MAD MEN--A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Don Draper, a sexy, inscrutable womanizer stricken with permanent ennui in a world of social and political upheaval. He also doesn't have a talking car (alas) and this this where my homage falls apart. Anyways--welcome once again to the halfway point of our coverage of Mad Men's penultimate season. Last week, we crossed a a major threshold into 1968 as our gang dealt with the fallout of the assassination of Martin Luther King (which, among other things, gave us another splendid moment of perfect assholery--seasoned with indirect racism-- by Harry Crane) Henry Francis explored the notion of running for state Senate, Don and Bobby fucked off from the main plot to take in Planet of the Apes, and Peggy contemplated buying an apartment. What awaits us this week? There's no time like the present to learn about the past!
"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE"
"It was mutually-assured destruction"
The big news of the week is helpfully in the first scene--apparently Pete and Joan are scheming to take SCDP public, which would net them quite a huge amount of cash for their shares, but before that happens, they have to get Don on board (who's being kept in the dark, not unlike how they froze him out of the Jaguar thing) Pete, in his usual irritating douchebag way, is acting like his conquered the world already, even though it's far from a done deal and tries to use that confidence to get back in with Trudy on one of his rare visits home, in a way that allows him to be both creepy and an asshole. Plus, I have to look at Pete in his boxer shorts. Thanks for that, Mad Men.
There's all sorts of stuff swirling around however, that could screw this IPO thing up--for one thing, there's an ominous meeting with Jaguar that is sure to involve the fallout from Don intentionally blowing up Herb the Jagoff's plan to get the ad money funneled his way. This comes to a head at a ghastly dinner with Ghastly herb and his ghastly wife (leavened only by Marie viciously tearing them down in French--at last, her passive-aggressive viciousness is actually used for good) Don, however, decides to be more overt and when Herb springs his next idea on him (planting one of his guys in on creative so they can better pivot SCDP's efforts in his direction) Don burns the whole thing down by telling Herb to shove it. Whole Herb does have a point that the customer is always right, Don can't see past the utter awfulness that was done to get Jaguar and has (one gets the impression) looking for an excuse to scorch the earth between them.
This has the side effect of torpedoing the IPO and Don incurs he wrath if Pete (because he stole his thunder and ruined his Big Moment) and Joan, who speaks truth to Draper (as Peggy did) that he always thinks of himself first and everyone else . . .well, never, and that his asshole grandstanding meant what she did, she did for nothing.
But as the Chinese say, in crisis there is opportunity as well, and Roger has been diligently working to secure a new client, and that client is Chevrolet (which CGC is also trying for, but more on that later) who has a new car they're trying to launch to compete with Ford's Mustang. Being that it's more important than ever that they get it (and it's only going to get worse) Don manfully steps up to the plate to secure it.
Then things get worse. Owing to seeing his father-in-law in the same whorehouse HE frequents, His father-in-law cuts Vick's Chemical out of SCDP, and when Pete goes to confront him, he utterly eviscerates Pete for being unworthy of his daughter and just a real shitheel. He's uh, not wrong. His father in law implores him to do the right thing, and Pete, being Pete, dimes out his father-in-law to Trudy because Pete wouldn't know the right thing if he woke up in bed with it.
Meanwhile, Abe's dream of living in a hip multicultural part of town is
going as well as you'd expect one of Abe's ideas to go--people defaecate
on the stairs up to their apartment and Abe is incapable of hammering a
nail without causing himself injury. Peggy seems to be in a permanent
state of quiet exasperation.Peggy's hallucinating getting all up ons Ted Chaough, which may or may not be the paint fumes, or the tipping point with Abe (who says 1968 is going to be hunky-dory for here on in, proving that left or right, NO ONE is really good at seeing the face of 1968 to come) Peggy liked Ted a lot because he's not Don, who she's worked for and liked it so much she moved over to CGC. Peggy will have a sudden attack of irony in a bit.
OK, back to CGC and the Chevrolet thing. They're tying themselves in knots over it and we meet the other third of the Cutler, Gleason and Chaough partnership--Cutler, who's suffering from pancreatic cancer (I don;t know why you say "hello," I saw "goodbye") Cashing Cutler out will cripple their company if they don't have Chevy's car (having thrown Alfa Romeo overboard to get it) CGC and SCDP are very much in parallel positions--everything is balanced on a hair, and given that CGC and SCDP are both small agencies fighting it out with the big guys (see the Heinz thing earlier this season) More on that . . .right now.
Thing is, when everything's balanced on a hair, and there's nothing left to lose, there are two choices. You blow everything up (as Pete did with his family, Dr. Rosen quitting his job, and Don did with Jaguar) or, seized with a crazy idea that just might work, you roll the hard six.
Just as Don did at the end of Season 3, when he didn't want to work for McCann, he springs an idea at a despondent Ted Chaough. They're both tired of being small fry agencies, manipulated by the bigger agencies to get their creative so they can give it to larger firms.
Don has an idea--why don't they merge?
And they do. They get Chevrolet, they merge and two former rivals are now side by side and Peggy's back with Don, which may or may not be a good thing. Peggy's reaction to the news is utter shock, as you might imagine. Draper kept his word that he'd spend the rest of his life trying to hire her, and Peggy's attempt to get away from him has drawn her back in.
There's hope and fear, because while they scored a big win and did something extraordinary . . .things are still uncertain and they're still hanging on the abyss . . .there's just some more company, and a lot more days in a very perilous year yet to come.
There was a LOT to unpack in this episode. The notion of destruction--due to pride, or fear, or anger, or spite--the idea of tearing people apart and setting people against people on the one hand, the idea of making peace with your perpetual rivals to stave off imminent destruction on the other, and the idea of getting back in bed with the people you've been desperate to flee. I'm kinda shocked this didn't get held back for a season finale, so much heavy-gravity stuff happened. I now have no idea how things are gonna play out for the remaining seven episodes.
And that's all for this week. Join us next week when Peggy makes a playhouse in a refrigerator box, Joan can't stop making Japanese lanterns, Roger is endlessly fascinated with a spinning button on a string, and Pete won't stop huffing mucilage. None of this arts and crafts mania straight from the World Book's "Make and Do" volume is likely to happen in our next thrilling episode, entitled: "Man with a Plan." It's sure to be a tasteful mix of the 60's, 70's, 80's and today!