'Mad Men' recap: Season 5, Episode 8, 'Lady Lazarus'
By JORDAN BARTEL
May 07, 2012 | 12:03 AM
Megan and Don's relationship has come to a place that marks a new beginning -- or a marriage's end.
So Megan has decided to quit Sterling Cooper Draper Price (and Don's workplace control). Yes, she seems to be a born salesperson, a natural creative type that can charm the pants off of a hardened Heinz executive (plus she's, you know, smart and has good ideas).
But what she really wants to do is act. After last episode's confrontation with her dissapointed father, her ditching SCDP should come as no surprise. Don's surprised and puts on a supportive act, which is probably partially not an act.
But he's missing his power partner, a mind he can mold and a big part of their relationship he can control. His face to Megan shouts "I'm happy for you!" but his face away from Megan spells confusion and uncertainty of where the couple's future lies, especially now that Megan wants to be her own woman and go to acting class and not be home for Don all the time when he trots in after work.
Peggy is in the middle of all of this. Early in the episode, she knows something amiss when she catches Megan in a lie. The two were supposed to stay late to get some work done, but Megan chooses an excuse that she know she can get away with: Don wants her for dinner.
In reality, she's auditioning for an off-off Broadway play (she doesn't get the part). Don calls the office looking for her, Peggy answers and stumbles for excuses for Megan. She's put in an awkward position and understandably pissed.
The next day, she corners Megan in the ladies room where Megan tells her the truth about the audition, but also reveals that she doesn't want to be a copywriter.
Peggy goes all Don Draper-hard-nosed on her. "You're taking up a spot and you don't even want it!" she yells. You sort-of agree with Peggy; it's not entirely fair. But Peggy is coming from a place of anger. She's angry that Don gives Megan special treatment, that Megan got in SCDP so easily when it was so hard for Peggy to earn respect. She's mad that everything comes to easily for a woman like Megan, a woman that Peggy says later can be so good at everything.
Right after that conversation, Peggy is seething in a meeting about a Cool Whip pitch. Megan joins them and she and Don launch into a cute-couple routine for a potential ad that really, really works and really, really sickens Peggy.
Peggy can't stand it. It's a great ad, but she doesn't care. At this point, you begin to wonder whether Peggy herself will tell Don what's really on Megan's mind.
She doesn't have to. Megan wakes up her husband in the middle of the night to reveal that her one, true passion is acting and SCDP "will never be for me what it is for you." She thinks she gave up acting too easily (once again, her Dad got to the core of her emotions) and wants to give it a shot.
The talk doesn't escalate into a fight. It's mature and reasonable. Don's response is mature and reasonable: "I understand. I don't want to keep you from your dream."
But as Megan crawls into bed with him, as happy as ever, Don's face says he's out of sorts. His wife is doing what she wants! And he's letting her.
The next day, Megan breaks the news to Peggy, Stan and Michael. Peggy can barely hide a glimmer of happiness on her face and yet dubs her announcement gutsy. She admires Megan, deep down. But in the workplace she's threatened.
This complicated work dynamic, between Don and Megan, between Megan and Peggy and therefore between Don, Megan and Peggy were perfectly explored in this episode with few lines, with some looks of confusion, with some words that alternated quickly between selfish and selfless.
It all comes to a head when Peggy, Don and Ken go to the Cool Whip people (awesome cameo from Dennis Haskins, who played Mr. Belding on "Saved by the Bell) to pitch their idea.
It's Peggy subbing in for Megan in the cute-couple act and it crashes and burns. There's no chemistry and Peggy keeps on screeching "Just try it!" instead of the more playful way Megan said "Just taste it!"
Peggy and Don have their first fight of the season. "You didn't want her here!" he yells at Peggy about Megan.
"She thinks advertising is stupid!" Peggy yells back. All the bubbling resent boils over.
"I did everything I was supposed to do ... and you're not mad at me, so shut up!" Peggy says.
After Roger (I missed you this episode, buddy) gives Don advice to go home to Megan and "let her know there's a routine," Don comes home just in time to see Megan for a second before she leaves for acting class.
He hands him the next Beatles album ("Revolver") before basically skipping gleefully out the door (again, Megan is soooo happy!). She tells him to play "Tomorrow Never Knows," which is perhaps the most un-Don Draper Beatles song of all time.
He can only listen to it for a moment before turning it off. It's a new Beatles song that represents an uncertain Megan-Don future.
And he doesn't know if he'll be able to stand it.
PETE: MORE DEPRESSED THAN EVER!
Speaking of missing Roger, his one other scene was with Pete, handing him skis before the folks at Head Ski Company requested Pete's talents on a new account.
"You can catch up with some schmo from Lutherville!" Roger says. Ah, "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner, so sneaky with your Baltimore-area references (Weiner wrote this episode).
The ski account is the only nice moment in Pete's life this episode. I had begun to wonder why the "previously on AMC's 'Mad Men' clips always showed that clip when Pete talked to that guy on the commuter train about his unhappy marriage.
Now we know why. That guy's name is Howard. Howard sells life insurance. And Howard reveals to Pete that although he lives in the burbs, he got an apartment in the city to entertain a woman he's cheating on his wife with.
Or as Howard puts it, "Like my new tie? You know what a new tie means? I have a spectacular new side dish in the city."
Not icky at all. Pete acts intrigued, especially since that high-school girl from his drivers ed class turned him down.
Coming back to his car from the train, Pete runs into Howard's wife, and it's Rory Gilmore from "Gilmore Girls" guest star Alexis Bledel. She doesn't know that her husband is still in town with his side dish and has locked her keys in her car and asks Pete for a ride.
Look, I feel bad for this woman, but she's perhaps the Most Dramatic Scorned Wife in TV History. When Pete drives her home, she says stuff like "I don't think he'd care if I'm alive or if I'm dead."
Pete walks her into the house and she immediately goes in for a kiss and on-the-floor sex (Pete: you will never be Don Draper how hard you try). On a related note, I don't believe revenge-sex with Pete Campbell counts as sex or revenge.
This lady is sad-annoying. "Your irises are so blue and round. Have you seen those pictures of Earth from space?" Yuck.
Rory Gilmore Beth says that this can never happen again, but depressed Pete turns into obsessed Pete. He calls her at home. He purposefully doesn't take the same train as Howard. But when he runs into him on the train back, he pretends like he has an important life insurance question and invites himself over, much to the astonishment of Beth.
When Howard goes off to get important insurance paperwork, he steals a kiss, invites her to a hotel (she doesn't show up) and runs off.
I don't know what to think about the last scene with these two. Pete spots her and Howard in their car. She blows on the window and draws a heart. Really? She loves him? Is this a game?
Either way, she rolls down the window and Pete looks damn near tears. I give this season two more episodes until Pete either completely breaks down or divorces Trudy or kills himself.