Mad Men is arguably one of the best shows on television largely due to its ability to tell singular stories. That’s not to say the writers don’t t tell overarching stories throughout a season, because they do, often times dripping with theme and motif, but Mad Men is at its best when working 48 minutes of television into the classic structure; beginning, middle, and end. Tonight’s episode showcases this strength while also being one of the snappiest, eventful, and dynamic episodes in the history of the show’s run. This episode manages to completely change the landscape of the show, albeit doing so in a questionable way. Regardless of opinion, this episode will forever be memorable, especially due to the quick pace and the knockout performances, and oh, I guess there was a 200 lb. African-American prostitute too, but this episode had so much happening we might have to wait to explain that one till the bullet points.
But before we dive into the ocean of plot, let’s talk some character. Don Draper is usually the most suave man in the room, but let’s be honest, he can also be kind of a hot head. Like that time he thought his real identity had been found out and he was ready to flee, or the infamous “letter” he wrote after being dropped by Lucky Strike, and even, hell, his marriage to Megan all seem a tad impulsive. For as much as Don charms the viewer, the characters seem to even allow him more grace due to his cool demeanor and classic good looks, which only breeds more selfish behavior from Don, and ultimately enables him to act on every urge that he has. Some argue that the sins of Don Draper and Pete Campbell are often comparable, yet Pete is viewed as a scummy villain, and Don as the misunderstood bad boy with a heart of gold. Sometimes though, Don’s charm can only get him so far.
Take tonight, for instance when he has another run in with Herb from Jaguar at a dinner, missing the company of brown-noses Pete and Roger, and the two men argue to the point that they end their business together. Without thinking of the opinion of his partners, Don acts on his own standards and instincts and decides to burn a bridge with a deplorable man, but also lucrative client. Don thinks their business doesn’t matter, but actually it matters a lot. Bert, Pete, and Joan learn from an investigator that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce could be sold publicly for $11 a share, but losing the Jaguar account kills their hopes. Finally calling bullshit, Pete berates Don for his impulsivity and reckless temper and when Don looks to Joan for some back, Joan tears into him even more. In a dramatic highlight of the episode, Christina Hendrix gives a gut-wrenching tongue-lashing to Don for believing that he was doing her a service for getting rid of Herb. She actually tells Don that it makes her actions seem meaningless and scolds him for his inability to think selflessly and work as “we” and not an “I”. Don hears a hard truth, but this same fault may actually save SDCP in the long run.
Someone who definitely is having a good week is Roger. First off, we find him in bed with a young, pretty blonde girl, but then we learn that she’s a flight attendant who tips him off when big business leads are waiting for flights at the airport. This insider information ends up giving Sterling the opportunity to use that golden wit of his to charm Mikey, a man headed to Detroit who happens to work for Chevy. When Don is publically shamed for losing Jaguar, Roger drops the bomb that he’s landed a meeting with Chevy to work on an advertisement for a brand new car, almost making light of the trouble that Don had caused, and also proving that he’s still an asset to the team.
With a pitch ready to go, Don and Sterling set off to fly to Detroit for their meeting, but they’re not the only ones. The fellas at Cutler Gleason Chaough are in the running as well, and they could use a wind just as badly. Chaough learns that one of his fellow partners has cancer, and upon his death that the business will essentially crumble. Then, with that grief hanging over his head, he makes a move on a comforting Peggy, and the two share a long passionate kiss. The kiss resonates with Peggy, who then fantasizes about Ted when she’s with Abe in their new, chaotic apartment. When Ted walks into a Detroit bar and finds Don Draper, he’s had enough. He knows that their agencies had been fooled and that neither one them would receive Chevy’s business; that Chevy would take their creative ideas and use them with larger agencies. Don contests Ted’s pessimistic viewpoint but then begins to see the logic to Ted’s anguish.
It is here that Don’s impulsivity can have a positive side. Don pitches the idea of a merger to Chaough. He says that with the resources of both offices and the creative ideas coming between the two of them, they could land Chevy and become a major advertising firm. They bank the plan on the success of a joint pitch to Chevy, that apparently goes well, because Peggy finds herself learning news of a merger late that night from Ted and Don themselves. Peggy finding Don in her office and now as her boss again causes her strange emotions, but Don and Ted save their fledgling firms, and that’s what matters.
The only thing that’s questionable about this episode is the recycled plot point of a merger. It seems lazy of the show to use another switch up of the masthead and partners to get the characters out of trouble, but at the same time, the new merger seems like a great way to introduce new characters while also bringing Peggy back into the fold. Though I agree it may be a rehash, I am very excited to see where this partnership will lead.
The Best Of The Rest
- With the entire plot, there still was time for plenty of sex. There were about three sex scenes, including a suggestive oral sex scene. Right back at you, Game of Thrones.
- Ok, Pete runs into a his father-in-law with the before-mentioned prostitute at a whore house. It gets worse. Tom proceeds to fire SCDP from the Vicks account, then belittles Pete’s character in a hypocritical lecture. When Pete tries to relay this information in that grating Pete way to Trudy, after she was finally warming back up to him, she tells him to get out, for good!
- Marie comes to visit her daughter Megan for Mother’s Day. She gets mad at Roger for standing her up for work and Megan also confides in her that she feels Don growing distant.
- Don and Herb’s scene is awesome, as well as the barb match that Roger gets into with another ad guy in the airport.
- Dr. Rosen quits his job.