Mad Men Power Rankings, Episode 610: ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

David T. Cole/Grantland illustration

[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don and Megan talk on the balcony … Betty counts her Weight Watchers points … Peggy and Abe take a break … A paramedic shrugs.]

1. Don Draper (last week: 1)

We know what you’re going to say:

Surely dying should be enough to bump Don from no. 1 in the Power Rankings!

To which we respond:

Nope!

And also:

Not this time, pal!

Perhaps it’s going to sound as if we’re making the rules up as we go along, like there isn’t a secret algorithm that dispassionately spits out the Rankings each week after we input 3,400 individual data points into our system late on every Sunday night during the season, but a very, very brief and reversible clinical death is, in and of itself, not something that necessarily moves the needle. And what if Don didn’t actually die* in that swimming pool, despite what the ghost of PFC Dinkins, stepping through a portal to the afterlife ripped open by one too many hits of hash, wanted us to believe? (This could be a trickster narc-spirit, sent to deceive us; no reputable apparition crashes a party in the Hills in full military dress.) What then? Does Don tumble because Roger had to fish him out of the drink like an inflatable adman pool toy with a slow leak? That’s not even the most embarrassing thing that happened to either of them — that would be, of course, Roger’s surprise breadbasketing by a dashiki-clad, lotus-eating Munchkin with a nasty right jab. We can’t move people up and down, willy-nilly, on the say-so of the Private First Casper. That’s not how it works.

So Don stays where he is, at least for now, coughing up wet lungfuls of near-death, counting his blessings that his wife didn’t really show up to introduce him to the second chance growing in her womb. It was merely another HA-HA, DRUGS! moment in a season replete with them. 1968 will seriously fuck you up, man. Just ask the naked silver fox yodeling at Manhattan out his window.

[*Given the conspiratorial tenor of current Mad Men scholarship, we're probably going to hear a lot of theories about how Don actually died in that pool and everything from this point on stars a Sixth Sense Draper. Get ready.]

Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: The Hookah

Don crosses through a poorly lit room, catches his foot on something, stumbles, rights himself.

“Oh, I was looking for the restroom.”

He looks around; he has encountered a pod of hippies of indeterminate filth level.

“There’s an extra nipple here when you come back,” says one of them, an attractive one, and suddenly his need to find a commode is diminished.

“You like hashish?” she asks, though it’s more an invitation than a question.

“I don’t know yet,” he answers, though he’s already sitting down with the extra nipple in his mouth, his lungs filling with the hookah’s payload.

“Hey, are you the guy who came in the taxi?” asks someone, somewhere, but that voice is already a hundred miles away, dissipating in the heavy air. Don takes the nipple in his mouth once again, inhales, closes his eyes. Drifts off for a moment. A hundred moments.

He opens his eyes. And now the hippies are fellating a golden spider in the middle of the room, an eight-legged Moroccan pleasure-demon gushing soul-ravishing lovesmoke. He’s transfixed by the sight of the arachnid orgy unfolding before him, a greedy voyeur, not a participant. Then he feels something brush lightly against his hand.

He looks down. A leg-phallus encircles his fingers; the spider is reaching out to him. The attractive hippie catches his eye, nods. Join us. Sure, why not.

His mouth is suddenly full of fingers and legs and smoke. He gags, squeezes shut his eyes.

He opens them again. He’s looking up at Roger, the night sky, the faces of concerned partygoers.

Everything tastes of chlorine.

“I was just looking for the restroom,” Don coughs, incomprehensibly, so Roger leans in closer.

This time he hears Don clearly.

“I think I like hashish.”

2. Roger Sterling (last week: 7)

“I’m Vasco da Gama, and you’re … some other Mexican.”

Roger always picks first in the Sexual Conquistador fantasy draft, and he takes da Gama no. 1 overall every time. It’s a superstition thing with him; he’s never contracted syphilis on one of these trips to service his rope-belted-yokel clients, so why risk breaking the streak by going with a Pizarro or Cortés? Better to play it safe. And when the cage dancers on the Sunset Strip ask your name, “Vasco da Gama” sounds classy. Like you’ve got a lot of beads to spend.

3. Bob Benson (last week: 3)

“Benson here. Bob Benson. Beloit, Wharton, Accounts. Why am I always repeating that? At the risk of playing defense, it’s all part of my success visualizations. Repetition Equals Recognition. Hammer right into the old skull. It’s right here in How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling. Chapter 8. Please, take my copy. I always carry a spare to give away in case someone else wants to learn the secrets of achieving unbelievable success in business. I prefer it on vinyl anyway, to be honest — there’s something soothing about falling asleep to the gentle lullaby of self-improvement. Why would I share? Well, don’t worry, there’s room for all of us to succeed. Wait, you don’t want it? I’d urge you to reconsider and flip directly to Chapter 12: ‘It’s Not a Fear of Failure, It’s a Fear of Opportunity.’ Opportunity is knocking, and when you open the door, good old Bob Benson’s going to be standing there with two coffees, a smile, and a reservation at the best brothel in town. Real clean girls, promise. It’s right there in Chapter 18: ‘Never Skimp on Prostitutes.’ The author really thought of everything — it’s pretty amazing. Look, right here: Chapter 22: Best New Restaurants in Detroit to Go Fuck Yourself In. I think this book is magic.”

4. Peggy Olson and Joan Harris — tie (last week: Peggy, 4; Joan, not ranked)

Can you really blame Joan for wanting her own account? A huge one, a legitimate one, one she didn’t have to procure through the kinds of unseemly means that everyone will still whisper about behind her back, then throw in her face whenever it suits them. Sleeping with a corpulent jaguar for business reasons tends to mark a person, even if every other partner was complicit in the unholy pairing. So it’s hard to blame Joan for stepping outside the organizational structure and going accounts-rogue when lipsticks, beans, and sauces were in play. That it would inevitably make Pete Campbell shave back his scalp another three inches in anger was just a bonus.

Inevitable, too, was the ensuing Peggy vs. Joan showdown, one that’s been building for a long time. Joan has long resented Peggy for making the leap to copywriter while she languished as an office manager, and for presumably using Don Draper’s enormous penis as a flotation device to gently ferry her into the deep end of success. And Peggy’s seethed about Joan’s constant undermining of her promotion, and, truth be told, about the Jaguar situation, which she’s not above bringing up in the heat of the moment, just like the guys do.

In the end, though, Peggy got Joan’s back, possession is 9/10ths of the law, and Pete’s tearing out another inch of his hairline. But Avon better call, for real next time, or the sisterly détente won’t last. It probably won’t, anyway. But for now it’s nice to see them getting along.

5. Harry Crane (last week: not ranked)

“OK, Daddios, nothing’s happening until mañana — that’s Spanish for ‘Be cool, brother’ — so I’m getting us all into a party in the Hills. Not Beverly Hills. The Hills hills. The hip hills. Movies, not TV. TV’s so yesterday, my mañanas. We gotta play with the big boys. My very good friend in development in CBS says it’s going to be crawling with moguls. But let me make the introductions — they don’t take business cards, or understand your uptight New York ways. L.A.’s different, boys. There are swimming pools at these parties. Don’t worry, I know everybody who’s everybody. They all love me. Hey, here comes Cool Harry to make me some money, that’s what they all say when I walk in. Just don’t embarrass me in front of my friends. These are my people. Hey, I see my main man Stan from Warner Bros. right over there. Cool Harry’s gotta go to work. Don’t drown in the pool while I’m gone. By the way, anyone know Stan? I could really use an intro.”

6. Michael Ginsberg (last week: not ranked)

He has become death, destroyer of Manischewitz accounts. Principled ignorer of conflicts of interest, casher of Dow-subsidized paychecks, fearless berater of Nazi bosses.

Defier of fascist deadlines, deflector of truncheons.

Lightning in a bottle filled with gay panic and stage fright.

7. Jim Cutler and Teddy Chaough — tie (last week: not ranked)

Name combinations scribbled on a whiteboard in Teddy Chaough’s office during an all-night new-partner appeasement session:

  • Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Cutler Gleason Chaough
  • Cutler Gleason Chaough Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
  • Cutler Chaough Sterling Draper Cooper
  • Sterling Cooper Draper Cutler Chaough Harris Campbell
  • Drunk Pervert Asshole Suicide Cutler Cancer Chaough
  • SCDPCGCSPGSCDPD&Co.
  • Sterling Cooper + Partners
  • Screw Pete Campbell, What a Dick, Who Puts Up With That Schmuck, for Real?
  • Chaoughtown

8. Pete Campbell (last week: 8 )

You know what? [He takes giant drag of Stan Rizzo's joint, runs hand through silk-thread-thin remains of hair.] That Janis Joplin ain’t half bad. What was he so upset about again? Oh, right. He has no seat at the breakfast table. He lives in a small apartment occupied by his demented mother instead of a procession of hot mistresses. He can’t even get a piece of the eye shadow account. He’s head of new business and he doesn’t even want that. He can’t even get his name carved on the gravestone to their resistance. [Takes another hit. Grows out lumberjack beard, crashes on Stan's couch for five months.]

9. The Red Wedding (last week: not ranked)

What??? What??????? How are we supposed to even care about a consequence-free party in the Hills when there’s a banquet room filled with [SPOILERS DELETED]. AMC should’ve just run a test pattern with a cartoon image of a crying Don Draper’s face that said GO TO HBO RIGHT NOW, WE’LL STILL BE HERE NEXT WEEK. NONE OF THIS MATTERS. NONE OF IT.

10. Daniel Siegel (last week: not ranked)

He totally slept with Lotus. That’s not nothing, even if he had to dangle a part in Alice in Wonderland to get there. It’s just how the business works. Cool Harry knows all about it.

Not ranked: Bert Cooper; Megan Draper; the hallucination baby; Kenny Cosgrove; Andy Hayes; Clara; Dawn; PFC Dinkins; Jack from Carnation; Sunkist; truncheons; the Vista Del Mar Hotel; Chicago; the DNC; the beads in their pockets; the friend from CBS; diarrhea; creative dynamite; tomato juice and coffee; the box of cosmetics; the joints in the candy dish; Gladys Bowman; Richard Nixon; Dutch Reagan; Frank Bettger; Robb and Catelyn Stark; the dry heaves; the yellow skirt and white go-go boots; pacifism; Sacramento; the red convertible.

Filed Under: Amc, Christina Hendricks, Fingerbang Threat Level, Jessica Pare, Jon Hamm, Mad Men, Power Rankings, Vincent Kartheiser, Your Old Buddy Bob Benson

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Mark Lisanti is an editor at Grantland.

Archive @ marklisanti

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