Mad Men Season 6 Episode 12 recap

Those three items are treats on their own - it really is Christmas around this episode of Mad Men. I haven’t even begun in my own head  to address all the accents and voices in the Rosemary’s Baby homage, because I have been so mentally occupied with Sally Draper.  Big surprise.

So first of all, I’m so glad they did this story – not just because I have a boarding school thing, which I absolutely do, but the main reason I’m glad they did the story is because these are the people who become these people. That is, if you are a self-made creative millionaire who reinvented your entire self, and married a woman who then remarried more money, etc, then yes, your daughter would go to this school.

It’s a real school, PS.  There’s a Vanity Fair article about it and its attendant traditions and scandals. Given the article, and the girls Sally met, and the tension she was affecting on her way up there, I was hoping for a little more girl-on-girl violence – weren’t you? Maybe that’s horrible of me to say, but come on! This is a legendary girls’ school, and they certainly seemed ready to make Sally’s life difficult and then that just …went away. I could have used a little more tension and worry. I’d like to see Sally, the unflappable, get a little bit flapped. But she doesn’t. She improbably,  but probably geographically accurately, has Glen at her beck and call.  I thought for sure she was going to get a different side of him when she interrupted his getting some, but apparently those “growing up together” ties run deep. Glen will always defend Sally, apparently. So Sally can go to Miss Porter’s, if she wants to, secure in a reputation that she loves trouble. I found it interesting, though, that the idea of whether she would was left in question.

And yes, I agree with everyone who said this episode, and her slight manipulation of the circumstances in order to have Glen be her hero, cemented her personality as one that’s much like Betty’s – even before the show slammed it home with the cigarette sharing, so unlike the fry sharing earlier in the episode. Yes, Sally’s made a decision. The difference between being Don, a liar, or Betty, a shrew, has made an impact on her, at least for now. It helped her write a story at Miss Porter’s of someone who is utterly powerful.

It’s not often you get to write your own story though. So often, other peoples’ perceptions and impressions have sketched out the personality of who you’re going to be far more than you yourself intend. I often wonder if people at different junctures in my life think of me in the same way. It can’t be the case, however, because I’m sure there was a place where Ted Chaough was respected, as the head of the company. Peggy worked there too, of course, but it doesn’t seem as though their narcotic love affair really reached its maximum until they were back at Sterling Cooper – under the watchful eyes of  Don, the two become more childish because they don’t have the leeway to be adult. No matter what the masthead says, he’s the creative boss and they are merely bidding for his approval – is it the demotion that allows Chaough to be so blinded?

Not, of course, that Peggy’s ad was so bad -- though, even with the hilarity of all the accents, it only gave me a mild “heh” -- but the number of ideas that come up and aren’t financially feasible? Not only is it a rookie mistake, to the extent that it’s kind of embarrassing, coming from Peggy, but it’s also such a no-go zone that I wonder whether she’s not  being exposed to budget in the way that she used to be? Ted’s affection would be heady, yes. But that heady? That she would forget her professionalism?

The answer is clearly yes, since the girl who’s been calculating and decisive about her business choices up to now decided to call Don a “monster”. She’s blinded enough by her affection for Ted that she’s calling out Don for papering over Ted’s creative mistakes. Not only is it not like her, it’s also missing the problem.

It’s a horrible thing when there’s a talent imbalance that everyone can see, isn’t it?  Power imbalances are different – things can change, the people with the power come and go. But talent – well, that’s a little bit finite. I actually don’t believe this to be true; I think people can grow what they have. It’s the ability to harness it, to find more resources within yourself, that is so lacking. Your self confidence, maybe, or your self-understanding, is finite. That’s Ted’s problem.

It’s why Duck Phillips is such a unique mentor for Pete in this situation. Duck, with all his failings, has landed on his feet over and over again because he thinks he can.   Pete, who no doubt sees some of the scars of Duck’s path (and recognizes himself in more than a few, I would imagine) can nonetheless admire what he’s done.

Which is why the investigation into Bob Benson is so interesting. Fine, so he created himself from scratch. He inserted himself into what seems like a wonderful life at SC & etc. He’s obviously done it before, as Duck points out. He…blows his cover, where Pete is concerned. Maybe? Maybe he blew his cover? Or maybe he was so flush with success he decided to see how far he could push it? Or maybe getting Pete to accept him as he is is part of the Bob Benson plan for world domination. I don’t totally know.

The point is, we’re with Pete. Pete who has tried, and failed, to destroy a man on these pretexts before. Pete, who would love to be an asshole but never quite shakes off his humanity. Pete is trying his best to write his story so that this time around, he’s not the guy who runs crying wolf for what amounts to not much. Pete is more interested in taking over from poor Ken Cosgrove than he is in ruining Bob’s life.   It’s progress. It’s Pete being the guy he thinks he is, rather than the one he’s more or less conscripted to be. It’s impressive, if not always successful. He’s managing to write his own story, a small step at a time.

It would be overkill to say that Don, by contrast, has lost the plot, but then, it was overkill that Don started and ended the episode in the same position. We do get it.   Right?