Mad Men: Walking Papers

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Mad Men S04E04: “Mystery Date”

Richard Speck’s July 1966 student nurse murder spree provided the backdrop for what was definitely one of Mad Men's weirder episodes to date. It’s not often that the series makes a historical reference (particularly a morbid historical reference) that I’m not familiar with. What can I say, I used to browse Wikipedia for fun.

So high five, Mad Men, I had to look that one up.

In “Mystery Date,” the women were badasses and the men were just asses. Mostly. Peggy was somewhere in the middle because, as she revealed during her little couch-side heart-to-heart with Dawn the Secretary, she worries that she acts too much like a man—especially at work—but she has to, so no one can fault her. Except she's not sure if she can keep it up. Peggy walked the line between the activities of the other men and women in “Mystery Date.” On one hand, she invited Dawn into her home, paid for her cab fare, and split a six-pack with her. On the other hand, she very badly wanted to snatch up her purse and the wad of cash she'd milked Roger for earlier in the evening, inherently distrustful of Dawn’s morals because of her skin color. Peggy caught herself, though, leaving the purse on the coffee table when she realized that she was on the verge of giving into the same prejudices that govern much of the goings-on at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Also in the middle of the spectrum was Mike Ginsberg, earning Decent Human Being points with his refusal to gawk at the crime scene photos Joyce Ramsay brought up from the Life Magazine offices. However, he found himself on the fast track to almost-fired when he couldn’t shut his flytrap at the Butler shoes proposal meeting and pitched an idea that Don had deemed unworthy after Butler had already agreed to another idea. Poor Mike, someone should probably teach him that the only person who can successfully channel Don in a board room is Don.

Though to be fair, Don didn’t hate the twisted Cinderella interpretation back at the office.

And Don, well, Don showed us his dark(er) side when a spiking fever convinced him to go home early...where he dreamed about strangling an old one-night (two-night? Three-night?) stand and hiding her corpse rather sloppily beneath the bed. I’ll admit, I worried that it was real for all of ten seconds because on Mad Men, it could go either way. Thankfully, it was all a fever dream. I don’t think I could have handled a Don Draper: Manhattan Strangler storyline.

Over in Rye, Sally bonded with step-grandma Pauline over the gruesome Chicago murders. Pauline spent most of the day talking on the phone in hushed, scandalized tones the way my mom liked to do when she was speaking of things unfit for the innocent ears of children. Newsflash, Grandma Pauline, talking as though you’re telling secrets to the telephone just makes us want to eavesdrop more.

Sally, of course, is a bright kid, channeled her Dick Whitman genes, and pulled the paper out of the trash to read up on the Speck murders herself. Subsequently unable to fall asleep, she and grandma had an honest chat on the sofa, where Pauline promised that Sally was safe, as she wielded an impressive kitchen knife. Sally still couldn’t fall asleep and because it was 1966, that mythical time when grandmas handed out pills like jelly beans, Pauline split a Seconal with her. When Betty and Henry returned in the morning, she was still out like a light beneath the couch Betty bought at the Addams family’s last garage sale.

I think we all know where this is headed.

But by far, the award for Most Badass Female of the Night went to Joan Harris, for finally booting Greg to the curb only a day after his return from Vietnam. I was initially worried that we were in for a “My Alcoholic Husband” storyline after it appeared that Greg asked for a new beer roughly every five to ten minutes—that would have been disappointing, because Joan is fierce and tough, and really should have done this two seasons ago. “I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man," she told him, "because I’m sick of trying to do it.” Boom.


Questions:

1. It seems like all Roger does this season is throw money around. Does anyone suspect that he’ll be broke by the end of it?

2. For the first time in a long time, Peggy’s debate about her demeanor in the office made me doubt her desire to actually be in the office. But at the same time, she looked like she clearly enjoyed milking Roger for all the cash in his wallet, though that might have just been because it was Roger. Any thoughts on Peggy’s headspace?

3. Now that Greg is (I’m assuming) out of the picture, do we think there’s any chance for a Roger and Joan romance? I know I’m probably doing it wrong, but I really like them together.

4. So Don didn’t really cheat on Megan this week, but it’s coming, right? Eventually?

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