"Mad Men" occasionally has what can be described as trippy existential episodes, often involving drugs. The borders of reality blur a bit, dreams and visions come into play, and we get such memorable incidents as Roger hallucinating the 1919 World Series and Ginsburg losing a nipple. Things can get silly, but they can also get horrific or profound. I wasn't expecting another one of these trips so late in the game, but the show had a good excuse. "SC&P" is shutting down and the staff is going through a bumpy transition as they get "settled in" at McCann Erickson. Suddenly our regulars have been flung apart, separated by different floors and different places in the new hierarchy. Everything is uncertain and up in the air.
The first scene with Don in his office feels like such a tease. There's the New York skyline and there's the window, just waiting for Don to open it and jump. He does take a metaphorical leap later in the hour, leaving the meeting with Miller to go off in search of Diana, who is clearly now meant to be a version of Don himself, or a possible future he's not keen on giving up. It's another episode of Don trying on different roles - dutiful husband and father, prize-giver, and concerned friend. Some fit better than others, but the role he absolutely doesn't want is to be Don Draper from McCann Erickson, Jim Hobart's golden boy. I have no idea where Don is heading, but I don't think he's going back to New York or advertising this time. The old patterns are no longer holding, and Don really has nothing to go back to. Apartment, family career - all gone.
He clearly sensed that he would only become a cog at McCann, unable to work the way he wanted to, which it took Joan a while to figure out. After her failed attempts to problem solve through the boorish McCann executives, it was incredibly rewarding to see her go full feminist on Jim Hobart. This is a confrontation that has been building for ages, and was heavily foreshadowed the last time we saw Joan and Peggy meeting with McCann staffers. I so relished Joan finally putting her foot down and making Hobart take her seriously. She only left for Roger's sake, and god bless Roger, but he completely missed it. Exit Joan with her photograph of Kevin, her rolodex, and her self-worth intact. This was surely her swan song, and it was a fine one.
But what about Peggy? Joan fought her battle before Peggy even got into the building. Clearly some women can advance at McCann, but they have to hide away their femininity to do it, from the looks of Joan's welcome wagon. This was impossible for Joan, clearly, but could Peggy fare better? The final scene of her coming in with the lit cigarette and Bert Cooper's tentacle porn under her arm surely suggests it. I couldn't help thinking of Peggy as Joan's relief pitcher, stepping in to increase the offense. Hobart may have gotten rid of the most powerful woman at SC&P, but he's got more to contend with, especially as "Mad Men" keeps signalling that Peggy is also stepping up to fill Don's shoes. That conversation with Roger and Peggy as they're getting drunk on Vermouth? In an earlier season that would have been Don drinking with Roger.
And how great was it to see Peggy and Roger finally spending some quality time together? It's still strikes me as a little strange that Roger and Peter are being so chummy with Joan and Peggy, but they've all been on the same ship together for years, and both men have had to learn the hard way to give the women in their lives their due. And in unfamiliar new surroundings, you tend to grab hold of anything familiar - even the African-American second secretary you nearly fired last week. Okay, the bit with the organ and the roller skates was a little forced, but after Peggy spent most of the hour in the uneasy limbo of the empty, post-apocalyptic offices of SC&P, we were due for a few final drunken antics.
So where is Don aka Major Tom going to end up? And how will everyone else fare at McCann? I expect another time jump coming up, but who knows how far into the future we're going?