This season has been full of culture clashes, and this episode played them to the hilt. Don Draper makes his shaky return to Sterling Cooper and Partners and is surprised to find how much the office has changed since his departure: “copy chief” Peggy Olsen, Dawn in her new office, Joan behind a conference room table alongside the firm’s partners, deciding his fate. As Don keeps flashing back to his first days at the company, we see how the balance of power there is shifting away from middle-aged white males in the Burt Cooper mold. And while Don is in a drab suit, Joan, Peggy, Dawn, and Shirley — the agency’s future — are clad in brights. (Joan’s black rosette-printed dress and boots were a highlight, an unusually trendy look for her. She’s also been covering up more this season; as her stock continues to rise in the office, she shows less and less cleavage.)
Back in the suburbs, Betty, in pearls, a blue shirtdress, and matching powder-blue pumps and purse, takes lunch with her friend Francine, who has a three-day-a-week job as a high-flying travel agent — not to mention a career-woman getup of a red-and-white piped suit — and starts to reconsider her own cloistered existence. She decides to venture out into the world on Bobby’s school field trip, where her Barbie-esque peach dress and matching coat — a stuffy choice for a farm outing — contrast wildly with the teacher’s jeans and low-cut blouse sans bra. Betty is horrified by what her son’s teacher is wearing, but the teacher probably sees her as a holdover from the 1950s. (Another love-child/square encounter in this episode: Roger Sterling, in his old-school dressing gown, and his girlfriend, in a patchwork coat and the kind of headband people now wear ironically to Coachella.)
Megan is keeping up with the Laurel Canyon Joneses in a psychedelic-print shirt, yellow macramé vest and skirt set, and go-go boots. She’s still the most fashion-forward, risk-taking character on the show, but even though she dresses the part of a swingin’ California girl, her lack of confidence keeps her from truly fitting in. When we see her later in the episode, tearful in a cream dressing gown, all her trendy pretense stripped away, it’s clear that LA and the actor’s life may be just another phase in her chameleon-like existence.