[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don and Sylvia eat Italian food … Don listens to Bing Crosby … Trudy and Pete have a heart-to-heart … Kenny passes the ketchup.]
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
This was a week in which Don Draper hid in dark offices while working on top-secret projects, eavesdropped at a hotel suite, and lurked in the shadows of a television set. But Don Draper is not a spy; Don Draper is an adman. Don Draper smoked joints in a clandestine hot box, drooling over the exquisite squiggles of ketchup on an illustrated hot dog begging to be smothered in the delicious suicide sauce that would hasten its own demise. Don Draper pressed an ear to a closed door, trying to hear how a professional ambush resolved itself. Don Draper sat across from a pair of swingers and barely concealed his disgust at how comfortable they were with a lifestyle that made public what he likes to do in private. Don Draper showed up unannounced at his wife’s place of work, desperate to observe his on-camera cuckolding at the hands of a pretty-boy actor, and to ensure that the verisimilitude of their pantomime lovemaking met his stringent husbandly tolerance standards. Don Draper made damn well sure his wife felt shitty about it. Don Draper shattered his own adultery land-speed record, going from crying-wife-in-her-dressing-room to penny-under-the-mistress’s-doormat in under 10 seconds. Don Draper avoided the crucified Jesus’s gaze as he got down to business, because even though there’s no God in Don Draper’s life besides Don Draper, he still didn’t want his partner’s lord and savior tsk-tsking along with every sinful thrust, because that is a real mood-killer.
Don Draper has had prouder weeks. Maybe not busier, but prouder.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Bottle Episode
Don enters his dark apartment, drops a penny into a jar by the door, the one he says is just there to collect loose change, the one that’s brimming over with copper, and sees Megan’s things. She’s there, inside, already in bed. He’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight; you tend to sleep on the couch on nights you ask your wife if she was planning to brush her coworker’s filth out of her mouth before coming home to you, and you weren’t just pitching a very out-of-the-box Colgate campaign. You also sleep on the couch on the nights when you not only ruin what should have been the biggest day of her career — even if that day entails getting dry-humped in a maid’s costume in front of a room full of Teamsters — but you go running right back to the woman who realizes you’re such a spiritual landfill she prays for your soul to find peace the minute you leave.
He sits down on the couch, still in the darkness, scanning the vaguely sinister outlines of all the trappings of a life that seems to give him no happiness. His eyes settle on a shape on the coffee table before him, one he can’t quite make out. A vase? No.
A bottle. But of what?
He picks it up. Its heft is instantly familiar in his hand.
A bottle of ketchup. The only ketchup.
“Hello again,” he whispers.
He unscrews the cap. It yields without a fight.
“You may have beaten me earlier. But things are different here. You’re not 40 feet tall in Times Square. You’re in my place.”
He inverts the bottle and raps its bottom several times with the meaty heel of his hand. Nothing. He strikes it at the base of its throat; nothing.
“So this is how it’s going to go?”
He delivers another three blows, each more powerful than the last. Nothing, nothing, nothing. He grabs it around the neck, tightly, draws it to his face.
“Fine. Have it your way,” he breathes across its mouth. “I don’t know exactly how this is going to work. But I do know one thing: When it’s over, at least one of us will be empty.”
Suddenly the tip of his finger is inside it.
He thinks he hears Megan stir in the bedroom.
He ignores the sound.
He has a job to finish, there in the dark.
2. Peggy Olson (last week: 2)
How are we supposed to feel about Peggy’s pitch? Are we supposed to cheer the student surpassing the master, even when the student is using the master’s stolen sword in attempting to dispatch him?
The ethics (ethics, ha-ha, Teddy Chaough smirks handsomely at your ethics) of it aside, wasn’t it a terribly risky move on a practical level to appropriate the master’s patented line of bullshit right after following him in that room? What would have happened if Don, fearing he wasn’t catching the fancy of Timmy Ketchup, had dropped a “change the conversation” into his patter? Would her simple, resentment-fueled messaging have been enough to overcome the awkwardness of it all? Maybe she was going for broke. Ketchup was, after all, in play, and ketchup is everything. Maybe she knew Don wouldn’t recycle his own material, making it almost too easy to steal. Maybe she thought, Hey, they want a bottle, and I’m giving them a bottle big enough to drown King Kong’s crinkle fries, so does anyone really care about who changed the conversation?
Still, it felt wrong. Peggy didn’t get here by stepping into the room and reading a leaf off her Draper-A-Day calendar. She got here with her own ideas.
But it didn’t matter. Timmy bought the J. Walter Thompson pitch instead.
They promised a 100-foot bottle.
3. Harry Crane (last week: not ranked)
When Harry Crane crashed that meeting to defend himself against whatever damning evidence he presumed Joan was presenting to her fellow partners regarding their confrontation over Scarlett’s firing, we expected a lot of things to happen, most of which involved everyone’s favorite office schmuck dousing himself in kerosene, striking a match, and being engulfed in flames while babbling about his right to hire and fire his own secretaries. What we did not expect to happen was Harry stripping himself to the waist and striking his bare chest one time for each of the 150,000 dollars of incremental business he generated by rebranding the nation’s no. 1 producer of jellied fire-death as the nation’s no. 1 family-friendly sponsor of singing quarterbacks in straw hats. Nor did we expect him to throw Joan underneath a Jaguar and do doughnuts in the middle of the conference room, wailing about how his broad-daylight accomplishments go unappreciated while her only-whispered-about ones are rewarded with a seat at the power table, a seat he feels he’s actually earned.
Even after things had ostensibly cooled off, and Roger and Bert offered him the equivalent of a year’s pay as a good-faith share in the spoils of his Namath-related efforts, he just pocketed the bonus and re-demanded the partnership.
The balls on this guy. Who is he and what has he done with the semi-tolerable, starfucking buffoon Harry Crane we all know and love to ridicule?
It’s gotta be the sideburns. They change a man.
4. Joan Harris (last week: 5)
No, having Harry dredge up the Herb Rennet situation in front of the very people who collectively enabled it is not the way anyone wants to spend a partners’ meeting, even if everyone in the room knows that her value to the firm far exceeds her onetime role as a Jaguar honeypot. Luckily, she had an old friend in town, and got to blow off some steam during a fun girls’ night out that started in the cougar killing fields prowled by Leo the Horny Waiter, progressed to a double makeout session inside a psychedelic fuck-pyramid soundtracked by Serge Gainsbourg, and resolved in a torn dress and a two-BFFs-in-a-bed-quality hangover. An entire life was lived that night, and a mild-mannered Mary Kay cosmetics slinger learned that it’s not easy to keep up with the Joanies.
5. Megan Draper (last week: 8)
Every woman dreams of hearing her husband say those 10 special little words:
“Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it.”
6. Stan Rizzo (last week: not ranked)
Sure, he was betrayed by Peggy, but he spends his days pretending he’s a secret agent whose primary mission is to get baked out of his goddamn mind, hide in a tinfoil-shielded room, and contemplate the mystery of whether a hot dog is crying out for either mustard or ketchup. He’s doing just fine.
7. Dawn (last week: not ranked)
“Everybody is scared there. Women crying in the ladies’ room. Men crying in the elevator. It sounds like New Year’s Eve when they empty the garbage, with all the bottles. And I told you about that poor man hanging himself in the office.”
Dawn really gets it.
8. Ted McGinley (last week: not ranked)
Dear Matthew Weiner,
It doesn’t matter how many Emmys you’ve won.
It doesn’t matter how much critical acclaim you’ve received.
It doesn’t matter how delightfully or unexpectedly you deploy him, whether as a swinging soap opera producer who says things like, “Why don’t you let me get the check, we’ll go to our pad, smoke some grass, and see what happens?” or even as a magical vagrant who shows up just to punch Pete Campbell in the nose with no explanation, then disappears in a cloud of smoke.
It doesn’t matter.
You have cast Ted McGinley in your television show.
This is the ultimate act of showrunner hubris, and you will be punished by the gods.
Your television show is doomed.
You knew the rules.
So, like, maybe only two more Emmys. Shared-credit ones.
You brought this on yourself.
9. Timmy Ketchup (last week: not ranked)
“What’s got two thumbs, 57 varieties of high-quality sauces, and wants to find a discreet place in Manhattan to get his bottle wet? This guy.”
[Licks wedding ring, slides it off finger, sticks it into pocket.]
10. Bob Benson (last week: 9)
“How are things, Don? Bob Benson. From upstairs. Beloit, Wharton … You’re right. This is running long. I’ll go fuck myself right now and save everyone some time.”
Not ranked: Roger Sterling; Pete Campbell; Kenny Cosgrove; Michael Ginsberg; Teddy Chaough; Bert Cooper; Betty Francis; Sally Draper; Leo the Horny Waiter; Johnny the Horny Friend; Kate; Ed Baxter; Raymond Geiger; vinegars, sauces, and beans; Joey Heatherton; Joe Namath in a straw hat; John Wayne; James Garner; Arlene; Rod; Scarlett; Meredith; hamburgers; Grandma and Baby Holloway; the red bed; tinfoil; J. Walter Thompson; $23,500; Dow Chemical; Nathan and Stephen; the time cards.