Mad Men "The Runaways" Review: Rage Against the Machine

By MaryAnn Sleasman

May 12, 2014

Mad Men S07E05: "The Runaways" 


Don had a threesome. Sally broke her nose. Ginsberg cut off his nipple and gave it to Peggy as a token of his affection. You know, typical Mad Men stuff. 

At the literal and figurative center of the action rested SC&P's brand-new computer, with all of its symbolism about the future and the battle between creatives and number-crunchers as well as the physical reminder of its place as the new heart of the office: a disruptive, ominous hum. It drove Ginsberg (even more) batty by the end of its first real episode, but by the time of his reluctant exit to bedlam, the flesh-and-blood cogs in the SC&P machine were already in the process of rebelling. As Don pointed out, the agency is staffed almost exclusively with people who have a problem with authority. 


As though sensing the malevolence in the monster he created, Harry Crane dropped some knowledge on Don and saved Don's job (for now). Peggy made the call to have Ginsberg carted off, but clearly placed the blame on the computer humming away in the SC&P nerve center. After all, while it's not exactly news that Ginsberg isn't the most mentally stable person in the office, he probably wouldn't have lost it so quickly and so violently if the computer hadn't been installed—a move that clearly agitated and upset him. No, the computer wasn't shooting off mind-altering "homo-waves," but it was an unwelcome intrusion into the safe space that the creative lounge represented for him. 

Elsewhere, even Betty Francis found herself raging against the constraints of her life when her opinion on the Vietnam war proved unwelcome at a party full of neighbors and Henry's potential supporters. Whether her opinion is right or wrong is irrelevant: what it all boils down to is that her opinion conflicted with Henry's public views, and thus earned a few strange looks from his constituents. Betty pointed out that Henry hadn't coached her ahead of time about what to say and that in their private lives, their views match up just fine. And while that may be true, Henry's uncharacteristically harsh reaction and Betty's escalation of the argument into something much more important than a mere flubbed line illustrates a breakdown of the Francis family machine. 

Henry Francis has often been depicted as a much more patient husband than Don ever was, practically earning him sainthood when it comes to Betty and her WTF tendencies. Betty wanted a successful trophy husband; in turn, she made an excellent trophy wife and their relationship worked well in a slightly-less-frigid House of Cards kind of way. As a young political power couple, feeding on each other's strengths and effortlessly hiding each other's weaknesses, Betty and Henry were an unstoppable force, but the smoothness of the operation hinged on an understanding of clearly defined roles within the relationship framework. Whether it's intentional or not, Betty has struggled with the part she's currently playing. She's been unfulfilled as a housewife almost since the beginning of the series, but with her children turning against her and her husband's political career stalling, Betty's longstanding anger and disillusionment is becoming more and more difficult to conceal and ignore. Yes, Betty is immature and shallow, petty and childish and emotionally stunted... but she's not stupid (she speaks Italian!), and she's only blind when she wants to be. 


Finally, after seemingly calling their marriage quits a few weeks ago, it appears that Don and Megan are still dumping oil into that machine in hopes that it will get them back to the happiness they knew as newlyweds. Don resumed his weekend visits and Megan appeared to enjoy them, delighted when he made plans to come to California a week early—even if it was to assist in damage control for Anna Draper's knocked-up hippie niece—and not bothering to call and let him know that Stephanie skipped town with a buttload of cash, courtesy of Megan, before his flight even departed. For whatever reason, whether it be the money or the lingering feelings she still has for Don, Megan wants the marriage to work, and I'd even go as far as to say that she wants Don in California on a full-time basis. Her willingness to do anything to make Don happy was suprising, but not entirely uncharacteristic. However, his lack of outward appreciation for her consideration of his every want continues to encourage the occasional malfunction. 

For his part, Don took the first big step toward returning to his rightful place in the creative department, taking the intel Harry passed to him about Cutler and Lou meeting with Phillip Morris tobacco execs and crashing the cigarette party with smug gusto. He broke every rule in the anti-Don rulebook, but played the room right so that, for the immediate future at least, SC&P is stuck with him. 

The thing is, though, the machine that is SC&P evolved in Don's absence. The computer in the old creative lounge is the most obvious outward example of the big changes within the office, but on a personal level, Peggy, Joan, Pete, and so many others have moved on, adapted, and reshaped their respective roles within the company. The reality of the situation is that, despite his early successes, Don isn't going to be able to slip right back into his old role. He's returned to an entirely different machine—an updated model with a similar appearance that's built on a solid, time-tested design, but that's just different enough in a few key spots to require an entirely different set of springs and things to make it function. 



NOTES

– "Ted Chaough is useless." Tell us how you really feel, Harry. 

– I'm really glad the Ginsberg/Peggy stuff in her apartment stopped before I had to start hating Ginsberg. 

– OMG the nipple in the box. 

– Lou: "Do you know who had a ridiculous dream and people laughed at him?" Stan: "You?"

– Did the "Scout's Honor" storyline make you feel any sympathy for Lou?

– Sally sassing Betty never gets old. NEVER. 

– I had the brief and delirious thought that Betty could accidentally end up with a sort of political career based on being pretty and conservative. Betty Draper = Anita Bryant? 


What did you think of "The Runaways"?


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  • vermonter May 29, 2014

    I love everything about Mad Men. But I remember the 60's, I was in junior high at the time of this episode. And I can tell you for a fact that mini skirts were NEVER that short. It's ridiculous. it throws everything off when the show is so off on their history.

  • RosieP66 May 17, 2014

    I just don't get why Don did not go for a lawyer once presented with this new illegal infringement on his contract.In real life, his character would have sued the living blood of SC&P.; I know I have written that before, but it still bugs the hell out of me.

    Because Bert Cooper knows something about him.

  • RosieP66 May 17, 2014

    Yes, Betty is immature and shallow, petty and childish and emotionally stunted... but she's not stupid (she speaks Italian!), and she's only blind when she wants to be.


    I'm getting a little sick and tired of Betty being the only character on this show labeled as childish or "emotionally stunted". Are you really that blind that you cannot see the immaturity and childishness of the other characters . . . including Don?

  • avatarsucks99 May 12, 2014

    Am I the only one who caught the 2001: Space Odyssey reference. It was when Ginsberg was watching Lou and Cutler in the new computer room. The scene was filmed the same way when the A.I was watching the two speak, but was only paying attention to their lips.

  • glenndavey1 May 15, 2014

    There have been many 2001 references on the show lately. Especially last week's The Monolith. But yes, I noticed this week's also.

  • kou_shun_u May 13, 2014

    Still the greatest movie ever made.

  • Kerkesh May 12, 2014

    I just don't get why Don did not go for a lawyer once presented with this new illegal infringement on his contract.In real life, his character would have sued the living blood of SC&P.; I know I have written that before, but it still bugs the hell out of me.
    There is a reason, aside from the freezing temperatures needed for superconductivity, that computers are found in the basements or on their own floors.These things were noisy and very unsettling. Nowadays, these are basically silent. but still making a cranking sound that is very much reminiscent of dentistry .At the same time, Ginsberg going batty should have been used by Don as leverage against those who accused him from loosing his mind and justifying his plight. After all, there was already one suicide and now this; making it clear that SC&P; is not a mentally safe working environment. Well, this is the price paid to live in a non-Union country. Or one that is very wary of its representatives,sometimes for obvious reasons.
    If true that the dwellers of SC&P; have moved on from the Draper Era, they have moved towards the wrong direction. No one is better off because Draper is no longer the navel of the firm. They are all living in a kind of bubble of being independent from his genius, but we see as the episodes come and go and they are all dismantling at their seams. Ginsberg's flying off to La-La-Land is just the tip of a very unsavory iceberg that will probably culminate at the raining of men that we see introducing every episode.
    This season we see the critique of the rural against the city. Basically, Don Draper is a rural man gone to the city, and so is Betty and Peggy. It is interesting to note a gender bias here. Don has kind of made it on the force of his rural understanding of his client's needs and lost his senses when e grew away from these feelings. Both Betty and Peggy have not fulfilled their needs or found their place because being in part rural deprived them culturally from ever attaining the standing they desire.
    But the 1960s changed that with the communes, the revival of naturism (anyone who saw the Woodstock movie knows what I mean) and even the revival of occultism renewed the times with ceremonial spirituality. But neither Peggy nor Betty, and especially not Megan, are hippies.
    Megan wants to partake of this hippiness, and she sure is at the right place and the right time for it; but she can't. Her response to Stephanie is why she will never be free from her Bourgeoisie.

  • marmall May 12, 2014

    I can't believe there wasn't more thought of how Megan treated Stephanie! She was all nice and then it seemed like when Stephanie mentioned Don's secrets she flipped and basically kicked her out! Did you see how nervous she was when Don was on the phone with her the next day? Huge acts of desperation: getting rid of Stephanie, slutty dancing at party and a threesome. I was hoping Don would find out about how she ran Stephanie off and go ballistic on Megan, well hopefully that's coming at some point!
    Megan was the worst this episode!!

  • BelleForrest May 12, 2014

    I have a feeling that Don's niece will be the catalyst that finally causes something bad to happen to Megan. The niece said that her boyfriend had to serve time for possession or selling drugs, so perhaps he will eventually be released and then find out that the niece got $1000 from Megan. (I can only imagine that must have been a great deal of money in 1969.) Don's niece and her boyfriend may show up at Megan's remote house and demand more money... and something will happen to Megan. I just had a bad feeling about that whole scene. Megan was being so … idk, self righteous. She was just not kind to the niece at all.

  • loldude1 May 13, 2014

    I've been thinking since Megan moved to the canyon that she's going to be the Sharon Tate of the Mad Men timeline.

  • rtchidc May 12, 2014

    According to an internet inflation calculator I found:

    $1,000 U.S. (1969) = $6,438.50 U.S. (2014)

  • BelleForrest May 13, 2014

    Wow. More than I thought. That would certainly go a long way in 1969.

  • Kerkesh May 12, 2014

    Thanks. This was a good thing you did that.

  • MarlboroMagpi May 12, 2014

    Hey, no one mentioned it but that was Sara from Arrow playing Stephanie. I almost did not recognized her. Maybe this crowd do not watch Arrow.I do not seem to recall her appearing at all.

    My question is she a new character that was just introduce or did she appear before in earlier seasons?

    I like Ginsberg, now we will missed his antics, what a way to go. I am not surprised if it was based on a true story that back in the day when computer first started arriving, it really drove some people crazy.

    Since this is the last season, we are not getting enough stories about Joan. She seems non existent at all since the beginning of the season. We even got a little bit of Peter. I missed the old crew.

    And is Neve Campbell's character coming back at all? or was that just a cameo appearance?

  • glenndavey1 May 15, 2014

    I miss Salvatore Romano. In this show, as in real life, people move on or change or just move...

  • Sanko May 12, 2014

    Caity Lotz was so much more natural here than in the Arrow... I almost didn't recognise her..! And sure as hell I never recalled her ever being on Mad Men when watching the Arrow!!

  • ToddMurray May 12, 2014

    Stephanie (same actress, Caity Lotz) appeared in earlier seasons; she's Anna Draper's niece (we saw her when Don went to California to visit and Anna had cancer).

  • MarlboroMagpi May 12, 2014

    I probably did not take notice then and must have forgotten about her. Now she is famous in Arrow.

  • Sinestro May 12, 2014

    I am not stupid.I speak Italian! :)))


    Man that line made me laugh so hard,and i think that i will write on some kind of motivational poster and set it up in my office(not that i speak Italian mind you,but that whole scene along with the delivery from Betty was just perfect).Whenever i feel lousy at work i can just look at it and it will instantly get me in a far better mood :)

  • coutterhill May 12, 2014

    My favorite line of the night!

  • buzmeg May 12, 2014

    Ménage à Don!

  • cameronharvey946 May 14, 2014

    Hamm Sandwich

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