In a brief , yet much-needed respite from the darkness, The Runaways begins with Mad Men comic relief of the best kind.
When Stan finds a pathetically hilarious draft of Lou’s cartoon strip side-project on the Xerox machine, he takes it upon himself to circulate the masterpiece that is “Scout’s Honor.” It’s the perfect accompaniment to Lou’s whole racist Mr. Rogers persona – even Don can’t help but laugh. Of course, Lou eventually discovers that the joke has made its rounds and proceeds to express his outrage at Stan & Co. – but it’s too late – he’s given the office too much material already. “You’re a bunch of flag-burning snots,” he squawks after comparing himself to Bob Dylan. “You’ve got a thing to learn about patriotism and loyalty!”
Speaking of the country’s youth, Don gets a phone call from his hippie “niece,” Stephanie Horton, who is very pregnant and very broke. Whether it’s Don’s compulsion to feel like a provider or simply his genuine affection for Anna Draper’s daughter, he jumps at the chance to help and gives Stephanie the address of Megan’s place in California. He promises to fly over there that night, but Lou keeps him working late out of spite and hurt feelings – so, Megan is left defenseless when Stephanie shows up, filthy but gorgeous, at the doorstep. Some pleasant conversation and a rejected steak later, Stephanie makes a fatal mistake – she makes Megan jealous of her relationship with Don. It’s not a classic jealousy situation, either – Megan seems to have some sense that nothing’s happened between her husband and Stephanie. But the growing marital disconnect has been looming over both parties this season, and Stephanie’s emotionally intimate relationship with Don exacerbates Megan’s already significant feeling of irrelevance. “I already know all his secrets,” Stephanie says, paralleling Megan’s supermarket comment later in the episode (“I know what he likes,”).
Honesty about the Dick Whitman situation is one of the primary parts of the Don/Megan relationship that separated it from all the others, and she relished being in the know. Now, as if their circumstances weren’t shaky enough, Stephanie waltzes in and cheapens that private bond. She’s incredibly beautiful, she shares a deeper history with Don than Megan ever has, and she’s got the Dick Whitman base covered? It’s nothing Megan didn’t already know, but it’s all coming at once and at a very inopportune time. So, Megan kicks out her houseguest after little more than a shower and a fat check. Later, in a last-ditch attempt to salvage her husband’s attention, she dances with another guy and then ropes Don into a stoned threesome.
Things aren’t going great in the Francis household, either. Sally gets sent home with a bruised nose and an ever-sharpening wit, Betty embarrasses Henry when she brings the wrong type of politics-talk to a series of dinner parties, and Bobby entertains the prospect of yet another divorce. “I’m tired of everyone telling me to shut up,” Betty yells at Henry. “I’m not stupid. I speak Italian!”
In what starts out as comic antics and quickly spirals into the realm of disturbing, Ginsburg has succumbed to some sort of psychosis brought on by the new computer. He spends most of the episode with bug-eyes and sweaty cheeks, at one point questioning his sexuality and at another, attempting to reproduce with Peggy. Things appear to have blown over until he presents Peggy with a box containing his sawed-off nipple. It hurts just to type that phrase. Somewhere along the line, something went horribly, horribly wrong. In the last glimpse we get of Ginsburg, he’s strapped to a departing stretcher as Peggy cries and Stan sticks by his side. Pretty heavy stuff.
What are your thoughts on Megan’s reaction to Stephanie? Unwarranted? Leave your thoughts in the comments.