This week on Mad Men,
Don falls back into old habits, Peggy gets a raise that might not be worth it and Roger visits a commune to bring back his daughter Margaret, but only ends up with some good pot and a muddy suit to show for his efforts.
It's an episode chock-full of symbolism, from Don occupying Lane's old office to Roger and Margaret's talk of the moon. It's also an episode of very on-the-nose symbolism. The computer installer is basically just a walking exposition device for metaphors. "Computers can be a metaphor to many people," he says. He also explains that many people resent computers because they're limitless and "Human existence is finite." This guy must really kill at parties.
Don might be back at SD&P, but he certainly didn't get the homecoming he expected. No one wants him at the agency, but possibly more distressing, no one actually knows what to do with him now that he's back. He's not informed of agency meetings, not told the computer is coming into the office and he's not even present at the meeting where Pete imparts the good news about Burger Chef.
He's back, but not really. Just like Peggy soon finds that her raise and recognition from Lou comes with a very big catch: she's now, for better or worse, being put in charge of Don. And Roger discovers that Margaret's new lease on life came courtesy of a cult she joined, and is roped by his ex-wife into going up to the commune to save her.
The past informs the present, and it's impossible to go back when time just keeps marching forward. Soon, visiting the moon will be possible and computers won't need a whole room in order to crunch data. But there's also no going back for Roger, Peggy or Don.
Don, in particular, has made his bed at the company, and there's no going back to being the Don Draper he used to be. Just like the IBM computers after two years, Don has become obsolete. The only way to be more than an agency problem to be foisted off on someone is to put down the bottle (or soda can of vodka) and do the work.
Back at the Bottom
Don was once on the top of the heap at the agency. He did, as he points out, found the agency. He was behind almost all of the biggest shakeups the agency has had, whether it was splitting from the traditional Sterling Cooper or merging with Ted and Jim. Yet now, Don is no better than a middle-weight copywriter, being handed deadlines from his former secretary and one-time mentee Peggy.
"I started this agency," Don says to Burt angrily when he shoots down his idea of pitching the computer company installing their new giant machine. "Yes, along with the dead man whose office you now inhabit," Burt shoots back. Don is back at SD&P, but he's as ghostly as the tiny mementos Lane Pryce left behind, like a sad, crumpled Mets pendant.
Meanwhile, Peggy is first nervous that Lou overheard her complaining about his lack of respect for creatives when the computer takes over the creative lounge. In fact, Lou is giving her a nice $100 raise. Less fortunately, babysitting Don on the Burger Chef account comes along with the raise. You win some, you lose some, Peggy. That's what the money is for.
Peggy struggles with how to deal with Don, and tries to change their former power dynamic by calling Don into her office and giving him an assignment of 25 tags. Don immediately goes into his office, throws things around and then takes off for the weekend.
He has no intention of following Peggy's orders, and in fact plays a game of Solitaire rather than attending her meeting about the tags. After his talk with Burt, Don steals a bottle of vodka from Roger's office, pours it into a soda can and gets wasted. The reign of Don Draper: Human Disaster continues.
Thankfully, Don is smart enough to call Freddy Rumsen to invite him to a Mets game, and Freddy, like the good sponsor he is, comes directly to the office to shoo Don out before he gets fired.
We finally get a great Joan and Peggy scene, which are far too rare on the show. Joan congratulates Peggy on her raise and Peggy flips out. In general, Peggy has been extremely tense and irritable all season.
Joan gives Peggy two minutes and they chat about how Peggy ended up saddled with Don. Peggy thinks Don was dropped in her lap because they were hoping one of them would fail. Joan, however, doesn't think they thought about it at all. Peggy has had to fight her way up tooth and nail and therefore is always ready for another fight, but Joan knows that indifference can be just as cruel.
Back at home, Freddy tells a sobering Don the next morning not to implode like the partners want but to dust himself off. "Are you going to kill yourself? Give them what they want?" Freddy asks. While Don whines about how the agency was never serious about his second chance, Freddy advises him to just do the work.
The next day, Don shows up at work, on time, and sits down at his typewriter to churn out 25 tag lines for Peggy by noon. Combined with his lovely heart-to-heart with Sally earlier this season, it really gives hope that Don Draper might be able to find some measure of happiness.
This week is a major backslide on the road to Don's redemption, but after doing so many terrible things for so long, that was practically inevitable. Yet the show has never given us so many reasons to be hopeful that finally, maybe, Don is close to getting it somewhat together.
Down on the Commune
While Don is struggling in the office, Roger is struggling in his personal life. The last time we saw Margaret, she seemed way, way too happy and at peace. And now we finally know why: she's abandoned her family and is now living on a commune with a bunch of dirty hippies, smoking pot and enjoying the era of free love. Anyone who guessed "cult," congratulations!
Roger's ex-wife Mona is incensed and wants Roger to go down to the commune and help her free Margaret from these crazy hippies. Roger, however, tries to keep out of it until Margaret's husband ends up in jail for getting in a fight.
So Roger and Mona head up to the commune, where "Marigold" soon has her mother angry enough to head back and declare her a lost cause. Roger sticks around to try to talk some sense into her, but mostly he just smokes pot and peels potatoes.
The two sleep on a pile of hay and watch the stars, talking about whether or not we'll ever get to the moon. (Spoiler alert: we will!) It might just be the pot talking, but they have a fairly nice father-daughter conversation and she seems to be convincing him that she's actually happy in the heart of hippie nation. That is, until he sees her taking off with one of her many lovers in the night.
The next morning, Roger tries to carry her off by force, but only manages to fall down in the mud and get his suit dirty. He tries to appeal to her maternal side but, as a true offspring of Roger's, the joke's on him because she doesn't have one. She points out that he basically spent zero time with her during her childhood, and therefore her son will be fine. I mean, look how well she turned out!
Roger leaves without Margaret, probably to go home to an orgy and some LSD. It looks like the apple really didn't fall too far from the tree.
Elsewhere in the Newly Technological SC&P...
-- Farewell, creative lounge! Farewell, creative lounge couch, which is apparently much nicer than the couch in Stan and Ginsburg's office. Their couch, sadly, is full of farts. And if that isn't the best Mad Men line of all time, I don't know what is.
-- Don's disdain for Harry Crane is my constant.
-- Pete and his real estate agent girlfriend, Bonnie, bump into a former Vicks account man, now working at Burger Chef. He drops a mention that Pete's former father-in-law had a heart attack, and Pete seems surprised he didn't know, even though he and Trudy are on the road to divorce.
What did you think? Is Peggy too mean this season? Will Don go on another bender or is he on the mend? And will Ginsburg ever get a couch not full of farts? Sound off in the comments!
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC.