In the general continuum of “Mad Men” — a show now in its fifth season — Sunday’s (April 8) episode, “Mystery Date,” may just be one of the best yet. No mean feat. If you haven’t watched, please don’t read on — just hurry to your DVR and watch. (Or else.)
The show’s title, “Mystery Date,” is apt — most of our main characters end up spending time with someone unexpected. So much happened, bullet points are really the best way to make sure nothing is missed:
� Don’s sick… with love for Megan! In the show’s opening scene, Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Par�) bump into one of Don’s many conquests, Andrea the freelancer, in the elevator. While nursing a cold for the remainder of the episode he tries to convince Megan and himself that he’s a changed man, one who won’t cheat on Megan the way he did to Betty. “That kind of careless appetite, you can’t blame it on Betty,” says Megan. And in his heart of hearts, Don agrees. It just takes a fever dream in which he literally strangles that “careless appetite” to death to make him realize it.
� Sally Draper rocks. She’s like the best pre-teen ever — smart, sassy and not scared of a step-grandmother who fondly reminisces about being kicked across the room by her own father and sits around reading at night with a meat cleaver next to her on the couch. Though poor Sally (Kiernan Shipka) has again struck out in the “adults in my life” department. Pauline — Henry’s knife-toting mom — is kind of sadistic and her motherly instincts involve giving a child Seconal — the drug (Seconal) that was (in part) to blame for the death of Judy Garland and Jimi Hendrix.
� Joan Holloway is back. In kicking her husband Greg to the curb, the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Harris delivered some killer lines. “I’m glad the Army makes me feel like a man because I’m sick of trying to do it,” Joan (Christina Hendricks) tells Greg when she discovers he’s volunteered to return to Vietnam where, he says, he’s an important guy. He protests that the Army makes him feel like a “good man.” Which sets Joan up for the long overdue: “You were never a good man, even before we were married and you know what I’m talking about.” (And if you don’t get it, please revisit Season 2, Episode 12: “The Mountain King.”)
� Peggy needs a therapist. Because she really shouldn’t be getting drunk and spilling her guts to Don’s new secretary, Dawn. It puts Dawn in an awkward position — or an even more awkward position than she’s already got to contend with, what with being the only African-American at SCDP. But back to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) — her drunken ramblings may have been the beginnings of her quarter-life crisis. “Do you think I act like a man?” she asks Dawn. “I try, but I don’t know if I have it in me. I don’t know if I want to…” [be a copywriter anymore] is where that sentence is going. Though after watching her fleece Roger Sterling (John Slattery) out of $400, we think she’s doing just fine.
� Something’s gonna fall out a window. For anyone adhering to the theory that someone — probably Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) — is going to plummet from a window of SCDP before the end of the season, we may have had another hint. “You can either take the steps or you can go off the balcony because if you run into my wife on the way out, you’re going to wish you had,” says Don to Andrea in the midst of his cheatin’ fever dream. No, he wasn’t talking about Pete, but we’re like 3 for 3 here with episodic references to people jumping out windows or off balconies this season.
� Ginzo is a genius. Michael Ginsberg (new guy Ben Feldman), that is. Despite double-pitching the stocking account, he’s clearly a diamond in the rough even if Don did come thisclose to firing him. Also, he’s the only one who didn’t join in the glee of looking at pictures of the nurses murdered by Richard Speck that Peggy’s pal Allison smuggles down from the TIME offices.
Bonus: At one point, Sally is watching an ad for a Milton-Bradley game called Mystery Date.
“The object of the game is to be ready for a date by acquiring three matching color-coded cards to assemble an outfit. The outfit must then match the outfit of the date at the mystery door. The date is revealed by spinning the door handle and opening the plastic door on the game board.”
The possible dates are the formal dance date, the bowling date, the beach date, the skiing date and the dud.