Previously on “Mad Men”: Megan nailed a big pitch for Heinz and seemed remarkably subdued about her success, Pete declared that he had nothing, and (not shown, but worth mentioning) Megan’s father gave her a pretty rough time for giving up on her acting dreams.
The biggest story line of the episode is Megan struggling with her realization that she still loves acting. She went on an audition that a friend told her about and got a callback, which she goes to on the sly by telling Don that she’s going to be working late and telling Peggy that she can’t work late because she has to meet Don. Tricksey Meganses. This leads to an exchange where Don phones Peggy to find out when Megan’s coming home and Peggy realizes that Megan lied to her. The look Peggy gives the phone when she hangs up and when Don calls back later is hilarious, like she thinks it’s going to jump off the desk and bite her. Anyway, when Peggy confronts Megan, Megan confesses that she was on a callback and while she didn’t get the part, she’s realizing that she loves acting in a way that she doesn’t love copywriting, and that she’s been fantasizing about getting fired for a while now. Peggy totally calls Megan on her shit, yelling that there are people “killing to get this job” and tells her Megan has to be straight with Don. Peggy does look disappointed and sad that her protege doesn’t have her heart in it. When Megan confesses this to Don he actually talks her through it a bit, admitting that it must be hard for her to work at his agency, but when she finally drives home the point that she doesn’t want to work in advertising anymore he says it’s OK. She talks about finishing her projects and training a replacement, but Don says that if she wants to leave she’ll leave the next day. Don Draper is not a man who believes in half-measures.
On Megan’s last day, she’s clearly sad to be leaving so suddenly and having to tell everyone that she’s going. Peggy takes the news stoically, and Stan and Ginsberg take it incredulously and awkwardly (respectively). Don seems a little untethered about all of it too, confessing to Joan that he doesn’t know what to do. After Don sends Megan off to lunch with “the girls,” he hits the elevator button and the door open on an empty shaft. Don doesn’t step through, but he does lean over for a good look. Between this and one other mention of suicide earlier in the episode, the foreshadowing is getting pretty thick around here. When Don gets home, Megan is cooking and looks very happy. After a little exchange, Megan says she loves him and that he’s everything she hoped he’d be. He looks happy with this, but still uncertain.
Joan and Peggy also discuss Megan’s departure and I’m really enjoying that these two are getting closer. I think Joan’s more prominent position has erased some of the tension that grew between the two of them as Peggy got a “real” job and Joan was still considered a glorified secretary. Anyway, Joan’s a bit mean about the whole thing, saying she always thought Megan would fail at the agency and that she’s leaving to become a failed actress with a rich husband. Peggy defends her and says that she was good at copywriting and she thinks she’ll be good at acting because “she’s just one of those girls that’s good at everything.” Peggy worries that she was too hard on Megan and Joan assure her that she wasn’t. She also mentions that Don met Betty when she was auditioning for a print ad, which Peggy hadn’t known. She says “that’s the kind of woman Don Draper marries.” It’s funny, Joan comes off as cheerful in her demeanor, but she really is a very cynical woman. Unsurprising, given her experiences, but it’s sort of interesting to see cynicism that’s so chipper.
Megan’s sudden departure creates some pretty big problems for a potential new account with Cool-Whip (points to Stan for the line “I read a 30 page dossier that failed to use the words “˜fake whipped cream’”) as Don and Megan had a little bit worked out as a kind of pitch that they were supposed to perform for the client and without Megan, Peggy has to step in and flubs it. They start arguing about it and Peggy shows how totally she has Don’s number when she yells that SHE isn’t the one Don is mad at so he should just shut up. He does.
Roger confronts Don about Don avoiding him, and they discuss Megan’s leaving. Both men are a little baffled by the whole “dreams” thing with Roger saying his father pushed his profession on him and Don saying, “I was raised in the ’30s. My dream was indoor plumbing.” We get more confirmation that Megan doesn’t want kids, she told Don that his were enough. Don seems to talk himself around to the idea of Megan acting, saying that he doesn’t want her to end up like Betty or Megan’s mother and when he goes home to find Megan getting ready to leave for her acting class, he gives her an encouraging kiss.
While this is going on, Pete’s relationship with his train buddy gets infinitely more complicated. Howard reveals to Pete that he’s got a mistress he set up with an apartment in the city. One night when Pete gets off the train he runs into Howard’s wife, Beth, who happens to be played by Alexis Bledel and I noticed during this sequence how closely she resembles Vincent Kartheiser. Big blue eyes, pouty lips, dark hair, round face; it’s a little eerie is all I’m saying. She’s locked her keys in her car, so Pete gives her a ride home and she spouts a bunch of very dramatic anecdotes about people suffering and how homeless people upset her so she could never live in the city and so forth. Once he gets her home they have some very hasty and impulsive sex on the living room floor. After some babble about how his eyes resemble the earth from space; big and blue and also unprotected and vulnerable (seriously?), Beth tells him this can never happen again. And so Pete Campbell: Creeper becomes Pete Campbell: Holy Shit Stalker as he tries to force her to see him again. He succeeds briefly as he talks his way into dinner with her husband due to a manufactured life insurance dilemma and while Howard is out of the room he tells her the name of a hotel and time, but she pleads a migraine and excuses herself from their company. She doesn’t show, he throws a glass against a wall, and then at the train station she spots her getting into a car with her husband and she sees him and draws a heart on the window and UGH. This whole storyline seems designed to make me think the worst of both these characters from Pete’s, “Why do they get to decide EVERYTHING!” pouting about women (“everything” here should be taken to mean “when I get to have sex with them” because, duh) and Beth seems to be some sort of proto manic pixie dream girl. So, I hate it and I hate them, and I’m not entirely convinced this isn’t just a way to let Pete Campbell basically fuck himself.
(To be fair, there was also a nice little exchange between Pete and Roger where Roger offers Pete some skis from a client and Pete’s second question is “Do they explode?” because Pete either knows how badly he’s screwed over Roger or is still wary of the older men since Lane laid the smackdown on him. So, I did like that Pete Campbell moment.)
As Megan’s leaving, she hand Don the Beatles Revolver album because some clients had been talking about the Beatles earlier. She tells him “start with this one” and the sounds of “Tomorrow Never Knows” come up over a montage of Megan at class, Peggy and Stan working and passing a joint around, Pete mooning over Beth, and then Don gets up switches the music off and goes to bed. He’s trying to be OK with this, but it’s going to be a long road for him. There’s a lot going on for him, though, and just his willingness to really sit down and talk through this with Megan marks a huge departure from the way he treated Betty. It’s still hard to say if he’s genuinely learning from his mistakes or if it’s just that he happens to like Megan more. I am glad they got her out of the office because that situation was so stifling for both of them and for the people they worked with, but it’ll be interesting to see how long the acting dream persists. She got a lot of encouragement at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce which is something the acting world probably won’t provide. The title implies that Megan is rising from the dead, but if her time at SCDP was death, what does that make her marriage to Don?