|Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC|
As always, spoilers lie ahead...
While I've definitely enjoyed this season of Mad Men so far, it has been long on lull and slow on big events. Of course, many, including myself, would argue this is the way the show and its seasons are often structured--a few slow burners in the beginning to set up characters and plots that will detonate later on. And boy, did things get set off in "For Immediate Release," which definitely takes the crown (so far) for season six's most fist-pumping worthy episode.
First off, it's Mother's Day, and like most holidays depicted on Mad Men, it isn't given the most referential treatment. After a meeting with a banker discussing SCDP going public, Joan reminds Pete of the special day, which to him probably translates as "I guess I'll send the old broad an extra blanket at the home." Roger, who was so philosophical about his mother's death in "The Doorway," uses it as a coy way to get a stewardess named Daisy back into bed. Marie doesn't want to be reminded she's a grandmother, let alone a mother, if her thoughtless comment to Dr. Rosen to take the flowers Megan got her as a gift for his son to give Sylvia is any indication. Peggy's mother Katherine doesn't even get to show her face, but does send curtains along with plans to visit her and Abe in their West 80's love nest.
But back to Pete and Joan's (and Bert Cooper's) meeting with the banker and the plan to take SCDP public. According to Pete's calculations, the move could make both of them millionaires. Pete also takes the time to point out the banker also had eyes for Joan. "Everyone wants you don't they," he says, causing Joan to say "Pete no," like she was disciplining an unruly dog. Or keeping the devil in check, if you count that skin-crawling chuckle. Though I will say Joan and Pete seem to be getting along pretty well at the moment. But I digress. Having crossed the first hurdle of setting the move in order, Joan bringsup the second obstacle: Don. "I don't think he cares about money," she says in a prescient moment, but Pete reassures her going public would expand the company resources to allow Don to go after big clients. Christina Hendricks plays Joan with such wistful excitement here, it makes it all the more devastating when Don stomps all over their plans. More in that in minute.
Pete and Joan aren't the only ones making moves. It turns out Roger's fling Daisy isn't just a partner in the bedroom but a co-conspirator in the airport lounge, calling to fill him in about businessmen in said lounge so he can swoop in and scoop up new clients. Roger's also trying to smooth things over between Herb from Jaguar and Don, who lest we forget metaphorically flipped him the bird in a meeting a few weeks back when he wanted to change SCDP's campaign strategy. Don, who thought he just squirmed out of a meeting with Herb, and by extension Pete, reluctantly agrees, and inadvertently invites Marie along when he mentions Megan and her had plans.
Speaking of Megan and Marie, the former did a surprisingly good job of letting the gesture with the flowers roll off her back. Probably because she proved Marie wrong by becoming a successful actress, complete with making her mother hold her bags while signing autographs for teen girls in the elevator. But it's also because things are still rocky between her and Don, a fact Marie picks up on by noticing she and Megan have not had a fight during her visit. I'm not sure that's the best litmus test for your relationship with your daughter, but she's right regardless. Megan thinks their distance is due to Don not caring about her or her career, but Marie spells out to her what we've been seeing from him all season.
"Darling you have confounded everyone's expectations...he may think you belong more to other people than to him," she says. Megan agrees and then Marie tells her in no uncertain terms to put on an outfit that will make Don wanna flip it, smack it and rub it down. Maybe it's not the best advice in the long run *cough* Don grew up in a whore house and thinks all women all whores *cough* but it did seem to fix things in the short term. Megan even treats her husband to a little skull duggery. I'll leave to you to make a mother/daughter joke about that. But suffice it say, ambition makes Mrs. Draper so horny.
Anyway, the dinner's a disaster; Herb's wife is babbling so much Marie, pissed that Roger's a no-show, is ready to hit that chick with a bottle. Though she's still polite and/or sober enough to insult her in French. Don of course, loathes Herb, and things don't get any better when he defiles both Megan and the lyrics to "The Girl From Ipanema" with a sleazy remark. However, the final straw comes when Herb suggests Don let a kid from his dealership supervise and write copy for Jaguar. With that, the gloves come off, "screw yous" or the late 60's equivalent thereof are exchanged, and dinner's over.
Though I'm happy to see him go, Herb does make a valid point about Don not knowing where his bread is buttered. Perhaps this isn't so an indictment of his dealings with Jaguar, but his business practices in general, particularly this season. Whereas he once looked noble and almost foolish by wanting to stick by Mohawk and Freddy Rumsen when a bigger opportunity was presented for the former and the latter proved to be liability, we've seen him go behind Raymond from Heinz's back and drop Jaguar without a thought as to what it would do to SCDP or the other partners. Ultimately, his ego--he never got over not closing Jaguar on his pitch alone--and freedom do whatever the hell he wants is more important than money.
As for Marie, she has to settle for listening to Don and Megan get it on instead having her own fling with Roger, who stood everyone up at a dinner to lay some groundwork with Mikey O' Brien from Chevy. She gets in a delicious crack about spending the evening with Herb the pig and his wife, the apple in said pig's mouth, before telling him to forget her name and hanging up.
Meanwhile Pete, oblivious to the carnage happening elsewhere, is having celebratory drinks with Bert over the taking the company public. He decides to celebrate further with a trip to the midtown whorehouse--with brown noser in chief Bob Benson in tow--when he spies Trudy's father coming out of a room with, in his words, "the biggest, blackest prostitute you've ever seen." I guess his racial empathy only extends so far. The next day, he relays the story to Ken , who, after going into going the long way via some story about catching his fifth grade teacher watching a sex film, assures him his father-in-law won't tell for fear of being caught himself. Just as Pete's feeling better, the phone rings to inform him Jaguar has been let go.
"Draper," he screams out from the steps (are the second floor steps the official showdown area of SCDP's offices? I'm just saying), looking down on Don like a comic book villain (and tripping on a step like a bubbling sidekick) before lighting into him about how much his actions have hurt the company. In a none-too subtle reference to he and Trudy's DOA marriage, Don snaps "Pete, you gotta understand when it's over!" Pete wails that Don's actions have ruined the company's going public plans, before Joan escorts the boys to the conference room to continue their screaming match. Don of course, is unaware they were deciding to go public, since he blew off dinner with Pete. But just in the nick of time, Roger comes in with bad news and good news, but after learning Jaguar's been canned, just has good news; his airplane espionage work has landed them a meeting with Chevy, who wants SCDP to pitch a campaign for their yet-to-be released car.
Don co-opts Roger's news to make his point about how useless Jaguar is to them now, but Pete rightfully calls BS on that. "Don't act like you had a plan. You're Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine." But the MVP of Team Pissed Off is Joan, who's been stewing ever since Pete blurted out Jaguar had been fired. "Don't you feel 300 pounds lighter?" Don asks her, thinking he's done Joan a favor by playing white knight and slaying the beast (or in Marie's case, roasting the pig) when really firing Herb was an impulsive, ego-driven decision that rendered both Pete's and Joan's public option deal, not to mention her huge, life-altering sacrifice for the company moot. "I don't. Honestly Don if I can deal with him you can deal with him. And what now? I went through all of that for nothing," Joan says, fighting back either tears or the urge to scoop Don's eyeballs out. Don, still not getting that this isn't all about him, tells her he'll "win this" when it comes to Chevy. Buzz! Wrong answer Don! "Just once, I would like to hear you use the word 'we'. Because we're all rooting for you from the sidelines. Hoping you'll decide whatever you think is right for our lives," she says, storming off.
It's a fantastic scene from start to finish, not least because it dredges up so many mixed emotions. I felt elated Don kicked Herb to the curb, while also hating him for not really giving a shit about Pete's plans or more importantly, repeatedly not getting why Joan would be furious at him; I could totally get behind Pete's rage at having a deal he worked so hard for fall apart, but could tsk tsk him (and Joan and Bert) for not cluing Don in from the jump; and I could love Roger's dig at Pete for snagging Chevy while also being upset with him for, like Don, being tone-deaf to how Joan was reacting.
In the end, the big blowup boiled down to a series of misunderstandings and secrets; Pete and Joan kept Don in the dark about the public offering, which, if they'd included him from the beginning, may have been a harder sell, but could've prevented him from doing something so risky. Roger kept Pete in the dark about Don's dinner with Herb, which likely led Pete to believe Don simply called Herb to dinner and fired him. And Roger kept everyone in the dark about his meeting with Chevy. The whole spectacle could have been avoided with open communication, but it was glorious to watch, with the image of SCDP's underlings scattering like roaches when Don came out of the conference room the cherry on the sundae.
Afterward the smoke settles, Ken asks Pete if they should go into Don's office, but Pete's all "eff that" and walks away. Things only get worse for Pete as he later learns Vicks is dropping SCDP due to well...you know. Pete goes to confront his father-in-law Tom, who gets all self-righteous about Pete's extracurricular activities. "I knew there was reason you didn't want children. You have no business being a father," he seethes. No arguments here, given we haven't really seen Pete interact with his daughter, like at all, save for a bedtime story. Tammy didn't even get an honorable mention on the reasons for Pete wanted to move back home for. But I can't believe Tom is getting on his high horse when the he was caught with his pants down as well. We don't know if this is Tom's first time stepping out on his wife, but I couldn't help but be on Pete's side bit when he advises Tom to take a look in the mirror.
Though Pete, true to form, shoots himself in the foot by telling Trudy he saw her father with a "200 pound Negro prostitute." Trudy, ever the Daddy's girl, doesn't believe him and tells him they're officially done. "I had no other choice," Pete whines, but Trudy points out he had lots of choices. However Pete, as he often does, picked the most spiteful one.
Back to Don, who, when he can't sleep, goes to the hotel bar. "Dammit" a voice--Ted's--says when he spots Don. Long story short, Ted explains that Chevy is going to use SCDP and CGC's creative and take it to one of the big boys. Don doesn't quite believe it until Ted makes the point that Chevy wants a big agency so they can "have bodies on the ground." Don finally concedes the game is rigged, and, after trading their pitches, he and Ted hatch a plan to merge their two companies. The move makes sense, and has been hinted at in earlier episodes, the contrived device of Ted's business partner Frank getting life-threatening cancer notwithstanding. It will definitely make for some exciting developments, but also shows Don hasn't learned a damn thing about impulsive decision making. As promised though, he comes through on Chevy, and SCDP/CGC is born.
One person doesn't seem to sure about the newborn though and it's Peggy. The look on her face when she hears Don say they got Chevy is priceless. I was almost waiting for Don to say "Hello Clarice." She doesn't know whether to be excited at the new business, be freaked out at the sight of her old boss/mentor or disturbed by the fact she can't seem to escape from SCDP and it's pessimistic people. Well she better get used to it, 'cause despite what she told Abe about her fear of change, the times are doin' just that.
--I really hope Peggy doesn't do the do with Ted; aside from the fact she and Abe are so good together and buying the apartment could give her some domestic storylines, with the merger and her working for Don again--albeit this time as more of an equal--there's a lot more to explore than an another extramarital affair. Though admittedly, that could add a whole other layer of drama to the work vs. personal life theme the show does so well.
--It was nice change of pace to see Dr. Rosen fall from his idealistic perch this week; hearing him complain about the his hospital not taking the heart transplant patient and wasting his time in New York showed he can be just as ambitious and self-interested as anyone else in the Mad Men universe; and, judging from his interaction with Marie, just as flirtatious.
--I can't take Don and Joan not getting along. Please fix this immediately.
--I get that Bob's a suck up, but offering to pay for Pete's "good time?" Even suck ups have their limits.