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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.8 - Severance


crazyforkate

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This is a message for the faithful. He is Risen!

...er, Don Draper, that is.

Previously on: big merger, everyone makes money. Peggy cries. Ken has one eye and Joan feels unappreciated. Megan and Don are splits. The episode is in memory of director Mike Nichols. THE ICONIC OPENING CREDITS I AM CRYING YOU GUYS. Everyone appears to be back, including the Betty Draper crew. This is awesome. Directed by Hornbacher, in case you are wondering.

Don hangs out with a woman in a mink coat. Model? Hooker? Girlfriend? Well, whatever their relationship is, it's super sensual. We hear a weird narration about a fire, which turns into a Peggy Lee song.  It's revealed that the rest of the creative crew is with them, and she's auditioning for a role.

We later find Don in a tux with a whole bunch of sexy ladies, for no apparent reason. Roger joins them. He's grown a 'stache, which is very '70s and absolutely terrifying. (Seriously, you cannot call that thing a moustache, it is a 'stache.) They're all in some sort of weird diner, where the waitress seems obsessed with Don. He wonders if they know each other. The bill for five people comes to $11.60 Ah, the good old days. Roger leaves a $100 bill and has the restaurant keep the change. They leave with ladies in tow.

You'll be pleased to know that Don has kept that sweet apartment in the divorce, to which he returns, alone. He checks his messages, even though it's the middle of the night. It seems to involve a lot of women. He invites a lady named Trisha to visit him for some midnight adventures. She spills red wine off the floor, but Don is nice enough to clean it up with a blanket, which they then proceed to boink on.

Peggy pitches some pantyhose, which are recent enough for my mother (b. 1953) to remember. Everyone looks very '70s - Joan's spit curls, Peggy's bold patterns, all the floppy fringes on the men. Joan is apparently part of the major campaigns now. Ken still has the eye patch and an eternal case of grumpiness. Meredith, inexplicably, is still Don's secretary. Ah, it is good to be back at SCDP.

Peggy chats with a new copywriter, her underling, who wants to set her up with his brother-in-law. She is appropriately snarky about it. We love you Peggy don't ever change. Needless to say, the date does not go through, though she is polite. Sort of.

Lots of models in loud prints. It is so 70's in here. I wouldn't be surprised if we jumped forward a couple of years. Joan takes Don aside to complain about the pantyhose ordeal - Topaz is too chintzy for their image. Don suggests changing the brand name. There's a reference to radicals which suggests a serious time jump.

Ken is at home with Cynthia and her parents, alternately talking business and babies. I unsuccessfully try to date this show by the age of Ken's kids, but I on't know how many kids he has, so it's a loss. Jack Niclaus reference - definitely into the early '70s now.

RACHEL MENKEN IS BACK KIDS. That's right, she shows up in a fur coat. Wait, is Don hallucinating again? Because otherwise she definitely took a step down from being a department store magnate. (Pete's hair is worse than last season, if possible.) Um, are they shacked up? Is that her in bed with him?

Cynthia worries about her dad, while Ken feels discontent in his job. She urges him to quit and live off her money, but he continues to be stubborn. (Also, I'm told at this point that this is April 1970 - nine months after last season ended - so there you go.)

Visiting execs are horrified to be met with - gasp! - two women. Peggy bravely forges ahead with the pitch, suggesting that they alter their brand to "department store". Lots of sexist jokes from the execs. Mostly hitting on Joan.

Ken arrives in an uncharacteristically good mood, only to be fired by Roger and a McCann exec in the most heartless manner possible. Basically, they just don't like him. Ken gets a good severance package and a huge amount of shit to eat. And that 'stache is still freaking me the hell out.

Joan is feeling some rather unhealthy animosity towards work, which Peggy does not quite get. She blames Joan's sexy clothes. Naturally, Joan does not take this well, and responds with some well-placed nastiness. Meredith still flirts with Don outrageously. She also informs him that Rachel Menken Katz passed away recently. Don is heartbroken. And as someone who would rank Rachel as Don's best extramarital girlfriend, I'm pretty bummed too. So... that was a vision, I suppose? Don is especially prone to those lately.

Peggy jumps in on the blind date after all, though they've made other plans. She winds up with the brother-in-law's phone number. Don goes back to the diner. The waitress, Di (gee that's subtle), does not think she knows Don from anywhere else, but he persists. She is, it turns out, perfectly happy to meet up with him on her break. They have a smoke - and a shag - in the alley behind the restaurant. However, she is bitter afterwards, commenting that he got his hundred dollars' worth.

I must comment here, Mad Men is sure getting some high-quality commercials this year. I guess everyone wants to be in on the final ride. Say what you like, this show is the Cadillac of television.

What gets me about this week is the camera work - dammit, half the time it really looks like it was made in the '70s. Don arrives to find a freshly fired Ken hiding out in the phone booth. The guy seems genuinely liberated by his dismissal, deciding that he'll write a novel (if he can ever manage to leave the office). He babbles on about the "life not lived" while Don looks at him like he's an alien.

Joan gets a call from a McCann exec, Dennis Ford. (And holy shit, Joan's hair deserves an Emmy all on its own this season.) Clearly, there is some bad history between her and Dennis. Ken goes to Pete's office, where they bitch about McCann to their heart's content. Pete is a surprisingly sympathetic listener, telling Ken he'll look good on a book jacket. In fact, Pete seems rather miserable himself, but when is he not?

Joan has a little trouble dealing with '70s fashions. However, since she has all the money in the world to spend now, she's not terribly picky. She also pretends that she never had a shopgirl past. Don wrestles with casting a new commercial. "There are three women in every man's life," the copywriter pontificates, before predicting that hemlines are going up. They decide to go to a Vogue party and pick up some chicks.

Peggy and Co-Worker's Brother-In-Law have an awkward date, complete with the date receiving something he didn't order. Peggy is confused as to why he doesn't send it back. Even so, Date doesn't seem to be turned off. They begin to forge a tentative bond.

Don arrives at Rachel's shiva, a new but not unheard of experience for him. Rachel's sister immediately knows who he is, because you do not forget a fling with someone who looks like Jon Hamm. We learn that Don is not quite divorced from Megan. Interesting. He catches a brief glimpse of Rachel's children and feels exceedingly guilty. "She lived the life she wanted to live," says the sister. Since he is not family and can't help make up a minyan, he doesn't really belong in the picture, and decides to leave.

Peggy and Date (Stevie, his name is Stevie) get along famously. They talk about going to Paris, as well as the importance of vacation, which Peggy has never quite managed to do. She proposes that they go to Paris right now. Hey, why not have some spontaneity? Peggy's job be damned. However, she can't find her passport (why does Peggy have a passport? AFAIK she's never left the country), so the spontaneous getaway is shelved. It's all for the best, says Peggy - she doesn't want to be just a fling. In fact, she refuses to sleep with him at all. But they still want to go to Paris. Someday. Stevie is sent packing for now, but romance is still in the air.

Don watches one of Nixon's speeches (on color television!). Peggy wakes up to an insane amount of construction noise. Roger makes Irish jokes. No one has managed to get rid of Ken yet. He tells them he's not collecting severance he's going to work for his father-in-law's company, and become SC&P's most hated person - the client.

STAN IS BACK! He and the matchmaker coworker bring Peggy some artwork and tease her about the date. She brusquely dismisses them. Stan sticks around to let her know that he totally approves of spontaneous European getaways. It's clear that they have the best friendship ever. Fuck it, Peggy, you don't need a relationship, just hang out with this dude all the time.

Meredith tells Don that he has a meeting with Menken's on Monday. He goes back to the diner, where Di is still working. He tells the skeptical waitress that he confused her with his dead friend. She urges him to forget about it, and to please bring a date next time he's at the diner. It's all very weird. More Peggy Lee closes out the episode.

Mad Men is at its best with a dose of the surreal, and it certainly had that. As a set-up, it did pretty well, bringing us up-to-date with the characters without shoehorning in needless exposition. Some storylines seemed rather odd even for the show, like Peggy's new impulsiveness. It was also insane to see all the '70s styles.  That 'stache, you guys. A bit disjointed overall, but pretty good for a start. It fit in with Mad Men's overall tone of being deep yet maddening. Are you ready to watch the rest unfold?

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