Mad Men: “Mystery Date”

This episode begins with Megan and a very sick Don getting on an elevator. The elevator stops, and an old flame of Don’s named Andrea Rhodes gets on. She begins flirting with him until he introduces her to “his wife, Megan”. Andrea backs off, and gets off the elevator a couple of floors later. Megan, almost under her breath, says “incroyable!” (“incredible!”) after Andrea leaves. Megan asks how many times they’re going to run in to someone Don has slept with. The two start to argue, but Don starts coughing and Megan turns away.


In the office, Peggy, Stan and Michael work on a pitch for Topaz. Peggy’s friend Joyce Ramsay shows up with graphic pictures from some recent murders in Chicago. Stan and Peggy eagerly look at the photos, but Ginsberg is repulsed and calls them “disgusting”. Michael gets up and leaves, calling them all “sickos”.

At Joan’s place, our favorite redhead pulls a cake out of the oven and laments that it’s not set. Greg is coming come and Joan is obviously planning a party. Gail offers to go to the bakery, and Joan, obviously frazzled, asks if they have beer. Gail offers to take the baby, but Joan says that Greg will want to see him. Gail says that he’ll really want to “see” Joan first. Gail starts talking about what men doe when they’re away from home, and Joan tries to cut her off, as she knows that Gail is talking about her husband.

Meanwhile, Don lies on the sofa, obviously sick. His phone buzzes: it’s Sally calling him. He asks what’s wrong, and Sally says that “Grandma Pauline” is there and she (Sally) hates her. Don advises her to stay out of Pauline’s way and reminds her that Betty will be home Friday morning. Sally says that it is Friday, and that someone called Henry’s line and said that they couldn’t get a flight from Buffalo and that someone will be driving them back tonight. Don says that you’d think Henry could get a flight, and Sally agrees, sarcastically adding that Henry is so important. She then says that Henry and Betty call Bobby all the time at camp, and that they might talk to her if she was peeing in her pants like Bobby. Don says that she’s not being nice, but Sally continues to complain about Pauline’s perfume and that Betty lets her watch as much TV as she wants during the summer. Don advises her to go outside and get some sun. She says that she has already, and that it’s really hot outside. Don tells her to stop complaining, then starts coughing. Sally asks how he is, and he says that he has a cold, but that Sally’s call made him feel better.

Stan and Ginsberg walk in to Don’s office as he’s getting off the phone with Sally. Michael begins pitching Don the Topaz account. Don lights a cigarette, but the has a coughing fit and puts it out. He stops Michael and says that he’s heard enough, that he just wanted to hear the tone of Michael’s voice to make sure “it wasn’t as annoying as it is in everyday life”. Don asks Stan if he likes Michael’s idea, and that he (Don) never saw the boards for the “Cinderella idea”. Stan reminds Don that he’s the one who killed that idea, because Cinderella and shoes is a cliché. Don asks about Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but Stan says that those are “more about necrophilia than shoes”.

Back at Joan’s, Greg has arrived. The two kiss, then Gail introduces him to Kevin. Greg asks for the camera, but is told it’s out of film. Gail, taking the hint, offers to go buy some. Gail leaves with Kevin, and Joan and Greg start kissing passionately. She leads him to the bedroom.

At SCDP, Don looks everywhere for some aspirin. Megan walks up and asks what he’s doing, then asks why he just doesn’t ask Dawn to look for some. He says that he’s embarrassed, as he’s gone through an entire bottle since Dawn was hired. Megan finds a bottle, which she hands to Don. She feels his head, and says that he is very warm and should go home. Don doesn’t argue, in fact, he apologizes for the scene with Andrea in the elevator that morning. Megan unenthusiastically says that it’s OK, but she also says that his “careless appetite” can’t be entirely blamed on Betty. Don orders her to let it go and says that he married her, and will be with her until the day he dies.

In Rye, Sally and Pauline sit at the kitchen table. Pauline tells her to eat her sandwich, but Sally says that she’s not hungry. Pauline, who is reading the newspaper, mentions the “poor souls” (the nurses in Chicago). Sally asks what she’s talking about, but Pauline refuses to say. In fact, Pauline pops Sally on the hand when she reaches for the newspaper. She orders Sally to eat the tuna salad sandwich she’s made for her. Sally says that the hand pop hurt; Pauline apologizes, but says that she needs to learn to respect rules.

Back at Joan’s, she wakes up from a post-coital nap to find Greg making a bologna sandwich. Joan says that they have steal and cake, and Greg says that they had steak in Vietnam, but not bologna. Joan asks what the three of them are up to, and Greg says that he’s showing off his skills with his hands (by making the sandwich). Gail says that they also talked about the riots; Greg says that there are plenty of “Negroes” in Vietnam, and they’re all brave. Joan says that Greg should wear his uniform all the time, and Greg then asks Gail to go out and get more beer. As soon as Gail leaves, Greg tells Joan that he has signed up for another year with the army. Joan is hurt and livid, but Greg asks her to be nice as they only have ten days together before he has to go back to the army.

Don watches as Michael pitches the ad campaign to Butler (Topaz? See below). Things appear to go well at first, and the clients sign off on the idea. But when Mr Butler goes to congratulate Michale on a job well done, Ginsberg goes off on a tangent about Cinderella and how the story is “too dark” to sell shoes. But Ginsberg does such a great job describing to the Butler people why it’s not a good idea that it becomes a great idea. “Mr. Butler” asks if they can use Ginsberg’s idea instead. At a bar, Don tears in to Ginsberg, saying that the previous idea had been sold to Butler:

“In my heart I’m on the verge of throwing you in front of a cab. So however proud of yourself you’re feeling right now, just know that everything I’m saying has ‘or else’ after it. Don’t do that again. Think of those ideas in front of me.”

Ginsberg brushes off Don’s criticism, but Ken tells him that he almost got fired just then. Ginsberg says that he doesn’t believe him, but Ken assures him that he is positive.

Don excuses himself to make a phone call. Megan picks up at the office and asks how the meeting went. Don says that he’ll come pick her up in an hour, but she insists that he just go straight home. We then see Don walking in to his bedroom and collapsing on the bed.

Back at SCDP, Pete walks in to Roger’s office and says that Mohawk told him that LBJ is afraid to force striking aircraft workers in to arbitration because he doesn’t want to anger labor unions so close to an election. Roger calls this good news, and Pete explains that it is because Mohawk can fly extra aircraft and add additional routes. The airline wants an update on their new campaign on Monday. Roger wishes him a happy weekend.

He then shadows Pete as he leaves the office. He goes to Peggy’s office and asks for Ginsberg. Stan says that he’s already left, and when Roger asks if they can call him, Stan says that they already have. After sarcastically saying that he’d search the “entire world” for him for Roger, Stan leaves. Roger asks Peggy what she’s doing this weekend. He offers her money to come up with a campaign for Mohawk, under the condition that she swear that she asked him to do it last week. She asks Roger what he wants:

Peggy: “So what do you want? How about something like ‘Mohawk, breaking the strike one flight at a time’? Or maybe ‘Fly over the picket line with Mohawk’?”

Roger: “Hey, Trotsky, you’re in advertising.”

He gives her some examples to start with, but Peggy suddenly understands that he’s asking her to come up with an entire ad campaign over a weekend… for a bribe of $10. She asks for more money, and Roger balks at first. Peggy holds her ground, suggesting that he could hire someone else to do all that work over the weekend. She eventually gets $400 from him to do the work.

The doorbell at Don’s apartment rings. He gets up and walks to the door and sees Andrea through the peephole. He asks what she’s doing there, and Andrea says they didn’t get a chance to talk before. Don says that they’ve “done all the talking they’re ever going to do”. Dog begs her to leave, so she walks to the front door. He stops her and tells her to take the service elevator. He walks her to the back door and tells her goodbye.

Back in Rye, Sally lazily watches TV while Pauline talks on the phone about the murders. Pauline begins to get somewhat graphic about the murders, then realizes that Sally is listening. She changes the subject, saying that she cannot make any plans until Henry and Betty “waltz through that door”. Pauline orders Sally to take out the trash, and when Sally challenges her, she turns off the TV and says that Sally can go to her room instead. Sally tries to make a deal: if she takes out the trash, will Pauline tell her about the murder? Pauline says no, and Sally, staring at her, asks how old she is. Pauline refuses to say, so Sally asks if her mother was strict. Pauline says that she wasn’t, but her father was, and that she’s a better person because of it. Sally tells Pauline that she (Sally) is a good person, and Pauline says that she just needs someone to discipline her. Pauline then tells a story about how she once walked past her father, who was sleeping of the sofa. He, for no apparent reason, kicked her so hard that she flew across the room. Sally says that it wasn’t very nice, but Pauline says that it taught her a lesson.

Greg’s mother and father have joined Greg and Joan for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Greg’s parents aren’t in a good mood, so Greg asks them to cheer up. A waiter walks up to take their drink order, and a passing soldier stops to salute Greg. The waiter is obviously irritated that the soldier saluting Greg is taking time away from other tables, and Greg takes him to task about showing respect. After the waiter steps away with their drink orders, Greg’s mom has an outburst. She doesn’t understand why he’d go back there, when so many people over there are trying so hard to come back home. Gail suggests that Greg’s father write to his Congressman and say that Greg has a family, but Greg’s mother says that the Congressman can’t talk him out of voluntarily going back. Greg tries to stop the conversation, but Joan has just discovered that Greg wasn’t ordered back, he volunteered to go back. An argument almost breaks out, but just at the right moment an accordion player walks up and beings playing. Joan gives Greg a “death stare” for several moments.

Meanwhile, Peggy is working alone at the office when she hears a sound. She goes to investigate, and finds Dawn asleep on the sofa in Don’s office. Dawn tries to act as if she fell asleep by accident, but Peggy isn’t so sure. She tells Dawn that it’s time to go, and even offers to pay for her cab. Dawn says that cabs won’t take her past 96th street, and her mother won’t let her take the subway. Peggy insists that Dawn stay with her that night.

We then see Don asleep in his bed. A woman’s hand feels his forehead and a voice asks if he’s asleep. Don opens his eyes and sees Andrea sitting on the bed next to him. He sits up in bed and asks how she she got in his apartment. She says that she was worried about him, and that he left the back door unlocked. Don asks why she just can’t leave, and she says that she can’t. Andrea says that they’re alone, and that she just “wants it fast” from Don. He says no, but she leans in, continuing to flirt. She gives him a small kiss, then asks if he remembers one specific time they’d had sex. Don reaches up, kisses her, the unzips her dress.

In Rye, Sally reads the forbidden newspaper in bed, under the sheets, with a flashlight. She’s obviously scared by what she’s read.

At Peggy’s, Dawn gives her her life story. The two chat for a few moments, and Dawn eventually asks Peggy to not tell Don that she sleeps in his office. Peggy says that she won’t, as they need to stick together even though they’re not in the same exact situation. Peggy asks if Dawn wants to be a copywriter (no). Peggy asks if Dawn thinks she acts like a man. Dawn says that she might, a little.

In Rye, Pauline reads a book and eats Bugles on the sofa. She turns to put the Bugles on the end table only to see Sally standing there. Sally apologizes and says that she can’t sleep. Sally says that she’s scared, and asks if she can sit with Pauline for a while. She asks Sally why she’s scared, and Sally says it’s because she read about the murders in Chicago. Sally asks what happened, and Pauline tells a morality tale about how one of the girls probably knew the killer, who was “excited” by their “short uniforms”. Sally asks her to clarify what she means by “his desire”, and Pauline says that she’s old enough to know what she means. Sally asks why the girls didn’t just run away. Pauline says that they were just scared. Sally says that she’s really scared, but Pauline pulls out a big kitchen knife and says that nothing will happen as long as she’s got her “burglar alarm”. Sally says that she won’t be able to sleep, so Pauline gives her a Seconal.

At Joan’s, it’s obvious that Greg and Joan have been fighting: we see Greg pounding on the locked bedroom door with the baby crying in the background and Gail begging him to cool off. Joan opens the door after Greg promises to kick it in, and she says that she can’t believe he’d make a decision like that without consulting her. Greg compares Vietnam to World War II and Joan says that soldiers wanted to come home from that war, too. Greg leaves, and Gail points out that Joan is an army wife, and will have to make sacrifices. She says that someone else’s child will be over there and could get hurt, but Greg won’t be there to help him. Gail orders her to lie down, saying that she doesn’t even know how tired she really is.

Peggy brings a pile of blankets and pillows out to Dawn for the sofa. She wishes Dawn good night, but then takes a long look down at her purse…. with the $400 in it. She looks up at Dawn, who is staring at her. Peggy tries to recover by taking away the empty beer bottles, but the damage has been done. Peggy, embarrassed, leaves the purse on the coffee table.

At Don’s, Andrea walks into the bedroom from the bathroom after getting dressed. She says that she’ll see him soon, and Don says that he won’t. She says that she will, because Don is a “sick, sick…”. Before she can finish, Don leaps out of bed and pushes her to the floor, where he starts strangling her:


Don shoves her corpse under the bed with his feet and gets back in bed.

The next morning, Henry and Betty finally come home to Rye. Pauline is asleep on the same sofa we saw her talking with Sally on the night before. Betty calls out for Sally, but doesn’t notice that she, like the sole survivor of the Chicago murders, is under the sofa:


In Manhattan, we see Don sleeping. Megan opens the bedroom door with a tray of food. She asks him how he’s feeling. Don asks where she was the whole time. Megan, confused, says that she’s been there the whole time.

At Joan’s, Gail offers Joan eggs and pancakes. Joan says that she’ll just have coffee. Joan says that she’s thought about it, and wants Greg to go. Greg, thinking she’s talking about Vietnam, is happy. But then Joan says that she wants him to go and never come back. Greg talks about how the army needs him and how important he is, but Joan just says “I’m glad the army makes you feel like a man, because I’m sick of trying to do it”. Greg says that the army makes him a good man. Joan says that he’s never been a good man, hinting at the date rape from season 1. Greg gathers his things, and says that if he walks out that door he’s never coming back. Joan shrugs her shoulders and says “that’s it”. Greg storms out. Gail walks up and Joan tells her that the marriage is over.

Peggy has just woken up. She walks out into the living room and finds Dawn gone and the blankets neatly folded. There’s a note on her purse:


Peggy obviously feels guilty about staring at her purse the night before.

We then see Gail asleep in bed. Kevin is next to her and Joan, awake, looks at him.



– This episode was written by Victor Levin and Matthew Weiner and directed by Matt Shakman.

– Joyce says hello to “Ginzo”, so she must know him well enough to have given him a nickname already.

– Joyce works for Life magazine in the same building with SCDP. Life was founded as a humor magazine in 1883. Time founder Henry Luce purchased it for the name only in 1936 (Time didn’t even keep Life’s subscription list – they sold it to Judge magazine). Time and Life, although different magazines, were always close corporate cousins (how many of us remember the “Time-Life books” commercials? And SCDP is located in the Time-Life Building, so…). This is presumably how Joyce got the photos.

Richard Speck was a real-life mass murderer who killed eight student nurses in Chicago on July 14, 1966. It almost seems hard to believe, but on that night he broke in to a townhouse at 2319 East 100th Street and held (and later killed) the nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital, armed only with a knife. On April 15, 1967, Speck was found guilty of the crimes and sentenced to death. However, on June 28, 1971, the United States Supreme Court upheld his conviction but overturned his death sentence, on the grounds that over 250 potential jurors had been unconstitutionally excluded from the jury pool due to their opposition to the death penalty. On June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional generally, so on November 21, 1972, Judge Richard Fitzgerald re-sentenced Speck to 400 to 1,200 years in prison instead. But the story didn’t end there: in 1996, Chicago news anchor Bill Kurtis received several video tapes an anonymous attorney had made at Stateville Prison in 1988. The tapes showed prisoners passing money around (a huge violation in most prisons), using drugs (another violation) and having sex (also a rule violation, even if consensual). Kurtis, who you probably know from American Justice, Cold Case Files and Investigative Reports on the A&E cable network, showed the tapes to shocked Illinois legislators, and Speck was a featured inmate in the videos. Speck was seen sharing a large pile of cocaine with another inmate, parading around in women’s underwear, showing off his breasts (which he allegedly grew via smuggled hormone treatments), and saying “[i]f they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose” (the tape was stopped when Speck began performing oral sex on another male prisoner). When another prisoner asked him about the killings, Speck joked that “[i]t just wasn’t their night”. Speck died in prison on December 5, 1991, the day before his 50th birthday.

– Because Stan uses a loupe to look at the murder pictures, we can assume he’s looking at contact sheets.

– Schaefer was (is?) a brand of American beer. It was first brewed in 1842 by the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company, and was the top-selling beer in the entire world until the mid 1970s. The brand was purchased by Stroh’s in 1981 and was acquired by Pabst when they bought out Stroh’s in 1999. For decades, Schaefer was famous for their slogan, “Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one”:

Sadly, Schaefer has fallen far over the years. To people of my grandparent’s generation, Schaefer, Pabst and Budweiser were the main beer brands. By the time I was old enough to drink, Schaefer was a bargain beer, to be purchased only when quantity, not quality, was a concern. I can’t even remember the last time I saw Schaefer at the store.

– Buffalo is on the other side of New York state, right at the northeastern tip of Lake Erie. I don’t know how long it would take to drive it back in 1966; roads might have gotten better (or worse) after all. But according to Google Maps it would take around 7 hours to drive it today.

Summer camp is a long-time tradition for American children, although it is not as popular today as it used to be. Kids would be sent away for a few weeks in the summer, giving their parents a (much needed) break. Most camps where purely secular, but a few were affiliated with organizations like the Boy Scouts or 4-H. Certain types of camps, like religious camps (even Jewish camps!), academic camps, sports camps, weight loss camps, and camps for people with disabilities remain popular with certain parents.

– To people over the age of 40, Walter Cronkite needs no introduction. Although active as a reporter from 1935 to 2009, Cronkite is best known as the anchor (newsreader) of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981. During that time, Cronkite reported on major news events, from the JFK assassination, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the moon landing. Although I was too young to have seen it when it happened, I’ve seen this clip of Cronkite announcing the death of JFK at least hundred times (skip ahead to the 4:55 mark):

– From July 8, 1966 to August 19, 1966 over 35,000 airline workers in the United States went on strike. For years, the workers (mechanics, mostly, but inspectors, cargo handlers, ramp service workers, cleaners, and others) had endured small or non-existent raises as the airlines switched from prop planes to jet aircraft, and 1965 was the first time that airlines had made a substantial profit in several years. For example, Eastern Air Lines suffered a $5.8m loss in 1964, but had a $29.7 profit in 1965. It’s estimated that 60% of the nation’s aircraft industry sat idle while five major airlines (Northwest, United, National, TWA and Eastern) bargained with the International Association of Machinists (IAM), the mechanic’s union. Read more about the strike here.

– How odd was it to hear Greg ask Gail to “go get the Brownie”? He is, of course, referring to a camera, and although the Brownie 127 was hugely popular, and sold from 1952 and 1967, I can’t help but associate them with early, turn of the century equipment. Brownie cameras debuted in 1900, and the first models required the user, once he or she’d taken all the pictures in the roll of film, to send the entire camera back to Kodak. The pictures would be developed, the camera would be reloaded with film, and the camera and prints returned to the user. I guess Brownies kept up with the times (at least until 1967), but I can’t help but think of those ancient cameras when I hear the name.

– Anyone know why the tap water at SCDP is brown? I know that NYC began adding fluoride to drinking water in 1966 (WARNING: link is PDF) which is neither here nor there to the story, and in most cases brown tap water has to do with corroded plumbing… which would be especially odd as the Time-Life Building only opened in 1959.

– It appears that the prop guys used the actual police sketch of Richard Speck in the newspaper Pauline reads at the kitchen table:



Speck committed the murders on July 13, 1966, but was not officially captured until July 17. The sketch was seen in a newspaper by a drifter named Claude Lunsford, who was sharing a room with Speck at the Starr Hotel. Lunsford called police, who did not respond to the call. Speck then tried to kill himself, and the front desk clerk called police again. This time police actually came, and Speck was taken to Cook County Hospital. There he was positively identified as the killer by a Dr. LeRoy Smith, who recognized Speck’s tattoos from a newspaper article which had mentioned them.

– On June 13, 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that “statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them”. Perhaps the most famous consequence of that ruling was the Miranda Warning” given to criminals in TV shows and movies (and, of course, real life):

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Because the ruling was so recent (and because it freed many convicted felons), officials weren’t sure what to do about Speck. He was held for three weeks before the police even questioned him.

– Greg puts Miracle Whip on his bologna sandwich. Gross.

– As I mentioned in last week’s recap, I’m not entirely sure which riots they’re referring to in Mad Men. There were several riots in the US in 1966, but the Division Street Riots mainly involved Puerto Ricans, and the Compton’s Cafeteria riot (which hasn’t happened yet in the Mad Men world) involved transgendered people. Even the most likely candidate for the reference (the Hough Riots) hasn’t happened yet: we know from the newspaper that Pauline was reading in the previous scene that Speck hasn’t been captured yet (which happened on July 17), and the Hough Riots didn’t start until July 18.

– I’m confused again. Wasn’t the meeting with Topaz? Wasn’t “Topaz meeting” mentioned at least once in the episode? The Wikipedia recap mentions Topaz and so does the Mad Men Wikia. Yet all of the branding at the presentation says “Butler”, and the lead executive was called “Mr Butler” by an associate. This site says that there was a company named “Butler Hosiery Inc.” based out of Pennsylvania, that the company existed for 65 years and 10 months, and filed some kind of papers (incorporation papers?) on June 3, 1947. But that’s all the info they have. It’s so confusing!

UPDATE: There was a Butler Shoe Corporation (according to this obit at the New York Times), although it looks like a man named Israel Shapiro was in charge of the company at the time of this episode, not “Mr Butler”. I decided to look for shoes when I saw all the shoes behind Ginsberg when “Mr Butler” comes over to thank him. So maybe it’s Butler Shoes (which had 640 stores in the US in 1983) and not “Butler Hosiery”, of which there is very little information?

– Americans went to the polls on November 8, 1966 for the first midterm elections of Lyndon Johnson’s elected presidency. It’s common for the party holding the White House to lose seats in a midterm election, and with Vietnam, labor troubles and racial unrest in the country, these elections were no different. The Democratic Party lost 47 seats in the House of Representatives and 3 seats in the Senate. Nevertheless, Democrats held on to comfortable majorities in both houses: 295 seats to 140 seats in the House and 64 seats to 36 seats in the Senate. Prior to this election, the Johnson Administration submitted 87 bills to Congress, which passed 84 of them, for a 96% success rate, arguably the most successful agenda in US history (even FDR’s “New Deal” had a tougher legislative battle than this). The new Republicans gave the party and its leader – future president Gerald Ford – enough clout to stop any additional Great Society programs from being passed. Also of note: the 47 new House Republicans included future president George H.W. Bush, who won the election for Texas’s new 7th Congressional District by defeating Frank Briscoe 57.1% to 42.4%.

– Roger’s original “bribe money” to Peggy – $10 – is only worth $66.44 in 2010 dollars. The amount they eventually settle on – $400 – would be worth $2,657.53 in modern dollars.

Mad Men’s most iconic image is the “falling man” in the credits. As long as the shows has been on the air, people have been wondering what it means. Will Don’s luck run out one day, and will he jump out a window? Will Pete turn into Don but, unable to handle it as well as Don, will he jump from the window? There have been several hints about this throughout the series, but they seem to be coming on strong now. In the previous episode, Roger talks about throwing something from a SCDP window. And in this episode, Don tells Andrea that she can “You can either take the steps or you can go off the balcony”.

Mystery Date is a board game sold by Milton Bradley. It came out in 1965 and was somewhat unique in that it was targeted exclusively to teenage girls. The object of the game is to get three matching cards that create a complete outfit that is appropriate for several “mystery dates”, such as a “formal dance date” (as seen in this episode), a “beach date” or a “skiing date” (the original version of the game also included a “bowling date”, but this was replaced in a 1970s reissue with a “picnic date” and has remained since). At the same time, players want to avoid the “dud” date, who is unattractive and wears sloppy clothes. Obviously, the title of this episode comes from the game. Here’s the commercial seen in this episode:

– I’m sure it was just done as a plot device, but soldiers in the US Army (and indeed, many armed forces around the world) never salute indoors. I believe this is because you’re only supposed to salute when wearing headgear, and since one isn’t supposed to wear headgear inside, you therefore don’t salute inside. Random trivia: in the 1800s, the British Army adopted the “open palm” salute because the previous saluting method – tipping the headgear to a superior officer – put needless wear and tear on the headgear. In the Royal Navy, however, sailors often had dirty hands from various tasks that involved pitch (tar). Since it was considered disrespectful to show an officer a dirty hand, sailors were instructed to turn their hands down. This style, rather than the Army’s “open hand” salute, was adopted by the US military.

– The soldier who salutes Greg is named Blackburn.

– The ribbons Blackburn wears are, from left to right: the Good Conduct medal, the National Defense Service medal, and the Vietnam Service medal. Greg’s medals, from left to right are: the National Defense Service medal, the Vietnam Service medal and the Republic of Vietnam medal. The ribbons on Greg’s right breast are unit citations, but I can’t figure out exactly what they’re supposed to be (the site linked below has a short list, but none of them look like the ones Greg wears; another site had seemingly every medal the US Army has ever issued, but I wasn’t going to sort through 200 pages to find out which is which. Sorry.). But you can read more about the medals here.

– Bed-Stuy is New York neighborhood Bedford-Stuyvesant. According to the New York Times, on July 9th, 1966, around “400 Negroes and Puerto Ricans threw bottles and ash-can covers at each other”, and police were called to quell the riot. Tensions flamed back up on July 14, when a city bus and two store windows were attacked. Since Peggy hasn’t heard about the violence, I doubt these are the same “riots” that people have been talking about for the last couple of episodes. And the good folks at Gothamist who researched the issue for this piece hadn’t heard about it, either. Curious about the incident, they had to contact the New York Public Library to get the skinny on it. Amusing side note: although Bed-Stuy was 82% black and 12% Puerto Rican at the time, the photo of the Times article says that some of the troublemakers gathered near a “fish and chips shop”.

– The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The center was named for the Lincoln Square neighborhood in which it is located. It’s not known whether the neighborhood was named in honor of Abraham Lincoln or not: it was officially recognized by the city as “Lincoln Square” in 1906, but records give no reason why it was named as such. Although the area was known by that name before 1906, no one seems to know when it got that name, or if it predates Lincoln’s presidency. Local lore has it that the land was once owned by a man named Lincoln, but tax records show that only people named van Bruch, Hall, Somerindyck, and three generations of the de Lancey family owned the land in the area. It’s also possible that the area was named for the slain president, but references to him were erased by NYC’s then-mayor: George B. McClellan, Jr., son of the former Union general and bitter Lincoln hater George B. McClellan. The short version: in the early days of the American Civil War, the Union Army performed pretty badly, which was especially galling given their numerical and materiel superiority over the South. George McClellan was known as a great organizer, and on July 26, 1861 he was appointed Commander of the Military Division of the Potomac. McClellan quickly organized the army into an effective fighting force and greatly increased morale among his troops. Like Eisenhower in World War II, McClellan’s star rose and rose throughout the war… until the Battle of Antietam. He won the battle, but was roundly criticized for his timid approach: he had 75,000 troops to Lee’s 38,000. He should have been able to cut Lee’s army to pieces but was too cautious. McClellan also came under fire for letting Lee’s army escape to Virginia. Lincoln fired McClellan after the battle, and McClellan was so bitter about it that he ran against Lincoln for the presidency in 1864).

– Lincoln Center was built by John D. Rockefeller III and a group of civic leaders. The center was part of Robert Moses’s urban renewal project. Moses’ first project, in 1923,  was… creating Jones Beach State Park, as seen in the Mad Men episode “Chinese Wall” (recap). Moses is infamous with Brooklyn baseball fans as the man who drove the Dodgers away (although Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley has always been blamed for the move).

– In addition to being portrayed as a skinflint who couldn’t play the violin, American entertainer Jack Benny did, in fact, claim to be 39 years-old… for decades!

– “Esther Blodgett” is the name of the main character in the 1937 film A Star is Born. Blodgett was born in North Dakota, but has dreams of being a Hollywood star. Her grandmother gives her her life savings to purse the dream, but when she arrives in Hollywood she finds ten of thousands of other people competing for acting jobs. She befriends an unemployed assistant director (AD) at their boarding house, and the two of them go to a concert where she sees one of her favorite actors, Norman Maine. Maine was once a popular actor, but his career has started to tank due to his alcoholism. The AD gets Esther a job waitressing at a party, where she catches Maine’s eye. Maine convinces a producer friend to give her a screen test, and she is given a small role in a film. However, when the studio can’t find a female lead for the film, Maine convinces the studio to give the role to Esther (who the studio renames Vicky). The film is a huge success, and Vicky becomes a star virtually overnight. Maine proposes to Vicky and she accepts, on the condition that he stop drinking. He does, and when the couple return from their honeymoon they find that Vicky is a bigger star than ever, while Maine’s star continues to fade. Although he kept his promise to stop drinking, pressure causes Maine to start back. Several things then happen, and Vicky, now the biggest star in the land, decides to quit acting to care for Maine. He overhears her plans and, riddled with guilt, drowns himself in the Pacific. Vicki decides to quit acting, but her grandmother inspires her to return. At the premiere of her next big film she introduces herself to the radio audience as “Mrs. Norman Maine”.

– The film was adapted into a musical in 1954 starring Judy Garland, and a rock musical in 1976 starring Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson and Gary Busey.

– I like that Peggy and Dawn (but especially Peggy) are so sweaty during their talk at Peggy’s apartment. Air conditioning was pretty rare in apartments in Manhattan back then. According to the American Home Survey (part of the official US Census), only 52% of all owner-occupied homes in the US had air conditioning of any kind in 1973. One would expect the percentage to be even lower in rental units. Even as recently as 2009, only 84% of homes in the northeastern US had any form of AC.

– Dawn and Peggy are drinking Rheingold Beer. Rheingold, based in New York, was once THE beer of blue collar types in NYC. In fact, several rusted cans of Rheingold were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center, stuck behind beams by construction workers who’d been drinking on the job. Rheingold is also credited as the first brewery to create a “light” beer (which, in the US, means that it has fewer calories, not less alcohol as it does in Australia and other countries). Rheingold ceased operations in 1976, but the brand was revived in 1998, and purchased by a company called Drinks Americas in 2005. They’ve brought the beer back in limited markets:



– The book Pauline reads on the sofa is Where Love Has Gone by Harold Robbins:



The novel was published in 1962 and was made into a film in 1964 starring Bette Davis, Susan Hayward, Joey Heatherton, DeForest Kelley and George Macready. Although Robbins and Paramount denied it, the story (about a young woman who kills her mother’s lover) seems greatly influenced by the story of Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane. In 1958, Crane stabbed Turner’s boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, in what was eventually ruled self-defense. Stompanato  was known for being abusive, and once pulled a gun on Sean Connery on the set of Another Time, Another Place (Connery, in a feat of total badassness, took the gun away, beat Stompanato senseless, and kicked him off the set!).

– Loved Pauline’s line: “Well, you cannot sneak up on someone my age, especially in this house.” So even the people who live there think it’s creepy.

Seconal, officially known as secobarbital sodium, is a barbiturate (a drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant) that was created in the United States in 1934. It was used to treat epilepsy, as a temporary treatment for insomnia, and as an anesthetic for short, mildly painful medical procedures. However, it was wildly abused for recreational purposes, and claimed the lives of actress Judy Garland, musician Jimi Hendrix, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, playwright Tennessee Williams, jazz singer Dinah Washington, and French actor Charles Boyer (among others). Seconal use has plummeted in the US, both officially and recreationally thanks to the development of much safer drugs like  benzodiazepines (Valium). But Seconal is still used in physician assisted suicide and is a major component of the drug Somulose, which is used to euthanize horses and cattle. Incidentally, Seconal tablets were known as “reds”, “red devils” (due to their red color) and… “goofballs”. So when you hear someone in an old movie talking about someone being “hopped (or hepped) up on goofballs”, you now know what drug they’re talking about.

– I don’t get it: why would Peggy stare at her purse like that? Had she just picked up her purse and said “good night” there wouldn’t have been a problem, no? But by staring at it now it’s a big racial thing. Dumb move, Peggy.

– I guess SCDP employees don’t trust black people? First there’s Lane with the lost wallet, and now this.

– In the US, pancakes are sometimes called flapjacks, griddlecakes, or hotcakes. They are usually made with wheat flour, milk or buttermilk, eggs and baking powder. If cornmeal is used instead of flour, they’re called Johnnycakes. If the pancakes are small, they’re usually called silver dollar pancakes, as they’re usually the size of an old Eisenhower dollar coin.

– This week’s closing song is the 1962 song “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” by The Crystals:

He hit me
And it felt like a kiss.
He hit me
But it didn’t hurt me.

He couldn’t stand to hear me say
That I’d been with someone new,
And when I told him I had been untrue

He hit me
And it felt like a kiss.
He hit me
And I knew he loved me.

If he didn’t care for me
I could have never made him mad
But he hit me,
And I was glad.

Yes, he hit me
And it felt like a kiss.
He hit me
And I knew I loved him.
And then he took me in his arms
With all the tenderness there is,
And when he kissed me,
He made me his.

Creepy, but appropriate, I suppose. The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King (yes, that Carole King) when the songwriting team (who were married at the time) found out that their babysitter, a struggling singer named Eva Boyd, was being beaten by her boyfriend. You probably know Boyd as Little Eva of “The Loco-Motion” fame, a song which was written for her by Goffin and King, who were (allegedly) amused by Boyd’s unique dancing style. Although the song was against domestic violence, hundreds of radio stations assumed it endorsed domestic violence and refused to play it. It’s still rare to hear the song on the radio, even today with the song’s meaning fully explained.


OK, first, an explanation: I have some friends who moved from Atlanta to just outside Amsterdam a while back. They came to visit us a few days after the Mad Men season premiere, and in the days before their arrival I was busy cleaning the house and running errands and such. They were here for a few days, then all four of us spent several days in Las Vegas. The friends flew back with us and stayed here for a few more days. I wasn’t really able to write either before they got here or while they were here. And then “life” just happened. It seems like every time I sat down to work on the recaps, I was asked to do this or that, or a client would call with some problem. I’m not going to apologize for having a life, or for having billable hours… I’m just telling you what’s happened in my life recently. I was finally able to get the first two recaps out, but this recap… man, it seemed to take forever. And I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. Certainly every time I sat down it seemed like the phone would ring or my attention would otherwise be taken away… but this episode… it was just something. It seems like I did more research for this episode that I did for the first three episodes combined… and yes, I’m aware that sometimes I got needlessly deep in this episode (one comment about “Lincoln Center” and I’ve wasted an hour researching the US Civil War!). I’ll try to keep it relevant with upcoming episodes.

Anyway… part of the reason I had such a hard time with this episode might be that I just didn’t like it all that much. I gave it a 4 on my initial viewing, and will only upgrade that to a 5 on review. I guess I’m just not a fan of dream sequences, especially when they’re as obvious as this one. And there was just something so… over the top about this one. We’ve known that Dick Whitman is “dead” for some time, and Weiner and company couldn’t have made it more obvious that the “old Don Draper” is now dead, too. Damn guys… why don’t you just hit us over the head with it?

I also didn’t much care for Joan’s story – I felt it was just wrapped up too neatly, if you know what I mean – although I’m glad that Greg is (finally?) gone for good. Joan deserves so much better than Greg.

Peggy’s storyline was a bit better. I don’t think that Peggy has an “obvious racist” bone in her whole body, but it’s clear that she shares some of the same prejudices that even “enlightened” white folks of the time would have. Not just the “staring at the purse” incident, but the subtly dismissive way she told Dawn that they were in similar boats and should stick together. Had this been set in the 1990s, Dawn would have stood up and told that white girl that they aren’t in similar boats, and that she has no idea what her life is like. And white liberals would have stood and applauded her, like Congresswoman Bookman’s speech in 30 Rock.

Another thing I don’t normally like are kid actors. Part of the problem is that adults don’t know how to write for them, and in most shows and movies kids end up sounding like midget Gregory Pecks in To Kill a Mockingbird. In other words, they use too much adult language to be realistic. But, I swear to God, Kiernan Shipka is becoming the best damn actor on this show. She’s still a kid, and mostly uses kid-appropriate language. But she’s starting to channel January Jones. Take the phone conversation with Don early in this episode. It’s almost uncanny how much she acts like her mother, no? You could have substituted Jones herself in that scene, and no one would have noticed! And she’s already troubled enough as is, without Pauline giving her Seconal. Sadly, we won’t ever get to see Shipka as a hell-raising teenager giving Don and Betty constant headaches. The show is only going to have two more seasons after this, and while it’s possible that they could skip ahead several years, they won’t be able to pass Shipka off as a 17 year-old. Which is a shame. I want to see her give Betty an ulcer!

Boring side note: I like how the Janie Bryant makes sure that characters reuse outfits. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the black dress (with roses) that Joan wore in this episode the same one she played accordion in in “My Old Kentucky Home” from season 3? Nice touch, folks.

Well, I suppose I should write something about symbolism, like about how Sally is losing her innocence with the Seconal and the murders, much like 1966 America in general. But you guys know I’m not really in to that (especially when Don strangling his old life is made as obvious as it was in this episode). So I’ll just sign off.

As always, I can’t wait until next Sunday!

3 Replies to “Mad Men: “Mystery Date””

  1. The Army (and Air Force) most certainly DO salute indoors ( However, Marines and the Navy do NOT salute indoors. Since Greg is in the Army and the soldier is as well, a salute is not improper, although Greg most likely would not have gotten upset had he not been saluted (as per your link).

    I also think your timeline is off on the appearance of Don’s ex. In his mind, he thinks it is the same day and his wife isn’t home yet. Not “the next morning” as you suggest. As support of this, I refer you to the references to his wife being home soon.

    PS, Dude, already # 4 on Google search results. Nicely done.

  2. Well, Wikipedia and several other sites say otherwise:

    “The United States Army and United States Air Force give salutes both covered and uncovered, but saluting indoors is forbidden except when formally reporting to a superior officer or during an indoor ceremony.”

    Point taken about the Navy and Marines, though.

    I’ve edited the recap to address your “next morning” comment. It’s taken me a good week to do this recap, and it at first seemed like two days, although re-watching the scenes, it just looks like one (very long) day. We see Don arrive at work, then go to the Butler meeting and the pub afterwards. We then see everyone else have a full day of work (Roger comes to Peggy’s office as everyone else is leaving for the day). I know that the sun stays up until 20:30 or 21:00 in the summer, but it just seems like the story could have been edited a bit better. It still seems like Don has his first “Andrea Dream” long before people would be leaving SCDP, ya know? Perhaps I can explain it better later.

    So I’m #4 for “Mad Men Mystery Date”? Cool!

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