[Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don helps out Teddy in a meeting … Peggy sees a monster … Bob Benson shows off his Spanish … Sally goes to school … Harry counts his traveler’s checks.]
1. Don Draper (last week: 1)
In an episode — a season-ending episode, no less — where Don Draper may have lost his marriage, lost his job (at least temporarily), lost his booze (at least temporarily), lost his Hershey bar, and lost a free shot at sun-kissed reinvention in California, how can he possibly hold on to the top spot in the Power Rankings? If this isn’t a silhouette of a man plummeting out of a skyscraper, taunted all the way down by shades of his creation before becoming a shadow of a puddle on the Madison Avenue pavement below, this is a desperate man clinging to a ledge, his well-manicured fingernails carving furrows into the pigeon-despoiled concrete outside his office window. One could, conceivably, call this rock bottom; one could call this five minutes of jackhammering to a rubble-strewn spot below rock bottom.
Or one could call this something else.
One could call this hope.
Hope is what you have when there’s nothing left to lose, when you allow yourself to dream that someday you’ll be able to replace a portion of what you’ve lost. Hope is a few free months to clear your head. Hope is a car ride through the Pennsylvania countryside, your young sons beside you on the bench seat of a Cadillac and your daughter looking absently out a rear window, on the way to a magical town built of chocolate, by chocolate. Hope is a detour through an unsavory neighborhood, a stop in front of a dilapidated former whorehouse that was once your home, such that it was, and is now someone else’s. Hope is a small child standing on the stoop of that crumbling house, enjoying a delicious cherry Popsicle, feeling like a normal kid for a fleeting moment.
Hope is the truth you finally share with your children, so that they can know who you were, who you are.
Hope is Don remaining atop these Power Rankings for another nine months of hiatus, because we probably just sold ourselves the same line of bullshit he’s been pitching us for six seasons.
It’s all in the timbre of his voice. The words don’t matter. Here we are again.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: A Golden State
Don stands across the office from Teddy. There’s an expectant look in Teddy’s eyes. A defeated look. A supplicant’s look.
“Do you want something?” Don asks, gesturing toward the drink cart with two outstretched fingers. Teddy’s eyes, those soon-to-be-begging eyes, lock on them, like a duelist on a foe’s holstered pistol.
“I don’t know how to say this, but I want to go to California.”
There’s a silence. A long silence. A silence during which you could cross a continent, plant a giant umbrella in the sand beside the Pacific, and look out onto the vastness of a new life.
“We can’t both go.”
Don’s eyes meet Teddy’s. They’ve never been more cold, calculating.
“I’m sorry, Ted. I wish I could help you.”
Teddy’s gaze snaps back to Don’s hand. It hasn’t moved, remaining frozen in the air, somewhere between what each of the men want. His gaze lingers there, in the empty space between the index and middle fingers.
He knows what comes next. But he needs to get to California. Lives depend on it.
“You’re going to California.”
Ted squeezes shut his eyes, and he’s on that beach, staring out across the ocean.
His ears fill with the sound of the surf washing away the mistakes of his old life.
There’s a warm breeze on his neck.
“I want you to.”
2. Teddy Chaough (last week: 6)
He loves Peggy, he said it, right there in her apartment, which he stood outside all night, pretending to be a cop just so he could see if she brought the guy home. If that’s not love, what is? But she didn’t bring him home. He worked in finance and ate with his hands. Teddy would never eat with his hands. Teddy would push her up against the door, tear off her clothes, and lie there with her, drenched in sweat and imagining a world where he could leave his wife so they could avoid all the sneaking around, the whispers of scandal.
Teddy would also never ruin his family’s lives. Even if it meant getting 3,000 miles away from Peggy, because the pain of being around her and not having her would be too hard to bear. Isn’t self-sacrifice the greatest love of all? You know, besides all the healthy kinds of love that don’t involve starting a disastrous interoffice romance with your protégé? He can ask Don how office affairs turn out, but Don would probably just suggest moving somewhere far away and starting over; it’s always worked well enough, at least until the overpowering memories of unwrapping a chocolate bar finally broke him.
And so Teddy will sell orange juice on the West Coast, and Peggy will stay behind, learning over time what a great big favor he did for her by removing himself from her life. It’s better this way for everybody. Maybe he’ll secretly name his next plane after her, the one he hangars at Santa Monica Airport and only takes up when he’s missing New York.
3. Bob Benson (last week: 3)
“Bob Benson. Beloit. Wharton. Detroit. Chevy account. Back in one piece. Maybe a bigger piece; that Detroit diet is hard on the old above-the-bathing-suit area. Lotta steaks. Hunting trips really stoke the appetite. Speaking of which: Always bring two rifles. You never know when somebody might forget to put theirs in the truck, and they’re mighty grateful you brought a spare. Nobody wants to share a rifle, it takes all the fun out of hunting. What’s that? Well, now that you ask, I already had a performance review, but what does my relationship with Ms. Harris and that angel Kevin, god bless his fat little baby cheeks, have to do with my job performance? I appreciate your candor. When you come over for Thanksgiving, I’m going to wear my special apron when I carve that turkey, and save you the white meat. Or the dark meat. I’ll take whatever’s left. I don’t have a strong preference for either, as flavorful as some people find the dark. And then we can all reflect on how fortunate we’ve been this year. No one’s more thankful than Bob Benson for the new job, new friends, and new opportunities to grow. Cheers! Here’s to hungry pilgrims and hungry sharks. Ha-ha, did I say sharks? No idea where that came from — there are no sharks in the Thanksgiving story. Here, have some more turkey. There’s another one in the oven, just in case.”
4. Peggy Olson (last week: 2)
“I’m not that girl,” said Peggy after Teddy proposed leaving his wife for her.
“I don’t want a scandal. I can wait,” said Peggy after Teddy offered to lie about working late on the Hershey account so he could stay with her all night.
“Get out,” said Peggy after Teddy told her he was moving to California so that she could stay and have her life and her career without him ruining everybody’s lives.
“Aren’t you lucky to have decisions?” said Peggy, realizing that the man she loved had already made the choice for both of them.
But isn’t it nice to be loved so much that a guy feels the need to put a continental buffer between them, lest his passion destroy them both? That has to count for something.
Nah, not really. Teddy’s just lucky she doesn’t keep a spear in the office.
5. Pete Campbell (last week: 4)
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM
M NY212 PC=
MR A C CAMPBELL III AND MR P CAMPBELL =
STERLING COOPER AND PARTNERS =
1271 AVE OF THE AMERICAS NEW YORK =
=NEED TO INFORM YOU. MOTHER LOST AT SEA. VESSEL SEARCHED.
PASSENGER PRESUMED OVERBOARD. YOU WERE KIND OF HOPING THIS WOULD HAPPEN, EVEN IF YOU WOULD ONLY ADMIT IT IN YOUR DARKEST MOMENTS. SHE BECAME A HUGE INCONVENIENCE IN HER SENILITY. THE LAST THING YOU NEEDED WAS A DODDERING ALBATROSS HUNG AROUND YOUR NECK WHILE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WAS FALLING APART. PRETTY HARD TO GET ANY ACTION AT THE PIED-À-TERRE WITH YOUR MOM ALWAYS HANGING AROUND AND SAYING YOU’RE MARRIED, AM I RIGHT?
=LOOK AT IT THIS WAY, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SPEND TO FIND HER KILLER, IT WON’T BRING HER BACK. JUST LET IT GO. SHE’S ALWAYS LOVED THE SEA, THOUGH SHE PROBABLY NEVER EXPECTED TO BE EATEN BY SHARKS. LIFE IS FUNNY LIKE THAT.
DEEPEST CONDOLENCES =
=SS SUNSET PRINCESS
UNIVERSAL CRUISE LINES =
=P.S.: BOB BENSON IS PROBABLY IN ON IT. WATCH THAT GUY, HE IS SLIPPERY.
=P.P.S.: YOU CAN’T DRIVE A STICK? WHAT ARE YOU, HALF A MAN?
=P.P.P.S.: ‘R’ MAKES THE CAR GO BACKWARD.
6. Roger Sterling (last week: not ranked)
Having Joan finally agree to let him be a part of Kevin’s life is not nothing. He gets to bring the box of cranberry sauce to Thanksgiving, just like any proud bio-dad would be happy to do. But ugh, that Bob Benson. What’s his deal? Why’s he wearing an apron and cutting the turkey? Is he schtupping Joanie or not? It’s hard to know how much intimidation to apply when you can’t quite put a finger on where he’s putting his fingers. He seems to like Pete Campbell, though. That Bob Bunsen guy gets along with everybody.
7. Stan Rizzo (last week: not ranked)
Two words: Holy fucking shit, fringe jacket.
That jacket was the sartorial equivalent of walking away in slow motion from the explosion you just detonated.
That jacket was the sex voice made wearable.
That jacket was better than whatever would have happened in California.
What a season. They might have to call it Stan Men next year.
8. Megan Calvet (last week: not ranked)
Is the Megan train leaving the Draper station? All it took was a night in the drunk tank for beating up a preacher, a capriciously reneged promise of a move to Hollywood, and the hasty double murder of two Francophone soap opera characters for her to finally get fed up enough to realize the relationship probably isn’t worth saving. They don’t even have any screwed-up kids of their own to complicate things. Megan can stay gone if she wants to.
But if she gets her own trip to a decrepit whorehouse, all bets are off. We’ve already learned about the power of hope.
9. Los Angeles (last week: not ranked)
It’s better than Detroit; it seems we can all agree on that. Nobody moves to Detroit to get a fresh start. They move there for Chevy, or they move there to get shot in the face, or they move there to get humiliated by their total inability to operate a yellow sports car.
Los Angeles: Come for the sunshine, stay for the possibility of total reinvention. And the tacos. Detroit doesn’t have tacos.
10. Manolo Colon, alias Marcus Constantine (last week: not ranked)
They’ll never catch him. Not with their limited resources and his head start. Once he collects all of Dot’s fortune, he’ll rendezvous with Bob in Costa Rica on Thanksgiving Day, and they’ll begin a new life together.
It’s a foolproof plan.
Soon they’ll be together again and everything will be perfect.
Not ranked: Joan Harris; Bert Cooper; Harry Crane; Betty Francis; Sally Draper; Beth Francis; Bobby and Gene Draper; Jim Cutler; Kenny Cosgrove’s eye patch; Detroit; the logo coffee mug; Young Dick; Nan Chaough and the Chaoughlings; Trudy and Tammy Campbell; Pete Campbell’s hairline; shaky hands; Bob Benson’s blue suit; Mel; Lee Garner Jr.’s balls from last week; the Hershey ceremony; Duck Phillips, Professional Headhunter; Lou Avery; the timeline; Margaret and Brooks Hargrove; Mack Johnson; Bud Campbell; Chanel No. 5; the pink belt; the Camaro Z28; the GM ’69 sign; the preacher; sharks; the dead bolt; the paraded ass; the shit bed; the unturned stones; cranberry sauce; the turkey; Dawn; Jeff Hunter; Spastic Robbie; Peggy’s pantsuit; the carving knife; the Popsicle; the verdict; freedom; Martinique; Fat Betty; intruding historical events; any Kennedy; drugs; the Season 5 finale Power Rankings; a cobra in a basket.