Well. Looks like they're not wasting anytime in Season 6 of Mad Men. Sunday's episode got things rolling right along. Causes and effects that used to take entire seasons to play out are happening in single episodes now.
There was almost too much going on in this episode. I'm going to try to keep the plot summary short. Pete sets up a meeting with one of his neighbor's wives in his sexpad in the city. Don and his mistress are going to dinner with their families. Peggy is getting a reputation as a hardass at her job.
On the business side of things, two clients from last year stop by SCDP. Heinz beans brings in the ketchup guy, then forbids Don from going after them. Herb, the scuzz bag from Jaguar, wants the company to pitch an idea that will help his dealership.
AND THEN, Peggy learns about the Heinz debacle in one of her late night talks with Stan and lets the news slip to Ted, who gets them in the running for ketchup.
OH AND ALSO, Megan had a miscarriage after Hawaii, which she first tells Sylvia, then finally Don (right after he's slept with Sylvia). Don manages to be caring, but of course can't summon the emotional engagement to take any sort of position that might comfort Megan.
ALMOST FORGOT the frame story with Don being a kid in a whorehouse.
That doesn't even cover Pete's neighbor getting beaten by her husband, running to his house, Trudy helping her, and then kicking Pete out. Events conspire to leave Don and Sylvia alone at dinner, where she expresses guilt about their affair and he talks her right back into it. And finally, the meeting with Jaguar, where Don pitches Herb's idea with a sort of idiotic verve that exposes just how stupid it is.
This episode had a thread of stupid, self-destructive fun running through it. Perhaps it was a clumsy decision to use the Tet Offensive as a framing metaphor for the machinations and explosions that occurred throughout. "The Collaborators" could refer to the displaced conversations that littered the episode, characters privately working out schemes which then come back to immediately bite them in the ass. Everyone runs up against these walls but Don, who thrives in chaos. He manages it because it creates opportunities for him to indulge in his worst behavior.
Brief rant on Don: I feel terribly for Megan, who is suddenly facing a choice between family or career, with Don presenting himself as fully supportive and on her side, even though she's not the shiny new plaything that she once was. Doctor Faye nailed Don in Season 4 when she said he "only likes the beginning of things." Don refuses real emotional engagement. He just wants to play his game, so he finds someone willing to play it, wins, and then moves on to another thing. He's very reminiscent of Tony Soprano, another protagonist people admired/hated until the showrunners (including Matthew Weiner) decided to emphasize that yes, this man is evil. Don is now entering that territory.
Except for that I love watching Don because he's evil. And smart and handsome too. I can't defend his actions, and I feel awful for Megan. Wondering how this jump in the plot will play out this season. My guess is that things are going to end terribly for Don, Sylvia, Arnold, and Megan. Hopefully it won't be too soapy.
—Having Sylvia order Don the Steak Diablo was a bit on the nose. Also closing with the song "Just a Gigolo."
—While I do buy that growing up in a brothel fucked Don up a lot, it doesn't go halfway in excusing his behavior.
—Linda Cardellini is killing it as Sylvia. Really enjoying her character. Don paying her off was another terrible character detail.
—Trudy giving Pete the business was a very sweet moment. "If you so much as open your fly to urinate I will destroy you."
—Stan and Peggy continue to be heart-warming comic relief. "Thank you ma'am, we'll have your wig ready by Wednesday."
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