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Evidence Foreshadowing Ginsberg's Hilarious, Horrifying Reveal in This Week's 'Mad Men'

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | May 12, 2014 | Comments ()


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We’ll have the full Mad Men recap up soon, but before we get there, we really must address the bizarre, inexplicably reveal at the end of last night’s episode of Mad Men, which saw Michael Ginsberg give Peggy a small jewelry box. Inside the box (WHAT’S IN THE BOX) was Ginsberg’s nipple, which he had sliced off, noting that it was the valve that released the pressure caused by the waves of theta emanating from the giant computer that had moved into Sterling Cooper’s offices. Without his nipple, the theta could flow through him freely because he finally had an outlet.

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It had been a long episode for Ginsberg, whose paranoid schizophrenia completely made itself visible by the end. Prior to that, the humming of the computer had driven him so mad that he fell into a delusional state in which he thought the computer was turning people into “homos” and at one point tried to “reproduce” with Peggy in order to essentially fuck the gay away.

To some, that may have felt like a revelation out of left field for Ginsberg — a lot to swallow in one episode — but Matthew Weiner has clearly been laying the foundation for the meltdown for the last two seasons.

Here’s a few instances which suggested that Ginsberg’s psychotic break was inevitable.

— In his interview with Peggy in season five, Ginsberg alluded to his mental illness.

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— Peggy’s words to Ginsberg after he was hired in that episode were telling, too:

“You know, I thought you were crazy when I met you, and you have confirmed it by not acting the way that you acted with me.”

— A key exchange with Peggy from season five that clearly showed delusion:

Michael Ginsberg: Actually, I’m from Mars. It’s fine if you don’t believe me, but that’s where I’m from. I’m a full-blooded Martian. Don’t worry, there’s no plot to take over Earth. I’m just displaced.

Peggy Olson: [laughing] Okay.

Michael Ginsberg: I can tell you don’t believe me. That’s okay. We’re a big secret. They even tried to hide it from me. That man, my “father”, told me a story I was born in a concentration camp, but you know that’s impossible. And I never met my mother because she supposedly died there. That’s convenient. Next thing I know, Morris there finds me in a Swedish orphanage. I was five; I remember it.

Peggy Olson: That’s incredible.

Michael Ginsberg: And then I got this one communication. A simple order. “Stay where you are.”

Peggy Olson: Are there others like you?

Michael Ginsberg: I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find any.

— In last season’s “Tale of Two Cities,” Ginsberg had his first episode of paranoid schizophrenia when he freaked out on Jim Cutler, ranting against him for being a fascist, and ultimately quoted Oppenheimer in reference to himself.

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It was only Bob Benson who could ultimately calm him down, although Ginsberg’s obsession with homosexuality creeped up then for the first time, too (he was not wrong about Benson).

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In “The Flood,” Ginsberg — who is probably in his late 20s — reveals on a blind date that he still lives with his Dad, is a virgin, and overshared entirely too many inappropriate things for a first date with a woman he has never met.

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— Finally, here’s two ironic quotes from Ginsberg:

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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • BWeaves

    Anyone else wonder about Thetas vs. Thetans?

  • Lux Blake

    Thanks for this! Although I disagree with one thing: When he is telling Peggy about being born in a concentration camp. I think that was just his way of telling her the story without telling her the story. That was one of mt favorite moment of that season actually. I don't think that was delusion.

  • Sarah Weissman

    I sure hope that's true - it makes so much sense with the schizophrenia. Plus being an alien is a consistently great metaphor. I responded to IngridToday but would be happy to recopy :)

  • Skyler Durden

    For the record, this (including the advertisement) is the header pic of my feed.

  • ExUSA

    My brother is a paranoid schizophrenic, and I have to say that I'm shocked anyone saw this as coming out of left field. They laid the groundwork for so long now, and they completely nailed his descent into paranoid delusions perfectly.

  • BWeaves

    Oh, I didn't think his descent into madness came out of left field. I'm shocked at what he actually did -- cut off his nipple and give it to Peggy. My knees still turn to jelly just thinking about it.

  • God, this show is so good at punching you in the gut completely out of left field, isn't it? Though I agree with the post, it was still a huge "what the FUCK" moment right there. The whole episode was very strange and tense that I kind of laughed in my horror, though it wasn't very funny at all.

  • T_A_R

    Tom and Lorenzo first mentioned schizophrenia when he was talking about martians two years ago and it seemed like a strange thing to call out at first. At first. I mean, initially I assumed it was a defense mechanism because he was feeling uncomfortable talking about his past, but every time he's said something off after that...I instantly got a bad feeling and couldn't forget the theory. So as SOON as he whipped out the box I knew there would be something bloody in it, but poor Peggy couldn't see it coming. And who would? Hell, even NOW if you had a coworker who was a bit off you wouldn't expect this...and nobody understood mental illness in the 60's. Devastating for everyone involved.

    But yes, the groundwork was well laid by Weiner and company, and I hadn't even remembered the comment he made in his interview.

  • Ingridtoday

    Personally, I don't think he's a Holocaust baby. The Nazis immediately killed everyone who wasn't old enough to work in the camps. It's possible that babies were hidden in the camps, but, considering the horrible conditions and lack of food, I'm a skeptical.
    I think his father is his biological father who sexually abused him. Ginsberg behaviors differently (quieter with his head down) when alone with his father. He also freaks out and jumps away every single time his father touches him. In addition to Ginsberg being a virgin, having no relationships whatsoever, and his view of sex has generally been more analytical (what sells?) than an actual interest.
    I think his father is Holocaust survivor and Ginsberg came up with the idea that he was adopted and an alien in order to convince himself his real father wouldn't abuse him.

  • Sarah Weissman

    Ahh, but I think if Ginsberg IS a Holocaust baby, it makes the groundwork richer, especially as he doesn't BELIEVE his dad. Although your backstory totally works. Trauma at any point can be a major factor in this psychoses, and his connection with WWII explains his fear of technology - someone pointed out that perhaps his mother had Nazi experiments done on her - which could contribute to his psychoses and the specific fear of technology. I would argue that he IS sexually attracted to Peggy (which is why he schoolboy "puller her pigtails" with the masturbate gloomily line) he just can't cope with it. There's been chemistry from his end for a little while now. Your story absolutely holds - I'll be curious to see what's up (if we learn at all).

  • Jifaner

    I have always thought he was a little bit bent, but it was sad to see him go over the edge like that. Peggy was so swift and calm in helping him. It was probably the first moment this season I've really liked her again.

  • Art3mis

    Peggy was a rockstar in responding to that. Could not have handled it better, despite her evident horror and fear.

  • cruzzercruz

    There's always been an uneasiness and eccentricity about him. I didn't remember these particular instances, but they clearly affected the way I viewed him, because it didn't seem out of left field at all. But upon reviewing them, it makes total sense.

  • Art3mis

    Honestly, I didn't think any part of that was hilarious. Horrifying, absolutely. And I agree that the foundation has been laid for a long time. Really well done.

  • Ginsberg wasn't the funny part. The whole Scout's Honor stuff was what was funny. Ginsberg was the descent into darkness.

  • BWeaves

    I thought the HAL bit was cute, when Cutler and Lou were in the computer room, and Ginsberg was watching. But the rest of his story was horrifying. I always figured he was socially inept. After this episode, I don't think so. He was mentally ill, and I was shocked by what happened. I really wanted him to have a nicer storyline. He seemed like a nerdier Abe, to me, but I don't think Peggy would be good for him, in hindsight.

  • The whole episode had a Kubrick vibe to it. Sort of unfolded like "Full Metal Jacket" hilarious at first before descending to total darkness.

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