'Mad Men' Season 6, Episode 1 Recap - 'The Doorway'

(AMC)

After what seems like a year — oh wait, it has been a year! — Mad Men is back for its sixth season.

Here's a quick recap of where we left off in season five: In the penultimate episode, Lane Price hanged himself in his office after Don fired him for embezzlement, and the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Price are still reeling.

Don and Megan Draper are growing apart as Megan pursues her acting career — and, in the fifth seson's final scene, when an attractive stranger sidles up to Don and asks him if he's alone, he doesn't say no.

Peggy left the company for a competitor, and Joan got herself a stake in SCDP after scoring an account with Jaguar (and sleeping with one of the Jag execs.)

Meanwhile, in the suburbs, Trudy Campbell gave Pete the go-ahead to get a New York City apartment, and Sally Draper is butting heads with Betty.

Phew! Now let's put on our pearls, mix ourselves some Manhattans, and do this thing.

The first episode of season six opens with a bang — or a scream, rather — someone has had a heart attack, it seems, but we won't find out who just yet.

Instead, the camera joins Don and Megan in Hawaii, where Don recites some lines from Dante's The Divine Comedy in a voiceover — “Midway through our life’s journey I went astray from the straight road and awoke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” Dante? Life's journey? Buckle up — we have loads of heavy-handed metaphors ahead.

In Hawaii, Don smokes a lot of pot and wears patterned shirts, like this one:

He also spends lots of time drinking alone, as he is wont to do – but, in a surprisingly friendly move for Don, he befriends a groom-to-be (PFC Dinkins) at the hotel bar and gives away his fiance in a sort of father-like role the next day. Which is interesting, because Don's father wasn't present at his wedding. And who knows if Don will be present at Sally's — he doesn't seem too concerned with her lately.

We get our first hint that Megan — who swans around Hawaii in patterned, caftan-like things — has had some success as an actress when a woman approaches her and asks for an autograph.


Then, we see Megan and Don arriving back at their apartment building, and greeting their doorman — who, as we learn in a flashback scene, suffered a heart attack sometime before the couple left for Hawaii. Mysterious opening scene: explained.

In case you were wondering, Betty (Are we still calling her Fat Betty? She looks pretty much like she did in season five, but she was never really, you know, fat.) is still batshit crazy! After Sally's friend Sandy plays the violin for the whole Francis family, Betty (playfully?) accuses Henry of checking her out. THEN she offers to hold the 15-year-old's arms down while Henry rapes her. This is her attempt at sexytalk, but it only serves to freak Henry out.

And then, she does something surprising parent-like! Betty wakes up in the middle of the night to fix herself a snack (Important note: she keeps her peanut butter in the fridge. What a monster.), only to find Sandy smoking in the kitchen. You see, Sandy is stressed about not getting into Julliard — even though she lied and told everyone she did. So her plan is to move to New York City — St. Marks Place, specifically. Betty attempts to talk her out of it, and the interaction is more typically mother-daughter than anything in recent Betty-Sally scenes.

Peggy time! She's got herself a shaggy-haired boyfriend, and her new boss is calling her at all hours and stressing her out. But she has really taken to her new leadership role. Girl is definitely leaning in.

Onto the Sterling Cooper Draper Price offices. The employees are getting their portraits taken. Roger Sterling, who we just saw in therapy — lamenting the failure of his last marriage, and his general directionless-ness — is yelling about getting someone to come in and shine his shoes. (Side note: While confessing his troubles to his therapist, he says life is just one door after another. "That's all there are and they all open the same way. And they all close behind you." Hence the episode's title, "Doorways." Symbolism!)

In other news, Joan is looking Joan-like (read: hot) in a purple dress. But the portrait photographer is so skeezy. "Do you mind holding onto the rail, gorgeous, and thinking of important things?” he says. She's a partner! Show some respect.



And Pete Campbell has some Very Important New Sideburns.



But back to Don. He nixes a mock-up of an ad showing newlyweds mid-embrace, declaring married couples "paleolithic." He's also been staring out of windows a lot this episode, looking pensive, while ocean noises play.

Before posing for his portrait, Don fires up a cigarette with a lighter engraved with, "In life we often have to do things that just are not our bag," on one side, and "PFC Dinkins" on the other. He accidentally took it from the groom he met in Hawaii. Dinkins was an army man, like Dick Whitman. And, Dick lit a cigarette with a similar lighter just before the accident that allowed him to steal the real Don Draper's identity years ago. Present-day Don is lost in thought, until the photographer tells him, "Just be yourself." But who is he? Dick Whitman? Don Draper? That is what Matthew Weiner wants us to ask ourselves, right?

Next we see Don in bed, which is only worth noting because he wears his pajamas buttoned all the way up!

Onto the next scene. Roger Sterling's mother has passed away, and Don Draper shows up drunk to the (dry) funeral. After Don pukes in a corner, Roger has a meltdown when he spots his first ex-wife's new husband in the crowd.


Back at the Francis house, Sally tells Betty that Sandy has headed off to class at Julliard. But Betty knows what's up. So she heads to a New York City squatter building looking for Sandy. Dirty youths are strewn about on mattresses, and also...making goulash. Betty gamely gives them cooking tips and seems to want to join them, briefly. She finds out that Sandy sold her violin in exchange for enough money to get to California. When she gets home, she approaches Sally's door like she's about to tell her what happened, but Sally is on the phone, and she pushes Betty out of her room.


Roger Sterling claims his mother's death made him feel nothing, but he tells his therapist, "I used to jump off mountains and it never occurred to me I had this invisible parachute. My mother loved me in some completely pointless way and now it's gone." He continues, "All I'm going to be doing from now on is losing everything...Life, like this analysis, will eventually end." Hmm...perhaps this episode is death-themed? It's just not obvious! (It's totally obvious.)

We learn the purpose of Don's trip to Hawaii — he was writing a campaign for a client's resort. In his pitch meeting, Don unveils a sketch of rumpled clothes lying on a beach, with footprints disappearing into the water. The tagline: "Hawaii. The jumping off point." It's all about disappearing. Like Dick Whitman! Matthew Weiner is really being generous with the I-see-what-you-did-there moments. The hotel execs aren't too happy — to them, the ad looks like a man committing suicide. Then, Roger delivers this burn to Don, "You know, we sold death for 25 years with Lucky Strike. You know how we did it? We ignored it."

Ahh! Betty dyed her hair brown! "I hate it, you're ugly," Bobby Draper says. Sally's "What happened to you?" isn't much better. Henry saves the moment by comparing Betty to Elizabeth Taylor.

Remember how Roger Sterling was like "Where is the shoe shine guy?" earlier in the episode? The shoe shine guy, Giorgio, wasn't there because he died. Roger's secretary informs him of this, and he finally — finally! — gets his cathartic moment when he goes into his office and cries.

In the last scene, Don and Megan are hosting a New Year's Eve (1968!) dinner party — with fondue! The event seems super boring — save for Megan's glittery pantsuit with the rhinestone neckline — the Drapers subject their guests to a slideshow of their Hawaiin vacation. But then! Don's new friend, Dr. Rosen — who lives one floor down from the Drapers —gets called to the hospital. So Don gets in bed with his wife, who is played by Lindsay Weir Linda Cardellini. Oh, she is the one who gave him a Dante paperback to read.


So! What did you think of the start of season six? Do you think Pete's sideburns have their own Twitter account yet? Were you as mad as I was that Christina Hendricks got more screentime in her Johnnie Walker ads than she did as Joan? Let us know!
I'm the Senior Associate Editor at StyleBistro. Follow me: Google
Comments
Like Us on Facebook
Copyright © 2014 - Livingly Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Livingly: Style