reinforced quite strongly. However, Betty herself is pretty complicit in this quagmire, right?

When Sally shows up with black eyes and a busted nose from “sword fighting with golf clubs” at school, Betty herself places all the importance on appearance, perpetuating the whole vicious cycle. The two snipe back and forth and Sally basically says all Betty has is her looks. When Betty snaps that Sally should be grateful Henry can get her a fancy surgeon to fix her nose, Sally responds with “It’s a nose job, not an abortion.” Clearly, Sally has one of the best lines of the episode with that one. A runner up is when Betty and Henry fight again, and Betty says “I’m not stupid. I speak Italian!” Oh, Betty.

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And now we’re at the most tragic and discomfiting place of this entire episode, people. If you’re a horrible person, like me, you may want to cue up Lonely Island’s “D*** in a Box” – it’s how I ameliorated Ginsberg’s terrible “gift” to Peggy. Ginsberg has always been an intense, high-strung person with a tendency for strange pronouncements – remember when he told Peggy he was an alien? But his behavior here spirals into full blown psychosis – from insisting that the new computer “turns men homo” to attempting to “reproduce” with Peggy, it’s clear Ginsberg is becoming unhinged.

When he strides into Peggy’s office and hands her a present, the “valve” that allowed him to release all the pressure and vibrations from the computer…yep, it’s HIS BLOODY NIPPLE. THAT HE CUT OFF. A horrified Peggy creeps out of the office and starts making calls, and she quietly cries as Ginsberg is carted off in restraints, yelling “Get out while you can.” What a sad, sad end for him – I hope we’ll see him again this season, in a much better place.

Readers – What do you think about Megan’s behavior? Are you excited to see Don’s return to form? And who else threw up in their mouth a little when Ginsberg “gifted” Peggy?

all photos: via AMC

Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.

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Written by amity

12 Comments

  1. Avatar of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    I looooved this episode! Yes!! I loved Betty’s ego at odds with her self-loathing (as per usual) and how it makes for some fantastic lines all around. I loved to hate Lou a little more, and loved to love Don a little more (I felt like Don should have some theme music now, like The Untouchables or something).
    I was confused–yet not–with the marriage-as-usual, hi-honey-nice-to-see-you thing with Don and Megan. But, I guess, that’s how relationships go (and come and go). Will Megan find herself having gone to Roman Polanski’s, a fictional victim of the Manson Family (1969, right) in order to end this relationship proper-like? Is Don’s niece a member of the Family? I don’t know, my mind leaks weird thoughts.
    Ginsberg. Well, I didn’t see that one coming. Weird verging on bizarre never quite meant certifiable lunatic in my eyes. The nipple thing was over the top. And perfect Mad Men.
    Honestly, I think the first two episodes were meant to drive us to think that the shark was swimming and the Fonz was waxing his skis. These past episodes were all I hoped for and more. I can’t wait for the end…and I wish it was never to come.

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      Even though I kind of love to hate Betty, it would be cool to see her actually do something that she finds fulfilling–motherhood ain’t it, clearly! And for Ginsberg–it seems like he is meant to have some schizophrenic tendencies, perhaps? It can be late onset, and it would tie in with the idea of vibrations/power, etc.

  2. Avatar of turboterp
    turboterp

    Great, great recap, @amity!
    I loved this episode, too, right down to the music that ran over the closing credits. Maybe that’s Don’s theme song, @sherrisherra- “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” I’ve been convinced for a year that there will be some kind of Manson end for annoying Megan, and the niece did have a “Family” look about her, didn’t she?
    Poor Ginsberg. And poor Peggy! She’ll never be able to open a jewelry box again.
    “I’m not stupid. I speak Italian!” I’m still laughing over that one.

  3. Avatar of krista
    krista

    I just love that I wasn’t the only person to have the song “D*ck in a Box” in my head.

    “It’s my nip in a box!!!” Oh, Ginsberg, we shall miss you…

    I want Betty to grow up and become something more than arm candy. There’s a finite time for arm candy and with a teenage daughter and 2 growing sons, the clock is a ticking. Henry was an unbelievable ass in this episode. I just love that he’s all like, “I’m their elected official!” and Betty’s like, “You ran unopposed!” Burn!!! I don’t think we’ve ever seen Henry speak so rudely to Betty before, usually he placates and calms and supports, but dudeguy was PISSED at her this episode. Are there cracks in their generic Camelot? I think so :D *presses palms together while my fingers dance maniacally*

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      Lonely Island really needs to record the new “Nip in a Box” version. And Henry was so, so disrespectful–it was a little shocking, actually.

  4. Avatar of heather
    heather

    No, Ginsberg! He always had the best line. I shall miss him so. I didn’t see that coming either. Could this be a case of late 60s drug use side effects?

    @sherrishera I was confused by how Megan acted happy to see Don too! It didn’t make sense at all. She’s definitely so far into sad and bitter that she just needs to pull the plug. It would barely change anything for her anyway!

    I sort of suspect that by the end Betty is going to have a “screw it” revelation and just leave – abandon her kids and all. She doesn’t even like them anyway.

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      Betty is going to the commune with Marigold! JK, even though I’d really, really like to see Betty wearing hippie “fashion” and, like planting veggies while smoking like a chimney.

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