MAD MEN: Sequence of the Week

“Far Away Places” initially seemed like it would be a Peggy-centric epiosde. It’s glorious to see her lose her cool with the increasingly difficult Heinz executive, amusing to see her stoned and giving out handjobs in the movie theater, and ultimately haunting to see her reaction to Ginsberg’s too strange to be true concentration camp birth story. Everything came full circle as she calls Abe back to her apartment. Still, Peggy’s day flashed before our eyes in all of ten minutes. Elisabeth Moss sold every moment of it, but last night belonged to Don and Roger.

Don first (even though the hours of his day appeared second on our screens). A tiff with Megan over her failure to eat the orange sherbet he couldn’t stop raving about causes Don to abandon his bride in a Howard Johnson’s parking lot. Don soon thinks better of his actions, but suddenly Megan is nowhere to be found. As he desperately calls the mother-in-law he has yet to meet and Peggy, who interprets their brief conversation as proof that Don is disappointed with her Heinz performance, I must confess that I thought something had indeed happened to Megan (I’m convinced that someone’s life is in jeopardy this season, and the characters’ news is practically full of stories of murdered women). So while I don’t particularly like Megan, it’s a relief when Don finds her waiting at home.  And it’s becoming all too apparent that Don is looking to Megan to play the part of every female he ever knew or wanted to have in his life. Not only is she not up to the task, but he’s not seeing the real woman (I felt a little pity for Megan by the time she and Don collapsed on their living room floor). And that final shot of Megan and the boys walking in one direction while Peggy goes off in another suggests that eventually Don is going to have to choose between the blank canvas that he believes Megan to be and the completed Peggy who might only be able to fulfill his desires in the work place, but she does a hell of a job. So the question becomes who will Don follow and who will he leave behind?

Both Peggy and Don made for compelling bookends, but every instant of Roger and Jane’s acid trip was pure television perfection. When we first see the couple in the elevator, I thought that Jane never looked worse, despite Roger’s compliments to the contrary (the marriage has taken a toll on her). It’s evident at the dinner table that Roger is already hailing a cab in his mind. But when Jane expresses her fear of taking the LSD without him, his protective instincts come to the surface. Make no mistake; Roger is terrified (and his “in the event of an emergency” note had me fearing for his life at one point in the episode). But he stays by Jane’s side and takes the trip of his life (and in the series of shots that follow, I felt that I was along for the ride). From the musical liquor bottles to Roger’s bi-colored hair. From Roger viewing his life in the mirror to Don suddenly at his shoulder doling out advice. From Roger hysterical in the bath to he and Jane in towels and robes having the most honest conversation of their entire marriage. During that entire sequence, I forgot to breathe.

In the aftermath, the Sterlings return to Planet Earth, but they remember every word of their endless conversation. Once again, they are truthful with one another, and Jane’s comment that their impending divorce will be “expensive” comes across as one of the most loving things she’s ever said to Roger. As always, John Slattery was phenomenal, but let’s not discount the fine work of Peyton List. All you fans of the late, great As the World Turns will remember her as Lucy, a character that never really clicked until they paired with the older Dusty. Mad Men tapped into List’s ability to play off of older scene partners almost from the start, and if this is the last we see of Jane, what an exit note!

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