The house that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce built is standing on shaky ground. That is to say, its employees are.
This week's episode begins with a sick Don bumping into an ex-lover in an elevator. This would not be anything out of the ordinary for the once multi-partnered guy, except he is with his current wife. While Don tries to alleviate the awkwardness by reminding her that they are husband and wife, she reminds him that he was also married when having the affair. Oh, yeah. That's right.
Everyone's favorite office manager Joan is preparing for the return of her army-doctor husband. The homecoming starts off sweet, but something else is going on. The fuse that was lit prior to his leaving is about ready to explode. And it does! Joan's husband Greg drops the bomb that he has to go back to Vietnam, and "has to" isn't all that accurate. He has "volunteered" to go back; his wife and newborn baby should just sit tight for another year.
Life in the office of SCDP chugs along like normal, until Peggy's photographer friend enthralls the team with unpublished photos of the 1966 murders in Chicago. The team delivers their usual response to the going-ons of the world, casual and somewhat superior. However, newcomer Michael Ginsburg is disgusted by the display of thoughtlessness. Do we have an adman with a soul? How...odd. To Don's dismay, Michael also brings an unsolicited brashness into a client pitch meeting. Michael is an odd bird, not quite getting the way "things work." The direction his character is going in is still unclear, but he's certainly rocking the order of things.
The unraveling of Roger is ever apparent. He shirks his responsibility to big client Mohawk Airlines and, once again, finds himself paying his way out of his misstep. When will Roger get his act together? There is an obvious foreshadowing that Roger's mistakes are mounting and soon enough the money in his pocket will not be enough.
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Peggy, working after hours, stumbles upon Dawn, Don's African American assistant, sleeping in the office. She has been avoiding her subway ride to Harlem, out of fear. Peggy urges Dawn to crash on her couch and drunkenly opens up about being a woman in a boy's club. It's not easy, nor does she feel like she is an honest version of herself. For a moment, Peggy may have found a connection. Here are two women struggling together in a social uprising. But the old ways get the best of Peggy and she awkwardly grabs for her purse, a racist move if we've ever seen one.
Meanwhile, Don, overcome with fever, goes home to sleep it off but is accosted by his old flame from the elevator. Did she really just show up at Don's apartment or is this the fever talking? Eventually, Don gives in to her sexual persistence but, afraid of what may happen next, strangles her and tosses her under his bed. Has Don finally strangled his inclination toward extramarital affairs? Or has he just shoved his urges under the bed for a while? I think the latter.
This was an excellent episode, the best of the season so far. As always, the writers are making great use of current affairs, and the apprehension and unease of the nation is spilling into the office. Each character is faced with his or her own fears, about the world and about their true selves, yet no one is willing to face them. Even Don's daughter Sally is brought into the mayhem of the culture and cannot get the tales of the Chicago murders out of her head. In an obvious parallel, both she and Don's mistress end up hiding under furniture.
Joan may be the only character that steps up to the challenge, and the episode ends with her leaving Greg. Hallelujah! What is she going to do now as a single, working mother? We'll see!