Mad Men: What a Long Strange Trip It's Been
This week's episode of Mad Men may just be the weirdest 45 minutes the series has ever produced! We'll get there, but let's start at the beginning. I had been thinking that this season has been ignoring Peggy; Don's old comrade has been replaced by his new wife. Mathew Weiner must have felt my Peggy vibes because the bulk of the beginning of the show centered on Peggy and her ever-growing psychoses. She can't seem to give her boyfriend any attention, all she thinks about is work, she flips out during a presentation for Heinz and almost costs the agency the account.
To cool off, Peggy takes in an afternoon movie, which she earlier refused to do with her boyfriend, and winds up smoking pot with a stranger in the theater. If that wasn't scandalous enough for you, she also gets cozy with the stranger during a movie about lions. It was a cold and detached cozy, but cozy nonetheless. Slipping your hand into a stranger's pants is not an average thing to do on a workday afternoon, especially given the fact that you denied both a movie and sex to your devoted boyfriend. Peggy is starting to crack.
Peggy "handing out love" (pun intended) is far from the oddest thing to happen to the SCDP team. Roger, in an effort to get out of spending time with his wife's "pretentious" new friends, begs Don to take a boys-only road trip to upstate New York to check out a Howard Johnson and try to get some business. Don thinks the idea is perfect for... a romantic getaway.
Roger grudgingly attends a dinner party filled with ostentatious conversation on life and the inner self. But hold up: This group of party-people is not what they seem. They are handing out LSD. Roger is in the middle of a Timothy Leary acid test. Roger obliges his wife and downs the sugarcoated drug. And now things start to get c-razy.
We've seen a lot of this season focusing on the old folk trying to keep up with the new. The world is changing outside the Mad Men's door; they have young wives with new ideas and attitudes about life, even the rules of business are changing. During Roger's trip, he sees himself half old and half young, a split image of a gray-haired man on one side versus a dark-haired version of himself. Later, sitting in the tub with his wife, he hears a play-by-play of the 1919 infamous White Sox game in which they threw the series. He finds it glorious; his wife can't hear it. She wasn't even born then. The couple ends up lying on the floor discussing the ins and outs of their relationship. It's over. It's been over for a while but neither of them wanted to say it. This LSD-induced breakup is exactly what Roger needed. It is a wonderful day for him.
That's not even the weirdest part! The episode jumps back in time, starting each of the three main characters' -- Peggy, Roger and Don -- stories from the beginning. This method of storytelling is nothing the show has ever done before, and I can't say I found it all that necessary. Time flopping is always a cool effect (Ohh, that's what was happening at the exact same time we saw that!), but it's been done to death. With each time jump we saw the potential for the story to go differently had Don not made the choice to go upstate with Megan. Peggy might not have screwed up the Heinz account, Roger might not have tripped out with his wife and Don and Megan might not have gotten into their worst fight yet had the cards fallen differently.
Don and Megan have been having some troubles, and I am just fine with that. She gets upset with him, this time, for always telling her what to do, what to think, what type of sherbet to like and not taking her work seriously. He can't help himself; he's Don Draper! She does have a point, though. Don is a demanding husband and diabolically self-centered at times. After a massive blowup between the two, they wind up lying on the floor staring at the ceiling and wondering what the hell is going on with their relationship. We just saw this same shot, only it was Roger and wife lying around wondering the same thing. Is this the beginning of the end (oh please, oh please)?
At the end of the episode, and the moment I've been waiting for all season, Bert Cooper pulls Don aside and tells him the honeymoon is over. Get back to work. The agency is falling apart because Don's had his head up his wife's butt. Don tells Bert it's none of his business, to which Bert replies, "It is my business." You tell him, Bert! Looks like the sheriff is back in the saddle.
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