It’s been 17 long and painful months since Don Draper has graced our television screens and I’m not going to lie, I kind of forgot what he’s been up to. Since we’ve seen him last, Don spontaneously broke up with his psychologist girlfriend Faye and proposed to his young French-Canadian secretary Megan. Joan made the unilateral decision to keep Roger's baby and pass it off as her husband’s, Pete was moving to the ‘burbs, Peggy had landed the firm some new business, and Betty and Henry were on the marriage rocks.
The Season 5 premiere opens with a protest outside of a rival company’s building, and the subsequent water bombing of these black protesters by some pretty stupid, and pretty bored men. This scene, along with the changing women’s fashion (I loved loved loved Jane’s dress at Don’s party), is the biggest hint that the times are a changin’. Speaking of change, the episode gets rolling with Sally (who once again grew about a foot since we last saw her) padding down an unfamiliar hallway to a yellow door. I’m thinking it’s Betty’s house (which in retrospect, looked far too mod to be her style), but then we find out, surprise, it’s actually Don’s new pad that he shares with Megan, who we learn is now officially Mrs. Draper, as well as a copywriter. And man, the apartment looks fantastic! That Megan sure knows how to decorate with the primary color, minimalism theme she’s got going on.
We then catch up with the other characters. Pete complains about his boring commute and Trudy’s newfound love for unflattering housecoats, a stressed out Joan takes care of her new baby with her mother (can I just say Christina Hendricks still looks amazing even when supposedly stressed and sleep-deprived), and Peggy is more or less still working her butt off.
At the office things are seemingly the same, but as the episode proceeds, we see that office politics have changed. Roger desperately tries to hold on to his façade of importance at the company as he bribes Harry Crane to switch offices with Pete, who is rapidly gaining more traction as he brings in more and more accounts. Don, thanks to Megan, arrives late, leaves early, and is actually nice to his clients, much to Peggy’s dismay and anger. Joan makes a visit and in a very touching scene between her and Lane, is assured that her job is always here for her, and only she can run the company the way it needs to be run.
However, as different as the new shiny, happily-married Don seems, the old, familiar Don reappears with perhaps the biggest plotline of the two hour episode: Megan’s 40th surprise party for Don. I’m not completely sure how I feel about Megan as of yet (‘crazy,’ ‘carefree,’ ‘refreshing,’ and ‘annoying’ all run through my brain), but I do like how her presence has let more personal business seep into the workplace. Megan consults Peggy about the guest list, for example, and Peggy’s assumption that she’s invited and her subsequent realization that she might be is a nice touch, as is their collective giggling over Don’s age and their collective loathing of Harry Crane.
Later, we actually get to see the party. It kicks off awkwardly as Roger and Jane arrive late and basically ruin the surprise, and just gets worse as Don, as expected, isn’t exactly having the best time. Peggy has too much to drink and complains about work to Don and Megan, and then Megan gives her gift to Don. She serenades him with an obscure French song, “Zou Bisou Bisou” (Megan’s rendition is now available on iTunes for all you die hard fans), and does an overall tremendous job arousing everyone except for Don, who is even more pissed at this whole little shenanigan and subsequently goes to bed exhausted. Megan pissed off, stomps out of the bedroom.
The happy couple spends pretty much the rest of the episode miffed at each other until the end, when the other shoe drops and we see that Megan is kind of actually nuts as she strips down to her undergarments to simultaneously scream at Don and clean the apartment. (I have to say, I was more concerned with the state of wreck the apartment was in, but I digress). They make up (and make love) and all is well, except for Don’s ominous looking face. But then again, when does Don not have an ambiguous expression after sex. We’ll just have to see where this whirlwind of a romance goes.
The episode ends on the similar note with which it began. Back to the beginning of the episode after finding out about the water bombing, Roger and Don post an ad in the newspaper about equal opportunity hiring as a joke. The ad backfires and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce find themselves with a lobby full of African-Americans looking to be hired. While subtle, the characters, the office, and the era all seem to be pointing to the theme of change. I, for one, after 17 months, am beyond pumped to see where this change leads us.