Don Draper just keeps pulling out the dick moves. And with next week being the season six finale, who knows what he had in store for us? A lot of stuff happened on this week’s Mad Men installment, “The Quality of Mercy,” written by Andre and Maria Jacquemetton and directed by Phil Abraham. So much so that Ken Cosgrove gets shot in the face in the first few minutes and it’s barely a blip on the overall drama scale. Another great episode, this one really sets the stage for the impending finale. It also featured Roger Sterling’s proclamation that he “once held Lee Garner Jr.’s balls!” if that’s any indication. Well, not really. But that line sure tickles.
As noted, Don behaved pretty poorly this week, which makes for great television, but not necessarily for making his character any more likable. Don is still pretty worked up over the Sally-caused coitus interruptus… to the point where he is acting like Kirsten Cohen from The O.C. and stealthily spiking his orange juice with vodka. And taking the day off work. He is also very peeved by the growing camaraderie between Peggy and Ted, to the point where he goes out of his way in a meeting to embarrass the hell out of Ted and rob Peggy of her idea for the St. Joseph aspirin campaign.
This Don-shaming-Ted scene is perhaps one of the standout scenes this season. Fresh from screwing Ted out of the Ocean Spray account, Don claimed he was going to back up Ted and Peggy in increasing the budget for the Rosemary’s Baby-inspired ad. And he does, sure – but by claiming that the idea was Gleason’s final one and also bringing both Ted and Peggy to a near-panic as he “forced” Ted to think of why the ad idea was so “personal” to him (this reaction is echoed, on Don’s part, when Betty calls and says that she was “talking to Sally”). Kevin Rahm and Elizabeth Moss’s respective reactions of frozen fear as Don is going on and on about the whole “personal” thing is so incredibly brilliant. You know full well that they think he is going to blurt something out about them being involved. But he doesn’t.
His behavior here is driven by a multi-pronged spear of jealousy. For one, he has always felt this sort of ownership of Peggy. It was he who plucked her out from the secretarial pool and made her a copywriter. It was he who thought himself to be her mentor. There was always a sort of fatherly love going on there. Jon Hamm delivers such a palpable feeling of jealousy and betrayal as Ted touches Peggy’s waist during their mock pitch to him. He then informs St. Joseph that they are overbudget. Sure, it’s his right… but obviously his motivations weren’t pure. Especially in light of his falling out with Sally, Don is especially reluctant to relinquish control of his advertising “daughter” Peggy to Ted – and like he did with Sally last week, he effectively severs all ties with Peggy at the end of this episode by calling out Ted’s love for her and squashing Ted’s spirit in the process. Don has become very apathetic about the advertising industry as well as the creative process. But not apathetic enough so that he can let go of his jealousy and give other hungrier, passionate people their place in the sun.
Ken Cosgrove has got to be immortal, right? He survives a Chevy-caused car accident… and now a Chevy-caused hunting accident. He’s like a human Looney Tune. It’s cool, he just has to wear an eyepatch. But he comically voices his hatred of working with them and why he wants out of the Chevy account to Pete with, “I hate Detroit. I hate cars, I hate guns – I don’t even want to look at a steak anymore!” Of course, Pete wants the account instead and gets it… but needs to destroy Bob Benson first.
It’s a good thing that Bob has a deeper secret than his assumed homosexuality. And it’s interesting that he is yet another Don Draper, a self-made former extra man who wove together this falsely cheery identity. Hell, this assumed persona works too – Jim Cutler won’t let Pete kick him off Chevy because of how much they like him. Another great moment in this episode was Bob furtively speaking perfect Spanish on the phone, one would assume, to Manolo. The writers here probably wanted to perpetuate one of the growing hypotheses that he is a spy or something of a more fantastic nature. James Wolk as Bob is quite the revelation this week in his scenes with Pete. He turns from cheery to resentful to pleading on a dime. His Bob is inscrutable to the point of unsetting… it’s like he popped up in 1960s New York from Twin Peaks. Though, like Don Draper, Bob Benson is a force to be reckoned with. There is no doubt in my mind that he will end up being more powerful than Pete, who doesn’t fire him with the newfound intel that he is a fraud but rather uses it to keep Bob under his thumb. I could see Pete’s reasoning here, but really, Bob probably will conquer in the end.
Don Draper and Bob Benson – frauds really seem to succeed with alliterations.
That brings us back to Sally. She is still traumatized by catching Don in the act and tells Betty that she wants to go to boarding school, where she has to interview and stay overnight as a trial run. The boarding school plays out almost like a tough women’s prison, with the girls forcing Sally to bring in contraband goods. And she does… via Glen Bishop (oh hey, Marten Weiner!) and his friend, Rollo, who puts the moves on Sally. Sally’s not into it and Glen rushes to her rescue and punches his friend out. How great is Sally’s self-satisfied smile when Glen punches Rollo? Pretty damn great.
Sally wants desperately to be an adult and it’s refreshing here that she doesn’t go along with making out with someone she’s not interested in just because she is expected to, or wants to impress the other girls. She’s already not as societally impressionable as her two parents, who still try to fit into their cookie cutter worlds at the sake of their mental health. Though she does accept a “you’re a woman now” cigarette from Betty after she is accepted into the school. Nevertheless, the boarding school is a means with which to really cut off her relationship with her father. She even tells Betty, “My father’s never given me anything.”
While that statement probably isn’t true, Don has now effectively ended two very important relationships in his life: with Sally and with Peggy. And watching further fallout in next week’s finale with definitely be an exciting prospect.