Mad Men, Season 5

Divorce Has Reawakened the Mischievous Boy in Roger Sterling
Talking television.
April 30 2012 12:49 AM

Mad Men, Season 5

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Divorce has reawakened the mischievous boy in Roger Sterling.

120430_MM507_marieRoger

Ron Jaffe/AMC

Dear Julia and John,

Sacre bleu! When I saw that “Adult Content and Situations” warning at the top of the episode, I figured we’d be treated to some hanky-panky before the hour was out. But Sally Draper walking in on her Québécoise step-grandmother (played by Julia Ormond, no less) fellating a freshly divorced Roger Sterling was one of those wildly unpredictable turns that would seem utterly implausible had the chain of preceding events not rendered it kind of inevitable. The peculiar clockwork of Mad Men

Of course I want to dwell on Roger, but I won’t. For now, suffice it to say that his communion with the psychedelic has reawakened the little boy inside him. He really does look like he was born wearing a bow tie, and I loved his wry observation that “I didn’t tie that one, either.”

Advertisement

The real revelation of this episode was Megan’s parents, and their turbulent, stylish, unhappy marriage. I love it when the show delivers a subtle joke before you even have the context to understand it: When we first see Don, he has insisted on carrying the Calvets’ luggage himself, refusing an offer from the doorman in the hopes, we realize later, of making a good impression on Megan’s communist, socialist, Maoist dad. Emile is a confusing case: It’s not entirely clear whether he really is an eminent academic, or a failed one whom everyone flatters by extolling his eminence. But he finds the Draper apartment “decadent,” and he reminds Don, in the best line of the evening, “One day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away.”

The two men in Megan’s life may not share a political philosophy, but they have at least one predilection in common. I loved it when Megan was relating to Don that Emile had telephoned his mistress to unburden himself of his publishing woes, and Don’s response was, essentially, Of course. What could be more natural, when you’re upset, than calling your mistress? (Don was similarly quick to write off the grabby affections of his mother-in-law, noting astutely that “she’s French.”)

But the centerpiece of the episode was Megan’s deft success in saving the Heinz account. I found this whole sequence thrilling, notwithstanding the hokiness of the time-lapse idea itself. But did it strike either of you that Megan’s élan both as a creative and as a clever, manipulative accounts woman ended up being a big deal to everyone but Megan? Sure, she was flush with victory when she and Don got into the taxi after the transubstantiation of Sauternes into Champagne. But when Peggy delivered her (by now characteristically on-the-nose) speech about the satisfaction she takes in watching another woman break the glass ceiling, there seemed to be something ever so slightly dismissive in the way that Megan smiled, conveyed her thanks, and walked away.

“This is as good as this job gets,” Peggy says. “Savor it.” But it’s clear that for Megan, anyway, that may not be enough. Emile scolds her about not doing what she “wants to do.” But what is that? What is the true calling that Megan deferred for a life on Madison Avenue? Acting? Apart from a few stray references—and an explanation, at the end of last season, that she couldn’t hack it in show business because she’s got a mouth full of teeth—that hasn’t seemed like a major preoccupation.

Speaking of poor Peggy, it’s amazing to watch the contrast between the jocular confidence with which she carries herself at work and the tentative, slightly clueless, self-effacing way in which she approaches her social life. Joan is clearly not the person from whom Peggy should be taking cues in navigating the world of men, and I was touched by the way she made peace with her new reality after Abe turned the Champagne back into Sauternes at the Minetta. But then there was that terrible moment, after the ham dinner, when her mother delivers her account of the desolate hell of a life with cats, and Peggy says, choking back tears, “You want me to be alone?”  In that moment, Peggy seems to concede that Abe might be just “using her for practice,” that this relationship doesn’t have real legs. Maybe she’s not that wild about Abe. But she’s settling, because this—this scenario, this guy—is the best that she thinks she’s going to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Roger, but he can’t have all the fun.

Favorite detail of the evening, apart from the fact that Ed Baxter was played by the guy who killed Laura Palmer: Everyone at the American Cancer Society dinner was smoking!

They make beautiful dishes, glassware, napalm …

Patrick

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.