Everybody Is Revolting on Mad Men

For sure one thing these Men (and women, and young people) are so Mad about this week is: Everything. Mostly authority figures. It is because of the Sixties that their knickers are in a bunch, as Betty—simultaneously with Lou, her spiritual doppelganger—explains quite well. You see, we are in a time of immense struggle and change, and the fact is that a populace controlled by fear and tradition, when that regime is destabilized, tend to go a certain exuberant kind of apeshit.

It was one of those neat hyperliterary episodes where everything comments and touches everything else, making it more than the sum of its parts while also leaving extra room, for humor and also for a man to cut off his right nipple.

Don gets a call from Anna Draper's mysteriously airy LA niece Stephanie, who even as a youth was preternaturally aware of his bullshit just like Anna: She is a full-on hippie that only talks in hippie talk and dresses like a seven-months-pregnant Buffy St. Marie. She ran off with a musician who got busted for dealing grass—which is what they call marijuana—and now will be having the baby right around the time he gets out of jail, but she has run out of bread—which is what they call money—due to her lifestyle of being homeless and not doing much to take care of herself. He sends her to stay with Megan in Laurel Canyon and books the next flight out, that night.

Megan has a live-in bestie named Amy who is very hot but also very annoying, and another thing Megan has is, no time for the concept of Stephanie. She starts out being very nice about it, aloof but sweet like she is about the Draper kids, but then she gets one of those sub-conscious Betty feelings about how Stephanie is a threat in some way—even though Anna Draper is sacrosanct and Don's Dick love for Stephanie is a sacred duty and Megan should know all of this by now; the problem is that she does, and he's slipping away—so when Stephanie gets there it is only like an hour before Megan sends her pregnant ass to Oakland, a thousand bucks richer.

That was the scariest part of the whole season so far, even scarier than the part with the nipple which I will relate to you in due time: The part where you see Megan pull a Betty right in front of you.

In New York, the Creatives find a personal project of Lou's on the copier, his Candide's garden as it were, which is a cartoon he has imagined that is like an adorable Beetle Bailey crossed with Underdog, called Scout's Honor. Because of his poor management style and sometime pettiness, they begin to treat this cartoon as if it were a certain kind of shitty joke god, and they talk and laugh about it all day long. Even Don thinks it is pretty funny that stupid old Lou has dreams and a creativity of his very precious own.

But when my Lou overhears them all stomping on it/his heart, he pulls the pettiest "you're all staying late!" act imaginable, and even keeps Don from going to see his pretend niece and his pretend wife. (This is fine because Megan has her own pretend wife, Amy from Delaware, who is ubiquitous in many ways, some of them shocking as we shall see.) Don realizes that no amount of trying to be chill with Lou is ever going to make Lou act cool, only more and more abusive and mean and defensive, so he stops trying to seduce him into niceness and continues calcifying into a caveman.

When he finally gets to LA, he discovers one Stephanie less and one Amy more than he was expecting, and also his wife Megan is dressed like the entire set of Laugh-In. Do you remember that time that he listened to the Beatles song and realized that he was too old to understand the world anymore because it just sounded like garbage cans fighting, and it gave him palpitations of worry? This whole episode is like that. I mean, that Laurel Canyon headband bullshit would probably be my personal hell too, but the episode does a really good job of making you feel like a Dante without a Virgil. He just keeps drinking and staring and wishing Megan would calm down. And that Amy would go away, because she is fucking annoying to him.

But she won't, they won't! Having gotten rid of some homeless pregnant bitch that never did anything to her except be perfectly sweet, Megan is free to pal around with her gal-pal and throw a party of a bunch of Joni Mitchells and Judy Collinses and hangers on. They are terrible, with Sonny Bono vests and so many headbands and impromptu jugband hootenannies and expressing themselves and doing sexy postmodern tango dances. They are worse than the Manson Family, these friends of Megan's, and she is so stuck in LA gear that she can't even see it. Her circus mind is runnin' wild! Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams! And fairytales!

And threesomes!

Don runs away from the party for a drink with dumb old Harry—in town schtupping ingénues—and learns that Lou and Cutler, behind his back, are meeting with Phillip Morris. (That's the cigarette company that Don boned that one time he wrote the story about quitting smoking, not Lucky Strikes the cigarette company that tried to have gay sex with Sal that time and got him fired forever.) He realizes that even the bullshitty fake demeaning position they've put him in is just temporary until they can oust him, and this is just the company to do it since his name is on the line with that whole industry.

In no mood and not quite ready to fight the power yet, Don goes back home to a bunch more of Megan's white-lipstick modster bullshit, and then is semi-forced into a threesome with her desperate ass and Amy's even more desperate ass that seems like probably he is going to barf the entire time. Man, when Megan doesn't know what to do, she really doesn't know what to do! Bad form, my lovely. This might go on your permanent record.

But you know what, there's more to it. Do you remember that time Betty shot the birds? The most important scene in maybe the first two seasons, to me. So think about Megan, who has this amazing perfect life that fits into the world, she is the best at being a Laurel Canyon person, and everybody admires that. Just like Dick Whitman being the best at Don Drapering. And every so often—but less and less—this man shows up, and she has to fit him into it, and every time it's harder because he's farther away.

And just like Don sabotaging Betty's modeling career that time via paternalistic HIPAA violations, Megan's coming at the problem with brute force: Buying off Stephanie, forcing Don into unenthusiastic sexual consent, doing strange dances. So to me, Don is the Birdie here, and having the threesome is his very Don Draper version of shooting the birds. It is sad and gross and kind of a rock-bottom, and he ends up very focused on himself and on doing whatever it takes to win at SCPD as a result.

Next awkward morning, Amy is outie and Stephanie calls from Oakland to say hi to poor Don, who all he really wanted was to see her special lovely little face and how it represents the entirety of his goodness and the only home he has ever known and his capacity to be kind for its own sake and all of the best Anna Draper things about Dick... And Megan is a bitch about her some more! Isn't that so Betty? She lights a cigarette off the stove, and then it goes out, and she throws it down like it's the worst thing that happened. That made me miss Betty so much!

Luckily, Betty was all over this shit tonight, offering opinions on the war left and right and ruining Mr. Francis's political connections all over the place by not even trying. He is very mean to her about it, and so she starts acting like Peggy and yelling at him about her female liberation, and it's very exciting if you are a big Betty fan like I am. (Or even if you aren't, considering how fucking horrid Megan is this week and how great it makes this new "thinking, feeling" version of Betty in comparison.)

Plus, Sally comes home from school having broken her nose in a golf-club fight—which, we already knew Sally has the most interesting life, but Jesus—and Betty yells at her that if she doesn't stop abusing the perfect Nordic features Betty deigned to give her through reproducing, she will break her fucking arm—and the whole time, Mr. Francis is over there trying to be a mediator and calling them both "girls girls" and sending both of them twice as pissed, because that's what this episode was about: Rather than the usual setup of old men like Don grasping after power like blind hungry monkeys, in this one everybody is feeling pushed down by the old men. Someone left the cake out in the rain, Zuccotti Park is melting in the dark, etc.

That whole conversation was goddamn gold, I don't want to single anything out; there's one beautiful exchange that ends with Sally comparing her nosejob to a back-alley abortion that even knocks Betty back a little bit. Sally is so Sally these days, it's continually mindblowing. I always knew she'd be okay, but this girl is so on fire she may well bring some of these people with her.

Although one person Sally can't save is Bobby, who is carrying the stress of Betty's sudden Kate Chopin awakening—and the fighting with New Daddy Francis—in his tummy, the same way Sally used to carry Don's million pounds of bullshit on her back. Also, I'd imagine, because Betty was such a dick to him about giving away her sandwich that time. I bet she's still pissed about that, don't you? 1975 she'll still have the Sandwich Affair in her back pocket, waiting to strike.

So that's LA and upstate, what happened on the mothership? Oh, that was fucked up. I did not like this part one bit, except for how Peggy was awesome the entire time and I have missed her being totally awesome lately. Um, you know how Michael Ginsberg is going to go crazy one day? Like, every episode since he showed up, they keep saying tick-tick-tick about how he is going to blow?

Well he blew.

How it happens is, he can't handle the sound of the new computer in their old lounge where they used to lounge and microaggress at Peggy all the time. There is a hum, even though the computer isn't happy. Stage one of his psychotic break is that.

Stage two is, the computer mainframe starts to turn him gay—also something that goes tick-tick-tick with him since Day One, if we are being honest with one another—but his only evidence for that is, he is attracted now to Stan Rizzo, which I don't think makes you gay, I think it makes you a person with eyeballs in your eyesockets that are able to identify color and shape, using rods and cones and light refraction, to detect sexiness. Eyeballs don't care about gender, they are the Judith Butler of parts.

Stage three is, he thinks the gay-making computer has turned Cutler and Lou into homos with each other, which is quite a visual to imagine for a moment (but only just one moment). That's when you start to realize that the Big One's finally arrived, Ginsberg-wise. No way would Cutler, a solid nine, even think about going there with such a bitter little fellow. I may love Lou more than he deserves—hopefully as much and no more than he needs—but nobody could ever like him in that way. And you know whatever Jim Cutler's into, it's way weirder than just pounding middle management on the 2001 set they now call a workplace.

Where it starts to get upsetting and not funny or gay is when Ginzo shows up at Peggy's apartment, has a weird run-in with Little Julio from Upstairs—who is her only friend, because of her personality, and apparently just hangs out with her now, but not in a Betty-and-Glen way—and then comes out to her about his mild homoeroticism of Stan, and then watches her take a nap from one inch away, and then tries to reproduce with her (asexually, but then regular). She shoves him out the door and worries about his psychology of the mind, but only for one second, because she is Peggy—and he is not.

Next morning, he thanks her—in more and more pressured, private-code speech—for calming him down during his break, and presents her with a box that she thinks is jewelry but, just like those roses on Valentine's Day, is actually his darling little nipple, which he has removed in order to let the digital code of the computers out of his body à la Huxley's reducing valve, and thereby to let the information age flow through him more naturally without getting stuck in his lymph nodes and producing excess gayness, etc., etc. You know the science behind it, I don't need to explain it.

So Peggy calls the men in the white coats to come get him, and although it's been a queasy kind of funny the whole time (until he actually gave her a nipple), it's not funny at all when they finally cart him off, worried sexy Stan following after, and poor Peggy just too weirded out and sad to even cry or be anything except red-rimmed and hollow.

I never liked him, but I have never disliked anybody that much that you would be like, "I hope one day that annoying dillweed cuts off his own nipple and gives it to his boss as a gift." Nobody is that mean. Except maybe Megan Draper this week. I can see her doing that shit almost. Peggy, not at all, which is why I really felt for her this week.

She went so fluidly from managerially-annoyed to motherly-concerned to freaked-but-maintaining to shaking-and-sad, and the whole time (almost) with that wry humor that always looks so good on her. Good show, homegirl! Maybe I would suggest, just in terms of management, that you catch the obvious break before the nipple is actually sliced off? But otherwise, you were wonderful in a way you haven't been all season.

(Or just fucking call Joan. She woulda had him on a 72-hour hold the first time he yelled at the computers for not being happy enough! There is not a problem on this planet where you don't call Joan—or at least imagine what you would do if you were Joan. Just imagine that, and then do it. Whatever you think Joan would do. Even if you're not entirely correct, you are still going to end up doing something better than you were going to do.)

So, it was nice! The youth were in revolt, and everybody was the youth. Even Don, for part of the time, was on his best behavior as far as the grownups keepin' him down and everything, and but then get what he does: He busts into the secret Algonquin Square Conference Room Table meeting of Lou and Cutler and the cigarette men, and lets the men yell at him for a minute and Lou and Cutler to be abashed and offended for a minute, and then he says, "I will quit our firm if you come to our firm," which everybody likes, "Or else I am the Miracle Mets and you can be the people that convinced me to apologize for being mean to cigarettes that time in Season Four."

Which nobody likes, but everybody actually likes, because this is all about butthurt old white guys' pride in the first place. Cutler says not even this will save Don, and Don eloquently says nothing at all, and that's a wrap on Don's private revolution: Either this is the thing that will give him leverage over the next two episodes, or it's the thing that he can take with him to his new life wherever that is, but either way this is definitely The Thing. Which is fine, because obviously "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco" was a disingenuous Faustian soul-trade in the first place, so who cares if he welches on it now, but also because fuck these guys.

Next Week: Do you think that will work, or will he have to do more things and go even pretend-lower? I think nothing in the universe is going to work right until he gets Peggy and Joan, or at least one of them, back on his side. If we see Betty, she is definitely going to continue blowing her marriage up and hopefully make a tidy settlement. Peggy is now so low I wouldn't be surprised to see my old favorite, Duck Phillips, back in the mix. And of course we can look forward to Megan either having a Neely O'Hara meltdown or being murdered. Just like we do every week.

[Image via AMC]

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