Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.
Episode title: “Runaways” – The Stephanie and Sally/Bobby stories seem to fit.
Date of episode: The only clue I could pick up was a reference to Eiesnhower’s funeral which was on 3/31/1969. But… We knew last week’s episode was after April 18th, so, not super helpful.
This was my favorite episode of this short half season. A lot happened, and there was a vintage Don power pitch.
Despite a two year contract, Lou’s got his dreams of comic stardom, despite his comic being a rip off of Beatle Bailey. The gang finds his drafts, and, since they don’t respect him, they… are disrespectful. “You know who had a ridiculous dream and people laughed at him?” “You?” Some on the team think Lou wanted them to see the comic. It’s possible. The relationship between Don and Lou is toxic. Lou is so threatened by Don, he doesn’t take kindly to any of Don’s attempts at making the best of it. Don really does seem to be trying, but Lou is too insecure to do his part. “I’m not taking management advice from Don Draper.”
Anna Draper’s niece calls Don from the shadow of the Capitol Records building, pregnant, with nowhere to go. Don wants to help and sends her to Megan’s to wait for him. Initially, Megan is happy to help, calling to mind how good she is with Don’s kids. Then there’s a big change when Stephanie says she know’s all Don’s secrets. “I know all of his secrets.” “But you don’t know him very well.” It’s possible there was an underlying tone to Don and Stephanie’s call, and when Megan told Don she didn’t stay, Megan made a comment about how “she got to the money quickly” (did I make this up?). This didn’t seem to surprise Don at all. That said, I didn’t really feel like Stephanie was only after money. Also, was Stephanie’s headband was another reference to Sharon Tate, or are the Mad Men/Manson Murder conspirarists crazy?
Don and Megan seem to be better than before, don’t they? When Don calls her, Megan is happy to hear from him, and she happily agrees to help out his beautiful, pregnant niece. This, before jealously freaking out and paying her off to leave. As mentioned in the paragraph above, Megan appears to flip out when she realizes Stephanie knows Don’s secrets, too. I know Megan knew some/all of the Don/Dick Whitman story, but I don’t remember if we knew how much she knew. And I can’t remember if we knew she had Anna’s ring. Megan bringing her friend into the bed struck me as trying to do something, anything to keep/make Don happy. Was this Don’s first threesome? Doubt it.
“Things are falling apart here, too.” Betty is bored and cranky, like a tiny baby. Henry remains too good for her and trapped. Driving all over the state to take care of Sally because her and Betty can’t be within a foot of each other is stepdad of the year material. The fight this time around seems to be about Betty thinking Henry thinking Betty is stupid because she doesn’t quite understand how to be political. The company line was Nixon was looking for a way to get out of Vietnam, but maybe that hadn’t filtered down to the base yet. In any case, Bobby has “a stomach all the time” and remains the sweetest kid. “It’s a nose job, not an abortion.” Betty’s comments about Sally’s injury did sound like she was referencing an illicit abortion. Sally remains pretty disdainful of Betty, essentially saying she’s nothing without her beauty. “Where would mom be without her perfect nose?” It’s possible Betty is showing a shred of maternal concern, misguided as it is: If Sally’s not beautiful, she won’t have any options. Sally doesn’t buy it. Henry’s stuck in the middle. “I’m tired of everyone telling me to shut up. I’m not stupid.” “Let me check the sterno.” One thing I forgot to mention, did you notice how no one bothered to tell Don about Sally’s nose?
“It’s just a computer!” In Greek mythology, Cassandra had the gift of prophecy, but the curse of never being believed. “What am I, Cassandra?” Ginsberg is having a mental breakdown and he’s focusing on the computer as the main driver. The computer is making him gay. Or something. I don’t know, right now, if this was just Ginsberg being Ginsberg, or if there’s deeper meaning to him going crazy. We’ve all seen Seven, so we knew there’d be something in the box we didn’t want to see. Because cutting his own nipple was telegraphed, this wasn’t on the level of British executive getting his toe cut off with a riding lawn mower, but it was still pretty cray. I also liked the subtle hint that Peggy’s Saturday night plans consist of watching tv with her young upstairs neighbor, Julio.
Which leaves us only with Don. He’s doing the work Freddy told him to do, instead of walking out on Lou, postponing his trip. Peggy is still lording it over him, for some reason, which maybe I’ll have to rematch last season to remember out why. Once he finally shows up in LA, who should he meet but Harry Crane (whose name I’ve probably spelled 15 different ways in these recaps.) Harry’s tune toward Don has changed somewhat since last season, and as Don gets Harry drunk, and flatters him, he finds out Lou and Jim are pursuing a tobacco client… for some reason. What’s unclear is how they’d plan to get rid of Don if they did land the business. You might recall Don’s “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” ad in the NY Times. The Philip Morris team certainly does. Somehow, after landing in NY on Sunday, Don finds out about Jim and Lou’s Monday morning breakfast at the Algonquin. It took me a second time watching that scene through to realize why I liked it so much: It’s the first of Don’t great pitches we’ve seen this season. The pitches have gotten more and more scarce over the last couple years, so when we get a good one… In any case, he was pitching himself this time around, and I think he was successful. Either SCP won’t get the business, and he’ll be fine, or they will get the business and Philip Morris will insist on him being a part of the team. It infuriates Lou and Jim because they know that, too, and part of this gambit was bringing on new business which would force Don out.
Credit music: Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line by Waylon Jennings