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'Mad Men' recap: Under pressure

By Marisa Nadolny and Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: theday.com

Published May 12. 2014 12:43PM   Updated May 12. 2014 2:32PM

My darling K,

I’m going to have to file a few things about last night’s “Mad Men” under Things You Don’t See Every Day: first and foremost, Michael Ginsberg’s nipple in a gift box. Holy cannoli! Now, it seemed he was well on his way to a breakdown when he was YELLING AT THE COMPUTER through the glass in the beginning of the episode, but I truly didn't believe he'd pull a weird Van Gogh move and offer his nipple as a token of affection (?) to Peggy, who thank god had the sense to call in the men in the white coats. He was so chipper when he noted that his nipple was the "valve" that let off the pressure. Well acted by Ben Feldman

I also like how there’s a sign that reads “Think” atop the behemoth. And while it was a kind of amusing, I don’t think the writers had to bang us over the head with yet ANOTHER “2001: A Space Odyssey” reference, when Ginsberg, tissues in ears to block out the phantom “hum,” observed Lou and Jim talking in the computer room, a la H.A.L. the computer lip-reading the astronauts. At the very least, that convo was helpful in supporting Harry Crane’s drunken confession to Don about the cigarette deal. More on that later.

Another thing I didn’t expect: Betty Francis gets a backbone! “I’m sick of everyone telling me to shut up,” she says. Of course, I do it all the time when I watch most of her scenes, but still, Henry broke his own fuddy-duddy record this episode. “Girls, girls!” he shouts when Betty and Sally go at it about Sally’s injury. “Knock it off,” he says to Betty when she explains why she she’s perfectly content to read her newspaper indoors “like the help.” Suddenly he’s old square Daddy (like Lou), and here’s hoping he’s getting muscled out, too.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...”

Viva la revolución!

Luv,

M. 

***

My Dear Luv,

Good points all, and I agree with you — but you missed the most jarring scene of all: the three-way.

Now with my Irish-Catholic-Yankee upbringing, I do have a hard time talking and watching kinky sex, but here goes: Really? Megan is so hellbent on making Don jealous she shuns his pregnant “niece” and forces a ménage a trois on him? OK, I use the word “forces” loosely. Don did say, no, or something like “I don’t need a thing,” but apparently, he needed something, because after a night with Megan and Amy, the old Don was back. Sex made him strong. Isn't there a Greek god that got strength from sex? He marched into that cigarette meeting and worked his magic.

I was sort of annoyed at that whole scene but it worked beautifully into the storyline. BTW, loved how everyone was embarrassed the morning after.

Still in shock,

K

***

Lady K,

You're absolutely right, and is it me, or did it appear that Megan and Amy had a bit of intimate familiarity with each other? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I wonder if Megan's been a bit busier than we might've thought.

And how about that rockin’ party she threw? I totally would’ve gone to that. Loved the impromptu klez-esque band!

As for Stephanie, Megan just earned her share of scumbag points with that whole thing. For god’s sake, she’s family, and yet as soon as she says she “knows all (Don’s) secrets,” Megan can’t stand to have her around a second longer. Poor, poor behavior. Indeed, even when Stephanie calls from far-away Oakland, Megan starts slamming dishes around the sink. It started off so well (I mean, I did think it a tall order when Don pretty much ordered Megan to look after Stephanie, but Megan seemed more than up for it...) but then Megan laid eyes on the “Madonna” and didn’t want to compete. To her credit, Stephanie remains super cool (To Megan: “you’re magnetic”) and didn’t even bust Megan to Don during that last phone call.

Still, all that steak-cooking, pregnant-lady imagery made me incredibly nervous. Hated when Steph mentioned her jailed baby-daddy who would “murder someone just to stay in jail” if he knew about the baby. So much for peace and love ...

Now, can we talk about Lou’s latest display of epic jackassery? He’s caught making comics with company equipment and everyone ELSE is in trouble? Discuss.

PS. Not sure on the Greek sex-god (other than Dionysus).

Love and rockets,

M. 

***

Dear M,

Wait. You've thrown me for a loop here. Are you saying Stephanie is a Sharon Tate character and her baby daddy in jail is Charlie Manson? Now I’m nervous. The only saving grace for Megan is she doesn’t have a pool and Sharon Tate’s house had a pool. Still, that whole secluded house in the hills, wild parties, and three-way sex is putting me on edge.

OK, on to Lou. Yes, he’s a jerk. But we saw how insecure he really is, too. To have his minions laughing at him at the meeting was hilarious. And then when he ordered everyone to stay late and finish? Such a baby. Loved when Don told him to grow a thicker skin, and he responded that he wasn't taking management advice from Don Draper. Touché, Lou.

But wasn't the whole episode about defying authority. Sally stands up to her mother: “It's a nose job not an abortion.” Don defying the partners; Megan disregards what Don wants and ousts the “niece’; Ginsberg tries to seduce Peggy, and, as you pointed out, Betty to Henry: she has a mind and thinks all the time, thankyouverymuch.

Did you see the Ginsberg breakdown coming? I mean before last night? Peggy looked totally fragile when the men in the white coats were wheeling him out and he was yelling, “Get out while you can!”

So much to digest.

Yours,

k

***

Ms. K,

I don’t know what the hell I’m saying, but all that mixed imagery gave me the willies. (It doesn’t help that I just read the Wikipedia entry on the 1969 Manson Family killings. I was searching for clues and only managed to creep myself out.) 

You are totally right about the “question authority” theme last night. And what’s particularly great is that you’ve got typical establishment types like Betty and Don joining the fray. Don chuckles collegially with the gang re: “Scout’s Honor,” and Betty makes a great point about the Vietnam War sparking all manner of protest among youth. Meanwhile, all Lou can do is show his age as he puts the creative crew in what amounts to detention after condemning them as “a bunch of flag-burning snots” with no respect for the fabric of patriotism. How funny was it when he invoked Bob Dylan as his fellow dreamer in arms? Ha! 

And listen re: Ginsberg, I thought at first we just had Ginsberg being Ginsberg. Then I thought it was a super pathetic ploy to woo Peggy. And then, it soooooo wasn’t. I was pretty shocked at his ... gift. I hope this isn't the last we’ll see of him, because I’m curious about what exactly Weiner is trying to tell us through Ginsberg’s bizarro display. Is it as simple as one man's rage against the machine? Not sure; it seems deeper than a case of overworked/overstimulated creative goes haywire under pressure. One more thing to watch for: at the beginning of the episode, Ginsberg compares himself to Cassandra (Which was funny, random, and creepy all at once.) In the Greek myths, Cassandra has the gift of prophecy; of course, that gift comes with a curse: no one will ever take stock in her prophecies. In the end, she goes mad. 

I’m not saying I give any credence to Ginsberg’s whole “the computer’s trying to make everyone homosexual” theory, but I’m saying once in awhile, some clues might emerge from his fevered lips. #Justsayin'. 

Now, on to the Commander cigarettes deal. Do I understand correctly that Lou and Jim Cutler pursued this deal solely as a method to oust Don? (And, to doublecheck, the ousting would occur because a cigarette firm wouldn’t want to work with Don, since he wrote that op-ed about the dangers of smoking? And how in hell were we supposed to remember that?) I was a bit confused when Harry first brought that all up. You?

Duh,

M. 

***

Dear M,

Believe it or not, I did remember the whole cigarette storyline, so it made sense to me. I think Lou and Cutler were pursuing to get work, not just to get rid of Don. Although Don did say to Harry “is there work?” Do they really have time for such an elaborate scheme to get rid of Don?

Those cigarette accounts will soon be going south anyway and admen will be working on non-smoking bits. Do remember the anti-smoking radio PSA about a guy nearly missing his train because he was fighting the cigarette machine on the station platform to get a pack of cigs? He makes it to the train, sits down and looks out the window. A deep voice says, “There. Beside the cigarette machine. Your attaché case.” Sounds a bit Draper-ish to me.

Just like the 1969 Mets, Don is going to be successful this year. Full disclosure, I had no idea of the significance of the Mets banner Don found last week under the radiator and then hung on the wall until my friend Jeff enlightened me: the Mets won the World Series in 1969.

Don’s baaaaack! But did you hear his “niece” called him Dick?

K

***

Brilliant K,

Thank you for that. And yeah, they better NOT have the time to hatch this grand plan to oust Don. I mean, really! As my first editor used to say during too-long moments of mirth, “Hey quit it you guys! This is a place of business!” before she went on laughing. But still: time is money, people!

Now, I don’t remember the commercial in question, but you are absolutely right that it sounds like classic Don Draper verbiage. (I do, of course, remember cigarette machines, otherwise known as the boon to high school students everywhere.)

I did cringe a little when Don silkily laid out his very good plan, which will of course involve completely reversing everything he once (sort of) stood for. Although, I guess he never really cared about the dangers of smoking, even as he wrote that op-ed (likely with a cigarette nearby). I suppose it’s all just smoke and mirrors in the ad game, after all. And if Don’s good at anything, it’s changing the conversation. Still, it rang a little scummy to me. But then again, this IS the cigarette industry, so really, who cares if they get a little scuz on their suits, amIright? (Note: I’m going to go back to episode 1, titled “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and see if there’s any clues there.)

Now, on to the fun stuff: are you at all familiar with rumaki? (Part of Betty’s house-party spread, along with Crab Louis on toast points and little franks in BBQ sauce.) I had to Google it, and it sounds vile, yet I’m kind of surprised Betty would’ve made something so hip! Per Wikipedia, “(rumaki’s) ingredients and method of preparation vary, but usually it consists of water chestnuts and pieces of duck or chicken liver wrapped in bacon and marinated in soy sauce and either ginger or brown sugar. Pastrami is often substituted for bacon.”

THAT with cocktail wieners? Cripes...

Ew,

M.

***

Dear M,

Never heard of Betty’s rumaki but of course am familiar with cocktail franks!

Even though the episode was rather dark, what with Ginsberg’s breakdown and all, there were many pop culture references and lines that made me smile.

Let’s start with Underdog. Lou loves Underdog? I did too oh so many years ago. (Not sure what that says about me...)

— When Stephanie said she could have flopped in MacArthur Park in L.A., I could almost hear Richard Harris singing “Someone left the cake out in the rain ...”

— “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Blood, Sweat and Tears spinning on the turntable during Megan’s party.

— Lou calling the crew “flag-burning snots.” That was the description of any young person who questioned the war or authority back then.

— Sally breaking her nose because she was sword-fighting with golf clubs!

— Megan with the smudged mascara the morning after the threesome.

And was that Waylon Jennings at the end singing “Everybody knows, you’ve been stepping on my toes” ? Totally a song for Don. I’m telling you — he’s back!

Looking forward to the next episode,

k

***

Ms. K,

Indeed it was Mr. Jennings, and I think the lyrics to the song say it all. Take a listen, and we’ll meet back here next week.

PS. I always wondered how a cake ends up left out in the rain, but...

Mad love,

M.

***

Ms. M

Until next week I leave you with "all the sweet, green icing flowing down ..."

Mad love back at ya,

k


We're on twitter: @edgecombday and @TheMDesk.

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