'Lady Lazarus' may have lacked the jaw-dropping 'big moment' that has featured in recent episodes (the fight, Zou Bisou Bisou), but in its place were cultural references by the dozen (Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, the Beatles, Sylvia Plath) and some glorious character moments that look likely to be defining moments of the season and possibly even the series as a whole.
Pete Campbell stole the show for me, once again, proving that there is lower than rock bottom (is he now locked in the cellar beneath rock bottom?) for his character to fall. If sleeping with his commuter friend's miserable wife wasn't bad enough, Campbell developed an unnerving obsession with crazy/depressed Beth.
Smashing champagne glasses in hotel rooms, sneaking your way around to a girl's house arm-in-arm with the husband, making creepy calls from the office payphone - Campbell's behaviour went beyond the boundaries of desperate and became unsettling. Where Don used to turn to drink, more drink, girls and more girls when he was unhappy, Pete appears to be sliding into an even seedier and more depressing world, where the eventual outcome can't be pretty.
While Pete was slugging his way to new depths, Don was attempting to hold on to his grip on Megan and modern culture. While in season four, he was happy to hand out Beatles tickets to his daughter, now he's struggling to keep up with current pop trends and the popular beat combos. The scene featuring Rizzo, Ginsberg, Cosgrove and Don pulling out some bad dance moves and debating pop music was the height of awkwardness. The youthful Ginsberg appears to have some passion and ideas, but Don has lost touch and is showing his age.
Meanwhile, Megan is tugging away at Don, unbuckling herself from his control and returning to her passion and true love for acting. Her decision to ditch her Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce job shocks Peggy and Don. Peggy is annoyed that someone could care so little about a job that she has toiled away at for years - and still she gets little or no respect from Don - while Megan can flounce away at a flutter of her eyes.
Similarly, Don can't seem to get his head around the concept of advertising not being enough for Megan, but he is willing to let her spread her wings, because he knows that she will do so, with or without his permission. We've seen their weird power-play sex games, we've seen him holding on to her, hugging her and begging her not to leave him and now that she's left his web of control at work, he appears to be teetering on the edge of another classic Draper breakdown.
His near fall down the elevator shaft was symbolic of Don's fear at losing Megan (of course, as with everything on Mad Men, you can throw in about 27 extra meanings on top of that), plus did Don's near fall trigger everyone else's mind to those legendary opening sequences. Is creator Matthew Weiner just teasing viewers with these allusions to falling and the possibility that the show could end with Don's death or could it actually happen? The latter feels too obvious for Mad Men, although there have been plenty of allusions to such a moment during this season.
Don's final moments sat listening to the confusing buzz and blaring feedback of The Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows' from Revolver was possibly the best moment and most significant of the season so far. The whirling psychedelic sprawl of one of the Beatles' most talked about tracks is just too much for old Don and represented beautifully his confusion and lost state of mind at this moment.
Where the final five episodes of the season take Don remain to be seen, but if I was a betting man, I'd suggest things are about to go a little haywire in the Draper household.
Obviously, there are tons of moments I still haven't touched upon. The Peggy/Joan axis/relationship continues to blossom, albeit rather slowly and uncomfortably, Ginsberg continues to rise up the ranks with his energy and passion shoving others out of the way, and Pete's look through the car window at Beth... we could write for hours about that look. Hence the beauty of Mad Men.
Mad Men continues on Tuesday nights on Sky Atlantic in the UK. It airs on Sundays on AMC in the US.
Watch a teaser trailer for next week's episode 'Dark Shadows':