“Far Away Places”
The honeymoon is over. In some ways this was foreseen the moment Don thought a trip to Howard Johnsons in Plattsburgh, as in a 5-6 hour drive from the city on a good day, was an idea for an escape. But let’s not rush to the last act. Let’s start from the beginning.
The episode’s structure is owed to the French New Wave auteurs of the period and their antecedents Kurosawa and Ophuls in its anthology structure. Over a course of the day, the three main central (and most popular) characters are all connected in loose ways in reality but thematically could not be tied tighter. It produces one of the most ambitious episodes structurally in the history of the series.
We first get to Peggy. She has dreaded the ‘New Don’, the guy who does not care about work and skips out on a pitch to a crucial account and client. She has to push the pitch on her own, completely following the Heinz Guy’s idea of the pitch that is a 180 from her original pitch. She adapts, she gives a good pitch (though I am still partial to dancing beans), and she still does not impress the Heinz Guy. Then Peggy has a Don moment and pushes the pitch to the point she is seen as too much of a bitch and is taken off the account. Peggy, while drunk, contemplated the fact she acts too much like a man in her work to Dawn in a previous episode. She did in this instance and had she been male, I wonder if this pitch would have won the Heinz Guy over eventually. She is essentially the scapegoat as the account is seen no way in jeopardy (Pete Campbell’s only appearance just has him casually tell her she is off the account). Her gender is what gets her off the account but it is also probably why the account is still in SCDP, as the ‘shrill, bitchy female copywriter’ is disposable to the ad campaign. So Peggy’s only real work is coming from the Mohawk Airlines pitch under Ginsberg’s name who has taken the account she took in to save the company last season in addition to being off this account. This is not a good time for Peggy at work.
Her life with Abe is not much better. There is a bizarre gender reversal in their argument where you almost find Abe in a vulnerable, needy position to Peggy’s white-collar 9 to 5 work position. It was almost a classic Don-Betty fight. She is married to her job and seeing as that marriage is in a bit of shambles, she realizes she needs to appreciate Abe’s company. But not until she smokes pot while going to an afternoon showing of the film Born Free and gives a stranger who gave her the joint a handjob in the theater. Again, Peggy is in a gender-reversal. She doesn’t reciprocate the random guy coming onto her but switches the power dynamics just to know she has made somebody happy that day. There is also the fact she finds out about Michael Ginsberg’s past. It was assumed he at least had relatives who died in the Holocaust based on his reactions to the other copywriters eating up the photos of the Richard Speck murders. But now we find out he possibly was born in a concentration camp, does not know his mother as she died at the camp, his father we see is not his biological father (and that is left as an open question), and he finds this fact still impossible to even reveal without just saying something as ridiculous as being from Mars.
Last episode we saw Pete’s drive and failure to be the Don Draper facade of yore. This episode we see not just Peggy but Michael also reveal to be more authentic Don Drapers. This was always the case with Peggy but this episode shows the ways she can and cannot really be like Don. Out of work, yes she can, but at work we see the limitations that start and end at her gender. Michael is like Dick Whitman raised as a city kid down to the abandonment issues, the dark, deep secret past, and a major identity crisis. There is obviously more explicit neuroses with Michael but now we understand why this is the case. Plus he is brilliant, if incredibly calculating in his work much like Don Draper of yore. People say Peggy should fear Ginsberg, their connection in that late night scene seems more of a detente if perhaps friendship, love that could never happen with her and Don. I sense partnership that through his little revelation is possibly stronger than her work relationship with Rizzo or even her romance with Abe.
We get to Roger who after Jane twists his arm, agrees to join her to take LSD under the supervision of her shrink and that shrink’s circle of friends. The moment the sequence happened I was very excited but also a bit nervous how the feeling of being on LSD would be done. For a brief moment, when Roger declared his hate for the product, I was disappointed. Then he opened the bottle of liquor that happened to play the USSR national anthem and I actually applauded. It got significantly weirder from there with mirror scenes, shrinking cigarettes, and Bert Cooper on US mint. But my favorite was Roger’s bathtub scene with Jane and their bathrobe/carpet confessions to each other that this marriage does not work afterwards. I have never liked Jane more in those scenes where she seemed to display a certain level of substance beyond sex-pot secretary. Roger seems to take these confessions at face-value and before he goes into to work, officially declares them over as a married couple to Jane’s surprise.
Roger seems way more chipper and not in a fake front way that he had going for him in previous episodes. I have this feeling he is going to be taken more LSD. Now I doubt those trips will be as fun but it is currently a product Roger needs to get by. Not sex, booze, or even a cigarette, but LSD. Just a theory for future episodes.
Now we get to the Don-Megan escape to HoJos story. We see Don briefly earlier in the episode in a bit of panic with him and Peggy having two completely different things on the brain. For Peggy it is Heinz and with Don- we have no clue at that point. But it is super late, he is not back home, he looks alone, and he looks like hell. What happened up there?
Don and Megan had a fight fit for high school couples who go to Pete’s driver’s ed. class. It was playing hooky with Don loosely pretending to actually care about the products at Howard Johnsons, he really just wanted to be there with Megan. Megan seems more inclined to care about the products being served to them at HoJos and once again voices her dismay to Don he took her out of work without the consideration of the fact it makes her look bad to the other copy-writers and that only he can really have ‘fun’ with work. Don’s solution to this is treating her like a child. She turns the tables and sarcastically eats orange sherbet ice cream to make a point of how ridiculous that is, and then it turns to both of them insulting their relationships (or lack thereof) with their mothers. Don’s mother issues, of course, stings more, and Megan immediately wishes she could take it back. Don, the manchild, reacts by leaving her there at HoJos. In Plattsburgh, New York. He left her. By herself.
Don immediately regrets this but she is gone too, leaving nothing but her pink sunglasses. In a world of no telecommunication beyond landline phones, Don feels useless and drives back home after calling the apartment, Peggy, and Megan’s mother, never revealing there was a fight or that his wife could be missing (except to a State Trooper). He finds that Megan is back home, all ready for work after taking a bus and a cab all the way back. She honestly could have gone back home, as in back to Montreal. It was closer and she had reasons to not go back to New York. But Megan considers the apartment she has with Don the home, the life she has worked for. But she locks Don out because he needs a lesson. He breaks the door down with Don chasing her but not in a sinister way but that he desperately wants to be close to her and get her forgiveness. It is not that easy and there is a lot of physicality and chasing around the apartment. They both fall back on white carpet, the same area where they had their sexual conquest in the premiere episode. Don realizes he really screwed up. He made the woman he loves completely frightened, irritated, and angry at him because he has put Megan on a pedestal without thinking of her qualities as a person in the workplace.
They both go to work with neither acting like anything has happened but Bert Cooper tells Don point-blank that he his honeymoon is over and he needs to stop being on ‘love leave’. Don is so in love with Megan he has not really realized what has gone on at work or in the lives of his own co-workers, even Megan herself. Can he return back to the Don Draper of yore in the workplace and make his marriage with Megan work?
None of these three stories has a real ending. Things do end on some level but what will continue for Roger, Don, and Peggy is going to be something very different. Whether it is for their betterment or not, that is what I hope the rest of the this season delves into as we hit the halfway mark.
I know people praised Cooper for his lecture to Don but who was ‘the little girl’? Megan or Peggy? I am not so taken by the tone and distinction of either in that statement.
I know people dive into the differences between Megan and Betty to death but Betty would not have have gone her own way back to New York like that or turned the tables on him in the sherbet scene.
Like other episodes, Megan being off-screen has a bit of anxiety whether it is her absence in Don’s fever dream or her returning home as he looks for her around HoJos.
I questioned whether Don was capable of violence but their fight really tested that theory. He didn’t want to hit her but he certainly came close, fending off her whacking him with a brush, and both of them body-slamming the white carpet largely by his force (whether on purpose or a trip, remains gray). The man is in love but it is not really healthy for their marriage. I want him to give her space, he is figuratively suffocating her and that will only drive her away.
The flashback to ‘Tomorrowland’, shows an idyllic scene of them leaving Disneyland as what Don imagines as ultimate bliss. It was his real-life ‘Carousel’ but he can only have one of those. What happens after this fight if not ending in the dissolution of their marriage will have to be a different kind of happiness.
I am trying to get around to Megan’s whole display after the fight going to work. Has she forgiven him and is she just ‘acting’ so another day can go by after they have somewhat of an understanding?
This should be John Slattery’s Emmy entry episode if for just for him pulling off the pink towel turban.
On one hand, Matthew Weiner completely defends the Don-Megan relationship as true love but on another hand (with the image above) he seems to have these cues for the audience to believe that Don-Megan are going the way of Roger and Jane. Such as these carpet moments (image below):
If people are still skeptical of Megan as a character after this episode, I can only shake my head.
Don gets Gene nothing in Plattsburgh. If that boy ever reaches Sally’s age on the show, I want to know who he will consider to be his father: Don or Henry.
So the actress who played Angela Chase’s mom plays Jane’s shrink. Now if Patty Chase actually dropped acid on the show, I would like her a lot more (if she did it with Rayanne, I would have had a completely different opinion of her character).
I am utterly confused over what month this is, I felt like the flashback meant that this was the one-year anniversary of the Disneyland moment when Don proposes to Megan.
Now Don and Megan seemed to be on the skids of the dominant-submissive relationship. I think Megan is all right with it as foreplay but the rest… no. Boundary issues amok. I feel like the ‘master’ quip by Megan is also poking at the whole I Dream of Jeanie television show that when you look back beyond its very innocent exterior, is a bit disturbing to watch now because of the gender dynamics of that show.
There was no end credits music. I got a feeling all of the musical rights went into Don whistling “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the car flashback and Pet Sounds playing during the LSD trip.
Jane is Jewish. Did this just never come up or did she hide that fact from Roger and his casually anti-semitism?
Obligatory Roger on LSD gif: