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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 6.12 - The Quality of Mercy





Okay, so we're at the penultimate episode of the season. Traditionally this is the one where everything happens, which means of course that nothing's going to happen tonight. Oh well - enjoy a photo of Cutler's epic stankface in the meantime.

Previously on: Peggy looks at Ted, Pete tells Peggy Ted's hot for her, Ted and Don argue over Sunkist, Sally catches Don with Sylvia, Bob Benson joins Chevy and hits on Pete, Megan wears the Sharon Tate shirt and tells her husband something must change. Credits: Jacquemettons write (yes!), Abraham directs.

The alarm goes off and Megan wakes up in an empty bed. She finds Don in what I guess must be Sally's room. He looks like shit. She tells him she doesn't know what's going on, but he needs to slow down - she's worried. We cut to Megan boiling her husband some eggs. Megan asks him to turn off the range, but he stares into space. Megan runs in to turn it off and reminds him that he looks awful - to which he jokes that she does, too (she's dressed up all actress-like). She asks him to take the day off and "sleep it off", whatever "it" is. (It's a cold.) She leaves. Don still looks like death warmed over. The fact that he's pouring vodka in his drink probably doesn't help.

Ken and the Chevy guys are off hunting. He doesn't want to shoot a deer, complete with Irish setter. One of the Chevy guys advises Ken to "pretend it's Ralph Nader", then promptly shoots Ken by accident. Dick Cheney reference? In any case, NOOOO KEEEENN, you were one of the best.

Don watches a super paranoid and aggressive Nixon ad, before it switches to the soap opera with Megan playing her evil twin. The phone rings. It's Betty, telling him it's about Sally. Um, shit, meet fan. Sally is refusing to visit her dad ever again. Betty thinks it's because of the Grandma Ida burglar. Anyway, Sally is fucked up enough to want to get away forever and wants to go to boarding school, Miss Porter's, the one where Jackie Kennedy Onassis went. Don offers to pay. Maybe he should save for her therapy instead? Betty says "Jackie did well twice," to which Don replies "So did you." That's Betty, talking about marriage prospects as the only option. Don asks Betty to remind her that he and Megan both miss her. Jackass. You know this is your fault, right?

Peggy and the creatives are ruminating about the Ocean Spray account, to which Peggy does a Kennedy imitation of the prospective commercial. Ted joins in. Remember Season 4? I remember Season 4. Anyway, turns out Ted's Kennedy impersonation is an inside joke from the CGC days, because he totally did it all the time. Ted and Peggy share a secret smile. Dangerous, dangerous territory. Ginsberg suggests a break, to which Peggy and Ted go off for lunch practically groping each other. Turns out Ginsberg faked needing to pee to get the lovebirds to shut up. Crafty young man there. Maybe we should turn the hose on Chaough and Olsen there.

Megan gets home to a phone call. It's Harry from the Coast, looking for Don. He's got good news. "You found a hooker who will take travelers' cheques?" Don asks. Nope - Sunkist wants a TV deal. Don snaps at Harry that they have a conflict and hangs up. Megan suggests they get away. We find them at a scary movie. It's Rosemary's Baby, right? On the way out, they run into Peggy and Ted, who are clearly also on a date of sorts. The conversation confirms that it's Rosemary's Baby. Megan suggests the four of them go out to eat, but Peggy says she has a date (oh really?) and Ted needs to get home (right).

As they get home, Megan bitches about old apartment buildings like in Montreal. I feel ya, dearie. Don thinks it's weird that Peggy and Ted wanted to use Rosemary in an ad for Children's Aspirin via St Joseph's. Megan's a bit more astute on the subject, pointing out that it's a bit odd that they were there at all. Don washes his hands of the situation. But what the hell happened to Ken, guys?

Ken shows up with an eye patch and tons of scratches. Thank God, he's not dead. Clearly this guy has nine lives. He beckons to Pete, who is of course stunned by his appearance. Ken bitches about how much he hates hunting, cars, Chevy, and life. Oh, and his wife Alex Mack is pregnant by the way. Impending fatherhood has caused Ken to re-evaluate things. He's seriously considering quitting at all, let alone Chevy (which is a given). Pete thinks he's insane, and honestly he kind of has a point. Of course, this is talking from the 2013 economy's point of view. However, he concedes that if Ken is willing to give up, he will "gladly take your place". Smooth, Pete. The secret of the Campbells' separation comes out. The men shake hands over their mutual lives and agree on a new course. Oh boy.

Roger and Don meet with Ted and Cutler to tell them about the $8 million Sunkist TV spot news. They're shocked, but upset to get rid of Ocean Spray. Ted suggests that all the CGC clients should "look out for a knife in their back", though Cutler thinks the money is nothing to sneeze at. Ted has some bitchy butthurtness about the others being greedy and general not being let in on things. Cutler smooths things over for a second by saying that they need to be more "coherent" in the future. On the way out, Ted suggests that Peggy be on the account. Subtle, but Don lets it pass.

Pete is polishing his gun and telling them he's going hunting. Well, at least it's not people. He gets called into Cooper's office, where they are joined by Cutler, Ken and Benson. Cooper's furious, Roger and Cutler both think that everyone needs to make sacrifices. Campbell says he's just taking over for poor beleaguered Ken, to which Cooper accurately calls "crocodile tears". The thing is, they want Bob Benson on the account too, but Pete is reluctant. At least he's not a jerk...in public. Benson says something kiss-ass, says he'll stick with whatever happens and leaves. Pete thanks them for putting their trust in him in a really sickening way. On the way out, he shakes Benson's hand while hissing "I won't work with you, I won't stay in a hotel with you, you're sick." Aaand that cordiality's gone. Benson says he only professed his admiration, "which is waning quickly." Attaboy. So Benson and Pete are set up for the awkward adventure of a lifetime. This is going to be fun.

Betty and Sally are in the car, headed to boarding school and sharing some candy. Betty says she's excited for her and is confident about the interview. She talks about a friend who went to boarding school way back when, and pointedly mentions that she hated her mother. She then presses for a reason, but Sally will only tell her she wants to be more grown-up.

Pete calls Duck Phillips to tell him he's not looking anymore, but is calling on behalf of Bob Benson?! Pete, you jackass. He claims Draper hates him. Uh huh, Draper, right. Anyway, Pete says the dude is marketable but needs to get out of SC&P. Meanwhile, Bob Benson is swearing over the phone in Spanish (to Manolo?) about how he's totally screwed. Well, no one ever said Bob was stupid.

Don observes Joan, Peggy and Ted looking over some pictures for the SJ ad. Peggy and Ted are giggling in a manner all too familiar, Joan is less enthused. They sit down in a chair and make him pretend to be the "baby" in the Rosemary's Baby concept. Joan, Peggy and Ted play various characters. "You don't need anyone's help but St. Joseph's" is the tagline. Don thinks it works even if people don't know the movie. Ted and Peggy are sent off to casting, and Joan and Don are left alone. They think the ad is too expensive but Joan doesn't want to put a damper on things. Don rightly points out that they can't go with it, but...they're stuck.

We catch Betty and Sally at the interview, where Betty monopolizes the conversation with her girlhood dreams. The headmistress tells her about the overnight and sample classroom day ahead, saying it's a chance for both of them to learn about each other. She calls for "Carla". OMG is it that Carla? Please, please please let it be that Carla. Unfortunately, we go to the next scene, so I guess not.

Pete's mom shows up, ruining his day without saying a word. She's dragged her nurse along and wants her passport to go on a voyage. She's also been in contact with Manolo, which is strictly verboten. Apparently Manolo's been pretty annoyed with how Pete treats Bob. Pete yells and threatens to fire people, as usual. He storms back into his office.

Sally and one of her prospective classmates talk about the living situation. They make snarky comments about her family, then complain that she didn't bring alcohol or cigarettes - and tell her that she's not allowed to talk. Let the hazing begin!

Ted comes back, furious that Don called St. Joseph's with a new budget. Now casting is aborted and Ted's without an ad. He claims that Don is trying to sabotage Peggy's success, to which Don says he "gets it". Ted sighs and goes back to the budget. I think Don is jealous, but not sure of what...

Sally and the girls (Mandy and Millicent) sit around smoking and gossiping, and seem to be getting along better. Suddenly we hear a guy's voice. Aaand it's the return of Glen Bishop, alcohol in hand and acting skills bland as usual. Hey, we knew it was inevitable. Mandy says they can pay off the alcoholic housemother with booze if they get caught. Millicent shows up with another boy, who has a drug that requires "a surface". Uh-oh, Sally's going to OD tonight, right?

Duck calls Pete with the news on Bob Benson - which was very hard to find. Bobby's a hick from West Virginia and former servant. He has references but a very sketchy past, complete with a history of disappearing. Don Draper 2.0, as some people predicted? Duck says he's never seen anything like this. Pete says he has. The trouble is, now Pete actually has some power, and I just can't see this ending well.

Don watches TV and stares into space. Megan asks him to come to bed. He says nothing. Honey, are you on your final spiral downhill? Because there's another season left to go and we technically need you around.

The kids get stoned (it's only weed) and drunk in the dorm room. Millicent is freaking out, but everyone else is pretty mellow. Turns out Mandy and Glen know each other, which presumably means virginity-taking. Aaand they go off into the closet for some fun. Sally is left with the other boy (Rolo), who immediately says that he "has good hands" and proceeds to use them. She moves away and he calls her frigid. Just like a real man! She gets Glen back into the room, where he defends his "little sister's" honor. Rolo calls her a lying little tease, and Glen and Rolo promptly get into a fight. He storms out, and as he's Glen's ride, the nice guy must go too. Sally apologizes (for what?), but the evening's broken up anyway. "You like trouble, don't you?" says Mandy with a grin. Sally grins back. Uh-oh, here comes trouble. I'm just proud that she's finally embracing her "damaged baby boomer" years.

Don waits in the boardroom for a meeting. Peggy enters, and they discuss the SJ situation. The partners and the SJ people show up. Peggy and Ted beg for more money because our ad is so totally awesome and modern like the young hip folks want, please please take us on. SJ is not so easily won over. In fact, they're pretty angry. Don cuts in and tells him that the real reason for this is classified, because it's very personal. Wow, way to put your partner on the spot, you asshole. Ted looks terrified. He stutters. Don prompts him. When he gets nothing, he tells the SJ execs that it was Frank Gleason's last idea. DON, YOU BLOODY LITTLE GENIUS YOU. Cutler latches on to the idea, SJ says they totally understand and they can do their ad. Ted says he "didn't want to lean on" Frank's idea. They have their creative victory, on a tighter budget, but a victory nonetheless. After everyone else leaves, Peggy is about to start in on Don, but Ted asks her to leave. "You're not thinking with your head," Don says, saying that he's ruining everything with his crush on Peggy. Their little pseudo-romance is obvious to everyone. Ted goes deer-in-headlights. Really, you should listen to Don on this one, he probably knows better than most people.

Pete walks in to Bob's office and immediately starts to destroy him, going on about his servant past and asking what he does when he's "found out". Benson is flummoxed. Pete asks who hired him. He says "You did." Oops. Bob begs for a day's head start. Pete says that he's sickened about what Benson might do in a day, and that he won't deal with "Your kind of animal." He needs Benson's skills - and knows from his previous experience outing secret pasts that it can backfire splendidly. Aping Cooper in Season 1, he asks Benson to stay alongside him for work, but that he's off-limits - and Manolo needs to get out of Mommy Campbell's life. Benson protests, but takes the chance because it's all he gets. Pete leaves Benson's office in full Smug Victory Stride.

Betty drives Sally (hiding a hangover) home, where it's revealed that she got into the school. The headmistress has told Betty that Sally's curious and bright and an all-around great kid. Sally gets her pick. Betty then asks for a cigarette. She divines that Sally wants one too - and offers it to her, but not before adding that "I'm sure your father's given you a beer". Good parenting there, Birdie. "My father's never given me anything," Sally sighs.

Peggy tries to see Ted, but is told that he's left. She immediately figures out what happened and storms into Don's office to give him a piece of her mind. Crashed on the couch, he nonchalantly tells her that he totally just saved her bacon. "You hate that he's a good man," she says, then accuses him of killing the ad. When he tells her that he's looking out for the agency, she calls him a monster. Kids, kids, you're both right. Don curls up on the couch again. Bird's eye view of him lying there alone. End credits.

Well, this episode was pretty solid, but nowhere near Mad Men's finest. As much as I like the show's contemplative pace, these days I wonder if they're too much in the other direction. Let's hope something happens in the finale - even if it's just Joan finally getting a fucking storyline. Join me next week for the end of Season 6!

Next time: Nothing is revealed, it's just old clips. Of course.

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