To get in the proper  "Mad Men" mood before reading these recaps, please do the following:

1.) Smoke two packs of unfiltered cigarettes. (Cough and you have to start over.)
2.) Swirl scotch around in a brandy snifter and sip it while sitting in a darkened room.

Finished? Cool. OK first, a brief primer for the uninitiated:

Characters:
Don Draper – Don is our primary protagonist, an expert ad man who likes to drink and smoke and have sex with people who are not his wife. One of the main things that propelled the plot last season was the gradual reveal of his mysterious past, like that his mom was a hooker who died during childbirth, and that he was raised by people who hated him, oh and also that he's not really Don Draper.

Betty Draper – Don's doting wife, who, like all attractive women, is completely crazy. Last season she flirted with a little kid, shot at a neighbor's pet birds and had sex with a washing machine. This season she'll probably shave her head and make sculptures out of poop.

Peggy Olsen – Peggy used to be just an ugly receptionist, but now she's an ugly junior copywriter, so clearly she's moving up in the world. She also used to be the most sought after piece of ass in the office, despite having a face made of yuck. Office d-bag Pete managed to "win" this alleged prize, hooking up with Peggy not once but twice (Congratulations?). Then, in the most shocking fictional pregnancy since the Immaculate Conception, Preggy gave birth to Pete's surprise bastard child in the season finale (after somehow going nine months without noticing that her vagina stopped bleeding). She told no one, and must've sold the baby for parts or something, because in the premiere it's nowhere to be found.

Pete Campbell – Pete is the office weasel – a whiny, overly ambitious man-child with Machiavelllian machinations who likes to sit at home and devise plans to get ahead at Sterling-Cooper, often while wearing silly-looking pajamas. Last season he had some pretty epic tangles with Don, like when he exposed his secret identity to the company's co-founder, Bertram Cooper, who responded with a resounding "Who the fuck cares?"

Sterling Cooper ad men not named Don or Pete – This circle of scamps rounds out the regular cast. Ken Cosgrove is tall and goofy. Harry Crane is a likable butterball with glasses. Paul Kinsey looks a little like Orson Welles and thinks himself a genius. Sal Romano is secretly gay, and extremely bad at not being completely obvious about it.

Joan – Has red hair, and is hot. Surprise – those two things are not mutually exclusive.

OK, on to last night:
The mind behind "Mad Men" is "Sopranos" vet Matthew Weiner, and in the opening scene of Season 2, it really shows. Much like whenever that venerable mob drama returned from a long hiatus, this episode opens with a montage that reintroduces us to many of our characters. Peggy: still gross. Joan: still the mathematical opposite of that. Meanwhile Pete's wife is shown helping him do big-boy things like dress himself, while Betty has traded riding household appliances for riding horses.

Finally we find Don at the doctor getting a check-up. This downer of a scene hammers home what's sure to be one of this year's overarching themes: Don's hard living is starting to catch up with him. The doc tells Don he has high blood pressure, and that his blood is made of bourbon. Meanwhile Don looks pained because he hasn't had a cigarette in three and a half minutes. Already we're learning that our hero's wanton parade of vice and vagina is not without consequence, and well that's just no fun at all. Next.

Betty is shown leaving the horse park. Hopefully this new hobby will keep her from bitching so much about her dead mom or whatever the fuck, but probably not.

Finally we rejoin the staff of Sterling Cooper, gathered around a magical new machine that makes perfect copies of things(!). Turns out it's a giant, primitive Xerox, and it's actually a pretty amusing callback to an exchange in the pilot episode during which Don joked derisively about the idea of such a contraption ever possibly existing. Meanwhile the actor who plays the Xerox delivery guy must think he's in a porn or something, because he keeps saying stuff to Joan like "Look miss, just tell me where you want it," and "I'll try as many places as you want." To everyone's relief, Joan says to leave it there for now.

Over in the conference room, the writers are brainstorming slogans for Sterling-Coop's latest account, Mohawk Airlines. Paul now has a really stupid looking beard, and about a million ideas that all involve Indian puns. None of this will matter when Don arrives, because Don hates every idea Paul has ever had.

Speaking of Don's absence, Peggy goes to ask his receptionist where he's at, and ends up practically cussing the girl out like her name's on the building. Wow, I wonder how Peggy's baby slid past those giant balls.

Soon we cut to a sit-down between Duck – a new creative director with a really stupid name – and heart-attack-prone partner Roger Sterling. Duck tells Roger that what the agency really needs to stay competitive is some new blood on staff: Young people, who theoretically bathe in Pepsi-Cola and get around in flying cars. Roger balks at the idea initially, but at Duck's unrelenting insistence, he reluctantly agrees to talk to Don about it.

Back in the Mohawk Airlines meeting, Draper has finally arrived, predictably shooting down everything said by anyone. Suddenly Peggy, the lone female in the room, pipes up, leading everyone to look at her like, "Holy shit, that object just spoke." Don, of course, likes her idea more than anything he's heard so far. Meanwhile one of guys opines that they could "dress the stew(ardesse)s up as Pocahontas," and Sal is all, "That would really turn me on, because I'm super attracted to women." The whole time Don seems listless and generally unimpressed by everything. It's official: Don Draper has lost his mojo.

Betty is back at home after her riding session, and as her daughter adorably removes her boots for her, Betty tells her that she can't ever ride horses because she'll die. Makes sense. (?)

Back at Sterling-Coop, Roger strolls into Don's office and spies him boozing. "They say once you start drinking alone, you're an alcoholic," he says. Meanwhile I pretend to not be drinking alone. Roger tries to sell Don on the whole "new blood" idea, to which Don replies, "Young people don't know anything."

Later, Don's sitting in the lobby of a fancy hotel. It's Valentine's Day, and he's waiting to meet up with Betty. Suddenly she appears, descending a nearby staircase in slow motion while cheesy music swells behind her. It's a pretty strange little scene that seems to indicate Don has decided to try caring about the person he married. Sure enough, once she reaches the bottom of the stairs he walks over and lays a big kiss on her, as if to say, "This is the closest to being remotely interested in you I've ever been." The couple bumps into an old friend of Betty's whom Don swears he's never met before, which probably means he fucked her. This friend is at the hotel with some really old guy, and Betty later guesses that maybe she's a call girl. This could be true, but who knows. Betty has a pretty active imagination.

Soon we get glimpses of everyone else's Valentine's Day, like Pete's:
Pete: "Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie, I got you this box of chocolates."
Pete's wife, Trudy: "Thanks hon—"
Pete: "So can I have some of those chocolates now?"

And Sal's, where we learn that Paul Kinsey isn't the only guy at Sterling-Cooper with a brand new beard:
Sal's lady: "So are we gonna watch TV all night, or are you gonna come over here and kiss me?"
Sal: "We're gonna watch TV all night."

Also we find out that Pete's wife wants a baby. (Meanwhile Pete just wants more chocolates.)

Back in the Draper suite, the whole intercourse thing isn't going so well. Wait, what? Don Draper does NOT have dysfunctional erections. Don Draper has sex like cats take naps – often, and for extended periods of time. But now he's limp, and so is this episode. Frustrated, Betty laments, "I wish you would just tell me what to do!" and Don's like "What? I do that all the time!" So instead of having sex they give up and order shrimp cocktails from room service. Same diff.

The next day at Sterling-Cooper, the idea guys meet again about Mohawk, and Peggy walks up and whines about not being told. The guys are like, "We usually try to forget you exist."

Elsewhere Joan pauses from dealing with that giant copy machine to scold Lois (the secretary Peggy yelled at earlier) for crying like a pussy after she got pwned. Joan tells her to 1.) man up, and 2.) treat "Miss Olsen" with respect. This newfound reverence is strange, as Joan used to make fun of Peggy all the time about everything.

Duck continues to espouse the benefits of having some youthful talent around the office, and Don continues to shudder at the thought. He really seems to have aged ten years between  seasons. After more pushing, though, he stops shaking his cane at everyone and agrees to interview a couple of twentysomething hipster types in turtlenecks.

Pete has an irony-laced conversation with Peggy about the terrifying prospect of impregnating his baby-hungry wife. He asks Peggy, "Do you wanna have kids?" and she's like "More?"

Also seriously where is her baby.

Peggy and Sal bring Don her latest attempt at a slogan for Mohawk. It's made pretty clear here that in Don's eyes at least, she's quickly becoming one of the agency's most valuable copywriters. Her idea kind of sucks though. Peggy offers to sex it up, to which Don replies "never, ever say that word again."

Later on, he boards an elevator where a couple of younger guys are talking loudly about a recent sexual conquest one of them had. Continuing in this new "Don is old and crotchety now" conceit, Draper bitches at them for being rude in the presence of a lady, and even makes one of them take his hat off. Don then arrives home on time (WHAT?) and plays with his kidzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….

Betty, also on her way home, runs into a spot of car trouble ("I just know when smoke comes out, I have to stop," she says) and calls a tow truck guy from Awkwardsexualtension Bros. Roadside Assistance. With only $3 in her purse, and visions of her friend the call girl dancing in her head, Betty decides to use her feminine wiles to get a discount – because overtly flirting with a hulking, lecherous greasemonkey on a dark, desolate road in the middle of the night couldn't possibly end badly.

Luckily no one is brutally raped, and Betty arrives home to find Don being all fatherly and boring. Later, though, we see (and hear) him reading from the Frank O'Hara poem "Meditations in an Emergency," which he slides into a mysterious manilla envelope and carries to the mailbox, to send to an unknown recipient…

Assessment:
This episode was pretty ballsy in the sense that it straight-up neutured the show's hero pretty much from scene one. Ballsy in this case is also really annoying. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they're not repeating themselves, but I don't like seeing this side of Draper, and I hope it doesn't last long. "The Sopranos" worked in plenty of "Tony's no spring chicken"-type storylines, but it was toward the very end of a seven-season run. Don Draper is 36 years old. It seems way too early to start treating him like an old man. I do like what they've done with Peggy's character, though – that she's commanding a little more respect around the office. As for Betty, her weird little fetish for odd flirtation is going to lead somewhere extramarital this season. At this point she'd probably cheat on Don for a nickel off her next oil change.