In what's certain to be a polarizing episode of Mad Men, 24 hours' worth of bad decisions potentially have extensive repercussions.
Playing With the Format
By the time we were 10 minutes into this episode, I could tell that people were going to love it or hate it: Rather than following three or four storylines in roughly sequential order, this episode was deliberately fragmented, telling each of its stories as a single mini-movie, with some scenes repeated from different perspectives. Other scenes seemed to be inserted as flashbacks or flash-forwards, though subtly. It wasn't like it was an episode of Lost or anything.
An Odd Coping Mechanism
Peggy's (Elisabeth Moss) second presentation to Heinz goes just as badly as the first, but since Don (Jon Hamm) has bailed on the meeting, there's no one who can help her out. So Peggy decides to use Don's trademark trick of turning the client's indecision against them, which doesn't work because women aren't allowed to do that in 1966. In fact, she's taken off the account. So she goes to an afternoon movie, where she ends up smoking weed with a total stranger and then... let's just say she provides a hands-on thank-you to him.
Who Saw This Coming?
It's already 1966, so you knew that one of the cast was going to be experimenting with psychedelic drugs at some point soon. I wasn't expecting it to be Roger (John Slattery), though. Dragged to a pretentious dinner party by Jane (Peyton List), Roger discovers that the after-dinner entertainment will be an LSD trip administered by the host. Although dubious, he submits, and what follows probably made anyone who's actually tripped roll their eyes. With Eyes Opened
But after a few sight and sound gags (a bottle of gin blares forth with Beethoven when Roger opens it, Don appears as Roger's spirit guide, etc.), Roger and Jane fall into an elliptical conversation that sounds like stoner babble as scripted by Harold Pinter: It's funny until it abruptly becomes extremely serious. How serious? In the morning, Roger calmly explains that since neither of them are happy, he's moving out. He talks and acts like an enormous weight was been lifted.
The Work-Life Balance
Now we're back before the meeting, when Don pulls Megan (Jessica Pare) out of the team to go on a field trip to check out potential new client Howard Johnson. In fact, it's an excuse to play hooky at a motel upstate. But on the road and then in the Howard Johnson dining room (they did an incredible job with the set design in these scenes, incidentally), Megan tries to get Don to understand that she feels guilty for bailing on the Heinz account, and then gets -- quite justifiably -- furious when Don slips into work mode himself.
Why You Don't Do This
Don storms out, stranding Megan at the diner, but when he cools off and comes back, she's disappeared, having apparently left with some young men. She turns out to have gotten a bus back into the city, leading to a scene with Don back home that skates right to the edge of domestic violence before receding into an uneasy truce. Back in the office, Don gets an unexpected talking-to from Bert Cooper (Robert Morse), who -- again, quite justifiably -- points out that he's been on "love leave," letting his new domestic comfort distract him from his work. If he's not careful, he may not have either.
Whose behavior this episode was the most unexpected, Peggy's, Roger's or Don's? And could they possibly have chosen a better soundtrack for Roger's acid trip than the Beach Boys' "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"? (Answer: No. No, they could not.)
"I'm your boyfriend, not a focus group."
--Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) is sick of Peggy's devotion to her job.
"Maybe you could make up a little schedule so I know when I'm working and when I'm your wife."
--Megan lets Don know he's overstepped the boundaries between the different sides of their relationship.
"Well, Dr. Leary, I find your product boring."
--Roger's trip hasn't quite begun yet.
"Sorry I'm late. There's no place to pee in this city."
--Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) always has the best excuses.
"I have an announcement to make: It's going to be a wonderful day."
--Only Roger could make that sound creepy and disturbing.