Mad Men Power Rankings, Episode 605: ‘The Flood’

David T. Cole/Grantland illustration Mad Men Power Rankings

[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don and Sylvia talk about faith … Peggy changes the conversation … Harry Crane files his performance review … Ted McGinley swings by … Heinz Ketchup goes great on hot dogs.]

1. Don Draper (last week: 1)

You learn a lot about a man in a time of crisis, and this week we learned that Don’s the kind of guy who responds to tragedy by worrying about the whereabouts of his mistress, crawling into the bottle of Canadian Club on his nightstand, and, upon waking the next day, bathrobe-swaddled and stinking of last night’s impromptu date with the forgetting-juice, taking the boy to the movies while the wife takes the other kids to a vigil. “What else are we gonna do?” he shrugs, ready to sit back down to the half-finished, rubbery awards-show chicken that is his life and pretend the world’s not going up in flames around him. You can’t really say any of this is particularly new information, but it’s always riveting to watch how these scenarios play out, to pluck at the jet-black What Will Don Draper Do? rubber band on your wrist and feel the blunt sting of the results.

Will he head up to Westchester to pick up the kids, taking them back downtown through the middle of the chaos? Of course he will. But he’s not going to like it. And he’s going to pawn them off on Megan, because she’s better at this kind of feelings thing. And because there’s some whiskey calling his name, offering to take the edge off of how his son thinks his stepfather’s important enough to be assassinated. Don’t be stupid, you little asshole, nobody would bother wasting a bullet on him. Now shush and watch a filthy Charlton Heston lament the senseless destruction of Earth a second time. If you’re good, we’ll drive by the Statue of Liberty on the way home and see if it’s jutting out of a postapocalyptic sand dune yet.

Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Signal 30
Don opens the door, steps out on the balcony. He takes a deep breath of sharp night air. It’s been a day.

He lights a cigarette, filling his lungs with hot relief. He exhales and relief leaves his body, immediately replaced by anxiety, by stress, by the loneliness of existence. Not existence in general — most people seem to deal with that without too much difficulty — but his existence. He feels like the only man on a balcony in the entire world. Not just on this night — on every night. It is his burden. He’s learned to live with it, if not always gracefully.

He inhales again. He closes his eyes.

And, for the first time in a long time, he hears his city call out to him. He hears its sirens. He hears its cries. Seven and a half million souls that need saving just as much as his.

He exhales, opens his eyes. And he sees it. Projected up against a bank of dark clouds, clouds fortified by the still-smoldering fires. A beam cutting through the night, resolving in the sky above his slumbering city. A silhouette. Unmistakable.

Half a fist. And two fingers, powerful fingers, defiantly rising from it.

His own fingers stir. They know the signal, even though it’s been a long time, far too long. He holds them up to the silhouette. They fit perfectly inside it. The signal is for him. Who else could it be for?

It’s time to go to work.

In an instant, the cigarette is falling to the pavement, and Don is off the balcony, out of the apartment, down on the street.

He’s not sure where he’s going. But when they call, he comes.

That’s what the signal is for.

2. Peggy Olson (last week: 2)

Peggy lost the Andy Award. To Megan. And she lost an Upper East Side apartment to somebody willing to go a little higher than $5,000 below list. But she gained something far more valuable: the knowledge that her boyfriend is so intimidated by her earning power that he’ll quietly move into a neighborhood he doesn’t like because he doesn’t feel like he has the right to complain. It’s not his money.

She’s got herself a kept man! And he wants kids! Stay-at-home dad! Who looks like a young Frank Zappa! And has ideals and stuff!

Huge wins for Peggy. There will be other apartments and other awards, according to the real-estate agent and the shitfaced Teddy Chaough, respectively.

In your face, Megan.

3. Megan Draper (last week: 5)

Plaque on front of award:

Advertising Club
Of New York
1967 Andy Award
Of Excellence
Megan Draper

Plaque on back of award:

Is Cheating
On You
the Doctor’s Wife

Plaque on bottom of award:

He Hates
Your New Job
Big Fans

You win some, you lose some.

4. Bobby Draper (Last week: not ranked)

[Don crawls into bed with Bobby, who can’t sleep.]

“Hey, champ. Having trouble falling asleep? Don’t make me sorry for taking you to that movie. Oh, it’s something else? Well, let me tell you a little bedtime story. Once upon a time, there was a man who never wanted to be the man who loves children. But then one day, a baby came out and he acted all proud and excited and handed out cigars. But he didn’t feel anything. He’d had a difficult childhood. That’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.

“He wanted to love it. But he didn’t, and the fact that he was faking that feeling made him wonder if his own father had the same problem. Then one day the baby got older and he saw it do something and he felt … that feeling that he was pretending to have all along. And it felt like his heart was going to explode.

“Anyway, happy birthday. Wait. It’s not your birthday? I could’ve sworn it was your birthday. Honest mistake. Remind me to tell you this story again on your birthday. Now get to sleep, champ. Daddy’s going to step out on the balcony and have a smoke. The world’s really closing in on him tonight and he needs a little breather. See you in the morning.”

5. Betty and Henry Francis (Last week: not ranked)

What’s that? Henry Francis isn’t important enough to be shot? How about if he takes the vacant Republican State Senate seat, running virtually unopposed, and from there it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to state attorney general. After that? Sky’s the limit. The mayorship, Congress, whatever. Plenty of opportunities for a wing nut to put him down. Bobby’s never going to sleep again.

And as for Betty, well, she’s been waiting years for Henry to finally fulfill her ambition for him, and to restore her to her rightful place as a trophy wife. She’s dying to be rescued from a life of soul-killing suburban motherhood, to fit into that blue dress again, to be on the arm of an important man who says things like, “I can’t wait for the people to meet you, to really meet you.” To be too busy living her life to scold the kids about what they’re doing to the wallpaper in the bedroom, or for neglecting their eyebrows. To go blonde again. To claw away her latex fat suit in sticky clumps, throw it in a shallow pit in the backyard, and light it on fire with an improvised Reddi-wip torch.

The Francis family is going places. Well, at least a couple of them are.

6. Harry Crane vs. Pete Campbell (Last week: Harry Crane, 3; Pete Campbell, not ranked)

Harry vs. Pete, round-by-round:

Round 1:
Harry: “The clients won’t take make-goods; they want their money back.”
Pete: “That’s disgusting.”
Harry: “I don’t know. Enough of this crap already. All these special broadcasts preempting the prime-time schedule. Bewitched, Merv, Dean Martin. You know they might cancel the Stanley Cup?”
Pete: “How dare you! This cannot be made good. It’s shameful! It’s a shameful, shameful day!”

In the face of a historically terrible tragedy, if you’re going to try to be the “practical one,” you’d damn well better throw down something better than a witch-com and hockey. A shameful, shameful performance.
Winner: Pete Campbell.

Round 2:
Harry: “Don’t you scream at me! You don’t think I’m upset about that man being shot?”
Pete: “Only because it’s costing you, you pig!”
Winner: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is merely “that man”? Harry Crane is indeed a bottom-line-obsessed pig.

Round 3:
Harry: “It’s costing all of us. When is it gonna stop? Nobody will be happy till they turn the most beautiful city in the world into a shithole.”
Winner: Pete Campbell. Harry is really burying himself underneath a mound of his own flaming garbage; it doesn’t even matter how Pete answered.

Round 4:
[They shake hands at Bert Cooper’s urging.]
Harry: “I’m sorry. I suppose that my comments were inappropriate. I mistook this for a workday.”
Pete: “Don’t worry, I’m sure you can make your money back on a Movie of the Week about the death of a great man.”
Winner: Sick burn, Pete.

Round 5
Pete:”We are in the presence of a bona fide racist.”
Harry: “That’s the new thing. EVERYBODY’s a racist.”
Winner: The new thing is that Harry is getting his racist ass handed to him by a guy who was beaten up in a conference room and on a commuter train last season.

Round 6:
Pete: “Let me put this in terms you’ll understand: That man had a wife and four children!”
Harry: “You don’t care about Dr. King at all. Or civil rights. This is all about the family that’s slipping away from you because you’re a greedy, dissatisfied monster who can’t learn to be happy with what he has, isn’t it? This is all about Pete Campbell, just like everything else.”
Winner: Let’s pretend Harry said this so it isn’t a shutout. He desperately needed a win here. Even Pete’s sideburns are better.

7. Joan’s Awkward Hug of Dawn (Last week: Joan, 4; Dawn, 7; awkward hugs, not ranked)

She means well. But how do you properly express sympathy for the murder of America’s most important civil-rights leader to an individual whose rights he died championing? If you’re Pete Campbell, you make a giant show of calling attention to your own grief while shouting down the insensitive idiot in your midst. If you’re Joan, you delicately wrap an arm around a secretary and let the awkwardness of the embrace do the heavy lifting. Neither gesture was particularly elegant. But the emotion was communicated, however ineptly.

8. Michael Ginsberg (Last week: not ranked)

“You have to have sex with me. My father said that even in the face of the biblical flood, the animals all paired off and got laid. It’s how God would want this date to end. We’ll do it like the giraffes. You always see them sticking their necks out of the top of the ark, looks like they’re having fun.” —Thing Michael Ginsberg could’ve said to Beverly the Schoolteacher that would’ve been less uncomfortable than his blurted-out first-date admission that he was still a virgin.

9. Randall Walsh (Last week: not ranked)

You’d rather not think about it. But there is a tear, and in that tear are all the tears in the world. All the animals are crying. And an insurance man is tripping super balls in an ad-agency office because he ate the peyote the ghost of Dr. King gave him before transforming into an eagle with Tecumseh’s weeping face.

10. Harry Hamlin (Last week: not ranked)

Now Matthew Weiner’s just messing with us. Who’s next, Alan Rachins? [Waves good-bye, steps into open elevator shaft, dies.]

Honorable Mention: Bob Benson (Last week: 10)

[Loiters near copywriters’ desk, notices script, flips through script, doesn’t see name, sighs deeply, wanders off to find quiet place to go fuck himself.]

Not ranked: Roger Sterling; Joan Harris; Bert Cooper; Stan Rizzo; Abe Drexler; Trudy Campbell; Sylvia Rosen; Arnold Rosen; Sally Draper; Gene Draper; Phyllis; Scarlett; Ginny the real-estate agent; Kenny Cosgrove; Teddy Chaough; Timmy Ketchup; Paul Newman; Bobby Kennedy; Eugene McCarthy; the Andy Awards emcee; chess; the Others; Ethan Rom; Thomas Mapother; the UES; Le Cirque; Molotov cocktails; peyote; the wallpaper; shut up, we know it wasn’t Alan Rachins who died in the elevator shaft on L.A. Law; Diana Muldaur.

Filed Under: Mad Men, AMC, Christina Hendricks, Fingerbang Threat Level, Jessica Pare, Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men Power Rankings, Mark Lisanti

Mark Lisanti is an editor at Grantland.

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