Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7 recap

“I told you NOT to answer the phone”
“Then stop callin’ me!”

You remember it, don’t you? An exchange from Pretty Woman.  Another hotel, another powerful man. It felt delicious, didn’t it? Have we been ruined, a whole generation of us? To think of that sentiment – being tucked away, exclusively for his use – in a good rather than a horrifying light? 

Of course, that hotel wasn’t the Regent Beverly Wilshire, and nothing about the scenario was romantic. Don needed to control things so much – needed so much to feel like he was driving something – that he even took her book away. It made me like Sylvia a little to think that that was the final straw.    

But Don is struggling. The cracks used to be easier to paper over, is all. Ted Chaough calling out Don’s reckless disregard for proper procedure meant he had to be punished – and it’s not the first time that Don has punished another man through drinking. It’s also not the first time he’s felt insecure about a competitor …but he’s never been quite so open about trying to pick at him and undermine him, scrabbling desperately for the upper hand. Letting him go into the room full of copy writers is a not-so-subtle form of sabotage.

Peggy, of course, is the only one who has the balls to call him on it, and I’ll get to her in a minute – but I have to point out that Roger is mostly absent this episode because John Slattery was directing, so all we got was one of those delicious, breathtaking, Roger-being-Roger scenes that we love so much. Who wouldn’t want to fire someone twice, if they could?

But nonetheless, Don is lectured by Peggy to leave Chaough alone, not to drag him through the Draper fraternity initiation. Don is so startled at the reprimand he can barely respond, except to malign Peggy, as is his usual. 

But Don’s world – the one he can control, at least – gets smaller and smaller. He can’t survive as the sole creative head in an agency; he needs Ted, too, to keep him in line; he can’t function as a partner in the business when he’s all but absent. So he keeps the deck stacked around him. Notice how he has to cut Peggy down a bit to hide his relief that she’s there to back him up too – and spends more time in environments he can control.

Like a hotel room with a nude woman in it.

It occurred to me that this is impossibly naughty for Don. Having a woman there for you at your disposal – which we know Don could have paid for/commissioned/organized long before now – feels so very…second-year university. Doesn’t it? He never got the chance to do that fun kind of experimentation, as he was really busy being Don Draper and not Dick Whitman. To take a tangent for a second, I really miss that kind of tension on the show these days, the more literal version of trying to be someone you’re not. Without it,  Don seems utterly without drive – and dare I say internal strife without any drive, without any goals, is boring?  

This is why Don can’t relate to cheerful, happy-go-lucky Megan. Megan has no secrets (except for that alleged miscarriage , which was kind of a weird non-story).   She might cry and plead and want to be different or better or loved,  but she’s not hiding a part of herself. It’s why he hates Ted Chaough, too. Ted doesn’t even try to be awesome (you can see him realize as he slips on the aviators).

Which makes them kind of an anomaly on Mad Men. With the possible exception of Roger, we never really meet people who are without guile. It’s what made that moment between Peggy and Joan so sparkly. They’ve always been on different paths, but I’ve always liked how much they like each other, almost despite themselves. And I believe Joan looked extra beautiful in the first third of the episode – so that she could look extra disheveled in the latter, I guess.       

As for the creepiness of Bob (which I feel like writing BOB, all Twin Peaks-style,  I continue to find him creepy), but maybe that’s what Joan needs right now – a little bit of obsequious creepy before she moves on to what a friend of mine would call “the next big thing”. Of course, this is how other romantic entanglements have appeared on the show – Jane began as a secretary, remember? Megan?   

As for Pete Campbell, who would love to be someone’s entanglement,  he’s terribly hard done by, isn’t he? When being, surprisingly, a good son – I always forget that Pete is the nicest guy in his otherwise horrible family – he is slipping away from any semblance  of control about the company.  I’ve always been interested in Don & Roger’s willingness to assign more to the young, but this is what it gets them: temper tantrums about chairs and Harry, blissfully, sulking in his office.    Nonetheless, Pete can’t deal with his mother’s brief moment of lucidity, and has to become a V.C. Andrews rewriting history jerk, telling her it’s March and otherwise pressuring her to feel that her frail mind is even more so. He can’t help himself – he has to save face at all times, even if it’s in front of his senile mother.

The best thing about the merger is that there is sure to be further bloodshed. I don’t want to see Joan saving people left and right, but I’m happy to get into more battles in the office, where they matter. Stan’s been surprisingly silent this season.  For that matter, isn’t it about time for Sally to show up and cause problems?