MAD MEN Saison 1

The Seventh Mad Mad Episode: An Analysis Of Each Season’s Turning Point

March 12, 2014

Last night, Vulture published an interview with Matt Weiner about the upcoming seventh and final season of Mad Men. In it, Weiner talked about the significance of the seventh episode of each season, saying that traditionally, the seventh episode has been the turning point in that season’s arc:

“Much of what is set up in much [of] the first seven episodes is paid off in the last seven as we do traditionally, but the stories are denser and the first seven episodes are their own arc… If you look at the episode sevens over the course of the series, “The Suitcase,” “The Lawnmower,” “The Gold Violin,” “The Merger,” which was episode six but it was hour seven — we always split the season in half because that’s the midpoint for me.”

In an effort to help you start preparing for April 13th (the premiere date for the final season), we’ve gone through the seventh episode of each season so far. We’ve mined these episodes for insight into each season as a whole, and if you take it all in, you’ll be well on your way to gearing up for the last leg of the journey.


Season 1 — “Red In The Face”

Major events:

– Pete returns his chip ‘n’ dip, exchanges it for a gun.

– Roger goes to Don and Betty’s for dinner. He ends up coming on to Betty in the kitchen (while Don is in the garage getting more liquor), and when he leaves, Don yells at Betty for being a flirt.

– Betty sees Helen Bishop (Glenn’s mom) in the grocery store. When Helen accuses Betty of being a creep and giving Glenn some of her hair, Betty slaps Helen across the face.

– Prior to a meeting with the Nixon campaign, Don and Roger go out for lunch. They drink one million martinis and eat one million oysters. When they finally head back to the office, they learn from the elevator man, Hollis, that the elevator is out of service, and they have to climb the stairs. When they arrive in the office, Roger vomits on the floor right in front of the Nixon people. Don smiles, and the implication is that he paid Hollis to lie about the elevator’s condition.

How was this a turning point?

The power struggle between Don and Roger begins in this episode — this is when they officially become frenemies, so to speak. It’s also when all of Betty’s difficulties come to a head and she starts to genuinely unravel. When we next see Betty, in episode 9, she’s attempting a modeling career (and, ultimately, shooting pigeons while smoking a cig).


Season 2 — “The Gold Violin”

Major Events: 

– We meet Anna Draper for the first time in this episode, in a flashback. While shopping for a Cadillac, Don remembers his days as a car salesman, when Anna first found him and accused him of not being Don Draper.

– Ken publishes a story in The Atlantic, and asks Sal to read something he’s working on (a story called ”The Gold Violin”). Sal invites him over for Sunday dinner to discuss the work, and spends the evening ignoring his wife in favor of Ken. When Ken leaves, Sal finds that he’s left a lighter behind.

– The new secretary, Jane, leads a group into Mr. Cooper’s office to look at his Rothko painting. Joan fires Jane when she finds out, but Jane enlists Roger’s sympathies, and gets to keep her job.

– Finally, Don and Betty go to a party in honor of Grin and Barret, Jimmy Barret’s new TV show. While there, Jimmy reveals Don and Bobby’s affair. On the way home, Betty vomits in her lap.

How was this a turning point?

First, the introduction of Anna is huge — later in the season, she provides shelter for Don (in “The Mountain King”), and her presence opens up new perceptions of Don for the rest of her time on the show (and after it). The Jane/Roger story also begins here, and we know that this relationship alters the course of both Roger’s story and Don’s. Finally, this is the beginning of the end for Don and Betty — it’s in the next episode, “A Night To Remember”, that Don embarrasses Betty at her “around the world” themed dinner party, causing her to banish him to the couch and then to a hotel.


Season 3 — “Seven Twenty Three”

Major Events: 

– Peggy and Pete are being lured by Duck. This results in Peggy being really lured, and giving in — what I’m referring to, of course, is Duck telling Peggy that he’s going to give her “a go around like she’s never had.”

– Betty, under the guise of a Junior League errand, calls a man named Henry Francis, and they have lunch.

– Don helps Sally’s teacher, Ms. Farrell, with a class project.

– Reluctantly, Don signs a three year contract with Sterling Cooper.

How was this a turning point?

Relationship-wise, this sets up the rest of the season for Betty and for Don: Henry Francis and Ms. Farrell, respectively, will soon take center stage (in the very next episode, Betty and Henry kiss for the first time). It’s also meaningful for Peggy, as her relationship with Duck will have lasting consequences.

Don signs the contract to appease both Roger (who says, “When it comes down to it, who’s really signing this contract anyway?”) and Betty (who says “What’s the matter? You don’t know where you’re going to be in three years?”). In the end, it’s something of an empty gesture.

(A note: it’s interesting that in the interview, Weiner actually mistakenly remembered the lawnmower episode “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” as being the seventh one. It’s actually the sixth, and this one fits much better with the turning point theme — but I guess the lawnmower incident is more memorable.)


Season 4 — “The Suitcase”

Major Events: 

– This is really one big event, which is a night at the office with Peggy and Don. It is Peggy’s 26th birthday, and she’s supposed to be at dinner with Mark (who has invited her whole family along), but instead they break up over the phone, and Peggy stays at the office.

– There is a boxing match happening (Cassius Clay/Sonny Liston).

– In the morning, Don calls California, and learns that Anna has died.

How was this a turning point?

This episode is always mentioned whenever anyone talks about Mad Men‘s greatness. It’s a spectacular hour of television.

In terms of the arc of the season, it’s smack dab the middle for Don. In the episodes prior, he drinks and falls down and embarrasses himself (in the previous episode, “Waldorf Stories”, he ran around the table during a pitch meeting). And in the episodes after, he works to better himself — we find him swimming laps, drying out, dating Dr. Faye, and renouncing cigarette companies. This all leads him, of course, to Megan.


Season 5 — “At The Codfish Ball”

Major Events: 

– Emile and Marie, Megan’s parents, are staying with the Drapers.

– Don is having trouble with the Heinz account, and Megan comes up with the winning strategy: “Heinz beans. Some things never change.” Later, at a dinner with Heinz, Megan saves the day by announcing the new campaign right before Heinz is about to fire SCDP.

– Abe proposes moving in with Peggy. She accepts.

– Everyone — including Sally — attends an awards dinner. While Don is mingling, Emile says to Megan, “Don’t let your love for this man stop you from doing what you wanted to do.” Don learns that clients no longer trust him. And Sally walks in on Marie giving Roger head.

How was this a turning point?

This was largely a turning point in Megan and Don’s relationship. Prior to and throughout this episode, Don is infatuated with Megan — she exists solely as his aide and supporter, and that works great for him. But after her success with Heinz and the comment from her father, Megan starts wanting to act again and chooses to leave SCDP, which heralds all of the problems that arise in their relationship.

The final moment of the awards dinner in this episode — when Sally sees Marie and Roger — marks a turn toward the seedy. The rest of the season sees the Jaguar account, Lane Pryce’s downfall, and Joan’s sad road to being made a Partner. That stark tone shift begins at the codfish ball.


Season 6 — “Man With a Plan”

Major Events: 

– The merger with CGC is taking effect as this episode opens.

– Don locks Sylvia in a hotel room and tells her, “You exist in this room for my pleasure.” In the end, she tells him that this thing between them is over.

– Don pulls a power play by getting Ted drunk while  they discuss the campaign for Fleischmann’s Margarine.

– Pete is dealing with his mother, who is descending into dementia.

– Joan goes to the hospital for an ovarian cyst, and is accompanied by Bob Benson, who even stops by her apartment later to check on her.

– Bobby Kennedy is assassinated.

How was this a turning point?

For Sylvia and Don, this marked the end of their normal affair, so to speak, and the beginning of their really detrimental one — soon, Sally will see them together and Don’s life will unravel. For the company, this was an obvious turning point (the merger), and that extends to Don, too: now he has Ted to deal with, and it’s soon clear that Ted is just a better guy.

Moving into the next few episodes, we get flashbacks to Don’s virginity loss and his past starts to creep into his present with more conviction than it ever has before.

(Also, just to note, we’re 90% sure this was the episode Matthew Weiner was referring to when he mentioned an episode called “The Merger”, because there is no episode called “The Merger”.)

Leave a Comment