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"Mad Men": The 4:20 Express [by David Lehman]

Don DraperThink of tonight's episode, the best of the 5th season so far, as the Four Twenty Edition of Mad Men with a bummed out Peggy playing hooky smoking a joint with some horny stranger in a dark movie theater watching "Born Free" (I think that's what it was). . .

Mad Men Roger Sterling john-slatteryRoger Sterling goes on an acid trip with his wife, Jane, who, it turns out, speaks Yiddish when she is high (Roger thinks it's German). No sooner has Roger announced that LSD ("your product, Mr. Leary") is "boring" than he opens a vodka bottle and hears mighty Russian chorale music. You can hear it every time the bottle is uncapped -- and as long as the bottle remains uncapped. The cigarette in Roger's mouth shrinks. In the mirror he sees himself with half his hair gray, the other half black, as in a magazine ad, and Don Draper appears over his shoulder and tells him everything will turn out okay now go back to your wife and he does and she says things like "How can a few numbers contain all of time?"

In the cab Bert Cooper's face appears on the five-dollar bill.  And her epiphany is that he doesn't like her. And his epiphany is that it's going to be easier to get out of this marriage than he thought. "It'll be expensive," she tells him, but he doesn't care, he's free, it's gonna be a great day. . .

And Ginsberg, who needs no drugs to establish his extraterrestrial bona fides, finds a witty way to tell Peggy he was born in a concentration camp.

Mad-men-don-draper-1And Peggy is smoking more and drinking more Canadian Club and she resembles no one more than Don when she tells off the guy from Heinz who rejects her "Home is where the Heinz is" campaign, though it's, well, awesome ("the fire is primal. . .and it's the beans that brought them together on the cold night at the end of the summer") and she gets taken off the account and that is why she is bummed out enough to go to the movies and get high and fall asleep in Don's office and later she gets a weird brusque phone call from Don, "Did you get any calls? Has anyone called you?" which makes no sense until we go over the same stretch of time from the point of view of Mr. Draper himself, who is driving to a HoJo Motor Lodge with Megan (in beautiful orange-striped sweater that goes perfectly with the decor) where they have a blowout fight which ends when he loses his temper and bolts. "Don't you dare pull away. I'm talking to you," she says helplessly as he pulls out and drives off without her. Cooling off, he goes back and looks everywhere for her including the ladies' room. (She took the bus back, furious.) No pot, no acid, but a sleepless Don smoking cigarettes in a period sedan and having odd flashbacks to composite car trips is enough of a high to end on. A brilliant episode. 1966! -- DL

from the archive; first posted April 22, 2012

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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