“Mystery Date” is the fourth episode of Mad Men‘s fifth season. It was written and directed by a couple of first-timers to the Mad Men universe. Victor Levin, who unfortunately wrote Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, penned this one along with series creator Matthew Weiner. Matt Shakman, who fortunately is one of the main directors for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, was behind the camera.
A stuffy, coughing Don and perfectly healthy Megan enter the elevator, standing on opposite sides. Along the way, a woman named Andrea enters, recognizing Don, clearly a former flame. Don is quick to introduce Megan as his wife, and the flirtation ceases. Andrea leaves at the next stop, prompting Megan to say, “How many times is this going to happen?” Later in the day, Don apologizes. It happened a long time ago when he was unhappy in his marriage. Megan can’t help but feel embarrassed by his sexual appetite, warning him that it can’t be blamed on Betty anymore. After sitting in on Ginsberg’s pitch to Topaz (more on that later), a sick-as-a-dog Don is drinking and smoking in a bar, before Megan sends him home to bed over the phone, telling him to put out that cigarette. He walks into his bedroom and weakly falls onto the mattress. The doorbell rings. He struggles to get to the door, opening it to find Andrea. She wants to talk, saying, “It was just sex. It doesn’t mean anything.” He forces her out through the service elevator, concerned that Megan might see her, before lying back down and falling asleep. He wakes up to Andrea now sitting at his bed. He asks her, “Why can’t you leave me alone?” She replies, “I can’t.” He says, “You have to.” Then he jumps her bones. As she gets dressed, Don says this is a mistake that won’t be happening again. “A mistake you love making,” she tells him. “You’ll love it again because you’re a sick, sick…” What does that ellipsis right there stand for, you might ask? Well, that’s the sound of Don choking the shit out of her. Seriously. He rings her neck until she lies there, lifeless, then kicks the body under the bed, her foot sticking out. A hazy Megan walks into a light-filled room with breakfast in hand. Don looks down, and the body is gone. It was never there in the first place. He asks Megan where she’s been, and she says she’s been in bed the whole night, really worried about Don for a while there. He replies, “You don’t have to worry about me.”
In the other major storyline this week, Joan is preparing for her hubby Greg’s return from Vietnam. Joan’s mom, Gail, is helping her and getting her all worked up at the same time. When Greg arrives, he is introduced to his son, baby Kevin, who is just as quickly taken from him by Gail. She’s going out to run some errands and give Joan and Greg some much needed alone time. Joan wakes up in the afternoon, tired from the sex, to Greg eating bologna of all things. She says she wants him to wear his uniform all the time. Well, guess what, Joanie? You’re wish has been granted! He breaks the news to her that he’s expected back for another year. She’s livid, but he’s at peace with it, understanding it’s necessary to the cause. He wants her to feel the same way. While out to dinner later that evening with Gail and Greg’s parents, the subject comes up again, with Greg reluctant to debate it any further. Greg’s mom says this dinner is just a painful charade. “Everyone else is trying to come home. You’ve got to talk him out of it!” Joan isn’t quite getting it. The bastard has volunteered to go back. After dinner, Greg storms out to meet his bros, and Gail tries to talk to Joan over the crying baby, but she’s having none of it. She tells Greg at breakfast the next morning that she wants him to go… and never come back. Greg goes Hulk, saying that the army needs him. Joan says that they need him, and he’s done his part. She says, “You’re not a good man. You never were, even before we were married, and you know what I’m talking about.” Oh. Snap. The rapist says, “If I walk out, that’s it.” Joanie says, “That’s it.” And that’s it! Gail lies sleeping on one side of the bed, Joanie on the other, and baby Kev in between. Meet the new and improved Holloways!
An airline labor strike doesn’t apply to the employers of newly reacquired client Mohawk Airlines, which provides a great opportunity for the agency to get moving on a campaign. Pete wants it for Monday and Roger says no problem, acting calm and collect until Pete leaves. It’s Friday, and he’s got nothing. Unable to find Ginsberg, he talks to an extra sassy Peggy. She takes a desperate Roger for every dollar he’s got in his pocket, a cool $400, in one of Peggy’s best scenes to date. As she types away deep into the night, she hears a noise coming from Don’s office. She enters to find Dawn, sleeping in the office because the Chicago riots have cause a roar in Bed-Stuy (more on these later!). Peggy offers that she stay at her place, and she reluctantly agrees. Back at the apartment, Peggy and Dawn put back a few brews and get real. Peggy says she understands what it’s like to be an outcast. She asks Dawn if she acts like a man, and Dawn thinks she has to a little, though Peggy’s not sure she wants to. Before going to bed, she eyes her purse full of Roger’s cash on the coffee table. Then she eyes Dawn, who is eying her. Awkward! She wakes up the next morning to an empty couch and a thank you note on her purse.
The overarching event throughout this episode is the rape and murder of eight Chicago women. It begins with Peggy’s lesbian friend Zoe bringing in unpublished crime scene pictures from the magazine she works at. Peggy, Stan and Megan are fascinated by them, while Ginsberg has to leave, calling them all sickos. Meanwhile, Sally is being watched by Henry’s mother, Paulina, while he and Betty are out of town. Paulina is strangely interested about the murders, but unwilling to tell a curious Sally about them. Sally eventually snags the paper, reading it under the sheets with a flashlight and startling a knife-toting Paulina when she can’t sleep afterward. Paulina gives her a Seconal, which has them both out cold the next morning when Betty and Henry return, Paulina sitting up with the knife on her lap, and Sally underneath the sofa.
The pitch in this episode is made by Ginsberg, to their client Topaz about shoes. He originally sells them on this “woman at a party” idea, but when the executive approaches him afterward, he tells him about his original idea that was nixed. It’s a dark, detailed story about a Cinderella figure, a woman running from something, hobbling away with one shoe on, when she’s approached by a man with the other shoe. She takes it from the man even though its unsafe because in the end, she wants to be caught. The client ends up going for this instead, which ends up getting Ginsberg into some trouble with Don, but the important thing to take from it is the tone it sets for the episode. The innocence of the 60′s continues to fade, and while last weeks “Tea Leaves” examined the adults who aren’t that young anymore, “Mystery Date” suggests that the world is becoming a place where children are forced to grow up too fast. An ad for the Mystery Date game plays on TV as Sally is watching, a game where girls can pretend to date a handsome stranger. As Paulina is quick to point out, these murders began with young innocent girls who went to bed and were greeted by a handsome man. “They didn’t know what was in store for them.” Sally falls asleep under the couch, mimicking Andrea’s murdered body under Don’s bed, not necessarily suggesting that Sally will become this type of girl, but rather that times are changing. When Don kicked Andrea under his bed, only her foot stuck out, dressed with a heel like Cinderella. The themes of awareness, dishonesty, innocence lost and paranoia all come full circle.
From my handy, dandy notebook:
- “Mystery Date” refers to the game of the same name. Here’s the ad from the 60′s.
- The Chicago murders were committed by Richard Speck on July 13th, 1966. The one woman who was able to escape did so because she was able to hide under a bed while Speck was with a victim. This also mirrors Andrea under Don’s bed and Sally sleeping under the couch.
- After the truth about Greg is found out at the restaurant, an accordion player approaches the table and starts playing. Gail is quick to remind everyone that Joan plays. The last time we saw her play, it was at a dinner party she and Greg hosted and Greg insisted that she play, fully enjoying her entertainment. Not so much fun this time around.
I’ll leave you the same way “Mystery Date” does, with 1962′s “He Hit Me” by The Crystals. It’s a song that didn’t get much airplay, probably because it condoned domestic violence. Phil Spector, who arranged it, claims that he wasn’t preaching or glorifying spousal abuse; just simply documenting it. It’s the perfect choice for the end of this episode. Stay tuned for the recap of this season’s fifth episode, “Signal 30.”