‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 1, ‘Time Zones’

Don Draper is flying high is this new teaser for the seventh and final season of 'Mad Men'/Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Don Draper is flying high is this new teaser for the seventh and final season of ‘Mad Men’/Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The Season 7 premiere of “Mad Men” opens up on Freddie Rumsen delivering a pitch to Peggy. Before we go any further, let’s all agree that if you knew Freddie in real life, you’d NEVER be able to dissociate him from when he pissed his pants.

And it says something about the strength of the writing that I don’t even know him personally, but it’s still the first thing I think of.

Anyway, back to “Time Zones,” Freddie’s pitch, for a watch called Accutron, is perfect, but with the roles reversed and Peggy in more of a “driver’s seat” position at Sterling Cooper & Partners (that’s what it’s called now, right?), she seems to feel compelled to offer some critique.

We learn that Freddie is freelancing for SC&P.

We then get a glimpse of the further far-out-ification of Roger Sterling. At the same time of day that clean-and-sober Freddie is hustling and working hard for the company, the head of said company is sleeping off some MAJOR revelry. Yes, Roger Sterling tried acid two seasons ago, which led him to further investigate the trappings of his time, and as we see sleeping nude bodies and beer cans and guitars strewn across the floor, we learn that he’s trying out free love as well, and had partaken in what appears to have been a pretty wild orgy the night before.

“I feel like we really got somewhere last night,” some hot young thang tells him. We’ve seen this girl before, right? Let’s just call her Roger’s girlfriend for now. Obviously they’re not exclusive, but ya know, it’s 1969!

A ringing phone has disrupted this calm morning-after scene. It’s Roger’s daughter, wanting to get together with him for brunch.

Back at the office, Peggy and her team shuffle into the office of a new manager at SC&P named Lou. He’s mildly racist and wildly arrogant. His jokes are bad. Peggy takes Freddie’s pitch to Lou, but Lou is like, “Um, we moved on from that one last week. Get with the program!”

In the next scene, Joan is introduced, of course in a long, comically leering slow-mo, walking up the stairs to Ken Cosgrove’s office. Ken is still sporting the eyepatch and he’s pissed. He’s saying he has no help. He doesn’t want to meet from the representative of Butler Footwear because he’d rather send an underling, but he has none. He won’t look important without an underling.

He requests a buttered roll from Clara, who is played by the weird long-necked girl from that Verizon commercial a few years ago. You know who I’m talking about, right? Yes, you do! See? Alexandra Ella! That’s her name!

Anyway, we’re back with Lou, who tells Peggy, “I think you’re putting me in a position to say, ‘I don’t care what you think,’” after she suggests a line for the Accutron ad.

We’re eight minutes into the show before we see Don Draper. He’s using an electric razor in an airplane bathroom against the sounds of the Spencer Davis Group doing “I’m a Man.” Megan, looking as hot as ever picks him up at the airport in a sporty little convertible. Is it an MG? An Austin-Healey? When Don opens the passenger side door for Megan to get in (gentleman that he is) she says she’s not able to move the seat. She’ll have to drive. The times, they are a-changin’, Don!

Peggy watches as Ted returns from the new California office. She’s pissed (obviously, the dude said he was going to leave his wife for her, but then he wussed out). Jim Cutler visits with Ted and drops more than a few hints of where we are in history. He says it’s January and says “come to the inauguration with me.” So basically, it’s definitely the beginning of 1969.

Don and Megan have a dinner with a Hollywood type named Alan Silver. He’s her agent? He tells Megan she’s had a callback for a role on an NBC show called “Bracken’s World.” I had never heard of this show, so of course I googled it. But what’s so awesome is how they MUST have realized how much Jessica Paré looked like the lead, pictured below in the google result pic.

Woah, this must be the girl who beat out Megan Draper!

Joan meets with Wayne Barnes for Ken and her charms don’t work on him. People’s charms failing them may be a theme for season 7 of “Mad Men.” Anyway, Barnes tells Joan that the shoe company is going to take their adverting in-house.

“They pay me to think about the four P’s: price, product, placement and promotion,” Barnes tells Joan of his job.

We should probably take this moment to answer your “WHERE HAVE I SEEN THAT GUY BEFORE?” question. He’s the son on “Cougar Town”! The makers of “Mad Men” are really good at remaking actors and actresses you knew for playing kids and making them into hot adults. They did an amazing job with Alexis Bledel from “Gilmore Girls” on season five, last year with Linda Cardellini, and a commendable job later in this very episode with Neve Campbell.

More on Neve later though. Back in L.A., where Don is visiting with Megan, we learn that he hasn’t even told her that he doesn’t have job anymore. She lives in the canyon, and he’s concerned for her. She doesn’t want to get busy with Don because she’s too drunk. Don watches late night TV on a tiny television set. He’ll later order Megan a huge TV set, much to Megan’s chagrin.

“How’s it going to look, Don? Everybody here is starving,” she says.

Don meets up with Pete, who is so very California.

“The New Yorkers here brought as much as we need,” he tells Don, but the bagels are terrible.

“I love the vibrations,” he says and Don makes fun of him for talking like a hippie.

Pete also complains that Ted isn’t really taking to California.

Pete introduces Don to realtor Bonnie Whiteside, who we only mention because we’ll probably see more of her. She hands Don a card and Pete tells her not to get excited because “she turns it on for everyone.”

When Don puts the moves on Megan later that night, she’s not into it. She says she feels nervous “about everything.”

But they wake up nude, so they must have figured out a way for her to be nervous about less than everything. Then the viewer gets to see some serious side-boob from Megan.

Back in New York, Peggy has an awkward encounter with Ted. Then she goes home and has an argument with the son of her tenant. Life is not going too well for Peggy.

Joan meets up with a professor at a university, so she can get advice on how to get Butler Footwear to stick with SC&P.

Roger finally meets with his daughter. He’s afraid she’s going to ambush him with some sort of news or question.

She tells him, “I forgive you.”

And he’s not having any of it. He’s like, “I forgive you too,” and then is like “You want me to say I’m sorry?”

He asks her if she’s going to church and she says, “Not in any way you’d understand.”

When Roger comes home, his girlfriend is in bed. There’s another dude in the bed with her, asleep. Roger asks her to move him over. It’s pretty hilarious. This is his life now: multiple bed partners.

Then we see the aforementioned sexy adult woman Neve Campbell, sitting next to Don on the red eye from L.A. to New York. They obviously get cozy. Her character is listed as Lee Cabot, but it’s just so great to see her again that we’re going to call her Neve Campbell here. If she’s a recurring character, we’ll refer to her by her character’s name next time, we promise. Anyway, Neve Campbell shares that she has just scattered her late husband’s ashes in Disneyland. She hints at the fact that the husband had a huge drinking problem and died at 50. Don sees a little bit of himself in her story. He touches her face. The whole viewership collectively says, “Ugh, Don! No, don’t do it!”

Neve rests on Don’s chest on the plane, and supposes that his wife wouldn’t like this.

“She knows I’m a terrible husband,” he says.

“There’s a car waiting for me,” she offers, provocatively.

And then Don does the unthinkable. He takes the high(ish) road and tells her that he has to go to work. Hell hath no fury like a Neve Campbell scorned and she takes her head off of his chest.

But wait, Don doesn’t have a job anymore, what kind of work is he talking about? Hang onto that thought!

Peggy tries to pitch the watch campaign to Lou again, and Lou totally burns her.

“I don’t know, Peggy,” he says. “I guess I’m immune to your charms.”

BURN!

You know who wasn’t immune to her charms? Ted! And look what that got him!

Joan then has a conversation with Wayne from the shoe company and burns him.

“You think you can go into a newspaper or a network and get the same space we get when we deal with them EVERY DAY with 30 clients?”

The episode ties up nicely with Freddie visiting Don, who is watching the Nixon inauguration. That pitch at the beginning of the episode? It was Don’s, of course. He’s hooking Freddie up with pitches! That’s the work that Don had to get back to!

Freddie tells Don that Peggy loved it, but she couldn’t help but “lift her leg” on it.

Freddie then tells Don to get back to work because, “You don’t want to be damaged goods.”

Read: “You don’t want to have people think about how you pissed your pants every time they think of you.”

In summary: This episode is kind of a pisser. Poor Peggy is having a tough go of it, Don is living a lie again and the episode ends with the Vanilla Fudge version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” But we’ll hang on for next week, even if this year really is heading into a big bummer.



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