Mad Men Power Rankings, Episode 603: ‘The Collaborators’

David T. Cole/Grantland illustration Mad Men Power Rankings

[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don despoils Lindsay Weir … Peggy gives the copywriters a meatball sub … Beards and sideburns … Betty goes brunette … Roger’s mom really loved him.]

1. Don Draper (Last week: 1)

“That was the deftest self-immolation I’ve ever seen,” Roger told Don after he doused himself in gasoline, lit a match, and gave a vigorous bear hug to Herb Rennet’s plan to carjack Jaguar’s national ad budget for his local dealership. But as entertainingly flame-engulfed as Don’s sabotage was — he did everything to steer the campaign fatally down-market but pitch a buy-one-get-one-free offer for northern New Jersey’s most upwardly mobile sanitation engineers — it couldn’t hold a flickering Zippo’s worth of heat to Draper’s torching of his personal life. The situation with Sylvia has gotten so irresponsibly combustible that we’re probably just a week away from the two of them stumbling into the Draper living room in a furniture-torching bout of extramarital passion and asking Megan if she wouldn’t mind fetching them an asbestos blanket. (You know how Don feels about dirtying up a pristine carpet.)

Last Sunday, Don’s midcoital New Year’s resolution was “I want to stop doing this,” and Sylvia, having been the confidant for Megan’s tearful miscarriage story, offers an “I don’t know what we’re doing.” But they were already boning in flash-forward throughout their libido-accelerated Italian dinner, so it would have been awkwardly ineffective to call off the affair before the check arrived, especially when he’s professing to want nothing more than her, all the time.

Who will eventually win the war between Don Draper’s fidelity and the insatiable mind-Germans who keep Muniching up his every attempt to stay faithful with their endless, appeasement-fueled demands? Let’s put it this way: We’re not betting on “Don comes to his senses and learns to enjoy everything he has” over “Don lights his penis on fire and tries to extinguish it inside another neighbor.”

Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Just a Gigolo
Don approaches Apartment 17B, pauses in thought for a moment, slumps to the floor. He’s just come from Sylvia’s. He wants her, wants her all the time, and it’s taking a toll. But it has to stop. Doesn’t it? How can he open the door and go home to Megan after what he’s done? Is his wife really nothing more than good company across the dinner table from his mistress?

Then he hears it. A tuneful whisper at first.

I’m just a gigolo, and everywhere I go

Louder now. Loud enough to fill the hallway, fill his head.

People know the part I’m playing.

He raises a finger. “Do you hear that?”

The finger remains still.

Paid for every dance, selling each romance.

“Tell me you hear that.”

Every night some heart betraying.

“Look, this is no time for the silent treatment. I think I’m going crazy here.”

The finger twitches; slightly, noncommittally.

There will come a day, youth will pass away

“If you’re the one doing this, I just want to say this song is a little on the nose. I get it.”

Then what will they say about me?
When the end comes I know
They’ll say just a gigolo

He draws the finger to his lips, breathes hotly on it.

“You have to know I want what you want.”

Nothing. He jams it into his pocket with loose change, the house keys.

As life goes on, without me.

2. Peggy Olson (Last week: 2)

After New Secretary Phyllis lets Peggy know that maybe she’s being a little hard on the slacker morons in her employ, she offers the embattled copywriters her version of a Knute Rockne speech: “I don’t want you to think that just because I have high standards, that means I’m not happy with you. Especially with, you know, the way you are. The way you are has nothing to do with the fact that the work needs work.”

The answer to her generous forgiveness of their profound intellectual handicaps was, of course, a sarcastic “Thank you, Coach, we’ll try our best,” followed by a pitch for Quest Feminine Hygiene Powder, which “makes you nicer if you’re stinky” and is targeted to “professional women and other Olsons.” Score this a win for Peggy; the creativity is flowing, and it didn’t even cost her a sandwich this time.

Meanwhile, Teddy Chaough, the one-week holder of the “World’s Coolest Boss” title, has decided to convert her off-the-record bitch-session phone calls with Stan into actionable corporate intel. If Heinz ketchup is in play — it’s the Coca-Cola of condiments, after all — they’re going to give chase, friendships and assumed promises of confidentiality be damned. “Your friend’s mistake was underestimating you,” reassures Teddy. Nobody said that going to work for the enemy was going to be all shits and giggles. Now stop whining about betraying that hippie lumberjack and smack this bottle on the 57 until the money pours out.

3. Trudy Campbell (Last week: Not ranked)

Trudy signs off on Pete’s Manhattan pied-à-terre — and all the safely quarantined, adulterous games of Spank the Accounts Man that go along with it — and he repays her by screwing inside their suffocatingly tiny suburban social circle. This is not the life she signed up for; she got the kid, the house in Cos Cob, and the in-ground pool, but she also got a husband stupid enough to look a gift philandering horse in the mouth. She will end the marriage but make him her plaything, on call for whenever she needs a husband to make a public appearance. She will set up a 50-mile perimeter around her house and cut off any Lil Pete that dares poke its head out of a pair of blue trousers.

She will destroy him.

She will not be a failure.

She also might make him buy her new dishtowels; the old ones are a little bit dirty with the blood of his mistress.

4. Roger Sterling (Last week: 3)

It’s a testament to the power of the Roger Sterling brand that he can place as high as fourth in these Power Rankings for an episode he barely appeared in. We’re compassionate rankers over here, and we’re not going to deduct too many points if he needs to take it easy for a week after having his funeral ruined.

Maybe in Roger’s downtime his therapist can help him work through why he’s attributing Winston Churchill’s words to Mommy. There’s probably a good story there.

5. Joan Harris (Last week: Not ranked)

“I know there’s a part of you that’s glad to see me.”
“And I know there’s a part of you that you haven’t seen in years.”

Well, if we’re handing these out like candy to people who got off one good line in an otherwise absentee week, we’re certainly going to recognize Joan for zinging disgusting Jaguar pimp Herb Rennet. Maybe it doesn’t amount to much more in the grand scheme of things than a frustrated, metal-bikinied Princess Leia rattling Jabba the Hutt’s chain, but Leia did eventually get to strangle him to death with it. Fingers crossed.

6. Sylvia Rosen (Last week: Not ranked)

Sylvia very nearly ascended to the upper reaches of these Power Rankings, after briefly seeming to seize control of the affair after her cuckolded husband was called away — yet again — on an emergency, leaving her alone with Don and a mandate to consume four people’s worth of steak diavolo and branzino. Her momentary pangs of guilt — which, we soon learn, were really ones of jealousy — are soon overwhelmed by Don’s sexual Jedi mind trick. “You want to feel shitty right up until the point where I take your dress off. Because I’m going to do that.” And just like that, she’s Bobbie Barrett hoisted up on a table, or Megan pinned down on a white carpet, forgetting she may have had the upper hand for a minute, and worried that she’ll fall in love and ruin the exciting Frenchness of it all.

This one’s going to end so, so badly. If she wanted fun and French, she would’ve been better off blowing Roger Sterling at a fund-raiser. He knows how to keep things light and Continental.

7. Pete Campbell (Last week: 5, sideburns only)

Remember last week, when Pete’s sideburns seemed on top of the world? How perfect and modern and manicured they seemed, as if heralding a new and better Pete Campbell Era?

Alas, it was not to be. New facial hair, same old relentlessly unhappy shitweasel. We should have known better. Pete should have known better. Sideburns will not cure what ails you; they will just make the disease seem a lot cooler.

And so we’re right back where we left him, with yet another poorly conceived and executed affair blowing up in his face, this time in his kitchen instead of in a Metro North car, and erasing his marriage instead of his mistress’s memory. Well, not erasing, exactly; he still has to pretend he’s married when his wife wants him to, which should be a lot of fun for everybody.

If Trudy really wanted to scare him, she should’ve threatened to cut off the sideburns after the penis. Really hit him where it counts.

8. Megan Draper (Last week: 6)

We don’t even want to talk about it. Not this week.

9. Bob Benson (Last week: 8​)

“Hey there, Mr. Campbell. Pete, can I call you Pete? Bob Benson. From accounts. You know, when I came over here just to fill my lungs with a good whiff of all the success in this part of the building — success smells like money and fresh-baked bread, you know? — I couldn’t help but notice you might be living in your office. Tough break, I’m sure you’ll get through it in no time. Can I get you anything? Toilet paper? You don’t say! I just so happen to always carry two rolls! You never know who’s going to need their ass wiped, and better to be prepared than sorry. Ha-ha, I’d just use my hand if you asked. Kidding, but also not. Here you go. All yours. And if you don’t mind my saying, you make living in your office look so easy. Bob Benson. I’ll show myself out.”

10. Kenny Cosgrove (Last week: Not ranked)

A lesson to us all: Don’t go around telling everyone you’re getting ketchup before you’ve actually got ketchup.

Not ranked: Herb Rennet; Timmy Ketchup; Raymond Geiger; Dr. Arnold Rosen; Betty Francis; Sally Draper; Bobby Draper; Quest Feminine Hygiene Powder; baked beans; the bite-and-smile; Stan Rizzo’s beard; Phyllis; the idiot copywriters; Teddy Chaough; Johnny Carson; the Tet Offensive; vinegars; sauces; cheese and crackers; Englewood; Jimmy Condom Roadhouse; the maid’s room; branzino; Bing Crosby; Winston Churchill; the bloody towel.

Filed Under: Mad Men, AMC, Don Draper, Fingerbang Threat Level, Jon Hamm, Matthew Weiner, Peggy Olson, Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men Power Rankings, Mark Lisanti

Mark Lisanti is an editor at Grantland.

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