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'Mad Men' Recap: Things Get Out of Control in “The Runaways”




Stan Rizzo has a laugh at his asshole boss' expense in "The Runaways."

'Mad Men' Season 7, Episode 5: “The Runaways”

In last week's powerful episode, "The Monolith," Don's episodic alcoholism and Freddie's good council led him to finally accept his new position as a virtual nobody at SC&P. Meanwhile, Margaret Sterling (Marigold is her hippie name) flew the coop — absconded to a commune with a band of dingy hippies that don't believe in electricity — and even Roger's most sincere efforts can't bring her back to a life she now sees as empty.

While “The Runaways” doesn’t give us any new information about Margaret or Roger (he's not even mentioned in the episode), it is an episode that sees several threads unraveling. Don's position at the agency is more untenable than ever, as he squabbles openly with Lou Avery and finds out from Harry Crane that Jim Cutler and Avery are courting Phillip Morris; a bid that, if successful, would most likely necessitate Don's separation from SC&P. Remember when he was all about quitting tobacco as a strange tactical move?

This news, received after a chance meeting at a party at Megan's LA pad, prompts Don to show up unannounced to the pitch, where he blackballs the potential client and effectively calls out Cutler and Avery for their evident scheming. In a priceless curbside exchange following the meeting, a calmly angry Cutler asks Don “Do you really think that's going to save you?” Don casually shuts the cab door without regarding the question. Things are certainly up in the air here and we'll have to wait until next week (hopefully not later) to find out how Don's gutsy move effects, not only the potential business with the cigarette giant, but also his employment at SC&P. Remember Don's stipulations?

For Megan Draper, it's becoming very clear that being with Don, such as it is, is turning her into the absolute worst version of herself. After Don receives a call from Stephanie, the niece of Ana Draper (the real Don Draper's wife), saying that she is pregnant and in need of help, Don sends Stephanie to Megan's home in LA and plans to head out there himself. A power struggle with Avery, in which Don loses, delays his trip. When Don finally ends up in LA, he finds that Megan has sent Stephanie packing. Megan finds herself unable to handle the doubt that surrounds Don's past or the fact that Stephanie knows his secrets, so she writes the young lady a $1000 check and puts her out. Don's concern is mitigated by the fact that he thinks she freely chose to leave, but Megan's wild jealousy and insecurity have been piqued.

Later that night, after a hosting a party for her acting buddies, Megan lures Don into a threesome with her and her friend Amy. This seems like a desperate act and is quite out of character for the usually slightly prudish Megan. It just goes to show the depth of her insecurity surrounding Don and everything else. Megan is tipping fast and Don is only beginning to see it.

Also significant in “The Runaways” are two specific story lines with Betty and Henry Francis. The first involves Betty's growing sense of boredom and dissatisfaction with her station in life. When she speaks her mind on a political issue at a dinner party, she hears it from Henry later. “From now on keep your conversation to how much you hate getting toast crumbs in the butter and leave the thinking to me,” he tells her. It is clear that Betty longs for a chance to run away, to escape a life that she has no control over and which affords her nothing in the way of personal satisfaction.

The second important storyline involving the Francises centers on Sally's coming home from school with a minor injury. Allegedly horsing around with her friends, Sally has blackened both eyes and banged up her nose pretty bad. Ever the antagonistic mom, Betty scolds Sally for being so stupid and Henry seems to indicate that Sally's face will be the bulk of what she has to offer the world. “Where would mom be without her perfect nose?" Sally asks. She add, "She wouldn't find a man like you, she'd be nothing.” A retort that, in the context of Betty's looming alienation and feelings of shallowness, angers the frustrated mom deeply.

In two oddball plot twists, there are madcap hijinks aplenty among some of SC&P's supporting cast. Stan Rizzo stirs up trouble in the office using a found comic strip, created on the down-low by none other than Lou Avery, as a source for endless ridicule. Avery eventually overhears Stan joking with someone at the urinal about the comic strip and things get rather heated over the issue at a subsequent meeting. It is clear that no one at the agency has any respect for Avery, and who can blame them?

Meanwhile, way further out in WTF-ville, Ginsberg looses his mind and cuts off his nipple after confessing to Peggy his belief that the new computer (the 'monolith') in the office is capable of turning people “homo” with its hum. These scenes with Ginsberg are at once hilarious and heartbreaking if, like me, you've come to love the man's wacky and intensely free spirit. The show ends with Ginzy saying “Get out while you can” to everyone at the office, while being carted out by mental health professionals. His words, which speak to the episode's title and its pervasive sense of impeding doom, are meant to tease the viewer into rapturous thoughts of demise and undoing.

Get out of what while you  can? The phrase can be applied interestingly to almost any of the current story lines.

Be sure to check back next Monday for a recap of Season 7, Episode 6. Only two left this year.

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