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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.1 - Time Zones





I don't know about you, but I got excited just typing this title. Oh, what a happy day this is. Mad Men is back, everybody! Let's go on to the review before we die of anticipation. (No Simpsons until tomorrow, I have a rough work week and my time is reserved for special things, like awesome '60s fashion.) Alley oop!

Previously on: The Drapers fight over which coast to live on, Pete moves to LA and leaves Trudy forever, Peggy and Ted get freaky, Roger fights with his daughter. Don gets temporarily fired. Joan and Peggy fight, Ted and Peggy break up, Pegster gets promoted. Opening credits. Weiner writes, Hornbacher directs.

Freddy Rumsen goes through a pitch for Accutron watches. Steve McQueen is name-dropped. Apparently, this watch will make him like you. I dunno, Don would call that lazy, but he doesn't have a job anymore. Don't worry, Girl Don is in charge now, and she's impressed, if still somewhat condescending.

In the filthiest apartment ever, which looks like it's recently been ransacked by a Tasmanian Devil, Roger gets a phone call. He takes the phone from his girl-of-the-day. It's Margaret. After their blowup fight last year in which she banned him from seeing his grandson, she's had a change of heart and wants to have lunch. He agrees, as long as there's vodka. Also, the entire conversation takes place while he's completely naked, the phone artfully covering his bits. The camera pulls back to reveal a half-dozen other naked people in the room. The Sixties are here, people!

Dawn is still at SC&P (Hi, Dawn!), working for Don's replacement, Lou Avery (Allan Havey), somewhat of a smarmy racist jerk (so, par for the course for this show). The creatives nervously give their pitch. Upstairs, we get our first Joan glimpse of the season. She's here to speak with Ken, who still has an eye patch. Jesus, he actually lost the eye (or at least his sight)! What a bummer. I hope he can still tap dance. Apparently, this has made him bitter and angry and he screams at the account men, all the time. Ken's buckling under the workload. He asks Joan for an underling to do some of his dirty work, both for his status and for his sanity. Joan is diplomatic, as usual.

Avery, who dresses like Mr. Rogers' grandma, tends to tear through the creatives without really knowing what he's talking about. He's especially fond of destroying Peggy. Pegs is clearly starting to fray a bit, but she's handling things. For now.

Just as I'm starting to wish we had Don back, there he is! DON DRAPER! DON DRAPER! Looking as good as ever, if a little world-weary, he has managed to hightail it out to California to visit his wife. We get some cool '60s airport scenes. Megan shows up, rocking some sort of sheer baby blue...thing. They kiss in slo-mo. She's clearly not thrilled about having to fit her husband into her schedule, though.

Ted returns for a visit, which clearly distresses Peggy. Cutler tells him to get over his California folly and come back, but he's clearly happy there, so no dice. Also, Cutler is apparently important enough to have scored an invite to Nixon's inauguration (placing us in January 1969, by the way). He was planning to take Roger as his date - which would presumably move up Nixon's career-ending scandal by a few years - but instead invites Teddy. However, Ted intends to work, and work he shall.

The Drapers arrive at a fancy LA restaurant for dinner with...I think her agent? He goes out of his way to assure Don that he's totally not fucking Megan, which is a huge comfort, I'm sure. I can't decide if he is fucking Megan or if he's gay. Also, Megan has gotten a callback for a big pilot, which may or may not have involved the casting couch. Don puts on a good show, but is not exactly thrilled with all of this.

Joan has decided to call in sick on Ken's behalf and take his place with a Butler exec. The guy proceeds to belittle her as much as he can, but she holds firm, flattering her way out of it, and the meeting continues. However, Butler wants to move everything in-house, so Joan is stuck - and it's clear that her presence does not make this negotiation easier. After he leaves early, Joan wearily asks that the bartender add a splash of whiskey to her drink.

Don and Megan go back to her curiously rustic-themed house. She keeps hinting at "our next house", so she clearly isn't done with him just yet. However, she is kind of wasted, so there are no sexytimes tonight, but discussions of household minutiae instead. Don winds up falling asleep on the couch while watching TV. In the morning, she heads off to her acting class and leaves him with a Playboy. Best part-time wife ever. Also, does she know he got canned?

At work, Peggy goes looking for Stan and gets an awkward encounter with Ted instead. She calls her bearded friend repeatedly, hoping he'll save her from the Big Bad Ex. Nonetheless, she is forced to talk to him for five seconds and gets increasingly testy. Ted eventually makes an excuse to leave. Stan says something pithy, as usual.

In his tennis shirt and sweater-around-the-neck, Pete is nicely tanned and more confident than ever, even hugging Don. California clearly agrees with him. He (barely) misses his daughter, and bagels, and he likes to complain as usual, but seems happy to be out West. However, he's pissed to see that SC&P have moved on without him back in New York. He also wonders why Ted seems so unhappy here, when clearly sunlight and oranges are all you need. And are those just '60s patterns, or is he wearing pajama pants?

He takes Don to the local office, where we meet Bonnie Whiteside, his bouncy blonde real estate agent - and judging by the looks they give each other (oh, and the groping), I'd say Pete really has moved on. Don just looks overwhelmed at everything he encounters. Seriously. Jon Hamm has had, like, four lines so far.

Joan goes to see a business professor acquaintance of hers. Honestly, the scene kind of confuses me, but I think she's asking for a business strategy to counteract their dumb pseudobabble - you know, the kind you read in self-help books that promise to make you a business genius in a hundred pages. For a nice fee, he helps her analyse a new approach.

Don goes back to Megan's house - which, strangely, puts me eerily in mind of the Drapers' home in the show's early seasons, with Wife #1 - and they settle in for a nice dinner. Two deliverymen show up with a huge new TV, I guess for all the times Don will be exiled to the couch in the future. They get into a fight. Megan thinks Don went over her head, but more importantly, she is concerned it doesn't look "starving actress"-y enough for her friends. You know, because a house in the Hills is totally passable. Don tries to flatter her out of an argument, but she stomps off anyway. What's up with that? When they do eventually get to bed, she's clearly not into it, though she goes along. Considering how they jumped at each other for the past two and a half seasons, it's safe to say that something's off. However, she is a bit more eager the next day...

We also find out that Peggy has taken a second job as a landlord, though she's making so much money at SC&P that I'm not sure why this is necessary. Her tenants are a pain in the ass, anyway. So no fun for Pegasus this week.

Roger takes a break from hedonism to have a civilized brunch with his daughter. Margaret is sporting an awesome beehive. She forgives him for being a lousy dad, screwing everything that moves, and even embracing hippiedom. Roger is insulted, because half that stuff isn't even that bad in his eyes. But you see, Margaret's been exploring her spiritual side, so this is the way for her to let go of her anger. Judging by the look on Roger's face, and her slightly glazed eyes, I wouldn't expect a renewed father-daughter relationship just yet.

Don boards a plane, and winds up sitting next to Neve Campbell, who is a nervous flyer. Things get flirty. Oh boy.

Roger goes back to his orgy, feeling downcast. He falls asleep. His girl-of-the-day pushes the other guy aside so they can all have some room. Oh boy, Roger, what have you been up to?

Adding further fuel to the "Don's-gonna-die" fire, Neve Campbell's character turns out to be a widow, out in California to scatter her husband's ashes at Pebble Beach Disneyland. Her husband looked like Don, apparently, and drank like a fish and died at fifty. After some soul-baring over the Midwest, Don makes a half-hearted pass at her, but she prefers to sleep. However, she does doze off on his shoulder - and doesn't budge when she wakes up. They talk about Don's lousy marriage. She openly asks him to come to her place - but he turns her down. You may be the world's worst husband, Don, but you get an A for effort this time.



Peggy arrives at work to hear about more tenant problems, and the promise of fun times with Douche Boss. She and Avery discuss her weak pitches, and she admits that Freddy's was best. She ass-kisses a bit, but it has no effect. Meanwhile, Joan gets the news that the Butler people are coming in later. She immediately calls them and pulls a spectacular power play, getting them firmly in her corner within minutes, though the exec still grumbles about not meeting with Ken. She's won, anyway. Why is Joan not running the world yet?

Peggy and Stan have a little argument in her office, as Peggy has lost all confidence in Avery and Stan tells her to give it a chance. Nope - Peggy wants to push their work further, keep going for better and better. Stan eventually gets tired of her rants and walks out. I still ship them, totally.

Don polishes his shoes and watches Nixon give his inaugural speech. Suddenly, Freddy shows up. It turns out that Don wrote his copy, apparently free. That's right - the great Don Draper has become an advertising ghostwriter. (As a side benefit, Freddy is also a good source of industry gossip.) I guess the fall has begun.

Joan tries to plead with Ken to put more into the Butler account before they lose it, but she herself is busted - she dropped one of her earrings in Ken's office. He tells her to butt out.

Peggy comes home to find her brother-in-law, who was there to fix the tenants' plumbing and is now heading back to Brooklyn. Horribly lonely, she tries to get him to stay for a bit. After he leaves, she locks the door, falls to her knees and cries.

Over at his apartment, Don watches TV in his bathrobe. Unable to close the sliding door to the balcony, he embraces the chilly air and sits outside as the camera pulls back and shows him, small and alone in a big city. A cover of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" plays. We exit on a disheveled man without purpose.

So, there you have it. The season premieres are always "intros" anyway, so I was pretty sure nothing would happen in the first episode, but nothing appears to have happened in the past few months, either. Megan and Pete are flying high, while Roger is just plain high, but Ted, Peggy and Don all appear miserable. (Joan's position is debatable and needs more airtime, I think, though she's still hammering at that glass ceiling.) Don in particular is in some kind of stasis - not working, not really with his wife even when they're in the same room, and existing without really living. My bold prediction is that he and Peggy will strike out together (which, to be fair, half the fandom seems to have decided already), but knowing this show, it could go anywhere. It's the last year of the '60s, we're up to date and the season is established. Now, it's time to get moving. Tune in next week!

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