Tonight’s episode of Mad Men focused on one woman following her dreams and one guy getting his heart totally crushed by a former teen TV star. Oh, and an elevator shaft. Read on for our recap of Season 5, Episode 8: “Lady Lazarus.”
Pete Gets Rory’d
The episode opens with Pete talking to his creepy train friend Howard, who reveals that he is currently cheating on his wife with a 24-year-old strawberry blonde. For someone who was just cheating on his wife with a hooker a few episodes ago, Pete is disgusted. When Pete asks Howard what his wife would think of his affair, Howard simply says that all she cares about it that he “provides for her.” A simplistic and absurdly traditional statement on Mad Men? Surely Howard will get proven wrong within the hour!
Turns out, Mrs. Howard The Creepy Train Guy (aka Beth) is actually very, very unhappy with her life with Howard. Pete accidentally runs into Howard’s wife (played by Rory from Gilmore Girls) when he is coming home on the train and escorts her home after she locks her keys in her car. Naturally, when the two get to Beth’s home, they have sex, making this Pete’s second extramarital activity of the season. Pete is enamoured with Beth, trying to give her some post-coital pillow talk after they did it on her living room floor, but she is uninterested and tells him to leave. Pete, being a spoiled narcissistic brat, gets even more turned on when he is told “no” by a woman, and becomes obsessed with seeing Beth again.
Beth is actually perfect for Pete. Or rather, perfect for Pete’s idea of himself. Beth is a bored, sex-starved, and aloof housewife who knows how to wind Pete around her tiny ivory finger. Pete thinks that he is the secretly special boy who is wasting his talents in the suburbs. Having an illicit affair (and falling madly in love) with a sexy, complicated woman is exactly the kind of cliche that Pete would write into the story of his life. Of course Pete was going to become obsessed with Beth.
After their hook-up, Pete calls Beth at her home and she tells him to not contact her ever again. This sends Pete into a fit, with him ranting against women being the ones who “get to decide” … something, presumably when a guy can have sex with them. In an aggressive power play, Pete tricks Howard into inviting him into his home when Beth is there. Pete pretends that this was all just because he wanted to kiss her and tell her to meet him at a hotel in Manhattan, but really it was because he wanted to show Beth that he has the power, he has the potential to expose her to her husband. Beth gets shaken up, but she doesn’t take Pete up on his hotel offer. However, all is not lost for this weird relationship. At the end of the episode, Beth and Pete spot each other in their cars and Beth draws a little heart on the window. It doesn’t matter what Pete wants, Beth is always going to hold the power over him.
Megan Follows Her Dreams
Finally! Megan is out of Sterling Cooper-Draper Pryce! After scaring Peggy half to death that she was having an affair behind Don’s back, Megan reveals to Pegs that she has actually been sneaking around going on auditions. It turns out, even after she revealed that she has a natural talent for advertising and selling pitches alongside her husband, Megan really hates making ads.
Megan is torn because she feels like she can’t quit her job and there is no way that anyone will fire her as long as she is married to Don. When Peggy hears this, she is rightfully enraged. As Peggy puts it, Megan is “taking someone’s spot” in the agency, someone who actually wants to work in advertising. Peggy is right, of course. Why does dreamy Megan have to deny someone their dream just because she doesn’t want to have an honest and uncomfortable conversation with her husband about her career path?
After Peggy’s yelling, Megan decides to tell Don that she is quitting advertising, which he doesn’t take lightly. Don, who was raised poor and worked his way up the agency ladder, tries to convince Megan that she shouldn’t follow an unrealistic dream when she is already good at something else. "Sometimes we don't get to choose where our talents lie." Don is very good at advertising, and something tells us that he wasn’t growing up on the farm dreaming about writing ads for Kodak and Lucky Strike. However, that doesn’t really matter to Megan. She is going to quit advertising and go back to acting, her true passion. And what’s to stop her? Megan can now comfortably fail at acting now that she’s got a giant safety net under her in the form of Don Draper.
Some people aren’t as lucky as Megan. When she breaks the news to the creative team that she is leaving, Stan is the only one who understands her dissatisfaction. “You work for weeks and weeks biting your nails, and for what?,” Stan asks himself. “Heinz Baked Beans.” Maybe Stan the art director wishes he could be in Megan’s shoes and following his own creative dream? Peggy seems a little shocked at Stan’s statement, but it’s true. They work so hard to write a forgettable ad for some random company. What does it all really matter?
Don does not take Megan’s departure that well. Even though he puts on a brave face, he is acting as if the two are filing divorce papers. Is Don upset that Megan will now have the freedom to move out from under his watchful eye at the agency? Is Don upset that he is losing one of his most promising copywriters? Or is he upset that he might not be giving his wife all the emotional fulfillment that she needs? (He’s already made that mistake with Betty and we know how that ended...)
Don’s feelings are best summed up by a singular image within the episode. After seeing Megan off on the elevator, Don rings for another one to take him down. When one arrives, the doors open and Don approaches them carefully. The camera cuts to above Don’s head and we can see that the there was a glitch and the doors opened to a deep, empty elevator shaft. Don stares down the shaft for a few moments before heading back into his office for a drink. The scene was totally symbolism-y, even for a symbolism-drenched show like Mad Men.
It’s so funny that after four seasons of making advertising look like a glamorous vocation, Mad Men is really starting to show the cynical side of the business. It’s not all sharp suits, sexy co-workers, and selling million-dollar ideas after downing a handle of whiskey in the middle of the day. Turns out, the business can be pretty emotionally unfulfilling for the new generation of dreamers that is coming into the workforce in the late ‘60s. Peggy and Ginsberg like advertising but they were also never given another choice (that we know of). But someone like Megan isn’t content to waste away hours on an unfulfilling job. For all of Megan’s flaws (and there are MANY) at least she is breaking away from the norm that was set inside the agency thus far. In that way, Megan perfectly symbolizes the changing times. She’s motivated by fulfillment and dreams, in things that are deeply unique and personal. Will that quest for fulfillment move into her marriage to the stiff old Don? We guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Peggy, to Don on the phone: “PIZZA HOUSE!”
Clearly the best moment of the episode.
Megan, to Don: “I felt better failing at that audition than I did succeeding with Heinz."
Can’t really blame her there.
Ginsberg, talking to Megan about acting: “Do they always give you clothes or do you have to do it in your own clothes?"
Maybe Ginsberg could take up acting to get a new wardrobe.
Joan, about Megan: "Second wives. It's like they have a playbook."
Joan has eveyone’s number.
- The final song of the episode, The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” was a perfect song to represent the episode. And a perfect song for Don to cut off right before the end. Don does not strike us as the type of guy to surrender to the void.
- Pete Suicide Conspiracy Theorists were probably going nuts when he was discussing life insurance options with Howard. We’re starting to get swayed over the conspiracy more and more. Beth’s hold on Pete seems like it may overpower him in the future and push him in that direction.
- Looks like Peggy has graduated from a pot virgin to a working stoner.
- We’re taking bets: How many more episodes until Megan ditches Don? Two? Three?
- Happy thought: Will less Megan in the office mean more screen time dedicated to Joan and Peggy?
- We’re getting tired of saying this, but where is Betty!?
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Watch the next episode of Mad Men on Sunday, May 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
Maria Mercedes Lara is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @maria_mercedes.
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