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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.3 - Field Trip





First, a note about this week's recaps. Starting on Thursday I'm going to be in Poland. Mad Men and The Simpsons should be on time, but Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory (season finale!) will be delayed. It's unfortunate, but, well, Poland.

On to the episode!

Previously on: Don has been thrown out of SC&P and the Draper marriage is shit-tastic. Dawn still has to work for  Don because her existence is to get pushed around. Except not, because she got promoted! Opening credits. Weiner co-writes, Manley directs.

Don goes to a movie (Model Shop, 1969), and sits there smoking like the world-weary jaded bastard he is. Once home, he calls Dawn for some office supplies, but she's overwhelmed with her new job and way too busy to deal with his shit. However, Don is clearly more lonely than in need of supplies, as he begs Dawn to come over. She, in turn, tells him that Megan's agent called. He asks Dawn to return the call, but she puts him on hold where he belongs. I like Dawn more with every episode. Wearing his best bitchface at the prospect of using the phone himself, he calls Megan's agent. Apparently, "our girl" is being difficult in auditions, harrassing directors all over Hollywood, and he wants Don to have a word with her. Don agrees, reluctantly.

At SC&P, Peggy is despondent because she got shut out of the Clios while Ginsberg got in. Ginsberg and Stan tell her to stop being such a baby. Don boards yet another cross-continental flight, where the flight attendants all know him by name and flirt shamelessly. In New York, Peggy pitches Chevalier Noire perfume. Avery is pedantic and sexist. When the Clio contretemps comes up, he reveals that Peggy was never even submitted, because St Joseph's was too worried about the budget. Pegster is rightfully outraged. The meeting comes to an abrupt end. Also, Avery still dresses like a grandma.

Betty sighting! She is perfectly groomed and slightly plastic, as usual. At lunch with Cutthroat Bitch Francine, who hasn't been around since like Season 4, she complains about her high-flying political life as usual. Francine has branched out into an actual career, working as a travel agent, much to Betty's disapproval. However, she's insanely curious about her friend's new independence. They've also apparently retconned Francine's daughter from "Jessica" to "Jenny", a rare continuity error from the Mad Men writers. BOO! Betty reasons that Gene, six, is too young for her to leave the house just yet. However, Francine is quite happy to take on something new. Her friend does not lose the opportunity to snipe about how kids are the real reward. A dangerous look comes into her eye.

A Harry Crane appearance follows! He's meeting with Cutler, Kenneth One-Eye and some clients. The media plan's fine for now, but another agency has one of these newfangled computer things! Maybe Harry could look into it. SC&P: inventing spam before there were cassette tapes. Harry rambles on about data, but it amounts to one thing - the computer's a no-go. They're somewhat mollified. Once the clients are gone, Cutler upbraids Harry for not getting a supercomputer to make them happy, but Harry points out that someone would need to pay attention to the media department first. Attaboy, Harry.

In the Hills, Don cleans up Megan's starving artist digs. When Megan herself arrives, she does seem genuinely excited to see him (it's a surprise). "Did you get fired?" is the first awkward question out of her mouth. He dodges the question and they hop into bed.

Betty, continuing to look kind of ridiculous, checks in on her sons and the nanny. When she hears that Bobby is going on a field trip and they need chaperones, she inexplicably signs up, though I always thought she was more of the "stare into space and occasionally yell" kind of mother. I guess Francine prompted it. She's not too thrilled to hear it's a farm, though...

Megan and Don continue their joyous reunion. Curled up with her husband, Megan confesses how lonely she feels. Don tells her not to let her confidence slide. She gets defensive and questions his entire visit. When he admits Allan the agent prompted it, she gets even angrier and decides to fire him. (The agent, not Don.) Don suggests that maybe she should ease up on the Blanche DuBois tactics, but this only escalates the argument. Even when he tells her he was concerned, she continues to flip out. Yeah, something's definitely off with the second (third?) Mrs. Draper.

While they continue to quarrel, Megan points out that if she dropped in on him, she might find something unpleasant, pointing out that Don always has to call her back, he's never at work, and it's way too quiet to be SC&P. However, she's taken five from two and two, and thinks he's cheating on her. He tries to tell her he isn't, but with his history, she doesn't believe it. Finally, he is forced to admit that he got the boot from SC&P. Megan is outraged, especially when she hears how long Don has kept it from her. He protests that he hasn't cheated on her, and has even cut down on his drinking.



Megan is not impressed, especially when she points out that "With a clear head, you woke up every day and decided you didn't want to be with me." She then kicks him out of the house, and the state. Aaand there goes Marriage #2. Or was it #3? Dumb false identities.

Harry gets an unexpected phone call from the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, the call was engineered by Cutler, who wants to throw SC&P into the computer "arms race". However, he was under the impression that Harry did have a computer. The perpetually ignored Harry, of course, is lacking, though that was not what he told the clients. Cutler dubs him the most dishonest man he's ever worked with. Harry demands that they kill the story.

Don calls one of the rival agencies from the previous episode, asking for a dinner appointment. He's going to get his life back on track. At said dinner, they do a little dance which is oddly reminiscent of flirting, centred around a salary offer. In the middle of this, a beautiful woman shows up to hit on Don. For a minute I swear she's that Betty clone he dated in Season 4, but no, it's someone totally unrelated. Don doesn't appear to know her. In front of his would-be bosses, she tells him exactly where her room is, offering herself pretty blatantly. Well. The Sixties have arrived.

At first, Don thinks the execs hired her for him, but they vehemently deny it. As the others continue to get drunk, he stares into the distance, and I think we're about to get a Dick Whitman Flashback. This does not materialize, however, and he goes to Roger's place instead. Just as you think the show's about to get really interesting - or at least delve into those groovy LSD scenes again - we instead get an argument over Don and Roger about who behaved more badly in the wake of Don's firing.

Things that come up in the argument:

  • The stealth founding of SCDP
  • Don's dishonest hiring via a drunken conversation near a fur shop
  • The offer from the other guys, which Don thinks came from Roger for some reason
  • The zillion times Don has screwed the company over
  • Roger actually misses Don deep down, and wants him back. Cue an "aww" from the audience.

And some say, some say, that Don Draper's heart grew three sizes that day. He's told to come in on Monday, Roger's latest hippie fling shows up with sandwiches, and thus our story has a happy ending. For now.

Later, Don tries to call his wife in LA. She's still pissed as hell, but doesn't hang up right away, which is progress, I guess. He apologizes and tells her he's going back to SC&P. She isn't having any of it, insisting that he move out to LA with her. Megan gets some truly awful cliche-ridden dialogue about not lying and getting pushed away. Did Weiner write that? If so, please slap his hand for me. Don offers to fly out, but Megan turns him down. Weary, Don goes to bed to start his new life.

Looking like a fish out of water, Betty is crammed onto a school bus while her son regales her with a monologue about movie monsters. Also, the mothers are SMOKING on a SCHOOL BUS, which is the funniest thing I've ever seen. The two of them debate Dracula vs the Wolfman for a while. Bobby's teacher stops by to thank Betty. After she's gone, Bobby comments that the teacher seems to like her. "Well, that blouse says she likes everyone," says Betty. ZING. This is why you can't help but love Betty Draper - especially when she's a stone-cold bitch.

At SC&Whatever It's Called This Week, Don awaits what is essentially a trial. His entire arrival is brilliantly constructed in a sort of montage, culminating with him simply waiting in the conference room. Everything is out of place - the receptionist and junior execs are new, Peggy's Copy Chief, and Dawn has her own office. He built this place, and now he is completely removed. It is a rare thing to see Don Draper as naked as this (emotionally, that is). He really looks scared. I will say it right here, right now - give Jon Hamm the Emmy. And this is coming from someone who worships at the altar of Kevin Spacey.

Don meets Lou Avery, who regards him as some sort of amoeba and treats him with the same condescension as he did with Sally last week. Seriously, the man appears to have no talent, charm or fashion sense - why does SC& a Partridge in a Pear Tree hold onto this schlub? He runs into Roger's secretary, who tells him that Roger hasn't bothered to show up for this incredibly important meeting that no one knows about. I'd say follow the smell of patchouli and sound of bongo drums and you'd find him surrounded by several naked hippies, but hey, this is why I don't write for Mad Men. Don is crushed, but tries not to show it. Meanwhile, Avery is outraged that Don has dared to infringe on his turf, and demands to get Cutler on the line. Poor Shirley. That one's really got her work cut out for her.

As Don walks away, he runs into Ginsberg and Ed(?), the new copywriter with glasses. They immediately take the opportunity to run some copy ideas past him. Ginsberg fetches Peggy, who is skeptical and annoyed. She, Stan, Ginsberg and Dumbass Meredith immediately run to check it out. The latter only because she's hot for Don, of course. When Dawn shows up, he continues to order her around like she's Season 1 Peggy. Soon enough, they're in a full-fledged brainstorming session. Don is back in the saddle.

Speaking of which, the kids have arrived at the farm and Betty looks like she wants to die. Betty and another mom ditch the kids to smoke, where they complain about the sexy teacher. At SC& Purple People Eater, Kenneth One-Eye and Joan show up to find their prodigal comrade returned. Ken is delighted, Joan less so, and neither knew about it beforehand. Roger's errant whims strike again. While Ken shows Don pictures of his new son (referencing the "Carousel" pitch in the process), Joan goes to yell at Cooper, because dammit, someone needs to be yelled at. He even lets her in while wearing boots. Gasp. Cooper is as surprised as anyone, and vows to put a stop to it.

Meanwhile, the copywriting jam is interrupted when Avery crashes like the fusty old grandpa he is. Furious, he orders his underlings into the office, leaving Don alone.

At the farm, the teacher and her dad milk some cows, then offer to let the kids try the fresh milk. Ah, life before anyone cared about safety. Surprisingly, Betty is the first to volunteer to drink it. Bobby looks on admiringly. Wait until next episode, "Betty Drops Dead from a Rare Parasite."

Roger finally arrives, whereupon Don rips into him for being an unreliable dumbass. He's drunk and rants about his importance to Don, who has no time for bullshit and wants a meeting. Now. Roger goes to assemble the players. Dawn is thoughtful enough to get Don a sandwich, since he's been sitting there for hours.

Bobby prepares for lunch with Betty, throwing his friends aside in order to sit with his mom. Okay, I get that she's acting like a parent for the first time in his life, but seriously? Kid is twelve. Any twelve-year-old who tried that would be...shall we say, ill-regarded among his peers. Just doesn't ring true. It is kind of sweet, though.

Cutler is the latest on the Surprised-By-Don bandwagon, but he's got bigger problems heading his way - Avery's on the warpath, demanding that his two-year contract be fulfilled, though I can't say I blame him there. Cutler promises to kick Don out immediately. Avery continues to have the most curmudgeonly look on his face.

Betty comes back to enjoy her lunch, but she's not getting it today - Bobby traded her sandwich for gumdrops. She scolds him, he apologizes, and you'd think that would be that, but she continues to go on about it. "I didn't know you were going to eat," he says, indicating that Betty is likely still on some crazy diet (and considering that this is the '60s, probably some chemical help). He offers her the gumdrops, but she pouts, tells him to eat them all, then puts on the Sunglasses of Distance. Motherhood session over.

Roger is called into Cooper's office, where he is asked to remove his shoes, though he points out that Joan is in boots. Everyone tears into him for inviting Draper back. Roger says he won't stand for a firing. Joan and Cutler insist that they gave him the boot with the leave of absence, while Cooper maintains that the decision to fire or rehire should have been made together. Joan also notes that the office is finally stable, and Don has no place in the new setup, something made abundantly clear in the past few minutes. Cooper is concerned for their reputation, though Roger points out that part of the problem is how much their creative sucks - mostly due to Avery's rotten leadership. Cutler brings up the totally irrelevant topic of Harry Crane, and the Media Department's shenanigans. Roger agrees to fire him immediately. WHAT? It soon turns into a financial vs creative struggle. Roger eventually throws in the decisive argument - if they don't want Don back, they'll have to buy him out, and they'll lose his non-compete. Things appear to be settled. Thank goodness.

At the Francis residence, Henry asks how the farm visit went and Betty uses this as an opportunity to shame Bobby. Jesus Christ, lady, shut up. When Henry asks him what happened, Bobby says "I wish it was yesterday," breaking everyone's hearts. And that's TWO Draper kids condemned to a lifetime of therapy. A round of applause for Betty Draper, Worst Parent Ever!



Henry gives him a silent clap on the shoulder, because man, has he been there. And really, as the Only Sane Man in this messed-up family, it's good that he's around.

Don waits around for his colleagues to drop the axe. Peggy shows up and it looks like they'll have one of those awesome Don-Peggy bonding moments, but her only comment is "Well, I can't say that we miss you." WOW. Sorry, Betty, but you're out of the running for Stone Cold Bitch this episode. Peggy takes it in a landslide.



(Sometimes I think this show should be retitled "Will Success Spoil Peggy Olsen?", but Jayne Mansfield is no Joan, so it's just as well.)

Henry goes to investigate the Bobby Incident, but all he can get out of Betty was that her twelve-year-old son ruined the whole day. Somehow, he's a little skeptical of this. Betty asks Henry why her kids don't love her. Well, you could show Mad Men Seasons 1-6 as documentary evidence, I suppose. Henry gets fed up with the whole discussion and wanders out, probably regretting that time he went to a garden party in the spring of 1963.

Don is summoned for The Final Reckoning. His fellow partners stare at him like a flock of vultures. Once he's settled in, they tell him he can come back to their little club - with strings. This includes being scripted ahead of time (with approval), never being allowed to spend time alone with clients, which is going to put a serious damper on his sex life, and he's off the sauce at work. What's more, they're putting him in Lane's office, which I imagine has been unoccupied except by the spectre of death for the past two years, and will undoubtedly send the fanbase scurrying for symbolism. Worst of all, he's reporting to Loathsome Lou. Needless to say, the glory days are over, but Don accepts with a Bogartesque look of nonchalance. He's still pretending, really.

Well, that was a hell of an episode. With an appearance from Evil Betty, the breakdown of the Draper marriage, and a strange re-entry to the world of Sterling Cooper Whatever, it's sure to give us lots to talk about. Jon Hamm absolutely ruled, and with any justice in this world, he'd get an Emmy. (Note: there is no justice in this world, at least not where the Emmys are concerned.) It was a strong entry to the Mad Men canon, and I look forward to seeing what they bring us next.

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