[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don takes an interest in puppies … Teddy shows Peggy his gratitude … Peggy writes some copy … Roger flies Northwest … Bert orders a drink … Pete and his father-in-law have a heart-to-heart.]
Don Draper (last week: 1)
“It’s morning. We know because we see the rooster crow. A farmer’s wife sits pancakes on the kitchen table, she puts a pat of margarine on top, and sets the dish down next to the yellowest fried eggs, a loaf of homemade bread, and a beading pitcher of heavy cream. Syrup pours. A smile comes over their Dorothea Lange faces.”
Now, we ask you: Is this the margarine pitch that wins the day, steamrolling over warm-up nonsense about the various Gilligan’s Island equivalencies of the butter-substitute oligarchy, or is this utter horseshit served with a side of perfectly crisp toast and artisanal marmalade? We honestly don’t know the answer; maybe it’s both. But there is, as there always is, the unflinching confidence in the delivery, because if Don Draper is good at one thing, it’s mesmerizing with his monotone while he paints the room around him sepia and then convinces you it’s never been a different color. The worst part, of course, is that now we desperately want some breakfast. And to drench it in margarine, it really brings out the flavor. Just like grandma used to make.
If there’s another thing Don Draper is good at, it’s drinking. Not “good” in the sense that the outcomes are in any way positive; he’s vomited into too many memorial service umbrella stands to make that claim. He’s “good” in the sense that when he breaks out a fifth of Canadian Club in his new partner’s office, he knows that by the time that bottle’s finished, one of them will just be getting revved up for his mistress and the other will be passed out on the creatives’ table, dreaming of bacon.
If there’s something that Don Draper is not so good at, yeah, it’s the thing where he tried his best to throw away his marriage while simultaneously destroying the one downstairs. What’s an emotionally desolate aspiring home-wrecker gotta do to end a marriage around here, keep two sexual hostages in a hotel room? The Saks bills might get out of hand.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Size 12
Don leans back in the chair. His eyes narrow with annoyance, then with sudden purpose. They track down to stockinged feet, to toes wiggling, imperceptibly, inside their imprisoning socks. Something is missing.
“Find my shoes.”
The Servant does not respond. The request is repeated.
And it is met with confusion, with silence.
“I want you to crawl on your hands and knees until you find them.”
“They’re right over there.”
A standoff. Don can win a standoff; Don always wins a standoff.
“Bring them to me.”
The ensuing silence is too much. The Servant breaks, brings them to him.
“These shoes are dirty. Shine them.”
“With what?” The Servant looks around, and finding no shoe-shining kit, uses the fleshy side of a hand.
“No, not like that.” Don gestures to a silver bowl on a table next to him. “Use that.”
The Servant looks at the bowl. It is full of sticks of margarine, sweating in their wax paper.
“Use the margarine. One stick per shoe. Now.”
The Servant does as told. The Servant finishes and looks up at Don, seeking approval, seeking release from servitude.
“So can we go on my airplane now? We’re going to be late.” The Servant hates to be late.
Don considers his shoes one more time. They are acceptably buffed, though a margarine shine will quickly fade. “Yes, we can go on your airplane now.”
The Servant smiles.
Because in the sky, surrounded by the wonder of God’s majesty, he will no longer have to serve.
And he has some great new aviators he can’t wait to show off.
2. Teddy Chaough (last week: 2)
Teddy Chaough flies his own plane! That’s huge for Teddy Chaough. Because otherwise this episode goes to a pretty bad place for him, perhaps with him blacking out in front of the copywriters and waking up four hours later to discover that Stan Rizzo has drawn a very delicious-looking, Heinz-slathered hot dog on his forehead.
But up above the clouds, Teddy’s in charge, no longer drunkenly babbling about the Mary-Annes and Gingers of the margarine world while his new partnenemy is word-painting a Norman Rockwell mural on his wall. He’s not just showering up and walking back in there like he owns half the place, he’s circling the building and writing his name in contrail outside Draper’s office window. All Don can do is look out at it, pour himself another drink, and wait for the midtown wind to dissipate the C H A O U G H gently floating there like weightless cotton.
3. Roger Sterling (last week: 4)
If Matthew Weiner suffers a total break with reality and decides to continue Mad Men for 14 more seasons, there may never again be a scene as delightful as Roger gleefully shitcanning previous Sterling Cooper redundancy Burt Peterson with extreme prejudice before he can so much as clack the metal balls on a desk toy. Getting to ax Burt again was probably the only demand Roger made when they were figuring out the broad strokes of the merger after the Chevy pitch.
“Remember Kenny Cosgrove? He’s touring the plant right now.” Those are some very stone-cold words to hear before being refired.
4. Peggy Olson (last week: 3)
Newly promoted coffee chief Peggy was hoping that Teddy was going to rub off on Don and not the other way around. She also was hoping that when she showed up for her first day of work at Sterling Cutler Cooper Gleason Draper Chaough that Don was going to show up at the door of her new corner office riding the Shetland unicorn he bought her as a homecoming present. Her expectations might have been slightly out of alignment with reality.
MOVE FORWARD, however, was a great pitch for their new post-merger relationship campaign. Don’s definitely going to steal that one.
5. Sylvia Rosen (last week: not ranked)
A lady can only play so many increasingly repetitive rounds of Wait Here In This Hotel Room Until I Decide To Drop By And Fuck You Because You Are My Sexual Plaything, Even Though We Both Know I’m Only Acting Like The Big Strong Dominant Man Because I Feel Like I Have No Control Over Any Part Of My Empty And Joyless Life Oh God Please Don’t Leave I’ll Stay In The Room This Time While You Go Run Errands Or Whatever Just Don’t Make Me Go Home before she starts to lose respect for a guy.
6. Bob Benson (last week: 6)
“Oh, hi there, Ms. Harris! I was just standing in my office on the stairs over here, minding my own business, when I noticed you were looking a little wan. Bob Benson. Beloit, Wharton, Accounts. Very briefly reporting to Burt Peterson, God bless him. I hear he’s already moved on to bigger and better. Anyway, we need to get you to the hospital. Let’s make a deal: I’ll help you out, bring you over there, and then I’ll go fuck myself, no strings attached? Does that sound OK? And then maybe I’ll stop by your apartment unannounced to make sure you’re OK, bring by a useless football for the toddler, charm your mom for a second? But I can’t stay long at all, they’ll miss me back at the office, where I’m a valuable new member of the team who’s well equipped, as a Beloit grad and Wharton MBA, to meet the challenges of a rapidly growing firm. Just doing my good deed for the day, it’s definitely not a two-pronged plan to keep my job in the wake of merger-related redundancies and to one day make love to a vulnerable, beautiful older woman with a powerful position at the company. Bob. Bob Benson. Maybe you want to write that down in case it comes up in a staffing meeting soon. Not that it would. Last hired, last fired, am I right? Enjoy the football, it’s yours to keep.”
7. Joan Harris (last week: 5)
One day we’re going to figure out how Bob Benson got that cyst onto Joan’s ovary and we are going to be very, very upset. And a little impressed. He’s got hustle, that Bob Benson. They should keep him around.
8. Margarine (last week: not ranked)
How many other greasy, budget-friendly sub-butters can boast of being an integral part of a French Emperor’s nutritional attack? If Stan and Ginsberg’s vision board doesn’t contain an image of a cheeky, brunching Napoleon sneaking a bar of margarine into his waistcoat, they didn’t get nearly high enough before the copywriter rap session.
9. Pete Campbell (last week: 8 )
[Cue music: The theme to The Odd Couple]
“On April 14, Pete Campbell was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right. But he also knew that someday, he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he retreated to his pied-à-terre in Manhattan. Several years earlier, Campbell’s mother, Dot, was widowed by the crash of American Airlines Flight 1. Now she needs a place to stay. Can an insufferable son being crushed by the pressures of a changing workplace and a penniless widow suffering from the early stages of dementia share an apartment without driving each other crazy?”
[Pete spears a sidewalk hot dog with the tip of an umbrella and presents it to his mother with disgust. She wanders off to set a teakettle fire.]
10. Bobby Kennedy (last week: not ranked)
It feels wrong to just stash him here at no. 10, two spots beneath margarine, but margarine had the bigger scenes. And at least Don tried to engage with his feelings about margarine, instead of just staring off into the distance as his grief-stricken wife sobbed on the bed next to him, paralyzed by the constant upheaval cascading around them. If that television had been showing a Fleischmann’s commercial, he would have been more present. Fleischmann’s is a total Ginger.
Not ranked: Megan Draper; Bert Cooper; Jim Cutler; Dying Frank Gleason; Sun Tzu; Harry Crane; Kenny Cosgrove; Burt Peterson; Stan Rizzo; Michael Ginsberg; Gail Holloway; baby Kevin; Bud Campbell; Andrew Campbell; Mohawk Air; the Sherry-Netherland; Room 503; the red dress; the Professor; Thurston Howell III; Parkay; the bowl of urine; furniture polish; Nurse Flannegan; Clara; Moira; Margie the doomed copywriter; that new copywriter with the glasses, what’s-his-name; gin & tonic; bridges to Manhattan; little headaches; children’s aspirin; good deeds; Topaz pantyhose; Leica; the New York State Thruway; Burt Peterson’s severance package; Pete’s conference room chair.