At last, it's an episode of "Mad Men" with some real bite! The number of times you might say "Yowch" out loud during "Field Trip" is in the double digits!
The episode opens with Don doing his daily routine of trying to keep from being bored. After watching an afternoon movie, he calls the office and tries to get Dawn to do his chores for him, which includes bringing him some typewriter tape, but Dawn is so swamped that she doesn’t have time to come over right away. She doesn’t even have time to patch through a call from Megan’s agent.
Don calls Megan's agent himself and learns that Megan has been acting a little cuckoo in La La Land, even interrupting a casting agent’s lunch with Rod Serling. So Don does what any unemployed executive who is still on the payroll but whose wife doesn’t know he doesn’t work anymore would do: He hops on a cross-country flight to surprise the aforementioned oblivious wife.
Lou asks Peggy, “Who put a knot in your pantyhose?” during a meeting. Peggy’s frustration with Lou (and with life in general) continues as she finds out she wasn’t even considered for a Cleo award.
When Don arrives in L.A., Megan greets her erstwhile husband with what she calls “an extra-special hankering.” That means sex, people!
After getting busy, Don admits that the reason he came all that way was because he was worried about how Megan was handling rejection in Hollywood, and Megan gets pissed at him. The argument escalates, and she asks why Don is never actually answering his line at the office, and why when he calls back it's always quiet and there are no typewriters buzzing.
“I was your secretary,” says Megan, “I know what you’re like when you’re left alone.”
Don finally admits to her that he’s on leave. And he also admits that he’s been on leave since right after Megan left for Hollywood.
When she accuses him of philandering, he says, “There is no one else. I’ve been good. I haven’t even been drinking that much.” She fires back with, “So, with a clear head, you got up every morning and decided that you didn’t want to be with me?”
And then Megan tells Don, “I’m not walking out of my own house, so that means you have to leave.”
With that, Megan sends her husband home, crowning the kiss-off with, “This is the way it ends. It’s going to be so much easier for both of us.”
Don looks honestly devastated. He’s never been handed something like this before.
Hey, then it’s good ol' Betty! She’s having lunch with a travel agent friend that we may or may not have seen before. She works for Wanderlust Travel. Basically, the friend is saying how she doesn't feel needed in the house anymore now that the kids are older. When we next see Betty, she tells her son that she’s going to chaperone his field trip. And hey, there’s the root of this episode’s title! Betty wants to feel needed by her kids.
And then, hey, it’s Harry! We haven’t seen him at all this season either. Jim has requested his presence in a meeting. He’s talking about how Gray Advertising agency has computers to analyze advertising statistics, but Harry insists that the people at SC&P are more effective, and he alludes to their own computer to analyze data.
Jim is at odds with Harry because of this whole computer thing. Harry has been asking for one for a long time, but the partners don't even notice his request. But with the way that Harry had spoken about SC&P's "computer," he thinks that the company actually has one. But Harry was just kind of BSing. Jim then calls Harry the most dishonest man he’s ever worked with. Yowch!
Then Don is home. He tells Dave and the guys from Green that he’s done dancing around and takes another meeting with them. Why are all of the rival agencies just named after colors? At the meeting — at a hotel restaurant — a woman named Emily Arnett comes up to Don and is super flirty. Don thinks the guys from Green are offering him a hooker to join their agency.
Then we see him knocking on a door. The audience collectively says, “Oh no! Don't do it, Don!” But then we see that he’s visiting Roger Sterling. Whew.
The exchange between Don and Roger is funny. "How do you sleep at night?" Roger asks, at which Don gets in his face and says, “I guess you don’t remember I started that company. I had to talk you into it!” Roger fires back in an angry voice, “You want to come back, come back. I miss ya.”
Roger's way-too-young hippie girlfriend Sherry arrives. Don excuses himself.
“Come in Monday,” says Roger, and they shake hands.
Then Don calls Megan and lays it all out.
“I shouldn’t have lied to you. I’m sorry. … I can see now that I wasn’t thinking clearly and I had this logic to what I did, and hopefully now things can be the way I want them to be. Because I’m going back to the agency.”
It's typical Don BS, and Megan isn't having any of it.
“I can’t believe after all this time that you don’t know me,” she says, and then, “I’m your wife. Stop pushing me away with both hands." The writing here is kinda like the soap operas Megan's auditioning for and getting turned down.
Don offers to come back out and Megan says, “Not now. It’s not a good idea.”
This is kind of a theme for this episode. We hear "Not now. It's not a good idea" from many of the characters.
The entire next act is Don coming back into the office and feeling awkward, and everybody’s kinda freaked out. Joan is pleasant to him, but then marches up to Bert's office and is like, "DUDE?!! WTF?!" But, of course, she says it in a more 1960s way.
The next act intersperses Betty on a field trip to a farm and Don being awkward at the office, and it’s an interesting study of who feels more out of place.
Betty pals around with another chaperone, who makes fun of the teacher/farmer’s daughter. She jokes that the children might milk the wrong utters, as the teacher isn’t wearing a bra. Yowch!
Don continues to feel awkward as Lou berates the creative team for slacking off. Peggy is distracted and seems angry that Don is in the office.
Back at the farm, Betty is the first to try the milk from the cows. Awww.
Roger finally shows up at the office and Don gives him a hard time for drinking at his lunch meeting and not telling anybody that Don was to return today. Meanwhile Lou freaks out to Jim about having a two-year contract and how he's not going to just quietly fade away now that Don is back. And Jim tells Lou not to worry, because they’re going to ask Don to leave. Lou advises Jim to call security. It's hard to believe that we haven't yet taken a moment to congratulate actor Allan Havey on how horrible of a person he makes Lou Avery into. The guy is just so despicable with his "nice" facade that he doesn't even bother to make into a deep facade. If you say the wrong word to Lou, this sweet old-fashioned guy will turn into the biggest jerk on the planet.
At the farm again, Bobby has traded Betty’s sandwich for a classmate’s gumdrops. Betty is characteristically pissed.
Roger meets with the rest of the partners about Don. It seems that Roger is the only one who is ready to forgive him.
"He came to me in remorse and said he’s ready to come back," reports Roger.
"Unfortunately, we fired him," says Jim.
Roger corrects him that it was a leave of absence.
“The leave of absence was a very clear message,” says Joan.
In this fiery meeting we also learn that SC&P Lou didn’t submit to the Cleo Awards "anything he didn’t tag his name on." Damn you, Lou Avery!
Things get heated as we learn that to actually get rid of Don, they would have to buy him out as a partner, which would mean they'd be losing money all the way into 1973. Yowch!
Back at Betty’s house, she complains to her husband about Bobby being a dick on the field trip. Then she goes to give the littlest kid a bath.
When her husband asks Betty what went down on the field trip, she says of her son: “It was a perfect day, and he ruined it." Yowch! This is vintage Betty, like we're talking shooting-the-neighbor's-birds Betty, and it's actually great to see this horrible person again.
Don is still downstairs at SC&P. Peggy comes up to him and asks, “How was your day?”
“It remains to be seen,” he says.
“Well, I can’t say that we miss you,” says Peggy so coldly. Yowch! Either Elisabeth Moss is hating playing this broken/evil Peggy this season or she is totally delighting in it. It's hard as a viewer, though, because Peggy was once such a bright, promising character. But it's like she's already on the bummer part of 1969 and Woodstock hasn't even happened. She's already having the Altamont part of the year but it's only February or March.
The partners finally want to see Don in the conference room.
"There are some stipulations," says Bert, about the conditions of Don being invited back.
"Violation of which will result in termination," continues Joan.
"Outside of client hospitality, there will be no drinking in the office," says somebody. I forget which one of the partners says this. The way the scene is written it's like a Beastie Boys rap, where one person picks up what the next person is about to say and forms a cohesive sentence.
But the kicker is when Jim tells Don the ultimate kiss-off stipulation: "And you will report to Lou." Yowch! Yowch! Yowch!
But Don gives that awesome Don Draper look of "you've gotta be kidding me," and when he opens his mouth to speak he says the most surprising thing we've ever heard Don Draper say in seven seasons of "Mad Men." He says, “OK.”
Cue Jimi Hendrix Experience doing "If 6 Was 9," and you've got yourself one badass episode of "Mad Men" with a whole bunch of malice and twists and the ugliness of 1969.