Don Draper is going through some things! Some of them are great, some of them are not so great. He is kind of like the Marnie Michaels of olden times, insofar as when he is in the solution it looks a whole lot like somebody else's total nervous breakdown. In order to help him assume his new form as dramatically and brutally as possible, his old friends at SCDP have taken away all of his Don Draper powers and stuck him in Lane's office, where everything is death.
Meanwhile, Roger's daughter is an innovator of new modern technologies for being insufferable, Harry goddamn ditto, and Pete's nasal-voiced girlfriend is going to end up in est, I just know it. That West Coast ambition. Which in this case–after she dons her finest macramé doily as a date-night top–leads us to a chance meeting with an old Vicks friend, George, who tells Pete two things: One is that Trudy's shitty dad had a heart attack and nobody cared to tell Pete, and two is about a restaurant chain called Burger Chef that Pete immediately jumps on.
Don gets off the elevator feeling nervous and crummy and gelded and the entire offices are empty, as though there has been some sort of event. A phone is hanging off the hook, dangling off the side of the desk, which is meaningful in two ways. Number one is that it is acting just like Lane that time he killed himself, and just like Don in the possible future where he is going to kill himself. Number two is that, you have to wonder where everybody went so very quickly that they couldn't even hang the shit up. Maybe it is the Rapture!
But no, it is a meeting that is mostly about bitching, because stupid fucking Harry Crane got his dang computer mainframe after all, and Roger yells at Don for being late to the meeting he didn't know about, but he is just kidding; he immediately offers to get drunk with Don even though it is 8 AM and even though Don is not allowed to be drunk at work anymore. Maybe my favorite thing about this entire season is how a plot point is that one of the characters can't get drunk at work. Anymore.
The person implementing the mainframe is a small business owner named Lloyd Hawley, who is played by Robert Baker, who was on that show Valentine where he played a Greek god and later he was on Grey's Anatomy, where he played an unnecessary person, but whom I always love. He's so charming, he's like what if Seth MacFarlane was just a regular person, without all that extra. He seems altogether smaller these days. But maybe that is an illusion, just like later in the episode after Don Draper stops crushing on him and comes to believe that he is The Actual Satan.
Lou catches Peggy grousing about him, again, which is not even that notable since the laws of probability state that if all you ever do is bitch about Lou, and Lou exists in your same dimension, then eventually he is going to hear you bitching about him. He doesn't mind. He is kind of like the Stannis Baratheon of SCDP, insofar as maybe he will cut off your fingers for you dicking something up, but he would also be very honest and sympathetic about how, probably, then you should not have dicked it up, because then you would still have those fingers. Eventually Don runs back to his office to hide from all of this futurism and techno-anarchy, and he drops a cigarette on the floor and then finds an old Mets pennant, back from when their logo was a British debtor hanging himself in your office.
Another bicoastal conference call, this time about how Peggy should be the executive on Pete's Burger Chef account, which Lou totally approves but then, because Roger needs a reason to still be backing Don, he decides that Don should be on it. Lou makes sure everybody's aware that Don is unraveling and doesn't mind taking us all down with him, but then Jim Cutler acts like a strange wizard who is alien to our culture, as usual, and Lou has a manipulative, brainy idea.
Roger's grandson Ellery is by far the most off-putting child I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. If that was my kid, simpering and mugging and eye-batting and all that crap, I would run off and join a cult the first chance I got. Which guess what, that is what Roger's awful daughter has done.
On the other hand, we get a lot of Mona Sterling in this episode, and she rules, and also Ellery's poor dad is likeable enough. Also, how great is it that Margaret has joined a cult. Remember that time she came after Roger to invest in her husband's pyramid scheme? I knew this day would come. Mona is like, "We have to go get her out of this cult, because she is too much your daughter. A quote 'perverse child, who thinks only of herself.'" Margaret sucks, but they do make the point eloquently this week: What if your dad was Roger Sterling? We shouldn't judge.
Lloyd Hawley, the computer installer and possible agent of darkness, loves nothing more than to stand outside Don's office while Harry screams his ass off about television history trivia, because Harry is like barely a person. Don introduces himself to Lloyd and they have a complicated vibe between them, like Don sometimes gets with guys, where he crushes on them for a while and then ends up screwing their wives or accusing them of, in this case, secretly being the fallen angel Lucifer from Judeo-Christian myth. For now, he just wants their business but he's not allowed to drum up new business, so Don has to settle for the illusion of new business by getting up in the guy's head. Catch and release.
Part of their mutual seduction has to do with their brains, the most sexual organ, and how computers are a metaphor for different things but also that some things are symbolic but also literal. It is some hokum but it is performed well. I think maybe this is a joke about Sharon Tate, because I think everything now is a joke about Sharon Tate, like Paul being barefoot on the cover of Abbey Road is actually, it turns out, a coded message that Megan Draper is going to be killed by a cult. Hey, maybe it will be stupid Margaret's cult. Maybe everything is, in fact, connected.
Mostly what Lloyd says is that computers are a thing we don't understand, that give us unparalleled access to the future, so anybody who feels his obsolescence creeping up on him–either because he cried about hookers and chocolate one time in a meeting, or because he is in the office that is mainly about death on this show where everything is both symbolically and literally about death–can project a lot of different kinds of shit onto computers. Don is like, "I am the craziest person in the whole 1960's, can a computer handle even me projecting my things onto it?" And Lloyd says he can, and then they fall even more into each other's warm embraces.
Peggy hates the shit out of the fact that Don has made a friend, or is conversing with other people, instead of just grunting and moaning from the garbage where he belongs. Peggy also can be a metaphor for whatever is going on in your mind. I used to really hate her because I don't like it when people make things tough on themselves–like, why would anyone choose being super weird over being Joan? Are you nuts?–but now that she is even getting on her own nerves, I like her a lot more. (Why would you choose loneliness, much less any man on Earth, over Stan Rizzo when Stan Rizzo is available to you? The woman's behavior is unconscionable.)
Lou summons Peggy to his office for a complicated maneuver that was very keen to watch. First of all he tells her how good she is at her job, which is distracting because he has never said anything nice to any person. The nicest thing he has ever said was, "Sorry I'm apparently racist, or whatever the problem is." Then he gives her a raise of $100 a week, which in those days basically means–this is because of inflation – that you could buy a car every time you needed to go anywhere, and then just leave it on the sidewalk when you got there, and still have enough left over to feed a family of four on astronaut ice cream and TV dinners. Or burgers, in this case. Hire a Burger Chef, as it were.
So that is the "I secretly approve of you" carrot, and then the other carrot that is the money carrot. Where's the stick? Oh, because Lou thinks it would be nice if you were the account executive on Burger Chef because you're so talented, but also could you take Don with you? As if that's not a Perfect Storm for Don to feel weepy man-feelings about being an obsolete appliance and Peggy finally surpassing him, but also the other way, that she'll feel saddled by the unqualified oversight of this man who has let her down one hundred times. Don's daddy issues plus Peggy's bizarre homegrown feminism, that is a very fertile agar: It ends with him throwing things around his office mutely like some kind of frustrated cave man, and then vanishing from the office.
Joan clarifies at the end of the episode that nobody outside the partners knows about the many secret rules of Don, so his behavior is even more offensive if you think about it: He has no visible reasons to be melting down, if you don't know about the rule where he isn't allowed to melt down, so it just seems like he's blowing off Peggy because he is being petty and fussy (and in a certain amount of gay love with possibly the Actual Devil), but in reality it is because he feels blown off by all of life, even the people–like Peggy–who exist in the first place to make him feel like a good person and a good man. (Just to prove to you that he is going off the rails, later he is seen reading Portnoy's Complaint, which is a fine book but makes you want to punch yourself in the gut the exact same way as Don's oppositional, childish bullshit this week.)
For the rest of the episode, all of Lloyd's speech about how all of us are in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars and even fewer of us are looking into the future–which is computers–echoes around in Don's crazy head, so he has to steal vodka from Roger's office and chug it straight from the bottle and then hide it in a Coca-Cola can, and then drunkenly call up Freddy Rumson to go to a baseball game because of how the Mets symbolize death probably, and at every turn make good and goddamn sure that Peggy knows it's because she can eat a bag of butts, in his opinion. They both also take it out on that new art guy, the very young one that always has that Frodo Baggins look in his eye like he's about to throw up.
Meanwhile, thanks to Brooks being a man out of his depth, Mona and Roger end up going to Margaret's cult to deprogram her themselves: Roger in a lovely blue suit and Mona in a fur collar, and then stupid Margaret dressed like a wigwam in various layers of leather and rough cotton like she lives in an underground city. She is calling herself Marigold now, because of course she would pick the ugliest and dumbest-smelling flower. They're like, "Don't you want to come home and see your horrible son Ellery?" That's the best they can do, because she is blowing their minds with how much she sucks.
Whenever I think about Margaret, I always think about that time Roger rode that girl around in her underwear and Don was like, "This is getting too real," and then Roger had the heart attack and briefly could not coherently tell the difference between Mona, and Margaret, and the poor underwear girl. If somebody rode Marigold around in her demeaning patriarchy underwear today, that would still be the chillest thing she has ever done.
"Sugarplum. These people are lost, and on drugs, and they have venereal diseases." Mona is right, but Marigold points out that also her mother is a drunk, which changes Mona's tune so she just starts slapping her and trying to kidnap her. It's beautiful, but Roger sees a way where everybody can win–but mostly him–by being the hero that charms his daughter out of being in a cult. Even Mona is like, "Good luck with that," and then I guess she goes home. Where her entire family now consists of one very awful child. But at least she is not at the hippie commune, where everything is super stupid and where they don't believe in electricity or making rules for other people's lives, man.
Trigger warning for Freddy Rumson! Don Draper is very fucking drunk, in the middle of the day, just like you used to be all the time. But Don Draper, a man who can make smoking a cigarette seem like a horny cool thing to do, is not making alcohol very attractive today. So Freddy is safe. He takes Don out of there to see the Mets symbolize death at Shea Stadium, and the ghost of Lane Price stands in the corner remembering that time his scary dad beat him with a scepter in his own living room. On the way out, Don yells at Lloyd Hawley for being the Devil. At first Lloyd thinks they are flirting some more–as strong men have always done, while they wait for technology to be implemented–but eventually he realizes he is being insulted.
Peggy is an asshole to Joan for literally no reason, and then apologizes, so Joan sits her down and explains the secret rules of Don. Peggy extrapolates that putting his drunk ass under her is therefore the best way to screw them both–$100 extra a week notwithstanding–and Joan has to remind her that life is not a movie about Peggy Olsen and that it's not so much a conspiracy as, nobody gives a shit, which–just like the probability of Lou overhearing you bitch–often accumulates to look like a pattern with meaning, when all the pattern really is, is, Lou is going to keep saying "I don't like dealing with other people's messes" until the end of time, and nobody is ever going to hear him, but that's actually the first domino in every single shitshow this season. Nobody gets that Lou is just like this Candide of doing his work, and not wanting to go back to freakin' kindergarten with every single person on this show any time anything happens.
Roger and Marigold bed down in the barn so they can look at the stars and she seems pretty normal, like a pretty normal person, and they hit some of the themes of Lloyd's thoughts on computers and space and so on. Then she bounces to go have an orgy, and Roger realizes that vacation is over and he needs to kidnap her for real. This is a bloodbath, and ends with her–dressed like Braveheart, the balls on this chick to be wearing this crap–taking him out at the knees, in his lovely suit, until they are just rolling literally around in the literal mud...
At which point Marigold's eyes go black like a victim of possession and Margaret takes over her body and explains that Roger can go fuck himself, because he abandoned her just as hardcore as she is abandoning her son Ellery, so even if this isn't about punishing Roger, that's still a pretty good byproduct. Roger bounces, because I guess she found his weak spot, but also I would assume because she is a write-off, an empty garbage person, who is in a cult. You can only try so hard. Although I guess it is also true that now Roger can no longer be in his free love cult because now he knows how stupid it looks from the outside.
Meanwhile, Freddy can't even believe what a horrible mess Don Draper has turned out to be. It's like okay, maybe he didn't piss his pants in a meeting–but to go months continually pissing your entire life is even worse. Don is a weak hung-over kitten when Freddy starts in on him with the real talk, so he can barely fight back as Freddy tells him the excellent news that nobody else is in charge of what Don is about.
"You are being weird and sick and sad and turning into an alcoholic! You told a perfectly nice man he was the devil! You seem like you are about to kill yourself! But how instead of that, you do the opposite, and at least pretend that you are awesome? Because then at least you will live."
"Yo dawg I heard you like living a double life so I thought you could put your shitty sad life inside your regular great-seeming life, so you can Dick while you Don. In some ways this is healthy – faking it until you make it – but in other ways maybe less so."
That is so complicated and psychosexual and he is so hung over and feeling low that this makes Don Draper almost cry, the poor bitch. But next day, he shows up looking dapper as shit, making mutual overtures of détente with Peggy, and the "Carousel" song plays about catching up to the future as he types things on a typewriter and is advertisingly pensive about Burgers and their Chefs.
Three episodes left. Next week–even by the vague standards of the trailers this seems clear–Betty does something that is clearly fucked up. (Source: Betty is always doing things that are fucked up.)