Mad Men Season 5 Episode 8 recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

In October of 1966, Lyndon Johnson toured the West Pacific for 17 days, visiting 7 countries. In two scenes, when Megan told Peggy she was quitting, and when she cooked dinner for Don, there were radio news on in the background. I think this might be a nod to America beginning to be collectively aware/interested in what was happening in Vietnam, but not yet discussing it regularly. Not sure why else there’d be two undiscussed references on the same topic. The other date reference is The Beatles album, Revolver, which came out in early August 1966.

And we’re back to using episode titles for thematic guidance. This week’s title, Lady Lazarus refers to a 1962 poem by Sylvia Plath. The poem alludes to oppression, death and rebirth, and a phoenix, and the episode was jammed with related references.

-It’s pretty clear now that Megan has replaced Betty on the show. I know the scenes from next week showed Betty, but I imagine we’re not going to see very much of her until Sally gets a little older. This was another Megan episode, and I’ll mention it again, but this is not Don’s season. Megan declares she doesn’t like advertising, which has been building for a while now. The title of the episode refers mostly to her, oppressed by the job, being reborn (again) as an actress. When she told Don she needed to quit, she was wearing a firey red dress from earlier in the day, referencing the phoenix. At the beginning of the episode, she felt like she needed to hide it from Don. We’re supposed to think she’s cheating, especially when she involves Peggy in the lie, leaving the office dressed for dinner. The scenes of Don calling in were interesting. We get to see what he’s like at home by himself (watching TV and going to bed early). Don, Peggy, and Megan riding up an elevator together the next day is one of those quintessential Mad Men scenes.

-When Megan goes down in the elevator for her lunch, it’s a symbolic following of her dreams. Don lets her go and immediately presses the down button, maybe to follow her? When the door opens, he looks down into the guts of the building. Taking a big leap, the elevator shaft represents to Don what would happen if he followed his own dreams (whatever they are). And yet, he doesn’t seem to be too concerned she’s doing it, at least publicly. “I don’t want her to end up like Betty, or her mother.” “She’s not disappearing, is she?” “No she’s not.” The Beatles song Megan tells Don to play, Tomorrow Never Knows, has an early refrain, ‘It is not dying.’ Interesting because of all the death references today and this season and this series. In the scene immediately after Don listens to these words, we see Megan in acting class, acting dead. Heavy.

-Peggy is disappointed, but tonight’s episode at least explains Megan’s lack of enthusiasm last week when Peggy mentioned that type of thing was the best you could expect. That statement probably impacted Megan more and differently than Peggy intended. “You’re taking up a spot and you don’t even want to do it?” I’m not really sure why Peggy is so disappointed, except that maybe Peggy felt like another woman around would make it easier for her. “2nd wives, it’s like they have a playbook.” “I think she’s good at everything. I think she’s just one of those girls.”

-Actors acting as actors is always funny, but Don and Megan were pretty good as the couple from the Cool Whip commercial. And Cool Whip is a funny product for this because it’s fake just like everything, right? So incredibly bleak. Life is supposed to be sweet, but instead, it’s artificial non-dairy dessert. “Tell them Megan’s sick. Peggy will do it.” Peggy can stand in as Don’s professional wife, even her name is similar to Megan’s. How am I just realizing this now? In the Cool Whip pitch, Peggy freaks, and sabotages it for some reason. Whenever Peggy freaks, Don gets this look like he has no idea what to do or how to handle her. The scene of Don with his eyebrows raised, cigarette pack out, Ken, and Peggy, was another quintessential Mad Men shot. Why do you think Peggy is so mad? I’m too tired to write it all out.

-And now Pete. I’m not sure why, but I don’t hate him as much as everyone Chris does. He’s so pathetic. His desperation is deepening, though, like a teakettle beginning to whistle. I didn’t pick up on it last week or the week before, but Pete’s gun got mentioned, eep. Alexis Bledel from the Gilmore Girls is a good object for his obsession, a bored and complicated housewife, likely much like Trudy, but new, different. He drives her home, and somehow takes her shutting the car door in the middle of a conversation as an invitation for sex. She left the door to the house open, somehow knowing that her shutting the car door would be the perfect invitation. The 60s were weird. She doesn’t want a new partner, though, what she wants is someone to invite themselves over for dinner and kiss her passionately in the vestibule while her husband is getting some papers. She wants a thrill. Pete wants a thrill, too, but he wants more. He’s such a puppy. The eyes/Earth thing might be a bit early for them to discuss, because it doesn’t seem like there were color photos of the Earth like she was describing until 1967. Yhere was a lunar orbit photograph of the Earth released in August of 1966, but it was black and white.

-Harry and Pete’s interactions were funny. “Why do they get to decide what’s going to happen?” “They just do.” This dialogue contrasts with Joan and Peggy talking about 2nd wives having a rulebook. Doesn’t really paint women in a flattering light. Pete is going on about being lead on, and I couldn’t tell if this was meant to reference his perspective on forcing Peggy to have sex in season 1. Beth isn’t helping matters with the heart drawing on the car window.

-Harry is something like the dopey Sterling this season. His scenes are almost always comedic, but more because of the situation than the lines. And Pete carrying skis was hilarious.

-Some interesting quotations I didn’t have a place for: “More trouble than it’s worth.” “When did music become so important?”

-And finally, shame on you Mad Men. If there’s one thing I feel like I can depend on, it’s continuity. When Beth and Pete are talking on the phone, there’s a pearl, not part of her string of pearls, maybe another necklace, that changes positions several times during the conversation. Is it too much to ask for someone on the show to spot that? GIVE ME PERFECTION!

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 8 recap

3 thoughts on “Mad Men Season 5 Episode 8 recap

  1. I like your take on the elevator shaft. I didn’t know what to make of that. I also wasn’t sure why that Beatles song, but now I see how it ties in to the rest of the episode.

    I think Peggy was disappointed both because she appreciated having another woman on her team, and because she put a lot of effort into training/mentoring Megan, so Megan quitting feels like both Peggy’s failure and a waste of her time.

    I felt more sympathetic to Pete in this episode than I ever have before.

    Thanks as always for the recap!


  2. Nikki says:

    It is very easy to understand why Peggy is angry. Peggy hadtoworkto get where she is and while Megan got there pretty easily, she’s also pretty good at it. Megan has a job that so many women would love to have, but the doors just weren’t open to them and if they managed to break in it usually took years. Now she just doesn’t want to do it anymore? Yes, that makes Peggy angry.


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