Joanna Schroeder recaps and rips into this week’s episode of Mad Men: Season 6, Episode 6.
We open on Joan’s breasts.
I know I’m not supposed to say that, but if we’re being honest, there is only one thing you can possibly focus on in the first scene of the episode titled “For Immediate Release”.
There’s also a banker in the room with Joan’s breasts, as well as an awesome orange adding machine. Speculations are being made about where to set the price of SCDP’s shares when the company goes public. It’s pretty boring, but Mad Men almost always starts out boring.
If you’ve been following this series for all six seasons, you know that watching Mad Men is like having married sex. You will yawn at least once in the first five minutes, but by the time the second commercial break is done, you’ll be breathless and everything else will disappear from around you.
The next scene opens on a bedroom and we meet two new characters. The first one is Daisy, a sexy sideboob-showing airline hostess who is the type of woman who wakes early to “put on her face” before her bedmate wakes.
The other new character is a silver fox named Roger Sterling. No, not the old Roger Sterling who trips on acid, rolls into the office around noon, pathologically ruins marriages, and feels totally okay with the fact that Joan is raising his son with another man. This new Roger has a great idea for growing business at SCDP. One that might work. Nice to meet you Roger, I like you already.
Here’s the plan. Daisy is going to nose around the First Class Lounge in her adorable uniform and slip Roger intel on which businessmen are going where, along with the when and the why. Roger is going to show up in the lounge and pretend to be a passenger, and this is going to get them in with Chevy. Genius.
The next scene features Peggy and my favorite line from the entire episode:
“There’s poop on the stairs again.”
She’s just trudged up to the beat-to-hell apartment her boyfriend convinced her to buy, and finds him in overalls, working a nail gun of some variety.
Unlike most people who write about Mad Men, I am not an Abe-hater. I like his respect for Peggy’s authority and the fact that he’s cool with her being the breadwinner. I don’t think this makes him look even remotely weak.
And I really like that Abe’s wearing overalls and no shirt and is operating a power tool. I don’t care if he sucks at it and staples his own finger to a piece of base-molding, I’ve never been so attracted to Abe.
Sadly, Peggy disagrees.
Maybe it’s because Abe has convinced her to move to a neighborhood that’s “changing” and now that she’s living among junkies and vagabonds, her attraction to him is waning. I guess I can’t blame her. Poop on the stairs really is the ultimate libido killer.
Regardless of the fact that Abe is a hippie, I cannot get behind her new crush on her boss. Ted Chaough is a weasel in a turtleneck and he makes my skin crawl. When she kisses him in their office I actually grab the remote and hit fast forward. I mean, what the hell? Even in her fantasies of him, he’s wearing a turtleneck. It’s just not okay.
Peggy is changing and I don’t like it. As I’ve been saying all season long, nothing feels right with Peggy and Don apart.
Back in Megan’s life, teen girls want her autograph in the elevator and I don’t give a shit. I mean, really, this storyline is so boring that I have to get up and stare into my refrigerator every time the soap opera story appears.
The only good part is that Megan makes Don’s mistress hold her handbag so she can be famous right in front of her. I don’t know if this makes me feel like a smug Nelson Muntz saying, “Ha-ha” at the mistress, or really shitty about the fact that Megan thinks she’s doing so great, when in truth her husband is giving it to the neighbor. Probably both.
In a good Megan moment, her oh-so-French mother gives her some really awesome motherly advice:
“Don’t dress like his wife. The only thought he should have at this meal is how quickly he can get between your legs.”
In my favorite scene of the episode, Pete Campbell accidentally sees his father-in-law in a whorehouse with a prostitute whom I assume is about as far from his wife as humanly possible. The scene is gleefully uncomfortable, and Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete, really nails the frozen-in-shock thing perfectly, without over-acting it.
The next best Pete moment happens when it’s announced that Don fired Jaguar and its vomit-inducing executive, Herb. Pete sprints from the second floor of the offices screaming at Don, and gets so mad that he falls down the stairs in a moment of physical humor that reminds us of what made Mad Men’s first and second seasons so magical. Or maybe I’m just a sicko who likes to see people fall down the stairs. Probably both.
But Pete’s not wrong to be pissed. Don is an asshole. He’s an asshole we all really like, even when we hate him. We like him even when he’s banging the heroic surgeon’s wife—the doctor put on cross country skis to schuss down to the hospital in a snowstorm to save someone’s life, for fuck’s sake, and Don shows who he is in comparison by taking advantage of the doctor’s absence. We like him even when he’s looking right through his children, and only feels something for them when they already think of another man as their father. We like him even when he’s riding his ego and ambition so hard that his heartbroken little brother kills himself. We like him even when we hate him, because he’s a heroic character and that’s all we know how to do.
And Don thinks he’s being heroic by dumping Herb and Jaguar. After all, Herb is the same shitbox who thought that despite Joan’s title, intelligence and marital status, her body was up for trade in exchange for his business.
Here’s the weird thing: at first I felt a little bad for Herb. He seemed to be a representation of the ways in which society taught men that women were nothing more than bargaining chips and servants. As an unattractive man with a horrible personality, it didn’t seem unreasonable that he would use what little power he has—his wealth and influence—to bang an out-of-his-league chick. It was never right, but it was complicated.
Now we see Herb for who he is. He’s the guy who thinks he can take whatever he wants because he somehow landed in a position of power. He’s not even pathetic. He’s a disgusting, selfish, entitled asswipe who has deluded himself into believing that he matters on this earth.
But is Don any different? Does Joan fall to the ground in weeping gratitude toward Don for getting rid of the evil ogre?
“Don’t you feel 300lbs lighter?” Don asks, alluding to Herb’s size.
“I don’t,” she tells him. “Honestly, Don, if I could deal with him, you could deal with him.”
Good point, Joan.
“And what now?” Joan asks, “I went through all of that for nothing?”
Even better point. After all, she did sleep with the most repulsive man TV executives could come up with in order to save the company. She will become rich for it, but that doesn’t erase the memories.
The truth is, Don is an egotistical narcissist who, even when he’s doing something for someone else, is always all about number one. He wants to lead the charge, but these are supposed to be his partners, not his loyal subjects. He doesn’t care about what Joan really wants. I mean, he’s saving her. Why can’t she just be grateful, for chrissakes?
What we see is that Don Draper is Prince Charming in the harsh light of day, well after he’s charmed the princess off her feet. He’s handsome, powerful, desired, and sometimes he sweeps in to save damsels in distress (Peggy in the maternity hospital comes to mind). But in order to be that guy, you also have to be this guy: the guy who thinks the world is his to take, to win, to grab, to fuck, to dismiss, to look straight through as he pleases. He’s the guy who never stops to ask Joan if she needed saving. She’s his partner, but he never considers asking her opinion.
It all seems pretty dark.
But then it happens again. Things are in the shitter and Don is pretty detestable, and the company is falling apart and Pete’s going to punch somebody and everything was for naught…and at the last second, Don Draper pulls it off like he always does.
This time it happens in a dark bar in Detroit with Ted Chaough, my turtlenecked nightmare. It occurs to them that they’re both in the running for Chevy, that means the account is lost. That means that Chevy is going to take their creative and give it to a big ad agency that makes them look and feel good about themselves.
But Don’s idea is going to save them all. They will merge without informing their partners, and they’ll win Chevy. Don will be the hero. Ted Chaough will stop whining for the rest of the episode. Maybe he’ll wear a suit jacket with an actual collared shirt. They’ll stick it to the big agencies who always seem to win the rigged game of advertising.
And, best of all, Peggy and Don will be back together.
Now this is going to be good.
Want more Mad Men? Read the rest of our Season 6 recaps by award-winning authors such as Greg Olear, Sean Beaudoin, Ben Tanzer and Matthew Norman.