Tag Archives: Burger Chef

TV Review – Mad Men episode 707: Waterloo

WARNING! This piece contains spoilers.

Mad MenEpisode 707 of Mad Men, the mid-season finale, ends with Bert Cooper serenading Don Draper from the Great Beyond. Bert dies on the night when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, a moment that, if only temporarily, erased the mindless violence and chaos that was the 1960’s and unified everyone who was able to witness the event on TV. On that Sunday night, us/them became we. How ironic it was that on a night when a temporary cease-fire was declared on human frailty, Bert Cooper, who became a surprise mediator in the final season of Mad Men, gave in to his human frailty.

It was Bert who gave Don the final hard kick in the ass that led to Don’s return to the agency. The kick came in the form of a brutally honest assessment of Don’s refusal to take responsibility for his actions. Since that moment, followed by Freddie Rumsen’s ministrations, Don has been on a redemptive path. In this week’s episode, Bert similarly assesses Roger’s position in the SC&P firmament, praising him for his talent, skill and experience, but telling Roger that he is no leader. This stinging rebuke from a man who is like a father to Roger ultimately leads to a transformation of Roger from passive victim to strategic dealmaker. Roger, at least temporarily, rises to prove Bert’s judgment wrong.

“Don, my boy!”

How sad it was to see Bert, played wonderfully by Robert Morse, go. And what a nice tribute Matthew Weiner paid the veteran stage actor by sending him off with a song and dance number that was as puzzling and eerie as it was sweet and emotional.

Mad MenDon has just assisted Roger in overturning Jim Cutler’s threat to “dismantle the agency,” and as Roger announces the death of their co-founder, Don goes back to his office to get some work done. Note that Don was on his way to Lou Avery’s office – his former office – when Bert calls out to him in an uncharacteristically friendly tone. “Don, my boy!” Don turns to see sock-footed Bert, in the flesh. Don stands in stunned silence as Bert begins “The Best Things In Life Are Free,” with altered opening lyrics:

The stars in the sky,

The moon on high

They’re great for you and me

Because they’re free…

Bert, who had just days before, declared Don a “pain in the ass” is now bestowing a counterintuitive blessing on Don by directing Don’s attention to the things beyond money and career and power that are more important…and don’t cost money.

I say counterintuitive because, like Jim Cutler, Bert was a man who lived by a capitalistic pragmatism where “Does it make me money?” seemed to be the litmus test for all things, a kind of situational ethos that could be one thing on Monday, and then a completely different thing on Tuesday. This is illustrated by Cutler’s own flip-flop on the McCann deal at the end of the episode, where he waves the white flag and follows Rogers lead – “It’s a LOT of money,” Cutler says when Roger asks if he’s serious.

And so, here is Bert, speaking from the Other Side, where he has gotten the message (we are left to presume) on what is most important in this life, and like Clarence the angel in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” comes back to point Don forward once again.

But what if that moment was something more?

Wasn’t it odd how Don and Peggy parted ways? Everyone has come upstairs to hear Roger’s announcement about Bert’s death. Peggy catches Don to tell him the good news, that Burger Chef has awarded them the business. Don gives her a big hug and tells her they saw what he saw – rare approbation from him. After a big, beaming smile, Don moves to go downstairs to his office. Peggy asks him where he’s going, and he tells her he has work to do, then leaves to meet Bert. The scene was structured and shot in such a valedictory manner that it seemed, at least from Peggy’s perspective, like it was one of those I-remember-the-last-time-we-spoke exchanges.

After Bert’s song and dance routine, Don has to sit on the edge of a secretary’s desk to gather himself. This may be a foolish notion, but I want to go on record now and ask – is Don dead, or is there simply a part of him that has passed away?

Among other things, the episode was about many of the characters being on the brink of significant change. Is Don’s significant change death, or is this a prelude to a kind of putting to rest his years as an ad man? Bert, in his altered opening to his song, declares that the moon and the stars (an Apollo 11 reference) are great “for you and me.” Why the inclusion of Don with him in death? And why are they great? And what kind of free is Bert talking about? Free as in money and cost, or free as in freed from some sort of bondage?

In one sense, Bert is free from the mortal coil that was his body, as well as his highly structured social position and attendant beliefs. Perhaps he means Don is free to pursue an authentic life that is free from the pain of his childhood, free from the lies that arose from assuming the identity of a dead man, and free, at last, to be the kind of man he’s always shown hints of being.

Regardless, Don is on a redemptive arc I pray continues in the final half of this season, which will begin next year (groan).

One small step

The Apollo 11 moon mission plays a central role in the episode, connecting not just the SC&P gang, but the entire TV watching world, a people whom Peggy described as being starved for connection.

While the moon landing as TV event certainly underscored the sense that we as humans are all connected and crave to be in community with one another, I think the moon landing also served to illustrate the contrast between cynicism and optimism.

Mad Men, in one sense, charts the path of Don Draper’s journey from career ascendancy to arrogance, ruin and, ultimately, redemption. In the pilot episode, there is an exchange between Don and Rachel Menken, where he sarcastically dismisses the popular notion of love in terms of lightning bolts and gooey emotions before going on to outline his philosophy of love, life and advertising. “The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me. To sell nylons.” Sensing Rachel’s arousal, Don adds some obnoxious swagger as he continues. “You’re born alone, and you die alone, and this world just drops a bunch of rules on you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow because…there isn’t one.”

It’s this bleak ideal that propels Don through season after season of Mad Men until the weight of the damage Don inflicts is too much for him to bear. Don has had many wake-up calls, nearly all of which were ignored. He could shrug off the pain of losing relationships by drowning it in alcohol. But when Don’s source of his identity was taken away – his persona of Don Draper, Master of the Universe – he was forced to ultimately come to grips with who he is, what he really wants, and how he is going to get it.  We get this in his speech to Ted at the end of the episode.

Mad MenThe beginnings of Don’s sea change are also evident in his call to Sally to share in the wonder of an historic event. Sally parrots the cynicism of Sean, the visiting hunk, by dismissing the moon landing as a complete waste of money when there are so many in need. Don, who may have said the same thing in years past, asks her if she really believes that. He fumbles a little with his guidance by guilting her into being optimistic for the sake of her brothers. She gets off the call as soon as she can, but Don’s words seem to sink in when she runs into geeky Neil, Sean’s little brother, out in the backyard looking at Bobby’s telescope. After an attempt at being the put-upon, seen-it-all teenager, she responds to Neil’s optimism by giving into it.

Why? Because it’s a more attractive option. We can’t help buy respond positively to authentic human behavior. To vulnerability. To be this way is to operate from a position of strength because it is so true and unassailable. To go through this world with clenched fists, like Don has, is to ultimately end up bitter and broken.

Sally and Don often serve as mirrors, and here we have a beautiful example of Sally mirroring her father by stepping out on faith and embracing optimism.

Don furthers this new attitude when he sacrifices his deep desire to win the Burger Chef business by giving Peggy the opportunity. With Bert dead, he knows the partner votes are against him and Roger, and rather than win a pyrrhic victory, he sets Peggy up to solidify her position at the agency by building her confidence and working late into the night to coach her through the pitch. The old Don would never have done this, or if he had, it would have been for the wrong reasons.

Don dealt with an attack from Cutler, the final dissolution of his marriage and a plea from Roger to win back control of the agency without getting drunk and abusing a single underling. Way to go, Don!

No man has ever come back from leave, even Napoleon

The episode is titled “Waterloo,” and would appear to refer to Cutler’s failed attempt to win control of the agency and depose Don once and for all, but Bert’s comments seem to contradict so easy an assessment.

When Napoleon launched the Waterloo campaign, he ruled for 100 days before suffering his final defeat. Perhaps what we are seeing now is Don’s 100 day return before finally being defeated once and for all. With Bert’s Napoleon reference and the final song, conspiracy theorists have much to feast on until Mad Men’s return next year.

Mad MenOne thing that should be noted is that Bert tells Roger that Don doesn’t understand the notion that a leader is loyal to his team. Historically, this is true of Don, but in the last two episodes of this half of the season we have seen Don totally contradict this judgment. At long last, Don does seem to understand that a leader must lead through selfless devotion to his team, which Don does by giving Peggy the Burger Chef pitch.

Maybe Bert was wrong on this one.

You’re just a bully and a drunk; a football player in a suit

Whatever the outcome for Don, Cutler certainly suffered a setback in the execution of his vision of the future of SC&P.

Without the knowledge and approval of the other partners, Cutler has the agency attorney draft a letter to Don, informing him of his termination for breech of contract. This letter seems prompted by Lou Avery, whose one scene this episode is a gem.

Lou visits Cutler to inform him that SC&P has lost the Commander Cigarette campaign to Leo Burnett, who has the other Philip Morris business. When Cutler shrugs off the loss with a philosophical bit of turning lemons into lemonade, Lou goes bananas, asking if Cutler is going to just wait for Don to jump into the next cigarette meeting and further humiliate him. When Lou predicts the day when he crawls out of SC&P with nothing but a damaged reputation, Cutler shoos him away by telling him he’s merely a hired hand and owed nothing. The meeting is ended with Cutler yells at Lou to get back to work, which he meekly does.

Mad MenRegardless of whether he’s merely a hired hand, Lou is part of Cutler’s team, and the letter goes out, sending Don into a blind rage (after a humorous moment with Meredith, who, like every other woman, has a crush on Don).  Don confronts Cutler by barging into his office, where Cutler is surely waiting.  Cutler confesses that he and Ted used to be intimidated by Don, and would wonder what he was up to, all shrouded in mystery.  He goes on to eviscerate Don, by telling him that, having seen behind the curtain, he’s thoroughly unimpressed, calling Don a bully and drunk; a football player in a suit.  He taunts Don, telling him the most eloquent he’s been was when he blubbered like a little girl about his impoverished childhood.  He’s hoping for a punch that will eliminate any legal leg Don may have left to stand on, but Don keeps his anger in check.

Don then marches to Roger’s office, where he opens the door and orders him out. Don then yells for Joan and Bert and Pete.

Bert enters the fray by telling Don they’ll talk to Cutler and get to the bottom of this. When Cutler strolls up, Don forces the issue by asking for a vote on whether to fire him. It’s 4-3 in Don’s favor, with Cutler, Ted (via Cutler) and Joan voting against Don.

Don wins the battle, but the war is still in the balance. Afterwards, as everyone goes to their respective office, Joan is left to tell Cutler he shouldn’t have done what he did.

Later, when Roger visits with Bert to get counsel on the Cutler situation, Bert tells Roger something important. “Whoever is in control is in charge.” Bert goes on to tell Roger that, unlike Bert, he’s no leader. Further, Bert confirms Cutler’s leadership capabilities, as well as his vision for the company. The only stopping Bert from supporting Cutler is the fact that Cutler is an outsider.

Thus informed, when Bert dies and Cutler outlines his plan to consolidate his power and oust Don, Roger swings into action with a brilliant plan. He reaches out to Jim Hobart at McCann Erickson and schedules a meeting in which he secures a verbal offer for McCann to purchase a controlling interest in SC&P that is contingent on Roger’s ability to bring Ted along. McCann’s interest is the Chevy team, which consists of Roger, Cutler, Ted and Don. Roger manages to cut Cutler out of the picture, but can’t get Hobart to budge on Ted.

Roger lays in wait for Don, upon Don’s return from the Burger Chef pitch, and it is there, in Don’s apartment, that Roger outlines the plan by which he will take control of the agency, push Cutler out, and save the jobs of all, including Don.

Don’s skepticism is understandable when he tells Roger that he doesn’t believe he can pull it off. He cites, as an example, Roger’s inability to save Don’s job. Roger appeals to a higher purpose – to their co-workers. It’s a test for both of them. Of course, the deal will make them rich, but they could just as easily have gone as a trio of creative to McCann. Instead, Roger sells Don on saving the agency once again, and building on their successes while rectifying their failures.

This hooks Don, of course, and he throws his support into Roger’s plan.

The following morning, Roger launches his sneak attack at the beginning of a meeting to plan Bert’s memorial and Don’s ouster. Ted has been flown in and looks like a husk of his former self. Cutler, upon learning of Roger’s plan, dismisses it as desperate and delusional. But when Roger quantifies the deal for the team, everyone but Cutler and Ted fall in line. And when Roger explains that the deal is contingent on Ted’s participation, Pete and Joan attack Ted’s reluctance.

Mad MenIt’s at this point that Don makes his biggest pitch in a long while. He leans in and speaks directly to Ted, explaining that he knows where Ted is. For the last year, he lived in a similar limbo state, except his was involuntary. His wake up call was met with the humiliating task of doing menial work normally reserved for wet-behind-the-ears rookies. But he did it, because he realized he desperately wanted back in. In short, he explained how he gladly humbled himself in order to win back the respect and approval of his co-workers. His friends. He closes the pitch by assuring Ted he doesn’t want to see what happens when it’s really gone.

The pitch works, of course, and with a little prodding from Roger, Ted approves of the plan to sell, followed by Cutler, who can’t resist the sweet smell of a lot of money.

It was a sweet ending that mirrored the effect of the moon landing. We know that the good will of Armstrong’s walk on the moon was short lived, and the heady feeling of the SC&P partners being multi-millionaires will likely fade like morning fog. Look for the deal to be somehow jeopardized when the show returns next spring. But while it lasts, those who always pine for a sweeter, more optimistic Mad Men should bask in the warmth of everyone’s joy.

Odds & Ends

  • Roger wasn’t the only one who swung for the fences on this episode. How about Meredith taking a swing at Don while he’s vulnerable?
  • Peggy & Julio. There are a couple of interesting echoes with this wonderful relationship. First, Julio is about the age of the child she bore and gave up for adoption. So, there’s some complicated emotional stuff going on there. Also, does this relationship remind anyone of the relationship between Betty and Glenn? Julio is being raised by a single mom, distracted by having to provide. Peggy is lonely and “starving for connection.” Just a thought.
  • Poor Harry Crane. Once again, Don gives good advice, but it’s wasted on Harry when Don tells him not to dicker with the offer. Harry dickers…and gets dicked by Roger. I loved the meeting at the end, when Harry busts in and apologizes for being late. Roger loved telling Harry the meeting was none of his bee’s wax almost as much as he loved sticking it to Cutler.
  • Don & Megan. How odd that the Draper marriage’s final curtain would be such a sideline event. But we’ve known this was coming for a long time, right? I called this at the end of season five, when Don got Megan her commercial. What lies ahead for Don in the romance department? Someone asked me if Betty might come back into the picture. Um, no.
  • Don as ventriloquist dummy. Matthew Weiner has always said that Mad Men is about, among other things, consequences. Episode 707 has Don telling Peggy that “sometimes, actions have consequences….” Finally, Don gets it.
  • Peggy did a nice job at Burger Chef, but it was no Kodak.
  • Sally goes for Neil, the geeky brother, who shares the same first name as Armstrong.
  • I love Pete’s plea to Cutler.  “That’s a very sensitive piece of horse flesh.  He doesn’t need to be rattled.”

Episode 706 ended with Don embracing and enjoying the connection he shares with Peggy and Pete (and by extension, the whole of SC&P), and in this episode, we have Bert Cooper encouraging Don to expand his horizons, like the Apollo astronauts and the millions who were with them in TV-land, and embrace all of humanity. This mini-season ends with Don on the brink of the next phase of his life and career. He has rejected the philosophy he so confidently espoused to Rachel Menken way back in 1960. The final seven episodes of Mad Men seem geared to show us how Don Draper embraces optimism in the midst of an advertising milieu which still runs on cynicism. Perhaps he’ll abandon advertising altogether. We won’t find out for sure until 2015.

TV Review – Mad Men episode 706: The Strategy

Warning! This piece contains spoilers.

Mad Men“It’s about family.”

Peggy tells this to Pete as she has dinner with him and Don at Burger Chef. She’s referring to their strategy for winning the fast food chain’s business, but she might as well be referring to the three of them. They are all sad and lonely, having failed at love. After ten years of working together, they come to realize, if only subconsciously, that they can rely on one another more than they can their respective families.

The episode is titled “The Strategy,” and while there was plenty of strategizing going on, it could just as easily been called “The Family” for how central the idea of family, both literal and metaphorical, played into the strategizing of the episode’s main players.

It’s nice to see family happiness again.

Since his bottoming out experience with Bert and Freddy, Don has humbly returned to work, determined to work himself back into the good graces of the colleagues he let down. The funny thing is, no one seems to care very much. The agency continues to bill more-and-more, and with the installation of the IBM 360, the agency seems poised to take on the top-tier agencies, like McCann Erickson.

Perhaps this has been a good thing because it’s allowed Don to simply “do the work” without the added pressure of making winning pitches. In the process, Don seems to have recaptured his joy for the business.

Don is plucked from the sidelines when Pete rolls into New York, girlfriend in tow, to finalize the Burger Chef strategy. After running into Don at the office, Pete invites Don to sit in on the dry run with Lou and Peggy. Surprised at the rare opportunity to participate in high-level decisions, even if only a spectator, Don agrees.

The look on Lou and Peggy’s face when Don follows Pete into the conference room is priceless. When Pete says he wants Don’s take, Don shrugs as if to say, “Blame him. It wasn’t my idea.” Lou shrugs off the annoyance, and Peggy goes into her nervous, jerky head-nod routine.

Peggy nails the pitch. Lou smiles for once and says, “It’s nice to see family happiness again.” Pete smiles, then turns to Don and asks what he thinks. Don, who has smoked and looked at Peggy with a pained expression the entire pitch, spits out some supportive platitudes that confirms what everyone else has said. He goes with the flow.

Later, when Lou and Pete call Peggy into Lou’s office, Pete throws her a curve ball by insisting that Don give the presentation. Regardless of their history, Pete knows what a pro Don is, and wants to give himself every opportunity to win this business and prove to home office that he is still valuable to the agency.

Peggy pushes back until she realizes Ted is on the speaker phone. Sensing she’s beat, she agrees with Pete and informs Don of the decision, which she makes her decision. This pleases Don, who, once Peggy leaves him alone, punches his fist like a young kid notching his first victory. He feels like it’s working, that he’s climbing back to the top of the mountain he created.

As happy as Don is, Peggy is just as displeased. She’s also climbing the same mountain, and wants to be king of the mountain as much as Don. She’s also nursing her grudge against Don for all the shitty things he did to her once her affair with Ted went public. She goes out of her way to childishly let Don know his ideas are bad and that she’s the boss now. Don, to his credit, endures the insults without a word of complaint.

The catalyst to the episode comes when Peggy has told Don that he’ll be making the presentation. As she leaves his office, he offhandedly tells her he’s been noodling around with the strategy and sees another way they might make a stronger pitch. This sends Peggy up into her head and out of her mind, furious at Don for “undermining” her with his better idea. This drives her back to the office, where she works all weekend to come up with a better idea. The problem is, she hasn’t got one. No matter how hard she tries, Peggy Olson can’t seem to crawl out from under the shadow of her mentor. And it’s driving her insane.

After a fruitless Saturday, where Peggy gets nowhere working alone and calls Don to remind him his idea sucked, Don shows up on Sunday to try and help come up with a better plan. This leads to the best Don/Peggy moment the show has given us since “The Suitcase.”

Don finds Peggy in Lou’s office, working and drinking. Like a petulant child, she lashes out at Don in a self-pitying way before angrily demanding he show her how he thinks. She wants him to save her, but at the same time, she wants him to show her once again how it’s done. She’s drowning in self-doubt and loneliness, and she admits in the worst way possible that she needs Don.

Don, once again in gracious New-Don mode, takes her through the process, outlining the pros and cons of the existing plan. Together, they agree the cons outweigh the pros. Finally, Don says, “Whenever I’m really unsure of an idea, I abuse the people whose help I need, and then I take a nap.” Having done just that on Friday with Stan, Peggy smiles and says, “Done.” And with that, the polar ice cap that has been Peggy’s resentment of Don begins to melt.

Later, after many drinks, they have gotten no closer to uncovering THE idea. As they brainstorm, their ideas trigger references to real life and they open up about how poorly their private lives are going.

When Peggy paints a picture of the nuclear family from the 1950’s, one where there are “people who eat dinner and smile at each other, instead of watching TV.” She asks Don if his family ever did that, and all he can say is that he doesn’t remember. Wow.

She confesses that she recently turned thirty, and that she’s tried to keep it a secret from the office. She worries she’s turned into one of those women who lie about their age.

When Don tells her he worries about a lot of things, but not about her, she asks him what he has to worry about. New-Don, having just admitted to being a worry wart, confesses he worries about not having done anything substantive with his life, and that he has no one to share his life with. Aside from that night together in “The Suitcase,” when Don celebrated Peggy’s birthday by working her very late, taking her to a Greek diner, vomiting, getting nearly beaten to death by Duck Phillips before passing out on Peggy’s lap…then receiving the phone call that Anna Draper had died as Peggy watched, this is the only time Peggy has really seen Don so naked and honest. And what’s better, he pays attention to her in a way he maybe never has before. She confesses that seeing all those moms in station wagons, while she did field research for Burger Chef, made her wonder where she’d gone wrong in her life.

At this, Peggy begins to cry. Don fishes out his handkerchief and hands it to her. Then Peggy has her first real Don Moment. “What if there was a place where you could go where there was no TV?” she asks. It could have been Don posing the question. “And you could break bread, and whoever you were sitting with was family.” After a beat, Peggy realizes what she’s done and tells Don that’s it. That’s the strategy. Family.

Mad MenMy Way” plays in the background. Don notices and stands. He reaches out and asks her to dance. Together, they dance in Lou Avery’s office. Neither says a word. Don smiles a fatherly smile. After a moment, Peggy rests her head on Don’s chest. Don’s smile turns to something deeper as he seems find a lost connection with Peggy. It’s as if they’ve each come home, dancing there in Don’s old office no longer as frienemies, but as colleagues…or is it more?

Forums will certainly be afire with speculation over what Don and Peggy’s dance means, and more specifically, what Don’s expression meant. My first thought was to remember how happy Don was when Megan worked alongside him, an equal at work and at home. The kind of family Don seems to crave, where life isn’t compartmentalized, but is seamless. Perhaps Don’s sabotaging of Peggy’s and Ted’s relationship was out of a jealousy he didn’t realize the meaning of until that dance.

Or maybe Don was glad to have his most trusted ally back.

Either way, it was a beautifully played moment that seems to herald yet another plateau in Don’s evolution. And with storm clouds gathering, it looks like Don will need all the allies he can get.

I thought you just needed summer clothes?

The one thing New-Don doesn’t seem to be able to fix is Old-Don’s marriage.

Megan surprises Don at the office when she makes a rare trip back east to retrieve her summer clothes. Though they say all the right words, it’s painfully obvious these two are about to go their separate ways.

As open as Don is with Peggy, he doesn’t seem to have told Megan much about his new working arrangements. When Megan and Peggy catch up at the office, Megan predicts that Peggy will someday make it to Don’s office. At this point, Peggy is still chapped at Don, and this remark is like salt in the wound.

Mad MenThe following morning, a Saturday, Don wakes up alone in bed. Alarmed, he sits up to see Megan out on the patio, setting the table for breakfast dressed in sexy lingerie. He rests on his elbow and takes in the scene. We have no idea what he’s thinking, but after his dance with Peggy, I can’t help but think that he was fantasizing about a life that could have been but never will be. There is sincere affection in Don’s gaze, and when he slips up behind her, he offers to take her shopping after they eat – nothing we’ve ever seen Don do before.

The marital bliss is short lived, however.

On Sunday, Don finds the apartment torn apart by Megan, who is looking for a fondue pot. When Don reminds her she was only coming back for her summer clothes, Megan tells him she misses her things. When she wonders whether she can check all the stuff on her flight back to L.A., Don offers to bring them with him on his next visit. When Megan asks exactly when that will be, alarm bells rang out. Methinks she’s having an affair.

Mad MenOn their bed, Don finds an old copy of the New York Times. It’s the November 23, 1963 edition – the day after JFK’s assassination. The paper calls back to season three of Mad Men and “The Grown Ups,” when Betty told Don she doesn’t love him anymore. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition, as “The Grown Ups” also had family issues at the center of its plot involving Don, Pete, Peggy and Roger. Mad Men often takes on the form of a novel the way Matthew Weiner and his writers layer in echoes and references like this that build on the present episode by pulling in events from years past – just as in real life.

In “The Grown Ups,” Don was on the verge of two big watershed moments – his divorce and the genesis of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the agency he birthed. This seems to be a foreshadowing not only of Megan asking for a divorce, but of another career watershed for Don that could be the cliffhanger of the mid-season finale.

You are not part of this family anymore.

Pete, who has been mostly MIA this season gets tossed into the deep end of the pool this week, with love interests from the past and present causing him grief.

First, there’s Bonnie, Pete’s California girl who strikes me as some Okie-grifter with her rough edges and obsession with deal-making and money. She’s a female version of Bob Benson. It’s too bad we’re meeting her this late in the show’s run. I’d love to see a story about her.

On the flight to New York, when Pete informs Bonnie she’s not invited out to see his daughter Tammy, Bonnie tells Pete she wants their relationship to work, but would hate for it to fail because of needless delays. She softens the threat by initiating Pete into the Mile High Club, to remind him of what he’ll be missing when he’s with the soon-to-be-ex-wife.

Mad MenRelationship-wise, things go downhill from there for Pete. When he arrives in Cos Cob, Pete is surprised to see Verna, a housekeeper/nanny, waiting for him with Tammy instead of Trudy, who has gone to the hairdresser. To make things worse, Tammy is afraid of Pete, a near stranger to her at this point. Pete rolls with the punches and has Verna help him get her in his car.

Later, when he returns home with Tammy, it’s Verna who waits to give Tammy a bath and tuck her in. When Pete asks about Trudy, Verna tells him she’s out. Pete instructs Verna to bathe Tammy, but let him tuck her in. After that, he waits for Trudy, helping himself to the beer in her refrigerator.

Pete seems to have this fantasy that Trudy still loves him and wants to get back together. He also seems to have a fantasy that HE still loves Trudy and wants to get back together with her. The delay in their divorce is not explained, but I get the sense that it’s more him than her, and this was just before the no-fault divorce was invented.

After an ugly reunion with Trudy, where Pete has the nerve to accuse her of being immoral by possibly dating another man, then accuses her of merely trying to make him jealous with this date of hers. Unable to take anymore of Pete’s nonsense, Trudy drops the hammer on Pete, telling him, “Your not part of this family anymore.”

With that, Pete smashes his beer bottle through the middle of a cake on the table, buttons his plaid sports jacket then bids Trudy goodnight.

What did he really expect? Like Don, Pete is at a crossroads in his life. His marriage is all but officially over. His career has stalled. His California girl, sick of being ignored on the trip, returns home early…on the same flight as Don’s soon-to-be-ex.

Pete is ripe for a big move. As horrible as he may be as a husband and friend, he’s good at his job, even though Jim Cutler doesn’t seem to have much use for him out in California. And unbeknownst to Pete, his nemesis Bob Benson is about to be a jump ball for the gang at SC&P, once the move to Buick is made official.

You shouldn’t be with a woman.

Joan and her family take center stage in episode 706, when Bob Benson shows up complicate things.

Bob, the darling of the XP gang at Chevy, arrives at the office on Friday morning with two Chevy executives in tow, looking for action. As he introduces them to the office, Bob makes a date with Joan to see her family.

That night, Bob is awakened in the middle of the night to come and pickup Bill Hartley, one of the executives, who has been arrested for trying to “felate an undercover cop.” Hartley’s face has been severely beaten, and we’re left to believe this has come at the hands of the arresting officers. The precinct officer, all insults and judging, says “Goodnight ladies” as the two leave the precinct.

On the cab ride home, Hartley explains that he and his wife have an arranged marriage and that in Detroit he knows how to conduct his alternative life discretely. He knows Bob will keep this matter a secret, and the two speak of their homosexuality with a familiarity that tells us its come up before.

During this ride, Bob also learns some startling news – that the XP is being moved in-house and that he will be offered a job at Buick. At any moment. Hartley tells him that Chevy loves him and that SC&P had a great audition. Good things are in store for both parties.

Mad MenAfter spending a day with Joan and her mom and son, where presents were showered on all but Joan, Bob gets Joan all to himself late at night. He explains the reason for not having a gift for Joan by presenting her with an engagement ring and a proposal for marriage. When Joan stalls, Bob presses the matter with words and a kiss, which Joan rebuffs by telling him, “You shouldn’t be with a woman.”

Bob pulls back, regroups then tells her he’s been with them in the past. He confides that he’s been offered the Buick job and that SC&P is about to momentarily lose Chevy. This sends Joan into a tailspin.

He goes on to argue that compared with her current conditions – nearing forty, husbandless, and living in a two bedroom cramped apartment with her mother and son – he is offering her more than anyone ever will. Joan’s response to this assessment, which sounded like a sentence, is visceral as she tells Bob that she would rather die alone hoping for true love than to settle for an arrangement. She tells him he should want the same for himself, but based on the life Bob has built for himself, her words fell on deaf ears.

The last we see of him, Bob receives Joan’s rejection without argument and slips off into the night…and out of her life.

Or does he? We don’t know what his role will be at Buick. If he has any influence on how Buick’s ad dollars are spent, it could be a feeding frenzy at SC&P as Pete and Joan fight for position, with both having dirt on Bob Benson.

When we grow up, we’re going to kill you and marry your wife.

We catch up with Roger in the steam room, where Jim Hobart, from McCann Erickson, chats him up about the current state of affairs.

Mad MenHobart condescendingly congratulates Roger on his “little car” – “It’s not Buick, but it’s cute” – and his fast food account. “It’s not McDonalds. It’s run by morons.” Roger trades insults with him until Hobart tells him that SC&P wants to grow up to be McCann Erickson. Roger, who always gets the best lines, fires back. “When we grow up, we’re going to kill you and marry your wife.”

That’s one way to get a family.

Hobart gets to what he wants to know by bringing up Philip Morris and how SC&P expects to win the account with Don Draper “haunting your halls.” Roger gets serious and laments that Hobart is lucky not to have Roger’s problems. When Hobart asks what if he wanted to have Roger’s problems, Sterling mistakes the comment for a hint that Hobart is looking for a job. Hobart side steps the comment and tells Roger he simply wants to enrich the lives of those he respects. Roger, unsure of what exactly is going on, cracks a parting joke, then leaves.

Hobart was referring to Don, of course, though Roger has no knowledge of the lunch encounter Don had with Hobart while meeting with Dave Wooster from Wells Rich Greene. Remember that Hobart, like the devil himself, tried to lure Don with promises of riches. Don has turned down the easy money before, but we haven’t heard the last of McCann Erickson.

From there, Roger slides into a funk that is underscored by his greeting to Cutler a little later when Cutler catches him and says, “Ah, good. You’re still here.” “That’s your opinion,” Roger says. Cutler informs Roger he’s just played a round of golf with an executive from Philip Morris and his name was brought up. Cutler hopes that Roger will help him secure the account. Roger goes from cool to cold when he tells Cutler, “Your secret plan to win the war?” Cutler, unfazed by Roger’s response, pats him on the shoulder and tells him needs to stop thinking about Don and start thinking about the agency. Roger looks at Cutler’s hand as if it held a dog turd.

From that exchange it seems that Roger knows of some underhanded plan Cutler is concocting to force Don to follow-through with his offer to resign his position if Philip Morris is signed. What’s more, Roger has said nothing to Don about this. Why? Does he fear an emotional response from Don? It doesn’t seem likely he fears for himself. The only thing Roger fears is death.

The bottom line here is that Roger has consistently proven himself to be, despite his charm, an unprincipled man. Over the years he’s sold out his family, his friends and his company, and it looks like he’s at it again until Joan’s bombshell gives him a flash of insight about Hobart’s mission in the steam room.

When Jim calls a partner’s meeting to formally announce that the XP is gone, he indicates that it was Joan who shared the news. This shocks Roger, who feels that Joan is beholden to him and should relate any and all secrets to him before anyone else. After the meeting, when she fills him in on Bob’s story, Roger thinks he knows what’s really going on. But does he? How could Hobart know about Bob Benson? Next week’s episode is titled “Waterloo.” Look for Roger to be one of the Napoleons.

Every table here is the family table.

“The Strategy” closes with a set-piece nearly as powerful as the scene with Don and Peggy dancing.

Pete sits in a booth at Burger Chef, alone. Don joins him and lights a cigarette. Pete is despondent, but not about the account. Once again, he’s all alone and feeling sorry for himself. He whines about not having a strategy, and Don shushes him and says to give Peggy a chance.

When Peggy arrives, she sits with Don and tells Pete she wants to shoot the spot in the restaurant. Pete says it’s not a home, but Peggy says it’s better. It’s a clean, well-lighted place. “It’s about family,” she says. “Every table here is the family table.”

Mad MenWhen Pete argues against the idea, he appeals to Don to talk sense to Peggy. Don paraphrases the song “My Way” by telling Pete, “She’s doing it the way she wants to do it. You want it right, or not?”  At hearing this, we see Peggy swell with pride and happiness at having been defended by Don Draper, the only man in her life whose opinion really matters. Pete considers the pushback from Don and Peggy, and accepts it because he can trust it.

Music plays, and the camera pulls back to take in the rest of the restaurant.  As it does, Pete gets ketchup on his face, and Don slyly signals it to Pete, much the way a dad might to his son.  Pete smiles and accepts a napkin from Peggy and wipes the mess from his face.  The camera continues to pull back to reveal that this trio is just one of many families happily sharing a meal together.

And there you have it. This defacto family gets together over their family table and works through their family business. An odd triangle if there ever was one, with Don as the father figure and Pete and Peggy as his kids. But wait. Peggy and Pete have had a child. And what’s going on with Don and Peggy? Are they more like Mom and Dad? At any rate, these three trust and respect one another, no matter their history and personal failings. And maybe they’ve all come to the realization that moving forward, treating each as a valued family member is the best strategy for surviving the new world order that Jim Cutler is hell bent on ushering in, where Harry Crane gets to be a partner.