SPOILER ART, so keep your eyes Drape-d, Mad Men obsessives…
Season Seven, Episode One: “Time Zones”
Written by Matthew Weiner; Directed by Scott Hornbacher
Last time we saw Don Draper, he was showing his kids his childhood home right after being given a forced “leave of absence” at work. The final moments of season six left us wondering where Don would go from here. The final season of Mad Men began Sunday night and picked up just two months later (January of 1969). The episode was appropriately titled “Time Zones” since our cast and storyline was split between New York and Los Angeles, which will be a continued theme of the season.
The final season began with a great line from a surprising character. The episode opens with a close up of Freddie Rumsen saying, “Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something.” Freddie is giving a pitch for an ad campaign for Accutron Watches. He’s well put together and the pitch sounds remarkably creative.
As the camera pulls out, we see that he’s giving the pitch to Peggy who (like the audience) is surprised by how good Freddie’s idea is (This will all make sense by the end of the episode). Freddie is freelancing for the company and after his elegant pitch, he says he’s getting another cup of coffee, which causes Peggy to quip: “You really put the free in freelancer.”
We then flip to a phone ringing and a very naked Roger in the middle of other naked people (men and women) in his bedroom. He picks up to find his daughter, Margaret, on the line. She wants to go to brunch with him on Sunday. (Nothing like making brunch plans in the remains of an orgy.)
Back at the office, Lou (Don’s replacement) is holding a status meeting with the team. Lou makes corny jokes, laughs at himself, and dresses like a grandpa. This is no Don Draper. When Peggy asks which idea he liked for Accutron Watches, Lou doesn’t pick the clearly better idea (Freddie’s). Peggy tries to argue about it, but gets shut down when Lou says, “You’re putting me in the position of having to say I don’t care what you think.”
Upstairs, Joan meets with a stressed out Ken, who is feeling a bit over worked with trying to keep track of things in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Ken is having a problem with a client and wants Joan to meet the guy. Last season, Joan got her feet wet in the accounting world by go after Avon, so she’s pleased with the opportunity Ken is offering.
Finally, we get to Don, with our first glimpse of the character in the mirror of an airport bathroom. Then he’s on a moving sidewalk in his gray suit, which is a nice contrast to the bright colors behind him. He steps outside to see Megan waiting in a fancy car. Cleary, we are in LA. They greet in other in an awkward slow motion moment. Then Megan says she has a business dinner, but the rest of the weekend they will be alone, so Don is just visiting.
Back in New York, Peggy sees Ted arriving in the office (he’s now working out of LA). Last we saw Ted, he was telling Peggy he would leave his wife, but then didn’t. Peggy is clearly still upset about the situation.
Back in LA, Don and Megan meet with Megan’s agent. She has a call back for a NBC pilot called Bracken’s World (which ran for two seasons starting in 1969). Her agent assures Don that everything is “green” between them (meaning he’s not having sex with her). Don seems genuinely happy for her.
In New York, Joan meets with the client, but he’s not so impressed. He really wants to meet with Ken because his company wants to do in-house advertising and end their business relationship. Joan isn’t sure exactly what to do — she’s a bit over her head. She tries to get him to hold off on making a decision so she can think of something. He says he will.
Back in LA, Don and Megan arrive at Megan’s house. It’s got a great view, but Don worries about it being out in the middle of nowhere. It is a great contrast to their New York apartment. Megan appears to be too drunk for sex. (What’s going on?)
The next morning, Megan comes out to say goodbye to Don and mentions him going into the office. (Is Don back to work?) She doesn’t want him to work too hard.
In New York, Peggy has an awkward encounter with Ted in the office. He’s rather cold toward her and she to him. Stan tries to break the awkwardness by saying, “None of this seems related to coffee.”
In L.A., Don meets with an overly excited and tanned Pete, who loves the west coast. He has an apartment by the tar pits and admits the city is ugly, but he loves the vibrations. From this scene, we realize Don isn’t back to work. He doesn’t know about the clients, but Pete assures him if it was up to him, he’d be back now.
Pete takes Don by the L.A. office where a real estate agent named Bonnie stops by. She’s helping Pete find a new place and clearly a little more. She’s flirty with Don and Pete says, “Don’t get excited, Don, she turns it on for everyone.”
Back in cold and icy New York, Joan meets with a business professor to help her with her client issue. Joan thinks the professor is making a sexual offer at her when he asks her to trade something for his help. But he actually just wants her input on some research he is doing.
In L.A., Megan is making dinner for Don when a delivery arrives. It’s a brand new TV that Don has bought her without her knowledge. She isn’t pleased. All her friends are poor and she worries how it will look. (Get over it, your husband is rich.)
Her guilt doesn’t stop her from watching it later and falling asleep on the couch with Don. When she wakes up, Don says let’s go to bed and then asks (in his own way) are we going to have sex. Megan agrees to, but insists on turning off the light. (Is she turning into Betty?) She seems uncomfortable, and Don asks if she’s okay. She says, “I don’t know why I feel nervous.” Don tells her, “Don’t be.”
In the morning, Megan is upset about how much time they have left and how she doesn’t like this bicoastal arrangement. Don says he has to get back to work (which we now know is a lie).
Back in New York, Peggy is having issues with her tenants. A kid is at her door asking her to come fix the toilet. Peggy isn’t in the mood and offers the kid a plunger.
Roger meets his daughter for brunch. Margaret offers Roger her forgiveness for everything he’s done to her. Roger is a bit confused and isn’t sure he’s sorry for it all. Roger asks her if she’s been going to church. She says not in anyway that he’d understand. (What is Margaret up to?)
Roger goes back home to a woman and a man in his bed. She’s awake and says, “You know anyone is welcome in this bed.” Roger is clearly having a good time, but tonight he just wants to get some sleep. (Can you blame him?)
On Don’s flight home, he gets seated next to an attractive woman (surprise, surprise). She offers him a sleeping pill, but they both decide not to take them and the flirting begins. Big time.
Don learns more about his seatmate and how she was in LA.. scattering the ashes of her husband at Disneyland (Tom Sawyer’s Island to be exact). Don asks how old he was and what happened to him (and this introduction of death seems important).
Later the woman falls asleep on his shoulder, and when she wakes she says, “If I were your wife, I wouldn’t like this.” Don replies, “She knows I’m a terrible husband. I thought I could do it this time.” At least he’s being honest about it. The woman offers Don a ride from the airport, but Don turns her down, saying, “I’m sorry I’ve got to go back to work.” Will we see this woman again?
At the office, Peggy’s secretary says her tenant has called about the toilet. Peggy says for her to call her sister and have her brother-in-law come fix it. She then sees Lou in the hall and tries to convince him to go with the better idea for Accutron Watches — she’s not giving up. He’s not impressed and says, “I guess I’m immune to your charms.”
Upstairs, Joan finds out that the man she met with has already set a meeting with Ken to pull their business. She goes into Ken’s office and calls the guy. She explains how doing the advertising in-house won’t work because they will be competing with ad agencies that have more power and clout. The man agrees for the time being. Later Ken thanks Joan for what she did.
Peggy still hasn’t given up even after her encounter with Lou. She’s trying to get the art department to make boards for Freddie’s idea anyway. Stan comes into her office to tell her to let it go, and she tells him, “I’m tried of fighting for everything to be better.” She is feeling a bit alone, and it’s clear Lou doesn’t care much about the quality of the work.
Don’s back in his New York apartment with Freddie. (What!?) We realize Don’s been feeding all of his ideas to Freddie, who has been presenting them at the office. Suddenly the opening scene makes sense.
Peggy comes home to find her brother-in-law there. She says it’s silly for him to go all the way back to Brooklyn since it’s so late, but he insists saying he doesn’t like to leave his wife alone in the house. He leaves Peggy (alone) and she breaks down crying. Not because of her brother-in-law per say, but at her sudden isolation. She’s no longer the star at work, and her personal life is pretty empty.
We then flip to Don, whose balcony door is stuck and won’t close. It’s night. He’s been drinking. He goes out on the balcony and sits as “You Keep Me Hanging On” begins to play. He’s visibly freezing — it is January in New York. Is he punishing himself? Is this the new Don? Is this his final fall? Here’s to the start of the end.
Mad Men is one of the best written and acted series on television, so it comes as no surprise that the beginning of the seventh season was well-crafted. It provided important moments for Don, Joan, and Peggy and began to set the stage for what’s to come in this final chapter. I’m looking forward to where 1969 will take Don and company. There’s a lot of speculation, but my guess is there will be plenty of surprises.
Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…
Poor Peggy. This Lou guy is super annoying.
Joan asking for a splash of whisky in her coke after the client leaves was perfect.
Neve Campbell! Where has she been hiding? Oh Party of Five, oh Scream, oh the 90s.