This week on Mad Men
, so many weird things happen it's hard to wrap my mind around them all. Don has a threesome, gets some of his mojo back and impresses Phillip Morris. Betty is more awful than usual, while Sally is just as sassy and amazing as always. Lou Avery's secret cartoon is exposed, while Stan sports the best ascot of all time.
Oh, also Ginsberg cuts off his nipple and presents it to Peggy in a box, kind of the same way your cat proudly drops a dead bird at your feet, finally answering the question of what to get the girl who has everything.
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Again, it's a strange episode. If last week was all about the computer as a metaphor, this week the computer literally drives someone insane.
But all of the characters are acting a little insane, especially Megan, whose irrational jealousy of a pregnant girl morphs into a weird desire to force Don into a threesome he doesn't seem particularly psyched about. The Don and Megan marriage seems to be perpetually treading water, and it's like just a matter of time before they finally go under.
Don't Open the Box
Of course, the big "OMG" moment of the episode belongs to Ginsberg, who becomes more and more unhinged as the episode goes along. Ginsberg has always been a character just a little left of center, so it's easy to ignore his ramblings about the computer and its hypnotic hum.
Even when he's stuffing tissues in his ears and rambling to Peggy about Lou and Jim being "homos," it's easy to write it off as Ginsberg's normal strange behavior. What is hard to write off, however, is the nipple in a box Ginsberg gives Peggy as a gift of his affections.
At what point does Peggy just write off dating forever, get a cat and call it a day? Girl seriously has the worst love life ever. If Mad Men doesn't end with Peggy, Stan and a box of ascots driving off into the sunset, I am going to feel seriously cheated.
As Harry says, agencies change and so does society. Betty and Henry talk about all the angry kids, and about the war. We even see the youth culture in action at Megan's hippie party. The times are indeed changing, and the computer is a concrete symbol of this change.
Change leaves us all feeling off-kilter sometimes, like a low hum we can't escape. Not everyone can adapt and handle changing times. And sometimes, change can make us act a little bit crazy.
The episode opens with Stan, in all his magnificent, ascot-wearing glory, finding a comic written by Lou Avery called "Scout's Honor." This sends off a feeding frenzy among the creatives making fun of Lou and his saccharine cartoon. Lou doesn't take to this well, keeping them all late and being resentful of their teasing. He says they wouldn't know anything about patriotism and loyalty.
Of course, loyalty becomes a big buzzword when Harry bumps into Don at Megan's party. He lets slip over drinks that Jim and Lou are courting a cigarette account. After Don's infamous memo about cigarette companies in the New York Times, landing the account would mean SD&P dropping the agency dead weight that is Don Draper.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself or getting loaded, Don does something he hasn't done in quite some time: he goes outside-the-box. He shows up at the meeting, pitching himself as a good fit for the account because he's been on both sides of the cigarette wars and can report back from the other side.
Phillip Morris seems unconvinced, since Don was disloyal once before. But they perk up when Don mentions what a coup his public apology would be for their company, and how it would position them in front of the competition.
"You're incredible," Lou says, only somewhat facetiously on the way out. Jim doesn't think the move will save him, but Don doesn't seem too worried. After almost hitting rock bottom again last week, we're seeing flashes of the old Don Draper once again. Will he rise back to the top or is it, as Jim implied, really too late to save himself?
A Pregnant Niece
Anna Draper's niece Stephanie returns, heavily pregnant, and Don sends her to stay with Megan. Megan is all sweetness and smiles, but underneath she is deeply unhappy at how pretty Stephanie is. Megan and Don's relationship is still on shaky ground, and it's clear Megan is threatened by just about anything.
After a shower, a nap and a steak she doesn't touch, Megan sends Stephanie on her way with $1,000 before Don can get home. Poor Stephanie ends up back on the streets where she started, with Don none the wiser that Megan hurried her out the door.
Meanwhile, Megan has her acting friends over for a wild hippie party. My favorite part is when everyone boos when someone starts to play the banjo, because even hippies hate hipsters.
After trying to make Don jealous by dancing with someone at the party, Megan initiates a threesome with her friend Amy. Megan seems desperate to hold onto Don, even though their relationship doesn't seem to make either of them very happy.
"It's a Nose Job, Not an Abortion"
Meanwhile, Betty is luxuriating in the power that comes along with being a politician's wife. The height of her high horse is pretty staggering; she even says it's hard to pretend to be "just like" the neighbors.
Her sense of superiority is clear, especially when an off-the-cuff comment about kids these days has her asking if the neighbors want her husband to do something about it. Betty herself has never had power, but she certainly loves riding on the coattails of her husband's position.
That is, of course, until a conversation about the war pricks her ego. Henry doesn't want her talking about the war, and he certainly doesn't want her to have her own opinions. This is even more clear later when Sally comes home with a broken nose. Betty is horrified that Sally has hurt her face, and it's not hard to see why. Betty's entire sense of self and what little power she has achieved has come about thanks to her beauty.
Later that night, Bobby crawls into bed with Sally and wonders if Betty and Henry will get divorced. The poor kid talks about how his stomach aches all the time, which seems like a reasonable reaction to living with a mother like Betty. Sally might be able to escape this house of horrors and stand up to her mother, but Bobby isn't quite so lucky. Poor Bobby.
It turns out Sally's nose is fine, just a little banged up, which will probably teach her a valuable lesson about sword fighting with golf clubs. (This episode is like what would happen if Mad Men did a bunch of acid and then binge-watched Game of Thrones. There's threesomes and sword fights and be-nipple-ings! The '70s are coming!)
Betty and Henry fight once again about Betty having opinions and then voicing those opinions. Betty is clearly beginning to awaken to the fact that she doesn't like being lumped in with "the help," and that she's not getting all of her happiness from raising children. "I speak Italian!"
I really hope this ends with Betty pursuing something that actually makes her happy. Every time it seems like Betty is taking a step forward, she's usually just about to take a couple hundred steps back. She's a pretty consistently miserable character, but it often seems like she's just a few moments of self-awareness away from turning her life around. Perhaps before the end of the decade (and the series), Betty will finally find her way.
What did you think of the episode? How shocked were you about the nipple in the box? Will Don be able to survive another cigarette account? Share in the comments!
Mad Men airs Sundays at 10pm on AMC.