We’ve just concluded what we here at Spunkybean think was an overall fantastic season of Mad Men. That got us thinking, what were the most memorable parts of the season? The images and plot twists that will stick in our brains? It turned out we could up with something significant in each episode, while some had multiple events. We figured we’d compile a list for you, since we may need to relive the memories for a while until Season 6 starts.
Zou Bisou (“A Little Kiss Part 1”)–The long-awaited Season 5 premiere brought us confirmation that Don was happily married to his former secretary Megan, and she was planning a surprise 40th birthday for him. What his new bride didn’t know was that Don isn’t a big fan of surprises, nor of blending his work and private life. So, he gritted his teeth and drank some alcohol. So did Megan. And when she’d had “just enough”, she got her cool Boho friends to be her backing band on an uber-sexy rendition of a French pop song that had everyone enthralled and some, including Don, a little uncomfortable. But the best exchange went to the Sterlings. Roger: “Why can’t you sing like her?” Jane: “Why don’t you look like him?”
Half-Naked Housework (“A Little Kiss Part 2”)–As a result of her performance, Megan was the talk of the office, and it was not all nice. She told Peggy she wasn’t feeling well and headed home, where Don found her scrubbing the soiled white carpet in her bra & panties. She immediately went into crazy mode, first taunting him and yelling at him, then engaging with him in rough sex right there in their sunken living room. It was raunchy and unsettling and we couldn’t stop talking about it.
Peggy hires Michael Ginsberg (“Tea Leaves”)–Peggy’s increased responsibilities at the agency included hiring new creative talent, and she saw something special in the quirky, loud and somewhat inappropriate Ginsberg. He appears to be SCDP’s first Jewish employee of any stature, a trait that gave his story another layer in that he appears to be the son of Holocaust victims and was a big help to Roger in landing the Manischewitz business.
Fat Betty (“Tea Leaves”)–The image that launched a thousand You Tube tribute videos, this episode was our first glimpse of Betty for the season, and it was a humdinger. When she went to the doctor to see about getting some help “reducing”, he gave her an exam and found something suspicious on her neck that he wanted to biopsy. Betty immediately thought she was dying, and went into martyr mode, even getting Don to comfort her. When she found out she was, in fact, “just fat”, any pity we had for her problems went right back out the window.
Peggy extorting money from Roger (“Mystery Date”)–This was definitely one of our favorite scenes to date. Roger, who had gotten used to doing nothing all day, forgot to assign an entire image campaign for Mohawk Airlines, and begged Peggy to do the whole thing in just a weekend, for the tidy sum of $10. He admitted he’d screwed up and was practically begging. Knowing she had him by the balls, Peggy balked at the offer and said she needed more. When he asked how much, she replied, “How much you got?” while her feet rested on her desk and she rocked back in her chair. He was floored, but gave her $400 in cash. It was a brilliant scene, and we loved hearing Elisabeth Moss say this scene was her attempt at playing Roger Sterling.
Don chokes a Bitch (“Mystery Date”)–When Don and Megan ran into an former colleague of Don’s who just happened to be a beautiful woman named Andrea, Megan was perturbed by their obvious history. Later, Don went home with the flu, and Andrea knocked on the door, throwing herself at Don. Much of this seemed odd (how did she know where he lived? Why would she want to sleep with someone who was obviously ill?), and it got downright nutty when, after what seemed like a roll in the hay that he actually regretted, Don violently choked Andrea until she was dead. Thankfully, we quickly saw that it was a fever dream, and Don had not been unfaithful nor murdered anyone.
Pete & Lane’s Fight (“Signal 30”)–Lane Pryce wasn’t really much of an Ad Man, but he wanted nothing more than to fit in with the other partners by bringing in new business and being truly valuable beyond the role of bean counter. He got a lead on Jaguar, and was sent to Roger (the “Professor Emeritus” of Accounts) for some coaching. Sadly, none of his tips really helped Lane at his dinner meeting, and it was decided that Pete, Don and Roger would try to wine and dine the man instead. That meeting went better, and it turned out all the guy really wanted was a hooker, a request on which the old vets were happy to oblige him. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help where said hooker put her gum while she took care of business. And then Jaguar dude’s wife called Rebecca Pryce in a panic, as she’d found “chewing gum on his pubis!” Lane’s embarrassment and outrage boiled over when Pete insinuated he was gay, and this led to a fistfight right in the middle of a partners’ meeting. The expressions of Bert, Roger and Don as Lane kicked Pete’s ass were perfection, as was the ass kicking.
Roger’s Acid Trip (“Faraway Places”)–Of all the characters on Mad Men, Roger Sterling was about the last one we thought would drop acid (Behind Bert Cooper, of course.) But, his wife’s therapist suggested they try it together, and Roger was all but trapped at the dinner party where it was to happen. The scene that depicted the start of his trip was hilariously high concept, with crazy images and musical liquor bottles. The sequence that followed found Roger and Jane in the tub and then lying on the floor wearing matching towel turbans, really talking and being honest for the first time in years. When the high wore off, Roger thanked Jane for the experience, and reminded her of the decision they’d made together to end their marriage. She straightened up and told him it wasn’t going to be cheap. Yeah, 1966 was an expensive year for Roger Sterling.
Peggy’s Lost Day (“Faraway Places”)–When Don and Megan ditched an important Heinz pitch to check out a new Howard Johnson’s upstate (have you tried the orange sherbet?!), Peggy was going solo for the first time. Though her idea was strong, young and fresh, the old fashioned client wasn’t sold, and her attempt at being Don Draper (“I think you do like it. You just like to fight!”) failed miserably. So, she took a stiff belt of whiskey and headed to the movies, where she indulged in a little daytime pot smoking and, most shockingly, gave a handjob to the guy who gave her the joint. She then went back and did some more work, had a startling conversation with Ginsberg that revealed he was actually born in a concentration camp, and made up with Abe. A strange day indeed.
Sally witnessing Marie & Roger hooking up (“At the Codfish Ball”)–Don was being given an award by the American Cancer Society in the wake of the infamous Lucky Strike letter, and he had a whole group along to celebrate. This included Megan’s parents, Emile and Marie, and Sally, who was a last minute addition to the group, looking like a full-fledged teenager with full makeup and white go go boots to go with her mod dress. Don nixed the makeup and the boots, but those were really the least of his troubles. Sally was Roger’s “date” for the night, and he was being perfectly charming until he started really flirting with Marie. One minute they were at the table, the next they were missing, leaving Sally to wander the building, opening random doors. Too bad she picked the one they were behind, Marie getting very familiar with the part of Roger’s anatomy he opted to show all of Manhattan in the season finale.
Peggy & Don’s fight in the test kitchen (“Lady Lazarus”)–After Megan quit SCDP, Don was somewhat adrift. They’d been working on a pitch for Cool Whip and their banter was great, especially the tag line, “Taste it!” But once Don, Peggy and Ken got in the test kitchen and were meeting with the client, a nervous and flustered Peggy screwed up the line, saying “Try it!” more than once. Don was too off his game to salvage it, and the two quickly dissolved into a shouting match that served only to demonstrate Peggy’s ongoing frustration at being taken for granted.
Rory Gilmore Sideboob (“Dark Shadows”)–We were delighted the first time we saw Alexis Bledel show up as Beth, the wife of Pete’s dickish train partner, Howard. We were also taken aback by how quickly things got sexual. We clutched our pearls once again when Beth showed up at Pete’s office wearing her own string of pearls, a fur coat and not much more. Too bad for Pete it was a daydream (not to be confused with a fever dream). But hats off to Miss Bledel…if we had those boobs, we’d flash our decolletage all the time.
Don’s Speech to Rally the Troops (“Christmas Waltz”)–Spurred on by the ability to present his employees Christmas bonuses and invigorated by the prospect of landing a car account, Don sought to really motivate the SCDP staff, and it was such a homerun that we quoted it verbatim in that week’s recap.
Don & Joan Get Drinks (“Christmas Waltz”)–After Joan was served with divorce papers at the office and had a meltdown in reception, Don whisked her off to test drive Jags with him and just generally try to cheer up his friend. They ended up taking a test drive that ended at a midtown bar. It was another one for the All Time Best Scenes Hall of Fame, as we don’t see this pairing enough. Don revealed he was always afraid to cross Joan, which explains why he never hit on her. And his love for Megan is at least part of the reason that he didn’t do it here either. The next day, he sent her flowers and a card, just because.
Joan’s One Night Stand/the Jaguar Pitch (“The Other Woman”)–This storyline was really the talk of the season, some good and some bad. The head of the Jaguar Dealer Association not so subtly asked Pete for a night with Joan in exchange for his vote at the pitch and she eventually opted to do it in exchange for a partnership. Don had been the one dissenting vote (Pete seemed fine with it, while the others had expressed degrees of outrage, but all relented.) He even stopped by her apartment to tell her not to go through with it. We were shown their conversation before the scene of Joan’s illicit night, which itself was interspersed with the agency’s actual pitch. We then saw that Don had been too late to have any impact, as Joan had actually just returned from her encounter when he stopped by. The pitch was a homerun Don was right to be confident in, and they ended up winning the business in a walk. But we’ll never know what would have been if Joan said no.
Peggy’s Resignation (“The Other Woman”)–Peggy’s never had good timing when she wants to ask for raises and such, and it wasn’t much better here. She was ready to quit just as the Jaguar verdict was coming down, but Don, disappointed in his knowledge that Joan had slept with the dealer guy, was alone in his office rather than celebrating with the group after the winning call came in. Peggy, very clearly having practiced her speech, tendered her resignation to Don. Both Hamm and Moss are fantastic here, especially Hamm, if only for the range of emotions he expresses with just his face. It was also revealed that the way he took Peggy’s hand and kissed it was a last minute choice made by the actor and director that Moss didn’t even know was going to happen, so her tears at that moment were genuine.
Lane’s Suicide Attempt & Eventual Hanging (“Commissions and Fees”)–You could spot Lane’s impending suicide from the beginning of the hour, but lived in fear of him actually going through with it. Having been discovered as an embezzler, he was asked to resign by Don, who swore he was doing him a favor in not taking him right to the police. His pride, shame and fear or failure got the best of him when his wife surprised him with a Jag in the garage. He tried to kill himself in the car late that night, but the damn thing wouldn’t start! However, a boilerplate resignation letter, a noose and a small side table did the trick. The shot of Lane hanging from the door, as well as the scene of Pete, Don and Roger cutting him down and laying him on the couch were stark and amazing. Joan’s reaction was heartbreaking.
Don’s Dow Pitch (“Commissions and Fees”)–With the Jaguar win under his belt, Don was super motivated again. He wanted American Airlines and Chevy instead of Mohawk and Jaguar. He had Roger get him a meeting with the head of Dow Chemical (aka Ken’s father in law) and icily told them that they were being complacent, and a 50% market share for a company of their stature wasn’t enough. The execs finally seemed impressed when Don is able to wax poetic about Napalm, of all things. After the meeting, Roger offered to take him out for a drink “after you wipe the blood off your mouth.”
The Partners looking out over Manhattan from their New Floor (“The Phantom”)–The season finale had a lot stuffed into it, but what I thought was really great? Downright iconic? The partners standing all fanned out across the empty second floor they’re adding to staff up for new business. It was a glorious way to say goodbye to the old season while welcoming a new one, full of promise and change, hopefully for the better.