Original Air Date: Apr 7, 2013
Ryan O – Staff Writer
It’s back! All that waiting to find out what’s happened to Peggy now that she’s left SCDP, what’s happened to Megan’s career, and, perhaps most of all, what’s happened to Don’s lovelife after being approached at the bar at the end of the last episode last season. All answered (if not specifically).
This two-hour long season premiere gives us the answers to those questions, as well as, a few other questions. Plus, we meet a few new characters, including one played by Linda Cardellini (of Freaks and Geeks and ER fame).
So: Christmastime 1967. The show has skipped ahead from January 1967.
Peggy is doing very well at CGC while Megan has a role on a soap opera. Don’s love life? Let’s wait on that.
Do you recall how last season death hung over everything up until Lane’s suicide? That continues in this episode. There are frequent references to death and dying made by multiple characters, from Roger saying the firm used to sell death with Lucky Strikes by ignoring it to Don reading Dante’s Inferno to a doorman having a heart attack to Peggy talking about her dad passing away to Roger’s mother and his shoeshine guy both dying to Don’s watch stopping. There’s more, too.
“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself in a dark wood.” That’s the line from the Inferno Don reads to us in voiceover to open the episode. Well, really, the episode opens with someone looking up while receiving CPR from someone we don’t recognize. Don’s on a beach in Hawaii with Megan. It’s a gorgeous shot: a sunny day, the waves rolling in, Diamond Head in the background, Megan lazily putting a blue drink in the sand next to their beach blanket.
After that voiceover Don doesn’t speak for a long time. He fools around with Megan, goes to a luau with the man who runs the hotel where they’re staying and his wife, fools around with Megan again, and then down to a bar. In the bar, he finally speaks to a soldier on leave who is about to get married to his girlfriend, a girlfriend who has no one to give her away. Don gets roped into doing it, a scene that Megan wakes up to with some amusement. The guy is getting married because married men tend to have a better survival rate in Vietnam and he has eight more months to go after his leave ends.
A problem crops up over a client’s ad for headphones that’s supposed to run during the Superbowl. A comedian on the Tonight Show referenced U.S. soldiers in Vietnam who cut off victims’ ears and wore them on necklaces as souvenirs (this actually happened). The ad’s tagline is “Lend me your ears!” quoting the line from Shakespeare.
Peggy meets with the client and handles the situation at least as well as Don would have. She assures him it will get taken care of in a few days. After repeated, unanswered calls to a vacationing Ted Chaough, she gets to work. She rejects three ideas from two subordinates. Everything she says to them makes sense but it’s clear they think she’s being unnecessarily hard on them.
Eventually, Ted returns and Peggy shows him the idea she has. Ted likes it even more than the original idea. Stan, who Peggy had been on the phone with when Ted came into her office, says that Ted likes her, like LIKE LIKES her.
Megan is recognized by a middle-aged woman who is a fan of the character Megan plays on To Have and To Hold. Megan had been a regular for just a few weeks before going on vacation.
When returning from Hawaii, she initially is in just one scene but that picks up and she’s working every day and even has to push someone down the stairs.
Betty is taken with Sally’s friend Sandy, a talented young violinist who is headed to Juliard next year. Except, no, she won’t. She didn’t get in. Betty finds her in the kitchen that night and they talk. Sandy’s mom died recently and Betty feels a bit protective of her. Sandy doesn’t want that. Really, Sandy just wants to get to New York City as soon as she can.
To that end, Betty finds out Sandy told Sally she was going to Juliard earlier. Betty knows this is a lie and trouble. She heads into Manhattan to look for her. She ends up talking with some squatters in a vacant house. Head squatter comes home and says he saw Sandy earlier when he “bought” the violin from her. He says that Betty can’t stand to be out of control and that they have to take everything that the system throws away and doesn’t want. Betty says she wants Sandy and leaves. She leaves the violin, resignedly.
One last Betty bit: the day after going to NYC, she’s done with blonde. She comes home and has black hair. Bobby hates it but Henry loves it.
Roger is in therapy. He complains to his therapist that the idea that experience changes you and affects the path you’re taking is a lie. Roger says you just have experiences but continue on the same path straight to death.
Speaking of death, Roger’s mother passes away. He doesn’t feel much while his secretary just sobs. During the memorial for her, one of her friends shares that his mom loved him and was very proud of him. Also, Don throws up. Roger’s first wife Mona essentially tells him to spend more time with his daughter Margaret. Margaret, in turn, hits him up to invest in her husband’s plan to use refrigeration trucks to ship produce across the country.
Don returns to SCDP after his sponsored trip to Hawaii. SCDP is busy. Also: hairy. No, not Harry, hairy. Men have more of it and in more places. Beards, mustaches, and sideburns. Even Ken Cosgrove and Pete have sideburns. Ginsberg, of course, looks ridiculous with a mustache. There’s a older woman working in creative. They clearly needed a woman’s voice and went and found one.
Don sends back work on Dow Oven Cleaner because he doesn’t like tossing around the word “love” so casually. This, by the way, tips you off to the fact that Don’s pitch to Dow at the end of last season earned them at least some business.
The doctor from his building that saved the doorman stops by to pick up a camera Don offered him since Don received a bunch of free ones. They chat and Don introduces him as a friend to his secretary. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Don refer to someone else as his friend. Dawn is still Don’s secretary and seems very good at her job and knows Don’s habits very well. It’s been about 18 months. It might be the longest tenure for someone as his secretary that we’ve seen.
Don realizes he somehow accidentally switched lighters with the soldier getting married in Hawaii. He throws in the trash at home but Megan returns it, saying the maid found it. The lighter says, “In life, we often do things that just are not our bag.” It’s one of many inscriptions for those Zippo-style lighters. Later, he gives the lighter to Dawn and asks that she try to return it to the soldier.
Don meets with the people from the Royal Sheraton, the hotel that paid for his trip. He doesn’t do a good job articulating the feeling he had while in Hawaii. Don’s idea leads people to think about dying: “Hawaii. The jumping off point.” It’s accompanied by art showing scattered clothes on the beach and footprints in the sand leading to the ocean. It makes one of the clients think of someone committing suicide by going into the ocean and swimming so far they can’t make it back. The meeting ends with Don saying they’ll do something else.
Don spends New Year’s Eve at home with Megan, the doctor and his wife, played by Linda Cardellini (she has a name but I’m telling you now I’ll never learn it, let alone use it), and another couple from their apartment building. They’re having a nice time. Megan eventually turns on the slide projector and shows vacation slides (Facebook for the 1960s except you have to look!). Don falls silent, just as he was in Hawaii. The party breaks up when the doctor gets a call and has to go to the hospital. Don goes down to storage with him and helps dig out cross-country skis so the doctor can get to the hospital in the heavy snowstorm. (In reality New York did get some snow on December 31, 1967 but only 0.1 inches.)
The doctor tells Don New Year’s is a good time to stop smoking. He also mentions that people will do anything to avoid thinking about death. He skis off and Don goes upstairs. He knocks on the service entrance door and Linda Cardellini answers, leads him into her bedroom, and what you think will happen, happens. Don tells her that his hope for the New Year is to stop doing “this” with her. He then goes upstairs to his apartment and goes to bed with Megan, who is sleeping. Happy New Years 1968.
I’m not sure I completely buy the sudden transformation in hairstyle amongst the men at SCDP. It’s pretty drastic and it’s only been a matter of months.
On the other hand, Peggy’s hairstyle has changed, too, but it seems more natural. It’s a change showing maturity rather than strictly reflecting the times. Her bangs of the first two seasons are a distant memory.
Don asks the doorman what he saw when he was dead. The doorman doesn’t really want to answer but eventually gives him the standard bright light answer. More death. It is everywhere. Don seems more ready for it than Roger.
1968 might be the single most turbulent year in American history since the Civil War: the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the ensuing riots, the assassination of Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, the Tet offensive in Vietnam, President Johnson announcing he wouldn’t seek a second term, the Black Power salute at the Olympics in Mexico City, the Democratic National Convention and the associated riot in Chicago are among the highlights.
Best Lines: After Roger’s mother’s friend speaks so highly of Roger and Don throws up: “He was just saying what everyone was thinking.”
Mona telling Roger that people like him: “Roger Sterling, no matter you do, everyone loves you.”
Best Shot: As Megan wakes up in the hotel room in Hawaii, we can see their whole room and out the window, the sun-kissed Pacific leisurely laps at the perfect beach.
Song over the end credits: “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” Elvis Presley, from 1961’s Blue Hawaii
What do you expect to happen in the coming weeks? Let’s hear your Two Cents!