‘Mad Men’ Power Rankings, Episode 709: ‘New Business’David T. Cole/Grantland illustration
Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don gets a cup of coffee at a diner … Kenny sees things from a client’s point of view … Roger tries out a new look … Peggy tries the veal … Joan takes a meeting … Pete mulls a real estate investment.
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
Oh, Don. Don. Don. Are you listening, Don? Of course you’re not listening; you’re already pouring yourself a drink, and you’ve never really listened to anything but your own insatiable need to be miserable. There’s never enough misery to go around, is there? There are two failed marriages and the two broken families they left in their wake. There’s the chocolate shake you can’t even hang around long enough to finish with your kids — one of whom is probably still possessed by the spirit of your late father-in-law (at least he was the last time we checked in with him), not that you’d show up for the exorcism if they’d had one — before your first ex’s husband steps up to the KitchenAid to complete one of your half-assed parenting jobs. You don’t think the kids notice something like that? Their daddy hitting the road the second their stepfather shows up, leaving behind the good, melty stuff in the bottom of the blender? Of course they notice. Because all they wanted was to spend 10 more minutes with their old man. Abandonment issues don’t just disappear over a couple of barely sipped homemade Fribbles, Don. They’ll remember. It’s not exactly the childhood trauma of, say, being raised in a Depression-era whorehouse, but each generation faces its own challenges. Don’t be surprised when Gene tries to swap identities with a runny-nosed but two-parented brat on the playground. And Bobby has switched himself out like five times already. Do you see the pattern? They learned it by watching you, Don. They learned it by watching you. Stay for goddamned dessert next time. Don’t let Henry drink your milkshake.
If that lingering domestic pain weren’t enough, you’re off in search of other people’s misery to add to your own. Showing up to the ritual mourning of an old lover with whom you’d lost touch for so long that she had enough time to start a family and die of leukemia. Striking up a very weird and very damaged relationship with a waitress you suspected to be the dead lover’s ghost, whom you promptly ensorcelled with your instantaneous-copulation powers and shagged in the dirty alley behind her diner. Then stalked to her other job at a different restaurant because you could smell the misery on her like a sadness-vampire desperate to feed before your throbbing fangs fade into a dull, happy smile. Well, guess what, Donald Draper, PI. She’s on the run from something, too. She’s lost a daughter and run away from another one. A family in Racine is in her rearview mirror the way you’re always trying to put Dick Whitman and Ossining and Laurel Canyon in yours. And she’s not up for anything that might make her feel good right now. Not even after you cut a million-dollar check in an attempt to buy a clean slate. Some people want to hang on to their misery at all costs. You get that impulse, Don.
You always did.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Between Floors
Don whispers something into Diana’s ear. She laughs. But her laughter is interrupted by the hurried voice of a man.
“Can you hold that?”
Another couple boards behind them. The doors swoosh shut.
“Well, this is certainly awkward.”
Don glances over at Diana. He’ll explain later.
Arnie, drunk but not too drunk to read Don’s eyes, presses the emergency stop button. The elevator lurches to a standstill.
“Why not tell her now, Don?”
“Are you sure we want to do this right now, Arnie?”
“Let’s tango, Don.”
“Diana, these are my old friends and neighbors, Dr. Arnold and Sylvia Rosen.”
“I helped his son get into the National Guard.”
“And we used to have date nights together with my soon-to-be ex-wife.”
Don looks over at the elevator control panel. Arnie’s hand is still guarding the stop button.
Don’s fingers burn with the desire to tear off Arnie’s hand and then use it to restart the elevator. They twitch at the end of his arm, ready to be called to violent service.
But the call doesn’t come.
“… and Sylvia and I used to make love in an extramarital capacity.”
“There, was that so hard, Donny boy? I just needed to hear you say it.”
“There. I said it.”
“It’s not like I wanted details or anything.”
Arnold presses the button. The elevator resumes its ascent.
“Unless you want to share some details.”
“I would very much not like to, Arnie.”
“I imagine you are a capable lover.”
“I suppose I am.”
The elevator bell dings. The doors open to the Rosens’ floor. They step out.
“Let’s play squash sometime. Maybe talk about your penis.”
The doors close before Don can respond.
When he gets back to his apartment, there’s already a message from Arnie on the answering service.
Squash tomorrow, 10 a.m. Reservation’s been made.
“And I’m not sure what this next thing means,” says Joanne the operator. “But I think the doctor said, ‘Bring the penis’?”
Don sighs heavily. “Yes, that’s correct.”
He thanks Joanna and hangs up.
Diana’s already in the bedroom, sobbing lightly. But about something totally different.
In the morning they’re both taking the stairs.
2. Roger Sterling (last week: 3)
Bringing Marie $200 in emergency cash wasn’t Roger’s idea. Nor was succumbing to her wiles on the floor of Don’s apartment. An apartment that was suspiciously devoid of any furniture. Was he supposed to ask a bunch of probing questions about why Don would agree to let his ex’s mother load seemingly all of his personal belongings into a truck idling downstairs, a job she didn’t even have enough money on hand to cover? Wasn’t “You already emptied out his place, you want to defile it as well?” enough detective work for one impromptu tryst? And even if the circumstances were slightly suspicious, what was he going to do, not have sex with the beautiful woman shaking with anger in his partner’s living room? Let’s be realistic about this.
No, you can’t blame him for anything that went down, even though Megan walked in on them as they were finishing up and pointed out that her mother is still (unhappily) married to her father, and the whole thing was a pretty traumatic experience for a daughter to endure. Roger shows up and things like this happen to him all the time now, because that new mustache of his is an antenna for picking up the universe’s ambient carnal energy. He can see the sexual matrix. He just can’t slow things down to bad-decision bullet-time and step out of the way of some potentially dangerous liaison before he’s biting off somebody’s pearl necklace and thrusting away on his buddy’s carpet.
He’s never shaving that thing off. Never.
3. Megan Draper (last week: not ranked)
On the one hand, her career seems to be in the kind of utterly dire straits that necessitate a business meeting with known sentient erection Harry Crane, which devolved into exactly the casting-couch fiasco one could easily diagram on the back of an old head shot.
On the other hand, a conversation that began with “I don’t want anything of yours” and “I don’t want to give you the satisfaction of knowing you ruined my life” ended with her estranged husband writing her a check for one million American divorce-settlement dollars, an amount that would let her sit out the next 10,000 pilot-season cattle calls.
On the other other hand, she walked in on her mom stepping off the Roger Sterling Mustache Express, as amply described above.
But on the other other other hand: one million dollars. One million dollars is a very large amount of dollars, especially in 1970.
Megan can buy herself an entire talent agency with that money. Or a nice restaurant in which to reject Harry Crane’s future clumsy advances. She’s got options now.
And she’s got an ex who apparently keeps at least seven figures in his checking account. You know, for emergencies.
4. Marie Calvet (last week: not ranked)
She’s like the French Canadian Danny Ocean of revenge-motivated furniture heists.1 And for that she shall be celebrated with a position of honor in these Power Rankings. Nobody can take that away from her, not even a greedy mover who senses something fishy might be afoot with a job that involves a couple of thickly accented women screaming “Take those, too!” at some beautiful credenzas and adjusts his rate accordingly.
5. Peggy Olson, Stan Rizzo, and Pima Ryan (tie; last week: 4, 10 [ascot only], and not ranked)
Is Pima Ryan a photographer or a charlatan? An artist or an operator? An admirer of a creatively frustrated art director’s promising work, or somebody willing to do whatever it takes to book the next gig? A visionary in her field, or somebody who dressed a bunch of models in black hoods and capes and stood them in front of white pillars with bottles of vermouth on top, because the ’70s? A libertine who’s up for anything when the red lights go on in the darkroom, or a calculating pansexual predator who made the tactical error of too quickly moving past the super-horny ascot-wearing beardo to try to seduce the one person who sees right through her transparent games?
We’re just asking a bunch of questions now. She’s obviously all of those things. Hello and good-bye, Pima Ryan. Stan appreciates your honest assessment of his photos, and will continue to recommend you for work that Peggy will never allow you to book.
6. Harry Crane (last week: not ranked)
Viewers with excellent memories will remember that in previous seasons of Mad Men, Harry Crane has consistently revealed himself to be a grade-A piece of garbage. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. Maybe he’s too congenitally clueless to be acting from a place of absolute malice; you don’t condemn a man wandering through a field of rakes for trying to hurt them with the repeated impact of his forehead. Maybe we split the difference between “piece of garbage” and “clueless rake victim” and arrive at something like “predatory boob.” Hey, in his world, preying on a vulnerable actress who’s attempting to upgrade her team — no shots at her current agent, who reps the great Angie Dickinson — is just another day at the hotel restaurant with a room key burning a hole in his pocket. And it takes a truly special kind of inept, priapic schmuck to virtually jump out of his pants the moment he senses that Schwab’s soda-counter-quality lines such as, “You’re like Ali McGraw and Brigitte Bardot had a baby,” and, “You should be the most famous person in the world right now, I tells ya!” might be working enough to finally get a shot at those “Zou Bisou Bisou”–soundtracked heels-over-shoulders fantasies he’s been harboring for years.
They weren’t working, of course. This is Harry Crane we’re talking about, and the only sane reaction to the suggestion that they move the conversation upstairs to close the deal was Megan’s “Not if you were the last agent-middle-manning scumbag media buyer on earth, honey.” And the only appropriately insane countermeasure to that was getting into the self-generated-crisis suite with Don to warn him that his wife is a failure-addled nutcase who’s going to babble crazy stories about how the man who was merely trying to help her out with her foundering career over an innocent lunch took it out and put it on the table between the salad and entrée course. Classic Harry.
7. Pete Campbell (last week: 6)
What new and thrilling wealth-adjacent burden would put-upon paper millionaire Pete Campbell share about a world that continues to oppress him with the curse of success? How could we follow up last week’s gripes about the investment property he’ll eventually have to buy to shelter his fortune, condemning him to a wretched life of sound financial-planning servitude?
How does an excruciating round of business golf grab you? What, Don’s going to show up to the course like that? In a suit? What’s he going to do, throw his tie over his shoulder, roll up his sleeves, and improbably charm the garish plaid pants off of the clients while Pete’s dressed like Bob Fucking Hopeless on his way to a charity tournament for put-upon absentee tax-shelter landlords in Palm Springs? And, sweet Baby Golden Bear Jesus in heaven, he’s going to rent clubs like common public-course filth? Why does God hate Pete Campbell so much, besetting him with plague upon plague of rich-guy problems? Getting passed over once again for the cover of Malcontent American Striver magazine was one thing. But Don not even bothering to show up with his own irons and woods is a slight Pete can’t be expected to bear in silence.
8. Diana, the Saddest Waitress in the World (last week: not ranked)
It seemed impossibly romantic at first. A handsome stranger in a tuxedo and his floozy-entertaining pal drop a hundred-dollar gratuity on her table, and then that mystery man returns to the scene of the overtipping crime to reconnect in the alley behind her diner. He comes back again, a man obsessed, to investigate the possibility that this sexually adventurous but profoundly sad waitress might be a visitation from a recently deceased lover. She’s not, of course, she’s just a simple woman trying to build a new life in the big city after abandoning her tragedy-wracked family back in Wisconsin, but ghost stories are fun and the night shift is long and thankless. She expected to never hear from him again after her unambiguous brush-off, but there he was again, turning up at her other job, desperate to reestablish their strange connection.
But then she’s showing up at his apartment at 3 a.m. She’s waking up in his bed. She’s enduring awkward encounters in his building’s elevator with his old, self-destructive flings. She’s remembering that she came to New York City to be alone with her sadness, not to share it with a similarly broken person or distract herself from it with him. So she’s out. It was not fun while it lasted. He kept calling her “Ghost Rachel,” which became a giant turn-off by the ninth or 10th time he whispered it during foreplay. And “tell me the most depressing thing that’s ever happened to you, besides the daughter stuff” pillow talk was getting to be a downer. In the end, she had only so many bummer stories to share.
9. Betty Francis (last week: not ranked)
“I’m enrolling in the fall. Master’s degree. Psychology. I know it’s beyond your experience, but people love to talk to me. They seek me out for their confidences.”
“Should be fascinating for all involved.”
10. Torkelson’s Law (last week: not ranked)
“You got your models. You got your bottles. If you make it to lunch without bothering anybody, we’ll let you have whichever you want.” —Philosopher-king Jim Torkelson, on how to live life the Torkelson way.
Serious question: Probably everyone goes for the models, right? But can you choose both? It feels like you’d want to choose both, for maximum Torkelson-style debauchery.
Not ranked: Joan Holloway; Kenny Cosgrove; Johnny Mathis; Henry Francis; Gene Draper; Bobby Draper no. 5; Sally Draper’s whereabouts; Meredith; Caroline; Marie-France; Overdeveloped Elaine the supportive nurse; “Ellen”; the blender; some distant Rockefeller; chocolate shakes; the movers; the New York Jets; Life cereal; NAC; the Manson brothers; Nick at the diner; Architectural Digest; six dollars; Don’s big spoon; the coats in the closet; San Francisco; the flu; Burt Peterson; Peter Pan (the peanut butter); the negatives; the paper in Sarasota; Guernica; the stained carpet; the theoretical threat of extramarital syphilis; the records; the mover; no. 3, top row; the torn-up plane ticket; the NYC Guidebook to Being Poisoned by the City; Mance Rayder; Keith Olbermann’s childhood.