Mad Men recap: A Death in Memphis

History intrudes on the lives of Don and company as everyone reacts to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ep. 05 | Aired Apr 28, 2014

AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS Megan gets nominated for an advertising award, one of the last vestiges of her former profession.

AMC

While Don is singing "Sunrise, Sunset" over Bobby's new maturity, Ginsberg's father -- who already resembles a bit of a Tevye -- is doing a rendition of "Matchmaker, Matchmaker." Ginsberg is used to being alone, but unlike Don, it's not by choice. His date with the schoolteacher goes well, despite being cut short by the tragedy and despite his attempt to test her interest by rambling about his virginity. Clearly, she's attracted to the goofy Jewish boy with the Tom Selleck mustache. The episode's title "The Flood" comes from Mr. Ginsberg's Biblical admonition, "In the flood, the animals went two by two. You’re going to get on the boat with your father?” It's no coincidence that he cites the story of Noah, the original dad with a drinking problem. When his own personal apocalypse comes, will Don have anyone to march with?

Peggy, meanwhile, continues to show how she's different from her mentor. With Abe, she's building the life that she wants, not the one she's expected to have. Chaough gives her boyfriend's Easy Rider get-up a once-over and writes him off, but Peggy doesn't care. There's a bit of gender-role awkwardness with Peggy being the one to buy the apartment, but Abe doesn't care. These two crazy kids love each other and they're not going to let expectations or petty resentments get in the way of that.

Abe wants to walk side-by-side with Peggy into the ark, and he admits that his apparent disinterest in her apartment search was only respect for the fact that this wasn't his decision. When he mentions the fact that he didn't see them raising their kids in the tony Upper East Side, Peggy radiates relief and joy. Where Don's marriage was a makeshift thing thrown together over a vacation to Disneyland, Peggy's will be one constructed slowly, brick-by-brick.

Overall, "The Flood" was significantly stronger than Season 3's JFK-assassination episode "The Grown-Ups." It was also probably the best hour so far this season. Don is finally getting a clue that his actions have consequences not just for others, but for himself. At this point, sympathy for the charming devil is pretty much out of the question, but it's still possible to pity him. While it's always been hard to see exactly what Henry sees in Betty, she's at least able to find some stability. Pete meanwhile had a wonderfully supportive home life—and a wife that was such a perfect match that it was almost incestuous, like a pair of married fraternal twins—but he traded it away in his quest to emulate men like Don. But, as Don knows, just because you look and act like a winner, doesn't mean you aren't a loser.

STRAY THOUGHTS

Megan's father's response to the assassination was that he "applauded the escalation of decay," which is one of those lines that sounds like it could have only been translated from French. It also sounds like he could be talking as a viewer of the show.

Mad Men is now fully into its orange period. The color keeps popping up everywhere.

Pete tries to have a conversation with his Chinese deliveryman, but like with nearly everyone on this show, there's a communication breakdown.

"I can't wait for people to meet you. Really meet you," says Henry to Betty after telling her he wants to run for State Senate. Are you sure about that, buddy? Also, would this mean a move from Westchester to Albany?

Betty still refers to Megan as Don's "girlfriend." Huh.

"All I see when I close my eyes is our name and a Molotov cocktail being lit with a match, and then a coupon at the bottom.” That's the wacko pitch from Roger's LSD friend, which gets a giggle from Stan, who knows a little about drug-inspired creativity.

I feel like using Jon Hamm's narration in an American Airlines ad during the commercial break constitutes cheating in some way.

Follow Keith on Twitter: @Staskijiwczejcz

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