The title of the Mad Men episode The Runaways is ironic. This is the episode in which no one runs away.
At about the halfway point, there’s a rather touching conversation between Sally and Bobby. She says she’s going to take off—hitchhike back to school that night, and he wants to join her. She asks him if he wants to run away, surprised. In fact, though, neither runs away, although both want to. The next day, she’s still around for Henry to take to the doctor and then drive to school.
Here’s Don not running away—not escaping the office and Lou before given permission, not abandoning Stephanie or Megan, and not leaving SC&P when it’s clear that at least some of the partners are maneuvering to make that happen. Even Stephanie tries not to run away; she comes to Don for help and is happy to stay until Megan chases her off.
In fact, the only person who runs away in the entire episode is Amy, slipping out with the chagrin of the morning after.
When you think back at this episode, clearly it’s “nipple” or “threesome” that will forever come to mind, but I think the fundamental truth of The Runaways is that it’s about not running away, about sticking to your guns.
Those guns may be deranged, like Michael’s, or a lost cause, like Megan’s attempt to save her marriage by giving Don a sexual adventure. It’s about digging in, as Henry and Betty do, to their positions, their need to express themselves. “I speak Italian!” Betty is asserting that she is, she’s human, she thinks and feels. Michael is human; he is not a computer. Don is, he is creative, he is a husband, he is a partner; Don asserts self. Sally asserts self—I am not a pretty nose, I am me. Even Lou; unsympathetic, unliked, obnoxious, even Lou lashes out only when his own self-expression—Scout’s Honor—is mocked.
In the previous episode, we met Marigold/Margaret, the runaway from pain and responsibility and motherhood. This episode, we explore what it means to stick around.