‘Mad Men’: Everyone Does What They Want

Published 6 months ago by

Jay R. Ferguson Elisabeth Moss and Ben Feldman in Mad Men Season 7 Episode 4 Mad Men: Everyone Does What They Want

[This is a review of Mad Men season 7, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]

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Last week Mad Men brought Don Draper back to the offices of SC&P, effectively putting an end to his boozy days spent watching TV, eating Ritz crackers, and waiting for Dawn to show up with the latest news from inside the office. After Don’s thrown on Peggy’s team in an act of cowardice on behalf of Lou, Don’s response to the unfamiliar arrangement shows that, as far as how he’s spent his days these last few months, not much has changed.

Don is back
, but he’s not a part of the office; he’s not really a part of SC&P, because nobody really wants him there. Well, nobody but Roger, and a large part of why Roger wants Don around is to have someone to play with – that is, enjoy some “off campus” carousing, since Don’s return is at least partially contingent on his abstaining from booze while at work. Not that such a stipulation stops him from swiping a bottle from Roger’s office, to cap off his silent refusal to “do the work” Peggy asks of him regarding the Burger Chef account Pete got them a meeting for.

There have been low points in Don’s life before, but there’s not been anything quite like this and it’s exhilarating to watch. Don finds himself inhabiting a dead man’s office, while a computer prone to making people contemplate their finite existence is moving in across the hall. There’s a “cosmic disturbance” all right, and it only partially pertains to Lloyd Hawley and the god-like mastery of the infinite (and ability to make Harry Crane look smart) the IBM 360 brings to the office. For one thing, ‘The Monolith’ has taken over the creative lounge, enraging an already rage-prone Ginsberg who protests by claiming “they’re erasing us.” And to a certain extent, Ginsberg is right; his fears and anger aren’t completely unfounded. For one thing, moving a computer into the creative lounge is a demonstration of Jim Cutler’s authority at SC&P – one he attempts to wield again, though to no avail, by ordering Ted home to work on Burger Chef.

Jon Hamm in in Mad Men Season 7 Episode 3 Mad Men: Everyone Does What They Want

Certainly it’s not entirely a fear of being replaced by a piece of hardware (that feeling of obsolescence will come soon enough), as it is the unpleasant reminder that nothing remains fixed; things simply change and when they do there’s resistance. More importantly, with that change there are those stuck holding onto the past, those who are inevitably left behind. Ginsberg may be mourning the loss of the creative lounge and he definitely has concerns that his department’s profile is evaporating like Marty McFly at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, but Don’s entire existence is wrapped up somewhere in 1968 (if not much earlier), just before he screwed things up with Hershey’s by telling the truth.

As per usual Mad Men is at its best when focusing on things like mortality, modernity, and the endless pursuit of meaning, and ‘The Monotlith’ has plenty to feast on. For all the existential anxiety the IBM represents – which is naturally compounded by the fact that Don has been banished to the part of the office everyone wishes didn’t exist – the disturbance is also a constant reminder that the future, possibly a brighter future, is just around the corner. Lloyd touts how many stars his machine can tabulate, prompting Don to ask: “What man laid on his back counting stars and thought about a number? He probably thought about going to the moon.”

That’s not the only allusion to the upcoming moon-landing writer Erin Levy’s script brings to the proceedings. While Roger is upstate trying to bring Margaret (Marigold) home from the hippie commune she’s committed herself to, they lie on their backs and look at the stars, contemplating the moon, while Roger admits: “Every boy wants to be an astronaut.” The thing is: Don used to be an astronaut; there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish, and no boundary he seemingly could not overcome. And now he’s a tired drunk in a fight to remain relevant to the company he helped create. In a way, Roger and Margaret’s tattered relationship is a reflection of Don and SC&P’s, and, certainly, Don and Peggy’s: they are mostly-absent father-figures who didn’t put the time in and now have to deal with their progeny doing whatever they want without them.

‘The Monolith’ ends with The Hollies singing ‘On a Carousel,’ a pointed reminder to another bit of technology that helped define Mad Men as much as it did Don Draper. As Don stated in that pitch to Kodak: “This is not a spaceship; it’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” And what does a person ache for more than the time when he was most relevant?

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Mad Men continues next Sunday with ‘The Runaways’ @10pm on AMC. Check out a preview below:

Photos: Justina Mintz & Michael Yarish/AMC

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  1. These last three episodes have been much more enjoyable than the premiere IMO. Glad to see the season improving upon itself. Easily a much better season than last season.

    Too bad they did this stupid Breaking Bad Season 7A and B thing and we only get three more episodes.

    • I think the unfortunate thing with splitting the season up, is that it took pretty much all 4 episodes to start a momentum and now that is going to be cut short with only 3 episodes remaining.

  2. I really don’t understand why an ad agency needs a computer. What can they use it for? Counting seems ridiculous. At this time, they hadn’t even devised a word processor.

    • They use it just like any computer in an organization nowadays, for information processing. You put in different geographic data, price data, and other relevant data on your major markets and it will spit out reports on where you should be looking to sell products at.

      Think bar graphs and spreadsheets for stuff you could easily create now with the power of the internet.

  3. Seems like the significance of repeated references to the Mets is lost here. This is 1969 on Mad Men. Don drops a cigarette (a cancer stick) and finds a discarded Mets banner in a man’s office who committed suicide. Up until that time the Mets were a joke in professional baseball, given up for dead like Lane. Instead of throwing it out, Don puts it back on the wall – prominently, bringing it back from the dead. It is no coincidence (nothing is on Mad Men) that 1969 is the year of the Miracle Mets. A miracle is going to happen on Mad Men. Don Draper, the modern day Lazarus? Raising from a dead man’s tomb?

  4. Not commenting on this episode, as the character in question didn’t appear, but is that Jessica Pare doing a dual role dressed as a guy to play Megan’s geeky manager out in Hollywood? I was watching a replay of some of the earlier episodes for this season and it sure looks like her, albeit pretty well disguised- but the teeth give it away! Anybody else see the same thing or have the low down on it?

  5. That was an outstandingly well written and great review!