Oddly, the most incongruous thing about Sunday’s (April 22) episode of “Mad Men” — “Far Away Places” — wasn’t Roger Sterling (John Slattery) dropping acid. That actually made sense in an story arc that was the equivalent of force-feeding LSD to the show’s audience. In a sense, it was our own “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” — The show took us along on a wild ride, whether or not we wanted to go, in much the same way that Don absconded with Megan for a little mid-week trip to a Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge. Both the trip and the show didn’t turn out as expected.
It was an episode that either meant everything or nothing. Maybe both. It’s tempting to over-analyze the hell out of it, but fight the urge because, as Megan (Jessica Par�) said of Howard Johnson’s, “It’s not a destination, it’s on the way to some place.” None of these characters arrived at their final destination, though there’s a sense that things are closer than ever to coming unraveled. That said, we’re still going to talk about it. A lot.
We’re starting to doubt that Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is going to take a header out the window, no matter how first-world-unhappy he may be inside (see Episode 505), but the show is still giving off big time signals that something wicked this way comes. The weekly dose of menace came in the form of a missing Megan, who disappears from that Howard Johnson’s after Don leaves her in the parking lot. Only her awesome sunglasses are left behind. And with the season’s set up of the Chicago nurse murders and Charles Whitman’s University of Texas shootings, well, we were thinking dark thoughts.
Though Megan’s peach chevron dress coat and sunglasses were delightful:
It bears mentioning that the episode’s parting image again gave SCDP’s picture windows center stage. We saw Don staring through the conference room’s glass walls out the windows as Peggy, Megan, Stan and Michael walk by, dreamlike. And this line, from Roger Sterling’s psychedelic freakout drifted back to us: “I keep trying to find the people that I want to leave behind.”
— Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) gives a complete stranger a hand job in a movie theater while watching “Born Free” (the 1966 tearjerker — ahem — about a game warden and his wife trying to return an abandoned cub to the wild in Kenya). Since we’re not ready to have the big talk yet about Peggy’s sexuality and her potential future relationship with a martian, we’ll just note that the rutting lion sound effects were timed perfectly.
— When it comes to Peggy, we are prepared to talk about why she’s the best thing SCDP has in its arsenal and not, as suggested by Bert Cooper (Robert Morse), “a little girl.” Unfortunately, she’s working in a world where Cooper and his ilk still pull the strings. We hope she realizes there are other worlds out there. In case you didn’t catch her Hines pitch, here’s how it ended:
“You do like it,” she tells the wishy-washy waffling Hines CEO. “You just like fighting. Do you know how often people come in here and feel something? Almost never. You have run with this. It’s beautiful and it’s original. No one else is going to make you feel this way about beans.”
— One more Peggy-related item: There was a nice symmetry in Dawn finding Peggy asleep on Don’s office couch. Though we did note that Dawn didn’t go out of her way to invite Peggy back to Harlem for a slumber party.
— Micheal Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) was born in a concentration camp and the way he reconciles himself to the horror that was obviously his childhood is by telling himself (and Peggy) that he’s actually a Martian.
— The Megan/Don dynamic is starting to make us think the writers’ room got into “Fifty Shades of Grey” while penning this episode. It isn’t out of place for 1966 for Don to expect to utterly dominate Megan, but her going so far as to call him “master” and the whole apartment chase scene coupled with Don’s coming unglued at the thought of losing her (because he’s fifty shades of effed up, too) definitely had us thinking E.L. James should’ve gotten a writing credit.
— If you recognized Jane’s head shrinker, Catherine Orcutt, it’s because she was played by Bess Armstrong, who has been kicking around TV land since the ’70s and, most recently, played “One Tree Hill’s” Lydia James. Gen Xers will also remember her as Claire Danes’ mother, Patty Chase, from “My So Called Life.”
— The music the Orcutts played during their “Rosemary’s Baby”-ish acid trip was the pitch perfect “Pet Sounds” from the Beach Boys. Listen to it. No LSD required.
— Yes, Violet Candy — per Wikipedia, a “unique hard square tablet mint (candy) with a distinct violet aroma and taste” — still exists. You can buy it on Amazon.