‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 4, ‘The Monolith’
“The Monolith” opens with Pete and Bonnie having dinner and discussing vacation plans. Then George Payton, an old friend of Pete’s, comes over. Pete shares that he and Trudy are getting a divorce, and George tells Pete that his (soon-to-be former) father-in-law had a heart attack. Pete seems visibly thrown. But George is now high up in a company that runs a bunch of burger restaurants and suggests that SC&P could possibly rock that account.
Don walks into a seemingly empty office. Everybody is getting together to receive news that SC&P are getting a huge computer, the construction of which will disrupt the office and overtake the old lounge. Everybody’s pissed about it and Ginsberg wants to move the couch from the lounge into the art department’s office. It’s a funny scene when Ginsberg complains that the couch they currently have is “full of farts.”
Meanwhile in L.A., Pete is hooking up a deal with George Payton, and over a conference call the partners conclude that they want Peggy to run the account. I say “the partners,” but Don ain’t involved in the conference call. Don’s name comes up as a possibility, and Lou seems threatened by the possibility of giving Don a chance to shine. God, Lou is such a bonehead, right?
Actor Allan Havey (who plays Lou) even recently told TV Guide about his character, “I’m not defending the guy. He’s a bit of a prick.”
Havey, for what it’s worth, seems like a standup guy. Actually, he quite literally is: Check out this clip of him doing standup comedy. The clip appears to be from the mid-1990s. In the early 1990s he had a massive mane that was trimmed by the time he gave this performance. It’s easier to watch Havey doing comedy when he looks less like Lou. A 2010 Letterman appearance is tough to watch because visually, he’s TOTALLY Lou! And we hate Lou! But below, he’s pretty funny, talking about rain on his furniture.
Anyway, back to “The Monolith.” Roger’s ex-wife Mona (who is played by John Slattery’s real-life wife Talia Balsam) visits SC&P headquarters and delivers word that their daughter Margaret has joined a commune/cult and has been there for 10 days. Margaret’s husband talks about how she left after they tried a marriage encounter that didn’t work.
The art in the background of a lot of shots in this episode is pointedly psychedelic. It’s almost like how in the first season they hit you over the head with the smoking and drinking.
Don seems a little out of place being back in SC&P. We learn that he is now one of three creative directors. Lou, whom he reports to, of course, is also a creative director.
Don talks with Lloyd, the guy heading up the computer installation, and they have a quasi-heady discussion about why people fear computers.
Lou invites Peggy into his office and he asks her to close the door.
“I like to think of myself as a leader, Peggy,” he begins kind of intimidatingly. He then gives her a raise of $100 per week. Great, right? He then puts her on the Burger Chef account and that’s great too, but the kicker is that Don will actually be working for her. It seems to be part of a major make-Don-feel-so-crappy-that-he’ll-definitely-quit initiative.
There’s a power play where Don is called into Peggy’s office, rather than her into his office.
“I have what I think is very good news,” Peggy starts. “I hope you see it that way.”
She asks Don for 25 tags. We watch him quietly seething on the inside. He keeps his composure in front of Peggy but as soon as he gets into his office he throws his typewriter against the window. He storms out of the office. We’re to assume that this is all happening on a Friday because after the weekend he returns to the office and his receptionist gives him a huge intimidating folder of Burger Chef research.
Peggy is nervously awaiting Don’s arrival in her office. He’s playing solitaire in his office and he tells the junior copywriter to relay a message to Pegggy, “I can’t make it.” It’s all really uncomfortable to watch.
Roger and his ex-wife take a drive to retrieve their daughter from the commune as well as their son-in-law from jail. He got in a fight with a bunch of “rednecks at a bar.”
The conversation between Roger and his ex-wife is hilarious.
“She only had one job, and that was to find a husband, and she mucked it up,” she says.
They wonder if their daughter is a drug addict, but Mona says something to the effect of, “but she wouldn’t go live in the country if she was a drug addict. Drug addicts need to live in the city.”
Roger asks her, “Where’d you learn that?”
“Life magazine,” she snaps back.
Lloyd the computer guy comes into Don’s office to bum a light off of him. Don gives him a hard time because he’s so involved in technology, but he can’t even create fire, one of the first things humans discovered.
They have another quasi-philosophical discussion, this time about advertising. Don then comes up with the genius idea that they should start pitching their services to computer companies. He shares the idea with Bert, but Bert is a total a—hole to him.
“You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what went wrong here,” Bert tells him.
Don gets pissed and he swipes a bottle of booze from Roger’s office. It’s another of those “oh no, don’t do it, Don” moments that haven’t seemed to be as frequent lately.
Roger and Mona arrive at the commune. They learn that Margaret’s name is now Marigold. She comes out and hugs them.
“I know why you’re here and I just want to welcome you,” says Margaret/Marigold with a dazed spark in her eyes. “Will you let me show you around, before you start railing against something you don’t understand?”
Mona and Margaret have an argument that gets so intense that Mona storms out off the commune in her car and Marigold/Margaret runs inside.
But in typical Roger Sterling 2.0 fashion, he decides to stick around. “Hey, Marigold,” he yells. “Show me around!”
Then we see Don just waking up from being passed out after draining half of Roger’s bottle. He’s totally gonna get caught, isn’t he? He calls somebody and invites the person to go see the Mets.
Meanwhile Roger is enjoying himself on the commune, peeling potatoes and partaking in a joint that’s being passed around.
“Now I see why we’re eating so early,” he says as he takes a hit.
We see that Don has called Freddie. They’re going to go to the Mets game. But on the way out, it’s another “don’t do it!” moment as Don approaches Lloyd. He says something esoteric like “you talk like a friend, but you’re not.” He’s still way hammered.
Joan and Peggy have a chat about Don being on Peggy’s team.
“He owes me work, and he’s going to the ballgame?” Peggy complains. “So they dropped him in my lap, hoping one of us would fail.”
“Peggy, if it makes you feel better,” says Joan, “they probably didn’t think about it at all.”
Meanwhile Roger is still hanging out with Marigold. This plot is definitely a highlight of this episode. He and his daughter have a sweet heart-to-heart. She tells him how happy she is there and he says, “I know,” and kisses her goodnight. But then some dude beckons Marigold to come get it on with him. The sweet moment is ruined.
Freddie brings Don home instead of to the Mets game. We next see Freddie offering Don coffee in the morning. As a recovering alcoholic, Freddie gives Don a stern talking-to. He asks Don why he’s pulling such a stunt, getting absolutely plastered at work.
“They finally gave me something to do, and it was write 25 tags for Peggy,” he complains.
“Would you rather be in my position, bouncing from office to office?” asks Freddie. “Are you just going to kill yourself and give them what they want?”
In other stern talking-to’s, come the morning Roger tries to take Margaret home once and for all. He appeals to the fact that she’s a mom and her kid needs her, and then Margaret plays her trump card and turns things around on Roger, giving him hell for never being there for her.
Don shows up for work the next morning, and Peggy is ready to confront him.
“I’ll have your tags by lunch,” he tells her.
She’s almost shocked with how easy it was.
And then we end with another killer tune, “On a Carousel” by The Hollies.
“Mad Men” has really been killing it this season with end-of-show tunes. Sure, they started kicking ass in this territory last season or the season before when they sprang for “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles, but this season it’s been a reliable hallmark that a great emblematic tune will take us into the credits. Also, this may have been the second-best episode of the seventh season so far. Lots of “yowch” moments, though not quite as many as the previous episode, which is what I’m holding as the absolute best of the season so far.
Check out the Hollies tune below.