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Episode Five — “The Runaways”

Photo by Zennie Abraham (CC)

This week’s episode of Mad Men was perhaps the most bizarre episode to date, beginning with Don’s “niece”— Anna Draper’s daughter, Stephanie. Pregnant and desperate, she calls him at the office, hoping he will remember her and be willing to help. Despite how he treats those around him, Don treats his children, and in this case faux-niece, with unconditional love and invites her to his wife Megan’s apartment in Los Angeles.

When Stephanie arrives at the apartment, you can see the polarizing personalities between the two women: Stephanie is free-spirited, calm, and collected, while Megan lacks self-confidence in her own skin, and appears to be threatened by Stephanie’s long and honest history with Don.

Don’s flight is delayed, resulting in more alone — and quite awkward — time between the two women. Most can agree Jessica Paré is not the strongest cast member in the show, but she does effectively play a vulnerable and jealous character in this episode. The fact that she kept Don and Stephanie away from each other on the phone sends off a strong message about her feelings of security in her relationship with Don. Of course Stephanie took note of that, reassuring to Megan that nothing ever happened between her and Don sexually. Megan makes Stephanie feel embarrassed about her situation, writing her a cheque, and leaving her to take off without even staying for a meal.

When Don finally arrives in L.A., he is surprised to see Megan’s friend Amy, having told Megan he wants Stephanie’s presence to remain a private family matter. Not only does he not get to see Stephanie, which is his only motive to be in L.A. at this point, he has to deal with Megan’s actor friends with whom he cannot relate at all. During Megan’s drug-ridden, banjo-playing party, we see Don severely out of place, wearing a sports jacket reminiscent of the time he went to Pete Campbell’s dinner party a few seasons back.

Fate takes charge when Harry Crane arrives at their home. Don wheels Crane away to have drinks at the bar to avoid another “Zou Bisou Bisou” situation. Crane has always been so keen for Don’s approval, he leaves the party and his date with little hesitation.

When Don gets back, Amy is still at the apartment. Still feeling threatened by Stephanie’s presence, Megan decides to try to initiate a threesome. Don doesn’t appear to be too keen on the situation, but goes along with it. When he wakes up we see him look miserable with Amy still in bed with them.

Don surprises Megan by telling her he’s ready to go to back to New York — he flew down to be with his family, Megan disrupted his plan, so now he wants to go back. He tells her he needs to go back to take control over the Commander Cigarettes account Harry Crane told him about the night before.

Back on the East Coast, this is the first time we have seen Betty take charge of her own identity as a woman, during each of the arguments she has with Henry. However, when Sally comes home from school with a broken nose, in typical Betty behaviour, she makes an appointment with the plastic surgeon, reminding her daughter, “It was a perfect nose and I gave it to you.”

Earlier this season, Betty volunteered to go with Bobby on the school field trip to project a new, cool, hip mom reputation while trying to open up to her children more. Yet here she is back to her old ways in treating her children.

At the office, Ginsberg has a hard time adjusting to the new computer technology in the agency. He becomes less like himself with abnormal reactions regarding the newly installed computer. The strange behaviour escalates over the episode, eventually leading Ginsberg to release the “pressure valve” by cutting off his nipple and giving it to Peggy. Her call for help and his forcible removal from the office offered interesting insight into how society at the time dealt with and treated those with mental illness.

When Don gets back in New York City, he decides to crash the Commander Cigarettes meeting. At this point we can assume he will be kicked out of Sterling Cooper & Price, but he is willing to risk it, wearing the same brown suit he wore when he was told the new rules for his return at the firm.

The episode itself was extremely choppy and found it lacked thematic consistency. There is progress and major character development with Betty and the return of Don’s merciless character.