Mad Men 5.06 – Far Away Places

“Don, come on. Alone, I’m an escapee from some mental institution. But the two of us…we’re a couple of rich, handsome perverts.”

Peggy cares about her work just as much as any man in the office. And that’s a big problem according to her extremely cute and tighty whitey + black socked boyfriend Abe. When she freaks over losing a lucky tin of candy Don gave her once before a successful presentation, Abe calls her out on the fact that her job is more important that he is. For men in the world of Mad Men that’s a given—for women, it’s possibly a relationship deal breaker. “Have a shitty day,” he tells her supportively.

When she gets to work, Peggy finally finds her lucky candy tin, but it must not be working today because she is immediately informed that Don and Megan are leaving for a romantic getaway/Howard Johnson not-so-secret-shopper mission, leaving Peggy, Ginsburg, and Stan to do the Heinz presentation alone. Peggy and Ginsburg are irked as hell, but Stan tries to view it as a vote of confidence. Peggy is so confident she needs a cigarette more than life itself.

The pitch, damn the “lucky” candy tin, is a disaster. Peggy blows her top when the Heinz guy doesn’t like this pitch either, yet can’t quite say what he does like or what he does want. She gets all up in his personal space and tells him he’s being a little bitch about his beans. Heinz guy doesn’t take kindly to being spoken to that way by a girl, and if Ken wasn’t there to intercede with vague promises of hookers and blow a Broadway show, he probably would have permanently exited in a huff. As it is, he makes sure Peggy is kicked off the account. Which leads Peggy to…

react like all the other ad men.

She then flees to the movies (Born Free, where the animals are way less vicious than the ad business). She chides the dude behind her for lighting up a joint, then agrees to share it with him because it’s that kind of day. It’s also apparently the kind of day to take out his penis until it’s as free as the wind blows and give him a hand job.

I don’t know if it makes her feel any better when she finds out that Ginsburg has his own personal problems, although they have less to do with public sex acts with strangers and more to do with his needy girlfriend and overbearing dad. Peggy goes into her office and collapses on the couch, falling asleep until Dawn wakes her up hours later to tell her Don’s on the phone. He demands to know if she’s gotten any calls, and when he finds out she hasn’t, he couldn’t care less about the unfortunate sales pitch and hangs up. The thing is, Don’s a complete mess and obviously something bad has happened. But what??

Peggy and Ginsburg work into the night trying to come up with the bean pitch that will make viewers instantly come in their pants. She asks about his family, and he tells her he’s actually a Martian. At first Peggy laughs, but he then goes on to tell her that his fake Earth story is that his mom gave birth to him and died in a concentration camp, and his adoptive Earth father found him in an orphanage when he was five. She takes him quite seriously, and asks if there are others like him. “I don’t know,” he says sadly as he looks at her in the office window’s reflection, “I haven’t been able to find any.” OMG Ginsburg, I’ll be your Martian girlfriend!!

The next day, Roger attempts to talk Don (who appears normal and happy despite his odd phone call the night before) into a romantic getaway with HIM, so they can escape their wives and be naughty. The problem is Don doesn’t want to escape his wife—he actually likes her. Oh ho, as the conversation progresses it becomes obvious this conversation happened in the past, and the trip they’re discussing becomes the trip Don and Megan take. Next thing you know they’re going to be in an alternate universe a la Fringe.

Not only does Roger not get to go have fun at a Howard Johnson’s, he has to go with his now-loathed wife to visit her friends. They bicker, but he does admit she looks totally hot. She’s about a million miles from the secretarial pool from whence she came, although you can tell it’s finally struck her that that’s ALL he cares about—how hot she is. The friends are drippy and pretentious, but things take a turn for the interesting when this turns out to be an LSD party, man. Jane insists they try it together—because it’ll be good for them. And then Timothy Leary comes in and does a dance for everyone. I mean…Roger agrees. It can’t be worse than the daily four quarts of booze he drinks, right? This isn’t some tawdry junkie thing either, this is a medically approved way to expand their consciousness. Roger is ready to turn on, tune in, and drop out—all in a tailored three-piece suit.

Roger finds LSD doesn’t affect him whatsoever. Except that when he takes the cap off a bottle of gin music comes out of it. Ha! Reality slowly falls apart around him, but he takes it well; he never much liked reality to begin with. They go home and take a bath together, where Roger watches the 1919 World Series (which was obviously a laugh riot).

Just say no, kids

Roger and Jane lie stoned on the floor in their living room and have their first honest conversation possibly ever. They basically end their marriage without raising their voices, admitting that whatever they once had is gone, gone, gone. I think they’re both relieved. In the morning Jane isn’t quite as enthused about divorcing, even though she admits that everything she said the night before was true. She finally accepts that he’s leaving for good, but warns him, “It’s going to be expensive.” “I know,” he replies philosophically. At this point, he just doesn’t care—especially since money now has Bertram’s face all over it.

Now we go back in time again, but this time we follow Don and Megan when they go to the Howard Johnson’s on the firm’s dime. Megan is unhappy he forced her to leave work when Peggy and the others needed her, and feels like she left them in the lurch…which she did. He doesn’t care about any of that. When he lights up a smoke in the car, she coughs and asks him to open his window. Hmm, it looks like Megan isn’t quite as thrilled with married life as Don is. That’s a switch!

It’s all downhill from there, as they have a big old scrap in the HJ cafe as Megan chafes under Don’s constant need to tell her what’s best for her. She makes a crack about his dead mom, which he certainly considers below the belt, and he flounces, hat in hand. She chases after him but he just gets in the car and takes off. She’s certain that he won’t just leave her there, but he so will—just ask Betty. He doesn’t get far before he changes his mind about turning back into THAT Don, and heads back to the hotel. He finds out Megan left with some men, possibly to get a ride back to the city. Don goes from worried to anxious when he finds Megan’s sunglasses in the parking lot…but no Megan. Is she kidnapped? Murdered?? As anyone who’s been in this situation knows, the worst-case scenario always comes to mind first.

He waits for her until nightfall in the cafe, not ever considering that she really did get a ride with those guys. He phones Peggy (aha!), asking if anyone called her, but of course no one did. He finally falls asleep in the cafe until he’s woken up by a state trooper who says he’ll keep an eye out for his wife. I suppose that Don doesn’t want to leave in case she comes back, but my first instinct would definitely be to drive home under the assumption that she wouldn’t answer the phone there because she’s still pissed off. But maybe that’s just me.

He finally drives home before dawn, thinking of happier times when their marriage was still okay, entire days earlier. He slogs up to the apartment…where Megan is waiting for him, not answering the phone because she’s still pissed off. Ha! I totally called it. When she won’t open the door he kicks it in and yells at her with rage and relief. She took a Greyhound home, and can’t believe he left her like that at the hotel. They both go entirely a little crazy, and he chases her around the apartment until he tackles her to the ground. She lays there sobbing, wondering why she even married him. How did it all go so wrong so quickly? Um…you’d have to ask the writers. She gets up and tells him she’s going to work. He clutches at her on his knees. “I thought I lost you,” he breaths into her bellybutton. Yes, well, she might not be dead in ditch somewhere, but he still might have lost her and just doesn’t know it yet.

They both go to work where, after an awkward good-bye, Bertram takes a moment to gently tell Don that he’s sorely neglecting his duties at work because he’s on “love leave.” “It’s none of your business,” Don tells him. “This IS my business,” Bert reminds him and walks out. Well, ain’t this a day for wake-up calls! As Peggy walks by without even acknowledging him, Roger comes in with a big announcement: “It’s going to be a beautiful day.” All it took was 24 hours (and some psychedelic drugs) for Roger’s miserable life to look up, and Don’s perfect life to once again plummet into misery. Welcome back to hell, Don. We missed you!

I have to admit, this is the first episode of Mad Men, possibly ever, that seemed forced and silly to me. The melodramatic Marcus Welbyish background music didn’t help matters, and all the characters were cartoonish and unlikeable (except Roger, who is always exactly who he should be). Oh dearest show, I beg you. Please don’t jump the shark. ::beggy hands:: I know you want everyone to be despondent and hopeless every minute of their lives, but it would be nice if your viewers weren’t included on that list. For me it comes down to this: can we take these lives of quiet desperation seriously when they’re all wearing plaid polyester leisure suits? Time will tell, my babies.

What say you? Am I being too harsh or is Don and everyone else really turning into an idiot? What do the writers have to do to steer the good ship Sterling Cooper Draper Price back into blissful waters?