Mad Men recap: Surviving Accidents
When Don is arrested for drunk driving after crashing his car with Bobbie, Peggy comes to the rescue, recalling the moment when he helped her walk away from her child
In this episode, titled ”The New Girl,” the farm team at Sterling Cooper got to feast their eyes on a saucy new college grad with modern looks and loose shirt buttons. While Ken and company slobbered over her, Don didn’t give her a second glance. At this point he doesn’t even look at his girls until they’ve been with him at least a month, and we weren’t supposed to be paying her much mind either. Turns out the new girl in question wasn’t his hot new secretary. It was Peggy, and having taken their admirable time, the minds behind Mad Men have finally taken us back to her crossroads at the hospital.
This was a seamless script, where every line and scene bled naturally right into the next. Bobbie made Don come entertain her at Sardi’s, where she groused about how now that Jimmy had landed the pilot, he was probably going to blow it by acting the fool. ”It’s the big opportunity he’s bound to ruin,” she said, as Don’s eyes slid across the dining room to make contact with Rachel. Turns out that in their time apart she married a nice Jewish boy (”I love comedians!”) without much of a sense of humor. When Don, stunned by the sight of the one woman he has ever fessed up to, tried to steer the conversation to advertising, Rachel looked slyly at a tipsy Bobbie. ”He’s all business, isn’t he?” she said, onto their game. ”Well, you two enjoy working together.”
Don and Bobbie decided to take their business on a drunken bender to her beach house. But when the car rolled and Don was threatened with the drunk tank, he couldn’t afford the fine. There was a great moment of suspense over whom he had called to come to his rescue. The camera focused in on some elegant ankles in modest pumps, and panned up to reveal a pair of white gloves clutching the needed dough. It was Peggy he trusted, a cool mind who wouldn’t go hysterical on him. On the car ride home, she engineered their escape plan. Bobbie must not get sick in her brother-in-law’s car, Don needed a rental car, Peggy would take the woman home with her and pick up her dry cleaning in the morning, and don’t even try to tell her the best route to LaGuardia. Peggy was in control. ”No one in the office can know about this,” Don told her. ”It’s business.” Peggy looked coolly back at him and agreed to the terms with a smart condition, one she learned to make after her messy debacle with Pete. ”You’ll have to believe me that I’ll forget this,” she said. ”I don’t want you treating me badly because I remind you of it.” With that, Don was able to slump in grateful shame in the passenger seat.
NEXT: Peggy, postpartumAt Peggy’s modest, functional little apartment — no roommates for her now that she’s slowly moving up in the world — Bobbie phoned Jimmy and told him she was at the fat farm (always the excuse for these career women) and then proved surprisingly good company. Whatever hard edge she has around men softened with Peggy. She tsked over Marilyn Monroe in the gossip magazine, offered to make up her own bed, and marveled that Peggy’s apartment took her back to the old days. She kept trying to pry Peggy apart, but the younger girl wasn’t about to give. ”Why are you doing this?” the older woman wondered. If Peggy wasn’t in love with Don, and didn’t owe the man for her job, what angle was she working? As she closed her bedroom door on Bobbie’s ferreting eyes, the scene faded dreamily to our girl Peg in the hospital bed.
How we’ve waited for this, and how it was worth it. The doctor whispered to Peggy’s mother and very pregnant sister (twins, those two!) that the girl was suffering from psychoneurotic disorder. Her mother went off so Peggy and the doctor could talk, murmuring, in what was probably meant as comfort but sounded more like a threat, ”I’m going, but I’m not leaving, Peaches.” Peggy knew the year and the president, but she still wasn’t grasping that she was now the mother of a bouncing baby Pete. In another one of the episode’s clever cuts, we then shifted to Pete getting ready to splooge in a cup for a semen analysis that might explain why his wife still wasn’t knocked up after 18 months of trying. And then, those clever cats, we cut to a scene of Roger thwack-thwack- thwacking a paddle ball.
Back at Peggy’s, Bobbie was getting ready to return to her real world, but she wanted to first give the young girl a word to the wise. She insinuated that Peggy could leverage this whole episode to her advantage, but Peggy shut her down. ”I know what I’m doing,” she said. ”What do you want?” said Bobbie. ”You’re never going to get that corner office until you start treating Don as an equal. And no one will tell you this, but you can’t be a man. Don’t even try. Be a woman. It’s powerful business when done correctly.” She put her hand on Peggy’s shoulder and looked down at her as if she were talking to a lost lamb in the woods. It was hard to tell if Peggy felt repulsed or respectful, or maybe just some messy combination of the two, as she listened to a shrewd woman who partly credits her plunging neckline for her winning negotiations over Jimmy’s pilot.
NEXT: Don to the rescueWhat do you want? What do you want? We cut to Pete preening like a peacock over the diagnosis of his viable sperm and his crushed wife wondering why her body has forsaken her. ”I’m sorry,” she cried. ”It’s just, I really do want a baby.” Otherwise, she said, looking around their apartment, the world, ”What is this all for?” And then, in the last of the brilliant cuts, we were back at the hospital, where Peggy most assuredly didn’t want a baby and, hot damn, Don was at her bedside. He looked at her as if through smoke, and proceeded to give her the tools to erase this whole baby. ”Peggy, listen to me,” he said like some deranged life coach. ”Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” All season commenters have been wondering how Peggy could be so cold as to deny the existence of her own flesh and blood. Is it any wonder that it was Don who showed her how?
Back in the office, back in the present tense, Peggy flirted with a smidge of Bobbie’s advice. After Don calmly took her to task for not having copy ready, barking at her to never come see him unprepared again, she closed his office door. She wanted her debt repaid, and looking her boss square in the face, Peggy let Don know they were even now. I doubt we’ll ever hear her call him Mr. Draper again.
I imagine all that many of you are wanting right about now is for this recap to come to a close. But grant me a few more paragraphs of pontification. So much of this episode was about a person’s desires. The only people who seemed clear about their needs were Pete’s wife (baby), Bobbie (Don on the beach), and Roger (his paddle coming into rat-a-tat proximity with Joan’s backside). Other than them, everyone else was a mess. Does Peggy want a corner office? Does Pete want a child? Does Rachel really want that egghead Tilden? When an oblivious Jimmy marched into Don’s office, Don looked nervous, telling the tightly wound comedian as he assessed Bobbie’s camouflaged shiner that he looked good. Turns out Jimmy just wanted Donnie boy to know that deep down he was a good guy and that he appreciated the adman’s help with Utz. ”We all got what we wanted, didn’t we?” Jimmy asked Bobbie and Don.
Well, not Don. ”What the hell do you like?” Bobbie had earlier asked him, after he dismissed the art of negotiation as a bore. When Don sat there dumbly, Bobbie looked shocked. ”You can’t even answer,” she gasped. And then, in the most beautiful, bleak, desperate line ever uttered on this show, Don protested. ”The answer is huge,” he said sadly. Later in the car, when she determined that he liked oceans and bridges (two nifty metaphors there), she clapped her hands and demanded something else. ”Movies,” he said dreamily. (A gold star to the commenter who identified the foreign film he was watching a couple episodes back as La Notte.) It makes profound sense that the only time Don can ever really feel is when others are feeling for him on screen. ”God, I feel so good,” slurred a drunken Bobbie. Don, looking over at her like a sociopath, marveled at her surge of emotion. ”I don’t feel a thing,” he said.
NEXT: Joan rocksIn the end, as he always does, Don went home. ”How was your day?” Betty asked, from her bored perch at the table, her hand curved like a talon around her glass of red wine. ”I made it,” he said, his wing in a sling, with the face of a man returning home from battle. As he shoveled a bite of meat loaf slathered in ketchup into his mouth, he looked confused. Betty, nervous about his high blood pressure, put the hammer down. ”Why can’t Daddy have salt?” chirped Sally. ”Because we love him,” Betty said primly. At first I thought this was kind of nice. Maybe that slack look on his face was the sudden glow of attachment. Don has a slim tether to this world, and it’s his family. But then I watched the scene another time, and it made me sad. Don is a man who has shut himself down so completely that he has no idea what he wants or deserves from this world. Big things like love and security and the comfort of being known are out of his reach. But the man has come to expect salt with his dinner. And now he can’t have that either.
After all this dreariness, thank God for the fun of Joan and her waggling left hand throughout the episode. That girl was leading at all times with the ”lively” rock on her hand. Roger pouted over her engagement and told a cynical joke about pennies and sex that he reported he had also told his young betrothed daughter. Without being unkind, without losing her gracious edge, Joan had the second best comeback of the night: ”I envy that girl having you to give her away,” she said. First prize goes to her taking the new girl at the office to task. ”Your décolletage is distracting,” Joan told the little minx who was showing way too much of her Warners, admonishing her to go buy a sweater at lunch. ”Be reasonable. There’s still plenty to show, and you know that.”
So now, fellow analysts, what was your read on the final scene? Did the new no-salt rule strike a sentimental or sad chord in you? Do you think Joan will be married by season’s end, or is she headed for a public heartbreak? Does Peggy respect Bobbie or look down on her? And do you think Rachel is now Mrs. Katz because she has a baby Draper in the oven?
Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper in the Emmy-winning ’60s-set drama