Mad Men: The One Where Roger Drops Acid

Mad Men S05E06: “Far Away Places”

At the Howard Johnson's, before the orange sorbet-induced meltdown, Megan told Don that Howard Johnson's itself wasn’t a destination, it was “on the way to some place.”

Despite the implications of the episode title, “Far Away Places” wasn’t a destination, either. It was a pit stop. It was an exotic pit stop—a little bit weird and a departure from the norm. At most, it was a roadside attraction. It was the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine, the “Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk” or the remains of New Jersey’s defunct Desolation Palace; something whose meaning will be derived from its position in a larger picture of the world, rather than its own singular existence.

The three major storylines in “Far Away Places” were uncharacteristically isolated from one another, taking place on the same day, at the same time, but in starkly different locations. First, Peggy argued with Abe the Journalist Boyfriend, then unsuccessfully pitched yet another sentimental campaign to the people from Heinz. This time, Peggy and the gang presented Heinz with college students longing for home. They still wanted college students with picket signs. Peggy channeled her inner-Don in an attempt to sway the bean people, but it didn’t go over too well. The grand poobah didn’t appreciate Peggy’s sass. A woman’s place is BAKING the beans, not selling them.

Ultimately, Peggy was kicked off of the account.

The storyline that everyone is going to remember is the one involving Roger and Jane tripping the light fantastic. For a while there, Roger held his own. As his fellow party-goers licked the couch cushions and Jane contemplated death, Roger poured himself a glass of Stoli and took it all in stride...until the Beach Boys began to sing about not being made for these times. It was all downhill from there, with Roger’s deepest neuroses being dragged to the surface. One of the other acid-trippers, later revealed to be Jane’s doctor, described neuroses as an illogical obsession with the truth. Roger has struggled for much of this season with being perceived as obsolete and useless by the younger crowd at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. He fretted over his struggle to relate to his much younger wife.

Despite a rough patch, Roger seemed to accept the inevitability of his truth. He has grown and evolved. Jane has grown and evolved. But they moved away from each other in their growth. At one point, still high as a kite, Jane told Roger that he just didn’t like her. Roger conceded that he didn’t like her anymore, he HAD liked her, at one time. Before. He decided to leave her, rationalized that they were really leaving each other and that they had been all along.

The next day, at work, Roger was a cheerful ray of manic sunshine. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Give it another episode or two.

Okay, Storyline #3: Don kidnapped Megan from the office despite her insistence that she needed to be present for the Heinz presentation. He wanted her to help him check out Howard Johnson's as a potential client...but left that detail out of the conversation as they embarked on the drive upstate. Megan was under the impression they were just jet-setting off to some new hotel to play hooky from the office. The pieces slid into place after some over-the-top hospitality from the Howard Johnson's staff, complimentary food (one of everything), and Don not-so-stealthily trying to find an angle to advertise the now-legendary chain.

The final straw arrived with dessert, when Don, clearly a fan of the orange sorbet, insisted that Megan try it. Megan remarked that it was like eating perfume, asked if she could try the chocolate.

The ensuing meltdown, in which a miffed Don, perhaps intending to build a grand advertising campaign around the bright orange sorbet and the matching orange roof of the motel, cried mortification over Megan’s rejection of the crown jewel of the dessert menu. The culmination of their battle resulted in Don leaving a crushed Megan in the rearview mirror...for a few miles, at least. He ultimately went back for her, but by then, unbeknownst to him, Megan had hopped a bus back to the city and locked herself in the apartment, where she was ignoring his sincerely concerned phone calls.

Don and Megan, despite the altercation at the diner and later, the startlingly violent fight in the penthouse after Don went full ninja on the locked door, found themselves in largely the same place they started at the beginning of “Far Away Places.” The sheen has certainly worn off their marriage, but they remain committed, mostly.

Don’s attitude toward Megan, while in many ways different from the attitude he had toward Betty, is the same in one key point: Don fears losing her. In “Far Away Places” it was implied that he's concerned with losing her in the physical sense; he worried for her safety and well being. However, for all of his good intentions, Don Draper has always been, on some level, a very possessive man. That possessiveness, the need to control every aspect of his life, was front and center this week.

For all of her (many) faults, one good thing that can be said about Betty is that she ultimately didn’t stand for it. She made the decision to leave Don and once free of his reign, she flexed her own muscles during the fight over the house and the children. Certainly, she reached the point of being unreasonable, but one could argue that her rigidity was the result of an overindulgence in the sudden freedom she found when Don wasn’t allowed to call all the shots in her life.

As we left her last night, Megan is in a tough position, one that we have seen glimpses of all season long. She is strong-willed, intelligent, and ambitious. She also loves Don Draper, warts and all. The survival of Don and Megan’s marriage will ultimately come down to whether or not Don can accept Megan’s ambition and allow her to be fulfilled as an individual by her own work, both inside and outside of their home. I’m not saying that he can’t do it, but the portrait of their relationship painted is “Far Away Places” is currently a dark and uninviting stop on a long, winding road.

What are your thoughts?

Comments (14)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
For me the best season so far, things are actually happening!!!! past seasons were a bore, I don't get all the criticism this season is getting. This episode was for me the best of them all. I wish Megan would leave the self centered pig that Don is.
Reply
Flag
Just watched it today. Bold new DVR world. This show is always harder for me to watch because I can't multitask with it. It's almost impossible for me to sit down and watch it in the same week it aired.



This season had a slow startup, but it got going at least a couple episodes ago, maybe three.



As soon as Roger sat down and took the acid, I literally groaned and said, "oh, sh*t," but he handled it fairly well. I was afraid I'd have to sit through him crying in a corner as he lamented over his lost relevance, or needed to be talked off a ledge...even a Community-type claymation, but I was instead treated to a colorful catharsis high. Like MaryAnn, I give it a couple episodes before it wears off.



So yeah, now that Roger's pretty much free (second wallet-sucking divorce aside), I expect him to revel in that freedom for a hot second before he misses having someone to come home to, and he'll likely beg Joan to take him back. I can't see him raising his kid with her, but it might be a way to end the series.



In the meantime, I like Joan and Lane together. Lane is painfully boring (I keep hearing someone British saying 'positively dreary'), but Joan brings out a good gentlemanly side in him...or he has that anyway, and she just adds flavor. The bright red paprika to his pasty white mashed potatoes, I dunno.



The main problems Don has with Megan are that he's selfish and he doesn't really respect her, but he actually has those problem with everyone except Anna. He tries fairly hard to not be like his father, but it's a struggle against which he barely breaks even. We're all just waiting for him to revert to type, but this is part of his type, too.



Joan might be bitter overall, but she knows a guy picking up a trophy wife when she sees one (this is why I think Lane has a shot). Like Roger and most guys who do this, Don will try to make it work until he can't do it anymore.
More+
Reply
Flag
I wonder where Roger will go from here and I can't wait to see how Don and Megan's relationship will implode...
Reply
Flag
Don - Megan Chase scene is kinda awesome........
1
Reply
Flag
MaryAnn, first and foremost, wonderful review! You have definitely captured the ethos and pathos of Mad Men, and the metaphorical value that its writers always exude. It is the singular reason Mad Men has such a strong relation to modern society. As they constantly show, not much has changed in the past 50-60 years.



Also, this season of Mad Men is just as good as any. Stop complaining people. Mad Men hasn't changed. It's TV that has changed, and your perception of what it should be. (I blame you, Game of Thrones, but in the BEST possible manner.)



To reiterate: Great episode, fantastic review!
Reply
Flag
Why some people letdown by this season. I don't get it. Why some critics complainin' about weird unusual for previous mad men plotting that goin' on right now? Was Mad men so calm and collective and subtle with action in previous seasons that a damn french song dance felt for poor TV critics like a nuclear bomb? They couldn't handle it. Yeah I get that in whole first 3 seasons only real action was the bleedin' leg of that poor young hot shot. It was like storm in usually quiet place. But fourth season has plenty of drama and fast plotting. And twists. And now every episode is like a whole previous first seasons action-wise. I mean plotting-wise. and weird-wise. Stop whining about your better usual familiar more subtle slow pacin' Mad men, critics. It is what it is. Show may be changin' but I think you are holdin' on to ghost. To Mad Men that actually was in your head. And I think it is Mad Men that we knew all that time. There are some changes (in pace, in tone sometimes) coz of social changes that show reflectin' in 5 season, but it is still the same Mad men in its core.
More+
Reply
Flag
The best part of the episode was Bert calling out Don for his work ethic. I've been waiting for that. I enjoy seeing Don work and there hasn't been any of that this season.
Reply
Flag
it wasn't a very good episode, and this hasn't been a very good season. last week's "Signal 30" was Mad Men's only strong effort so far...
Reply
Flag
Might be worst episode of all seasons. This season sucks... It's time they do some business, because I couldn't care less about their love life.
Reply
Flag
Was I the only one that hoped Megan was dead?
Reply
Flag
Yes.
Reply
Flag
Nope.
Reply
Flag
Reading this review actually makes me understand what was really a very trippy, disoriented, and at times amusing and frightening episode. The story lines being separate made it seem like three episodes mashed together, but it did work. Don, Peggy, and Roger are all at weird places in their careers and relationships. That made the three sort of vignettes fit by that theme of relationships and how work and social life can have catastrophic results when mixed. I personally loved the acid scene. Roger's been such a sad character lately questioning his place at SCDP and relating to Jane. It was fun to see him embrace his high even if it led him to the prospect of leaving Jane. Peggy is trying to find that balance of trying to masculine in a man's world where the Heinz people and Abe find offense to it because she is a woman. Don continually see the pitfalls of being with Megan, and desperately wants their marriage to be what his and Betty's was not. Overall it had it's issues, but kudos to Mad Men for presenting this thought provoking episode esp. with it's many layered meanings to the title. Look forward to what the rest of the season brings.
More+
Reply
Flag
interesting episode and review.
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook