Just about every Mad Men episode has some sort of defining, shocking event take place, and this episode…puts all the others to shame. Buckle up, kids—we’re in for quite a ride.
Megan and Don ride up in the office elevator, where a very friendly former fling, Andrea, comes onto Don before we awkwardly introduces her to his wife. Megan is not too thrilled, and apparently surprised that New York City is teeming with women that Don has slept with. Don shows sign of a bad cough—I’m calling it now, I bet you anything Don gets lung cancer before the end of the series and tells no one.
In the copywriting office, Peggy’s friend Joyce stops by with some graphic crime scene pictures of the recent Chicago Student Nurses Massacre, where 8 women were raped and killed, while one survived by hiding under a dorm bed. Peggy, Stan, and Megan all eagerly view the pictures, but Michael’s disgusted that they’re entertained by such a morbid subject.
Megan runs into Don in the break room and tells him to just go home sick. Don apologizes for the run-in that morning, reminding her that Andrea was just a rando from when he was divorced. Megan in turn reminds him that he’s not divorced anymore, “And that kind of careless appetite—you can’t blame that on Betty.” Ouch. (But true)
Joan and her mother, Gail, welcome home Greg on his first furlough back from Vietnam, and Greg gets to see new son, Kevin, for the first time. Greg’s all smiles and congeniality, but I can’t help thinking—why is this scumbag still around?? I think all Mad Men viewers can agree that he is the WORST. Nobody is awful to my favorite character and gets away with it.
Sally and Pauline sit together at the kitchen table while Pauline reads about the Chicago Massacre in the newspaper. Sally asks about it, but Pauline tells her it’s not for children and not to ask about it and to eat her tuna sandwich. Sally is clearly not used to being spoken to by a true adult, as opposed to juvenile Betty.
Greg and Joan’s reunited bliss of course doesn’t last long, and Greg breaks the news to Joan that he’s going back to Vietnam for another full year instead of the previously agreed to 40 days, and Joan is not happy.
Michael pitches a shoe campaign to their Topaz client, and they seal the deal. At the last minute, he pitches a Cinderella angle and the clients love it. Don gets mad that he went off-script, and Michael barely keeps a hold of his job. Don calls Megan, and she orders Don to go to bed and rest to help his cough. Don gets home and passes out on the bed.
Pete asks Roger about a Mohawk pitch, and Roger lies and assures him he’s got it taken care of. He has apparently completely forgotten to have Michael write up some copy and runs into the copywriting office to find him. Michael’s not there, so Roger gets Peggy to do it and hands her a little cash for her trouble. Peggy demands as much cash as he’s got on him—$400—to do it, and slyly agrees. Peggy ain’t letting NO one walk all over her.
The doorbell wakes Don up at his apartment, and he finds Andrea waiting at the door. How on earth did she find his new apartment?? Don demands she get out and makes her go down the service elevator so she doesn’t chance running into Megan on the way out.
Sally watches some TV, where a Mystery Date board game commercial comes on, and Pauline talks not so discreetly on the phone to someone about the Chicago Massacre. Sally again tries to get Pauline to tell her about the murders, but Pauline refuses. Pauline thinks she needs more discipline—I think this whole episode is hinting at a soon-emerging rebellious Sally, and I can’t. wait.
Greg and Joan go out to eat with her mother and his parents. Greg’s mother can’t keep it together for long and starts to complain that Greg is going back to Vietnam. Joan initially defends him, until Greg’s mother drops the bomb that it was Greg’s choice to go back. An accordion player comes by to play for them, and Joan’s mother, Gail, comments that Joan knows how to play accordion—reminding me of the season 3 episode in which Joan had to play accordion for some dinner guests to change topic off of another important event in Greg’s life he hadn’t told her about.
Peggy’s working late at the office, and with the whole nation talking about the Chicago Massacre, she starts to freak out when hears a noise. Instead of a mass murderer, she just finds Dawn staying in an office and Peggy invites her to come stay with her. Dawn and Peggy get to know each other over some beers in Peggy’s apartment, and Dawn says she hopes Peggy won’t tell Don about her staying at the office. Peggy confesses she’s worried she acts like a man sometimes—probably referring to her hard bargaining with Roger—saying she tries to sometimes, but doesn’t think she truly has it in her.
Don wakes up to Andrea stroking his face. He asks why she can’t just leave him alone, and she tells him, “I can’t,”—representing everything from his past and from himself he continually tries to hide from, and can’t. Andrea convinces him to sleep with her, thus incurring Don’s inevitable first affair during his second marriage.
Sally found the newspaper Pauline was reading about the murders and reads it under her covers. Naturally, the stories scare her and she can’t fall asleep. She finds Pauline still awake, on duty in the living room with a butcher knife. Sally confesses she read about the murders and asks why someone would do that. Pauline recounts the story much more creepily than necessary, and probably has honestly only further traumatized Sally. Sally’s afraid she’ll never fall asleep, so the two share a sleeping pill. Betty and Henry come home the next morning to find Pauline asleep on the couch with the butcher knife and Sally asleep under the couch.
Joan and Greg get home from dinner and Joan locks herself in her room, furious at Greg for making this decision without her, and for making that choice in general. They yell and fight until Greg leaves. Gail tries to advise Joan on the life of a military wife, assuring her that they can get by for another year and Gail will still be there to help her raise Kevin. Joan just coldly says no.
Back in Don’s apartment, Don sees Andrea getting ready to leave and tells her this was a mistake and he better not see her again. She coyly insists there will be a next time. “You loved it, and you’ll love it again, because you are a sick, sick—” and before she can finish her sentence DON STRANGLES HER. You cannot imaging how wide my mouth was gaping at this point. Don holds her to the ground and chokes her until the life finally leaves her body. He hastily kicks the body under the bed (eerily in reference to the sole survivor of the Chicago massacre) and shakily goes back to sleep, whereas I will probably never recover from the shock I just received; but also a main character committing a murder was probably just a matter of time on this show.
Megan comes in to wake Don up. He frantically looks down, and there’s no body. Don asks where she was last night, and Megan says she came straight home after he did and was in bed with him all night while he slept. Don was asleep or really out of it. IT WAS ALL A FEVER DREAM—the cheating, the killing, everything. Honestly, my heart can’t take shocks of that magnitude so close together.
Joan walks out in the morning to see Gail and Greg are calmly eating breakfast, as if nothing has happened. Joan tells Greg she decided she wants him to go. Greg brightens up and takes her hand, saying he’s glad she finally came around, and Joan replies cooly, “No. I want you to go and never come back.” YES! FINALLY that atrocious man gets what he deserves. I was literally fist-pumping at this point, watching what happens. Greg makes a last ditch effort to try and convince her that they don’t have to take such drastic measures. He tells her the army makes him feel like a good man, and Joan replies, ”You’re not a good man. You never were. Even before we were married, and you know what I’m talking about.” OH, YOU TELL HIM, GIRL!! (referring to the season 2 incident where he raped her while they were engaged). Greg grabs his stuff and leaves. I wish Joan would’ve ended her speech with, “P.S. the baby’s Roger’s so SEE YAAAAAA” but this transpiring of events will certainly suffice. The episode closes with Gail, Kevin, and Joan all together in bed, where Joan has stayed up all night while the other two slept. The credits roll with “He Hit Me” by The Crystals playing hauntingly in the background, “He hit me, and it felt like a kiss…”
At first I didn’t understand using “Mystery Date” as the episode title, but then I realized this episode was all about unexpected encounters—Don running into Andrea, Peggy bonding with Dawn, Sally and Pauline teaming up to guard the house, and, most gruesomely, the killer showing up at the dorm rooms of the Chicago student nurses.
Watch new episodes of Mad Men on Sundays on AMC at 10/9c. Next week’s episode on April 8 is a new episode entitled “Mystery Date.”
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