We did a double-take when we got our first glimpse at the woman Pete Campbell would eventually become entwined with, because close inspection revealed that it was none other than Alexis Bledel, who was still just a kid (or so she seemed to us) when she was last seen on “Gilmore Girls.”
But she turned up on “Mad Men” Sunday night in the role of Beth Dawes, a lonely suburban housewife who’d locked her keys in her car while waiting for her commuting husband Howard (Jeff Clarke). That’s when she bumped into Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), who offered her a ride home — where their pent-up passions were unleashed.
The transformation of Alexis Bledel from newly minted Yale grad (when “Gilmore Girls” said good-bye in 2007, five years ago) to a passionate Westchester wife here in 2012 was a good example of how the passage of time can play tricks on you. It turns out the actress happens to be 30 years-old — old enough for an affair with a neighborhood advertising executive.
Time was also playing tricks on Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Sunday’s “Mad Men” episode, as he seemed increasingly out of touch with cultural trends — from popular music to the longings of young people in the 1960s to pursue their dreams, even if it meant walking away from a hard-won career.
Here’s what happened:
Besides Pete’s affair, which went undiscovered by wife Trudy (who wasn’t seen in the episode anyway), the episode’s other major plotline was Megan’s decision to quit the ad agency to try and reignite her real passion — acting.
Her decision came just a week after she had such great success securing the Heinz baked bean account and this week, representatives of Cool Whip were looking forward to she and Don presenting their new campaign idea together.
But Megan (Jessica Pare) quit before the presentation and it went much less well with Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) standing in for her. The failed presentation ignited a fight between Don and Peggy, in which Peggy actually told Don to “Shut up.” These two are so closely matched and intertwined that we doubt there will be repercussions for that.
How alike are Peggy and Don? They both had similar — but not identical — reactions to Megan’s decision to quit the ad biz. Each of them had fought hard to get where they were in the ad game. As a result, they couldn’t conceive of the idea that someone would just up and quit a career to pursue some dream.
“I was raised in the ’30s,” Don, now 40 in the 1966 time frame of “Mad Men,” told Roger Sterling (John Slattery). “My dream was indoor plumbing.”
Peggy, meanwhile, talked about Megan’s decision with the ever-cynical Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks). Said Joan of Megan, “She’s going to be a failing actress with a rich husband.”
What will happen next? Well, that unanswerable question seemed to be the point of the episode’s showcase ’60s song, the dissonant, psychedelic “Tomorrow Never Knows” from the Beatles’ “Revolver” album (released in August 1966). Don listened to the song after Megan gave him the album, so he could get up to speed on current trends.
The song initiated a montage of various scenes — one of which showed the agency’s young copywriters, including Peggy, sharing an after-hours joint while they worked. Eventually, Don was seen lifting the needle off the record before “Tomorrow Never Knows” was over. Clearly, he didn’t get it.
Sunday’s “Mad Men” was the eighth episode (seventh week) of the show’s current fifth season. The ninth episode airs next Sunday night at 10/9c on AMC.