Mad Men 5.04 – Mystery Date

“Call him.”
“I just did — he’s not home.”
“Is he coming back?!”
“You know what? I’m going to go out there and find him. I’m going to start with the whole world, and them I’m gonna eventually check my apartment.”

Don’s under the weather and Megan doesn’t even want to stand close to him in the elevator in the morning to avoid that nasty cough he’s got. That makes it extra awkward when an old fuck buddy of Don’s gets on and is so very delighted to see her “bad penny” turn up once again. Megan is starting to wonder if she’s going to have to buy an abacus to add up all the women he slept with before he met her. And here she thought she was the first coworker to decide having sex with Don Draper would be an excellent idea.

This week’s episode plants us firmly in 1966 when Peggy’s sardonic friend Joyce drops by the office to show off the grisly photos she has of the Richard Speck mass murder crime scene. Pete (complete with a client’s pantyhose over his head), Peggy, and Megan are eager to see them, but new boy Ginsburg is so disgusted by their enthusiasm that he stalks away in a huff, sorry he even glanced at the photos. Lucky for him he doesn’t have to worry about accidentally clicking on, say, goatse sites in 1966, am I right?

Guess who's baking a cake?

Joan is freaking out because her husband Greg is coming home from ‘Nam to meet his new son. And by “his” I mean Roger’s. Close enough. Her mother isn’t helping, what with her usual combination of good/poisonous advice regarding what Joan should do now that her husband probably has PTSD from all the killing he’s seen/done, plus all the women he’s probably slept with. She advises Joan to just take their time reacquainting themselves, which Joan agrees to do…as long as there’s also a welcome-home cake.

Poor Sally is trapped at home on summer vacation with her step-grandma while her mom and step-dad are on a trip and brother is at camp. She calls Don to whine and complain about the unfairness and general awfulness of it all—hey, just like her mom does! Don commiserates until he has to get back to work. He feels crappy because of his cold, but he still wants to hear Ginsberg and Stan’s pitch for footwear—not shoes! Once he establishes that Ginsberg won’t annoy the clients to death with his New Yawk accent, he shoos them out of his office so he can hack up a lung in private. Ginsberg helpfully suggests that Don might have TB. Ha!

Greg is the luckiest man in the world when his apartment door opens and Joan is waiting for him with a big smile and kiss. Seriously. Luckiest. Guy. Ever. He wants Joan’s mom to take a picture of him and his boy, but wouldn’t you know it, they’re out of film so her mom goes out for a long, leisurely stroll to get some so he and Joan can catch up, as it were. I can’t forgive Greg for raping Joan in an earlier season, but I’m happy for her that she’s happy to see him. ::holds that grudge forever:: But of course, that happiness can’t last long—in this case, it’s about fifteen seconds. After sending Joan’s mom away with the baby again (and her mom creepily being THRILLED to leave them alone so they can bang each other with impunity), Greg informs her that he’s not home for a year after all. Did he say year? He meant ten days. Then he’s going to be gone for a year. War is hell, and all that there. Joanie is not pleased, as you might imagine. You know who’s going to be pleased when he hears? Roger Sterling.

It’s time for Ginsberg’s big first pitch to the pantyhose company. He gives a great presentation and the execs are happy to accept it. All is swell, except Ginsburg isn’t satisfied with swell. As they’re packing up he tells the execs how confusing women are, and lays out a different ad that tells viewers that deep down, women want to be caught by men (which is both sexist and often true). The execs are way more excited about that pitch, and want to switch to it. Sold! Twice! Don tears Ginsberg a new one after the meeting, and Cosgrove wonders if he even knows how close he came to getting fired. “I don’t think so,” he replies, and I think he’s right. If there’s one thing Don respects, it’s balls.

Don is feeling worse by the minute, so at Megan’s urging he goes home and collapses into bed. Maybe he really does have TB.

Pete informs Roger that because of the mechanics’ impending strike Mohawk needs to see their ad campaign ideas bright and early Monday morning. Roger doesn’t even twitch from his prone position in his groovy ’60s chair. No problemo, he assures Pete. You wouldn’t believe how quickly he springs up after Pete goes home for the weekend, though. He scurries into Peggy’s office looking for Ginsburg, but he’s MIA. And in one of my favourite scenes ever in the series, Roger has to strike a deal with Peggy to get her to do the work in Ginsburg’s place. For ten dollars. Peggy’s a little drunk (Roger: What are you doing this weekend? Peggy (seductively): Why, what did you have in mind?) and she gives Roger the gears in a most glorious fashion. He threatens to fire her, but then who’ll do the work for him? She charges him everything in his pockets—four hundred bucks) and when he complains she threatens to take his watch too. I love them both so much, and the men in this show are so stupid to not see Peggy for the wondrous woman she is.

Sweet victory over those silly men.

Don’s in a feverish stupor when the doorbell rings in his apartment. It’s the old lover from the elevator, who is so sure that Don will want to continue their “conversation” in private, married or not. He has news for her, and hustles her out the service elevator before Megan comes home and Armageddon ensues. Huh. They have a private service elevator. Must be nice.

Sally is watching TV while her step-grandma gossips about the Specks murders. When she catches Sally listening, Henry’s mom orders her to take out the garbage. Sally wants her to know that even though she doesn’t think so, Sally is a good person. Henry’s mom knows that, she just wants to instill some discipline in Sally’s life. She tells Sally about her own dad, whose parenting skills included kicking her for no reason: “That was for nothing—so look out!” Good lord. Sally points out that that wasn’t very nice, and she agrees. “No…but it was valuable advice.” And you know, I can’t disagree with her. You never know when someone is going to kick you when you’re not expecting it. Just…that’s supposed to be a metaphorical lesson, not your dad booting you into furniture. And that’s all we need to know about Henry’s mom. Suddenly, the reasons he fell in love with Betty become crystal clear.

Joan and Greg are out for supper with all the parents and the baby. When Greg’s mom has an outburst due to the fact he’s going back to the war, Joan is quick to jump to his defense. That is, until his mom shares the news that Greg wasn’t ordered to go back for a year—he volunteered. His reasoning? “They need me.” Joan, with her new baby and crazy mom and lonely life with no work or friends, gives him the best WTF look ever. Greg, you anus. Luckily, the scene ends with the accordion player interrupting them so we don’t have to endure the rest of the painfully awkward meal.

Peggy’s working late into the night when she’s hears a noise in the hall. With the murders fresh in her mind, she goes to investigate and is scared out of her mind by…Dawn, the new secretary. It turns out she fell asleep, and now she can’t go home because of the violence in Harlem after dark. Peggy tells her she can sleep at her place. Dawn politely refuses, but Peggy won’t take no for an answer. Do I smell BFF in the making? Let’s cross our fingers!

Don awakens that night to find not Megan in his bed but Andrea, the woman from the elevator. She’s snuck in the unlocked back door so she can seduce him and he lets her, undressing her in his and Megan’s bed. I feel for Megan, but what a plus for us. ::fans face::

Back at Peggy’s place, Dawn is dreaming if she thinks she’s going to get away with small talk and a cold beer. Peggy is well and truly drunk now, and waxes on about how alike the two of them are, and how hard it is to be a woman in a man’s world and etc., etc. forever. Dawn drinks her beer and tries not to roll her eyes. Um, maybe BFFs is pushing it.

Sally’s read about the murders in the newspaper, and there’s no way she’s going to be able to sleep after that. She gets up to talk to Henry’s mom, who proceeds to calm her down by describing what the killer probably did to those nurses in their short skirts like it’s a scary story at camp, then gives Sally a Seconal to help her sleep! Ha ha ha, worst Grandma EVER.

Joan and Greg have the mother of all fights when they get home from supper. She can’t believe he made such a huge decision without consulting her first. Yeah, well it’s too late now, so tough noogies. “I have my orders—you have yours.” Then he stamps out to meet the boys for a drink. Her mother is quick to tell her to suck it up and get on with her wifely duties. Oh, Joanie. How did you get into this mess?

Dawn’s ready to go to sleep on Peggy’s couch. It’s all good until Peggy notices her own purse sitting on the coffee table with $400 in it. The two exchange an awfully meaningful look, then Peggy just clears off the empties and goes to bed. It’s easier to be non-judgmental and fair when it’s not your money in danger of being stolen, but Peggy puts her money where her mouth is. Good for her.

Andrea’s done having her fun with Don, and comes to say good-bye. He tells her this was all a mistake and she’s not going to ruin what he has with Megan. She begs to differ, and promises it will happen again because he’s “a sick, sick man.” And that’s when Don leaps on her and throws her to the floor, choking her. Um…to death. I suddenly wonder if this is actually happening. Like, what happened to Megan? For Don’s sake, I hope it’s not. He shoves her under the bed (except for an accusatory red-shoed foot) and goes back to sleep. Murdering women is tiring, yo.

Say hi to Freud for me.

Betty and Henry finally get back from their trip the next morning. They find Henry’s mom drugged out on the sofa, but can’t find Sally. But we find her—sleeping under the sofa, hiding just like the lone nurse who survived the Speck massacre. Damn!

Don wakes up the next morning when Megan comes in with some breakfast for him. He panics for a second but when he looks under the bed nothing’s there. Megan says she came home right away the night before and he was a mess. “I was really worried.” Oh ho, so Andrea was simply a manifestation of Don’s anxiety over his willingness to be faithful to Megan—and he killed it, baby. With more sincerity than Megan can possibly know, he replies, “You don’t have to worry about me.”

Joan comes to the breakfast table where Greg is waiting for her. She tells him that she’s thought about it, and she wants him to go. Pleased she’s finally seeing things his way, he assures her that it is only a year, after all. Uh, no. She wants him to go and never come back. “They need me!” he barks at her. Yeah, well good, because she doesn’t. He tries his own barb, saying that at least they make him feel like a man. Like a good man, she shoots back. But he’s not a good man, and never was—and they both know exactly what she’s talking about. You go, Joanie! Give him hell! He promises to try harder and make it up to her. Haha, just kidding. He promises that if he walks out that door, he’s not coming back. I’d ask for that promise in writing if I were her.

Peggy wakes to find Dawn gone, borrowed sheets neatly folded on the couch, and a note on her purse thanking her for her hospitality. Needless to say, she doesn’t check to see if the money is still there. I’m sure Peggy would feel better about the whole thing if she wasn’t so massively hung over.

We leave with a shot of Joan in her bed with her mom and baby Kevin asleep, her whole world now fitting on a six-by-three-feet mattress. What the hell is she going to do now? Here’s a suggestion from the bottom of my heart: COME BACK TO THE FIRM, JOAN. THEY NEED YOU. And so do we.

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  • Samantha

    Oh my god, this episode. So many awesome things.

    I couldn’t believe that Andrea chick when she kept showing up, and I couldn’t believe Don slept with her. And then I couldn’t believe he was killing her – until he just LEFT her body there. I was pretty sure it was a dream at that point, but my fiance was like, “Well, I knew it was a dream the whole time.” Must be nice to be so smart. :P

    JOAN. Oh, Joan Joan Joan. My first thought after telling Greg that he’s a shitty person and he needs to leave was, “Oh good, now she can get with Roger!” I never forgave Greg for what he did to Joan, and the fact that he enlisted without even asking her opinion was just, ugh. I’m glad the baby is Roger’s.

    lol Peggy is playing with the Big Boys! I love her more and more every season.

    • Samantha, excellent comments! I read somewhere that Don was going to have fever dreams during this ep, so I can’t quite decide if I would have guessed it wasn’t real. Let’s go with “yes”! LOL! Fingers crossed that Joan goes back to work next episode. :OD

  • J.

    I was shocked when I realized that Roger offered Peggy only $10 at first to get her to make up a campaign. Such a paltry sum! It was kind of a weird thing to find disturbing in this show but it showed how little he thinks of the worth of Peggy and of women.

  • atticwind0w

    The writing in this episode was SO GOOD, much more like the awesome writing I remembered from earlier seasons. (I thought the premiere was a bit mediocre.) But how interconnected the imagery was, with Sally under the couch and the survivor under the bed; the continuous thread of violence against women throughout the episode, as women are becoming more independent, sexually and otherwise; Don committing a horribly violent act against a woman and then hiding HER under the bed; and Ginsburg’s whole speech about a woman being terrified of being stalked but then it’s ok because all girls LOVE being stalked by handsome strangers. All tied under the “mystery date” theme! UGH IT WAS SO GOOD.