Mad Men Monday Recap – ‘Field Trip’

By: Daniel Reynolds

Heading into the first half of the final season, the Same Page welcomes you each week to the Mad Men Monday Recap. A show as deep as this one needs some diverse commentary so jump in and enjoy our irreverent breakdown of each episode. 

Mad-men-title-card

What’s Happening on Madison Avenue?

It is worth taking a minute to discuss what happened in each episode. If you’re looking for some straight talk on what we just saw on Mad Men, read this section (and then read the other sections because, why not).

So Don Draper learns that his wife, Megan, the woman he is doing his best to keep at arm’s length, is running around Los Angeles acting like “a maniac.” Megan cries in front of a director while he eats lunch (with Rod Serling, no less). Don tries to be the voice of reason, tries to calm Megan down. He knows a thing or two about rejection, having spent the last decade wooing women and clients in equal measure.

In a different world, Betty brunches with her friend, Francine. Yes, we are back in Betty’s time stuck version of America. She marvels at Francine’s new work ethic and drive. Betty doesn’t understand the challenge or the reward. She also is still hitched to the Rockefeller’s wagon, assuming Henry is going to become the AG – the “Attorney General” she whispers. Betty, nobody cares. In the understatement of the century: “Maybe I’m old fashioned,” Betty says. “I thought they [the children] were the reward.” This from a woman who regards her children as annoying competition for attention, mostly. She offers to chaperone Bobby on a field trip to a farm. We ready ourselves for calamity.

Peggy has decided that if she is not going to be happy then no one else will be. There is no crying from her this time around but she’s obviously upset that her work didn’t get any attention from the CLIOs. Ginsberg’s did, and boy does he enjoy that fact. In a meeting with Lou, Peggy gets testy (though, to be fair, Lou is maddeningly lame). Her work wasn’t even submitted for consideration! What’s a girl got to do to get some recognition around here? If Peggy’s love life is going to be a disaster, at least she used to be able to count on her work successes. Now what? She has to listen to Ginsberg gloat.

The presumable final blow-out comes with Don and Megan. If Don wants to be the voice of reason, then he has to be reasonable and tell the truth. He admits to having no job, and as Megan reminds him, has been basically avoiding her. So, it’s not a new woman, or his drinking that finishes off the marriage. Leave it to Don to find a new way to break the vessel. The western sun that once felt so warm to him, now burns Don one final time. It is Manhattan or bust.

The trip to the farm goes as well as you would expect (and truthfully, Betty’s stories always feel out of place). Betty smokes relentlessly, she makes catty remarks – she can’t not be catty – about the teacher’s blouse. As if Bobby even notices a few undone buttons, he’s completely lost in his list of movie monsters and their various transformations. Bobby, have you met your mother? He casually trades Betty’s lunch for candy, and Betty, like a grown woman is wont to do, passive-aggressively sulks.

Having lost his marriage, Don figures it is time to stop dancing around. He appeals to Roger to come back to work. Then, just like that, he is back in the office. Some are happy to see him (the creative types in his thrall), some are not (Lou, mostly, who looks like he’s seen a ghost). Peggy, in full revenge mode, reminds Don that they don’t miss him. What does she have to lose? It’s admirable she won’t go the self-pity route like Harry Crane, but one gets the feeling he can at least sleep at night (computer or no).

Finally, the partners meet. They’ll take Don back under many stipulations (essentially: stick to the script, easy on the booze, report to Lou). Will he accept their offer? Beat. OK. Megan lets these things emotionally crush her. Peggy allows her frustrations to fuel her anger. Betty continues to be befuddled. But Don, broken man that he is, gets it. He should have been there when Betty asked about her children. Don may have had an answer.

You can’t force them to love you.

The Symbolism Rankings

Enjoy, with minimal comment, the weekly rankings for whatever symbolism Matthew Weiner has heavily stacked into each Mad Men episode. A show set in the world of advertising is only as good as its symbolism, right?

1) Envelope

2) Bucket of Raw Milk

3) Bag of candy

Back in the Day

Remember the 1960s? Mad Men really values its sense of place. To that end, here’s where we make mention of whatever anachronistic or historical element popped up this week.

This week’s buzz word is definitely “computer”. Isn’t it adorable how they talk about it in that meeting? Harry reports on all the numbers they’ll be able to crunch, the local and national data, the ease of it all. How exciting! Of course, back then computers really were just that: computing machines. They can’t think and there’s nothing particularly glamourous about them. Is it any wonder that Harry is the pro-computer guy in the office? He radiates a certain dangerous combination of aggrieved ego and heroic delusion. He’s basically a proto-Internet troll. No person actually likes him, so of course he’s into computers.

One other detail the episode gets right: when Jim starts making his own demands for a computer in the office, they sound like those of a man who doesn’t actually know what it is he is asking for. A computer to Jim is just another piece of furniture. It’s a safe bet he has no idea how a computer works. In fact, what are the odds that Jim has no idea what a computer even looks like? It’s 1969, and back then computers were still huge power and space hogs (and the heat, my God, the heat). While he won’t admit it to anyone, Harry’s dishonest speechifying forces Jim to acknowledge that these new fangled computers may help the SC&P business. And we are reminded that no matter the era, the people of the previous generation never quite grasp the significance of new technology until it is too late.

This Week in Ken! (Cosgrove. Accounts.)

As the most likeable guy in the entire series, Ken Cosgrove deserves his chance to shine. Here’s where we discuss what everyone’s favourite earnest moonlighting sci-fi writer was doing or not doing on the last episode.

Rumours of the Ken’s demise were apparently very exaggerated. Sorry I got carried away these past two weeks. Ken slid into the creative office lounge to greet Don and it was like no time had passed at all. Classic Ken. He was excited, happy, and a proud papa to boot. Yes, Ken was quick with the baby photos for Don. Did you know he has a son named Edward? Sorry, his name is actually: Eddie! Cosgrove. Baby.

You know how you know Ken is a good guy even after that tantrum he threw a couple weeks back? Because when Don comes into the office and Ken shows the baby picture of baby Eddie on a carousel, he reminds Don that that particular children’s ride always reminds him of one of the greatest Draper success stories. It was a moment that solidified Mad Men as a special show, and Don Draper as a dynamic character who could get the client, and the audience, to buy into anything. We were on board.

And with all the ups and downs Don’s been through lately, it was nice of Ken to remind him, and us, of that. Bravo, Ken.

Know Your Role

Since so much of Mad Men is predicated on minute character interactions, here’s where we discuss the top conflicts that happen in each week’s episode and decide on a winner.

There is a lot of build up to the final showdown this week. Don fights with Megan, then he fights with Roger, then he fights with himself. He marches back into the SC&P offices and for awhile seems adrift. That was all just the under card, the pre-fight entertainment. Don is going into meet the partners and take back his livelihood. You can practically hear the ring of the bell.

The camera creeps around the corner and Don is faces down the coterie of partners that remain in Manhattan: Bert, Roger, Jim and Joan. He knows Roger is already onside, and Joan could probably be swayed. But Jim is fighting tooth and nail to quell any “rancor”. And Bert seems unconvinced that it makes sense to bring Don back into the fold. (An aside: Bert is the only man in the history of television who could answer the question “How are you?” with “Capital.” Despite his unfortunate racist leanings last week, Bert can still bring a smile to my face.)

So the partners lay out their stipulations, thinking surely Don will chaff under such restrictions. But it is all gravy. They don’t know that Don has cut ties with Megan and ad work is all he has left. (And given his beautiful Accutron pitch delivered via the slob Rumsen, he clearly still has the magic touch.) He doesn’t want the hard sell from some rival agency, the envelope with the offer in it. Don will come back to SC&P for one last hurrah, prove he can still be a big deal. And if it means Lou will sweat it the hell out, more power to him.

Winner: Don

Actual Advertising

Between the drinking, the social commentary and the drinking, sometimes the people of Madison Avenue actually do some work on advertisements. Here is where we sit in the seat of the client, trying to figure out what the hell these ad guys are talking about.

There were a couple of little advertising things in this episode and both of them suggest a lot about how SC&P is currently being run. First, we have Peggy continuing to mount her Sisyphus-like offensive against Lou, the agency world and the patriarchy in general. Her small pitch for Chevalier Noir involves a drawing of a horse and saying, “More Horsepower.” I thought it was a touch on the nose and, of course, Lou thinks Peggy is wasting time and resources having Stan draw a horse. He knows what a horse looks like. I could almost maybe see his point. But then Lou expresses his apparent glee at informing Peggy that he didn’t submit her work for CLIO consideration. It’s the candle on her shit sundae. Thanks Lou, for being an ass. This is the new SC&P.

But wait, the second thing happens later when Don has made his grand confused return to the office. Did you notice how his old creative minions buzz around the office lounge. They are eager to ask him his opinion, they seek his advice (which is funny, given the mess of his life). Don eases back into his leadership role without even breaking a sweat. No one seeks Lou’s advice. In fact, he has to summon all the creative types back to his office just to re-assert some control.

I think it is Jim who says it best: Lou is adequate. This is the new SC&P. For now.

The partners would like some answers.

The partners would like some answers.

Next Episode Predictions

This is where we watch the totally opaque preview for next week’s episode and make wild guesses as to what will happen next.

Hey, our first “Close the door”! We made it. What more can be said here? Weiner’s anti-spoiler game was deliciously on point this week. We had some ominous reactions shots, a cut to a phone hanging off the hook and then, that ubiquitous request to close the door.

I suppose it is too bad that we have to credit Lou with the line. Because, seriously, screw that guy.

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3 responses to “Mad Men Monday Recap – ‘Field Trip’

  1. I agree that Betty storyline felt wildly out of place but on re-watch, it made more sense. Francine plants the seed in Betty’s head that she needs to find something else to occupy her time because the kids are going to grow up. But in Betty’s child-like mind that gets warped into “you’re worthless once your kids are gone!” She then thinks she’s being replaced in Bobby’s affections by his teacher and his girl classmate. Pretty fucked up, but that’s Betty. It also ties in with Don’s fears of being replaced at the office.
    Overall, the episode felt very plotty to me… As in, things happened because the plot demands that it should. Like, those stipulations to Don’s return sound like something out of Dynasty and Dallas boardroom plotlines. And the partners never discussed once over the past four months what should happen to Don? Ehh, I’ll roll with it. Can’t wait to see Civil War break out next week in the office.

  2. To be fair, the Betty storyline was very internally consistent and even entertaining in its way. But every Betty appearance now feels like something from a different show. Mad Men has changed so much. Still, looking forward to more SC&P fireworks.

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