'Mad Men' 7.4: Godlike computers, sex communes and the couch-fart conundrum

A glimpse into the future displaced the unhappy strivers at Sterling Cooper & Partners, in the form of a giant computer that commandeered the employee lounge for its own nefarious, 2001-like purposes, and jettisoned the only couch that doesn’t smell like farts, according to apoplectic copywriter Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman).

The new addition proved a major pain to everyone but media director Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), who no longer has to mislead clients about having one of those “godlike” contraptions, and firm partner Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin), who fell for Crane’s propaganda and bragged it to the papers.

As friendly Leasetech rep Lloyd says, “These machines can be a metaphor for whatever frightens people.”

Over the clamorous gnaw of hammers and electrical saws, we got to see that fear play out in various ways on Sunday’s Mad Men. Hoping to keep one of three (!) creative director positions, that conniving SOB Lou Avery (Allan Havey) wields a $100-a-week raise like the sword Dionysius suspended over Damocles, and tasks copy chief Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) to reign in Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

Don, three weeks into his conditional return as the firm’s founding creative director, goes ashen with resentment when Peggy informs him he’ll be writing burger chain taglines for her, which she smartly conveys in the company of another employee. He keeps it together barely long enough to get back to his adjoining office and smash a typewriter.

Speaking of that office, Don is still finding hidden mementos from the previous occupant, the dead-but-still-sybolic Lane Pryce. This time it’s a New York Mets flag, a reminder of how much the British-born Lane loved his adopted country and its hookers. Don initially wastebaskets the item, but later fishes it out and sticks it to a part of his wall that only he’s likely to see.

Back at the office after a “lonely” weekend, Don pointedly spurns Peggy’s deadlines by playing solitaire at his desk (or is that brain chess?) and reading Portnoy’s Complaint, before having one of those Draper moments of inspiration. Following a chat with Lloyd, Don enters senior partner Bert Cooper’s office high on the idea of wooing the computer-leasing business as a new client. Bert, an icy pragmatist in the best of times, spurns the idea and puts Don back in his place—answering to subordinates and cashing checks.

“Why am I even here?” Don fumes.

Bert: “Why are you here?”

Don: “Because I started this agency!”

Bert: “Along with a dead man whose office you inhabit.”

It’s a cold thing to say, and Bert seems to relish saying it. In response, Don raids Lou’s liquor cabinet of a vat of vodka, goes back to his office and starts guzzling. He then makes a drunken call to someone about taking in a Mets game. It’s not to his dead chum Lane, but to another of the firm’s ghosts, recovering lush Freddy Rumsen. Rumsen may be a mediocre adman, but he’s a good friend, rescuing Don before any of the partners can see he committed a fireable offense. But before he goes, Don confronts the bringer of computers like Mick Jagger singing about the devil.

“You talk like a friend but you’re not,” Don says. “I know your name.”

“I told you my name,” the confused Lloyd says, waving the vodka breath out of his face.

“No, you go by many names! I know who you are,” Don seethes. “You don’t need a campaign. You’ve had the best campaign since the dawn of time.”

For Don, the technology upgrade highlights the firm’s lack of a space for him, and maybe also the futility of trying to better himself.

But it’s not just Don who’s rubbing up against the wrong side of progress. On the trail of their runaway adult daughter, Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and his ex-wife track her to an upstate commune that shuns (most) modern comforts in favor of weed and strings-free sex. Margaret, aka “Marigold,” is in no hurry to return to her old life as a privileged housewife, what with its low ceilings and structured boredom. This is a recurring theme in Mad Menlast week it was Betty Francis and her former neighbor Francine chewing over this dilemma. This week it was Marigold, a dissatisfied searcher just like her father.

But that’s Don, too, especially now that he’s been relegated to busy work not worthy of his status. But Freddy has a simple bit of wisdom to offer the next morning: “Do the work, Don.”

Cleaned up and back in his dead chum’s office, Don sits at his recovered typewriter and lets his fingers do the fighting.

Grade: B+

Mad Men 7.3
Mad Men 7.2
Mad Men 7.1

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