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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"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/25/2014

Season 7 : Episode 7

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