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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.6 - The Strategy





Down to the second-last episode of the season, and things are starting to heat up. Will Don keep his job? Will the computer destroy SC&P from the inside? Will Peggy ever smile? Find out all this and more!

No previously on - did they cut it or did my stream? Alison Brie is BACK, Chellas writes, Abraham directs.

We see a sweet '60s car, which contains a Burger Chef customer. SC&P has just given a bunch of people free meals and is literally bribing them to stick around long enough to answer questions. I dunno, there's got to be a better way to go about this. Meanwhile, Pete and Bonnie fly out to New York, and Pete is smoking, which causes this 2010s flyer to damn near faint. He and Bonnie bicker about money, but still seem very much in lust. Bonnie asks to meet Tammy, but Pete shuts this down, claiming it will "confuse" her. Furthermore, Bonnie is a little concerned that Pete hasn't managed to get divorced yet. They shut off the tough questions by plotting their induction into the Mile High Club.

Don is not on a transcontinental flight, but instead setting up his apartment in some sort of nefarious scheme, I'm sure. We get our first glimpse of Joan's family - Mom is still there and Kevin is enormous and blond. Bonnie goes to hang out with Don in his office, since Pete's tied up with business and she's bored. She is soon followed by her twerpy boyfriend. Pete struts around the office with Bonnie, completely nonchalant about being not-quite-divorced with a bouncy blonde California girl on his arm. Don views the entire spectacle with skepticism.

The creative team, plus Cutler, Pete and Harry, go through Burger Chef together. Pete is unctuous as usual. Peggy gives Pete an awkward look and Don a slight smile (!), Avery has perfected the cranky grandpa expression. This is exacerbated when it becomes clear that Pete still considers Don to be the true authority. Peggy launches into the pitch. She feels that moms feel guilty when they serve their families fast food (still true today, only more so), and their campaign needs to "give permission", so to speak. The ad involves a harried mom having a great meal at Burger Chef, yada yada. Avery loves it, but Don merely says it's "on strategy". She credits Don with the tag, but it's quite clear who's the creative force here.

We find Roger in a sauna, where he runs into one of the execs from Burger Chef's former agency. They trade barbs about their various shortcomings. The rest of the ad world has heard about their quest for Philip Morris, and everyone considers Don to be a massive burden.

Peggy is summoned to Avery's office, where he and Pete praise her to the skies. Of course, they then drop some bad news on her - they want Don to give the presentation. Or at least Pete does. He further explains that he wants Don to speak from the father's point of view and Peggy from the mother's, which is offensive in like eight different ways. Peggy gives her side of the argument. Their minds are made up, however. Oh, and Ted's on a conference call with them, which nobody told her, adding an extra layer of awkward. "You know she's every bit as good as any woman in this business!" Pete blusters. Finally, Peggy grits her teeth and agrees. She then goes off to have a good cry, something she's done a lot this season. And frankly, I don't blame her.

The car contingent arrives from Detroit, toting Bob Benson, who is delighted to see Joan. The guys all hit on Joan and discuss the computer. As soon as everyone's out of sight, Bob immediately arranges a dinner with Joan. Besties for life!

Peggy goes to see Don and "gives" him the presentation. Claiming it was her idea, of course, though her voice is very shaky when she does so. Don doesn't really believe her. He suggests changing it around to be from the kids' perspective, which clearly interests Peggy. After too many ego blows, however, she shuts his idea right down. Leaving his office, she runs straight into Megan, freshly arrived from California. Her arrival causes a bit of a stir - one secretary didn't even know Don was married - but Peggy for one is delighted. Stan comes in to say hi and update them on Ginsberg, who is still in the looney bin. Though the creatives are quite pleased to see Megan, Don is rather ambivalent. Once they're gone, Peggy picks a fight with Stan just because.

Cutler interrupts Roger on his way out, telling him to play ball with Philip Morris or else. We get a glimpse into Bob Benson's life. Apparently, at some point his Detroit friend (boyfriend?), some kind of ad or car exec, tried to pick up an undercover officer and got hit by 1960's sodomy laws. He drives the guy home, denying the entire time that they're anything alike - especially when the exec implies that he could threaten his promising career, which seems to include a job offer from GM. He mentions having a wife who "understands". Bob's eyes light up. Watch out, Joanie.

Peggy can't sleep, going over the campaign again and again. Pete arrives in Greenwich to find Tammy, now as strangely grown-up as Kevin Harris, in the care of a nanny (Verna). Annie Trudy is nowhere to be found. (PS: Has anyone heard the fan theory that Tammy will grow up to be Annie Edison's mom? Because it's officially my headcanon now.) Pete gets a bit over-enthusiastic. Tammy remains shy, despite the promise of a Barbie from California. Pete Campbell's tiny, shriveled heart shatters into a million pieces. Aww.

Don wakes up and simply watches Megan for a while. She's made up breakfast out on the balcony. They embrace, but Megan seems somewhat detached. Peggy is at work, of course, and tries to get Stan to come in. Not only does he refuse, but he also insists that Peggy take the day off too. She almost has a heart attack at the idea. Still stuck on the campaign, she can't let anything go. "There's always a better idea," says Stan with a sigh.

Pete returns, cheered up a little by a happy Tammy. Trudy's car is in the drive, but Verna claims she's not home. Pete's bitchface returns in a hurry. He calls Bonnie and tells her he'll be late.

Don gets a phone call from Peggy, and by the way, Megan wears the most AWESOME peasant blouse in this scene. If I were that skinny I would totally raid her wardrobe. Anyway, Peggy's called to tell him that his idea sucked. She's a bit tipsy, incidentally. Don goes from amused to pissed. Peggy flips out at him. They hang up on each other.

Back in Connecticut, Trudy arrives home to find her semi-ex-husband raiding the fridge. She plays the gracious hostess. He's figured out that Trudy's dating again, and is not pleased. See, women with kids should never date, ever - it's immoral. Trudy gets him with a few good barbs of her own. The argument continues, Trudy tells him he's no longer part of the family, and he ruins a cake which was probably baked by Verna anyway.

"Uncle Bob" arrives at Joan's, where Kevin clings to him like a limpet. The group heads out for a nice day together. Don reads an old newspaper from the Kennedy assassination. Guys, remember newspapers? They were such a great morning ritual. Anyway. He finds Megan gathering some of her things to take back to California - more than she'd planned on, mind you. Megan looks bored as hell every time she has to interact with Don. They decide to take a trip together, away from LA and New York and all the associated baggage. Also, Don mentions coming back to California "at the end of July", which would suggest we're near summer, which means MOON LANDING, baby!

Bonnie comes back to the hotel room after a long day of shopping, where she complains about how little attention Pete's been paying to her. She says she doesn't like him in New York, then gets snappy when he starts to nuzzle her. Um, what was that?

Don has fled to the office, where he finds Peggy hard at work. She's rude and snotty, convinced that he's going to pull some kind of Hail Mary pass during the pitch at her idea's expense. He tries to calm her down, but she has an answer for everything. Seriously, when did she get so bitter?

Finally, she asks him to "show me how you think". He replies that it's impossible, then pours them both a drink and tries to start. He's refreshingly honest: "First I abuse the people whose help I need, then I take a nap." So Peggy really is his protegee!

Kevin and Grandma are packed off to bed, leaving Joan and Bob together. They barely have time to sit down before he brings out an engagement ring. WHAT WHAT WHAT? Okay, I kind of saw this coming after the conversation in the car, but seriously, Bob, you have more grace than that, even if you did blindly hit on Pete Campbell last year. She tries to stop him, seeing right through the act even after he plants a kiss on her. "You shouldn't be with a woman," she says, proving once again why Joan Holloway Rules the World. Can you think of anyone else on this show who would have responded the same way?

Bob quietly, sadly tells her that he has been with a woman before, though his tone tells you immediately that it has been at huge personal cost. He suggests that either she move to Detroit or they become bi-city. As well, he could totally be Kevin's new dad. Joan is not happy, and so he plays the "last chance card", essentially telling her he's her best offer if she ever wants to stop living with her mom. She tells him she wants love rather than "some arrangement" - and it's not impossible for him, either. Hey, guys, Stonewall was in June 1969, right? Maybe change really is just around the corner.

Also, Bob's suit is a fucking disaster.

Don and Peggy rehash the commercial for the billionth time. Peggy thinks their latest idea is too much like 1955, though Don comments it was a good year. Hey, you can't have '50s nostalgia yet, everyone knows that was invented by George Lucas in 1973. They talk about having the mother be a working mom, though Don can't think of a profession with her. "You're surrounded by all kinds of mothers who work, Don," says Peggy bitterly. Still, Don considers it "too sad", so it's back to the drawing board. A bit worn out, they create the most dysfunctional scenario ever. "Does this family exist anymore?" Peggy asks. They reflect on their broken lives for a bit. Peggy mentions that she turned thirty and feels like a screw-up. Thirty already? Well, she was twenty-six in "The Suitcase" (May 1965), so I guess that makes sense.

Don says he's never worried about Peggy's future, though Peggy asks him what he has to worry about, since she's apparently the stupidest fucking person who ever lived. For God's sake, you were his secretary, you had front-row seats to that particular disaster. Not to mention the events of "The Suitcase". You're one of like two people who have ever seen Don Draper cry. Don talks about how lonely he is. Peggy thinks of all the happy families she saw while collecting research, and wonders where she went wrong. Time for Prince Don to step in and reassure her. This allows Peggy to come up with The Idea, which involves getting away from modern distractions and spending time with family. Frank Sinatra starts to play, so Don asks her to dance, because why not?

And so they dance, her head on his chest, his face buried in her hair. It's beautiful and we've been waiting for it all season. Ladies and gentlemen, Don and Peggy are back and the world is as it should be!

Megan and Bonnie are on the same flight, each of them alone. I'm practically crying at the sight of all that leg room. Sure, it was first class, but tell me that even first class is that comfortable today.

Cutler announces that they've lost Chevy, which he blames on Roger. He suggests that they recover by playing up the computer angle, placing Harry Crane front and centre. Oh, and Harry's a partner now, too. Joan's especially pissed off, since he didn't have to whore himself out. In fact, she refuses to vote. She goes to drink with her baby daddy, where she reveals that she found out about Chevy from Bob, who's headed for Buick. Roger thanks her for the information. She storms out. They're going to take Harry down, aren't they?

Don, Peggy and Pete meet up at Burger Chef, where Don and Peggy try to sell Pete on their ad idea. Don even sticks up for Peggy when Pete questions her. Also, they're smoking in a fast food restaurant. They don't even do that in Moscow! Times really have changed, I guess. They settle down to dine on burgers, and what the hell, they have a little fun with it. Who needs real family when you can have work family?

This episode was quite well-written, as you can see from the number of times I've quoted it. And my God, did it ever have some beautiful moments. The reconciliation between Don and Peggy was perfect, along with the return of Pete into SC&P life. Personally, I think this is setting up for a Joan-Roger-Pete-Peggy-Don split, though who knows with this show? All in all, it was very strong, and for my money the best episode of the season. Many people will compare it to "The Suitcase", and it really did capture the same vibe.  I do worry that Weiner might lose his head entirely and push Don/Peggy as a romantic angle, which we all know is completely stupid, but come on - that won't happen, right? The episode had a few strong, well-developed plots which grew the characters we love - and that is what you need from a show like Mad Men. It was an utterly engrossing forty-five minutes.

Next week - the mid-season finale, ominously titled "Waterloo". Humiliating defeat for one of our main characters, or unexpected jump forward to Eurovision '74? You decide.

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  • Posts

    • hoipolloi


      1 hour ago, Howl said:

      I never really got how Doug Phillips ended up establishing Boerne Christian Assembly; the church met way the heck out in the country in a little white church building with no plumbing and I don't even know about electricity. 

      According to the first part of Jen's account, the BCA was out in the hill country outside of San Antonio. 

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      Posted (edited)

      Becky, I have a great gift for you to give to Gary for your anniversary. It's sort of . . . the fashion of the Christ.







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      Edited by thoughtful
      • Upvote 1
    • Howl


      On 11/30/2023 at 2:19 PM, hoipolloi said:

      Doug & his family attended the "church" he founded and ran, Boerne Christian Assembly

      I never really got how Doug Phillips ended up establishing Boerne Christian Assembly; the church met way the heck out in the country in a little white church building with no plumbing and I don't even know about electricity.  I looked it up at some point in the past.  They had a rudimentary web page; it required you to contact them before they'd divulge the church location.  Presumably they wanted to check out potential congregants for doctrinal purity and to keep out godless miscreants who wanted to see what was going on there. 

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      On 11/30/2023 at 3:33 PM, Jasmar said:

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      • Upvote 2
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      • Upvote 2

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