We’ve Done It Before
Mad Men Season 7 Episode 11 recap
Yes, we’ve done it before. We’ve seen this go down – the passion and ticking clock and the corralling of clients. I got just as excited this time as I did back then. I wanted to see the excitement and adrenaline start to flow like it did years ago when they snuck out of Sterling Cooper under cover of night.
But it didn’t go down that way. Instead of a new fledgling business starting up on its wobbly ankles, they’re being swallowed. Ted is ‘ready to let someone else drive for a while’. There’s equal parts of fight and exhaustion in all of them. For my money, the most heartbreaking moment in that storyline – in a sequence of heartbreaking moments - was when, hearing all the clients listed and thinking that her colleagues might not be showing enough enthusiasm, Joan hears ‘Coca Cola’ and sits up a little more, both eager to take advantage of the opportunity and embarrassed at herself that she was so helpless in the face of such an easy candy dangled in front of her face.
Nobody’s wrong in this scenario, as they talk about how going to McCann will be fine, that the jobs will be there, that there’s plenty of space. They’re deluded, of course, but they’re not wrong to tell their people it’ll all be okay. So what’s different this time? Having gone through the fight, the offers, the acquisitions, why swim upstream more just to be eaten again in a year or 18 months?
What they lose, though, of course, is the power to move people. Knowing what they really know about how it will be over there, Don and Roger can’t summon the passion and tale spinning they used to be able to pull everyone along with. It’s a relic of a bygone era, and soon it will only be legend. Much the way people talked about what Bert Cooper was like when he was young, so they’ll reminisce about Roger and Don, back in the day. “Gosh, they sure could bring you along.” “Really, those two?” “Oh, believe me. Back then they were the sun and the moon.”
But nothing endures. Joan knows she’ll be pushed out at McCann, relegated to some sort of fake supervisory role with no client time. What can she do? I’m sure the answer is going to involve her magical rich man from California but it’s not the same.
Pete realizes, as much as he tries to maintain the status quo, that the Campbell name may not carry the weight it used to, that the way he used to be able to swing himself and his name around are fast disappearing. Actually, if I’m being honest, Pete was this episode what he always is at his best – an amusement. A hilarious representation of who we would be, if we could be – all Id, all the time, just yelling and punching to our hearts’ content. And I love that Trudy loves it. If these two don’t get back together I will be very surprised.
I liked, though, that of everyone, Peggy is the least worried. Sure, she had a headhunter in her apartment to tell her she should go to McCann despite her instincts otherwise, but really, she knows she’s a catch (and I appreciated that they pointed out she doesn’t even have a degree). Things are changing in the world, and while neither she nor Don went to college, the door of opportunity is closing in that regard. She knows she’ll be fine and, even though I thought it was kind of a clumsy way to get the information out, she has Stan as the one who will truly understand her. That’s what Peggy has gained here: a true colleague who is her other half. She may never get it again and she may never get it romantically, but in Stan she has someone with whom she can be her true self. He knows her big terrible secret and still thinks of her just as Peggy.
Three episodes left, and so this means none will be cheerful. We’ll see how things are at McCann and who jumps ship before they get there, and how our characters have to deal with their mortality in a place where they are not Gods. Hopefully we do this without the addition of Diana.
Speaking of mortality, this episode was directed by Jared Harris. RIP, Lane Pryce. Also, who knew Meredith was going to wind up being an MVP of this season?