Mad Men Season 7 Episode 4

Mad Men Art
Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “The Monolith.” Monoliths are either large blocks of stone or monuments, or “advanced machines built by an unseen extraterrestrial species” from Space Odyssey. Maybe Don’s the block of stone and the computer is the advanced machine?

Episode date: Around April 18th, 1969. Don was reading a newspaper with a headline alluding to Nixon’s announcement that planes surveilling North Korea would have protection. This, following North Korea shooting down a spy plane on the 15th, killing 31 crewmen. Don’s been back at SCP for 3 weeks making the timing of episode 3 around April 1st or so. I couldn’t find any clues last week. Lastly, the Mets did win the game Don wanted to go to with Freddy.

At the beginning of the episode, Pete runs into a former client/colleague from Vick’s. He found out Trudie’s father had a heart attack, illustrating how out of touch he is with his forner life. He also gets the opportunity to pitch Burger Chefs, a chain founded in the 50s that rose to 1050 locations through the 60s before starting to crumble. Something with a heyday in the 60s not doing so well against new competition? You don’t say.

Harry Crain is getting his computer, but for some reason, it doesn’t make him any less insufferable. I must have missed the episode where he did something remarkable to think so highly of himself. In any case, the computer is taking over the former creative lounge and the creative team is (rightly?) spooked. I’m not sure how a computer is supposed to take over for creative, but try telling Ginsberg that. “The other one’s full of farts.” “They’re trying to erase us.” It’s obvious the computer is a metaphor, there’s even the line of dialogue, “These machines can be a metaphor for whatever’s on people’s minds.” Later on, there’s a conversation where Lloyd is explaining the difference between his company and IBM. It’s dripping with symbolism and references to Don. IBM is selling the always new. Lloyd is more trusting of the older machines, more willing to let them hang around and keeping doing their job. “They have a great product, but they don’t trust it.” SCP used to do things the old way and Don fit in. Now they’re pushing the new, new, new, so maybe there’s no room for him anymore? There was more to the conversations between Lloyd and Don, but there was so much, so fast, it was hard to keep track. It was basically a conversation about human vs machine, art vs science (counting stars), and old vs new. Once drunk Don returns, he tells (paraphrasing) Lloyd his company doesn’t need an ad campaign because he’s got the new, what everyone wants.

Normally, I’d wait until the end to note the song used in the credits, (On a Carousel by The Hollies), but it seems extra important to me. This is the second reference in two weeks to ‘the Carousel scene,’ a Kodak pitch Don crushes. (Last week was Ken Cosgrove telling Don he always thinks of him when they go to the carousel.) I wouldn’t say this was the last time Don was on his game, but he sure was firing on all cylinders then. “Do the work.” Freddy’s pep talk sets Don right. Maybe we’re to see this as him realizing he’s got a long way to go to come back. Maybe I need to watch last season again to see how bad it got for Don and SCP, but it’s hard for me to believe Don would get knocked this far down. They clearly didn’t want him back, but I’m not sure they would have made Lou privy to that. I don’t know. My brain’s a little scrambled on this. And just to give Freddy his due. He recognizes what Don has and that he’s throwing it away. He sees the partners are messing him and he tells Don to mess with them right back by doing the work. Super short, but great scene.

“Let the man be a man.” Lou gives Peggy a raise and then makes her deal with Don. This gave us a chance to see the unlovable Peggy, the one who forgets what Don did for her. I guess she doesn’t owe him anything, but would it have killed her to be less smarmy? I don’t recall Don being unfair with her (too often anyway), so I’m not sure why she handled it the way she did. Especially because, as she discussed with Joan at the end of the episode, she clearly knew they were trying to make her deal with Don because they couldn’t. “They” being the partners in this situation. Joan’s probably right, though, in thinking the partners probably didn’t think about it at all. That said, Lou definitely did. Don’s death stare when Peggy gave him the assignment to come up with 25 tags was amazing with a capital ah.

Don finds the pennant Lane bought for his son (I think) during a visit at some point. As Bert Cooper gleefully points out, Don is back and in a dead man’s old office. Lane’s a ghost, and they expect Don to be one soon. It’s pretty messed up! Bert wants him gone so badly he’s not even interested in the opportunity of the new business Don developed. I’m still confused about the implications of Don’s partnership status and the new stipulations. Not confused, more like concerned. I know Don will be OK, it just seems crazy it would be so easy for the partners to kick him out. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him.

Lastly, Roger, Mona, and Margaret. I’m sorry, Marigold. Margaret has run off to a hippie commune. For years, we all thought it’d be Sally experiencing the late 60s for the sake of the show, but instead, it’s Margaret. She runs off to a commune leaving her son behind. It’s an interesting juxtaposition because Roger’s been expanding his own mind lately. Something flips for Roger when Margaret sneaks off in the middle of the night. Not sure exactly what the trigger was, but he tells her she needs to come home, and she says I learned it from watching you, dad, I learned it from watching you. There was something funny about the car ride with Roger and Mona where Roger mentions the last time he saw Margaret she was cruel, serene, a little bit philosophical, and Mona seems to agree, “I thought she was happy.”

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 4

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