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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.4 - The Monolith





I'm back from Poland just in time to mark the halfway point in this season! The schedule for this week will be as follows: BBT and Mad Men tonight, Modern Family and The Simpsons tomorrow, and then back to our regularly scheduled programming. It feels good to be home.

Previously on: Avery is worried for his job. Roger's daughter forgives him. Harry gets shafted. Don gets rehired, and Pete's fucking the real estate agents. All together now - "one of these things is not like the others..." Levy writes, Hornbacher directs.

At dinner, Pete plans a romantic getaway with Bonnie, who appears to be a lot like Betty, only bouncier and more affected. She notices a guy looking at them. Pete goes to investigate, and it turns out to be George, a business acquaintance from Vicks, who is edgy about seeing them until Pete admits he's divorced (prompting a new kind of edginess). They invite him to sit down. George mentions that he's no longer at Vicks, and oh by the way, Pete's father-in-law had a heart attack. And since George is now with a burger company, he just might have some business for SC&P. You can practically see the dollar signs in Pete's eyes. I have to say,  he seems to have lost some of the Pete Campbell smarm - probably the California influence. Don't get me wrong, he's still a total douche though. Inexplicably, Bonnie's turned on by it.

Don goes to work, nervous as hell and looking for all the world like he farted in the elevator. He finds the office deserted, presumably the opening to the network's inevitable Mad Men/Walking Dead crossover. Hearing a hubbub upstairs, he goes to investigate and finds Roger making a big announcement, to which of course they did not bother to invite him.


It turns out that Cutler and not-fired Harry have taken the initiative and bought a computer. Since it's the '60s, the thing will be fucking massive and require a ton of construction and rearranging. They beckon for Don to join them for the announcement, but he just gives them a death glare. See, the computer is going to take the place of the creative lounge, causing the entire team to bitch about how they're being driven underground by a machine that could replace them. Okay, now I get where the title comes from. Avery dismisses this, because he is contractually obligated to be a grouch about everything. Don makes some noise about his place in the company. Roger mollifies him, and without thinking, suggests they have a drink. This brings on yet another awkward moment.

The creatives pack up their space. Ginsberg mourns the death of their creativity, but Stan is more optimistic. They plan to poach the couch, and decide they'll switch it out for the one in Lane's office. He ropes Don into it, and they struggle through the hallway bumping into people while I wonder who's getting decapitated this episode. Seriously, that couch looks lethal. Ginsberg and Stan get into a fight, which ends in a Ginsberg stick-it-to-the-man rant. Don decides to ignore them and flees to go hang out with Lane's ghost in their shared office. Or at least, that's the sitcom I'm writing.

Searching for a dropped cigarette, Don finds a Mets pennant, an obvious trace of the office's previous occupant. He's not going to survive the season, is he? In California, Pete recaps the burger meeting over a conference call. Everyone is skeptical, but come on, America + burgers always means gold. Ted is in favor of the account, and even suggests putting Peggy on it, which everyone finds ridiculous. Even Avery goes for it, surprisingly, but Pete vouches for Don. Everyone can live with that, so Don and Peggy are doing their first work together in years. Still, behind closed doors, Avery broaches his apprehension about Don to Cutler, who ably cuts him down.

Roger's grandson Ellery shows up, running through the hallway in what I swear to god is a Shining reference. Weiner clearly loves his Kubrick. He is closely followed by Brooks (son-in-law) and Mona (first ex-wife). Turns out Margaret has run away to join a hippie commune. Yes, you read that right. Someone needs to go get the errant wife and mother back, and for some reason Roger is given the task, even though they're more or less estranged. I see a hilarious road trip plot coming along. Roger tries to give the task to Brooks, but Mona gets pissy, saying that since Margaret is now a filthy hippie and Roger has been partying with filthy hippies, he is clearly the only one with the know-how to drive upstate and find her.

The Great Computer Saga continues, impressing the business types and pissing off the creatives. Lots of 2001-type stuff is mentioned, and Harry makes a complete hash of things when he introduces Don as Creative Director, causing some role confusion. The installation guy refers to the computer as "a metaphor for whatever's on people's minds", because apparently we've given up on subtlety altogether. They talk about cosmic stuff and information overload.

Peggy is given both a raise and the burger account. Oh, yeah, and she's in charge, even over Draper. She seems alternately terrified and smug, but accepts it with no fuss. After all, she's the boss now. How times have changed. She has Don summoned. To her office. Fuck yeah.

Upon hearing the news, Don looks like he's just been punched, while the other creative is thrilled. About a million power dynamics are going on at once, and it's glorious. To his credit, Don does play ball (if a little reluctantly), and finds himself utterly lost. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it," the other copywriter chirps. After they're gone, Peggy takes a self-satisfied drink while Don goes to his office to throw things.

A weekend passes, and things seem to be settled, though Don bristles every time he has to do something for Peggy. Meanwhile, after checking that Don hasn't fled the scene, Roger is informed that his son-in-law is now in jail up north. Yep, that family's got a bright future there.

Don is demonstrating his authority by sitting in his office and playing solitaire, rather than attending Peggy's meeting. When questioned, he nonchalantly informs the young copywriter that he's not coming. Looking like she's about to spit venom, Peggy throws around a bunch of assignments and sends the copywriter scurrying. However, she also moves the meeting, which seems like a bad move to me. Everyone knows you don't give troublemakers the chance to misbehave. Peggy, you have a lot to learn.

Roger and Mona set off on their Hippie Retrieval Road Trip, which conveniently puts them alone in a car in the middle of nowhere. He naturally takes this as an excuse to hit on her. They discuss how disappointing their son-in-law is (Mona describes him as "good enough for the time being") and how flighty their daughter has proven to be. This turns the conversation to their own failed marriage. Oh, and they discuss drugs, sounding like perfect out-of-touch fogeys. It's wonderful to see Talia Balsam and John Slattery reunited.

The computer installation guy, Lloyd, shows up at Don's office asking for a lighter. They start chatting, and it turns out Lloyd has an "advertising question". He explains how his business works and practically begs for a strategy. The gears begin to turn. More symbolic computer talk ensues. Once Lloyd leaves, Don heads to Cooper's office and suggests they take on this company, citing the industry's enormous potential. I start to wonder if this show takes place in the '90s rather than the '60s. However, Cooper is dead set against Don being in charge of any new business. He gives Don a solid lecture, pointing out that he is no longer the savior of SC&P. Basically, Don is reduced to a trained monkey. This argument leaves him rather frustrated, so he sneaks into Roger's office and steals some booze. Once in his own office, he chugs from the bottle, then hides the rest of it in the old Coke can system, popular with so many high school proms. The man is playing with fire.

The Sterlings eventually track down the commune, which is everything two prim and proper Manhattanites fear. Margaret Marigold is fully dressed the part, and into giving hugs. And honestly, she looks better than she ever did on the show, even during the Kennedy-derailed wedding four seasons back. They settle down for a private conversation, though Roger seems to want to follow the hippies if you ask me. Marigold/Margaret is convinced that her new life will make her better as a wife, mother and human being. Roger's solution is to offer her some money. Buddy, you're a long way from Madison Avenue. Mona lectures her daughter about drugs and venereal disease, but it's too late, Margaret's off with the long-haired youth of the day. "I'm sorry you had nothing to live for," Margaret says, effectively putting Mona in her place. Mona gives up, Roger insists they should continue to try, she accuses him of treating his only (acknowledged) child like an account. He chooses to stay. As his ex-wife drives off, he asks Marigold to show him around.

Don wakes up on his couch, completely wasted, and makes a mysterious phone call, asking someone to go to a baseball game with him. Back on the commune, Roger cheerfully peels potatoes while his daughter looks on. The hippies explain their philosophy and pass a joint around. Lured by the prospect the great outdoors and several attractive non-monogamous women, Roger decides to stick around for a while. We find out that Don called Freddy Rumsen, which was actually kind of convenient, since the man has basically been through the same situation. Don is more drunk and more pathetic than I have seen him in this series, shouting about the Mets while Freddy desperately tries to salvage the situation. Fortunately, the only person to notice their discreet exit is Meredith, previously established to be as dumb as a brick. Don takes this as an excuse to spit on his good luck and run around confronting other people. He approaches Lloyd the computer guy, ranting about names and identities. "I know who you are," he says. Lloyd appears to have been struck to the core, though I doubt it's anything as concrete as an actual secret identity.

All I can say is thank god for Freddy, who drags him away yet again. Peggy notices them, though she assumes that Don is merely slacking off and not wasted. Joan stops by to have her requisite line of the episode, informing Peggy that her raise was approved. She replies with something snarky, which causes a catty remark from Joan, which necessitates an apology on Peggy's part. They share a wonderful camaraderie, reminiscent of the Season 4 finale, in which they take down Lou Avery's total incompetence and cowardice in assigning Don as Peggy's underling. Joan confides that Don was rehired under some extensive rules. Still, they agree, the problem goes way beyond Don.

The hippies bunk down under the stars. Roger is enthralled with this new way of life. They look at the moon and wonder if a man might be there one day. They talk about Jules Verne and dreams. For the first time in years, father and daughter are happy to be together. He even pretends not to notice when she sneaks off with a bearded dude a few minutes later.

Freddy has managed to get Don home, though Don still thinks they're going to the game. He passes out, and wakes up to find Freddy armed with coffee. He complains about his wretched assignment from Peggy. Freddy wisely tells him not to screw up his second chance - and points out that his current path might lead to unemployment and/or the grave. "Do the work, Don," he admonishes.

Roger waits on the porch for Margaret, then seizes the opportunity to drag her away from her hippie friends - yes, in the physical sense. Margaret refuses, of course. He tells her, in no uncertain terms, that her son needs his mother. He tries to pick her up and carry her to the car, but they fall into a mud puddle. He asks her how she could have left her baby. She tells him that since he left her all these years (to, you know, have a job and stuff), he should know how easy it is. I'm almost sad she doesn't know about Kevin. Roger's shattered. Flicking mud off his suit, he trudges back to the road.

Don returns to SC&P, relatively put together. Peggy checks on him in his office. He tells her the tags will be done by lunch. She nods, and a new dynamic is in place. A song about a carousel plays. Don gets to work.

Well, Mad Men has built up this total reversal for ages now, and man, did it ever pay off. Jon Hamm pulled it off brilliantly as usual, and Slattery had an unexpected showcase in Roger's commune adventure. Times are changing, the old guard is falling behind, and I'm sure we've stepped into the great downfall of Don Draper, temporary reprieves aside. Here, his fall was illustrated brilliantly.

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