Friday, May 16, 2014

Mad Men Episode 7-4: The Runaways

The first focus of this episode is the Creative group, a younger generation plus Don, headed by old-guy Lou Avery. Stan discovers a cartoon by Lou that Shirley had photocopied for him and accidentally left on the photocopier. Stan, himself an artist, looks it over and chuckles. The cartoon is called “Scout’s Honor” and features a monkey dressed in a quasi-military outfit. When Shirley enters the Creative office and is told she left the cartoon file in the photocopy room, she first denies it, then says “I’m sure he’d prefer you hadn’t seen this.” Later she announces, “No one has seen this,” to which the young men say, “Scout’s honor” and laugh. In 1960s America, people often used to say, “Scout’s honor” when asked if they would keep a promise, referring to the idea that a Boy Scout is honorable and so always keeps his promises.

When Don gets to work, the guys tell him about the “saucy little retard named Scout” and show him the comic strip. Stan says Lou thinks he’s Mort Walker (the newspaper cartoonist who created the famous Beetle Bailey comic strip as well as Hi and Lois). Don laughs when he sees Lou’s cartoon, but later he acts sternly towards the group and leaves the room. Someone comments, “Don’s still part of the faculty.”

In a later scene, Stan and Mathis are standing in the men’s room peeing and making a joke about Scout’s Honor. The joke goes:

“You can’t have her.”
“But I want her. Why can’t I have her?”
“Because Scout’s honor [on her].”

A toilet flushes and Lou walks out of a stall realizing that the Creatives have seen his comic strip and are laughing at it.  They all exit the men’s room and file into Lou’s office for a department meeting. Lou calls on Don, who says Stan has some preliminary work. Lou says, “Stan, can you be smug from over there?...I heard everything from your first fart to the last…(whatever)” which causes a lot of giggling in the room. Lou then says, “Peggy, have you ever heard of Underdog?” Peggy says, “The cartoon?” Lou says they made a lot of money and claims that his Scout’s Honor comic strip idea is 100 times better. Lou then cites Bob Dylan as a young man who had a “ridiculous dream” that turned into wild success, as if Lou is comparable to Bob Dylan. He also tells his group that Bob Dylan hit it big at a young age, as if the Creatives are a bunch of losers for not doing so. Lou says, “You’re a bunch of flag-burning snots…You’ve got a thing to learn about patriotism” (as if Scout were a patriotic symbol and anyone who laughs at it must be unpatriotic). For punishment, Lou demands that the entire Creative department stay late until they produce acceptable work. When Don approaches Lou and says he has to leave, Lou refuses to allow it, forcing Don to cancel or postpone his flight to California. Don tells Lou that theirs is an office full of people who buck authority, and advises him to not help them by leaving his cartoon out for others to find. Lou’s dismissive response is: “I’m not taking management advice from you.” Later, after Don has cancelled his flight that evening, Lou walks by Don’s office and says, “I decided I can see that on Monday.”

Although Peggy’s first scene is with Don, her story in this episode is mostly intertwined with Michael’s story. Peggy first rides in the up-elevator with Don in the morning to get to the office. After greeting each other and chatting awkwardly, Peggy tells Don she received his request to work on Handi Wrap and gained permission from Lou to have Don on her team. She lets him know that she’s in charge, and Don agrees.

Meanwhile, Michael has his first emotional outburst at the office while looking at the office computer. Although few people are there to witness it, Michael yells from a distance at the woman sitting at the computer: “I’m not interested in her. She belongs to ‘it.’ It came for us one by one.”

Later on, we see Michael working alone at the office over the weekend. Bothered by the sound of the computer, he stuffs tissues in his ears. When he walks from his office out into the hallway, tissues hanging comically far out of his ears, he is shocked and frightened to see Lou and Jim standing near the computer, talking to each other. They are behind a glass wall, so all Michael can do is try to read their lips. (This is probably an allusion to the scene in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey in which HAL the computer sees the two astronauts talking at a distance and reads their lips, only to learn that they are plotting to dismantle him.) Michael ducks behind a desk and watches them, then sneaks back to his office without being detected.

We next see Michael knocking on Peggy’s door at her home, and a Tracy/Hepburn-esque scene ensues. Michael scolds Peggy for letting him in without peeking through the peep hole to see who it was, especially considering that the building’s front door isn’t locked and it’s a dangerous neighborhood. Peggy greets him with “What are you doing here?” and “It’s Saturday. Go home.” Michael replies, “That’s right, so why are Cutler and Lou having a secret meeting at the office?” Michael then claims that the computer has made the men into “homos” (homosexuals). Peggy laughs it off.

Just then, Julio knocks on the door and Peggy lets him in. Michael greets him with, “Who are you?” Peggy explains that Julio lives upstairs, to which Michael comments: “Interesting arrangement. Very modern.” Julio says, “I live with my mama” and Michael replies, “I live with my pop.”

Michael then asks Peggy if she will allow him to work at her apartment, since he can’t work at the office due to his fears and suspicions about the computer. The request is green-lit and he settles in behind Peggy’s typewriter as Julio and Peggy settle in on the couch to watch TV together, with Peggy presumably the babysitter.

Time passes, and we see Michael sitting next to Peggy, watching her as she’s asleep sitting on the couch. Peggy wakes up and Michael explains that Julio left an hour earlier. Michael begins to tell Peggy some extremely exaggerated things about the office computer, somehow mentioning a hydrogen bomb in the process, and states that he caught himself looking at Stan’s shoulders because the computer is turning everyone into homos. With a good sense of humor, Peggy says, “Really?” But then Michael is overcome and yells, “We’ve got to reproduce! If I could figure out how to do this without having sex, I would.” He grabs Peggy and starts to kiss her. She immediately struggles and yells, “Time to go. …Stop it! …You have to leave…because you’re not right!” (meaning he’s mentally off-balance). Michael defends his position with: “It’s not my imagination” and Peggy counters, “We have to get you to a doctor.” Michael then gets up to leave, and as he walks out the door, he says, “You don’t have to report this information,” as if he thinks someone is keeping tabs of his personal life.

Back at work on Monday, Michael comes to Peggy’s office and tells her that he’s all right again. She listens to him as he tells her he has feelings for her, and then replies diplomatically that this phenomenon is natural in their work environment, but that she doesn’t feel the same towards him. Michael then presents her with a small gift box, and when she opens it she sees a bloody piece of skin that Michael tells her is his nipple, which he cut off for her. “Anyway, I’m grateful so I wanted to show it” he explains. He also muses: “Funny – they’ll sew it back on, but they won’t take it off.” Terrified, Peggy tells Michael to sit down and wait, and he does so very calmly. She walks out to make a phone call from a secretary’s desk and reaches an emergency service. At the hospital, we see Michael strapped to a gurney being wheeled away and yelling, “Get out while you can!” Peggy is standing by, crying rather deeply.

The story at the Francis mansion begins with Henry and Betty discussing an upcoming progressive dinner party. Betty says she prefers to go first by serving the appetizers (rumaki on toast points and little franks with barbecue sauce were fancy fare at the time) because “I can only pretend so long we’re just regular neighbors.” At the party, we see Betty and Henry conversing with another couple, and the discussion turns to local vandalism: “It’s just kids being kids.” The wife of the other couple says she doesn’t expect it in their neighborhood, and her husband says, “I know everyone wants to talk about Vietnam, but we have problems here, too.” This sparks Betty’s thinking, and she says the war protesters and vandalism may be related. If the teens had discipline, they wouldn’t vandalize and they would have the morale to win the war. Hearing this, Henry steps in and states that he agrees with Nixon: the war is too costly and it’s time to get out. These statements are unsettling to the group and the wife of the other couple quickly makes an excuse to leave.

At home after the party, Henry and Betty argue. Henry yells: “I didn’t appreciate going stag to four houses!” Betty replies that she didn’t feel well. Henry also complains about what Betty said about the war, and he tells her he wants her to keep quiet. This angers Betty. Meanwhile, Bobby is on the other side of the door, listening to their argument.

Next we see Betty answering the phone and receiving worrisome news about Sally. Henry then picks up Sally and brings her home with a large cut across her face. Unsympathetic and impatient, Betty demands to know what happened. Sally explains that someone hit her with a golf club, and admits “We’re idiots.”  Betty scolds her about how important her face is, and Sally derides Betty for her perfect nose, saying, “Where would Mom be without a perfect nose?” She says Betty’s face is the only reason she is where she is (married to a wealthy, important man). Henry tries to stop the argument but is unable. Sally says sarcastically, “It’s a nose job, not an abortion.” Betty says, “I’m going to break your arm next time! Now go to your room.” And Sally replies, “Good. I prefer it.”

That night we see Bobby enter Sally’s room to talk to her. Bobby asks whether Betty and Henry are going to get divorced, and Sally says no. Bobby tells her he has a stomach ache all the time.  Sally says she plans to hitch-hike back to school that night, and Bobby asks to go with her. She says they would never let him out because he’s too little.

The next day we see Betty sitting in her kitchen. Henry enters and Betty asks how it went. Henry says in an optimistic tone that Sally doesn’t need an operation. Henry then tells Betty to get up so they can sit outside. “I don’t want to sit in the kitchen like the help” he asserts. This angers Betty, and she insists “I’m comfortable here. Just because you feel like moving….” Also, “I’m tired of people telling me to shut up. I’m not stupid. I speak Italian….I think all by myself.” Henry replies: “If you’re so smart, why don’t you run for office?” as if that proves he’s much smarter than she is.

Finally, there’s Don’s story. After getting off the elevator and sitting down in his office to get to work, Don receives a collect phone call from Stephanie Horton, Anna Draper’s niece, who tells the phone operator that she’s Don’s niece. Stephanie tells Don it’s not an emergency, but it turns out to be something of an emergency because she’s in Los Angeles, seven months pregnant and running out of money. Don instructs her to get to Megan’s house in Laurel Canyon. Next, Don phones Megan and “Amy from Delaware” answers. Don asks for Megan and explains to her that Stephanie is coming. He tells Megan he’ll fly out that night. Megan says she’s planning a party for her acting class, but she can cancel it, or Don can come to the party.

Soon Stephanie arrives at Megan’s place. Megan remarks that Stephanie is so beautiful, and Stephanie comments that Megan is so magnetic. Megan offers to fix some food for Stephanie and then she can go and take a shower. Stephanie responds, “Is it that bad?” She then asks to eat meat since she hasn’t eaten meat in a long time. Megan offers to make a steak for her and tells her to go to the bedroom and lie down.

When Don finds out from Lou that he won’t be able to make his flight to LA that night, he calls Megan to let her know. Megan is visibly disappointed and tries to refocus on taking care of Stephanie. Megan comments to Stephanie that she wishes she’d met Anna, Stephanie’s aunt. Stephanie replies that Anna is around and is glad her ring (now worn by Megan) is in the family. Stephanie says she thinks Megan and Don will probably have children of their own to pass the ring on. Megan, however, says “Don’s kids are plenty for me.” Then Stephanie talks about the man who made her pregnant – a musician who got busted with grass and went to jail. He doesn’t know she’s pregnant and he’ll be out of jail in about a month, just before the baby is expected.

Then Stephanie says something about knowing all of Don’s secrets, and Megan’s mood darkens. She says, “But you don’t know him very well.” Megan inventively tells Stephanie that Don probably won’t approve of her because she’s so disorganized, and that he probably won’t trust Stephanie to make her own plans. Megan offers to give Stephanie money and writes a check for $1000 – no strings attached. Stephanie accepts the money and gets ready to leave. Before exiting, she tells Megan that nothing ever happened between Don and Stephanie, and Megan says, “Of course. You’re his niece. I know that.”

Don arrives at Megan’s and is greeted at the door by Amy, the red-headed woman who answers Megan’s phone for her. Megan walks in, asks Amy to leave, and tells Don that Megan already left. Don protests: “You should have called me – at least let me talk to her.” Megan makes an excuse and then kisses Don coyly, attempting unsuccessfully to elevate his mood. Then Amy reenters the room and she and Megan decide to go to the market together.

The next night, Megan has her party with the entire acting class – maybe 30 or more people. Don stands on the balcony and Amy stands next to him, offering him a joint, which he refuses in favor of alcohol. Megan is inside talking to some men while a record is playing: “You make me so very happy…I’m so glad you came into my life.” The lyrics are ironic because neither Don nor Megan are ecstatically happy to be together right now, but the music does capture Megan’s aspiration for how she wants their relationship to be. Megan takes the needle off the record and a few men pick up instruments: a banjo, a guitar, and a clarinet. They begin to play a seductive jazz band piece featuring the rich, throaty timbre of the low-range clarinet. Megan dances what seems a completely rehearsed, choreographed dance with a man from her class, clearly attempting to make Don jealous. Instead, Don seems uncomfortable and tries not to pay too much attention to it. Seeing that her jealousy maneuver isn’t working, Megan breaks away from her dance partner and comes over to ask Don if he wants another drink. Then, Harry Crane and new girlfriend Miranda ring the doorbell, and Harry and Don appear glad to see one another. The two men decide within a minute or so to leave the party and go out for a drink, leaving Megan and Miranda behind.

The next scene shows Harry and Don sitting at a bar and feeling more relaxed. Harry tells Don that he wants Don to know he respects him, but Don doesn’t know what Harry is talking about. Harry says agencies change, and guys like them need to stick together. Don promises not to tell Harry’s wife that Harry is with another woman, but Harry says that’s not what he means. Then Harry says he thinks Don should be in LA with Megan, and that Ted is a broken man and is useless there. He says they will need a solution, and maybe Don will have to come up with the solution, but he is on Don’s side. Don asks, “What solution?” Harry says “The final solution.” He explains that Sterling Cooper is planning to land a cigarette account, and Don will have to go. Suddenly, Don realizes what Harry has been talking about, and thanks him sincerely.

When Don returns to Megan’s place, the party is over and Megan and Amy are very high. They plot to seduce Don into a three-way, despite the fact that Don says he wants to go to bed. When Megan says to Don, “Kiss her. I know you want to.” Don says “I don’t want anything right now.” Nevertheless, Megan leads the show and Don follows, with Amy the third wheel doing as Megan directs her to do.

The next morning, Don wakes up to a sleeping Megan, and a sleeping Amy on the other side of Megan. He gets out of bed and goes to the kitchen to make coffee. Megan comes out to the kitchen and greets him with an enthusiastic kiss, although he doesn’t share her enthusiasm. The phone rings and it’s Stephanie calling from Oakland. She tells Don she’d promised Anna she would let Don live his life, but Don insists that he’s worried about her and wants her to call when the baby comes. By this time, Megan is so angry at feeling like the third wheel around Don and Stephanie that she starts slamming things in the background while Don is still on the phone. After the phone call, Don tells Megan he has to return to New York right away because Harry told him some things that he needs to address. Amy walks through the room and says she has to go, while Don tells Megan he has to go and take a shower, leaving Megan alone and very frustrated.

Back in New York, Don moves stealthily and opens the door to a private client meeting, surprising the executives by entering the room knowing exactly what’s going on. It’s the meeting between SC&P and Commander Cigarettes executives. The cigarette men tell Don they have a problem working with a man who cut their throat in the New York Times. Don states that, if they give Sterling Cooper & Partners a shot, he’s prepared to leave the agency. He then points out that “the man who wrote that letter was trying to save his business, not destroy yours.” Next, he suggests if he were forced to apologize publically, it could give their company a competitive edge in their industry. With that loaded comment, Don thanks them for their time and leaves. Following the meeting, we see Don, Lou, and Jim Cutler on the street in front of the building. Lou says sarcastically, “You’re incredible.” Don thanks him as if he meant it sincerely. Then Jim challenges Don snidely, “You think this is going to save you, don’t you?” Don sees Lou and Jim off in a taxi cab, deflects their negativity, and calls a cab for himself, filled with a renewed sense of confidence.

The final music is a Waylon Jennings song: “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” The words to this song are about a man who puts up with a certain amount of abuse in his love relationship. Maybe this refers to Don, who’s taking abuse from others at SC&P while walking a fine line between being a hero and being fired.

A major theme in this episode is war – specifically wars within the memory of 1960s Americans. This is illustrated through the behavior of characters as well as through verbal references.

·        Michael seems to be living out a WWII holocaust fantasy, in which the computer represents to him the Nazi methods of hunting down Jews.

·        When Michael sees Lou and Jim next to the computer, talking to each other, he believes the computer has changed them into homosexuals (at a time when the term ‘gay’ meant ‘happy’), just as the Nazi ‘machine’ had the effect of changing a lot of good German people into enemies of the free world.

·        Michael mentions a hydrogen bomb going off – a war metaphor – when he tells Peggy about what’s happening in his head and at work. He also leaves Peggy with the advice not to inform anyone about his personal appearance at her home – another reference to WWII where people snitched and turned each other in to the Nazi authorities.

·        Lou’s comic strip, “Scout’s Honor,” depicts a semi-military theme; when the young Creatives laugh at it, Lou believes they are unpatriotic.

·        Lou scolds the younger generation of Creatives for being “flag-burning snots” — a direct reference to anti–Vietnam war protestors of the time, most of whom were young.

·        Betty, Henry, and their neighbor couple discuss the Vietnam War during their dinner party, and Betty points out the similarity between war protest and community vandalism, since she feels both disrespect authority.

·        Betty and Henry go to “war” with each other after their dinner party night, upsetting Bobby when he hears them arguing.

·        Betty and Henry go to “war” again after Henry returns from taking Sally to the doctor, when he insists they leave the kitchen and sit elsewhere, and Betty refuses to do so.

·        Betty is at “war” with Sally, attacking her instead of sympathizing for getting hit in the face, and threatening to break her arm next time; Sally is well armed with verbal barbs to fight back.

·        Megan goes to “war” with Stephanie in her subtle way, driving Stephanie away before Don arrives in California.

·        When Harry and Don go out for drinks, Harry tells Don they need a solution, and then he tells Don that SC&P is planning on “the final solution” for Don – a WWII reference to the idea of eliminating him. By informing Don of SC&P’s maneuvers, Harry has sided with Don and against the agency.


A second major theme is rebellion, or as Don says, “bucking authority” – of which wanting to run away is a part.

·        Sally rebels against the authority of her parents, particularly her mother, and plans to slip out during the night and hitchhike back to school, although this doesn’t actually transpire.

·        Bobby wants to run away with Sally, and Sally sympathizes but tells him he’s too little.

·        Stephanie runs away from Megan’s house before Don arrives, bucking Don’s authority because he told her to stay until he arrives.

·        The neighborhood teens rebel by vandalizing their wealthy suburban area.

·        Betty bucks Henry’s authority several times, since he acts like he’s in charge and she puts her foot down and insists that she doesn’t have to shut up just because he wants her to, or go to people’s houses “as if they’re regular neighbors” just to help Henry’s career, or move out of the kitchen just because he feels like it.

·        The Creatives buck the authority of Lou; Don explains this to Lou, but Lou rebels against Don’s advice and refuses to listen.

·        Michael listens to his own psychologically disturbed inner voice, bucking the authority of the SC&P executives and rebelling against the imagined enemy, the computer.

·        Peggy is rebelling against the authority of common sense by not locking the front door of the building she owns and not checking who’s at the door when someone knocks, despite her location in a bad neighborhood.

·        Harry bucks authority at SC&P by secretly informing Don of the probable cigarette account.

·        Megan bucks Don’s authority by finding a way to chase Stephanie away before Don arrives in LA, and then making up a cover story about it as if she weren’t responsible for doing so.

·        Don bucks all authority at the office in his highly creative way by breaking in to the high-level sales meeting with Commander Cigarettes and immediately going “off-script” to try to win the account.


Finally, we see a strong emphasis in this episode on the primacy of men and their work, a cultural meme that was more deeply ingrained in American society at that time than it is today.

·        The “Scout’s Honor” joke shared by Stan and Mathis in the men’s room reveals the reality that women were considered possessions of one man or another, and that the reason a man couldn’t get a woman is that she’s being had or controlled by another man.

·        Betty flips out about Sally’s facial laceration, as if Sally’s entire value as a woman and chances for future success will be based on the beauty of her face rather than her intelligence or contributions in the world.

·        When Betty asserts that she’s smart, speaks Italian, and has thoughts of her own, Henry scoffs: “If you’re so smart, why don’t you run for office?” – as if his work makes him much smarter and more important than a mere woman like Betty could be. However, when Betty attempts to discuss worldly things like the war in Vietnam, Henry disapproves of her independent thinking. He expects her to keep her mouth shut about these things, since they’re not in a “woman’s domain.”

·        The meeting of Sterling Cooper and Commander Cigarette executives is a white male group. The only woman on the SC&P executive board, Joan, got there because she slept with a client, not because of her considerable business talents. Yet the cigarette executives would likely have no interest in seeing a woman like Joan at the table unless she was serving them food or beverages.

·        Don is exceptional for a man of his time in that he values the business talents of women; yet for good reason, his main energy in this episode is directed towards his career. This frustrates Megan, who wants to feel “liberated” and have an acting career of her own, but still wants to play an old-fashioned sex-bunny role in Don’s life.

A rich irony in this episode is all the controlling, deceitful, and manipulative behavior of Megan, in contrast to her rant to Don in a recent episode that, if he knows her at all, he would never lie to her. Similarly, one would guess that, if she knows Don at all, she would never try to control and manipulate him.

NOTE: I currently have another Mad Men blog on, for anyone interested in checking that out.

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