Mad Men Recap: Signs and Blunders
Lots of seemingly good stuff happens in this week’s Mad Men: Joan stands up for herself, Chevy finally signs off on the firm’s work and Don makes it through a stretch of days without cheating on his wife. But an air of dread – highlighted by the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention – seeps into everything like pot smoke into Campbell’s comb-over. You read that right: Everything’s so topsy-turvy in this episode that the last scene involves Pete getting high at the office. Pete!
In short, and to use the parlance of the times, I dug it. So let’s review what happened in the very groovy “Tale of Two Cities.”
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WHAT SHOULD WE CALL ME? | Don and Roger are heading to California with Harry and Ted’s planning to “kiss the ring” at Chevy HQ in Detroit, but not before the partners meet to discuss a very important problem: The merged firm still doesn’t have a name. No one but Jim Cutler seems terribly worked up about it, which… really, guys? Aren’t you supposed to be all about image, perception and all that jazz? Whatever. I’ll just focus instead on Pete’s incredibly tiny tie, which looks clown-car small. I expect dozens of smaller ties to spill out of it at any moment. (Yes, I am aware that tie length waxes and wanes depending on the era. Please, People for the Ethical Treatment of Bob Benson’s Swim Trunks, don’t crucify me in the comments.)
On their way to the Golden State, Roger tells Don – who’s doing research — to lighten up and enjoy the fact that their status as big New York ad men means they’ll instantly charm Carnation and the other companies on their list. “Be slick. Be glib. Be you,” Sterling advises his colleague. “Our biggest challenge is not to get syphilis.” Heh. At the hotel, Don turns down Roger’s invitation to check out the Strip and instead talks on the phone with Megan, who’s upset by the Chicago police’s use of force on protesters outside the convention. He jokes about it but stops when he realizes she’s about to cry. Because she’s Canadian, “You can’t even vote,” he teases her. “But I still live here,” she points out. The cute, attentive way Don’s talking to Megan, it’s like he actually misses her – could it be that his promise to be a better husband is actually taking effect?
PARTY ON | The next day, Don, Roger and Harry sip Instant Breakfast at an uncomfortable meeting with Carnation – where, by the way, every single thing Roger said on the plane is proved untrue (ha!) – and then head to a party with Harry. (Side note in the form of a quick quiz: Harry’s tool-ness is A) enhanced by his neckerchiefs in this episode, B) camouflaged slightly by his neckerchiefs in this episode, C) unaffected by his neckerchiefs in this episode but what is the deal with his neckerchiefs in this episode?) In their sportscoats and pomade, Roger and Don stick out among the partygoers, who are mostly hippies and Cali kids and… Danny?! Yep, it’s Roger’s former cousin-in-law (and former Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce copywriter) Danny Daniel Siegel, who’s now a Sonny Bono-looking film producer with a mean fu manchu ‘stache and no desire to listen to Roger’s short jokes. When he’s had enough of the mockery, Daniel pops Rog in his nether regions (“Hated to do that,” Danny quips, which is easily 10 times more witty than any tag line he ever came up with) and leaves with a tripping beauty named Lotus.
UP IN SMOKE | Meanwhile, Don goes looking for the bathroom but finds a hookah full of hashish, which he shares with a room full of new friends. After the smoke clears, he cozies up to a chilled-out blonde and is taken aback when Megan – clad in flower-child garb – shows up. “I quit my job. I couldn’t bear to be apart,” she tells him, and of course she’s a drug-induced hallucination. Interesting, though, that she tells him she has “another surprise” and pats her belly, which seems to make Don really happy. “What do you think it is?” he asks as she leads him through the house by the hand. “A second chance,” she replies.
But soon, Megan’s replaced by PFC Dinkins, the drunken soldier for whom Don stood up in Hawaii. Dinkins is missing an arm and is – as he informs a confused Mr. Draper – dead. Shouldn’t he be whole if he’s deceased, Don asks? Dinkins replies “Dying doesn’t make you whole. You should see what you look like.” And then Don is seeing himself, floating face down in the party house’s in-ground pool… and then he’s waking up and coughing up water as Roger – who’s clearly jumped in to save his pal – is telling everyone to step back and leave them alone.