'Mad Men' Review: "The Runaways"

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Mad Men’ season 7 pitches its fifth episode of the final season, “The Runaways,” as Don finds an old friend complicating a visit to Megan in California, while Peggy is disturbed to find a colleague acting out of sorts, and Betty questions her place in the Francis household.

Last week’s episode, “Field Trip,” saw Don finding his return to the office a humiliation after being assigned to work for Peggy, while Roger ventured to a hippie commune to find his wayward daughter Margaret. So what does the fifth episode of the final season bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Mad Men’ season 7 episode 5, “The Runaways”!

Stan opens the copy machine to find a leftover copy of Lou Avery’s personal comic strip, a patriotic (if imbecilic) monkey story titled “Scout’s Honor.” Meanwhile, Don and Peggy ride the elevator to work together somewhat awkwardly, before finding Ginsburg aggravated by the presence of the agency’s new computer. Stan shows the comic strip to the other writers, though Lou’s secretary Shirley reminds them all they weren’t supposed to have seen it.

Don takes a call from his “niece” Stephanie ('Arrow''s Caity Lotz) in California, who has since gotten pregnant and finds herself in need of help, for which Don urges her to stay with Megan as he plans a flight to head out there that evening. Don calls Megan to give her the message, first answering to her friend Amy, before Megan agrees to receive Stephanie. Meanwhile, Henry and Betty prepare for a dinner party of Henry’s constituents, one of several they’ll be attending as part of a tour that night.

Stephanie arrives to Megan’s apartment, wherein the two seem vaguely awkward with one another, though Megan offers her full hospitality nonetheless. Back in New York, Stan and a colleague accidentally joke about “Scout’s Honor” with Lou in earshot, though Lou saves his vitriol for the subsequent meeting, punishing the group (including Don) by tasking them to stay late in the office that night. In the suburbs, Betty and Henry make conversation with their party guests, though their surprise difference of opinion over Henry supporting Nixon’s opinion on Vietnam embarrasses them both.

Don offers Lou his work on the campaign in hopes of getting out early, though Lou denies him the opportunity, knowing how it would look to the others. Don tell Megan that he won’t be able to make it out to California that night, before Megan relays the news to Stephanie, and the two catch up about Anna Draper and Stephanie’s baby’s father. Megan questions if Don would really have Stephanie’s best interests at heart in coming to see her, and offers Stephanie $1,000 to support her trip to Oakland, something Stephanie takes as a sign to leave. Back in New York, Henry argues with Betty for leaving him to visit the subsequent houses alone, while Betty seethes about having her opinion disregarded, unaware that Bobby is listening in.

Finally released from work, Don arrives to Megan’s California apartment to find Amy, but that Stephanie has already left. Back in New York, Ginsberg finds himself unable to concentrate over the hum of the nearby computer, but when he ventures outside for a look, Ginsberg finds Jim Cutler and Lou Avery holding a secret meeting inside. Meanwhile, Henry brings Sally home with a nose injury from goofing around with her friends, leading to a bitter argument between Betty and her daughter. Meanwhile, a manic Ginsberg arrives to Peggy’s apartment looking for a place to work in peace, believing that the computer turns men into homosexuals.

Don isolates himself at a party Megan throws for her acting friends, watching as his wife seductively dances with a stranger. Don is surprised to find Harry Crane in attendance of the party, as surprised as Harry is to find the party at Megan’s apartment, before the two break away to get a drink elsewhere. Back in New York, Bobby visits Sally in the night with his concerns that Betty and Henry might divorce, given their earlier argument, though Sally assures her younger brother that everything is fine, even if neither enjoy their living situation.

Peggy awakens to find Ginsberg watching her sleep, as he relays his fear that the computer gives him homosexual thoughts, and insists they get together, before Peggy kicks him out.  Back in LA, Harry relays that he wishes to look out for Don’s position with the agency, given how far back the two of them go, before revealing that the agency has been courting business with Commander Cigarettes, which would naturally push Don out of the firm given his past tobacco stance. Don returns home after the party to find only Megan and Amy present, before both women make known their interest in taking him to bed.

Don awakens in the morning with Megan, sharing news of Harry’s confession before Stephanie calls to reveal she made it to Oakland, and Don insists on continually supporting her in spite of Megan’s discomfort. Back in New York, Henry and Betty find themselves in another argument over his disregard for her own individual thoughts and feelings, to which Henry snidely suggests she herself should run for office. Meanwhile at Sterling-Cooper, a notably calmer Ginsberg greets Peggy in her office, and insists that while he found a means to prevent the computer from getting to him, his feelings for her are genuine. Ginsberg presents Peggy with a box, which Peggy is horrified to discover contains his nipple, which he’d sliced off the night before believing it to be the source of his distress. Peggy sits Ginsberg down, and unevenly leaves the room to call the authorities.

Bracing himself, Don interrupts a lunchtime meeting between Cutler, Avery and the tobacco partners, and successfully manages to pique the partners’ interest in keeping Don at the firm by offering to apologize for speaking out against tobacco in the past, something their competitors would envy. Back at the office, Ginsberg is escorted out on a stretcher, while Stan accompanies him downstairs, and Peggy bitterly stares at the computer. Finally, Avery admires Don’s courage, while Cutler smirks that the stunt won’t help him save his job, before Don confidently hails a separate cab home.

OUR REVIEW:

Well, that was certainly as weird as ‘Mad Men’ has ever been. Just when you think Don Draper has entered a new age of sexual exploration with his second wife, Ginsberg went and cut off his own nipple, presenting it to Peggy as an act of love. Look, we’ve never been in on the ‘Mad Men’ watercooler bandwagon, the way even minor sequences inspire vast amounts of over-analysis, and this certainly isn’t the first installment of the series that seemed to rely more on shock value than plot. Still, amid all the craziness, “The Runaways” did seem surprisingly cogent in setting up the final two episodes of the year (I know, right?!), so long as you sidestep the obvious.

Nipples or no, “The Runaways” belonged primarily to Don, no so much in “getting his mojo back” in the manner the threesome with Megan might lead one to believe, but rather reevaluating the things most important to him. Megan felt overshadowed when Don seemingly dropped everything to take care of his “niece” Stephanie (boy, that Caity Lotz is everywhere), and where Megan attempted to compensate with titillation, Don showed more of an interest in making the right moves, both in the boardroom and the bedroom. It was good to see Don returning to his strategic self of old at least, quickly reasserting his value to the company by turning his pariah status into an asset with the tobacco companies, though no doubt things with Megan will only get worse in the near future.

On the other side of the bats—t spectrum, it’s surprising to think that most of the groundwork for Ginsberg’s mental breakdown had in fact been laid since his appearance, between his Martian origins and distrust of homosexuals in the past, though it’s hard to overlook the fact that Ben Feldman needed to move on to his new NBC series ‘A to Z,’ as well did Don probably need more of a vacuum in the creative department to better cement his own standing. It was especially sad to see the character given such an ungraceful exit, though at least one neatly sold by Jay Ferguson’s Stan Rizzo, who began the hour smirking about Lou’s cartoon, but ended up in genuine, muted concern for his friend’s well-being. Peggy’s been getting nothing but short-shrift of late, so hopefully she and Don will manage to find some mutual good in the wake of latest Sterling-Cooper horror.

Elsewhere, the Betty-Henry story seemed to be the most tangential of all, but neatly reminded us of the difficulty Betty has found in forging her own identity with the changing times, something we hope to see explored in the final two hours of 2014, and certainly the final seven next year. “The Runaways” also gave us a bit of momentum toward the break as well, now that Don has another tobacco company on the hook to ingratiate himself back to the company (though Nixon’s inevitable ban on tobacco advertising will surely complicate matters). All in all, likely ‘Mad Men’s highest “WTF” quotient to date, but surprisingly effective overall.

Did you get your fill of moving ‘Mad Men’ drama? What did you think about Sunday’s latest, “The Runaways”? Get yourself caught up with Everything You Need to Know About ‘Mad Men,’ stay tuned for more coverage of the season, and check back again next Sunday for our review of ‘Mad Men’ season 7′s latest installment, “The Strategy,” on AMC!

Filed Under: AMC, Jessica Pare, Mad Men
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