SPOILER ALERT, so keep your eyes Drape-d, Mad Men obsessives…
Season Seven, Episode Five: “The Runaways”
Written by David Iserson and Matthew Weiner; Directed by Christopher Manley
In this week’s strange episode: Don struggles to get back on top, Megan plans a threesome, Betty finds a voice, and Ginsberg loses it (and his nipple, but we’ll get to that). Oh, and Lou continues his quest to be the most hated character on TV.
The episode opens with Stan finding a folder on the copy machine containing pages of a comic strip Lou is writing called “Scout’s Honor.” (Your dreams are not making you any more likable, Lou.) Stan was obviously not meant to find it, but he can’t pass up the chance to tell everyone including Shirley (Lou’s secretary), who warns him not say anything about it. Stan is like a kid in a candy store and continues to make jokes about Scout’s Honor. This includes making a joke in the bathroom, which Lou overhears. (You always have to check those stalls.)
Meanwhile, Don is playing nice, and Peggy is beaming with her new confidence as a leader (one Don is actually following for the moment). When Don gets to his office, he gets an unexpected phone call from Stephanie, Anna’s niece. She’s calling from L.A. and is very pregnant and very dirty (like she’s been living on the streets or in that commune from last episode). She needs money. Don is happy to hear from her and gives her Megan’s address. He says he can fly out that evening and spend the weekend with her.
Don calls Megan to tell her Stephanie is on her way. Last time they spoke, Megan asked him to leave, but she seems in higher spirits now. She tells him, “I’m sorry this is the reason, but I’m glad I get to see you.” She also tells him she’s planning a party for Saturday night for her acting class and hopes he won’t mind.
Before the creative team’s meeting with Lou, Ginsberg randomly continues to complain about the computer in the office, which is up and running. It is also making a low hum.
In the meeting, Lou gets nasty with Stan and calls him out on his joke about Scout’s Honor. Don doesn’t help the situation by laughing. Lou finds nothing funny about his dream of writing a comic strip and calls them “Flag burning snots.” He then moves the meeting until the evening and tells them they’ll be working all night (which ruins Don’s plan to go to L.A. to see Stephanie).
Megan graciously welcomes Stephanie with her own mix of niceness and awkwardness, cooking her incredibly dirty guest a steak while Stephanie bathes. When she comes out, they start chatting, and Stephanie mentions how she knows all of Don’s secrets. This immediately puts Megan on edge — she suggests Stephanie should just leave. Megan tells her that Don only likes helping people in his way (which is true) and that he won’t care what she wants to do. She convinces Stephanie it would be best to leave before Don gets there. She writes her a check for $1,000 and sends her on her way.
Back at the office, Don comes by with work for Lou and hopes he can drop it off and still make a 9 p.m. flight. Lou has other plans. Don tries to offer some advice to him on managing the team, but Lou won’t hear it and tells him he can’t leave yet. Don surprisingly goes to back to work. Later on, Lou comes by to say he can have it in by Monday — oh, how the power play continues — but it’s too late, and Don can’t get to L.A. until the morning.
Out in the suburbs, Betty and Henry are participating in a rotating dinner party with the neighborhood — each course is served at a different person’s house. Betty offered to be the first house to make them more comfortable since Henry is a big politician (and I guess he’s intimidating). In an attempt to make conversation, a neighbor remarks about the “wildness in the kids” these days and how things are falling apart right here at home, even though everyone wants to talk about the war. Betty makes the mistake of standing up for the war, which leads to Henry awkwardly disagreeing with Betty and saying he supports Nixon’s plan to pull out the troops.
There’s nothing Betty hates more than being embarrassed in front of people. She fakes a headache and stays at home while Henry “goes stag” to the other courses. When Henry returns, he’s pissed and tells Betty: “You shouldn’t be talking about those things! Leaving the thinking to me.” (Excuse me?) Bobby overhears the conversation from the hallway grows increasingly worried about his parents’ situation.
On Saturday morning, Don arrives in L.A. to find Megan with her friend Amy, but no Stephanie. He’s not pleased to have missed her, and Megan doesn’t exactly tell the whole story about her abrupt departure. Megan does, however, remind him about her party that night.
Back in New York, Ginsberg is hanging out in his office trying to get work done but continues to be distracted by the hum of the computer. He puts tissues in his ears, which helps drown out the sound. On a run to get more coffee, he spots Lou and Jim having a secret meeting in the computer room. He can’t hear what they are saying but begins to panic.
This panic leads him to Peggy’s apartment, where tells her about seeing Jim and Lou and then starts rattling off some rather strange theories — even for Ginsberg: that the computer has the power to make men do unnatural things and that it’s turned Jim and Lou into “homos.” Peggy isn’t quite sure what to make of this, but she lets Ginsberg hang out at her place and work.
Ginsberg works while Peggy watches TV with Julio (the boy from upstairs). She ends up falling asleep on the couch, and when she wakes up, Julio is gone. Ginsberg tells her the only way to stop the computer is for him to have sex with her; Peggy’s not game and pushes him off her and says, “It’s just a computer!”
Betty’s Saturday doesn’t go well either. She wakes to a phone call about Sally getting injured. Henry goes to pick her up, and when they come back, we discover Sally has been hit in the nose. She says she was sword fighting with golf clubs. Betty is angry and remarks on the importance of her face and beauty. Sally gets rather sassy and makes fun of her mother’s idea that she must stay beautiful to get a man. Betty sends her to her room. (“Why don’t they love you, Betty?”)
Later that night, Bobby sneaks into Sally’s room to see her, and they share a sweet brother-sister moment. Bobby is worried that Henry and Betty are going to get divorced because he heard them yelling, but Sally says they won’t. He also confesses his stomach hurts all the time. (Poor Bobby.) Sally says she might just sneak out and hitch back to school. Bobby wants to come too, but instead, Sally lets him in bed with her.
Back in L.A., Megan’s party is in full swing with all her hippy actor friends. Don seems out of place and uncomfortable (which isn’t surprising). Megan dances with some guy while Don watches. It seems she’s trying to make a point, but I’m not even sure she knows what that point is. Unexpectedly, Henry shows up. An actress brought him to the party, but he didn’t realize it was Megan’s place. Don sees the chance to escape and basically forces Henry to go to bar with him instead of staying.
Henry ends up being rather useful and tells Don that Lou and Jim are trying to get a big cigarette account, which will force Don out. (To recap, Don can’t do business with tobacco after his famous “Letter” in The New York Times.) Henry tells him he really should be out in L.A. because Ted has become completely useless.
Don returns home to find only Megan and Amy left. Don’s tired and heads to bed, but Megan has another idea. She sends Amy in to have sex with Don and then joins them. Don is puzzled at first but decides “Hell, I’ll roll with this.” (What is Megan up to?)
The next morning, Don gets a call from Stephanie letting him know she’s OK. Don tells Megan he has to get back to New York because of what Henry told him, and she’s a bit disappointed. Then Amy wakes up and also says she needs to leave. Once again, Megan finds herself alone — I don’t think that was the plan.
Back in the suburbs, Henry comes back from taking Sally to the doctor and back to school and lets Betty know she will be fine — there wasn’t any need for an operation. Betty’s sitting in the kitche,n and he tells her to come into the living room with him because he “doesn’t want to sit in the kitchen like the help.” Betty is done. She goes off on him and tells him she’s tired of everyone thinking she is stupid. She says, “I think all by myself.” This was actually a big moment for Betty. She stood up for herself in a way we haven’t seen her do.
On Monday, Ginsberg comes by Peggy’s office to tell her he’s “all better.” She is relieved at first, but then he continues, telling her he’s found a way to let the “data waves” through him so he doesn’t get all blocked up. He then offers Peggy a box, and she opens it to discover his severed nipple. (WHAT?! It’s been a long time coming, but Ginsberg has finally lost it.) Peggy very calmly asks him to wait there and goes out to call for help. The last time we see Ginsberg, he’s being wheeled out by men in white coats. (What’s going to happen to him?)
Don has his own surprise planned. He shows up to the meeting with the cigarette company uninvited. Lou and Jim are stunned. Don tells the company that he’s willing to resign if they want, but gives them some food for thought. He says how much experience he has and how he’s the only one who has worked with the other side (The American Cancer Society).
Don waits for Lou and Jim outside. Lou just looks at him and says, “You’re incredible.” To which Don replies, “Thank you.” (I don’t think he meant it that way, Donnie boy.) Jim just says, “You think this is going to save you, don’t you?” And we’ll have to wait until next week to see if it does.
This week was a good reminder of how surprising Mad Men can be. Ginsberg’s mental break was startling and disturbing. Of course, we’ve known from the beginning that Ginsberg was a little out there, but it was heartbreaking to watch. It was also refreshing to see Betty stand up for herself in a more adult way and to see Don pulling out all the stops to get his job back. The landscape, however, is changing. From Megan’s threesome offer to Sally’s “wildness,” the show keeps reminding us that things can’t ever be like they once were.
Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…
I wish I had a Don Draper to call for money any time I wanted.
If Megan really wants to shake things up, I’m free for the next threesome.
Bobby is really getting some heartbreaking moments this season.
Nothing is much better than Don showing up unexpected.