Mad Men Power Rankings, Episode 611: ‘Favors’David T. Cole/Grantland illustration
[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don goes for a swim at a Los Angeles party … Roger has a disagreement with an ex-employee … Peggy and Joan reach an understanding … Jim and Teddy successfully brainstorm … Pete Campbell learns to appreciate Janis Joplin.]
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
You were expecting Sally Draper in this spot. You are disappointed that Sally Draper is not in this spot. You are thinking to yourself, This is an outrage that Don Draper is still in this spot. He’s always in this spot. Why is he still in this spot? Did these idiots not watch the episode I just watched? And then you are thinking to yourself, loudly enough inside your head that maybe some barely squelched shouts leaked out into the room, startling the dog and the rabbit, and you’re now yelling, “These are called the POWER Rankings. Doesn’t Sally have all the power right now? One little word to Megan, or to Arnie and/or Mitchell Rosen, and this whole shit-sweater Don’s knitted for himself unravels, relentlessly and ceaselessly, until his shoes are covered in yards of the filthy yarn of his lies and he is standing topless in the middle of his living room, tearing out his own chest hair with his meaty hands because of his pathetic grief!”
And then you are looking in the mirror, ashamed that you’re getting so worked up about this, and then you realize you are the self-same idiot who is writing these words, too late into the night, and you may have now talked yourself into it. Shouted yourself into it, really. Things are getting loud up in here. You are typing with your fists. Maybe take a deep breath and stop doing that.
Fine. Fine. Fine.
Don Sally Draper (last week: unranked)
Are you happy now? Good. Because that makes exactly one person in the world who’s happy. You. Who else is happy? Not Sally. She had to see her father pumping away on top of the neighbor lady, then had to listen through her bedroom door as he tried to sell her some jive-ass line about comforting Mrs. Rosen during a difficult time. She’s walked in on Mommy and Henry before, she knows what it looks like when sex is being made, in a wide variety of Mommy sizes. So not only is Daddy cheating on Megan, he’s treating Sally like a stupid child, and that’s almost worse. She’s almost ready to go all the way herself. Mitchell’s going to be a pilot soon, then fly her somewhere distant and exotic, a place far beyond second base.
Don’t tell her it’s complicated, because it couldn’t be more simple: Daddy let her down again. All that’s left is for Sally to decide what to do about it.
2. Don Draper (last week: 1)
“Dear Brigadier General,
I’m writing to you at the behest of Mr. Theodore Chaough, who informed me that there might be exciting opportunities for young men of exceptional promise in the Air National Guard. But let’s forget about all that for a minute. I don’t want to waste your time listing all my best qualities to try to convince you that I do indeed hold that exceptional promise you’re looking for.
I’m here to talk about dreams.
Picture this: a sleeping baby wriggles gently in his crib. He suddenly wakes up. He cries, as babies ripped from peaceful slumber tend to do. Is he colicky? Perhaps. But that’s not important. His parents enter the room, see he’s crying. And they do not feed him. They do not change him. They do not burp him. They spin his mobile. A mobile of tiny airplanes. Red plane, white plane, blue plane. The notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” play. The baby stops crying immediately. The planes fly round and round, in an endless circle. His eyes are fixed on them. And he drifts back to sleep. He dreams of those planes.
Now that same boy is 5 years old. He’s running in a park, in delirious circles. Round and round. Arms extended, flaps down. Did I say he’s running?
High above the clouds even though his feet never leave the ground. He’s free.
We visit that boy once again. But he’s 19 years old. A young man, walking through that same park. Hands deep in his pockets. The world is a different place. You can read it on his furrowed brow. But then something happens: The hands come out of the pockets. His arms extend. He’s running. Twisting, diving.
Flying. Free again. Because in an increasingly dangerous and complicated world, the brave men and women of the Air National Guard have assured that freedom.
And what is flying if not the ultimate expression of freedom? From fear, from limits, from gravity.
Brigadier General, it’s time that young man learned to fly. For that sleeping baby dreaming of planes. For that child in the park.
Very truly yours in flight,
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: A Farewell to Arms
Don extends a hand. Teddy grasps it greedily. It’s not a peace offering. It’s a binding contract. The end of a war that only one of them knew was being waged.
Their eyes meet, lock. Teddy raises an eyebrow.
“The war’s over, Don.”
“So you can let go.”
“Fine, Ted. If that’s the deal.”
“That’s the deal.”
Don does not let go.
He grips tighter. Almost imperceptibly so, but he knows Teddy can feel it.
“We just agreed you’d let go first, Don.”
“OK, so let’s try this. On the count of three, you let go.”
“One … two … three … now.”
Don does not let go.
“You didn’t let go.”
“You didn’t. I think I would have noticed you letting go of my hand.”
“Do you notice this?”
Don’s finger breaks free of their clasp. It dances out from Teddy’s palm, snakes around his thumb. It’s a caress at first. Then it’s something different.
“I thought we were lowering our weapons,” Teddy whispers, as Don’s probing invader thrums back and forth across the webbing between Chaough’s index and middle fingers. “I thought the war was over.”
Don’s finger strikes.
3. Teddy Chaough (last week: 7)
There was a very valuable lesson learned this week: At the end of the day, it’s all your juice when you own part of the firm. You don’t need to get so hung up on the concepts of “his” juice and “your” juice. Just imagine a giant pitcher in the middle of the office, maybe next to that table where all the creatives are smoking dope, into which everyone dumps all their juice at the end of the day, and on the side of that pitcher is the name “Sterling Cooper & Partners.” It’s a collective juicing operation. It doesn’t matter who poured what, or even how much they poured. Just be happy the pitcher’s getting filled. Then get in your plane and fly home, because you have a fucking plane.
Don doesn’t have a plane. Just saying.
4. Peggy Olson (last week: 4)
If you were trying to hunt a rat loose in your apartment, there are probably worse tools for the job than a crude weapon fashioned from a broom handle and a steak knife. If nothing else, it provides the necessary reach to keep the terrifying varmint at a safe distance, far out of the rabies-spreading range of its tiny maw. And then there is the thrill of the hunt to consider — would there be anything more primally empowering than the stalking and dispatching of a disease-riddled intruder at spear point? The downside, of course, would be the risk of flashback to that time when you accidentally disemboweled your boyfriend. But go ahead, opt for the trap, the coward’s way out. The streaks of fresh blood on your hardwood floors left by a half-dead rodent trying to drag itself out of your life probably won’t at all remind you of the erstwhile life partner you gutted.
There is also the nuclear option to consider. Pros: It is genetically engineered to eliminate your rat problem. No muss, no fuss. Cons: There is a certain stigma attached to a single woman who lives alone with a furry, indifferent predator. While you’re stroking it as it sits at your side on the couch, pretending to comfort you while it merely bides its time until you are of some use to it, you might succumb to painful thoughts of the budding office romance that will probably never bloom, no matter how many times you drunkenly moon at each other before climbing into a flying death trap. Though you might think that Mr. Phineas Q. Whiskerface is purring with sympathy, he’s just waiting to feast on the delicious salt of your tears after you fall asleep in front of the television.
Don’t be a cat lady, Peggy. Be a spear lady.
5. Dot Campbell and Manolo Colon (last week: not ranked)
How many different ways did Dot need to say it? She has waited long enough to experience the physical aspects of love, and Manolo has awakened something long-dormant inside her. Reignited a fire in her abandoned loin-furnace. Released the sexual Kraken from its cage deep beneath the roiling Sea of Widows as she waits atop a nearby cliff, a lusty sacrifice straining against the shackles of desire, ready to be devoured whole.
Is this merely the hot-flashing throes of dementia, or is Manolo a full-service murse, nothing but a well-compensated gigolo in a health care professional’s clothing? Maybe he’s just a little too good at what he does. He’ll take his month’s pay and move on to the next job. There’s no shortage of smoldering carnal campfires that need stoking.
6. Bob Benson (last week: 3)
“Bob Benson. Beloit. Wharton. Accounts. But you know that already. Do you mind if I shut the door? Sit down. Drink this. I made two, this one’s for you. That’s good, drink up. Mind if I join you? Whoops, I drank the whole thing already! Haha. Delicious. Can I ask you something? Is it really so impossible to imagine happiness? Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you, very good care of you, if this person would do anything for you, and your well-being was his only thought … is it impossible that you might begin to feel something for him? When there’s true love, does it matter who it is? Oh, I’m sorry. That’s my knee down there. I got a little bit lost in this incredibly intense eye contact. Should I move it? Or let it linger there for a moment longer? OK, you moved your knee, I respect that. Signal received. Now let’s not throw around words like ‘disgusting’ too hastily. What if I told you I am a secret government spy, sent to monitor the internal workings of a high-profile ad agency? Would that change anything? No, of course not. That’s ludicrous. I don’t even know why I brought that up. Oops, knee’s back. Let me move that out of the way. Sometimes it’s got a mind of its own. Oh, you already moved yours again. And I can tell from the way you’re looking at me that this has been something of a miscalculation on my part. How about I pay Manolo his severance? I got you into this awkward situation, I’ll get you out. I’m more than happy to take care of that for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to meet my incredibly busty sex-bombshell of a secret girlfriend. Whoops, guess that just slipped out. We have a big beach date this weekend. Enjoy the rest of your drink. We’ll never speak of this again. And I promise not to linger by your office door, or gaze at you longingly through the conference-room window from my perch on the stairs. I have a girlfriend. She’s incredible. I’ll tell Manolo you said hi. Bob Benson.”
7. Stan Rizzo (last week: not ranked)
Why is Stan using his sexy voice? Baby, this is the only voice Big Daddy Stan’s got. [Stan rolls over, high-fives anonymous one-night stand, hangs up phone.]
8. Pete Campbell (last week: 8 )
He can’t even think about his mother brushing her teeth. So this Manolo thing, well, you know. He just hopes they’re staying away from toothbrushes now, because that’s an image he’s not going to shake, especially when she wanders into the living room with an Oral-B sticking out of her mouth as she gets ready for bed every night.
9. The Rosen Family (last week: not ranked)
Well, at least their kid’s not going to die in Vietnam, right?
10. Don Being Late for Meetings (last week: unranked)
When’s that meeting, Dawn? It already started? Maybe it’s time to get Don a pocket calendar. He’ll just fill it up with coded tryst appointments, but you at least have to try to get a system in place.
Not ranked: Roger Sterling; Harry Crane; Megan Draper; Betty Francis; Julie; the fill-in doorman; Nan Chaough; the Chaoughlings; Jim Cutler; Ross McCarthy; Ocean Spray; Sunkist; the box of oranges; Paris; the Manhattan; excellent French; Lake Erie; Antioch; the classics; Stan’s ladyfriend; the 1-A designation; the half-dead rat; Raisin Bran; the keys; Stan’s sex partner; Teddy’s hobbies; the XP; a young person’s sense of his own mortality; Eleanor Roosevelt.