'Mad Men' 7.5: Nipple for your thoughts

On the male anatomy, the nipple is both sort of pointless and unmistakably human. If you prick it, does it not bleed? And if you slice it off, do we not call the men in white coats?

Ask Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman). Mad Men's talented copywriter—a onetime rival to Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in terms of pure vision—lost both his mind and areola on Sunday’s episode. It was a frighteningly quick dissolution, and all due to that damn computer (or whatever metaphor the computer represents in Ginsberg’s fractured psyche).

Spying firm partner Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) and creative director Lou Avery (Allan Harvey) confabbing in the computer’s droning lair, Ginsberg suspected the technology of turning men into homosexuals so that humankind would die out.

“That machine makes men do unnatural things,” he told copy chief Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) at her apartment. And then he tried to make babies with her, in a scene that was both funny ha-ha and funny yikes. “Peggy, we gotta reproduce,” he said mid-lunge. “If there was a way to do it without having sex, I’d do it.”

Ever the gentleman.

Ginsberg’s descent bottomed out the following Monday at work, when he entered Peggy’s office to apologize and calmly profess his love. Things started out OK, but then Peggy unwrapped his gift: It was Ginsberg’s right nipple (forevermore known as the “gay nipple”), which he amputated to release the computer’s nefarious soundwaves.

It’s interesting to ponder what Ginsberg’s particular brand of paranoia might signify—the fear of being rendered obsolete, the questioning of one’s sexuality (Ginsberg blames the computer for making him hot for hirsute art director Stan Rizzo), how people can unravel right in front of us without our realizing until it’s too late.

After all, Don is still being punished for last season’s moment of weakness, even though there was plenty of smashed signposts along the way. Now he’s stuck reporting to Lou, who’s dreaming of becoming the next W. Watts Biggers and maneuvering against Don. (Turns out Ginsberg had the right idea, just the wrong conspiracy.)

Speaking of Lou’s monkey-in-Vietnam comic strip idea, oh how I loved every moment of that plotline, from the bullpen’s discovery to Don’s arched-eyebrow reaction to Lou’s inevitable outburst at all the “flag-burning snots” who don’t appreciate his Dylanesque genius or Underdog-aping draftsman skills. “You know who had a ridiculous dream and people laughed at him?” he seethed.

“You?” Stan wondered innocently.

Lou punished his team for answering that rhetorical question by making them work late, despite some sage advice from Don: “This is an office made out of people who have problems with authority. You don’t need to have a thick skin, but don’t help them.”

As a result, Don missed his flight to Los Angeles, where “niece” Stephanie Horton turned up pregnant and broke. Don’s endlessly accommodating wife Megan (Jessica Pare) took her in, cleaned her up and then—feeling threatened by the bond Stephanie and Don share—gave her a $1,000 check to disappear. Insecure Megan is doing whatever she can to lock down Don’s affections, which isn’t easy with a husband so remote, both physically and spiritually. She even invited another actress to share their marriage bed, a move that’s bound to bite the couple in future episodes.

And for all that, Megan didn’t even get a thank-you, as Don raced back to New York to crash a secret pitch meeting between Cutler, Lou and Philip Morris, which has loathed Don ever since he penned an open letter in the Times forsaking big tobacco’s big ad dollars.

But the con artist formerly known as Dick Whitman knows how to reinvent himself in times of need, and asked the two tough customers inside the Algonquin Hotel's conference room to ponder what their competitors would think if they very publicly brought Don Draper to heel.

It was a desperate, savvy ploy from a proven survivor, and could probably teach other characters a thing or two about making it in this cruel world: Either you bend or you get broken. And, at some point, everybody’s wires get cut.

Grade: A-

Final thoughts
-Turns out Lou and Betty Francis (January Jones) share the same view on America’s war on communism. Betty doesn’t approve of her elected husband’s cut-and-run agreement with Tricky Dick. Her hubby, meanwhile, doesn’t like Betty espousing her views in public, and blasted her in a rare moment out outright sexism. It was nice to see Betty stand up for herself, in a fashion.
-That was some grade-A sass about barn abortions and squandering her mother’s precious inheritance from Betty’s rebellious daughter Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), retrieved from boarding school after nearly breaking her nose horsing around.
-“I have a stomach ache all the time.” Young Bobby Draper got me with that line, describing the uncomfortable hell that is the Francis household. Seeing he and Sally bond like only wounded siblings can makes me hope they’ll get a much-deserved spinoff when all this wraps up.

Mad Men 7.4
Mad Men 7.3
Mad Men 7.2
Mad Men 7.1

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