Recap: “Mad Men”, Episode 5.04, “Mystery Date”

Last week on “Mad Men”: Betty struggled with self image, Don struggled with aging, Roger struggled with Pete, and Peggy struggled with hiring a new copywriter. A lot of struggling, basically.

We begin with Don and Megan entering an elevator as Don attempts to cough up a lung. As they banter about Don’s illness, another woman in a yellow dress enters and zeros in on Don like a guided missile. As she’s about to stick her tongue down Don’s throat, he ducks her long enough to introduce “Andrea” to “my wife, Megan” as someone he worked with at the old firm. This takes Andrea’s efforts down a notch. Everyone is awkward for a moment. Andrea leaves, and then Don and Megan get into it about constantly running into Don’s former flames. It doesn’t seem like Megan is surprised, just miffed, and retorts that she knows some places where they could run into people she used to “work with.”

Peggy and Stan are working on a campaign for pantyhose while Stan wears said pantyhose on his face. Peggy’s friend (whose name I should know but don’t and no one says it) comes in with photos from the Chicago nurse massacre for Peggy, Stan, and “Ginzo” to gape over. Megan and Don enter, Don coughs off to his office while Megan takes her turn with the pictures. There’s a throwaway references to the Watts riots and the Division street riots before Ginsberg pitches a fit about how excited everyone is over the photos. Peggy’s friend, Peggy, and Stan tease him a bit and he storms off.

Over to Joan bending over her oven baking and expositing that her husband Greg is coming home today. Joan’s mom, Gail, is helping her balance the homecoming between Greg meeting “his” son and Greg getting some alone time with Joan.

Back to Don! Sally’s calling him to complain that Grandma Pauline is still watching her because Henry and Betty couldn’t get a flight home. We get some hints that Betty’s parenting is what could be termed “permissive” during the conversation. Don gets off the phone after denying Sally’s plea to come get her as Ginsberg and Stan come in with a presentation for a women’s shoe company. There’s some discussion about a potential campaign featuring Cinderella that Don apparently killed, and everything looks set for the meeting.

Greg’s home! He comes in to meet “his” son and seems appropriately charmed in the two minutes he gets before Gail whisks the baby off to “pick up some film” so the happy couple can be left alone.

Don’s searching for aspirin at the office, Megan comes in and tells him to go home. He apologizes about the encounter this morning and Megan gets very chilly. She’s worried that Don just isn’t going to turn over a new leaf when it comes to women. Don says reassuring things and Megan lets it slide for now.

Sally and Mrs.Francis at the table, where Sally keeps trying to sneak a peek at the article on the Chicago murders. A standoff is in progress over Sally’s sandwich during which Sally insists that her mother doesn’t have any rules. They seem weirdly insistent on this point in this episode, so I figure it’s important.

Joan comes into her dining area after a nap. Greg is making a sandwich while Gail and baby Kevin look on. We get another reference to the riots with Greg defending the honor of the “negroes” that he served with in Saigon. After Joan teases Greg about his uniform, he breaks the news to Joan that he’s going back to Vietnam for another year. He insists that Vietnam isn’t as bad as they all say and seems shockingly calm about his ten days at home before another year in the jungle.

Butler shoe presentation! Ginsberg is wrapping up the pitch and the clients are very happy, and as they’re closing the deal, Ginsberg launches into a detailed description of his Cinderella idea. The clients end up asking to go with the Cinderella idea, and we shift to a bar where Don is dressing down Ginsberg for his stunt at the pitch. After Don storms off, Ken has to point out to Ginsberg that he nearly got fired. Don calls Megan, who convinces him to go straight home instead of coming to get her from work.

Don at home, where he climbs into bed, coughing and feverish.

Pete exposits some info to Roger about the IAM strike that’s killing most air traffic and wants Roger to pitch the campaign to Mohawk first thing Monday morning. Roger seems cool as a cucumber until Pete closes the door, and then he immediately panics and slinks down to Peggy’s office where he tries to find Ginsberg. Ginsberg is nowhere to be found, so he tells Peggy he spaced on telling Ginsberg to put together the Mohawk campaign and bribes her to put it together over the weekend. Also, we find out why Mohawk is still flying during the strike. Peggy wheedles him out of $400 in exchange for the extra work AND for lying to everyone else in the office about the fact that he completely forgot to put the campaign in motion. Go, Peggy! Also, Megan pops her head in to say that she’s leaving to help establish a timeline that will be important-ish later.

Don at home. The doorbell rings and it’s Andrea from the elevator. Don pulls her inside where she tries to flirt and Don panics about getting her out of the apartment before Megan gets home. He shoves her out through the back towards the service elevator while she continues to try and entice an extremely ill Don.

Sally’s watching “Mystery Date” while Mrs.Francis discusses the Chicago murders on the phone with a friend. Once she figures out Sally’s listening she cuts the conversation short. Some more power struggles between the two of them, and we learn that Mrs.Francis’s dad was kind of an abusive asshole.

Greg and Joan are out with the baby and their parents for dinner. There’s some stuff about wine and a Greg sees someone he knows from the service but the important information from the scene is that Greg had not told Joan that his upcoming year long tour was something he volunteered for. Shocking! As this is going down, an accordion player plants himself about a foot away from Joan and Greg. This causes Gail to make a last ditch effort at salvaging the conversation with “You know, Joanie plays the accordion!” Hilarious.

Peggy’s finishing up her night’s work on the Mohawk campaign when she hears a noise. Going to investigate (no doubt with visions of murdered nurses in her head) she finds Dawn sleeping in Don’s office. After some talk about why she can’t get home this late (including a few more riot references), Peggy invites Dawn to stay at Peggy’s place for the night.

Don wakes up to Andrea sitting on his bed stroking his face. It’s dark out, so it’s probably pretty late. She says Don left the back door open and after some initial resistance Don does end up giving in to her seduction. Apparently.

Sally’s under the covers reading about the murder of the nurses in Chicago with a flashlight. She looks pretty freaked out.

Dawn is telling Peggy about her family at Peggy’s apartment. Peggy gives her a beer and tells Dawn that she was once a secretary and how she came to be a copywriter. Peggy promises not to tell Don that Dawn was sleeping in his office, and then tries to empathize with her by saying, “I was the only one like me there for a long time.” Peggy then asks Dawn if Dawn thinks Peggy acts like a man before betraying her own insecurities about he ability to do what her job takes.

Mrs.Francis is reading a novel and eating chips in the living room when Sally appears in the doorway saying she’s scared and asking to sit with her. Sally confesses to reading the paper, and asks why the murders happened. Sally stole the paper out of the trash that Mrs.Francis told her to take out, so I wonder if she wanted Sally to do this. Mrs.Francis goes through the murders adding some ridiculously salacious details. Mrs.Francis reassures Sally that nothing like that will happen while she brandishes a butcher knife. When Sally complains that she won’t be able to sleep, Mrs.Francis splits a Seconal tablet and gives Sally half. Super good!

Greg and Joan are fighting at the apartment about Greg making the decision to go back without consulting Joan. Greg storms out to get drinks with his friends and Gail tries to calm Joan down. Joan looks pretty righteously furious though.

Peggy comes out with bedding for Dawn so she’ll be more comfy on the couch. Dawn casts a not inconspicuous glance at her purse sitting on the coffee table and Dawn totally catches it. Peggy tries to cover by throwing out the empty beer bottles and goes into her room leaving the purse on the table.

Andrea is getting dressed and talking to Don about “next time” and Don is insisting that this was a mistake. Andrea keeps pushing it, and Don snaps and throws her to the ground, strangling her. Afterwards, he freaks and kicks Andrea’s body under the bed. He climbs back into bed, still freaked, but her foot’s still sticking out a bit. Also, Don was naked this whole scene and there was some extremely careful blocking vis a vis lighting. It was almost HBO for a moment there.

Betty and Henry return home to find Mrs.Francis passed out in a Seconal stupor in front of the TV. Betty takes off to find Sally (she’s looking thinner this week) and we see that Sally’s similarly dead to the world under the couch.

Megan enters the bedroom with breakfast on a tray as Don wakes up. There’s no foot under the bed, and when Don asks Megan where she was she says she had come right home the night before and Don was completely out of it. So it was all a dream! Or was some of it a dream and some of it not? There’s no dead body, so I guess we at least know that for certain.

Joan comes to the breakfast table. Greg’s already there, and Gail has made breakfast! Joan says she wants Greg to go, and he’s pleased at first. Until she clarifies that she never wants him to come back. Greg goes on about how the Army makes him feel like a good man and Joan tells him that he was never a good man, alluding to that time he raped her in Roger’s office. Greg makes a big stand about, “If I walk out that door, that’s it!” Joan agrees “That’s it.” She’s very calm.

Peggy wakes up and stumbles into the living room where the bedding is folded and Dawn is gone. There’s a note on her purse, thanking her and apologizing for putting her out. Peggy stares around a bit, I guess thinking that she’s not as cool as she thought she was.

Gail sleeps on Joan’s bed with baby Kevin as Joan lies awake. “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” plays as we go to the credits.

13 thoughts on “Recap: “Mad Men”, Episode 5.04, “Mystery Date””

  1. I fear the fate of the Cinderella ad campaign after the way Sally’s grandmother described to her the happenings of the nurse massacre in Chicago.  “Too dark” indeed.  By the end of the episode I was so proud of Joan.  Also loved Peggy’s green heels up on her desk!

  2. Joyce is the friend’s name.

    I can’t say that this shot-by-shot description thing really works for me. There was so much to analyze that it seems a shame to just run it down without commentary. We learned what was behind everyone’s door for their ‘Mystery Date.’ The Ginsberg thing segueing to the oven shot seems to be foreshadowing a holocaust connection. Sally already having issues with food and pills. And Joan! And Roger’s endless on-hand cash. Super stuff all around.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I’m new to recapping so info on whether people are more interested in getting a rundown that can help if they missed some/all of the episode or one that discusses each storyline and the broader themes not necessarily in chronological order is very helpful.

      And yes, this episode was just jam packed, wasn’t it? Maybe Roger needs to stop carrying so much cash around if he’s going to insist on bribing people instead of doing his job for real.

      1. I also like the idea of recaps being out of chronological order and instead going through each character. I think you would come up with some brilliant thematic analysis that will be far more interesting and fun than just the rundown of what happens in the episode! Just my two cents : )

        PS YES Sally. Oh, poor Sally.

    2. Thank you for a couple of things.

      Firstly, yes, the play by play doesn’t work for me either.  I actually stopped reading about half way through and scrolled to the comments because I was looking for themes and thoughts on the future.

      Secondly, the oven thing!  I can’t believe I missed that connection.  I was thinking there must be a Holocaust connection with Ginsberg, only has a dad (who is the right age), obviously has some weird female fantasies going on (creepy shoe pitch), and was rightfully creeped out by the crime scene photos.  The oven was a great catch.

  3. Man, I LOVED this episode. The only complaint I have is that it was almost over-the-top lurid and soap-y with so much happening.

    This is my favorite Peggy episode since “The Suitcase” last season. I love watching her development as a character, as a feminist, and as a woman of the ’60s. Her scene with Roger was just amazing. She’s important now, and she knows it. I enjoyed seeing her interaction with Dawn, and I thought it was pretty realistic given what I know of the second wave, and what we know of Peggy.  I feel like anything more progessive than what we got and she would have been forced into being too palatable to modern sensibilities. A woman in Peggy’s position with her experiences would be a little racist and totally blind to the unique experiences of black women. I really enjoyed how both of her scene with Roger & her scene with Dawn were both consistent with her character, and showed how she’d changed over the years.

    Also a great Joan episode. Fuck you, Dr. Rapist. “I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man, because I’m sick of trying to do it.” YEAH! She should have hit him over the head with another vase.

    And oh, poor Sally. So, we’ve had something food-related with her in every episode so far this season. That, plus the utter creepiness with Henry’s mom has me worried that in the last season, instead of seeing Sally the young radical as I’ve expected, we’ll see Sally the pill addict with an eating disorder.

    Oddly, even though most people on the internet are talking about Don’s fever dream, that was the least interesting part of the episode for me. It’s all about my Mad Men ladies.

    Sorry, this was really long. I HAVE A LOT OF THOUGHTS.

    1. I completely agree with you about Peggy being the real star of the episode. The moment with the purse was so tense that you could practically see all the undercurrents of fear and prejudice rippling between Peggy and Dawn. Peggy didn’t want to leave the purse because she had so much money in it and (really) Dawn is a stranger and (additionally) Dawn is black so Peggy has a lot of unacknowledged prejudice to confront. The look Dawn gives her is the perfect mix of indignant and resigned. Peggy realizes at that moment that even if there had been no money in it, she still would have felt less comfortable with Dawn as a black woman in a room alone with her purse. The thing I couldn’t tell was whether it was a real moment of growth for her or if she was just too embarrassed to take the purse. Is this Peggy beginning to recognize that even though she is a woman, she still benefits from white privilege (follow-up from the “most of the things they can’t do, I can’t do either” conversation last season)? Or was it a very blunt portrayal of the controversy of “white guilt” (follow-up from the “I very conspicuously don’t want to appear racist and ironically end up acting more so” storylines from Paul and Lane especially)? Add on the layer of this also being effectively a superior-subordinate relationship from the workplace and the entire exchange is just layered with disaster.

      But earlier. Can we talk about the badass negotiation tactics that Peggy uses on Roger?! “The work is $10. The lie costs more.” “Do you want me to take your watch?” “How much do you have?” Where did she get those balls? And when did she start feeling so equal to Roger? That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen Peggy do.

      Roger must really be having some issues this season with no one respecting him. Would love to see more about where this takes his character…

      All in all, this is one of the best episodes yet written. Even the overly dramatic soapy stuff was appealing. I loved the progress with each character (OMG JOAN, I didn’t even mention her) and just felt so satisfied at the end. Awesome writing.

      1. Yeah, I was SO PROUD of my girl Peggy this episode in her interaction with Roger.

        Re: the purse, my friends and I had a long discussion of it, and we ended up deciding it was more that she was so worried about seeming racist that she didn’t do a normal thing like take the purse to her bedroom with her. Who doesn’t take their purse into their bedroom most nights, even if you don’t have someone you barely know staying in your living room?

        1. I also agree with that! Because, like, don’t you have your lipstick and to-do list in there as well? But even the fact that she had to think about it shows how much race is still dictating their relationship.

          I also made the mistake of going over to the Jezebel recap. The conversation was basically, “Peggy is racist,” “No, you’re racist,” / “Stop de-railing and acknowledge your privilege,” / “You’re clearly not a POC,” and it unnerved me. I had no idea what to think about the scene after reading those comments…

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