Mad Men Power Rankings: Episode 512, ‘Commissions and Fees’

[Production note: Holy. Shit.]

[Last week's Rankings can be found here.]

1. Don Draper (last week: 3)

You’re happy with 50 percent. You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful. For now. But what is happiness? It’s the moment before you need more happiness. It’s the moment laughing in the hallway with your old war buddy after a successful battle, blood still on your mouth and steel-strength no-ner straining against your pants, when you remember how good the copper tastes and that you can still get it up for the negative when you have to. It’s the moment right before the moment when they tell you that they sent everyone home, the coroner is on the way, and the body’s still hanging in his office, purple and bursting with fresh death, and no one thought to cut him down.

You’re happy with your agency? You’re happy with your life? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it.

You want none of it.

Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: I’m Leaving You Today

They’d all filed out of the room, heads hung low, wind knocked out of them by what they’d seen. No, it wasn’t even the first time someone had died here, but it was the first time someone died like this. There was no wrapping it up in a blanket so that no one would notice, even if Cooper had sent everyone home on the pretense of a building emergency. People will notice. They’ll come back to work the next day and they’ll know. They’ll hear what happened. There will be a speech. But Lane Pryce was not an astronaut. He was a lost man, an embezzler who got caught. They’ll find out. They always do, no matter what story what you tell them.

Now Don squats beside the couch where they laid him after they freed him from the noose, where he will lay until the long car comes to take him away. Unless.

Unless. He looks down at his hand. His fingers tremble. He wants to believe that they’re filling with fire, but he knows they’re not. They’re cold, like the guy on the couch. Still, he has to try, doesn’t he? He’s failed twice before. Once in this office, once in his dreams. The third time is the charm, they always say, though never in this particular situation.

Do we have it in us? he asks them. Can we do this? They don’t even twitch. He has his answer.

Then he sees it. On the desk. A basket made of rope. Or is it wicker? It doesn’t matter. He walks over, lifts the lid. There’s something inside.

A snake. A stuffed snake.

He puts the lid back on and heads for the door. Then he realizes.

No. A stuffed cobra.

A cobra in a basket.

Motherfucker.

2. Roger Sterling (last week: 7)

Well, this is a hell of a time for Roger to really get cooking again, isn’t it? How does that expression go? “Don’t give your pal a raging neg-on and ask him to drill a hole in a barrel of napalm if he’s got to cut down a dead Englishman in an hour”? That never works out well for anyone involved.

The other shiny nugget of Sterling’s Gold from last night’s episode: “Enlightenment wears off.” So if you’re being baited and you need a designated ball-puncher, Roger is your man, again. He likes the guy who wants Chevy over Jaguar, American over Mohawk, Firestone over Dunlop. The guy who suggests they fire anyone whose squeamishness about working with his family might get in the way of killing Moby Dick. The guy who can walk into a room full of self-satisfied chemical magnates and spin creative for jellied fire-death.

It was nice, we suppose, that he finally showed some concern for Joanie. Though that might have meant a little more last week.

3. A Crippling Sense of Loss and a Deep Sadness (last week: 4)

You almost feel embarrassed for having fired this particular bullet last week. Now this is a crippling sense of loss and deep sadness. Jesus Heinz Baked Beans Christ, where will it chart in the goddamn season finale?

4. Sally Draper and Glen Bishop (tie) (last week: not ranked)

[To be read to the tune of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," even though Neil Diamond didn't release it until 1967 and Matthew Weiner would probably die of an anachroaneurysm if he were ever to see this.]

Like you so much
Just maybe not in that way
But I’d train to you, girl
And all you can say is
“Don’t like your mustache”

Lacrosse kids never get tired
Of beatin’ me up
And I never know
When I come around
What Anderson will do
Don’t let him pee on my ‘stache

Don’t you know
Sal, you’ll be a woman soon
Please, just hold my hand
Sal, you’ll be a woman soon
Soon, you’ll need a Glen

I’ve been misunderstood
For all of my life
But what your mom said
Sal, just cuts like my knife
“The creep smelled my hair”

Well, I finally found
What I’ve been looking for
But if Betty gets the chance
She’ll kill me for sure
Because I touched myself
Sally, that seems unfair

Don’t you know
Sal, you’re a woman … now?
Please, come take my hand
Sal, you’re a woman, now
Soon you’ll need a Glen
Soon, I’ll tell my friends

5. Joan Holloway (last week: 2)

Pretty rough first go-around as a partner. One minute Joan’s trying to decide if there’s actually any difference between Bermuda and Hawaii and deflecting a soused, melancholy Lane Pryce’s sour remark about imagining her “prancing in the sand in some obscene bikini,” and the next she’s trying to open a door held shut by his dangling body. (Had Lane been successful in his first suicide attempt in the Jaguar, she’d certainly feel even worse about the promotion.) As Kenny said, presciently: “I wouldn’t want to be a partner. I’ve seen what’s involved.”

6. Kenny Cosgrove (last week: not ranked)

… And speaking of Kenny Cosgrove, long absent from the Top 10 of these Power Rankings, a proud return for using his leverage with Dow Chemical to not only reject the obvious partnership-extortion bid, but to stick it to Pete Campbell. “Pete doesn’t go to the meeting. Pete doesn’t go to any meetings.”

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7. Pete Campbell (last week: 5)

Last week was a hard act to follow. That invocation of Cleopatra to close the Joanie account was distilled Pete, concentrated Pete, pure Pete arranged in lines cut with a brand-new Diners Club card and laid out on a spotless mirror. No one could handle that kind of Pete two weeks in a row; forced to do so, they’d stagger about, clutching their throbbing heads, wiping a trickle of blood from their nostrils. We all needed to kick Pete for a minute to deal with other matters.

Pete Campbell was, however, the first one to peek over the office wall — in more innocent times, the kind of thing one used to do to spy on whatever locked-door shenanigans Don was up to — and see Lane’s body. That he responded in recognizably human shock was almost surprising; we half-expected him to step off the couch, dispassionately announce what he’d seen, and then silently recalculate his share of the company. Maybe he did that on the train back to Cos Cob, before imagining how he might one day offer an even more dramatic resignation. Then he’d think about how he’d have to haunt the office for eternity, dissatisfied that his contributions to the agency weren’t celebrated with enough solemn gratitude in the eulogy, and take it all out on Trudy. “Bad day at the office, honey?” “Lane stole all the suicide thunder! How am I supposed to eventually kill myself without looking like a copycat!?”

8. Betty Draper Francis (last week: not ranked)

It seems like an eternity since Betty was given the opportunity to play anything but the Westchester housewife version of Mommy Dearest when dealing with the children (any recent moments of sympathetic behavior were immediately absorbed by that protective, emotion-dampering layer of latex), so it was nice to see her comfort Sally as she had her first, unexpected experience with womanhood. Yes, she at first recoiled when Sally went to hug her, but that feels like a sensible reaction given the constant threat of a safety-scissor shivving that’s always loomed over her parental relationships. What matters is that Betty did rise to the occasion; as she told her daughter, this was a situation all women understand. Even the ones who’ve been awful for so long that spooning their kids in a moment of need feels like a huge breakthrough.

9. Lane Pryce (last week: 5)

For once, the gathering clouds delivered the storm we were expecting. And it doesn’t feel good to be right. Right up until the moment when Joan saw the overturned chair, you couldn’t help but wish Lane had found some other way out of his predicament than the one we all feared was coming, that the failed attempt in the garage would be what he needed to pull himself together for a second chance, that they’d discover the ledgers and a boilerplate resignation letter in a discreetly cleaned-out office. No, he wasn’t the jumper. But his impact on Madison Avenue would have left a much smaller mess.

10. Jaguar (last week: not ranked)

A guy can’t even kill himself properly in that piece of shit.

(Alternate Don Draper “napalm” pitch: “Jaguar. The ultimate suicide prevention machine.”)

Not ranked: Megan Calvet Draper; Peggy Olson; Rebecca Pryce; Bert Cooper; Harry Crane; Ed Baxter; Scarlett, Tom Schafer, and Jack Schmidt; Julia the Red-Headed Trampy Actress; Cynthia Cosgrove; Gino the barber; Jed Covington; Dunlop; Wild Wild West; the obscene bikini; the glass of cognac; Wise potato chips; Africa; Teddy Roosevelt; Hotchkiss; Anderson; the Mets pennant; a dead cobra in a very sad basket.

Filed Under: Christina Hendricks, Fingerbang Threat Level, John Slattery, Jon Hamm, Mad Men, Power Rankings, Vincent Kartheiser

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Mark Lisanti is an editor at Grantland.

Archive @ marklisanti