Mad Men-The Monolith-Jay R. Ferguson, Elisabeth Moss, and Ben Feldman

The future is coming to Mad Men but not everyone’s ready for change. “The Monolith” grapples with Sterling Cooper & Partner’s new computer, and the transformation of an office and a man. With Roger on a farm struggling with a newly free spirit, the ’70s are crashing down on our old world men.

The Players:

  • Director: Scott Hornbacher
  • Writer: Erin Levy
  • Cast: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, Aaron Staton, Kiernan Shipka, Christopher Stanley, Jessica Parè, Kevin Rahm, Jay R. Ferguson, Mason Vale Cotton, Ben Feldman, Harry Hamlin, Teyonah Parris, Allan Havey, Sola Bamis, Elizabeth Rice, Trevor Einhorn, Jessy Schram, Derek Ray, Josh McDermitt, Robert Baker, Beth Hall, Jill Alexander, Stephanie Drake, Jordan Fiderio, Sammy Fiderio

Episode Title: “The Monolith”

Don phones a friend while Roger deals with a family issue.

The Good:

  • In the Mud: Margret’s oddly blissful demeanor and forgiving spirit from the season premiere finally makes sense—she’s joined a commune. When his son-in-law is jailed after failing to get through to his wife, Roger heads to the country with Mona to bring Margret back to her son Ellery. There are only two women who can box Roger into feats of great character, and that would be the first Mrs. Sterling and Joan. The banter between Roger and Mona on the car ride to the commune wavered between playful and worrisome. We expected Mona to fail at cajoling Margaret back to the city, just not in the first two minutes. Leaving Roger to sort it out made sense considering she blames him for their daughter’s willingness to embrace the bohemian lifestyle.
  • And The Muck: There were a few terrifying seconds after Mona left Roger to give Margret the long sell that we thought Roger may be enticed by the environment. Mona was right. Drugs and multiple lovers are Roger’s forte and if it’s at all catching, Margret got it from him. Watching Roger volunteer to find firewood and share, “dynamite grass,” with the group’s leader gave us pause until nightfall. All day Roger ignored the pregnant bellies and small children, but the free living atmosphere hit home when “Marigold” abandoned the pallet she shared with Roger in favor of a little late night nooky with the head hippie. The father/daughter mud splattered confrontation came to a head the next morning as Roger tried to force Marigold off the farm. Decked in dirt that looked more appropriate on her rags than his impeccable suit, she tossed out Roger’s constant absence from her childhood to explain away her indifference to her son’s sorrow with such vitriol it sent Roger walking back to the city.
  • Rules: After three weeks of coming to work on time to read magazines and drink sodas, Don finally got an assignment and promptly went into a spiral. That’s partially because when he and Pete lobbied for Don to work on the Burger Chef pitch Lou gave Peggy a raise to police the other creative director on the account. As expected, when truly confronted with the limitations of his new position, Don revolted, simply refusing to work on the tag lines Peggy requested, lazily pursuing Phillip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint instead. It was Lloyd the Leistech computer man that sparked the real conflict. In an attempt to mine their computer provider for new business Don presents the idea to Bert when Roger’s absent. Bert’s curt dismissal and reminder that returning to the company just because you started it doesn’t hold weight, especially now that one of the founders has expired.
  • Change: The stress of having no control in the office he made prominent, pushed Don into stealing a bottle of liquor from Roger and break one of the most important rules at the company. There’s a chance no one will find out, though there was that aggressive drunk standoff with that Lloyd fellow. Don seemed to waiver between confusing the man for himself, and reliving last season’s tragic Hershey pitch. Luckily Don drunk dialed recovering alcoholic Freddy Rumsen who pulled him away from the confrontation with promises of the Mets game Don was after. Only with a strong cup of coffee the next morning did Freddy do the hard work of setting Don straight. And though he didn’t go through the five stages of grief, the one day bender seemed to prepare him for Freddy’s words.
  • California Boys: Pete’s perfect girlfriend may have some competition soon. The unexpected news of his father-in-law’s heart attack stalled Pete for a moment. We’d have no way of knowing though; after respectively campaigning for Peggy and Don to work on the new account respectively, Ted and Pete faded from sight after Ted fought Jim’s appeal for him to return to New York. It’s Peggy who really gets dragged through the mud. This time her mouthing off netted her the headache. After loudly blaming Lou for the loss of the creative lounge, he gave her a $100 raise and Don to deal with. The money proved meaningless as she took just as long to work up the courage to confront Don on his inactivity as it took him to start working. It’s the loss of the creative lounge that really hurt. Ginsburg took it the hardest, and his desperation to snag the lounge’s fart free couch for his and Stan’s office was one of the night’s bright spots.

The Quotable:

  •  “Are you just going to kill yourself, give them what they want? Or go in your bedroom, get in uniform, fix your bayonet, and hit the parade. Do the work Don.”— Freddy

Overall:

“The Monolith” was a landmark occasion—witnessing the changing of a rock isn’t something seen every day. Seeing Don go through the grieving process for his old clout and transform into a man willing to work his way back up the power chain felt weighty enough to cover for the lack of other plots. Pete’s hesitation at his east coast family news is sure to have meaning soon, like Peggy’s new position as Don’s babysitter. Of course Margret’s Marigold’s commune-and-possible-future-cult lifestyle has stirred up the interwebs, adding fuel to the theory that actress Megan Draper living in a Hollywood bungalow will succumb to a Sharon Tate like fate. While we’d like to believe that’s far from the goal, there are too many coincidences, and with only three episodes left, every gloomy possibility is important.

Rating: 10/10

Mad Men airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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