Women denigrated and patronized by men who want to control them. Unplanned pregnancies that will ruin reputations and lives. Smarmy businessmen who will stoop to any level to grab hold of the power they crave. But enough about the Republican primaries – it’s time for Season 5 of Mad Men!
eighteen freaking months an unknown amount of time since Season 4 left us hanging, wondering about the fate of Don’s impending marriage to Megan, the teetering fortunes of Sterling Cooper Draper Price, and Joan’s unfortunate pregnancy after near-death sex with Roger in a grimy alleyway. But as compelling as those events are, cultural events are just as gripping. We find a group of Negros protesting for civil rights under the windows of a rival ad agency. The young male white executives above find it hard to muster a bit of empathy for the protesters, and find all sorts of fun dropping water bombs on the women and kids on the street. When the women come to the reception desk to complain, the receptionist is appalled at the very accusation – until the men in question come giggling out of the bathroom with more water bombs ready to go. Oops. No dessert for them tonight.
Things have changed for the Drapers, not surprisingly. Sally (looking so grown up and pretty) and her brothers stay with their dad and his new wife in their groovy new pad now, a far cry from Don’s dark and lonely apartment of last season. They’re glad to be with him, even if he has to take them home before Don’s 40th birthday. (Q: How old will Don be when his son Bobby is 40? A: “You’ll be dead.”) As always, we have no idea what Don is thinking when he drops them off at their mother’s place. Relieved? Sorry? Guilty? Nothing? Your guess is as good as mine.
Pete’s mulling over the trials and tribulations of marriage with a fellow businessman on the train to work. They agree that wives are impossible to please and what’s more, women are just plain unable to understand their husbands’ world of strain and pressure. Not that Pete doesn’t love his wife and new baby. He’s just…conflicted. I mean, come on. Sometimes Trudy doesn’t even care how she looks when he gets home anymore. The horror!
Roger Sterling, as handsome and dapper as ever (I waver between thinking of him naked and thinking of him in a smart suit with me naked), has his own problems. He’s nothing more than a figurehead at the company these days, kept out of trouble by his no-nonsense new secretary that isn’t even his actual secretary – she just pretends to be his while she really works for Bert Cooper. She’s so tough she’s impervious to his many charms. Somwhat impervious. It’s lucky for her she’s not young and pretty, let’s just say that.
Oh my gosh, we’ve missed all of Joan’s pregnancy. She now has a baby boy named Kevin. She doesn’t have to worry about what her husband thinks of how exhausted and frazzled she looks, as he’s still in Vietnam. Joan’s mom is there to help, as only an alcoholic neurotic well-meaning mom can. Whatever her faults, she can actually look after the baby so Joan can take a break, so it’s worth putting up with the inevitable power struggle between the new mom and her mom.
Don and his wife/new ad exec are late for work…again. It’s the Tuesday after the Memorial day long weekend, and everyone had a nice rest – except Peggy, who worked all weekend. Heh, I love Peggy. To save time the men convene in the hall to discuss the many work issues they’re juggling, and to have a laugh at the expense of their competitors and the bad optics of their water bomb fiasco. Roger insists on putting an “ad” in the paper saying they’re an equal opportunity employer, just to dig it in to the other agency. Lane’s as fastidious and money-conscious as ever, and about to leave for another liquid lunch
with Sherlock and Watson.
It’s obvious that Don’s mind is far away from work and much more comfortable nosing its way down the front of Megan’s top. She, on the other hand, is trying her best to make a good impression, work hard, and not be known as the girl who slept her way to the top. He’s still a great ad man, but he just doesn’t want to be anymore. Still, when Pete tells him how important it is, Don agrees to try to win over Mohawk Airlines even though the agency dumped them before.
Megan is in dire need of Peggy’s approval. Peggy’s not the intimidated little girl from not so long ago; now she’s the one doing the intimidating. Stan doesn’t much like working under her, but she doesn’t give a shit anymore. Do what she wants or work for a different company, pal. Did I mention I love Peggy? Megan is under the impression she and Peggy are friends. They’re not, but Peggy is too nice a person to say so. Megan wants to throw a surprise birthday party for Don and needs some help with who to invite. Peggy, who knows Don a hell of a lot better than his wife, knows he won’t take kindly to the gesture, but what the hell – it’s not her problem. She goes through the names and crosses off Duck with a definitive swipe of her pen. Obviously those embers have not been rekindled.
Joan is already dreading when her mom will have to leave and Joan will be on her own with the baby, while at the same time scrapping with her over everything they talk about ever. Her mom can’t believe Joan is going back to work when she doesn’t have to, especially when she’s going to miss all the things the baby is going to do. Besides, Greg won’t allow her to work when he gets back anyway! Allow? Allow?! Joan can’t help but list everything that’s wrong with that sentiment. Mother/daughter relationships are complicated, yo.
Pete goes to the Mohawk meeting, only to find Roger must have sneaked a look at Pete’s daytimer and arrived before him so he could schmooze with Pete’s clients. He’s irritated but hides it well, and eventually convinces Roger to slosh back to the office. Did Roger ruin the entire deal for Pete before it even got started? Even worse – the clients loved Roger and will probably ask for him to be their account manager. Yay?
Peggy pitches to Heinz Beans, only to be kindly shot down. Don doesn’t defend her idea of dancing beans, just tells the client they’ll think of something else. Peggy must be getting a little to used to being the golden girl, because this is a hard pill for her to swallow. What do you mean you don’t like my genius ideas? You suck, bean man!
Pete is so frazzled after his meeting that he stalks into his office and promptly walks into the stupid column in the middle of his office, bloodying his nose. He chews out his secretary for letting Roger peek at his calendar, and yells at Ken Cosgrove that he shouldn’t have to compete with coworkers for clients he’s wooing. Ken is more philosophical, seeing all this pushing and shoving as a temporary problem until the company goes public and they can all work in Buenos Aires. Ha!
Far from those gentle shores, Peggy is trying to think of a better bean campaign. She tells Stan that all of a sudden (read: since he got married), Don’s become strangely “kind” and “patient”. It worries her, because those aren’t ideal personality traits in the ad industry, are they?
Pete goes home after a stressful day, to find Trudy in her bathrobe again, or maybe even still. They’ve moved from their posh apartment to an acreage and are even thinking about getting a dog. Ah, domestic bliss. There’s no hot supper waiting for him, so he eats cereal right out of the box alone in the kitchen. Who knew we could feel sorry for Pete Campbell?
Everyone is at Don’s for the surprise party, waiting for him and Megan to show up. You can definitely see a change in the way people are dressing as the ’60s progress; God save us from all that polyester. Don is expecting to go home to a birthday blowjob, only to find Roger and Jane at their front door because they’re late. Dammit! As Peggy predicted, Don is aghast that there’s a party for him, but what can you do? Harry Crane is there, looking way more hot than I remember him. He’s separated from his wife, which explains a lot. He bought Don a deluxe walking stick for a present – it’s supposedly the Steinway of walking sticks. Roger is quick to point out, “Oh look, he got you a cane. You could stick it up your ass and have a concert.” Bwah! After a night of gossip and maybe a little pot, Megan gives Don his present: she sings him a song in French, along with some rather eye-popping go-go moves. Everyone loves it, especially the men. (Roger: Why don’t you dance like that? Jane: Why don’t you look like him?)
Much later, after everyone has staggered home, Don tells Megan he hates his birthday and he doesn’t want her to do something like this ever again. She tries to be cute and sweet, but he ain’t buying what she’s selling. For the first time, Megan gets a taste of the other Don Draper…or should I say Dick Whitman? Not surprisingly, she finds the taste bitter. And that’s why you don’t marry someone after knowing them for three months, children.
It’s the morning after the party, and Lane is taking a cab ride to work. When he finds a wallet accidently left behind, he promptly insults the black driver by refusing to give him the wallet to hand in to dispatch because there’s a hundred bucks in it, then adds salt to the wound by giving him a quarter tip. Lane, you insipid Brit.
Don wakes up to an empty space beside him, and instead of looking for Megan starts to lather up his face for a shave. The only problem with shaving is that you have to look at yourself while you do it. I have a feeling Don isn’t very happy that he’s already slipping back into very old ruts with Megan. Meet the new wife, same as the old wife. We’ll see how long it takes Megan to turn into Betty, God forbid.
Back at the firm, Pete is pleased as punch to tell Lane that Mohawk Airlines called him at home. Lane is glad to hear it, especially since his kid’s private school tuition is due and his wife wants the name of a good decorator. The fact Lane riffles through the found wallet as he talk to the missus on the phone gives me an unsettling feeling in my gut. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Joan and her mom continue to be at each others’ throats. The problem is, as they fight about the baby and Joan returning to work and if they even want her back, is that they’re both trying their best. Her mom is trying to spare Joan some of the heartache she herself wasn’t spared, and Joan is trying to prove that she’s competent and needed. Toss in some menopausal PLUS postpartum hormones, and you’ve got yourselves the making of a nuclear meltdown. It doesn’t help that Joan’s mom shows her the fake ad the firm put in the newspaper looking for new hires.
Given the fact that Megan isn’t even speaking to Don as they arrive at work, Don is less than impressed when Roger greets him by singing Frere Jacque whilst shimmying. Hilarious, but biting. Roger is quick to say he didn’t mean to be mean, and Megan’s a great girl, just like Jane is a great girl. “They’re all great girls. At least until they want something.” Ladies and gentleman, may I introduce Roger Sterling, douchebag extraordinaire. His ex-wife would be laughing her head off if she could hear how unhappy he is again – already.
And that’s not the end of it for Roger, who blows a gasket when Pete demands that they exchange offices since Pete is bringing in new business left and right and Roger is, apparently, a huge barnacle-encrusted anchor quickly sinking the entire business. The other partners know Pete’s right, but nobody wants to lock horns with Roger. Not yet, anyway.
In a worst-case scenario that’s the stuff of nightmares, Harry Crane tells Stan how he’d love to give Megan what-for with her heels over his shoulders…all while she’s directly behind him listening to him. Awkward! And good luck trying to be taken seriously as an ad exec now, Megan.
Lane gets up to no good, but not in the way I guessed. He doesn’t steal the money from the wallet, but he does phone the owner’s girlfriend, whose sexy photo was in the wallet, and flirts up a storm with her. He tries to get her to agree to meet at her apartment to take the wallet back, but her Gift of Fear tells her to say no. She does agree to meet him at the firm, though. Anytime is fine – “I’ll be here the rest of my life! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Good lord, I forgot how desperately unhappy everyone on this show is. Now I want to drink all the time, too.
Harry gets called into Roger’s office and fearing the worst, babbles on about how sorry he is and what did she say and OMG please don’t fire me!! Roger only wants him to trade offices with Pete so he doesn’t have to, but whatever. After getting over the shock of not being fired, Harry refuses to switch offices. Roger, who perhaps has thought this through like it’s at the very top of his to-do list, offers him all the cash he has in his pocket: $1100. In other words, a month’s salary for Harry. Roger REALLY doesn’t want to endure the social status nosedive of giving up his office, does he? After some disastrous negotiations on Harry’s part, Harry agrees. Although he does wonder if that’s going to be $1100 a month from now on by any chance? No! Now get the hell out of my office.
Joan thinks this would be a fine time to visit the firm and perhaps re-establish herself in the pecking order – starting with that knock-out pink dress she’s wearing. Everyone is glad to see her, but as anyone who’s taken mat leave knows, the world moves on without you whether you want it to or not. Joan almost gets a moment to have a real talk with Peggy, but gets interrupted to exchange excruciating niceties with Megan and then Roger. (Rogers greeting: There’s my baby. Now move that brat out of the way so I can see her.” Gah!)
Joan goes in to have a talk with Lane, leaving Peggy holding the baby. Given Peggy’s history, the baby might as well be a squid given the look on her face. She ditches the baby with Pete against his will and tries some small talk with Megan, who almost instantly falls apart. She feels like nobody appreciates how much work she’s doing – and Peggy said as much at the party – even though she’s busting her ass. She’s finding out the hard way that ad people are first and foremost really horrible human beings. She tearfully asks permission to go home. Peggy, who used to be her, feels awful that she’s become just like the men she used to hate, and sincerely apologizes.
Lane meanwhile is begging Joan for free advice on how to guide the company through the red seas until they reach black waters. Her mother’s words ringing in her ears, she accuses him of using her before he eliminates her job. After practically begging her to come back and save them all, noting that she’s what held the company together in the first place, Joan is so relieved that she bursts into tears. Lane understands exactly how she’s feeling, and tells her about the surprise party gossip to get Joan up to speed on all the office gossip. She eats it up, and they both feel much better for it.
When Pete finds out about Harry’s office sacrifice, let’s say he’s the opposite of grateful. Having a bigger office wasn’t the point he was trying to make, after all. Harry couldn’t care less which damn office he has, as long as he has a place to hide until Megan goes home. Hee!
Lane is so disappointed when the owner of the wallet comes to pick it up instead of the girlfriend, that he takes her photo out of the wallet and keeps it. The owner is a fine New Yawker, who thanks Lane for not taking any of the case, even forcing a cash reward on him as he calls Lane a real gentleman. Little does he know. Poor Lane – he had a small fantasy of a moment of happiness, and even that didn’t work out for him.
Peggy apologizes to Don for making that drunken crack at the party (and haven’t we all?), and when he finds out Megan left work Don immediately goes home himself. He finds Megan angrily cleaning up their apartment in her bra and panties, and she’s not so nice to him anymore. She orders him to stop looking at her. He can look as she cleans up on her hands and knees with her ass in the air (!), but she’s not going to let him touch. Well, Don Draper isn’t really the kind of guy who takes no for an answer. And that’s why he takes her, right there on the floor. As it turns out, Megan isn’t as mad at him as she previously thought.
Pete’s enjoying his new office view, drink in hand. He tells his secretary to pencil in an imaginary appointment with Coca-Cola for 6 a.m. on Staten Island. Let’s see Roger have fun with that!
After the hot make-up sex, Megan admits that she doesn’t like the people Don works with. Lo and behold, he admits he doesn’t like them either. That’s why he didn’t want the party – because he didn’t want any of them in his home. Yikes! They’re like the ad world’s most dysfunctional family, aren’t they? All Don wants, all he cares about, is Megan.
The next morning, Roger’s getting ready in the wee hours of the morning to go to Staten Island. Ha! Pete’s taking the train later on, and feeling pretty good about life. Lane is giving his wife a perfunctory kiss goodbye as she asks for some cash for the day. Joan and her mom are riding the elevator in her building because that’s the only thing that put the baby to sleep after a night of crying.
And Megan and Don go into work together like they always do…only to find the lobby filled with black people who sure as heck didn’t realize the equal opportunity ad in the paper was a joke. They want to apply for the job, and the partners are angsting over it behind closed doors. Don doesn’t know why they just can’t hire one of them. But not as a receptionist, Roger hastens to add – they can’t have one of those at the front desk! In the end, they take all the resumes from the women in the lobby and tell them to expect a call back if they qualify for an interview. And with that, Sterling Cooper Draper Price gets dragged right into the middle of the civil rights movement. Good luck to them, the obnoxious, arrogant, entitled little darlings. They’re going to need it.
So, what did you think? Is Mad Men back with a bang, or losing its edge? Do you love someone you used to hate, hate someone you used to adore? Tell me in the comments.