Don Draper stares us down in "The Runaways." Whether or not this was a good episode for you, Don, you still look good. Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
"The Runaways" is the second of three "Mad Men" episodes with titles that begin with "The." Perhaps a trilogy is afoot with "The Field Trip," "The Runaways" and "The Strategy" (that's the title of the next episode btw)?
If there is a pattern, it's not decipherable beyond the whole "The" thing. But hey, a conspiracy theory of any sort is good, right? Just ask Ginsberg! (If you haven't watched this episode, you won't get that joke until way further down in the recap.)
"The Runaways" opens with action upon action upon action. It's lot of boom! boom! boom! In the very first shot, Stan finds a comic book on the copier that Lou has made called, "Scouts Honor."
Meanwhile Don and Peggy have an elevator conversation where Peggy is trying to be nice to him, but feels badly about being a boss of sorts to him now.
Then Ginsberg is pissed about the computer that SC&P has purchased, and he goes on a technophobic rant about a woman who works in the room with the computer. He says to Peggy, "That machine came for us! And one by one..."
Meanwhile, Stephanie Horton calls Don. Who the hell is Stephanie Horton? She's Anna Draper's niece. Remember Anna Draper? She was the original wife of the Don Draper who isn't really Don Draper? OK, I'm going to just assume right now that if you're reading this, you're familiar with "Mad Men" and you know all about Dick Whitman and the pre-war life of the character who is now known as Don Draper. Anyway, Stephanie is this cute hippie chick and she calls Don to tell her that she's pregnant.
Don tells her to go see Megan in L.A., and Don calls Megan to tells her about the situation. He announces that he's coming that weekend. Megan is kind of bummed that she has to cancel a party she was going to be throwing that weekend.
Then the guys in creative are all stoned and busting on the "Scout's Honor" comic and joking about how funny it would be if the title character was the mascot for the Burger Chef campaign they're working on .
Then we see Betty and Henry, getting ready for a Westchester social engagement. Eventually Betty will embarrass Henry by talking about the war.
"First, the kids start out protesting, and then next thing you know, every authority is up for grabs," says Betty.
Henry then says he supports Nixon in hoping the U.S. pulls out of Nam.
Oops. These conflicting political viewpoints between this wedded couple is definitely going to cause some friction. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if Henry wasn't running for office, but he is, and Betty had the wrong party line.
Stephanie goes to see Megan, and the two stand in awkward mutual admiration of each other. Stephanie is kind of going over-the-top with the lingo of the day (hey man, I'm at a flop, far-out, out-of-sight etc.).
Then Stan and the new guy in creative are taking a leak and doing an inside joke about "Scout's Honor," when Lou walks out of the stall.
Oops. They may have been pissing, but Lou is the one who is really pissed. We next see him leading the pitch meeting, and he criticizes Stan for being smug.
Stan's all "Look, I don't know what you think you heard" and Lou comes back with, "I heard everything, from your first fart to your last dying breath."
Yowch. Then Lou launches into a self-agrandizing speech about how they shouldn't make fun of his comic.
"You ever hear of Underdog?" starts Lou, before saying, "'Scout's Honor' is 100 times better."
Everybody in the meeting is snickering at him.
"You're a bunch of flag-burning snots," Lou fires back. "Order dinner, because I want finished work."
It's like grade school, and Don is going to be in detention, not allowed to go to L.A. Don pops into Lou's office to say goodbye for the night. Lou tells him that the jacket and briefcase in the doorway approach is a BS approach.
Don tells him that maybe he's going about managing a team the wrong way, fighting back when they make fun of people.
"I'm not taking management advice from Don Draper," says Lou.
Surprisingly, Don bites the bullet and stays at the office.
He calls Megan to tell her the news that he's stuck in New York. Meanwhile, we're starting to wonder if Stephanie's baby is Don's. Did they hook up? I can't remember. I don't think so, because Don had kind of stopped his rambling ways within the seven months. Sure, there was Mrs. Rosen, but she was the only one, right?
And then praise be the ghost of Lane Pryce, the baby isn't Don's! We learn that her baby-daddy is a musician who got busted dealing grass. Megan gives Stephanie $1,000 and they both agree that it would be best if she'd just leave before Don arrives. Then Stephanie tells Megan that nothing ever happened between she and Don. Whew, thanks for confirming, Stephanie. I didn't want to have to comb the web to figure out whether or not they hooked up.
Jay R. Ferguson may be the most fashionable guy at SC&P. Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
When we come back from a commercial break we see Don slaving away at the typewriter, presumably having missed his flight.
"Ya know what," says Lou, peering into Don's office, "I decided I can see that Monday. Goodnight."
What a dick!
Then Don arrives in California, and he's pissed that Megan let Stephanie leave. This is NOT Don Draper's day.
Meanwhile Ginsberg is freaking out about the computer stuff, and he spies on Lou and Jim Cutler talking privately in the computer room.
Meanwhile in a plot that we probably don't need crammed into this episode, Sally arrives at Betty and Henry's place with a busted up nose. She was sword-fighting with golf clubs!
Betty insists that she be taken to a plastic surgeon in the morning. Sally protests, and Betty says something about how if they don't take her, she'll probably just go to a doctor who isn't legit in some barn or something.
"It's a nosejob, not an abortion," says Sally in one of this episode's few comic moments.
Then we get to the heart of a subplot that tries to be comic, but just isn't. Trying to be comic just might be a theme of this episode. Right? Because Lou is trying to be [a] comic [book illustrator]! Too much of a stretch?
Anyway, so Ginsberg storms into Peggy's house in a bout of paranoia. He is looking for conspiracies, and because he saw Lou and Cutler having a discussion in the air conditioned room where the computer is, he thinks they're gay.
Peggy's upstairs neighbor Julio pops in and it's a reinforcement of how sad Peggy's life has become this season. It's Saturday night, and the little kid from upstairs is there to hang out with her, and the dorky squirt who works with her and lives at his dad's place is there to use her apartment as a workplace because he thinks a computer is out to destroy him.
Peggy, girl you've had a tough Season 7. No Mother's Day card from your lovechild with Pete either, eh? Oh, WE WENT THERE! Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC
Don is at Megan's party, they're cranking Blood, Sweat & Tears and Don looks way out of place in his plaid sport coat. Megan turns off the music and a group of musicians begins to play "Petite Fleur" by Chris Barber. Megan starts dancing with some dude. It's a little bit of a throwback to the famous "Zou Bisou Bisou" episode of season five. Megan just can't sit still when the French music is playing.
Anyway, why don't you listen to this jam while you read the rest of this recap? It's a great tune. Or as Stephanie Horton might say, it's far-out, groovy, out-of-site, man.
All of a sudden, Harry shows up at Megan's party. What the hell is he doing there? He's with a woman who is most definitely not his wife. Don suggests that the two go off to have a drink at a bar.
Back on the East Coast, Bobby Draper has a moment in front of the camera! He wants to talk with sister Sally, and he worries that Betty will divorce Henry.
"I have a stomach ache all the time," he says. It's sad and sweet, and a nice simple way for the writers to acknowledge the way a little boy would describe something so traumatic as domestic difficulty. He makes an effort to crawl into bed with his sister in a cute display of sibling support.
"You're not going to piss, are you?" Sally asks.
"I don't do that anymore."
It's another comic moment. Thank you, Sally Draper! You're the main thing keeping this episode funny. I guess we did need your subplot after all.
And back to a subplot we DON'T need...
Ginsberg explains to Peggy that he thinks the computer is out to make everybody gay!
"It's that hum in the office," he says. "I found myself staring at Stan's shoulders and getting aroused. It's the computer's plan."
Then he starts trying to make out with Peggy because they have to reproduce.
"I am put in a strange position, but I want you to know that I respect you," Harry tells him. I really hate seeing everybody who clearly used to be under Don feel badly about not being under him anymore. It's not pretty.
"I'm not gonna tell your wife," Don assures him.
"I'm going to make sure you're still important," says Harry, continuing in this line of lost respect that almost induces a cringe. "I think the solution is not to get rid of you. You should be in L.A."
But after this "Dude, I totally respect you" display, Harry leaks that Cutler and Lou are pursuing an account with Commander Cigarettes. Don lights up. Not a cigarette, the expression on his face.
But speaking of lighting up, Don comes home from the bar and Megan and her friend are smoking a joint. Megan's friend says to Don, "You know what would make you feel better? Drugs!"
Don seems a little disgusted and announces that he's going to bed.
Suddenly Megan and Amy are trying to entice Don to have a three-way. From "Petite Fleur" to menage-a-trois! Ooh la la!
Megan says to Don, "Kiss her, I know you want to" and he's like, "I don't want anything right now."
But then he's like, "Hmmm, actually, I could go for a little bit of a three-way."
He doesn't actually say that, but he clearly gets into it. Don does seem a little uncomfortable to watch his wife making out with a woman, but he sits back and lets it all happen. If it were Ginsberg, he would insist that it was the computer making them do it!
When we see Don and Megan in the morning it appears that the three-way didn't ruin anything in their relationship. Whew! Then Stephanie calls and tells Don she's back in Oakland, telling him that she left because she didn't want to break her aunt's promise regarding Don.
"I promised Anna I'd let you live your life," she says.
Amy trounces out of the bedroom last in the morning and seems a little embarrassed about the previous night's activities. Oops.
Then we're back with Henry and Betty, which, if we're thinking in terms of fun places to be, is about as far away from a three-way as one can get. Betty is being a little bit crazy.
"I'm tired of everybody telling me to shut up," she says. "I'm not stupid. I speak Italian!"
Oh Betty, Betty, Betty. You speak Italian, but you really are a loose cannon in social situations.
Ginsberg walks into Peggy's office and says he's his old self again.
Then he says, "I wanted to say, in the clear of day, that I have feelings for you."
Peggy rebuffs him, but he gives her a package and she accepts it.
In the box is what he refers to as "the valve" of his nipple.
Amazing how one little letter can make such a difference between awwww and ewwww, eh?
Anyway, Ginsberg went all Pink Floyd "The Wall" and cut off part of his nipple He says he did so to combat the energy that the computer is emanating. Ummm, OK. That makes sense? No, no, it doesn't make any sense at all.
Peggy calmly leaves to summon the proper authorities that Michael Ginsberg has gone absolutely crazy.
Meanwhile Don walks into a meeting and throws Cutler and Lou for a loop by his arrival. It's the meeting for the cigarette company.
"We do have a problem working with a man who cut our throat in the New York Times," says the client, referring to the episode where Don wrote an open letter, criticizing the dangers of smoking.
"If you give us a shot," Don tells the potential clients, "I'll leave the agency."
Whoah. That's an interesting bargaining chip!
Jim is like, "Thanks for saying that, so we don't have to."
Heh. Heh. Jim has always had it out for Don ever since he came on board, hasn't he?
"I just keep thinking what your friends would say if you made me apologize, and forced me into your service," Don suggests. Maybe he'll not leave the agency, but he'll publicly apologize for criticizing cigarettes. Imagine the publicity that could give both SC&P and Commander Cigarettes?!
It's kind of an awesome moment.
Meanwhile Ginsberg is being wheeled away in a gurney. He shouts, "Get out while you can!"
As Don hails a cab he sees Lou and Jim Cutler. Cutler gives him some 'tude.
"You think this is going to save you, don't you?"
And then in yet ANOTHER moment of the producers really nailing it with the end credits song, as Don closes the cab door in Cutler's face, they play "Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line" by Waylon Jennings. Go on, you made it to the end of this recap, give a listen to this killer tune that opens up Waylon's 1968 album, "Only the Greatest."
This episode was almost the greatest. If that damn Ginsberg subplot hadn't wrecked it.