Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mad Men -- A Triad of Weirdness

*Warning -- Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

Last week's Mad Men episode featured an unexpected fistfight between, of all people, Lane Pryce and Pete Campbell. This week Roger Sterling dropped acid. What'll happen next week, Joan Harris will burn her bra? If the parade of ugly late 60s clothing didn't already clue you in, we are deep into the cliched 60s now and I suspect that things will get uglier with each passing installment.

This "Far Away Places" episode unfolded in a different format for Mad Men: Three different stories began at one point in time at the office then took off to follow Peggy's day (including her midday, pot-fueled interlude with a stranger), Roger indulging in LSD and coming to the conclusion that he and Jane are finished and Don's day, specifically his intense fight with Megan. It's been a few days since I first saw this episode and I'm still processing what it all means.

First, Peggy. She went all Don Draper-during-the-Jantzen pitch on the Heinz people. She told the naysayers that the two pitches she'd worked up for them, based on their explicit wishes, were brilliant and that if they didn't like them, they were knuckleheads. And she wasn't wrong. Don did essentially the same thing when he ordered the bathing suit guys out of his office after they responded poorly to his advertising campaign last season.

Seeing that Don has taken off in the middle of the work day on too many occasions to count, Peggy followed his lead after her failed pitch and went to the movies. But she did it 60s style, by smoking pot with a stranger and putting her hands down his pants during the film. Is Peggy trying to literally follow Don by screwing around with strangers? Couple the way in which Peggy's boyfriend Abe complained that all she did was work and Peggy panicking because she couldn't find those violet candies (the ones Don once told Bobby that Don's dad used to carry) and her emotional connection to Don couldn't be clearer.

Don, meanwhile, flipped out when Megan, in the heat of an argument about him not taking her career seriously, invoked his mother. (Has he not been totally honest about his background with her?) Don was thoroughly unhinged, unable to listen to her explain that she loves work and felt guilty about not helping her creative team (which, as her boss, he should applaud). In a blind, orange sherbet-induced rage, Don abandoned Megan at Howard Johnson's, which she didn't find quite as charming as he did, another thing that set him off.

However, unlike Betty, who suffered through Don's baloney for so many years, Megan wasn't having it and found her own way back home without leaving any word for Don that she was safe, his punishment for selfishly ditching her in a strange place. Megan, despite her youth, seems quite capable of going toe-to-toe with Don even when he chases her down in their living room and tackles her like she was a running back and he a burly center on the losing football team. His emotional declaration that he thought he'd "lost" her seemed to melt her defenses, but if he keeps acting like a caveman toward his modern wife, this "I'm in charge" attitude is going to get old. Roger and Jane serve as a cautionary tale.

Acid helped Roger and Jane take down their miserable marriage which began much like Don and Megan's, with the older, affluent ad man sleeping with a young, nubile secretary. The days of Jane in bed writing poetry about her affection for Roger while her long, wavy hair cascades around her shoulders and she clings to crisp white sheets, have been replaced by hostility and hideous clothing. Roger, under LSD's influenced, tuned in to his inner voice telling him that he and Jane should part ways. (Now will he become a proper baby daddy to Kevin, even though he doesn't yet know that Joan's ditched her louse of a spouse?)

After this buffet of oddities, I can't wait to see what happens next. What did you think of this strange Mad Men trip?

Image credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC.

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