Mad Men: The Collaborators, Review

Season six continues to hit hard with the weight of guilt on their shoulders.

A conscience is a curious thing. Usually, the voice inside of our head that urges us to do well and berates us for slipping up lies dormant until after we have given in to a misdeed. If only our conscience spoke as loudly before we acted as it does after. A guilty conscience is a heavy burden, and the characters on Mad Men have guilt as heavy as anchors.

Just look at a guy like Don Draper, he must have a lot of guilt. The guilt of knowing that he was a coward in the war, the guilt of knowing he’s living a lie, the guilt of a failed marriage, and the guilt of pushing his brother and Lane Pryce to their breaking points; it all must wear on his psyche. Now add to the list the affair he has started up with his neighbor, Sylvia Rosen. At dinner, when Sylvia expresses her own guilt over cheating on her spouse and wonders how Don keeps such an easy demeanor while sharing the table with Megan and her husband, he claims he doesn’t think about it. But you have to second-guess everything the guy says. He isn’t the picture of honesty. He cannot even be honest about his own name and his past. We all know he’s really not Don Draper, but Dick Whitman, son of a farm whore. Dick’s troubled youth is something the viewer has been given in pieces, and tonight, we get another a terrific glimpse at the big picture. We learn that Dick, in his adolescence, spent time living in his aunt’s whorehouse. Awkward and shy, Dick secretly spies on some of so-called “business transactions.” In a particular scene, we watch young Dick spying on a dark haired woman about to engage in sex, and as we view Dick starring through the peephole, it all starts to make sense. Rachel Menken, Suzanne Farrell, Midge Daniels, even the new Mrs. Draper herself, they are all the tall, thin, dark haired beauty that young Dick Whitman lusted over as a boy. It totally explains Don’s type and it also helps explains his relaxed attitude on sex and women in general.

Don’s cheating isn’t the only thing he feels bad about, he actually still feels awful for shelling out the beautiful Joan to Jaguar’s scummy dealership representative Herb. When Herb comes to ask the gentleman at SCDP to push for a local advertising approach instead of a national campaign, Don isn’t so willing to play ball. When they meet with the rest of the Jaguar big wigs and it’s time for Don to go to bat for Herb’s idea, he delivers a half-assed pitch and the Jaguar people decide to forge ahead with the national campaign as planned, to Don’s delight. When Pete gets an earful from Herb and comes to Don angry for the way he purposely sabotaged the pitch, Don tells Pete that you cannot keep saying yes to ridiculous requests just because you’ve said yes once.

Besides, Pete Campbell has more important issues to worry about. After having an affair with a neighbor at his apartment in the city, Pete’s mistress comes screaming and crying to the Campbell residence’s back door for help. Bloodied and bruised, it turns out the woman was beaten by her husband because of he found out about the pair’s tryst. Trudy Campbell remains supportive for the fragile women and helps her clean up, and after Pete gives her the cold shoulder when she says she wants to be with him, Trudy gives the girl a ride to a hotel. The next morning, Trudy tells Pete that she has had it. She knew he was cheating, but he crossed the line when he did so with a neighbor. She tells Pete that their marriage is essentially through, though she doesn’t want to give him the satisfaction of divorce. Instead, in a fiery monologue, she lays down the rules about how their arrangement will play out in the future, with Pete only being allowed at the house when she deems fit.

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Surely Pete’s guilt will catch up with him, just as Peggy’s will for betraying a friend’s trust. In the episode, we’re given an update on the Heinz account at SCDP. The Heinz Beans representative comes in, but this time, he brings along the head of the ketchup account, which we’re told by an excited Ken Cosgrove, is the Coca-Cola of condiments. However, the visit is just for show. The Heinz Bean guy says that if SCDP goes after Heinz Ketchup, he’ll terminate their business, and possibly his own life. It turns out that SCDP is the only thing about the guy that makes him standout. Don tells his team that they’ll respect the client’s wishes, despite Ken and everyone else’s disappointment. Don Draper may cheat on his wife, but he doesn’t cheat on his clients. Stan Rizzo relays all this information in a humorous late night telephone conversation with Peggy, but this time, Ted Chaough, Peggy’s boss, interrupts the call. When Peggy tells the same story to Chaough, he playfully hints that they should go after Heinz, but Peggy tells him that a friend told her the information in confidence, but Chaough quickly lectures Peggy on the difference between business and friendship. The next day, to Peggy’s chagrin, Ted reveals a plan of attack for Heinz.

The only person who actually physically shows their guilt is Megan. We learned from Megan’s time at SCDP that she’s different than the people at the office that she has emotions and feelings that they lack. This why when Megan reveals a miscarriage, she takes the news hard. She feels guilty about essentially killing a small life due to her negligence with her birth control, but she feels even guiltier about being relieved at the news. The way Megan figures, with her acting career finally blossoming, it wasn’t time to have a child, and she’s glad that the decision was made for her instead of her having to do it out of choice. When she tells Don, he’s as sweet and as accommodating as can be, and her confession can only make Don feel worse about the affair.

At the very end of the episode, Don pays a nighttime visit to Sylvia, but she urgently makes it aware that her husband is home. Don quickly makes plans to meet the next day, and the two part. When Don goes up one floor to his apartment, he takes his time. Upon the sight of the door, and the thought of the fragile woman waiting for him inside, he collapses to the floor, taking a moment to sit and catch his breath before entering the apartment. A guilty conscience is a heavy burden.

The Best of the Rest
  • Jon Hamm directs the episode, creating a great moment that plays with non-linear storytelling, like last season’s moment with Joan and Herb. Don tells a hesitant Sylvia about how no matter how she feels, he will get his way and have her, because he wants her. The whole speech is intercut with the two actually engaging in the affair, in a great directorial choice.
  • “I have money, I just never have money.” – Sylvia Rosen
  • Don uses as a flimsy as an excuse as, “I forgot my cigarettes,” to abandon the company of the Doctor in the elevator and go back upstairs to bang his wife.
  • Peggy is told by her secretary that maybe she should be easier on her staff, but when she attempts encouragement, it comes out pretty awkward. Later, she finds a feminine hygiene product waiting on her desk with a pitch folder as a joke.
  • While at dinner, already missing the presence of Megan, who was feeling sick, Don is left at the table as the doctor receives a phone call and Sylvia uses the restroom. Alone Don sits, and the image could be the man’s near future if he isn’t careful; no wife, no friend, and no mistress.