Mad Men Recap: A Cinderella Story

"Mystery Date" is all about women and violence. Peggy's artsy TIME photo editor friend Joyce comes in with crime scene pics from the Chicago student nurse massacre where Richard Speck kidnapped nine nurses and murdered eight. One girl survived because she hid under the bed and he lost count. This happened on July 14th, 1966 so it's July 15, only about ten days since we left off last week. Mystery Date was also a popular board game with a popular commercial in 1965 -- the one Sally's watching while Pauline discusses the murders on the phone (see below). To play the game, girls would open different doors to find different mystery dates, with the hope of scoring a hunk, not a dud.

This children's game contrasts the romantic innocence of girls looking for a fantasy with the sobering reality of what else could be behind that door. The murders buzz in the background of our women dealing with their own versions of violence, finding strength as they team up and fight back.

Even the business this week focuses on understanding women. Ginzo (Joyce's nickname for Michael Ginsburg that I will use from now on) pitches an ad about women's secrets. They buy it, but he can't stop talking and tells them they wanted to use Cinderella (Don "killed it") but it's too dark. The way he sees it, it's really about a woman running down a dark street outside a castle, hobbling on one heel, like wounded prey. She's scared when a man comes up behind her, but no matter what, he's handsome standing there holding that shoe: her prince. "She knows she's not safe but she doesn't care. I guess we know in the end, she wants to be caught." This image plays on the dated idea that women have this intrinsic desire to be saved, to hope to find their prince, furthering their vulnerability of getting raped and murdered. Don's pissed off, but Ginzo's enchanting vision sort of resembles one of Don's inspired mid-pitch moments.

Don's Madison Avenue dalliances return and fight back as his run-in with Andrea, the freelancer Don used to free(ly)-lance, forces him to confront his adulterous past. She immediately advances on him before he can introduce his wife. Megan's understandably annoyed: "How many times is this going to happen?" Haha, of course this is happening: "We're in Midtown, we're gonna run into people," AKA sorry baby, I used to pimp this city. He tries to explain, "It was a long time ago and I was unhappy," telling her (and us) that he's changed, though he's not completely convinced himself. Andrea shows up at his apartment and he immediately kicks her out the back door. We can tell he's legitimately afraid of Megan, as well as, it seems, of himself. In a way, Megan and Andrea have teamed up to fight back against Don's adulterous inclinations (his own injustice to women). He has a fever dream about her coming back where he gives into her and then strangles her to death and pushes her under the bed, creating that same image, like Cinderella, of one shoe sticking out (Wicked Witch of the West, anyone?).

Don's clearly trying to kill that part of him, but worries that he would give in, that maybe he still is that guy. When he wakes up after snuffing her out, he tells Megan, "You have nothing to worry about." We knew it was fake, but there was definitely a scary moment when we thought this might be real. Don's significantly sick this whole episode with a debilitating cough. The roles are reversed and in this case, the woman is the sexual aggressor and a weakened Don takes on the feminine role of submission. He turns to violence to regain his power over himself. Because when he dreams it's Andrea coming back it's really Megan coming home, do we think he mumbled Andrea out loud? She looks kind of freaked out. What did she hear?

In my favorite part of the episode, Peggy and Dawn bond and team up against the Man in their union. Peggy's in the office working late because Roger forgot to tell Ginzo to work on the Mohawk campaign and pays her $410 to do it and tell Pete and Ginzo he asked her last week. She hilariously taunts Roger, who has lost all semblance of power in his desperation. She hears something (and is scared because of the murders) and finds Dawn sleeping in Don's office. Dawn can't take a cab because they won't go above 96th Street and her brother won't let her take the subway with everything that's happening in Chicago. There's an awkward moment when Peggy says, "You're not a nurse" and then realizes, "Oh right, you're black, your world is more dangerous."

There wasn't another riot in Harlem; "There was a thing in Bed-Stuy" and Peggy takes her home for the night. They drink and commiserate (though Peggy's doing most of both). Peggy tells her, "I know we're not really in the same situation, but I was the only one like me there for a long time" and tells her, "She was discovered, like Esther Blodgett (the main character from A Star is Born, another hopeful fairytale, and one dealing with a drunk older man). Peggy says it's tough to be a woman copywriter. She asks Dawn if she thinks she acts like a man. Peggy says she's tries but she doesn't know if she has it in her -- or that she wants to. This is interesting, because we didn't know Peggy felt this way. This also reminded me of when Bobby Barrett told her in season one, "You can't be a man so act like a woman."

Dawn asks Peggy not to tell Don she slept there because "You two talk." We haven't really seen them talk, so it's good to know they still do. Peggy says, "Nah, we have to stick together." The murders bring out this feeling of female solidarity. It's the rumblings of the women's movement as they feel the need to protect each other. But to what extent? The scene ends with that painfully awkward moment when Peggy pauses, leaving her bag filled with all her Roger-victory cash alone with Dawn. They both recognize it immediately, and though Peggy leaves the bag, the instinctive distrust is as -- or more -- significant than the considered trust. Even liberal, accepting people like Peggy had to confront their own deeply-rooted race hangups that they may not have even realized they had.

Back at the Francis residence, Sally's stuck alone with Pauline while Betty and Henry visit Bobby at camp (isn't he young to be away at camp?). Pauline's been talking about the murders all day but refusing to tell Sally what happened, so she gets the paper and reads it under her covers with a flashlight. Terrified, Sally can't sleep, so she comes down to Pauline (in adorable pajamas). They haven't been getting along, fighting over rules and TV, but like the other women, they team up in their fear. Sally asks why Speck did that, and Pauline tells Sally, "Those girls got ready for bed, and there was a knock on the door and a handsome man was there." Basically, they were Cinderella and he was their mystery date. She says they probably thought he couldn't rape all nine of them. Why not? Lesson time, Sally! You just can't. Pauline assures her that they'll be safe with her "burgler alarm," holding up a huge steak knife (ha!), and horrifyingly gives Sally Seconal to sleep. Sally sleeps under the couch and the image mimics the way the girl escaped the murder, and the way Don hides Andrea under the bed.

Joan -- poor Joan -- suffers the greatest abuse of them all and fights back with the most definitive action. Greg finally comes home and tells her instead of the planned 40 days, he's going back to Vietnam for a year. She's angry but stands by him until his mother reveals Greg wasn't ordered to stay, he volunteered. Oh, hell no. With pure Joan strength, she calmly tells him to leave and never come back. She tells him to stop using the army to make himself feel like a man. Greg clarifies the army makes him feel like a good man and she retorts, "You're not a good man, you never were, even before we were married and you know what I'm talking about." The rape! Finally they brought it back up, and perfectly placed it in this episode. He physically raped her that time in Don's office and he's been emotionally raping her for long enough. It's over. I had hoped he'd die in Vietnam, but I'm glad she got to decide to get rid of him on her own terms. Weren't you kinda hoping she'd yell out, "And he isn't even your baby, you idiotic doctor that can't calculate gestational months?"

It pans out on a sad shot of Joan the baby and her mother in bed together -- her new reality -- with the controversial 1962 Phil Spector song "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and sung by the Crystals. The song aptly furthers both the violence and the Cinderella story of "wanting to be caught."

A few other things:
Joan's son is named Kevin.

Joan's hair and lips exactly match her burnt orange walls.

Sally's really skinny and not eating -- reaction to Betty's weight gain.

When Sally fights with Pauline, she's upset that she doesn't believe she's allowed to watch as much TV as she wants and says Betty has no rules. The old, skinny Betty had lots of rules (however randomly enforced) so we see how removed she's become, too distracted by her Bugles and her fat.

Betty looks a little thinner.

Ginzo is funny. He tells Don, "I told him not to use the word genius, about either of us."

Don to Ginzo: "I just wanted to hear the tone of your voice so I could make sure it's not as annoying as it is in everyday life."

Funny Inspector Gadget music playing as Roger sneaks behind Pete.

They want a French girl for the Butler's ad, like Megan! She's the hot girl of the moment.

What else? Thoughts?

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