[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don takes Bobby to the movies … Peggy and Abe look at real estate … Betty considers an old dress … Harry and Pete have a frank discussion on current events … Joan hugs a secretary.]
Don Draper (last week: 1)
“If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”
No, that’s not right. It’s a little too trite at this point to start with a catchphrase so good even Peggy’s using it in pitches.
“I love puppies.”
Way off course. You probably don’t even remember how much Don loved Peaches Rennet’s story about the puppies. Let’s start again.
“I knew I was good, but I didn’t know all I had to do was show up.”
Mmm, closer. A solid bit of braggy business, but not quite what we’re looking for at this exact moment.
“The future is something you haven’t even thought of yet.”
That’s the one. We’re buying it in the room. Here we go.
Who could have foreseen this version of the future? We certainly couldn’t, and didn’t. The stupidly impulsive jettisoning of Jaguar, at the cost of both a public offering and Joan’s semi-private shame? A Hail Mary that landed the Holy Grail of clients, not just a car, but a top-secret car, a car without a name, a car that can probably fly, or at the very least fold up into a briefcase so that you could take it with you to the sprockets factory? An account whose handling would require an eleventh-hour, liquor-lubricated merger between blood rivals? To call this a plot twist is to undersell what just happened; it’s a plot explosion, a plot rift, a plot wormhole to a reality where Don Draper, whose eyes were opened too wide by the possibility of spectacular redemption to see what was happening right in front of him all along, decided to throw his lot in with the man who’d stolen his protégée. And not just his own lot, the lots of his unknowing, unwitting partners. Many of whom, it bears noting, were running around behind his back and playing their own games with the future of the firm.
“The future is something you haven’t even thought of yet.”
Hoo-ray. Wait a week and then show us what it looks like.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Mergers & Acquisitions
Don sloshes his old-fashioned, considers the man sitting beside him at the bar, who just stares into his own drink, letting the “we” dissipate into the air between them.
“How would that even work?” Teddy asks, after a long silence. “We have partners … who aren’t sitting in this bar.”
“We,” Don repeats.
“But — ”
“We.” A whisper. Then, softer. A breath. Half a breath. “We.”
Teddy tries to answer. He has misgivings. He barely understands the plan. But there is now a finger the size of a nightstick pressed against his lips, preventing any rebuttal.
“We.” Was it in his head now? Was it even a sound?
There’s a hand on his leg. Holding it firmly. Paralyzing his entire body. If the bar were to go up in flames, or to fill with floodwater, Teddy would have to sit right there, on that stool, because the hand commanded it.
The hand advances upward, tightens its grip.
“It’s not a question.”
” … We.” Teddy swallows the word even as he says it.
The hand continues on its path.
2. Teddy Chaough (last week: not ranked)
Don’t say he’s “nice.” He hates it when people say he’s nice. “Strong,” on the other hand, well, throw him one of those instead, and his tongue will be down your throat so fast, you won’t even have time to say, “Hey, this is a terrible idea. Not even Don tried this on me. And trust me, there were opportunities. My ex-lover tried to poop in his chair this one time, and things got pretty emotional.”
Yeah, that’s a mouthful, but you get the point: Give Mr. Alleged Nice Guy the idea that he’s Mr. Strong Guy, and he’ll be expressing his gratitude in osculatory form. Maybe he’s going through some stuff, what with his partner’s cancer and the pressure of pitching for an account he now needed instead of just wanted. Remember, though, that his wife picked up on this specific vibration at the Andy Awards; she knew it was imminent, like pets with earthquakes, but with the distant rumble of infidelity in her husband’s loins.
The merger, however — that was a surprise to everybody. You wouldn’t have seen that one coming if you were sitting on a barstool between Don and Teddy, holding the ruler for their impromptu pitch-measuring contest.
3. Peggy Olson (last week: 2)
New York City. May 17, 1968.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
The firms of Margaret Olson and This Is Some Bullshit would like to announce that it would’ve been nice if SOMEONE had consulted her about her new boss shacking up with the self-destructive human tire-fire of a mentor she finally found the courage to leave, hoping to make her own name in the world. Especially since her seemingly NICE new boss has now become an inappropriate object of sexual desire that she fantasizes about while physically engaging her perfectly sweet, if somewhat deadbeat, live-in boyfriend in their total splinter-riddled dump of a new apartment. Things were complicated enough! And now they expect everybody to move back into the place she so recently broke free of? Where, incidentally, a manipulative weasel who put an unwanted baby inside her also works?
“Make it sound like the agency you want to work for,” commanded partner and advertising sun king Donald Draper of his new copy chief, who is a pretty accomplished professional in her own right, before summarily promoting her to partner and giving her a corner office, a company car, and an annual salary of one million American dollars, plus benefits. “We know this is all a huge inconvenience,” continued Mr. Draper, “and you can be assured that your name will be on the wall, in front of mine. You’re worth it.”
Margaret Olson would like to stress that she is not even 30 years old. “What she’s accomplished at such a young age is truly staggering,” added Draper. “I am continually in awe of her.”
4. Roger Sterling (last week: not ranked)
A couple weeks ago, Don and Stan Rizzo were playing at the cloak-and-dagger stuff as they prepared their Project K pitch for Heinz. But Roger’s living it. He’s James Bond with better lines, in Brooks Brothers instead of a tuxedo. He has even taken up with an intelligence-gathering femme fatale with a vaguely vaginal name, who helps him find easy marks in the airline lounge, sabotage competitors with lost luggage, and sneak him onto the flight that won him entry into the Chevy bake-off.
Just call him Gold. Sterling Gold.
5. Joan Harris (last week: 7, for awkward hugs)
Joan makes an excellent point: If she could deal with Herb Rennet, Don could, too. Putting up with the professional insult of having his work checked over by Herb’s in-house flyer-boy would probably be slightly less humiliating than, you know, having to sleep with a giant man-slug for a partnership. No, she wasn’t 300 pounds lighter because of his misplaced, ex post facto gallantry; she was a million dollars lighter.
She’s really not going to root from the sidelines for that one.
6. Bert Cooper (last week: not ranked)
With a Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offering at $11 a share, Bert, though already a wealthy man, would finally have the means to pursue his tentacle-erotica hobby with the dedication necessary to assemble a world-class collection. When a man achieves a certain level of success, there’s nothing he wants more than to pour himself some spirits of elderflower, kick off his shoes, and run his toes through the lush shag carpeting of his study while enjoying a geisha’s penetration by insatiable octopi.
7. Megan Draper (last week: 3)
Last week, she’s winning awards. This week, she’s giving out good-luck blow jobs at the behest of her mother. On the one hand, this is not the most empowering development, especially for a character who’s becoming wildly successful on her own; on the other hand, it seemed to work. We’ll never know if Don would’ve been struck with the merger idea had he not received Superman-quality inspiration fellatio.
8. Pete Campbell (last week: honorable mention)
The key thing in any Mutually Assured Destruction scenario is the absolute confidence that your opponent is just as terrified of the prospect of being reduced to smoldering rubble as you are. You can parade around with the irrational confidence of being handcuffed to a briefcase containing your “caught my father-in-law in a midtown whorehouse with a 200-pound prostitute” launch code all you want; if he’s not going to be cowed when you open it on his desk and threaten to turn your key, your only recourse is to take it home to your wife and blow up your own house.
9. Bob Benson (last week: honorable mention)
“Night, chief! What’s that? You want me to grab you some ice before I go? Good thing I was coincidentally wandering by when you needed me! Bob Benson. Accounts. I work for you. Wharton. We still on for prostitutes later? I just value any time I can spend learning from you. Doesn’t matter if it’s here, in this doorway, wearing this blue suit identical to the ones I know you favor, or later, enjoying the services of professional escorts. Anyway, I’ll be right back with that ice! And then I’ll see you tonight. At the brothel. First girl’s on me. I always order two so I can give one away.”
10. Bob Benson Eavesdropping From the Stairs Above the Conference Room While the Partners Discussed the Jaguar Situation (last week: not ranked)
Not ranked: Daisy the Airline Lounge Hostess; Herb Rennet; Peaches Rennet; Tom Vogel; Trudy Campbell; Abe Drexler; Mikey O’Brien; Frank Gleason; Jim Cutler; Marie; Tarzan; Dr. Arnold Rosen; Sylvia Rosen; Mitchell Rosen; Kenny Cosgrove; Betty Francis; Bobby Draper; Dr. Zaius; Harry Crane; Michael Ginsberg; Stan Rizzo; puppies; dog nipples; Mother’s Day; the flowers; double Jim Beam; laudanum; the apple that goes in the pig’s mouth; Northwest Airlines; furniture; fixtures; the typewriter.