Mutually Assured Destruction
I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit ho hum about this season so far – but this episode pulled me back in! Let’s start with the biggest news of all – the merger. I was anticipating SCDP and CGC going in together on the Chevy account, but I’m somewhat dumbfounded by the idea that Don and Ted can actually merge their entire companies – furniture and everything – without at least having a wee chat with their partners first. I guess I expect this of Don – and, to be fair, Joan’s really quite beautiful speech about how everyone supports him while waiting for him to do what is in all their best interests indicated that in the end, Don really does lead the company in all its major shifts and changes. It’s also the case that 3 partners (Pete, Joan and Bert) were preparing to take the company public without consulting Don and Roger. So I guess we have a whole bunch of wildcards at SCDP with different visions for their shared project that they forget to share with each other! But Ted – Ted just seems too much of a nice guy to make such a big step without Gleason and (???). Seeing him take on a little more of the Draper way made him exciting and almost (almost!) sexy…
…and apparently I’m not the only one who thought so! In previous weeks I’ve noted concern that Ted seems to be developing a crush on Peggy. We learned of his boring, seemingly broken marriage last week. But this is the first time I’ve seen Peggy really taking an interest in him. Peggy’s choice in the bohemian Abe always seemed a little strange, but it also kind of worked – she was still finding her way in her professional world, not yet quite fitting in there. Now that she’s made it, she clearly wants something different than the loud musical diversity (and poop) to be found in the new neighbourhood! But given that company partners generally seem to have their affairs with secretaries, I’m a bit concerned for how this tryst might end up knocking Peggy down the ladder she’s so dutifully climbed. Whereas Joan was essentially forced to use sex to get ahead, I’m left wondering if finally giving in to sex in the workplace (so many years after her initial foray into that activity failed so royally with Pete!) is going to be Peggy’s downfall.
But I guess I’m just too excited about the chance to see Peggy and Don back to work together to worry too much about it!
As for the title of this post – I had to wonder how ominously we were to take the nuclear references. Their intention, of course, was for the storyline with Pete and his father-in-law. And Ken’s trust in nuclear deterrence was clearly misguided, given the result that retaliation brought double destruction on Pete rather than enabled his revenge. But in an episode where we have two companies coming together (and, potentially, two characters – with Peggy and Ted)…I was left wondering how far to extend the metaphor. Are we to worry that destruction – mutual or otherwise – is built into all these new relations?
Some stray thoughts in closing – how much did you want to smack Pete when he assumed the reason Joan was complimented on her fine business skills was because everyone wants to sleep with her? That being said – did you detect some flirtation between those two? Where did that come from?! And was it just me, or did Joan’s statement that she was too drunk to even walk ring a little hollow when she then skipped her way to the door just fine? How brilliant is Roger stalking execs in the lounge at the airport (and how much do you wish we got the same in-flight service as those guys did in the 60s!!). Was it just me, or did Pete seem more offended that the prostitute his father-in-law was visiting was overweight and black than the fact that she was, you know, um, a prostitute? How much do you love Harry Hamlin as Gleason (Veronica Mars fans like me, I’m sure, are all filled with glee each time he walks on screen). What do you think was up with Dr. Rosen’s tear-filled elevator rides, mourning quitting his job? Do you take that to be the end of Don’s pining for a richer moral vocation? After all, Don gets to pursue what he wants in ways the good doctor seems unable to try. And finally, it’s worth noting that we had another death reference this episode when Megan suggested – eerily – to Don that he could jump from the balcony…and float all the way to work.
Do you have any brandy…how about some spirits of elderflower?
Yes, this episode was positively humming with energy. IT was nice to have something happen besides barely articulated existential malaise. And boy a lot happened! I agree – the merger is the biggest deal, at least in terms of tangible changes, akin to the break from the old Sterling Cooper and even more dramatic because it means Don is going to have to start sharing creative with Ted (um, how the hell is that going to work on a daily basis?) and, as you point out, Peggy will be back in the SCDP orbit!
Though I am far less sanguine about what it means that she and Don will be working together. When she collapsed against the inside of her office door, I took that to mean deep conflict about being back with Don professionally. It took a lot of guts for her to leave and if she has to worry about anyone underestimating her or sending her down a few pegs of the ladder, Don seems the more likely culprit. Of course, I also don’t think Ted is as nice a guy as he presents himself. Don has a long standing animosity toward him (again, how is this going to work?!) because he is known to lie and cheat his way into accounts and just on the heels of his Methodist (or was it Lutheran?) retreat, he goads Peggy into stealing a campaign from Stan, something Don, for all his moral lassitude, is not likely to do. I do agree that their stolen kiss does not bode well for Peggy, who is now going to be caught between a boss who chronically ignores or belittles her and one who can’t decide what kind of partner she’d make best. I am curious how her Ted fantasies will affect her already strange relationship with Abe. And the image of that velvet house jacket over a green turtleneck perched above Walt Whitman in hardcover did seem like an erotic stretch, even for Peggy. Though maybe that just goes to show that we haven’t actually probed the waters of Peggy’s desire very thoroughly.
Pete, on the other hand, can’t seem to stop probing those waters and his new flippancy toward “the fun house on Lex” is quite a change since his cab ride of shame last season. And yes, I agree, that the race and size of his father-in-law’s lady of the night was at least as shocking to Pete as her actual profession. It was, I think, a brilliant move after his rousing speech last week on MLK, Jr. Racial prejudice lodges deep in the bones and isn’t so easy to overcome as Pete’s own liberal self-fashioning wants to believe. Loneliness has never suited Peter well, however, and it has been interesting to watch his nastiest traits re-emerge full force outside the taming presence of Trudy (and I do think Pete was making very half-hearted advances on Joan, which she was happy to accept but firmly stop in their tracks).
Speaking of Joan, we haven’t even discussed Don’s dismissal of disgusting Herb! I agree with every word of Joan’s speech to Don and it was a selfish, prideful move. But damn did it feel good to watch his self-satisfied face blanch at the idea that he wasn’t even worth courting anymore. Despite the fact that I think they laid on the uncouth nouveau riche act a bit thick, what with Peaches foiled against Marie.
What do you make of the two-week absence of Sylvia? I know the sex between Don and Megan is a front to some degree for both parties, I really liked seeing their erotic charge again. If Don’s professional life takes off at last, will it give him a reason to stop wandering domestically?
I thought my love of Roger could not get stronger, but watching him put his wits and charm into full play while Pete’s small empire imploded was particularly intoxicating and I can’t wait to see what kind of client Daisy will drum up next week!
I’m beginning to think you only call me when you want to see me.