Mad Men recap: What's the Frequency, Ginsberg?

Ginsberg checks out while Don and Megan live out an L.A. fantasy
Ep. 05 | Aired May 11, 2014

In Los Angeles, Megan seems happy that Don is coming early, though she seems disappointed that Stephanie's visit will likely postpone the actors' class party she was planning for Saturday. With Don being kept after school by Lou, Megan graciously, if awkwardly, welcomes Stephanie on Friday night... at first. After some rest and a bath, Stephanie and Megan get to talking about Dick/Don, and when Stephanie innocently says, "I know all of his secrets," Megan's face drops and the room gets chilly. No doubt Megan sees Stephanie as a threat -- perhaps not a romantic rival but definitely competition for Don's heart and soul. She knows him. Megan cuts to the chase. "Would $1,000 get you far enough?" she says, leaving out the two most important words at the end of the sentence, "...from here." "I really think it's better this way," she adds, practically shaming Stephanie out of the house and back to the streets.

Later, when Don arrives on Saturday morning, disappointed to find Stephanie gone -- but Amy From Delaware there -- Megan tells the most unforgivable lie, "I really tried to get her to stay."

But joy! -- this means Megan can have her party after all! There's music, drugs, and dancing. Megan does a little number with a shaggy actor pal, and it doesn't look like it's their first tango. Don watches from afar, as if he's the young uncle housesitting while his niece and her friends drink in the basement. His face alternates from contempt to boredom, and he can hardly be bothered with Amy's very direct attempts at flirtation. How bad is the party for Don? The highlight for him is when Harry Crane walks in.

Harry, who apparently is even more bi-coastal these days than Don, is there with a young actress who is not his wife. Don spirits him away to have a manly drink, and I suspect that Harry thinks Don is making a play somehow. Honestly, I just think Don wanted out of the party -- and even horrible Harry is better company than anyone else at Megan's house. At the bar, silence is Don's best weapon, as Harry talks and talks and talks about the company's plans to win a Philip Morris cigarettes account, a contract that would seal Don's fate since he once cut the industry's throat in the pages of the New York Times. "I want you to know, I respect you," Harry says, when he's trying to win Don's loyalty -- or silence. "I am going to make sure that you're still important [at SC&P]."

When Don returns to Laurel Canyon, Amy From Delaware is still there, and both she and Megan are high. Don just wants to crash, but Megan wants to keep the party going. She sends Amy to tuck Don in, then holds Don's hand and other appendages to facilitate a threesome. "Kiss her," she says to him. "I know you want to." "I don't want anything right now," he replies, as honestly as a man in his position can sound. No matter to Megan, the same gal who once laughed at the swinging New York acting couple who tried to recruit the Drapers for some sexual swapping. So Don got to make love to two beautiful women, and the look on his face as his wife kissed her friend was pure Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 2. Don might be a little old for this sh--.

Megan has expressed her suspicions as a wife 3,000 miles away from a husband who has a history or philandering. Even though Don tried to reassure her that he hasn't strayed -- lately -- Megan's ménage à trois seemed rooted in her growing insecurities as an inconsequential wife and a flailing actress. She may have been wounded by Don's indifferent and his distracted reaction to her dance with the handsome actor, especially in contrast to the riveted look on Don's face when she performed "Zou Bisou Bisou" at the height of their romance. Don wasn't jealous or turned on to see her dancing with her acting classmate; he was simply disinterested.

Back in New York, the IBM 360, the giant new computer that's whirring in the offices of SC&P, has claimed its first victim. Ginsberg has been the most vocal about the evils of the computer and what it means long-term for the office and human civilization. On Friday morning, Peggy and Don get off the elevator to find him ranting at the machine through the glass. "What am I, a Cassandra?" he says to them. "That machine came for us, and one by one..."

Ginsberg has never been quite normal, but his eccentricities -- his almost-alien social skills, and his fast mind and even faster mouth -- have been a reliable source of contrarian, off-center thinking. But this computer thing is in his head, quite literally. The machine's constant humming is pushing him over the edge, and when he sees Cutler and Lou having a Saturday meeting in the computer room, he puts 2 + 2 together and gets 88. I'll leave it to the professional lip-readers to divine what each man was saying, but Ginsberg knows what he knows: the computer's real M.O. is turning the men in the office gay, he tells Peggy at her apartment. ("That machine makes men do unnatural things.")

He can hear the subversive siren call himself, as evidenced by the way he finds himself admiring Stan's shoulders on occasion. This is no joke, which Peggy learns when she wakes up from her afternoon nap to find her odd co-worker staring at her intently. "Peggy, we got to reproduce," he says, and tries to kiss her. "If there was a way of doing it without having sex, I'd do it," he adds -- thus proving beyond reasonable doubt that his sexual instincts have very little to do with some computer.

NEXT: The nip-slip heard 'round the world

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