“Far Away Places” is different type of episode. Rather than follow a standard linear timeline, it focuses on a day on the life of three characters, Peggy, Roger and Don, with plot lines woven between the three characters. Instead of a traditional recap, I’m going to recap each character’s day. Note that “Other Stuff” will follow the linear format, with factoids and notes listed in the order they appear in the episode.
PEGGY’S DAY: The episode opens with Peggy and Abe arguing about her obsession with work and its impact on their love life. Abe asks her to go to the movies later that day, but Peggy says she can’t think because she has her big presentation for Heinz. The two argue, and Abe leaves. Don and Megan leave the office to visit a prospective client, leaving Peggy to pitch Heinz by herself. The Heinz folks don’t like her idea (and seem to not like the idea of a woman pitching to them generally), and Peggy nearly gets into a shouting match with them. Peggy leaves the office to blow off steam by having a few drinks. On a whim, she goes to see a movie. She sees a young man in the audience smoking a joint, and partakes herself. She then gives the young man a handjob in the theatre. She goes back to the office, where she sees Ginsberg arguing with his father. She passes out on Don’s sofa, only to be awakened later by a frantic call from Don. Peggy goes back to her office and finds Ginsberg there. She asks about his past and he initially tells her that he’s from Mars. But he eventually admits that his father isn’t his biological father, and that he was born in a concentration camp in World War II and lived in an Swedish orphanage until he was five. Peggy, moved by his story, goes home, calls Abe and invites him over.
ROGER’S DAY: Roger walks up to Dawn and asks her to buzz him when Don comes in. A few minutes later Don arrives, And Roger says that an old client has just been hired by Howard Johnson’s to help them remodel the chain. He invites Don to go with him to check out a property in Plattsburgh, New York. He really wants to get out of going to a dinner party with Jane and her friends (which he hates), so he’s really disappointed when Don takes Megan instead. We then see Roger and Jane in the elevator, clearly uncomfortable with each other. At the dinner Roger appears to be completely bored as the guests argue over the philosophic nature of “the truth”. Roger really wants to leave, but Jane says that he promised to take LSD with the rest of the group, which is led by Jane’s psychiatrist. Roger is initially unimpressed with the drug, and gets up to make himself a drink. When he opens the bottle, music plays. He puts the cap back on the bottle, the music stops. When he takes it off again, the music returns. He has several other hallucinations before he and Jane leave the party. At home, they take a bath together, while Roger hallucinates that he’s watching the 1919 World Series. The two of them then have a serious talk about their relationship. The next morning, an ecstatic Roger wishes Jane good bye and good luck. Jane initially doesn’t remember them talking about getting divorced. She then says that she didn’t mean any of what she said. Roger, however, is convinced the marriage is over.
DON’S DAY: We flash back to when Roger and Don walk out of his office after they discussed going to Plattsburgh. Don fetches Megan, who is reluctant to go at first. They arrive at the motel, and are given a sampler of everything on the Howard Johnson’s menu. The waitress asks if they’d like an dessert. Megan wants to order pie, but Don insists on getting the orange sherbert. While waiting on the dessert, Don and Megan get into an argument: she really didn’t want to abandon her team by leaving on the day Peggy pitched Heinz, yet Don seems to put her needs above his. The waitress brings the sherbert, and Megan hates it, saying it “tastes like perfume”. As the argument heats up, Don tells her to call her mother to complain about him, and she tells Don to call his mother. She realizes she’s taken it too far, but Don gets up, walks out of the restaurant, and takes off in the car. After he cools off, he drives back to the motel, and can’t find Megan anywhere. He calls Peggy and Megan’s mom, but they haven’t heard from her. He sleeps at the Howard Johnson’s and drives home early the next morning. He finds the apartment door chained, so he kicks the door in. The two struggle, and Don chases Megan around the apartment. They both trip, and Megan starts crying. She gets up to go to work, but Don grabs her around the waist and tearfully says that he thought he’d lost her.
We then see the two, all smiles, back at SCDP. Dawn greets Don and takes his coat and hat. Don looks down and sees an ad that has been rejected by Bert Cooper. He sees Bert in the conference room and walks in. Bert says that a client left the office unhappy yesterday because Don left “A little girl” (Peggy) in charge. Bert says that Don’s been on “love leave”, and he’s actually surprised that things have gone as well as they have with Don giving his work so little attention. Don says that it’s none of Bert’s business. Bert leans forward in his chair and says that this – SCDP – is his business. Cooper leaves, And Don watches Peggy walk past the conference room in one direction, and Stan, Ginsberg and Megan walk past in the other. Roger opens the door and tells Don that today will be a beautiful day.
– This episode was written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner and was directed by Sopranos alum Scott Hornbacher.
– Violet Mints were invented in New York in the 1930s by Charles Howard. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but over time the company name was shortened from C. Howard Company, Inc. to the unusual name of Chowards. The mints, if you’ve never had them, do, in fact, taste and smell like violets:
– The Naked Prey was released on June 14, 1966. It’s loosely based on the real-life story of a man named John Colter. Colter was an explorer who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous trek across the United States in the early 1800s. A couple of years after that he became the first European to see what would later become Yellowstone National Park. In 1808, Colter teamed up with fellow explorer John Potts to explore the area around Three Forks, Montana. A few months later, in 1809, the men were captured by Blackfeet Indians. Potts refused to cooperate with his captors, and was killed. Colter was released, and told to run. It quickly became clear that the Indians intended to hunt him down and kill him. Colter escaped, and eventually returned to civilization (well, St. Louis) and got married. Some say that Colter died fighting in the War of 1812. In any case, the 1966 film was originally supposed to be set in the American West, but somehow or the other “budget issues” forced the film to move to Rhodesia, where the plot was changed to an elephant hunt in order to accommodate the new location.
– When Stan walks in with coffee that morning, we see a familiar design on the cups. It’s Anthora (a play on the Greek word amphora), a coffee cup designed by Leslie Buck of the Sherri Cup Co. in 1963. Almost every independent restaurant in New York City sells coffee in these cups, and they’ve made multiple appearances in 30 Rock, Damages, NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Castle, Nurse Jackie, Lipstick Jungle and almost any other TV show set in New York. I did a little obit piece about Buck after his death in 2010; read more about him and his famous cups here.
– Salome is mentioned in the New Testament (Mark 6:17-29 and Matthew 14:3-11). She was the daughter of Herod II and Herodias, and is portrayed as a wicked seductress. A modern woman calling herself would have to know what she’s getting in to.
– Inside Peggy’s desk drawer:
– Megan may never have been inside a Howard Johnson’s, but she’s certainly been close. Don, Megan and the kids visited a diner in California in “Tomorrowland” (recap) that I could have sworn was a Howard Johnson’s. In fact, I even mentioned the company in the recap, calling it a “once ubiquitous chain” of diners in the United States that fell victim to the 1973 Oil Crisis and changing preferences from diners to even quicker fast food. In the recap, I mentioned that there were three Howard Johnson’s restaurants left in the United States, but I did not mention where they were. They are in Bangor, Maine, and Lake George and Lake Placid, New York. If you’re interested, this site has everything you could ever possibly want to know about Howard Johnson’s.
– Born Free was a 1966 British film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna as George and Joy Adamson, a real-life couple who raised an abandoned lion cub – Elsa the Lioness – to adulthood. The movie was based on a book of the same name, written by Joy, who also wrote the sequels Living Free and Forever Free. George wrote books, too: Bwana Game (called A Lifetime With Lions in the US) and My Pride and Joy. The five books spawned at least three movies, an NBC TV series in the US, and several made-for-TV movies and documentaries. Sadly, Elsa died an early death in 1961 due to Babesia felis, a disease similar to malaria that mostly infects cats.
– It’s hard to imagine smoking anything in a cinema these days, much less marijuana. But smoking was permitted in cinemas in New York state until 1975. I remember going to movies as a kid in Georgia and seeing “remember, we just banned smoking in theatres, so don’t light up!” PSAs before the trailers would start. So there’s little reason for Peggy and her “friend” to fear getting busted, especially if they’re smoking a “spliff” (a “spliff” is technically a joint made with half tobacco and half marijuana, which is much harder to detect by smell; however the exact meaning of “spliff” has drifted in the United States so that any marijuana cigarette may be called a “spliff”).
– I did some quick research, and found that babies surviving being born in a concentration camp were, in fact, incredibly rare. For example, this article says that only two babies were known to have survived being born at the infamous Auschwitz camp. Both had the good luck to have been born within three weeks of the camp being liberated by the Soviet Army (in fact, one was delivered by a Russian doctor on the very day the camp was liberated). This post talks about Eva Nathan Clarke, a woman who was born at the Mauthausen camp on April 29 (again, shortly before liberation, this time by American troops). Babies were somewhat more likely to survive at a “work camp” or “concentration camp” like Dachau (as mentioned in this article) than at “death camps” like Auschwitz or Mauthausen.
– Plattsburgh, New York is in the extreme northeast corner of the state. It is 307 miles (495km) from the Time-Life Building in Manhattan, around a five and a half hour drive. The city was ruled by Native Americans, the French, the British and finally Americans. Aside from electing the first openly gay mayor in New York state, the city is known for being home to the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base and to the east coast branch of Strategic Air Command. During the 1980s, the city became a shopping attraction for nearby Québécois, and bilingual signs became commonplace.
– In jokes and stories, the “farmer’s daughter” is almost always portrayed as a lonely, sexually needy girl who is happy to sleep with any stranger who comes to town. Here’s a whole page of such jokes, if you’re interested.
– Frank Lloyd Wright was the most famous American architect of the 20th century, perhaps the most famous and most highly regarded of all time. Of course, Roger calls him “Frank Lloyd Rice” just to annoy Jane and her friends.
– LSD was created on November 16, 1938 at Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. It was derived from ergotamine, an alkaloid in ergot, a fungus which infests rye, and which was first isolated at Sandoz in 1918. LSD’s discoverer, Albert Hoffman, was actually looking for a stimulant, and LSD wasn’t deemed effective enough. However, in April 1943 Hoffman decided to take another look at LSD, and accidentally ingested a tiny amount of the drug through his fingertips. He experienced a very slight psychoactive experiment that day, and soon he decided to dose himself again. After an hour, he began to feel very uncomfortable, so he asked his lab assistant to escort him home. But, because the use of personal vehicles was banned due to the war, the two had to take bicycles (this is why, in some circles, the first acid trip is celebrated on April 19 as “Bicycle Day”).
Sandoz began selling the drug for psychiatric uses under the name Delysid in 1947. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the drug was hailed as a miracle cure for minor personality disorders, migraine headaches, and alcoholism. A famous study conducted Dr Humphry Osmond found that 50% of people who had been unable to quit drinking via Alcoholics Anonymous were able to quit via his LSD treatments, a success rate that has never been equaled. In the 1950s, the drug became popular with the “hip crowd”; Cary Grant was a big believer in LSD therapy – read this Vanity Fair article if you don’t believe me.
But by the mid 1960s, the drug began to be used recreationally, and fear of the drug caused bans to appear in various US states and in other countries. This was helped in the US by the death of Diane Linkletter, daughter of television personality Art Linkletter. Art was to my grandparent’s generation what Dick Clark was to my parent’s generation and Ryan Seacrest is to the current generation. When Diane, who was clinically depressed, jumped to her death on October 4, 1969, Art was certain that she’d taken LSD and believed she could fly, and that the drug was responsible for her death. He went on the airwaves telling people just that, and many were so affected by the story that they believed it, and demanded that their legislators ban the drug. (In reality, it seems that Diane had an intense case of depression and took her own life, and Art, perhaps not wanting to believe that, blamed the drug instead.) LSD ended up being banned by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which classified it as a “Schedule I substance”, that is, a drug with a “high potential for abuse”, “no currently accepted medical use” and a “lack of accepted safety” level. This killed almost all medical research with the drug, although in the past few years researchers in Switzerland have studied the drug as a treatment for “end of life anxiety” for terminally-ill patients.
– Loved Roger’s “emergency note”:
We also find out that he lives at 31 E. 66th Street, apartment 14a. This is not a real address. If it were, it would be near Central Park, between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue. It seems that the entire 3x range of E. 66th Street addresses doesn’t exist. The numbers are in the 2os on one side of Madison Avenue, and 40s on the other. So if the 30 range did exist, then buildings would be smack dab in the middle of Madison Avenue.
– When Roger says “Well, Dr. Leary, I find your product boring” he is, of course, referring to Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor who advocated the use of psychedelic drugs as a therapy tool. Considered one of the biggest icons in the 1960s counter-culture movement, Leary popularized the phrases “turn on, tune in, drop out” and “think for yourself and question authority”.
Believe it or not, American jazz musician Glenn Miller did a jazz arrangement of the song (YouTube) that hit #1 in the US charts in 1941. The tune was also used in many Tom & Jerry cartoons, The Simpsons, as the theme for an Australian rugby team, and the song (with words) was heard in the first Shrek film.
– CONFUSED? At first I thought Roger’s line about Timothy Leary was just a joke. But the character is listed as Leary in bootleg subtitle files, and seems to talk abut many of the same things Leary did. For example, Leary wrote a book in 1964 called The Psychedelic Experience, which was based on the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead), which the character mentions. On the other hand, the actor doesn’t look the least bit like Leary and isn’t listed as Leary in the credits. Also, by this point, Leary was a celebrity, perhaps too much of one to be dosing small groups of relative nobodies. I’m not the only one confused by this point: the AV Club, The Onion’s well-regarded media wing, is confused too.
– Don’s “you are okay” line goes all the way back to the pilot episode:
Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.
– The song the woman plays on the reel-to-reel tape player at the LSD party is “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” by The Beach Boys (YouTube), which seems to fit Roger pretty well, no?
– Someone at an electronics site said that the reel-to-reel player was a Curtis Mathes, but I’m not so sure. I can’t find any evidence that the company ever made standalone tape decks – it seems like they specialized in console units. In any case, Curtis Mathes was once a highly-regarded manufacturer of TVs and stereos, considered by many as “America’s Sony”. However, founder George Curtis Mathes was killed on June 2, 1983 in Air Canada Flight 797 (which was not a crash: a fire started in-flight which exploded into a fireball after the plane landed and the cabin doors were opened). The company then died a slow death, being bought out by Enhanced Electronics in 1988. For a time, the company sold re-branded goods from Panasonic and Samsung (among others), and became the “house brand” for several rent-to-own chains. In the late 1990s, the company became the house brand for K-Mart, and is now sold at Walmart, Sears and other discount stores.
– The Life magazine Roger flips through is the June 24, 1966 issue:
Too bad he didn’t have the March 25, 1966 issue handy:
– The ad Roger flips to is a genuine ad for “Great Day”, a hair color made by Clairol and targeted towards men. Here’s a full copy of the ad:
If you’re interested, Clairol filed for the “Great Day” trademark in 1966 and it was officially declared abandoned in 1992.
– How appropriate that Don would be Roger’s spirit guide:
– Not that I have any personal experience with the matter, but the recommendation to not look in the mirror when on LSD is good advice.
– Anyone have any idea what the song is that plays over the Beach Boys and is heard during Roger and Jane’s cab ride home? Google only returns other people asking the same question, and some of my favorite Mad Men sites are stumped, too. Even YouTube comments were no help!
– You know who’s on the $5 bill? Not Abraham Lincoln… it’s Bert Cooper!
– GOOF? The “Bert Cooper $5 bill” is from the 1963 series, and looks correct in most aspects. The Treasury did use red ink on the bills at that time, and the two signatures on the bill look correct. But if you look at the top of the note you can make out the words “TREASURY OF”, which was only included on silver certificates. And the last $5 silver certificates were series 1953. Unlike coins, which are stamped with the the year they were minted, US paper notes are issued in “series”, and the date only changes when there is a change to the design. So, for instance, series 1882 gold certificates were still being printed with the 1882 date as late as 1927. Before 1974, “minor changes” in design (which typically meant updated signatures for newly appointed Secretaries of the Treasury or Treasurers of the United States) resulted in a letter being added to the series year (so, “Series 1969A”). After 1974, such changes were reclassified as “major” and a new series was issued. Here’s a genuine bill that Roger might have used, followed by a 1953 silver certificate (with the extra text above “The United States of America”:
– The 1919 World Series was the most controversial event in the history of American baseball. The series, which featured the Chicago White Sox playing the Cincinnati Reds, was controversial because eight White Sox players – “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Buck Weaver, Claude “Lefty” Williams, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg and Arnold “Chick” Gandil – were found to have lost games on purpose for gambling reasons. It’s never been completely clear exactly what happened. The Wikipedia page for the scandal says that Gandil knew some small-time organized crime figures, and it was through them that he got in touch with New York gangster Arnold Rothstein (the same Arnold Rothstein seen in HBO’s series Boardwalk Empire). However, Rothstein’s Wikipedia page implies that the entire scam was Rothstein’s idea, and that he, through intermediaries, paid the players to throw the series, which he made up for by betting big on the Reds. One way or the other, the eight White Sox players, who would end up with the nickname “the Black Sox”, were banned for life from the game of baseball, even though some, like Weaver, knew about the fix but did not participate in it.
The impact of the scandal can still be felt today: American sports leagues are hyper-sensitive to the idea of being attached to gambling in any way. One of the most famous baseball players of all time – 1960s and 70s star Pete Rose – was banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games and (allegedly) betting for the team he managed, the Cincinnati Reds (evidence emerged much later that he might have bet against the Reds, which is considered much worse than betting for a team). He is banned from the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite being named an All-Star 17 times, National League (NL) Rookie of the Year (1963), NL MVP (1973), World Series Most Valuable Player (1975) and NL Batting Champion three times (1968, 1969, 1973)… despite winning the Golden Glove Award twice (1969, 1970)… and despite holding records for most career hits (4,256), most games played (3,562), and most career at-bats (14,053). In fact, if you want to start an argument between baseball fans, ask if they think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Be prepared to duck!
– The Howard Johnson’s manager who greets Don and Megan is Dale Vanderwort.
– The external scenes of the Howard Johnson’s were filed at the Regency Inn and Suites in Baldwin Park, California. CGI was used to bring the famous orange roof back to the hotel, which was made easier because the Regency Inn was once a Howard Johnson’s:
– The internal shots were filmed at Rod’s Grill in Arcadia, California. Looking at the pictures at the Yelp link, it’s obvious that not a lot of work was necessary to make it look like a 1960s diner:
– And yes, Howard Johnson’s was famous for their clam strips. In fact, HoJo was the first restaurant chain to ever sell clam strips. A man named Thomas Soffron started the Soffron Brothers Clam Company in Ipswitch, Massachusetts in 1938 with his brothers. But here’s the thing: Soffron was a “picky eater” and the idea of eating clams kind of grossed him out. As the story goes, Soffron took the “foot” of a large clam – a long muscle used to move around the sand, sometimes up to 9″ (23cm) long – cut it in to strips, breaded it and fried it. He loved the taste and, more importantly, wasn’t squicked out eating it. The dish became popular in Ipswitch, but was unheard of anywhere else. But less than two years later, by sheer luck, he ran in to Howard Johnson, who was opening a bunch of restaurants in New England and needed a tasty, quickly-made food. Soffron made some of the strips for Johnson, and he loved them too. Soon, Johnson was offering them nationwide. So basically, Howard Johnson’s single-handedly made clam strips a popular dish at American restaurants.
-Something I haven’t mentioned about this season yet: the absolute riot of color everywhere. The show used to be about muted tones: lots of grey business suits, neutral office furniture, and muted home decor. But as the show has gone on, more and more color has crept in. I mean, just look at this screencap:
– Don has apparently gotten a new car. I’m not a “car guy”, but this sure looks like a 1965 Cadillac Coupe DeVille to me:
That little (big?) piece of chrome by the front wheel was significantly smaller on the 1966 Coupe DeVille, so that’s how I figure it. We saw Don buy a 1962 Cadillac (or 1963, you know how “car years” are) in “The Gold Violin” (recap) after his DUI “incident”.
– Gulf Oil (you can see a sign twice at Howard Johnson’s) was one of the largest American companies. It was founded in 1901 by a group of investors, the largest of which was Pittsburgh-based William Larimer Mellon. Although the Mellons were well off before, Gulf became the backbone of their family fortune. Due to poor management, the company was forced to merge with Standard Oil of California 1984, the largest merger in history to that time. The combined company operates under the Chevron name.
– The New York State Police officer’s uniform looks pretty authentic:
Incidentally, New York State divides their officers into “troops”, which cover certain counties. The officer in Mad Men would be a member of Troop B, which covers Clinton County, home of Plattsburgh.
– As Don daydreams about his trip to California with Megan and the kids on the ride home from Plattsburgh, he’s whistling “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles.
– Coincidence? Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (top) and Don Draper in Mad Men:
– I didn’t see a way to give this episode a specific date. Anybody?
– The closing music appears to be a David Carbonara original.
I’m not normally a fan of “trick episodes” in any series, much less Mad Men. When I first saw this I absolutely hated it, and not just for the interwoven story lines gimmick. I hated the whole “Roger on LSD” thing for multiple reasons. For one thing, it smacked of trying too hard. I thought it was out of character for him, even if it was Jane’s idea. And, of course, the experience shown in the episode in no way shape or form resembles an actual LSD trip (except for, perhaps, the idea of cigarettes “disappearing” like it did for Roger, although that has more to do with time dilation than a straight-up hallucination). Why can’t any show ever show LSD a bit more authentically? Having said that, I can totally appreciate where the LSD gimmick gives them a way to neatly dispose of Jane without five episodes of the two arguing back and forth. In fact, the whole LSD thing just might turn Roger around generally (he typed, knowing how the next four episodes played out). Oh, one more thing: when did Roger pick up vodka? Generally speaking, I mean. Vodka was not at all popular outside of Europe until the 1950s, and Stolichnaya in particular was not imported in the US until 1965. I’ve always heard that vodka wasn’t popular in the US until the James Bond films, so maybe Roger had bourbon in early seasons? I forget.
I’m not sure how I felt about either Peggy or Don’s storyline. I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and said “eh, that’s nice” about Peggy’s story: she gets mad at her man, messes around with another man in a darkened cinema, then realizes how important Abe is to her after hearing Ginsberg’s story. Neato. And Don? Yes, Don’s been needing someone – Bert, Roger, Pete, anybody – to give him a square kick in the ass for some time now. So I can appreciate that bit of it. But why did he have to be such a dick to Megan? That’s something I’d expect from “Old Don”, not “New Don”… especially since Don fell in love with Megan after Bobby spilled a milkshake at a Howard Johnson’s-style diner and she was so calm about it. I guess some folks will just never learn. Of course, Megan says that their fights diminish their relationship, but I think that’s hopelessly naive. When we first fall in love, we imagine the object of our affection as perfect and without faults. But the realty of a relationship, of living with another human being, is that they do have faults, and you do get in to arguments. I know Don and Megan truly love each other, but we’ll have to see how it plays out between the Free Spirit and her Domineering Husband. They sure seem to have a lot of angry make-up sex, and maybe that’s what makes them work.
Of course, I could get all “meta” and say that his entire episode was like an acid trip. There are three people, together, but each in their own little world. We begin with one person’s story and then go back through time to experience another’s. In each story, time seems to expand and contract as characters doze off on office furniture or Howard Johnson banquettes, or as they imagine themselves at baseball games almost 50 years in the past. The episode does kind of meander here and there like an acid trip, with nothing rushed or forced.
I think the one thing that truly saves this episode is one of the last scenes, when Don looks out from the conference room. Peggy walks by, then the other members of Creative walk past in the opposite direction. I think Don realizes that he knows very little of what’s going on with his own team. Maybe we’ll see if Don gets with the program. Or maybe he’ll continue falling… next week!