Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 4 – ‘Mystery Date’ Review and Synopsis

Joan Holloway and Greg Harriss Mad Men Season 5 episode 4

This episode begins with an awkward encounter in the elevator between Don, Megan and one of his old flames, Andrea. Unlike Betty, Megan asserts her position as Don’s woman and does not back down in the face of his past. A focal point of the episode is the story of the Chicago nurse massacre at the hands of Richard Speck, a story that grips the characters and is interwoven into this dark yet immensely entertaining installment in series five.

Please note: spoilers ahead.

Joan Holloway and Greg Harriss Mad Men Season 5 episode 4
Joan Holloway and Greg Harris in Season 5, episode 4 of Mad Men - 'Mystery Date' - after Greg reveals he volunteered to return to Vietnam.

Joan is hurriedly preparing for Greg’s return from Vietnam and she’s flustered. Her mother tells her it’s ok to be anxious and that it is ‘normal.’ Since Joan rarely breaks her composure, showing anxiety is far from normal for her. One of the scenes everyone has been anticipating is Greg’s return from Vietnam and Joan’s subsequent attempt to pass off her baby as their baby when, as we know from season 4, the baby is actually Joan and Roger’s. Sally is having issues with Henry’s mother Pauline – basically, they don’t see eye to eye because Sally has been allowed certain liberties that bewilder Pauline’s sensibilities. I will admit, I like Pauline – she’s a character to say the least.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

‘Holy crap, look at him.’

With that, any concerns anyone should have had about Greg’s ability to care for baby Kevin have been washed away. Greg is still immature but it is yet to be revealed if he is still as self-centered as he was before leaving for Vietnam.

Megan brings up the early morning run-in with Andrea and she asserts herself with confidence. It is impressive that Megan is able to make her concerns known to Don without sounding childish or insecure even though there is quite a generational gap between them.

Of course, Megan also points out that Don’s womanizing can’t be entirely blamed on Betty. Her comment hints that she has psychoanalyzed Don and what drives him and his appetites, something that Betty likely never had the capacity to do since that would require her to move outside of herself to a greater degree than she is capable.

Pete informs Roger that they will be walking Mohawk Airlines through the campaign they have prepared for them on Monday. Roger, realizing that he hasn’t directed Ginsberg to develop a campaign, directs Peggy to make a campaign on the fly.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

‘Are you drunk? Get your feet off that desk?’

In addition to working on this campaign under the radar, Peggy has to join Roger in deceiving Pete into thinking Roger was in charge and in control. Peggy extorts $400 from Roger to go along with his ruse. Giving Peggy $400 makes him exclaim in shock while, if you will recall, Roger had no problem bribing Harry Crane with $1500 or so to give his office to Pete. Peggy’s unwillingness to do this work for Roger at command shows how far her character has come up the ranks in the series. Peggy, in the beginning, would have never challenged Roger or questioned any of his requests.

After apparently charming the doorman at Don’s building, Andrea, arrayed in gag inducing colors, comes up to his apartment to see him. Don increasingly appears pallid and fatigued as the episode progresses. What began as a mild cough is now a full-blown visible malaise.

‘That’s for nothing so look out. … That’s not very nice. … No, but it was very valuable advice.’

While at dinner with Greg’s parents, Joan finds out that Greg volunteered to go back to Vietnam. Joan’s mom, recalling episode 3 of season 3 ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ in which Greg makes Joan perform on the accordion, interrupts the awkward moment of revelation with, ‘You know, Joanie plays the accordion.’ Yes, the audience knows all too well. In addition, we know Greg hasn’t changed.

Andrea returns to try once again to sleep with Don, this time waking him up after returning to his apartment. She reminds him of an earlier rendezvous the two had at a loading dock while Betty waited for him inside. Ever the cad, Don gives in to Andrea’s advances, showing that even illness will not prevent Donald Draper from having what he wants although the whole scene has a very dreamlike quality to it.

In an odd scene of bonding and creepy dialogue, Sally and Pauline talk about the Chicago nurse massacre at the hands of Richard Speck . Sally read up on the story in the paper after fishing it out of the trash and now she’s naturally scared. A couple of Seconals later and she and Pauline are oblivious to the world. Interestingly, according to this Wikipedia article on the Richard Speck murders, he was addicted to and high off of various drugs during the murders and allegedly confessed while under the influence of Seconal. Further research on Seconal reveals it was a highly addictive drug in recreational use during the 1960s and 1970s.

Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]

‘I’ve got my orders, and you’ve got yours.’

Greg’s deception erupts into a shouting match back at Joan’s apartment. The less he is a part of the show, the better ultimately.

The most shocking scene of the episode is when Don strangles Andrea to death and literally kicks her body under the bed, then passes out. This is, of course, all revealed to be a fever dream. Did Donald Draper literally strangle his libido to death and kick it under the bed?

How this was meant to function in terms of a larger story arc remains to be seen but it was one of the most tense and interesting moments in the show in a long time. The entire show would change direction, of course, and likely wouldn’t support a murderer Don Draper.

Joan kicks Greg out of the house, but not before he gets to act abusively toward her for one last time. The show closes with the chorus from The Crystals song of the same name, ‘He hit me (and it felt like a kiss).’ Watching Joan struggle with work and raising a baby will further Joan’s new role as a kind of pioneer for modern women who do the same.


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