Well, friends, I called it. When I wrote about what I thought might be coming up this season, I said that I expected Don’s agency (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) and Peggy’s agency (Cutler, Gleason and Chaough) to merge, both for logistical reasons—it would be hard for the show to follow two different agencies for an extended period of time—and storytelling reasons—it would be interesting to see Peggy drawn back into Don’s orbit just months after she’d escaped it. And it came true! One short disparate note before we get to talking about the merger: it seems to me like this was Season Six’s first truly happy episode, and perhaps even the series’ first happy episode in some time. Everything ended up smelling like roses, even if the path to the garden was a little rocky. (It’ll get all sad again when Robert Kennedy is assassinated—that was cruelly foreshadowed in this episode—but let’s enjoy it while it lasts.) Let’s break down the episode by each major character.
I get the sense that Roger has performed some type of reconstructive surgery on his life, almost as if he’s put it on an operating table, given it a shot of adrenalin, and then strapped in for the ride. Contrast that with Pete who comparatively spilled his life into a sink and is busy watching it drip down the drain. Those drug trips must be working something fierce, because Roger looks alive again. He closes deals, as he snidely points out to Pete; in essence it is he who is responsible for the SCDP-CGC merger and the company’s (and everybody’s) new fortunes. Roger is the one who’s made them rich—not Pete, and not Joan. The importance of that to his character cannot be overstated. He’s been devastatingly inert since the loss of Lucky Strike two seasons ago, and sure, he’s tried to claw his way back a few times, and he’s huffed and puffed at Pete’s brick houses, but nothing’s worked—until now. This is his ticket back in. He deserves it, and I am more than happy to see it.
Meanwhile, Peggy is scuffling like Roger once was. She seems perpetually unfulfilled, like she’ll never be happy with her station in life. As Don once mused, she can’t ever seem to find the right time to make a big move, and I’ve decided it’s because she’s too acquiescent. She folded awfully quickly when Abe declared he wanted to live in a poorer neighborhood, something that clearly clashes with her sensibilities, and even at her new job she would soak up whatever was thrown at her. She was, for instance, forced to pick up smoking in order to better market a ladies’ cigarette.
It’s horribly ironic that she now finds herself back under Don’s rule. She left both because she wasn’t being treated fairly by Don, and because it was time for her to spread her wings. Now she’s in a new cage and back with the same owner. And because she accepts whatever is given to her, she’ll end up with precisely the same relationship with Don as she had before. Peggy is not going anywhere—not on the show and not in life (at least at the moment). Simply because of the machinations of Mad Men, and this being the penultimate season, it is overwhelmingly likely that she’ll ride out the rest of the series squirming beneath Don Draper’s tremendous shadow. We saw how disappointed she was at the end of the episode. For a moment in time she had a glimmer of hope—specifically the idea that Ted might be interested in her, enough for her to fantasize about him. Now with the merger, that daydream gets shuffled into the background. He’s got bigger work to do now—he’s now the joint head of a major agency. So, alas, Peggy’s right back where she used to be. She ends the episode typing out a press release, just as if she were a secretary again. “For immediate release,” the document begins—an official statement, but also, I feel, a small wish on her part to be free of the loop she’s trapped herself in.
Peggy’s situation is, at the very least, relatively stable; by contrast, Pete’s life is positively out of control. There’s the ongoing crisis with Trudy, and that looks like it’s going to end with a divorce. Let’s table that, if only because I had assumed that would be the outcome all along, so it didn’t particularly surprise me. Instead, let’s look at what the merger does to Pete.
Any success for Roger is, in a way, a defeat for Pete, given that Roger is still his senior and Pete would (obviously) like to be in Roger’s shoes. After Don’s unilateral voiding of the Jaguar deal and the loss of Vicks, Roger’s sudden role as savior of the company must hurt tremendously. Once again the great Sterling triumphs—and who knows what position Pete will be in following the merger. If he wasn’t tied up as a partner in the company, he might very well have pulled a Peggy and left. Lord knows none of his co-workers respect him. If Don really cared about Pete, there’s no way he would have given Jaguar the shaft like that—that was Pete’s account through and through. If Roger had been on point for that Don would certainly have informed him (or at least gave him a hint of what was to come) before blowing it all up.
Even more important than that, though, are the accounts Pete holds. He’s lost a car—his Jaguar becomes Roger’s Chevrolet. But he’s also lost Vicks, which was worth (as we heard) some nine million dollars—a tremendous amount of the company’s business. Whatever remains on his desk utterly pales in comparison. His value to the agency has, in the space of a few hours, declined dramatically. It’s all disappearing between his fingers, and it’s shocking how quickly it’s happened. Just a few episodes ago he was still with Trudy; just a few episodes ago he was still the company’s second-most important man (behind Don). Now he is, quite literally, close to being a minor player again. Can there be a ruder awakening than that? Wherever he’s headed, it is not looking good for Peter Campbell.
Joan’s sole highlight last night was her speech against Don. Did she have a point? Her argument was dual-pronged: first that Don doesn’t care about anybody other than himself, and second that Don’s dismissal of Jaguar was irresponsible because endangered the company (more specifically it was a betrayal of her, because she had to make a personal sacrifice to land the account). The first charge is probably true; that much is self-evident. The second is perhaps a little disingenuous. As Lane said to her, the day she slept with that man was the day she won. From that point forward she’s been making money off everyone else. Had they lost Jaguar and not replaced it with Chevy, the company might have been in a bit of a jam, but she still would be earning significantly more than before. Her act would not have been for naught. So the idea that her efforts on Jaguar would have been wasted isn’t entirely accurate. And she ignores the fact that Don was the only man there that didn’t want her to do it—perhaps a sentimental fact in comparison to one’s financial security and livelihood, but still a fact she should never forget. As far as I’m concerned, Don didn’t betray her, but in that attack on him and his character, she betrayed him.
What a fantastic episode for Don! It really was the equivalent of hitting three home runs in a game—he shuts down that horrible pig-like man, lands a superior account, and further secures the future of his agency. He was, in two words, crushing it. I feel like we’ve said it a million times, but with each episode that passes it seems more and more like he’s been reborn, similar to Roger. How good must it have felt to stick it to the Jaguar guy? And he had so many great one-liners... Dude talks about having to do somersaults around Don—“Really? A man your size?”—and how he’s going to show Don where his bread is buttered—“I want you to buy me one last meal... I’m tired of taking it out of your account”—and how Don has screwed up—“I’ve never felt better in my life.” All top notch!
Incidentally, Megan’s mother’s advice seems to have worked: with business going swimmingly, and with Megan going back to dressing and acting like she did in the days when she was still only a girlfriend, it seems like Don’s interested in her again. It’s only one episode, and Sylvia was unavailable owing to the presence of her son, but things needn’t be so grim for them if they continue down this track. Where does Don go from here? It’s too early to tell, simply because we don’t know what his position in the new company will be, and what shape and form that new company will take. We’ll know a lot more next week. But until then, this episode did more than tide me over. To my mind, it was the best of the season so far, and I can’t wait to sit down and give it a second viewing.