Mad Men Recap: The Prodigal Don Sort Of Returns

Don Draper returned to Sterling Cooper & Partners last week, but we have a bad feeling about the whole thing. Let’s see if we feel any better after this week’s recap.

Pete is out for dinner with his special lady Bonnie, but she’s being stared at by another man and is distracted. Turns out the man is George Payton, a friend of Pete’s. Payton is a stiff-haired smooth-faced bore who tells Pete that Pete’s soon to be ex-father-in-law had a heart attack, which Trudy hadn’t told Pete about. Awkward.


This is how Don Draper looks arriving at work.

Mad Men Recap: The Prodigal Don Sort Of Returns

We feel you, Don.

When he gets to the office, he can’t find anyone, because they’re all upstairs being very mad at everything because their offices are about to be completely remodeled aka wrecked by the enormous computer that SCP has just purchased. Harry is unbearably smug about this, particularly as it sounds like they’re going to put the computer right smack dab in the middle of creative, eradicating their lounge workspace, because Lou, the anti-Don, is a dick and doesn’t understand creative. Roger tells Don that the computer will do magical things “like make Harry Crane seem important.” Heh.

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The poor creative folks are packing up all of their stuff and Michael Ginsburg, he of the increasingly low social skills, only cares about trying to claim the lounge’s couch, even though it won’t fit in his office. Michael thinks the couch is a metaphor for the erasure of creative, but we must admit we’re not following that even one bit.

Pete has conference called New York to talk about his cool new/old pal George Payton and all the business it will bring. Payton works for Burger Chef and they’r going to let SCP pitch them and talk all about their fast food goodness. Jim wants Ted to come home and run the campaign, but Ted thinks Peggy should do it because woman’s touch and kitchen stuff and ladies.

Pete is a little curious as to why Don can’t handle the account, and Roger points out that Don isn’t working on anything else, so Don gets Burger Chef and now the anti-Don is SO MAD about it. Anti-Don, we just keep disliking you more.

Roger’s ex-wife Mona and his son-in-law Brooks are here to tell Roger that his daughter, Margaret, has run off to upstate New York with a commune/cult/take your pick. Mona wants Roger to go get her, but Brooks is going to man up and do it himself. Mona is pissed and pretty certain it is somehow all Roger’s fault because he’s such a libertine and Margaret probably got it from him. Logic.

Don is very very busy reading the paper, but he’s disturbed by the construction and conversation right outside his door. Harry Crane is talking to the computer nerd who is supervising the installation and just generally getting his smug all over the place. He leaves, and Don is left alone to chat with Computer Guy Lloyd.

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Dear Computer Guy Lloyd and every other person that wears menswear: there is no such thing on earth as a short-sleeved dress shirt. Never ever wear one with a tie. Never ever wear one to the office and think you look like you are dressed up. Never ever.

Lou has called Peggy into his office to…give her a raise? Oh, and also too to put her in charge of Burger Chef and therefore in charge of Don. Not really sure how Lou is able to do this unilaterally, but done it is.


Peggy calls Don to HER office, which is a Big Fucking Deal as normally she should come to him since he is a big partner and all. Peggy also fortifies herself with a drink before talking to Don about how she will be the boss of the team, which is something we would also do. She assigns both Don and Mathis, some super junior dude that we never pay attention to, 25 taglines each. Don would like to know what on earth the campaign strategy is, but they do not do things that way anymore, because the anti-Don likes to sneak up on the strategy.

This is how Don looks hearing this news.

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Man, but the showrunners have done a good job making Don look terrible this year. The watery eyes with bags underneath? The slight beard shadow? He’s crumbling slowly right in front of us.

When Don gets back to his office, he hurls the typewriter at the window and walks out the door.

When next we see Don, the weekend has passed and its Monday — time to have Burger Chef taglines galore. We have no faith whatsoever that he’s done this. He doesn’t bother to go to the meeting with Peggy, so Mathis is sent down to get him. Don is ostentatiously playing solitaire instead of working, and tells Mathis he will not be attending the meeting and also too he has not written any tags. Now poor Mathis has to trot down and explain this to Peggy. Somehow Peggy’s solution is to give Mathis double the work, which doesn’t seem like a super fair thing to do, but then again we are not locked in a power struggle with Don Draper.

Brooks has landed himself in jail, which means Roger and Mona have to drive upstate together, presumably to retrieve both Brooks and Margaret. Both of them are utterly disinterested in springing Brooks, who they don’t really think is good enough for their daughter and also too didn’t get in a fight with the cult members, but instead got in a bar fight with some rednecks hours later. Mainly they just hope Margaret is not a drug addict now.

Computer Guy Lloyd wants to talk to Don about advertising. Oh come on. Are we really going to have to treat Computer Guy Lloyd like an actual character?? Computer Guy Lloyd wants to advertise, or maybe just philosophically discuss advertising? We’re not sure, but Don definitely wants to pitch him. Except Don isn’t allowed to pitch new clients, so he has to go cap in hand and beg racist Bert Cooper to see if someone else could pitch them and Don could help. Bert takes this opportunity to tell Don that nobody needs him and they’re doing just fine without him. Don promptly leaves and goes and steals a bottle of liquor from Roger’s office by hiding it under his coat.

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Legit coping mechanism in our humble opinion. Once he gets back to his own office, he slugs it straight from the bottle before thinking better of it and pouring it into his now-empty Coke can. Smart thinking.


Roger and Margaret are visiting the hippie commune cult where Margaret is living. She’s now calling herself Marigold and she looks as high and cult-y as can be.

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The other hippies gather round looking menacing — well, as menacing as ragtag high hippies can be — until Roger tells them to step off, at which point it is time for Margaret/Marigold to explain her awesome new life and how she can’t go home and see her child, because if she’s not happy her child can’t be happy and also too telling Mona that Mona was a drunk who had nothing to live for when Margaret was growing up. This conversation is going swimmingly.

Roger being Roger, he’s pretty sure he can turn the situation around, so he tells Margaret he’ll stick around and she can take the car and he’ll get someone to take him to the train later. Odds on Roger being high and hanging out with the hippies before the end of the episode??

This is what Don looks like after he drinks straight alcohol out of his Coke can.

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He picks up the phone and calls someone and makes plans to go see a Mets game, and then, exhausted from that endeavor, lays back down on the couch.

Haha it took approximately 2 minutes to cut back to Roger getting high with the hippies.

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Roger is the best.

Don is going to the Mets game with Freddy. Don can barely walk, but he decides this is a great time to go talk to Computer Guy Lloyd and tell him that he knows his name, and he does not need an ad campaign because he has the best ad campaign since the beginning of time. Wait. Does Don think Computer Guy Lloyd is Satan??

Peggy sees that Don is knocking off early and, exasperated, decides to have a drink with Joan.

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Also a legit coping mechanism.

Roger is going to sleep on a bed of straw next to Marigold. They lay awake watching the moon, talking about putting a man on the moon, which, in the timeline of this season, has got to be happening soon. After Don falls asleep, one of the other hippies comes to take his daughter away for sexytime elsewhere in the barn. Not weird at all!

Freddy has taken Don home instead of to the ball game because Don is a fucking wreck. Don passes out and when next we see Freddy, it’s full daylight. Is this the next day?? That is a long damn time to pass out on the couch.

Don is bitching to Freddy about how he wants his job back and unfair Burger Chef taglines unfair. Freddy tells him to man up and to sober up, and that’s the only way that he’s going to get back on his feet. We would never have figured that Freddy would be this show’s voice of reason.

It’s morning in hippieville, and Roger is back in his three-piece suit and tells his daughter it is time to leave hippie paradise. He picks her up to carry her to the decrepit truck that the hippies have hanging about, but ends up dropping her and himself in the mud. Roger can’t understand how his daughter could just leave her kid, and his daughter can’t understand why Roger doesn’t get that he functionally left her alone her whole childhood. With that, he walks away, defeated.


It’s a brand new day at SCP, and the giant computer is being wheeled in to the office. Meanwhile, Peggy squares her shoulders and goes to fight with Don, but Don just tells her that he’ll have her tags by noon. So Don will abase himself so that he can once again return to his former glory? Is this our season arc? And when do we get to the moon?

Maybe next week.

Catch up in the archives

Mad Men Season Seven Episode One
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Two
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Three

TV Show: Mad Men

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