‘Mad Men’ Returns: A Recap of Season Five

Can’t remember what happened to Don, Peggy, and Joan? Ahead of its sixth season premiere on Sunday, Jace Lacob brings you up to speed on what happened last season on AMC’s Mad Men. Plus, read our review of the Season 6 premiere.

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Season Six of Mad Men begins Sunday evening at 9 p.m. with a stellar two-hour premiere, 10 long months since we last traveled back in time with AMC’s devastatingly elegant period drama.

In that time, your brain may have erased precious details about what happened to Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in the dentist’s chair, whether he and “Zou Bisou Bisou” chanteuse Megan (Jessica Paré) repaired their marriage or ended it, and just what Joan (Christina Hendricks) did in order to secure herself a seat at the partners’ table. What happened to Lane Pryce (Jared Harris)? Did Betty (January Jones) have cancer? Why isn’t Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) working at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce anymore? What happened to Sally (Kiernan Shipka) at the museum?

Can’t remember the details of Season Five? Read on:

Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

Don has married his former secretary, Megan, to whom he proposed after a trip with the kids to Disneyland at the end of Season Four. Megan now works as a copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and Don seems happy to come to work in a way he didn’t before.

Newly relocated to a fabulous Manhattan apartment, Don and Megan have more of a spark than Don and Betty had. At a party, Megan serenades Don with a sexually charged rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” in front of his coworkers, something that makes him uncomfortable. They argue. The following day, as she angrily cleans up from the party, they engage in a sex game.

Don and Megan take a trip together, but their marriage hits the skids along the way. The two have a terrible row about orange sherbet, and Don leaves Megan in a Howard Johnson parking lot. He later has a sinking feeling, frantically calling the office in an effort to track her down. Don discovers Megan at home; he kicks down the door and menacingly chases her around the apartment, throwing her to the ground in their living room. His words? “I thought I lost you."

Megan single-handedly saves the Heinz account, but lets Don take the credit for the pitch. Her lack of enthusiasm is the precursor to a larger confession: she wants to quit her job and pursue acting again. Don nearly steps into an open elevator shaft at work, a brush with death that leaves him reeling.

Don spends an afternoon with Joan, test-driving a Jaguar and drinking together in a bar, reminiscing about the past. Arriving home late and drunk, Don is stunned when Megan angrily throws his dinner against the wall. The two lead increasingly separate lives. Megan lands a callback for a role in a play in Boston, which leads to yet another row between the two. They make up, but it’s clear that fissures are forming in their relationship.

Don has a "hot tooth" with which he is avoiding a confrontation. When he finally goes to see a dentist, he learns that he has an abscess: the tooth is rotten, threatening to overtake his jaw. In the dentist’s chair, he has a vision of his dead brother, Adam (Jay Paulson), a ghost whose presence occurs throughout the final episode.

Megan wants Don to help her snag an audition for a shoe commercial. Don vacillates but ultimately helps Megan, realizing that her failure will be his responsibility. On the commercial’s lavish set, she tells Don that she loves him, and they kiss, an emblem of their love set against a false façade. As he leaves her on the brightly lit set of the commercial—where she is playing Beauty of Beauty and the Beast—he is surrounded by the darkness of the studio, one that echoes the gloom within him. Don is then shown at a low-lit bar, where he's asked, "Are you alone?"

Roger Sterling (John Slattery)

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Roger is still married to Jane (Peyton List), though their passion has clearly evaporated, as seen from their sparring at Don and Megan’s party. Don is forced to hire an African-American secretary, Dawn Chambers (Teyonah Parris), after Roger takes out an ad in a newspaper—stating that they are an “equal opportunity” employer—as a joke against rival firm Y&R. When several applicants show up, Lane is forced to carve out funds from their budget to support one new position… so that the firm isn’t itself a recipient of angry protests, thanks to Roger’s “joke.” Later, Roger instructs Peggy to hire a Jewish copywriter, Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman), because having Jews and African-Americans makes SCDP seem more “modern.”

A night of carousing to woo a prospective Jaguar account—one brought in by Lane—leads to Roger hosting a night with prostitutes. But the party costs Sterling Cooper the account; the executive’s wife discovers “chewing gum on his pubis,” a telltale sign of the night before.

Roger and Jane experiment with LSD, indulging in an acid trip that takes us deep within Roger’s psyche. But the drug-fueled evening has an unintended consequence: the end of Roger and Jane’s marriage. Despite Jane accepting their rift during their acid trip, she reverses her sentiment in the morning: if he wants a divorce, it’s going to be expensive.

Later, Roger engages in oral sex with Megan’s mother, Marie (Julia Ormond), at an event. When the firm lands the Manischewitz account, Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) urges Roger to bring Jane to a dinner to help, despite the fact that she and Roger are now divorcing. Jane agrees to help him, but on one condition: he has to buy her a new apartment. He does … and then ends up having sex with Jane there. When he discovers that Marie is staying with Don and Megan, he pretends to be Emil and phones her, arranging to meet up at a hotel. However, when he asks her to take LSD with him, she refuses, and Roger appears to drop acid on his own.

Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss)

Peggy is still dating Abe (Charlie Hofheimer), whom she met in Season Four through her friend Joyce (Zosia Mamet), though they seem to be often arguing. At work, Peggy behaves more and more like Don, indulging in cigarettes and alcohol, and telling the client flat out when they’re often wrong. She goes so far as to jeopardize the Heinz account, and is removed from it altogether. Peggy escapes from the office, smoking some marijuana and giving a stranger a handjob at the movies. Later, she calls Abe, telling him that she “always” needs him.

During race riots, Peggy invites Don’s new secretary, Dawn, to spend the night after she discovers her sleeping at the office. Peggy commits a grievous faux pas when she nervously eyes her purse—with a wad of cash inside—next to the sofa. Dawn immediately understands the implications. The next morning, Peggy discovers a terse note atop the bag, Dawn’s blankets and sheets neatly folded on the sofa.

Peggy expects Abe to propose to her over dinner at the Minnetta Tavern, but is surprised when he suggests that they move in together. She accepts, with somewhat deflated “I do.” Peggy’s mother, Kathryn (Myra Turley) thinks Peggy is a fool, saying that Abe will move on to another woman after he’s used her “for practice.” It’s Joan who offers heartfelt congratulations, telling Peggy that a marriage certificate meant little between her and Greg (Sam Page).

Increasingly unappreciated at work, Peggy is excluded from working on the Jaguar account. She single-handedly saves a Chevalier Blanc ad campaign (selling them the same concept as before, but set in Paris), but Don informs her that Ginsberg will take over from her when his work with Jaguar is finished. When Peggy protests, Don throws money in her face.

Peggy has lunch with Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), who offers to help her find a new job. She meets with Don’s rival at Cutler Gleason and Chaough, Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm), who offers her a job as copy chief. Peggy tells Don she is resigning; he incorrectly reads this as a ploy for a raise, to which she tells him that it’s not about the money. Don kisses her hand. Her final words to him: “Don’t be a stranger.” Peggy smiles as she waits for the elevator, a world of possibility opening before her.

At the movies, she runs into Don, who admits that he is proud of her. Later, Peggy takes her first business trip. Despite being stuck in a lousy Richmond motel, with two dogs rutting outside her window, Peggy kicks back with a glass of wine and a feeling of success.

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser)

New parents Pete and Trudy (Alison Brie) have traded their Manhattan home for the suburbs, the reverse trajectory of Don and Megan. At work, Pete continues his brattish territorial streak, demanding that he trade offices with Harry Crane (Rich Sommer). Pete manages to land the Mohawk Airlines account again, bringing an airline company back into the SCDP fold, a key victory that’s needed to keep the firm afloat, though Pete rubs it in Roger’s face.

Pete and Trudy throw a dinner party at their new home, inviting Don and Megan, and Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) and his wife, Cynthia (Larisa Oleynik). Pete’s efforts to fix the dripping kitchen sink faucet flop spectacularly, when Don steps in, stripping down to his undershirt and fixing it, much to the delight of the female dinner guests. Elsewhere, Pete attempts to seduce a high school girl, Jenny (Amanda Bauer), at his driver’s education class, which similarly backfires for him when a younger, more attractive man, “Handsome” (Parker Young), woos her. In an effort to reclaim his wounded masculine ego, he partakes of a prostitute when the SCDP boys are attempting to secure the Jaguar account. She plays up Pete’s need to feel like a “king.”

Later, Pete’s commuter buddy, Howard (Jeff Clarke), forces him to provide an alibi during his tryst with his mistress. But when Pete meets Howard’s wife, Beth (Alexis Bledel), they have a one-night stand. Increasingly reckless, Pete manages to get Howard to invite him over so he can see Beth again, stealing a kiss.

Pete tries to convince Trudy that they ought to buy an apartment in the city; she refuses. In the season finale, Pete and Beth meet in a hotel room, where she tells him that she is going to undergo electroshock therapy the following day, which she hopes will help her depression, though it may erase her memories of their time together.

Beth goes through with the treatment and, as Pete learns when he visits her at the hospital, she has no recollection of him. After an encounter on the train, Howard realizes that Pete had slept with Beth and the two men scuffle. Returning home, Pete lies to Trudy about his injuries, saying that he fell asleep while driving and ran off the road. Only then does Trudy relent, saying that he should get an apartment in Manhattan.

Lane Pryce (Jared Harris)

Lane discovers a lost wallet in the back of a taxi; inside, is a photograph of a young woman with a girlish “XXOO” inscription. Despite the fact that he appears to have reconciled with his wife, Rebecca (Embeth Davidtz), Lane fantasizes about this kept woman and goes to far as to keep the photograph—a talisman of sorts—after he returns the wallet to its rightful owner.

He brings in the lucrative Jaguar account, thanks to a friendship he has struck up with Edwin Baker (David Hunt), but he’s removed from the celebrations and the visit to the brothel. Pete impugns Lane’s manhood, telling him that Edwin thought he was a “homo” and that Lane has no value to the firm anymore. Lane demands that Pete fights him in the conference room; Lane knocks him to the ground. Lane then impulsively kisses Joan in her office, a move that she gracefully dismisses without further wounding his pride.

Lane discovers that he owes £2,900 to the Inland Revenue, a sum he can’t pay. In order to get the British government off of his back, Lane lies to Rebecca about why he needs to stay in New York for Christmas and borrows $50,000 from the bank so he can pretend that the firm has a surplus of funds and can therefore pay out Christmas bonuses to the employees. When the partners opt to wait until January to take their bonuses, Lane is even further in quicksand, and forges Don’s signature on a check to pay off the debt.

Don discovers Lane’s malfeasance and has no choice but to demand his resignation; Lane pleads with Don, but there is nothing that can be done. Don tells Lane to take the weekend and then make an “elegant exit.” He drunkenly wanders into Joan’s office, where he makes a vulgar comment to her; she rejects him again. Lane attempts to kill himself by using carbon monoxide from the tailpipe of his Jaguar—a gift from Rebecca, paid with money they don’t have—but the car breaks down. After writing a boilerplate resignation letter, he hangs himself in his office, his body discovered the following Monday when Joan can’t get his office door to open.

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)

Joan attempts to adjust to maternity leave and the demands of raising a baby while her husband, Greg, is away at war. While she loves her son, she desperately misses the office and the sense of identity that her job gave her. She breaks down while visiting the office, and Lane consoles her.

Greg returns from military service in Vietnam, but blindsides Joan with some shocking news: he’s re-enlisted without consulting her. Their subsequent argument—in which Joan tells her husband that he’s not a “good man”—brings up his rape of Joan several seasons earlier. She urges him to leave, to walk out and never come back. And he does.

After she’s served divorce papers, Joan refuses Roger’s overtures to financially support baby Kevin (who is his biological son). She sees his involvement as a means of control over her and Kevin, and she won’t have it.

Pete offers Joan a Faustian bargain: one night with Herb Rennet (Gary Basaraba), the member of Jaguar’s selection committee, in exchange for $50,000. Joan is furious that Pete would stoop so low, but the firm is desperate to secure the Jaguar account and her complicity would sweeten the deal. Lane suggests to Joan that she instead ask for a 5 percent partnership stake in the firm. (Lane’s advice is selfish: the company can’t afford the $50,000 and he's already taken out an additional line of credit with the bank, but he can’t tell anyone.)

Don tries to stop Joan from going through with it, telling her it’s “not worth it,” but he arrives too late: she has already slept with Herb. Joan is made a partner, but the look of realization that passes between Don and Joan signals that it may not have been worth it. Joan explores the possibility of expanding the firm to the 28th floor.

Betty Francis (January Jones)

Between Seasons Four and Five, Betty has gained an alarming amount of weight, a fact we see as Henry (Christopher Stanley) attempts to zip up her dress. She eats Bugles by the fistful in a pink housecoat. She calls Don to tell him that she may have cancer, and the two share a brief moment of connection together, as he calls her “Birdie.” But Betty doesn’t have cancer (or hypothyroidism): she can’t control her appetites, eating in order to fill yet another void in her life.

Betty joins Weight Watchers, and exhibits a sharp jealousy toward Megan. In an effort to poison Megan and Don’s marriage, Betty tells Sally about Don’s first wife, the late Anna Draper, under the guise of helping her daughter with a school assignment. But her ploy fails to hit its mark: when Sally tells Megan that she lied about Anna, Don nearly flies off the handle, but is calmed down by Megan. Sally, meanwhile, pretends that her mother’s “help” led to nothing.

Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka)

Sally has continued to keep in contact with Glen (Marten Holden Weiner), a boy from her old neighborhood, via furtive phone conversations to him at boarding school, though she refuses to be called his “girlfriend.” Sally causes Henry’s mother, Pauline (Pamela Dunlap), to break her ankle, which leads her and Bobby to join Don and Megan in Manhattan, where they are entertaining Megan’s parents—Marie and Emil—and must attend a benefit dinner.

Megan takes Sally shopping for a dress, and she stuns everyone by appearing in a short dress, gogo boots, and lots of makeup. Don refuses to let Sally dress that way. Sally relents and even attempts a grounded maturity, eating fish and playing at being Roger’s “date” for the event. But her innocence is shattered when she catches Marie fellating Roger in a back room. When Glen later asks her how Manhattan is, she sums it up in one word: “Dirty.”

Sally convinces Betty to allow her to stay with Don and Megan rather than accompany the family on a ski trip. Sally shows up at the apartment, surprising Megan. Sally again attempts to slip into the role of an adult, gossiping with Megan and her friend over coffee, and inviting Glen to visit her in the city. Together, they visit the Museum of Natural History, with Sally wearing those gogo boots that Don nixed. Sally has her first period, a milestone that terrifies her, sending her running home to Betty.