Mutually assured destruction

I spent Sunday night at a wedding. While I didn’t end up getting sick into an umbrella stand, I did spend Monday feeling the effects of staying up dancing until 3 a.m. for the first time since the last Bush administration. Then I drove three very long hours home.

It figures I’d miss the most eventful and fast-paced episode of the season.

When I finally collapsed on my coach late Monday afternoon, I expected another moody, gloomy episode, again focused on the urban decay of the late 1960s as reflected in our characters. We got 007 instead.

As a (former) reporter, I should’ve suspected one of the major plot twists from the episode title, “For immediate release” — words I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of times on press releases. Roger telling Don, “Close the door,” should’ve been the next clue. But like I said, my brain was mush. For what it’s worth: My husband, who pays about as much attention to “Mad Men” as to my other obsession, “Downtown Abbey” (his words), claims he saw the SCDP/CGC merger coming “from a mile away.” I really am losing my touch. (Why are you still reading?)

In any case: Everyone’s dissatisfied, no one is being honest about why they’re dissatisfied, and almost everyone is being impulsive.

Photo May 08, 9 59 37 AM

The Closer

We open with Roger, back to form (I LOVE IT) and using his mother’s death as a come-on. (In case I haven’t made it clear before — he is my favorite thing ever.) Herb, the Jaguar slimeball, refers to Roger in this episode as “Silver Bells.” I’m going to start using that. “I close, Pete. I close things.” Oh, Silver Bells. I’d say, “Never change,” but I know you couldn’t, even if you wanted to.

Of course, Roger isn’t just after sex (this time), just like no one else is really being honest. “I’m tired of rockets,” Gleason tells his partners, but it’s the cancer and the money worries that have him upset. “I’m tired of this crap,” Don tells Ted in the bar. That should’ve been the biggest clue of all. Last season, he declared, “I’m tired of all this piddly shit”* — just before Lane committed suicide.

Strange to see Joan, Pete, and Cooper conspiring at the beginning of the episode without their partners. What an odd group — I wanted to know how that collaboration came to be. But there was no time in this fast-paced episode for backstory. Joan, who became flushed at the idea of earning a million dollars in a public offering, seems angrier about Don dropping Jaguar than about the public offering being threatened. Was Joan upset Don dropped the account — or that his impulsiveness had robbed her of the chance to do the honors herself?

Don, true to form, hasn’t learned anything, as we see later when he boldly conspires with Ted to merge firms. He takes Joan’s “we” and twists it to fit his desires. I loved that this isn’t necessarily a black-and-white, good or bad decision. It may well be that the merger is exactly what the firms need to propel them into the next decade, but the way Don made the gamble makes it hard for anyone to accept. (As Cutler said: “I’m against this idea, unless it works.”) Or maybe Ken’s reference to mutually assured destruction** is actually a hint at what’s to come for the firms.

The development seems positive for everyone except Peggy, who is blindsided by the two men who have been most influential in her professional life (and possibly her personal as well). Don and Ted present the merger as if they’re hunters, bringing home the big game and dropping it at her feet, expecting Woman to be grateful of Man’s manliness. Here you go! Look what we got you! (My dog occasionally does this with dead animals or frozen bits of his own poo.) Peggy… doesn’t know what to think. Don tells her, “Make it sound like the agency you want to work for.” “For immediate release: The agency I want to work for doesn’t include you.”

Photo May 08, 9 52 47 AMObviously, her reaction is tied up in whatever it is that’s going on between her and Ted, whose line of thinking and action toes too close to Don’s for Peggy’s comfort. Peggy and Abe have turned the corner from young romance to domestic drudgery, and Ted has stepped in as Peggy’s fantasy. Whether this is by virtue of his seemingly impulsive kiss, or whether he’d already begun to occupy that space, we don’t know. Abe, God bless him, is trying, crawling around in coveralls and electrocuting himself for the sake of homemaking.

In this light, it’s strange to think back to Peggy and Pete’s fling and see how far both have come. Pete still thinks he’s God’s gift, boasting to Trudy that she’ll be sorry she rebuffed him, because “I have big things coming.” Pride literally came before a fall in this episode. (And glorious it was, but poor Pete had several, and seems to have more coming.)

Leftovers:

  • Of course Roger’s notes are on a cocktail napkin. Ginsberg kills me — “You had to write that down?”
  • Megan would’ve merited more of a mention in a less busy episode. She’s turning herself inside-out, trying to make her marriage and her relationship with her mother work.
  • Marie’s subtitled snark at dinner was topped only by her casually hanging up, twice, on Silver Bells. I got the impression by her long looks at Don (and Dr. Rosen) during this episode that she suspects Draper’s been Drapering around on her daughter.
  • Ted and his turtlenecks!
  • And obviously — “I love puppies”

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Still one of my top-10 quotable “Mad Men” lines, now to be joined by “I love puppies.” Maybe sometime I’ll compile my list. Obviously, “That’s what the money is for!” is on there, too.

**Ken Cosgrove: “It’s mutually assured destruction. … It’s why I don’t worry about the bomb.” You just go on a-sailin’ through your charmed life, Cosgrove.

Thanks to friend Shelly for the GIFs!

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6 thoughts on “Mutually assured destruction

  1. I love that you caught the Silver Bells reference. You have Roger nailed. The “my mommy is dead don’t leave me” is SO him! Roger shines in this episode. Not only is he up to his old tricks they start working for him again. Courting an airline hostess so he has the inside scoop, flying to nowhere just to get a meeting, not showing up to a dinner he set up. All typical Roger. I too am in love. That man has charm oozing out of him.

    I think one thing worth mentioning is the situation between Pete and his father-in-law. He pulled Vicks so fast it made my head spin. Ballsy move when you are playing against someone as slimy as Peter. Pete fascinates me because of his moral superiority. He looks down on his father-in-law and is disgusted to see him at the “party-house”. Pete can’t look in a mirror. He only sees what’s in front of him. My husband thought someone died when Mr. Campbell (or Clarissa’s dad as I like to call him) walked out of that room. It was a brilliant scene.

    One extra bit I wanted to point out was Megan is smoking like a chimney. Remember back when she and Don drove to that hotel and tried sherbet? She asked him to roll down the window because of all the smoke. Now every time we see her she’s in a cloud. I also love Megan’s interaction with her mother. They have such a complicated dynamic. The scene with her mother sitting on the couch after dinner was great. She’s trying to open wine, Roger keeps calling her, and she’s listening to her daughter’s boisterous sex in the other room.

    This episode was by far my favorite from this season. It’s more like the Mad Men I fell in love with. There are schemes, lies and a twist around each corner (or in each whore house). It was perfection.

    • Pete is amazing because at some times, he’s such a progressive voice of reason, but you just want to disagree with him on principle. He’s so insufferable that even when he’s right, he’s wrong.

      Megan is coming into her own. I think “her own” will include cigarettes, but not Don (for long!)

  2. So, who will fall down the elevator shaft? Does anyone else stop breathing every time someone is about to step in at SCDP?

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