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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.5 - The Runaways




No, not Joan Jett's band. From what I hear, this episode is supposedly the WTF of the year (and we've seen an entire season of Game of Thrones, practically, so that's saying a lot). Let's see what the fuss is about.

Previously on: The agency gets a computer, Don is a terrible worker, the Draper marriage is on the rocks, Don gets rehired with a bunch of bullshit requirements, Lou is pissy. "There's nothing to be afraid of," Cutler says, ominously. Weiner and Iserson write, Manley directs.

Stan discovers something hilarious in the Xerox - a comic called "Scout's Honor" written by none other than Lou Avery. So the fusty old grandpa of the agency does have a fun side! Peggy and Don share an awkward elevator ride, in which Peggy demonstrates how in charge she is about eight hundred times. Jesus Christ, stop rubbing salt in the wound. You can pretty much feel Don rolling his eyes, even if he doesn't do so openly. They find Ginsberg shouting in frustration, which they think is about the woman in charge of the computer, but no, it's the computer itself. He feels it's his downfall and will destroy them all, comparing himself to Cassandra. All right then.

Stan shows the comic to Shirley, who is immediately terrified of getting fired for leaving it on the copier. She demands that they keep it quiet, but they just laugh in her face. Don is busy trying to get the incompetent Meredith to do anything, anything at all, when she interrupts with a call from California. It's Stephanie, Anna's student niece from Season 4, who hasn't appeared since that year's finale - so 1965, four years ago. She's claiming to be his niece. Yeah, who thought you'd ever hear from her again?

Don accepts the call from his past. We get a glimpse of her in a phone booth, looking all hippie-tastic and kind of strung out. Oh yeah, and pregnant. (Quick reminder - she and Don haven't seen each other in four years and never had sex anyway. Yeah, I had to calculate too.) He immediately volunteers to help her, and tells her that she is his niece, basically. Awww. Stephanie is sent off to Megan's, and Don decides to fly out that night, though he previously told Peggy he was going out the next weekend. Incidentally, Stephanie calls him by his real name.

Only then does Don think to inform his wife of these new developments. Megan's peeved because she has to cancel an acting class party she was intending to host the following night. Cue the eye-rolling from Megan's hater contingent. She is also flirting fiercely with her friend Amy from Delaware, or is that my imagination? In the end, she promises to make Stephanie feel at home and even appears happy to hear from her husband, even if the marriage is basically on life support.

The two copywriters who are too unimportant to have memorable names chat about Burger Chef with Stan while he gets stoned. Don comes in only to be shown the insane old-fashioned Lou Avery comic. When he shows a remarkable lack of interest, they mutter that he's still "part of the faculty", so to speak.

We head to the Francis Mausoleum, where Henry and Betty are hosting part of a neighborhood party. Betty looks very late-60's in a blue tunic thing, proving that times can change even in this little reactionary microcosm. Speaking of times changing, Stephanie arrives at Megan's, where they share an awkward greeting complete with weird hug. Megan clearly perceives her as some kind of threat (sexual? Dick Whitman-y?), noting how beautiful she is. However, she does make an effort to give Stephanie, who has been more or less living on the streets, the comforts of home.

Scout's Honor continues to live on at SC&P. Stan and one of the Nameless Copywriters (seriously, I have to learn their names) keep quoting it to each other at the urinals. However, this comes to an abrupt halt when Avery walks out of one of the stalls. Game over. To make things worse, the creative team has a meeting coming up. Naturally, nothing gets done, because Avery is too busy chewing everyone out for making fun of his comic, and ranting about his failed career in cartoons. Stan is still high and snarky. Avery compares himself to Bob Dylan, rants about his minions' patriotism, and storms out. The creative team is sentenced to having to work all evening. Even though they're in trouble, everyone does have to suppress their laughter.

The dreary neighbour party continues. Everyone looks half-dead, and their clothes are utterly hideous. The talk consists of a) how terrible today's youth are and B) whether Vietnam is or is not related to this. Betty puts her foot in it by blithering on about sacrifice and supporting your country, when Henry and co. are supposed to be toeing the line with Nixon's end-the-war policy. She challenges him, and by doing so reveals that he's probably a tad more war-hungry than he's supposed to be. One of the neighbour wives abruptly changes the subject. Betty stomps off.

Don brings Avery some work, and casually mentions that he's heading out. Avery tries to keep him there, saying he has to set an example for the other creatives. Don stays. Even his attempts to commiserate about the comic are rebuffed, because Avery has some serious insecurity about his authority. He calls to tell Megan, who mentions for the umpteenth time how far along Stephanie is. Combined with something Stephanie mentioned earlier about having been born early, I'm half wondering if one or both of the Drapers will be forced to play emergency midwife. Well, okay, this is Mad Men, so probably not. You know how Weiner hates to be typical. Stephanie wanders in and they talk about Anna's ring, which was from Don Draper 1.0, was given to Don Draper 2.0 after Anna's death, and currently sits on Megan's finger. This leads to a discussion about the state of the Draper marriage, Stephanie's boyfriend in jail and panhandling past, and Don's many secrets, which Stephanie claims to know. This last part drives Megan over the edge. With a few snarky comments about "how disorganized this all is" and a check for $1000, she kicks Stephanie to the curb before Don's even had a chance to get there. To her credit, Stephanie knows exactly what is happening, and points out to Megan that nothing ever happened between her and Don. Point to Stephanie for this one.

Betty got a miraculous headache and managed to wimp out of the rest of the neighbourhood party. Later, in the bedroom, Henry is pissed. In both the English and American definitions of the word. Henry reminds her not to put him into any awkward positions, politically speaking. In fact, he pretty much puts a gag on her, preferring to keep her a brainless political wife. You know you shouldn't worry your pretty head about such things! Naturally, Bobby listens at the door the whole time.

Avery tells Don he can go - just in time for him to miss the flight. Brilliant.

Betty gets a call from Sally's school, apparently, because only one other person in the world can put that exasperated look on her face, and that's Don. The man himself has just arrived in California, only to find Amy well ensconced in his house. Megan lies through her teeth, saying that Stephanie wanted to leave, despite her best efforts to get her to stay. Don's terribly upset, giving his best Jon Hamm Stone Face when Megan suggests cheering him up with a trip to the market. It's all right, though - Megan's all too happy to go with Chasing Amy.

Ginsberg is still freaked out about the computer, stuffing Kleenex in his ears to drown out the noise. He stares at Cutler and Avery talking, a stunning shot that should get someone an Emmy. Meanwhile, Sally is dragged home with two black eyes and a broken nose, the result of a golf-clubs-as-swords match. Betty promptly picks a fight with her for ruining her marryin' face. Henry calms them down with a cry of "Girls!", always appropriate for your 30-something wife. Sally says some snarky stuff about how her mom needs a perfect nose to feel fulfilled. Betty completely sidesteps the point by saying that yes, her perfect nose did give her a good life, and she gave it to Sally, and Sally's wasting it waahhhh wahhh wahhh. To make matters worse, Sally is going to be hauled off to the plastic surgeon's this weekend for a nose job. Betty threatens to break her arm next, topping herself as Worst Mother Ever after threatening to cut off Sally's fingers in Season 4. And her response to Henry's shout of disbelief/horror/anger? A casual shrug. God, I love this show.

Don, Megan and Amy get ready for the party, and Don is clearly not happy to have Amy on his turf. In New York, Peggy's about to settle down with the television and a bag of chips when Ginsberg pops in. At her apartment. On a Saturday. He's gone paranoid about Avery, Cutler and the computer. His conclusion: the computer has turned everyone gay. Yes, you read that right. He wants to work at Peggy's place, away from the gay computer, even if it means putting up with the neighbours' kids randomly wandering in.

Megan hosts her damn party, and I start to have Annie Hall flashbacks. If someone doesn't start babbling about a mantra soon, I'll eat my hat. The scene is full California 1968, with random dudes playing folk music and everyone wearing insane patterns. Don is extremely out of place. He spends the entire time staring into space, though Amy tries to chat him up. Megan starts to dance with a dude from her class and things get all kinds of awkward. This goes up to eleven when Harry Crane walks in. Yes, that Harry Crane. He's accompanied by a woman who is distinctly not Jennifer. It's implied that they've been playing the casting couch game for a while. Don takes the opportunity to escape his wife's weird-ass friends and invites his hated colleague for a drink, minus floozy. Man, someone is desperate. 

Bobby sneaks into Sally's room, where they complain about their mom for a while. Bobby's worried they'll get divorced and is getting stomachaches from the stress. Sally plans to hitchhike back to school ASAP. He crawls into her bed, and she tells him she's sorry he won't ever escape the Francis Mausoleum. So far this episode has had some dreary moments, but this is by far the saddest thing I've seen yet.

Peggy wakes up on her couch to find Ginsberg leaning over her. He's gone kind of manic and keeps rambling about how she looked while she slept. He also thinks he's gay for Stan because of the computer. He proposes that they reproduce, right away, to kill the gayness I guess, and starts to climb on top of her (though he admits he'd rather get through it without sex). As you can imagine, Peggy does not take kindly to this and tries to get rid of him, telling him it's just a computer. Ginsberg appears to snap out of it, but you can see the crazy lurking.

Harry and Don have that drink after all, where of course Harry gets over-familiar and assumes they're besties. He also not-so-subtly begs Don not to say anything to Jennifer. Don is noticeably tired of these shenanigans. However, his interest is piqued when Harry lets on that the firm is seeking a major cigarette company, after which they will finally let Don go. Immediately, the gears start to turn. You can bet Don gets the next round.

Don returns to find a giggly Amy and Megan, who are high as kites and want him to join the party. He makes an excuse to leave, but they follow him into the bedroom. Megan advises him to kiss Amy, though he pretends he doesn't want to. Soon enough, though, all three of them are wrapped in the most delightful of tangles.

He wakes up confused next to two women. Stephanie calls from Oakland. Don chides her on leaving so abruptly and insists that he wants to remain part of her life, no matter what Anna said. Stephanie mentions that Megan was "solid" and that she's grateful. With that matter taken care of, Don decides to head back to New York, much to Megan's dismay. Amy wanders in and just as quickly makes an Exit of Shame. Don leaves with barely a word, and Megan despairs.

Back with the Francises, things are still icy and Betty in particular seems to be favouring the silent treatment. She complains that he treats her like she's stupid. Because, like, she speaks Italian and stuff. (I always pictured her as knowing "Buon Giurno" and maybe eight other random words, college classes notwithstanding.) They get into a big fight. Henry is snotty and Betty whiny. Henry suggests running for office, which drives terror into the heart of a woman who grew up in the Palin era. I could totally see Betty finding Jesus and becoming an Anita Bryant knockoff. Hey, at least Sally doesn't need a nose job.

Ginsberg arrives in Peggy's office, looking slightly better-groomed and maybe a bit more composed. The minute he opens his mouth, though, you know something's up. That calm is dangerous. He hits on her again, and she turns him down gently. He tells her that the computer data was building up pressure inside him, so he removed said pressure. He hands Peggy a box and Jesus Christ I don't want to know what's in that thing and OH MY GOD IT'S HIS NIPPLE. HIS NIPPLE, PEOPLE. HE CUT OFF HIS FUCKING NIPPLE AND PUT IT IN A BOX. What's more, he actually WENT TO THE HOSPITAL AND ASKED THEM TO REMOVE IT. At the very least, he got it stitched up, but why he wasn't committed right then is a mystery. He explains that it was "the valve" to his computer-related pressure as Peggy shrieks, I try not to vomit and viewers all over the globe clutch their chests in imagined agony.

To her credit, Peggy does not curl up in a ball and cry like I would have done, but instead calmly has him sit down and wait. Once out of the room, she calls for an ambulance. Bravo, Miss Olsen. And holy crap.

Don enters the Algonquin and makes his way to a private room, where we find Cutler and Avery with the cigarette people. They're not happy to see him, especially after the Editorial Incident back in Season 4 (it's amazing how much this show goes back to Season 4 - IMO, their best one), but he immediately tells them that if they decide to work with SC&P, he'll quit to save everyone face. Since they were planning to fire him anyway, Cutler's not sure what to make of this. Don then proceeds to pitch himself as the Tobacco Expert of the Century, citing all the stuff he's done for Lucky Strike since Season 1, as well as his newly acquired knowledge of the anti-smoking organizations. "We don't turn on our friends as easily as you do," a cigarette guy quips, but Don is insistent. He'll do the apology/redemption bit if they have him work for them. No one appears convinced by this, though Don looks smug. Has Draper lost his magic? Or will these Hail Mary passes he's so good at work yet again?

Ginsberg is wheeled out strapped to a gurney, raving about "getting out while you still can". Peggy walks over to the computer, staring at it with unadulterated hatred. Over at the Algonquin, Don gets Avery and Cutler a cab. Avery tells him he's incredible, still stunned beyond belief. "You think this is going to save you, don't you?" Cutler jeers as the door slams. Don stands there for a moment, then hails a cab of his own. Closing credits.

Yeah, I didn't think this agency setup was going to last, though I'm curious for what comes next, since so much of the cast is tied there. It'll be interesting to see what sort of cracks happen in the Francis marriage, the Draper marriage is certainly about to implode, and I don't think we've heard the last of Stephanie (though with this show, who knows?). It was great to finally see a bit of Don's past return, as it has been alluded to so little lately. The incident with Ginsberg was one of the Weird Shit segments that Mad Men does so well. He's always been eccentric, but his crossover into insanity was both unexpected and well set-up. Also, what's with Weiner and losing body parts? A foot, an eye, a nipple. Hell, Abe even got stabbed. The episode was tremendously satisfying, but left us on a real cliffhanger. What on earth can follow that?

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  • Posts

    • thoughtful


      23 minutes ago, Xan said:

      I think Gary would be easy to brainwash.  If you had the right man talking and he sounded religious, Gary would eat it up.  Brainwashing some people would be like laundering a pair of overalls that are covered in grease, mud, and ink stains.  Washing Gary's brain would be like laundering a napkin that was soiled with a few cracker crumbs.

      He is well and truly brainwashed - Baker is just adding to the mix.

      To continue your metaphor, I don't think Gary's brain even needed washing - just a quick shake to get the crumbs of reality out of there.

    • Bassett Lady


      While Free Jinger does engage in snark, I think most of us have come to deeply care for the children being raised in stifling fundamentalist homes which aim to limit and hobble them. 

      I am thrilled to see Jinger dressing for the weather, comfort, personal preference, and planned activities.  I am happy her children have arrived when she felt ready to have them. It seems her daughters are getting a much better education than she received. 

      Is there more I wish for her? Yes

      However, she has come so far. I am happy to take a moment and celebrate how far she has come. 

      • Upvote 2
      • I Agree 4
    • JDuggs


      Today in their IG stories, Abbie and John were advertising Mix Tiles, like every other Duggar and Bates influencer. Abbie narrated in a very monotone voice. This doesn’t seem very natural for her yet. I’ve included a photo of Charlie from their video since they haven’t shared his photo much. He’s really cute.




      • Thank You 2
    • JDuggs


      @xenobia Thank you for sharing that. I try to avoid watching the YouTube stuff, but I did find this interesting. Jinger kind of made Free Jinger sound like a group that has meetings dedicated solely to freeing Jinger rather than basically a snark site with a mission to educate, but it was still interesting that she acknowledged it. I felt she has seriously reflected on what it means to her to be free. Jinger is somewhat of an engaging personality if she could only get past the sweet season of using the words sweet and season. Although I just assume that Jeremy is a pompous ass in general, he was toned down and somewhat likable here, probably because he was interviewing Jinger and just letting her talk.

      • Upvote 3
    • thoughtful

      Posted (edited)

      I listened to some of last night's service at Family Baptist (why do I do these things?).

      After some songs and a prayer, Baker tells them to be seated, and his wife comes up. He doesn't acknowledge her (that's not so unusual - in their services, vocalists, especially Baker's family members, often just come up and get into position). But they don't make eye contact and they look like this as he goes to sit down:




      She is one of the two piano pounders for the church, and always looks sad and fragile. I could be reading way too much into it, but it seems to me that there is an unpleasant vibe between them.  She always follows dutifully behind him, looking down, as he strides quickly down the aisle, when they recess after church. Screenshots from the end of this service, for example:


      image.png.466d222f92426bbc5678270ba8b0171f.png     image.png.2a6a62ee18ca47fd5ed848bbc334dc2e.png

      Then again, she could just be exhausted from having and raising eleven children, being a pastor's wife and the pianist for the church. And her pale coloring probably adds to the sense that she looks fragile.

      For all I know, she could be a gleefully hateful child-beater, no better than her slimy spouse.

      She chirps Sweet Little Jesus Boy in a strained, childlike voice.

      She walks away and Baker comes back.



      He says, without any enthusiasm, "Look forward t'that every year. Mrs. Hyles used to sing that uh every year and look forward t'that, beautiful."

      After another song and greetings (Gary hovers over Becky), it's time for the Sunday evening blessing-fest.

      A man says he has been working two jobs, and, at one of them, two departments have been "kinda fightin' over me, over who wants t'have me and keep me."

      I put Baker's response in a spoiler, in case anyone wants to guess.


      He pretends to be the two departments heads: "Like, we don't want him! We don't want him either! We don't want him! We don't want him either!"

      If you can't be original, at least be kind, dickwad - you're supposed to be a pastor.

      The man said he's going to the department he wants to be in, with a raise, and, while he'd started the story by saying God had been good to him, he actually credits a person who works there with helping to make that happen.

      Baker makes a joke about the raise. Wanna guess?


      "Wife's more excited than you, like 'Yeah, that's more money to spend, uhhhh save'."

      He calls on Becky - oh, excuse me - Rebecca. She says she'd said this in Sunday School (I guess they also do blessings then - there are never videos of that service), but made a mistake. "It's been eleven years, and not ten years, since I've been able to put up my own Christmas decorations"
      Baker (interrupting): Awesome.
      Becky Rebecca: Which is amazing and, um, three of - our children have said they're comin' for Christmas"
      Baker (interrupting): Wowww!
      Rebecca: "So that's exciting."

      Gee, I wonder which three of (hesitation) "their" children are coming?

      She sounds so excited to be somewhere that she can put up decorations - she really hated being on the road.

      More later, if I can stand it.

      Edited by thoughtful
      • Upvote 1
      • Thank You 2

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