Photo: Mad Men
“Are you ready for your Mystery Date?” Every musical number that plays in “Mad Men” is deliberately chosen; and last night’s key lyrics surprisingly appeared in a Milton Bradley jingle that Sally Draper (all hail) heard when watching a real ad for the board game “Mystery Date,” after which the episode was named).
In the board game, your date is either a “dream” or a sloppily dressed “dud” who doesn’t like to bowl, ski, go to the beach, or—gasp!—attend formal dances.
This week’s episode revolved around surprising couplings and, unfortunately for the characters, they were almost exclusively duds. Except for Don’s, that is, which quite literally was a dream that ended in the murder of his ex-lover. But we’ll get to that.
This week's episode opened with Megan, Peggy, and Michael slack jawed over grisly pictures from a famous murder scene.
In 1966, Richard Speck broke into the dormitory of nine nurses in Chicago, murdering all but one who hid under her bed. Between stabbing, raping, and strangling eight young women, Speck lost count and forgot about his final victim.
This dark crime set a tone for the episode. Now on to the couples ...
The episode opened to the sound Don Draper's hacking cough. What could first be confused for smoker's lung (at one point Don attempts to squelch his cough and cigarette simultaneously) turns out to be a vehicle through which Don becomes feverish to the point of delusion. Why does Don need to be hallucinatory? SO THAT HE CAN STRANGLE HIS EX-LOVER, THAT'S WHY!
You see, Don and Megan awkwardly run into the ex-lover (her name is Andrea, but that hardly matters) at the beginning of the episode. After rolling her eyes and muttering 'incroyable,' Megan points out to her debatably reformed Lothario that he can't blame his 'careless appetite' on Betty. Is Don once a cheater, always a cheater?
Andrea then arrives at Don's apartment uninvited ('I'm good with doormen.') after he heads home to take a sick day. Don immediately turns her away because he's a changed man, yada yada, but then has a realistic, fever dream (a 'dream' date, geddit?) in which she comes back to sex him up, he relents, and then he strangles her and hides her body under the bed, leaving only a red stiletto visible under the box spring.
Did the dream sequence signify Don murdering his lustful impulses forever or a latent propensity for violence? (Confession time: For 0.5 seconds I thought that Don actually did murder Andrea and would have to take on a third identity).
With Betty and Henry away on business and Bobby apparently wetting the bed at sleep away camp, Sally Draper was trapped in her haunted mansion house with Step-Grandma Pauline.
While Betty apparently allows Sally to run amok and watch all the television she wants over the summer, Pauline is strict and constantly butting heads with her new granddaughter. The two only start to hit it off when Pauline recounts the gruesome details of the Chicago murders as if she were submitting a story to 50 Shades of Grey ('all those young innocent nurses in their short uniforms stirring his desire.')
Obviously even more disturbed than before, Sally is only able to fall asleep after a knife-wielding Pauline drugs her with Seconal. Mirroring the one survivor, Sally goes to bed under the couch.
Peggy and Roger provided some much needed comedic relief as this week's only winning duo.
As part of his constant need to one-up precocious Pete, Roger waylays Peggy before she heads home for the weekend to create a new campaign for Mohawk Airlines, which is forcing its mechanics to work during an industry-wide strike. He bribes her to do the extra work with the $400 he has in his wallet. (She got ripped off--he was carrying $1,500 when he bribed Harry to switch offices with Pete.)
In a hilarious exchange, Peggy throws out the tag lines: 'Mohawk, breaking the strike one flight at a time' and 'Fly over the picket line with Mohawk.' (Good to have you back, P).
Roger responds, 'Hey Trotsky, you're in advertising.'
Game, set, match.
Peggy hears strange noises around the office when she's staying late to work on Mohawk and chooses to explore. Instead of finding the Chicago Strangler, Peggy discovers Dawn asleep in Don's office. Unable to take a taxi past 96th street or a subway back to Brooklyn due to tension over the race riots, Dawn is stranded, so Peggy takes Dawn home with her for a slumber party.
The two women drink beer as Peggy makes an attempt to mentor Dawn. 'We have to stick together,' she says. 'I know we aren't really in the same situation but I was the only one like me there for a long time. I know it's hard.' But Dawn isn't interested in climbing the ranks as a copywriter, and Peggy, drunk, says that that might be for the best. Peggy admits that she doesn't know if she wants to turn as masculine as she thinks the job requires in order to be successful.
With that, Peggy gets ready to retire to her room before uncomfortably eyeing her money-filled purse, which she left on the coffee table in front of Dawn. She stares at it. Dawn stares at her staring at it. And we know that in spite of everything, Peggy can't let go of her racial hangups.
Dawn is gone before Peggy wakes up and leaves a pointedly polite thank-you note on the bag. Dejected, Peggy crumbles and doesn't even look inside to make sure that the money is all there.
After a year of service in Vietnam, Greg came back to his wife and 'his baby' only to announce that, surprise, he would be leaving in just 10 days to do another year in service. Trying to be understanding, Joan supports Greg in front of his family until she finds out that he actually chose to volunteer. Because, 'they need me there.'
Pushed to the brink, in the most dramatic and gratifying moment of the episode, Joan says what we have been waiting for her to say even before the two were married: 'Well then it works out because we don't.' He has never, not even from the beginning, been a good man to her, 'and you know exactly what I'm talking about.' (She's referring to an episode in season two, 2008, when Greg raped Joan in Don's office.) Finally, Joan says, 'it's over.'
And then she takes another sip of coffee.
'I don't want you to get rickets in the haunted mansion.' -- Don to Sally when she asks to stay with him.
'They're more about necrophilia than shoes.' -- Stan to Don when he asks if Sleeping Beauty or Snow White could be incorporated into a pitch for a shoe store.
'I just wanted to hear the tone of your voice so I can make sure it isn't as annoying as it is in everyday life.' -- Don to Ginsberg (another match made in heaven) before the pitch.
'In my heart, I'm on the verge of throwing you in front of a cab.' -- Don responds when Ginsberg changes his pitch last minute without telling him, he rationalizes that Don knows, in his heart, that it was the right choice.
'Hey Trotsky, you're in advertising.' -- Roger to Peggy.
We have speculated that the opening sequence of the falling man -- the controversial symbol of the show -- will infiltrate the plot of season five. (A depressed Megan has already spent time out on her balcony and Roger has discussed his fantasy of throwing things out the window.)
This week's red flag arose when Andrea, the hussy in yellow, arrived at Don's apartment to seduce him. Don kicks her out with the warning, 'You can either take the steps or you can go off the balcony.'
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