AMC’s “Mad Men’s” Season 7, Part 1: The Beginning premiered on Sunday night.
In an episode titled “Time Zones,” things kicked off in 1969 and there were a lot of changes for the men and women of Sterling, Cooper & Partners. Some struggled, some turned sly, others upped their game, and Roger Sterling experimented with free love in the episode.
Here’s what happened:
Peggy Olson: Freddy Rumsen (the man who was once forced to take a leave of absence after urinating on himself) returned to the firm as a freelancer in the Season 7 premiere and he made a pitch to Peggy that was “a home run.” No, it was “an end run” (her words). While he had been in the office since his infamous incident, this time it was a very different Freddy who pitched an idea for Accutron watches. The tag line, “It’s not a time piece, it’s a conversation piece,” shocked Peggy. With a little tweak – “Accutron – it’s time for a conversation” – she took it to the top and shared it in a meeting with Lou, who is Sterling Cooper & Partners’ New York office equivalent of Ted Chaough (who moved to the West Coast at the end of Season 6).
The totally uncool Lou, in a Mr. Rogers-style light blue cardigan, was unimpressed with Freddy’s vision. “Why would you put something in front of me that you don’t want me to pick?” he said of the idea.
Later, in a different meeting with her colleague beardy Stan, Peggy spotted (through the glass window) Ted for the first time since he chose to go to California with his family.
Unable to avoid Ted forever, Peggy ran into him in the office mini-kitchen where things were tense. “None of this seems related to coffee,” Stan told Peggy when he walked in during a tension-filled moment. “Buck up, chief.”
Her romantic and home life (there was a tenant and a clogged-toilet incident) in shambles, Peggy threw herself into work and into promoting Freddy’s Accutron idea. She pushed Lou after he returned from a weekend cutting firewood. “I’m sorry about last week. I shouldn’t have suggested something that I didn’t like,” she said. Peggy then re-pitched Freddy’s original idea (not her tweaked version), but Lou shut her down again. “I don’t know, Peggy. I guess I’m immune to your charms,” he told her.
That night, Peggy went home and found her brother-in-law, Gerry (who was fixing the toilet), asleep on the couch. She told him he could stay there and wait for the part he needed to fix the tenant’s toilet to arrive, but he left to get home to his wife — her sister, Anita. After he walked out, Peggy looked around her apartment, fell to her knees and sobbed.
Roger Sterling: Roger Sterling started Season 7 wilder than ever. He was naked and surrounded by at least six similarly naked friends (women and men) when his daughter, Margaret, called, asking for a brunch date. He agreed, and the two planned to meet Sunday at the Plaza. After he put down the phone, Roger’s newest lady looked at him and said, “I feel like we really got somewhere last night.”
At brunch, Roger started things off by making a toast with his Bloody Mary. “To the fear of an ambush,” he said. Margaret quickly explained that she set up brunch to tell her dad she had forgiven him for, “All of your transgressions, abandoning mother, making me ask for money, your intermittent interest in Ellery. I don’t even care that you smell like incense, or have any thoughts about your current ‘state’ of affairs. I simply forgive you.” He was unhappy and said he didn’t agree with her characterization and asked if she was going to church. “Not in any way you’d understand,” Margaret replied.
Roger returned to his free-love girlfriend, who was asleep in their big bed, next to a slumbering man. “If you were with someone, I don’t care. You know anyone’s welcome in this bed,” she told him. He ended the episode staring at the ceiling.
Joan Harris: A stressed out Ken Cosgrove (still wearing an eye patch) vented to Joan about handling all the accounts, Bob Benson calling him from Detroit and Pete Campbell phoning from Los Angeles. Then, he brought up Butler Footwear, who he said recently hired a new head of marketing. Ken told Joan to go to the meeting instead of him and tell the client’s new hire that he couldn’t make it at the last minute as a way of showing off Ken’s importance.
At the restaurant, Joan met Mr. Wayne Barnes (played by “Cougar Town’s” Dan Byrd), who was less than impressed that Ken wasn’t there. Before he could leave, Joan got assertive and Mr. Barnes admitted that he planned to recommend to the bosses at Butler Footwear that they take their advertising in house. She asked him to hold off on making his recommendation until Ken could make the dinner and Mr. Barnes agreed.
At a college campus, Joan asked a professor for his advice on what to do. He told her it was a better idea for Butler Footwear to “diversify their line or open foreign offices.” “How much to get an analysis like that in writing?” Joan asked. “Well, let’s see if you have anything to trade,” he replied. Offended, Joan said, “This is a business school. Doesn’t money work here?” The Professor quickly pointed out he wanted information for a research study — what percentage of the firm’s clients were fee-based vs. commission based. “You’re going to need another pad,” Joan responded, when he asked if she could explain the difference.
Back at the office, Joan found out Mr. Barnes ignored her request. After getting him on the phone, she put him in his place, pointing out that if he were to take advertising in-house, he would be at a huge disadvantage. “You think you can go into a network… and get the space we get when we deal with them every day with 30 clients? You will be competing against us, not against other shoe companies,” she said. After realizing Joan was right, Mr. Barnes asked Joan what to do. She told him to cancel the meeting, and still plan for that dinner with Ken.
Don Draper: Don arrived in Los Angeles and was greeted by wife Megan, who kissed him (The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” sound tracked the moment). The two drove in her convertible to a restaurant to meet her agent, Alan.
After meeting Don, Alan revealed that Megan got a call back for “Bracken’s World” on NBC. “We can hold off fixing your teeth,” Alan added.
Back at her Laurel Canyon pad, Megan was too drunk for any romance, so Don put her to bed. The next morning Megan went off about her day, but not before warning her husband not to “work too hard.”
At lunch with Pete Campbell later that day (who turned up in a casual polo shirt and sweater), Pete raved about his new two-story apartment near the La Brea Tar Pits. Don asked Pete about clients and through their conversation it was revealed that Don isn’t back at work at Sterling, Cooper & Partners at all. “You know, if it was up to me, you’d be back there already,” Pete said. Pete also revealed that Ted isn’t enjoying California. “He’s sour. Maybe he doesn’t like the sun,” he told Don.
Don took a tour of the California offices and met Bonnie (“Falling Skies” actress Jessy Schram), a flirty real estate agent. “She turns it on for everyone,” Pete explained.
Later that night, Megan seemed annoyed that Don bought her a brand new TV, but the two ended their brief visit with a roll in the hay, following some awkwardness.
On the plane, Don met an intriguing woman (played by Neve Campbell). They flirted and she confided in him that she was in LA to dispose of her husband’s ashes at his second choice – Disneyland, on Tom Sawyer island. “He was thirsty. He died of thirst,” she said of her husband.
An announcement from the plane’s captain woke the pair up a few hours later. Her head was on his shoulder. “If I was your wife, I wouldn’t like this,” she said. “She knows I’m a terrible husband,” Don replied. “I really thought I could do it this time,” he added.
The woman offered to make Don “feel better” when they landed, and offered him a lift, but he declined. “I’m sorry, but I have to get back to work,” he said.
Back at home, Don was watching President Nixon’s inauguration (which took place in real life on January 20, 1969) when freelance Freddy came by and the game was revealed. “Peggy went bananas for your Accutron work,” Freddy said, as it all became clear. Don is still on an imposed leave, but he has been working through Freddy. Before leaving, Freddy warned Don he shouldn’t be gone too long. “I’ve been there. You don’t want to be damaged goods.”
Don ended the episode in his dressing gown, shivering on his balcony (as Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep Me Hanging On” played).
“Mad Men” airs Sunday nights at 10 PM ET/PT on AMC.