Mad Men is a show that is constantly focused on where things are headed; always looking ahead to what the future may hold. This week’s episode, ‘Mystery Date,’ brought up issues of Don’s philandering past to light and, rather than bottle them up as he normally would, he forces himself to face the past head on, but in quite a dark way.
Frankly, this whole episode was quite dark. A discussion about Chicago’s student nurse murders (a real life horrific event committed by Richard Speck in 1966) pops up in the SDCP offices, much to the distaste of the newly hired and unbearably annoying Michael Ginsberg, as well as in the Francis house, leading to an incredibly bizarre scene between Sally and her Grandma Francis that starts with a scared Sally and ends with Grandma brandishing a knife and giving Sally prescription meds. Parenting!
Early on, one of Don’s past lovers, Andrea, runs into him in an elevator and is immediately in his face; a breath or two away from turning the moment into an old Aerosmith song. Unbeknownst to Andrea, he happens to be sharing said elevator with his new wife Megan. Megan rightfully is embarrassed and a bit defensive, revealing that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Having been Don’s secretary before his wife, she’s also quite aware of his “careless appetite” and points out that he now doesn’t have Betty as a scapegoat. Megan might be much younger, but I love how well she handles herself within their relationship.
Amidst the arguing and awkwardness, Don also seems to have the onset of a pretty bad cold. He’s coughing his lungs up and seems generally out of it. After a quick meeting that Ginsberg nearly tanks thanks to his ramblings, Don calls it a day and heads home. He’s quite unprepared to hear someone at the door and discovers its Andrea.
Of course Don panics and, much to my personal happiness, immediately gets rid of Andrea via the freight elevator. He’s made it clear that he’s married and the past is over. This is not the Don Draper we’ve come to know.
After another nap, Don comes to seeing what he thinks is Megan sitting in his bed with him, but it’s actually Andrea. She claims she let herself back in and, even knowing Megan could be home any minute, insists that Don give her one for the road, and he does!
I seriously had to pause my TV. I was pacing. I may have even yelled at the TV. I seriously could not believe that this new Don Draper that I have become invested in would so casually drift back into that old familiar suit. Not to mention the tension of Megan coming home and finding him having sex with this woman that he’s been claiming was nothing all day. Why, Don, why?!
Only then, it gets worse. After some adulterous afternoon delight, Don insists that Andrea leave. She begins to insinuate that they are far from done and, when the idea of losing his new marriage crosses his mind, Don snaps. He grabs Andrea by the throat and chokes her to death, only to casually shove her under the bed. Riddled with guilt over the sex and now murdering someone, Don then just nonchalantly falls back to sleep.
What… just… happened?
Luckily, Don wakes up again to find a caring Megan and no dead body. Turns out his sickness gave him one of the most vividly horrific fever dreams of all time. I also am thinking or hoping, rather, that the dream was also metaphorical. A way of Don killing off that part of him that has no problem casually sexing up any female with a skirt and a pulse. It’s always been his one major flaw, and after the self-improvement of Season 3, it’s time to put it all into action.
Although this episode was very Don-centric (finally!), this episode also dabbled a good bit in Joan’s world. Her husband, Greg, has surprisingly returned from the war. I say surprisingly since it seemed like an easy narrative “out” to have him killed off, but the Mad Men writers rarely go for the conventional. Instead, we see a truly excited Joan about to burst at the seams anticipating his arrival and showing off “their” baby (Kevin’s actually Roger’s baby from a brief tryst the pair had in an alley after being mugged last season) only to be destroyed by his news that he’s going to return for one more year.
Although she doesn’t take the news of Greg’s return to war well, Joan puts on a happy face and decides to support him. That is until Greg’s mother reveals that he volunteered to go back. He had a choice in this and didn’t include Joan in it at all. Joan’s been willing to play the housewife role to an extent, but she’s always been a strong, self sufficient character and when she realizes this, she’s frankly had enough and sends Greg on his way, informing him to never return, but not before reminding him of how he’ll never actually be a “good” man. Maybe this time the war will get him.
Peggy also got some good screen time this week. She finds herself in a position of power when Roger has his back up against the wall with the Mohawk presentation. While working late on the Mohawk account, she discovers Dawn, Don’s new secretary, sleeping in Don’s office and offers to let her stay over at her place. They share some beers and some stories and seem to be having an all-around good time until Peggy has a moment that makes her come across a bit racist. She wakes to find Dawn already gone and having left a sweet note, which makes her feel even worse.
Other notable moments:
– “I just wanted to hear the tone of your voice so I can make sure it’s not as annoying as it is in everyday life.” I hate Michael’s voice too, Don.
– “In my heart, I’m on the verge of throwing you in front of a cab.” Don, for the love of God, please throw him in front of said cab.
– Pete Campbell showed that with maybe a whole two or three minutes he can still manage to be the smarmiest bastard on TV. His delivery of “Goodnight, everyone!” was so full of it.
– Not only do the Francis’ live in a castle-like home, they’ve also got a remote control for their TV in the mid 60’s. That’s high class living right there.
– Sassy Peggy is the best Peggy.
– “Y’all drink a lot.” -Dawn, you speak truths.
– Since we know Peggy has a problem with drinking and saying inappropriate things, I had a feeling her hangout with Dawn was going to go sour at some point. Peggy did end up making it awkward, but it wasn’t with her words. Just a single judgmental glance. Dawn’s face was heartbreaking.
– The accordion player showing up and playing right at the heat of Joan and Greg’s argument was hilarious and heartbreaking.
– Grandma Francis making Sally even more scared then she was to begin with, yet it was the closest thing to bonding the pair did throughout the episode. Seeing Sally sleeping under the couch the next morning was kind of precious.
– From the mouth of Roger Sterling:
“Hey, Trotsky, you’re in advertising!”
“Are you drunk?! Get your feet off that desk!”
– “I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man because I’m sick of trying to do it.” You tell him, Joanie.
– Joan’s shoulder shrug at Greg’s ultimatum continues a long history Mad Men has with apathetic shoulder shrugging. I love it. -“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals is an incredibly haunting song that was a perfect ending to the episode.
I personally loved this episode of Mad Men. It was a nice change of pace from last week and it felt good having Don back in the forefront. What did everybody else think? What are your thoughts on the season so far?
– Matt Hardeman