‘Mad Men’ Power Rankings, Episode 708: ‘Severance’David T. Cole/Grantland illustration
Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings: Don heads back to work … Roger has a surprise for Jim Cutler … Peggy sells some burgers … Bert Cooper and Megan Draper say good-bye … Teddy Chaough flies a plane … Lou Avery was a dick … an AMC executive cuts a baby in half for no good reason.
Don Draper (Last episode: 1 [tie])
We spent a long summer without Don Draper. An interminable fall. A cold, snowy winter, buried under the constantly replenished drifts of our loneliness.1 Finally, in the bloom of spring, he has returned to us from his 11-month disappearance into the ether of hiatus, a television phantom zone where he was sentenced to some kind of invisible, midseason training montage, our prizefighter of infinite sadness working the heavy bag of despair in preparation for his looming bout with oblivion.
But what a reappearance it was. All is forgiven, even if his absence wasn’t his fault. There’s Don, ashing into a coffee cup, purring commands to a model dripping with $15,000 of chinchilla, using the sound of his voice to make his wants her wants, and then America’s wants. “Close your eyes and take a deep breath, and when I tell you, you’re going to put your leg on that chair, let the coat slide down, and show me how smooth your skin is.” Now he’s in a tuxedo, crammed into a diner booth with Roger and his good-time gals, freshening up everybody’s drinks with his flask, spinning a yarn about a toaster cord and a blown-up uncle nobody was really listening to anyway. There he is returning home, alone, after a long night of Sterling-quality carousing, but only momentarily alone, because Joanne from the answering service — by the way, Joanne, what are you up to tonight? He’s only half-kidding — tells him he can press 1 for Laura the model, 2 for Maxine from Cosmopolitan, or 3 for a no-strings-attached, room-service layover with Tricia from TWA. Classic Don, in the sense that he’s once again attempting to fill up his bottomless need pit with the supple bodies of flight attendants. Pushing a couple of wives down there didn’t ultimately help him figure out how deep it is; he thought they might bounce back up, or that at least he’d hear the thud of eventual impact — but nope, no dice, just some fading screams echoing up from the abyss. He’s gotten used to the sound.
As long as we’re discussing “Classic Don,” we would be remiss if we failed to mention the encounter with the waitress. Classic, again, in the sense that lingering eye contact with a member of the opposite sex resulted in near-instantaneous copulation. The Chevy Draper goes from zero to inside you in under five seconds. After the ride’s over, he can toss one more waitress into the need pit. Maybe the eternally tumbling stewardesses and ex-wives and elementary school teachers and coat-check girls and dead department store heads will keep her company.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: The Waitress and the Dream
Don plops down onto a stool. He’s alone, even though she told him he’d better have a date with him the next time he showed his face in her diner. She just works there. As a waitress. Not as a questionable-back-alley-sex-haver at the beck and call of soused admen throwing around $100 tips.
“I got this one,” she says, waving off the server about to put a menu in front of Don.
“I’m back,” he says.
“I see that,” she says.
“So,” he says, locking into her eyes.
“So,” she says, meeting his gaze.
“So,” he says again, lifting an eyebrow.
“So,” she says.
“You see the eyebrow, right?”
He lifts it again. Then points to the eyebrow.
“So I had this dream. A dream about a woman I once knew—”
“Let me stop you there. You told me this story last time.”
“This is a different dream.”
“I feel like I’ve got the gist.”
“You remember what happened between us, like, two diner visits ago, don’t you?”
His hand is on the counter now. Inching toward her.
“So.” The eyebrow arches again. The hand creeps ever closer.
“I am not a sexual medium. You can’t settle your unfinished business with the dead through me. It feels a little weird that I even need to say that.”
She reaches over and touches his eyebrow, sliding it back down to a resting position. Grabs his fingers and guides them into a waiting cherry pie.
“Have some pie. You’ll feel better.”
She turns and walks away.
Don watches her retreat to the kitchen. He leaves his fingers in the pie. It’s cold.
He’ll be back tomorrow.
He’s been dreaming about his mother lately.
There’s a lot of ground to cover.
2. Kenny Cosgrove (last episode: not ranked)
In the long and storied history of these Power Rankings, our beloved Kenneth has never ascended as high as the no. 2 position,2 a tenuous place of honor for ascendant princes and princesses taking ill-advised shots at the king, or a soft place to land for a momentarily stumbling Don Draper. Take Kenny’s eye, fine. Make him tap-dance for your amusement, OK. But try to strike him down once and for all and, like an eye-patched Accounts Kenobi, he will become more powerful than any of us could possibly imagine. Roger’s going to live to regret his willingness to capitulate to Ferg Donnelly’s petty need to settle a $4 million frozen-food-related score, because while Cosgrove has been a pushover as an employee, he’s going to be a grade-A sumbitch as a client. Perhaps the universe conspired to keep him from ever writing that book — something sad and sweet, tapped out on a vintage Underwood, bit by bit, during a long hayloft residency funded by the Dow Weapons and Chemical Literary Fellowship — so that Ken Cosgrove could finally bury Ben Hargrove and Dave Algonquin and the half-dozen other noms de plume that would eventually byline stories about sad but noble robot elephants in Amazing Zoo Tales of the Future!, allowing him to fulfill his destiny as a splinter in the firm’s collective ass.
The world will be worse off without that book. But so will Pete Campbell’s life. That seems like a win-win for everybody.
3. Roger Sterling (last episode: 1 [tie])
The Second Half of Mad Men Season 7 Facial Hair Power Rankings stands thus after the stretch-run premiere. As always, no dissension on this matter will be brooked. Please put all further feedback into a burlap sack and drown it in the nearest river.
- Roger Sterling Swinging Silver Fox Mustache-Ride Invitation
- Pete Campbell’s Sideburns-Plus-Still-Retreating-Hairline Combo. (Please note: The inclusion of Pete’s sideburns qualifies his hairline — there’s now an exciting combover situation developing, and we can hardly catch our breath even thinking about it — for this honor.)
- Teddy Chaough’s Cop Stache, Which We Have Dubbed “Chaoughbotage”
- Stan Rizzo’s Grizzly Beard
- Whatever Harry Crane’s Doing, by Default, That’s All We’ve Got for Now Facial-Hair-Wise
We may or may not update these rankings on a weekly basis as circumstances warrant. It’s our call. Hurry up and move along now — that river’s practically begging to swallow your incorrect opinions.
4. Peggy Olson (last episode: 3)
A romantic, if alcohol-inspired, trip to Paris sounds pretty fun, right? Drunk Peggy’s definitely pretty fun, after a few glasses of Chianti help her complete the transformation from I Can’t Believe You’re Going to Eat Someone Else’s Veal Like That, What Are You, Half a Goddamn Man, Just Send It Back Peggy, who can be tough on a blind date who’s not prepared to scrap a little. She probably never saw herself with a lawyer, even as a reaction to shacking up with a radical like Abe, whom she could only get rid of by disemboweling him with a homemade spear. With no broomsticks, kitchen knives, or duct tape handy, she had to rely on the old “I can’t find my passport” gambit to put the brakes on the runaway train of their poorly considered intercontinental tryst, and then the “This feels like it’s more meaningful than a one-night stand” move to slow down their seemingly inevitable race to bed. Let’s all keep an eye on the evolution of this budding Stevie relationship; all those job interviews up and down the Eastern seaboard feel like a series of red flags. The eventual gut-stabbing still feels like it’s months, if not years, away. We might not even get to see it with a major series-finale time jump.
5. Joan Holloway (last episode: not ranked)
We hate it when Peggy and Joan fight. Take the elevator ride down from the humiliating meeting with the McCann Erickson boys:
“Should we get lunch?”
“I want to burn this place down.”
“I know, they were awful. But at least we got a yes. Would you have rather had a friendly no?”
“I don’t expect you to understand.”
“You’ve never experienced that before?”
“Have you, Peggy?”
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t dress the way you do and expect—”
“How do I dress?”
“Look, they didn’t take me seriously, either.”
“So what you’re saying is, I don’t dress the way you do because I don’t look like you. And that’s very, very true.”
“You know what? You’re filthy rich. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
As much as it pains us to linger on this unfortunate moment of strife between our bickering sisters, we have to award this round to Peggy. Moments later, Joan was turning down the former-employee discount at a department store shopping spree, basically conceding Peggy’s point about her fuck-you money. Fuck-you money doesn’t take an extra 30 percent off when it doesn’t need to, even if it quietly seethes through several minutes of idiotic double entendres. With that kind of net worth, Peggy would’ve strangled those bros to death with discount panty hose and burned the place down around their lifeless bodies.
6. Pete Campbell (last episode: 6)
“You know, I didn’t really get millions of dollars. I mean, eventually I’ll get millions of dollars. But it’s stepped out in smaller increments of, like, tens of thousands of dollars to stay out of that top tax threshold. I might have to buy an apartment building to hold on to any of it! A building full of people who send me money every month! Then I’ve got to be a landlord. Can you imagine me as a landlord? This one time my sink exploded up at the Cos Cob house and I just stood there while Don Draper took off his shirt and totally emasculated me in front of my wife. I don’t know how to fix a sink! Imagine if I were over at the tax shelter apartment building, maybe collecting rent, and all the sinks exploded, and I had to call him to take off his shirt again. It’s almost not worth it, to slowly get those millions of dollars, if Don’s just going to have to cut off my millionaire penis over and over again. Sorry you got fired. Tough break, pal.”
7. The Mysterious Visitation of the Dream-Ghost of Rachel Menken Katz (last week: not ranked)
Despite Diana the waitress’s understandable skepticism, we have to assume that it was, in fact, the ghost of Rachel Menken who visited Don in his dream. It’s long been established that Don sees dead people at a Haley Joel Osment level of ability; he’s very much in tune with the spiritual world, whether he appreciates the depth of his gift or not. Bert Cooper soft-shoed off this mortal coil in front of him. Anna Draper made a pit stop in his office as she transitioned to a post-corporeal existence. Any number of phantom hobos have turned up in his apartment to menace him with their spectral bindles, dumping unwelcome reminders of his old life at his feet. It’s not at all crazy for Don to believe that Rachel would drop in to deliver him some inscrutable message, then possess a look-alike diner employee for one last shag in a filthy alley. Some of those other unwelcome visitors from beyond demanded the same kind of cross-plane encounter before they’d cease their hauntings. You don’t ever turn your back on the supernatural after you’ve given a vagabond wraith a grudging handjob beside a trash-can fire in your own living room.
8. The McCann Erickson Douchebags (last episode: not ranked)
“They’re worried that L’eggs are gonna spread all over the world?” [Adjusts tie.]
“They’d be happy to meet you.” “Especially Dan Higgins — he loves redheads.” [Finger guns.]
“Would you be able to tell them what’s so special about your panties?” [Wrinkles forehead.]
“Basically, they’re more sheer, softer, and more like silk to the touch. Yet still very strong.” “So you can pull them down, over and over?” [Vigorous yanking-off-panties motion.]
“Do you wear them, Joan? Well, if you talk to Dan, I’d start with that.” [Giggles.]
“Why aren’t you in the brassiere business? You should be in the bra business — you’re a work of art.” [High five.]
“I’d set a lunch, but I think a dinner would be better.” [Ties on a pantomime bib, reaches for imaginary knife and fork.]
“Warm him up first. Send a basket of pears to Marshall Field’s. The one thing Dan likes is a nice pear.” [Traces outline of the giant seductive pear floating right in front of him.]
“This guy!” [Does that thing where you spread your index finger and pinky to groom your eyebrows, segues to simulating intercourse with his closed fist, coughs awkwardly as he finally ejaculates under table. Joan and Peggy exit in disgust.]
9. Teddy Chaough (last episode: 7)
Maybe our man Teddy has bucked up a little since we last saw him? At the end of last half-season, he seemed ready to plow his plane into an orange grove and take out an entire department at Sunkist. Now he can’t decide which models to disappoint after a casting couch session and the chasing of some rapidly shortening hemlines. There are three women in every man’s life, and all of them are waiting for him at a Vogue party downtown.
10. Stan Effing Rizzo’s Goddamn Ascot
Let’s go out strong here, everybody. We’ve got only six more opportunities to celebrate Stan’s crazy-good ascot game. What if this week’s ascot never comes back and we passed up the chance to mention it here? We can’t live with those kinds of regrets. We’re saluting it right now. Join us. It’s the right thing to do.
Not ranked: Harry Crane; Mr. Potato Head; Bert Cooper; Megan Draper; Betty Francis; Sally Draper; Meredith; Ed Baxter; the $100 bill; the plastic topaz; Jim Cutler; the passport; Cindy; Mildred Pierce; Maxine from Cosmopolitan; answering service Joanne; Laura the model; Tricia from TWA; the spilled wine; the comforter; Megan’s earring; L’eggs; David Bailey; power naps; Macy’s; the radicals; Lou Avery; the golf clubs; Jack Nicklaus; Pop-Tarts; cheap perfume; David; Ferg Donnelly; $4 million of Birds Eye; Mr. Rosenthal; the National Jewish Hospital of Denver; Dennis Ford; Emory; Stevie Wolcott; the cannelloni and the veal; Tilden Katz; the shivah cake; the interview in D.C.; Richard Nixon; casual racism against the Irish; the storyboard; Bob Benson.