Mad Men 07:11

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Dear Friends, we have gathered here today to mourn the passing of Sterling Cooper & Partners (1923-1970).

After what felt like a seven year war, the sprightly forty-seven year old company that was founded by Roger Sterling Sr. and Bertram Cooper (may they rest in peace) in 1923 was put to bed by absorption into its now parent company McCann-Erickson. Previously known as Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce, it was preceded in death by the passing of Mr. Sterling Sr., Mr. Cooper, former partner Lane Pryce, indispensable secretary / astronaut / queen of perversion Ida Blankenship, and a host of account executives, creatives, ex-wives, children, and secretaries along the way. We salute them all as we step over their corpses. Requiem in pacem aeternam, and so forth.

What a completely depressing episode. In its verious incaarnations McCann-Erickson has always been the wolf at the door of SC&P. Ever since the time we first met Jim Hobart (way back in Season 1’s episode “Shoot,” where he made a bold-faced play to poach Don from the agency) his and the agency’s presence has been on the periphrey of the world of Mad Men, like a ghost that keeps rearing its ugly head. In fact the entire episode was the culmination of that tumultuous releationship between our heroes and the agency that has always been trying to incorporate tehm, for good or ill. And like all times of crisis (and in callback to Season 2’s finale during the Cuban Missle Crisis), there was a lot of truth telling in everyone’s world.

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Like all horrors it started so simply, with the cancelling of SC&P’s lease in the Time-Life Building by McCann. And that’s when the partners figure out what’s happening, which leads Don to have another idea; since Lou Avery is leaving SC&P West, the partners should take the conflicting accounts to California and restart. Unlike the last time this happened (the Season 3 season finale “Shut The Door, Have A Seat”), the partners aren’t completely sold on it for various reasons. While Roger is willing to fight for his name, and Pete is willing to fight for the only job he’s ever had, Ted (who has divorced his wife and is having an affair with someone, so is by nature against California) and Joan (who is unsure of this move as she would have to give up Avon) are less than enthused. And when the slimy Jim Hobart comes in dangling major accounts in front of everyone’s eyes (except Joan!), that was all she wrote.

But as in all times of crisis, there comes a wave of truth telling on all sides:

– Lou Avery, as he heads off to Tokyo to fulfil his dream: “Enjoy the rest of your miserable life.”

– Surrounded by children at a commercial casting, and thinking of their illicit child, Pete does Peggy another solid by telling her of the absorption so she can get a leg up on the job hunt. Unfortunately for her, her headhunter tells her that being at McCann is the best thing for her career right now.

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– Speaking of children Part One: Tammy’s not getting into a prestigious school was less about her parents divorce (as Trudy feared) and more because of an ancient family grudge against the Campbells. But it did allow for Pete to stand up for his family (and punching someone for a change) and a slight thaw in his relationship with his ex-wife. (And it’s always a treat to see Alison Brie back on screen as Trudy.)

– Speaking of children Part Two: All of the children running around the office obviously triggered something in Peggy because Oh My God She Told Stan!! Of all of the relationships on Mad Men, the Peggy / Stan office marriage is probably the best of the bunch, so to see him handle it with equanimity and true warmth was thrilling.

– Speaking of children Part Three: Roger confessing that he has no children to carry on his name and that the company was his only legacy was sad to see. And it made complete sense that Joan would understand. No one understands the Sterling / Cooper relationship better than Joan.

– Meanwhile on the relationship front, Joan, in a moment of weakness, let the news slip to Richard, who I was thrilled to see hop on the first red eye to New York to be there for her.

– Sweet Ken Cosgrove finally gets his eye for an eye (pun very much intended) by toying and taunting not only his long time rival Pete, but putting the screws on Don and Roger as well. As head of Dow’s marketing team he has every right to say no to the new agency. The fact that he gets to put the screws to his former colleagues is a sweet (and deserved!) revenge.

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– Meredith has HAD IT! After overhearing the news from Dawn and Shirley, she went right to the source. It was startling to see Meredith of all people go after Don in the face of what’s about to happen. “In a month, you’re not going to have an office and you’re not going to have an apartment. Do you want to lose me too?” Unfortunately it would be a mere prelude of the reaction of the rank and file when the partners break the news. “This is the beginning of something, not the end,” Don says.

Yeah. We’ve heard that one before!

Random Notes
– The test referred to by the dean of Greenwich Country Day School was the famous Draw A Person test. But the reason that the teacher was so upset was of the Glencoe Massacre of 1692. In it, the Campbell clan, having accepted the hospitality of the MacDonalds, turned on them and killed 38 men. (It would also be a major inspiration for George R.R. Martin; the Glencoe Massacre was a key inspiration for the Red Wedding in Game Of Thrones.)

– It was kind of heartening to see that in all of this crisis, Pete was standing up for all the women around him; from warning Peggy about the absorption, to consoling Joan after the meeting with Jim, to standing up for Trudy. Speaking of which, and not to get too deep into the fashion of the show, but was Trudy’s white outfit and hat an outfit from Season 1? It felt like a callback.

– In another callback to the episode “Shoot,” when Jim Hobart is offering each partner an account, it was cute that he directed Coca-Cola at Don. And by cute I mean creepy. (This is the episode where to get Don to McCann, Hobart had Betty be a model for a Coca-Cola shoot.)

– That’s pretty awesome that Scout’s Honor got assimilated by Tatsunoko Productions, who were in the vanguard of getting Japanese culture into the American Lexicon (the American dub of Speed Racer debuted in 1967).

– The ghost of Lane Pryce hung heavily over the episode, which probably was not a coincidence since the great Jared Harris himself directed the episode.

Photo Credits: Justina Mintz / AMC Television

Originally Published on 27 April 2015 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile

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