29 April 2013

Mad Men Recap: Taking Inventory

"Now is the time a man and woman need to be together most!...You gonna get on the ark with your father?" asks Ginsberg Sr. during last night's "The Flood." Unfolding around the assassination of MLK Jr., Mad Men asks whom everyone will have with them when "the flood" hits. In the wake of this particular tragedy, Don discovers his amazing son at the same time as Pete realizes he's lost his wife and daughter. It's a disorienting night for families all around.

During the advertising awards banquet, SCDP is seated so far away from the dais, they can barely see guest speaker Paul Newman. Peggy's table is just as far, and her friend Harry Hamlin is giving Megan a look like they'll be married by the end of next season. While the famed monogamist* speaks, someone yells the news that MLK's been shot. In the chaos afterwards, Don forgets all about Peggy's perceived wrongdoings and offers her a ride home. Their temporary reunion is one of the few positive outcomes of the tragedy.
*Let's just say Paul Newman knows exactly who's on "the ark" with him.

Peggy has been in the market for a new apartment, and a fabulously fur-coated Lennon Parham has shown her a place on York Avenue. It's about as far east as you could possibly go in Manhattan, and Peggy's lover/non-financially-contributing roommate Abe is more into the West 80s. He's more interested in raising children there, which flips Peggy's switch like an electrocuted circuit breaker. "KIDS!?!?!?!?!" she repeats, her jaw on the floor. She's in love all over again.

Speaking of kids, Don forgets to pick up his brood in the confusion and panic following the assassination. Even with riots still breaking out all over Harlem, Betty forces Don to come fetch the goddamn children, since Bobby's driving her crazy by tearing up the misaligned wallpaper in the Francis Mansion. Bobby completely kills it this episode. He fakes a stomachache so he can watch tv while Sally does some dumb park thing with Megan. He tells the truth about being punished with no TV and gets taken to see Planet of the Apes twice. Once he understands the ending, he sighs "Jesus" and then offers solace to a black janitor at the theater. Later that night, he can't sleep because he's scared Henry will be shot. This kid's got his act together. He's an entire person. Don's in love all over again, and I am too.

Sylvia and the good doctor are visiting DC for the episode, and I have to say that it's 1000x better to watch Don with his son than Don with his Catholic mistress. Mad Men suddenly has the Wes Anderson flourishes you'd expect a late 60s-set show to have. I mean, would you look at this Milk Duds box Don has to open for Bobby?? More Bobby! MORE BOBBY FOREVER!!

Across town, another dutiful son finds that his father set him up on a surprise blind date. Ginsberg takes the lovely Jewish teacher Beverly to a diner and stumbles all over himself, chiding his soup order and admitting that, yes, he's a virgin, it's no big deal. Jon Snow was a virgin too, it's actually no big deal, really, no big deal at all, so you can stop talking about it already. He goes home to be with his father.

Meanwhile, Pete physically can't go home. Trudy's still enforcing the Cos Cob exile, and Pete's stuck in his Manhattan apartment eating Chinese takeout alone. At work the next day, he gets into it with Harry Crane after Harry bitches about not getting to air commercials during all this news coverage. "That man had a wife and four children," Pete counters. And now he has no wife and no children. I guess now that Pete and Harry have faced off and Pete was on the side of decency, we know how we're supposed to feel about Harry.

So how are we supposed to feel about Ethan Rom? He's introduced as "Brandon Walsh," like from 90210, and then everyone slyly changes it to "Randall Walsh," like that changes anything. This dude is a freak. He sing-croaks like a frog, and Stan giggles up a storm. "The heavens are telling us to change!" I didn't get any of that.

In the midst of watching all of our tragedy-adjacent white characters deal with the tragedy, we see snippets of African American characters face the news. Diner workers collapse in tears, and secretaries come into work despite expectations that they'll stay home. Dawn and Peggy's secretary both fight to stay at work, and Dawn receives the awkwardest hug of all time from Joan. These characters are dealing with the assassination happening to them, in their neighborhoods, while our main characters are far enough away from the threat that they can take inventory of their family members. Don even gets the luxury of realizing he loves his own son.

In the aftermath of a huge shakeup, it's only natural to look for someone close to you. Some people have them, and some people don't. Who did Dawn spend that night with, hiding from potential riots? Were Joan and Roger completely alone, and is their separation a hint at what's missing from their lives? Why didn't we see Joan with her son and mother? And why does Megan's dad have to be such an asshole all the time?

photos courtesy amctv.com