Categories
New Show Recap

Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.13, “The Phantom”

Previously on “Mad Men”: Like, the bleakest two weeks of television I can remember seeing. SCDP is down one partner, but up another, and Peggy has decided that she has to go her own way which is not part of the depressing bit, and Pete previously had an affair with his train buddy’s wife. Also, my channel gave the episode a bumper warning for “brief nudity” which is a dicey prospect on this show. Let’s see Season 5 out, shall we?

Don’s dealing with a serious toothache and his mother-in-law in town for this episode. Oh, he’s also hallucinating his dead brother everywhere. I’m sure that’s not a big deal. Their pantyhose account is frustrated because they can’t get a women’s opinion from the agency anymore, which doesn’t help his mood. He refuses all help saying the tooth will just get better on its own. When Don goes over to see Rebecca Pryce later in the episode (details below-ish) she’s pretty hard on him. It’s obvious they’re still grieving and Rebecca apparently told SCDP to not hold a Memorial for Lane, and his funeral was abroad. He gives her Lane’s stake back, but Rebecca’s not grateful at all. She says “You had no right to fill a man like that with ambition” and waves that photo that Lane stole out of the wallet he found in Don’s face. She’s angry, and tells Don that he hasn’t done anything for anyone but himself which is pretty brutal. Don ends up getting his tooth pulled and while under hallucinates Adam some more, complete with a rope mark around his neck. Don says, “Don’t leave me” and Adam says something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, I’ll just be hanging around.”

[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”right” variation=”red”]Don came through for her! Sort of.[/pullquote3]
Megan’s career change is not going well. She’s been snookered by a pretty standard screen test scam (she paid to have a screen test done and sent to agents, but they just sent it to her and then tried to sell her more classes) and she’s feeling very down about her prospects. Her mother is less than helpful in this regard. Her friend tells Megan she’s up for a part in an ad for Butler shoes that SCDP is producing and asks Megan to put in a good word for her with Don. So Megan obviously goes to Don and asks him to put MEGAN in for the part. I’m sad to say, I get it. It’s not cool, but I get it. Don initially says no and gives Megan some grief about it being advertising and not “art” and makes Megan feel kind of awful. He tries to soften it by saying, “You don’t want it this way, you want to be somebody’s discovery, not somebody’s wife.” which, kind of, but she’s been trying for a while now and I think she just wants to work, period. He also says, “You know I would if I could,” but that’s bullshit because he COULD, he just doesn’t want to. Megan’s mother isn’t much better telling her, “Not every little girl gets to do what she wants, the world can’t have that many ballerinas.” This causes Megan to get very drunk and yelly at Don. Late at night, alone in the office, Don watches Megan’s screen test and seems to be entranced by seeing her on screen and also sad somehow. We then see her on the set of the Butler commercial, all dressed up. Don came through for her! Sort of.

Pete encounters Beth and her husband on the train, where they sort of awkwardly explain that Beth is off to stay with her sister for a bit. This is obviously a lie. Beth calls Pete at work and asks to meet him at that hotel they were supposed to meet at back when they had their previous encounter. Pete gives her some grief about how he had waited for her, but shows up anyway. So we learn that Beth isn’t going away to her sister’s, but is going into the hospital for what she calls electroshock, but what we’d call electroconvulsive therapy. This isn’t the first time. Beth explains that she might lose any memory of Pete through the therapy as Pete handles this revelation as poorly as you would expect, telling her she’s not crazy and that her suicidal ideation is just weakness. He doesn’t dissuade Beth though, “Because it works.”

Pete gets home to Trudy and their daughter to look at some drawings of an in-ground pool but he’s not thrilled about it. Trudy’s mad that he’s all doom and gloom, and Pete just seems even more dissatisfied with his life. Pete ends up going to visit Beth in the hospital, but when he gets there she’s had her first treatment and doesn’t know who he is. She’s happy to visit with him anyway, but he ends up giving a long speech about how he’s unhappy in his life and he thought the affair would make him feel better but it just made him feel worse because it made him realize that what he had in life wasn’t what he wanted. He says his life with his family is a “temporary bandage on a permanent wound.” He’s framed this as though he’s talking about someone else in the hospital, so Beth assures him that they’ll fix him up and Pete says, “He’ll be fine,” but I don’t think any of us are convinced. Pete confronts Howard on the train about putting Beth in the hospital (which he’s not supposed to know) so we find out that Howard knew she had an affair and that this isn’t the first time she has. They get into a fist fight because this is the season of Pete getting punched by life and everyone in it. When he gets home all bruised up, Trudy’s worried that he got into an accident and Pete plays along. Pete tries to assure her, that everything’s all right, but Trudy says that it’s not and first thing tomorrow they’ll find him an apartment in the city. Pete does not seem as happy about this as you think he’d be.

Joan’s position in the company has expanded since Lane’s death, appearing to have taken over Lane’s position as she gives the update on the company’s financial status at the partner’s meeting and is put in charge of checking out the floor above the current SCDP offices for more space. They’re doing really well right now, but Joan encourages caution at least partly because she thinks that’s what Lane would do. Joan also gets the death benefit from the company insurance policy for Lane, and it’s $175,000. She asks Don why he would do that, and she’s clearly referring to the suicide not the money. She asks, “Why didn’t I give him what he wanted,” because there’s no way for her to know it wouldn’t have helped. Joan and Don decide to give Lane’s $50,000 stake back to his family. At the end of the episode, all the partners go to see the floor upstairs and it seems to be agreed upon that they will be expanding to it.

Peggy is doing well at her new job, berating copywriters like she’s been doing it forever. Ted gives her a new unnamed cigarette from Philip Morris to field test to help name. Peggy runs into Don at the movies, and talks a bit about her new job. Philip Morris is bringing her down to Virginia to tour the factory and she’s very excited about it.

Roger spends the episode creeper-calling the Draper residence trying to get a hold of Marie, Megan’s mother, and hanging up whenever he gets Megan until he fakes a terrible French accent to sound like Megan’s father and get Marie on the phone. He asks to meet her, and it’s kind of nice to see Roger Sterling pursuing a woman who is of an age with him. She puts on a good “don’t expect anything” facade on the phone, but in person it’s all hot, mature, loving. Roger wants Marie to do LSD with him so he can recapture that serenity he found after last time in the wake of Lane’s death. Marie demurs and says, “Don’t ask me to take care of you.” They still get it on, because, duh.

The episode ends with Don leaving Megan on her shoot and going to a bar to drink and smoke, Peggy in Virginia treated to the site of two dogs mating outside her Richmond hotel room, Pete listening to music forlornly, Roger standing at the window smiling butt naked (hi, partial nudity!) I think he’s on acid. Then we’re back with Don as a woman asks for a light and then reveals that her friend is interested in him and asks if he’s alone. We cut to the credits before we hear his answer.

There’s a lot of phantoms in this episode; the phantom of Peggy at SCDP with the lack of a female perspective, the phantom of Lane (we learn during the episode that his office is still empty), the obvious phantom of Adam for Don, and the phantom of Beth for Pete. This was a strange season finale, so much was left unresolved and we even got a few things that seemed to be specifically set up in this episode for next season. Are we seeing the return of “old” Don, and will he end up cheating on Megan? Will Peggy end up as a true rival for Don? This season has ultimately been excellent for the company on a professional level, even for Peggy since she left for a better position, but brutal on a personal level. I guess we’ll see if that trend continues into season 6.

On a very much more “me” note, I’d like to thank everyone who read my first shot at recapping. It’s been a pretty fun learning experience, and I’m so grateful for your patience and feedback. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back for next season!

4 replies on “Recap: Mad Men, Episode 5.13, “The Phantom””

Yes, this season has changed so much. I think next season, we’re going to see a major shift in the male/female balance of the firm. Most of the women in the show are taking more power. Megan is starting her own career, independent of men if she can help it. Joan was a secretary and now she’s a partner, stepping up to take over Lane’s responsibilities (one good thing about Lane’s departure is that now Joan has a purpose as a partner–in the episode with Jaguar it seemed like she was only in the room to look pretty and bear witness). Megan’s mom is tired of being cheated on by her husband and looks to find happiness with Roger on her own terms (she says no to LSD and still controls whether they have sex or not). Peggy moves up to manage her own team of boys and I love your point about her being a rival–an equal dueling partner!–for Don. Betty is taking control of her own difficulties and whether she is successful or not, what she’s doing is asserting her own ability to make decisions and control their outcomes. Sally starts making her first big-girl choices (skipping school, having a boyfriend, not having sex) as she becomes a woman. And the bit with the panty hose customer who’s upset about the ad–“Always less-expensive. Never cheap.” He doesn’t want the word cheap associated in any way with his product or the women who wear it… The ad boys + Don loved it, so what’s changed? Maybe women are finally finding their voice and taking some of the power. They aren’t cheap or dispensable anymore. I feel this season really expanded on the stories of the Mad Women and I hope they continue to do more of this in the next season! Only one year to go! :(

Thanks for the recaps! I joined in a little late but I’ve loved them! Good work!

I think that Don thinks his marriage has to be over if Megan succeeds. He made a comment to Peggy that I think he was applying to Megan as well: you help someone and then they move on. The whole scene with Megan prepping for the commercial, the sad walk away, and then the bar was the manifestation of that that comment. “I’ve helped you which means you’re going to leave me, so I’m going to use that to justify a preemptive strike and (maybe) start sleeping around again.” Its the same problem he had with Betty – he wasn’t his wife’s whole world and he doesn’t know that it doesn’t mean they love him less. It will be interesting to see how it plays out next season.

Thanks for doing these recaps!

Megan’s been pulling away all season. Leaving SCDP, wanting her own career, and now having success in that career. Don confessed to her in the Howard Johnson episode that all he wanted was her, but that’s not true anymore. He wants Dow Chemicals, and he wants his agency back on top. They’ve both changed and I think they’ve grown apart. Don and Megan do seem to be able to talk things through better than Don and Betty ever could, so I am curious as to whether this is really The End or if things will just change for them.

Leave a Reply