23 April 2012

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 6: "Far Away Places"

[Standard disclaimer: I have avoided reading any other recaps, writeups, or other commentary on this episode before writing this, so if I express something similar to thoughts you've read elsewhere, it's entirely a coincidence. If you have not watched the episode, assume there are spoilers ahead and act accordingly.]

This was another excellent episode, focusing on Peggy, Roger, and Don, and their relationships with their significant others. The places of the title were both literal and metaphorical journeys. I liked the structure of the episode: each story unspooled, then we rewound and went off onto the next one.

This week it was Peggy's turn to assume Don's role, as his sudden exit from the Heinz presentation left her in charge, and unable to convince the Heinz executive to commit to a campaign. Told by Pete that she's off the account, in frustration she left the office in the middle of the day to go to a movie, as Don used to do. Her encounter in the theater with the stranger was also somewhat Don-like.

Later, back at the office, Michael Ginsberg told Peggy he was sent to Earth from Mars. At first I thought this was a residual effect of the joint she smoked in the movie theater, but it seems we are meant to understand that either he truly believes this, or at the very least that he has created an elaborate metaphor for the feelings of disconnection from the world he experiences as a result of the circumstances of his birth.

Roger and Jane took LSD with a group of intellectuals including Jane's psychiatrist. We witnessed the event from Roger's point of view, which led to some good gags: the orchestral bottle of whiskey vodka, the quickly-burning cigarette, Don in the mirror telling Roger he was okay, the five-dollar bill with Bert Cooper's face, and Roger believing he's watching the 1919 World Series while in his bathtub. It didn't really come as a surprise that their marriage is over; does this mean Roger will try to rekindle a romance with Joan?

Don and Megan didn't take any drugs, unless you count the orange sherbet. But their drive to a Howard Johnson's in upstate New York led to an argument about the parameters of their relationship, when they are working and when they aren't. I was disappointed to see that Don couldn't extract himself from his anger long enough to have a serious conversation about Megan's feelings. Her comment about his mother was wrong, but him leaving her behind was much worse. Don's confused search for Megan was sort of like a bad drug trip.

And remember, the trip was originally Roger's idea; I think he was suggesting it as a way to get out of going to the dinner party with Jane. As soon as Don proposed bringing Megan and Jane, Roger lost interest.

PS: Don's Omega watch: awesome.

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By the way, after I speculated about the extent of Don's dream in episode 4, I came across this piece on Slate that explains that the whole thing was a dream, and why.

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