‘Mad Men’ Power Rankings, Episode 710: ‘The Forecast’David T. Cole/Grantland illustration
Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don makes a milkshake for the kids … Roger reconnects with an old acquaintance … Megan gets more than she asked for … Peggy and Stan make a new friend … Harry Crane lends his professional expertise … Pete goes golfing.
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
On the bright side: For the first time in this final half-season, one Donald Draper was not preoccupied with establishing some kind of connection — sexual or otherwise — with the sad waitress of his recently-deceased-ex-lover-haunted dreams. That depressing train has left the bad-idea station, and it was almost a relief when we reconnected with him naked and alone in bed, with neither apron nor comfortable shoes leading a path to it, needing to be roused from sleep by the unfortunate real estate agent tasked with moving an $85,0001 fixer-upper redolent with the spiritual funk of bummed-bachelor neglect.
On the less-than-bright side: Roger, realizing he’s too rich and too Bahamas-bound to push the mission-statement boulder their new overlords rolled into his office, assigned Don the hilariously Sisyphean task of composing this Gettysburg Address of corporate busywork memos about their hopes for a brighter, McCann Erickson–led future. And who better to do it than the firm’s Abraham Lincoln of perpetual existential crises? Four score and seven silent screams into the void ago, he may have deceived himself into thinking he had some kind of handle on what it all meant. But not now.
And so Don dragged his permanently furrowed brow from office to office in search of the answers he himself had sought in every candy bar pitch meeting, every sepia-toned whorehouse remembrance, every coat-check-closet or diner-back-alley quickie. What were they even there for? To eventually land an oil company, a pharmaceutical, or, dare to dream, the white whale of all-weather radial tires? To craft a catchphrase so perfect it would drive everyone in America to madness, tearing off their ears and slapping them down at the cash register with their Coca-Cola purchase? To become the not-so-secret jack-off fantasy of a cigarette magnate? Or, on a more personal level, to not be called a sloppy drunk or a man of no character in consecutive weeks? To raise a child with goals more inspirational than to grow up to be different than her alcoholic, part-time father? Or one who at least extends the simple courtesy of not calling him out for harmlessly — harmlessly! — flirting with her 17-year-old friends (what is he supposed to do, embarrass her by refusing to light her coquettishly presented cigarette)? There are no satisfying answers to these questions, not for Don. Except, perhaps, “Yeah, maybe don’t flirt with the teenager in front of your daughter.” That’ll mess up your already angry kid pretty good.
At least the apartment sold for the asking price. Somebody realizes that wine stain will come out with a little club soda and the tiniest bit of hope.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: French Castles
A small café in the south of France. A man in a suit, conspicuous for being overdressed, enters, finds a seat, and rests his fedora on the table. A waitress arrives to take his order.
“Coffee. Si’l vous plaît. Is that how you say it? I don’t speak French.”
The waitress doesn’t answer. The man pantomimes drinking from a small cup. She returns with coffee and sets it in front of him.
“I’m new here.”
The waitress stands in silence.
“Castle up the road.”
She turns to leave, but he grabs her elbow.
“It’s very well furnished.”
She crosses her arms.
“The Frisbee game was good to me. Frisbee? Yes?”
He motions as if casting a flying disc across the café. Her face registers no recognition.
“You remind me of someone.”
She raises an eyebrow. It’s unclear if she understands.
“There was this waitress back in New York. New York, yes? Yes. You know New York. She wasn’t from there. She was from Wisconsin. You probably don’t know Wisconsin.”
No response, but she hasn’t walked away yet.
“She was sad. So very sad.”
He rubs his eyes theatrically, as if wiping away tears.
“We were sad together. But not for long.”
He grabs the waitress’s hand. She does not recoil, meeting his intense gaze.
“How do you say … no. Comment dites-vous … sad? Are you sad, too?”
She doesn’t answer.
“Tell me, do you have alleys in France?”
She holds up a finger. One moment. She unties her apron. Places her order pad on his table.
Then walks off down the winding village street, never looking back.
“I have a castle,” he says to himself, not loud enough for her to hear. “You should see all the furniture, it’s almost too furnished.”
He closes his eyes.
Then opens them. He’s sitting on the floor of an empty penthouse, next to a carpet stain he can’t quite identify and an overturned bottle of rye.
He flicks his wrist, sending an invisible Frisbee toward the open door to his balcony. It sails out into the Manhattan night.
2. Creepy Glen Bishop (last week: not ranked)
It was nearly time to retire the “creepy” moniker, as the onetime weird-kid obsessive turned now-magnificent mutton-chopped bastard suddenly appeared at the Francises’ doorstep, announcing his noble intentions to take up arms on behalf of the United States of America and protect the country he loves, Kent State massacre and dove-ish pen pal Sally’s misgivings notwithstanding. The plan seemed immediately clear, if not foolproof: Somehow distract Sally and his hippie girlfriend long enough to get a private moment with the enduring, flaxen-haired object of his dreams, or, failing that, return alone to the house to discuss his heroism with her, hoping against hope that a lifetime of hot-mom-next-door sexual fantasies would culminate in a patriotism-fuck so flag-wavingly intense it would prompt President Nixon to end all hostilities in Southeast Asia and obviate Glen’s imminent deployment.
Alas, it was not to be. Maybe he misread the vibes. Maybe he underestimated Betty’s commitment to her marriage. Maybe he overplayed his hand and shouldn’t have presented her with the same pair of scissors he used to snip off a lock of her hair years ago, a horny boy breathing deeply of her intoxicating premium-shampoo scent, and asked if they could make love atop a pile of her freshly shorn locks, because that’s the way he’d always dreamt of their inevitable coupling, and if he was about to die in Vietnam, that’s the memory he wants to go out on, gut-shot and bleeding out in the muck. No, Glen remained creepy to the end. And we have to respect him for it.
3. Roger Sterling (last week: 2)
Look, the Power Rankings realize that Roger barely appeared on Sunday night, putting us all in a very difficult spot, rankings-wise. What are we supposed to do, banish him to the ignominy of the Not Ranked section like a goddamn off-week Harry Crane, among the irrelevant day players and obsessively catalogued inanimate objects, with a mere four episodes to go? No. No. That was never going to happen. Consider that he was the one who put Don’s impossible quest for meaningful answers in motion. Consider that a mere week ago, he was making inconsiderate love on his friend’s dirty carpet, with his soon-to-be ex-wife’s mother, moments after she’d cleaned him out. Consider that he is Roger Sterling, and our time left together is vanishingly short. There will be no Sterling’s Gold spinoff, no matter how deeply we ache for it. We get what we get and then it’s over. Just like in life.2 So let’s treasure Roger for a moment, even if you think you can make a strong case that he’s a 7 or 8 at best this week. Still: You’re wrong. He’s a 3. Deal with it. The Power Rankings have spoken. We’re going to miss Roger most of all.
4. Hanoi Sally Draper (last week: not ranked)
It’s nice to spend some time with Sally again. Making Betty temporarily seem like a good parent in enduring her nonstop sass, signing some traveler’s checks at the kitchen table, throwing a nice scare into her mom about her virginity on the eve of a class trip to D.C. Watching in horror as each of her parents oozes with reciprocation from even the slightest positive attention from the opposite sex, no matter how jail-baity the source of the clumsy come-on. That’s life with the Draper-Francises, the only life she’s known. And that’s why she wants to get on a bus and drive as far away from them as possible, even though she’ll never truly escape them. It feels like murdering Don is finally off the table, that our moribund PatricideWatch will end not with a fatal stabbing but some increasingly weak punches to where her father’s sad, lonely heart beats wanly in his chest as she realizes he’s right about one thing: She’s more like them than she’d ever want to admit.
5. Peggy Olson (last week: 5)
What does Peggy want? What does she see in her future? To become the firm’s first female creative director. To land something huge. To have a big idea. Create a catchphrase. No — to create something of lasting value, and yes, something of lasting value in advertising. To ascend to partner. Then to name partner, watching as a steel “Olson” is bolted to the lobby wall. To sit across a desk from Don Draper, hanging on well past retirement age because he’s got nothing to retire to, demanding that he write down his dreams. And then taking that dream list, staring him right in his disbelieving eyes as she takes a well-earned, defiant shit on it. That’s what she wants. Those are her dreams. No one really needs more of a career plan than that.
6. Joan Holloway, Richard Burghoff, and the “Previously on Mad Men” Specter of Bob Benson (tie; last week: none ranked)
Is this where Joanie finally finds some measure of happiness? With an older man who stumbled into her life while looking for his optometrist, swept her off her feet with long dinners at the Oak Room and delirious talk of the fully unencumbered life? Well, maybe if she comes to her senses and ships off the 4-year-old to Dr. Dumbfingers’s family, wherever they may be. Because you can’t jet off to the pyramids at a moment’s notice with a rugrat in your luggage — what, are you insane? THIS IS NOT THE CAREFREE FANTASY LIFE HE WAS DREAMING OF WHEN HE DUMPED HIS WIFE OVER THE POSSIBILITY OF ONE DAY MAKING LOVE TO A BUXOM AND SUPERHOT RICH LADY IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPHINX’S CRUMBLING PAWS.
It doesn’t matter that he brought flowers to her office. It doesn’t matter that he apologized. It doesn’t matter that he’ll rent a place near a park and invite grandma and the kid over all the time, just so that he can be a part of her life. Because before the opening credits even rolled, there was Bob Benson — sweet, tortured Bob Benson — offering to marry Joanie in an arrangement that would be only marginally less tragic than settling for the handsome divorcé who’s impetuously rearranging his retirement plan to include her. Bob Benson would have loved her forever, unconditionally, in his own damaged way.
So, no: We’re not exactly sold on Richard. Have fun in Egypt, pal.
7. Pete Campbell (last week: 7)
“We have a peanut butter cookie problem!”
We say this with the utmost respect, but: Maybe shut the fuck up just a tiny bit, Pete. This is not your week. The dumb kid said the F-word in a pitch. You once got your ass kicked in front of the partners by an Englishman who called you a “grimy little pimp.”
Chewing gum on the pubis, dude. Chewing gum on the pubis.
8. R.I.P., John “Johnny” Mathis (last week: not ranked)
“Well, gentlemen of Peter Pan, let me start out here by addressing the unfortunate events of our last meeting and saying, Wow, you Tinkerbells sure have some giant peanut-butter-slathered balls to walk into this place after the way you embarrassed yourselves last time! [Total silence.] Haha, it’s a good thing I brought along this bar of soap in case anyone wants to clean me off with it — I was a dirty, dirty boy. [Places soap on table. Total silence.] I mean clean my mouth out with it in case I say ‘fuck’ again. Whoops! Look what I did! [Grabs bar of soap, takes a giant bite of it. Total silence.] You boys ever hear that story about Don Draper and Lucky Strike? [Takes out pack of Lucky Strikes from his breast pocket. Total silence.] They wanted to give him a handjob! [Makes handjob motion. Lights and smokes entire pack of cigarettes at once. Succumbs to terrible coughing fit. Total silence.] God, I hate Don Draper. I have half a mind to tell him that right now. See you later, assholes!” [Trips as he exits the conference room. Total silence.]
9. Teddy Chaough (last week: not ranked)
Teddy Chaough has been to California. He’s stood on the beach and looked out over the endless water and seen nothing but a shimmering abyss that extends into the meaningless forever. And now he’s back in an office in New York, broken-spirited but with eyes wide open, and you want to know what he wants out of life? An oil company, sure, or those Goodyears we talked about. How about less to actually do but more to think about? OK, but that’s something he’s not great at — he’s too hands-on a manager. No, he only wants one simple thing.
A doughnut. Not any doughnut. The special kind of doughnut you take a big, greedy bite of, then watch as it magically regenerates itself back into a whole. A forever doughnut. Yes, he realizes that’s something he can’t actually have — forever doughnuts exist only in his mind as the real ones on napkins on his desk slowly disappear. But we’re talking dreams here. And that’s his dream. All of his other dreams washed away into the ocean a long time ago.
10. The Unexpected Return of the “Lou Avery Is a Dick” Memorial Power Rankings Slot (last week: not ranked)
Sometimes you want the band to play the greatest hits, sometimes you want them to play the obscure B side that you love just as much. And you think they’re not going to play it. The concert’s over. But the house lights are still down. Suddenly the singer’s strolling onstage, alone, clutching an acoustic guitar. He takes a seat on a stool. He begins to strum. There’s no introduction, but you recognize the opening chords immediately.
He’s playing “It’s Like Gomer Pyle, But He’s a Monkey” for you. Just for you.
What a dick.
What a magnificent dick.
Not ranked: Betty Draper; Harry Crane; Kenny Cosgrove; Ed; Meredith; Bobby Draper; Gene Draper; the real estate agent; simple subtraction; Gail Holloway; Kevin Harris; skim milk, grapefruit, a pot of coffee, and French toast; Roger’s barber; Dee; Sunset to Highland to Cahuenga; the Beverly Wilshire; the potential Warren Beatty sighting; the thesaurus; five times in 60 seconds; Jim McCloud; a series of Dear John letters in kids’ handwriting; the 13 colonies; the ethnically ambiguous WooWoo mascot; minor nearsightedness; roving bands of traveler’s check forgers; the library; Jack N. Hackar; the Oak Room; Palos Verdes; five-year prison terms; tourist trap lobsters; the vending machine; the dictaphone; the young stockbroker from Jersey; The New Yorker; Paula; Jane Fonda; Sally’s backpack; Rye Playland; the gin and tonic; Maureen, the life-ruining babysitter; the scary cowhorse; the World’s Fair; the floor of the Senate; Yolanda; Sarah; the machine gun; the Brady Bunch; the asking price with 30-day escrow; the sad new tenants of 17B.