The mid-season finale of Mad Men is an instant classic. Matthew Weiner successfully messed with us by titling it Waterloo. It meant that we expected a downer of an episode, instead the first half of Season-7 ended on a high note. I daresay it was a happy ending for everyone except for Bert Cooper and No Problem Lou. Who the hell expected a happy ending from Weiner and company? Surely not me. One reason for that was the moon landing as a backdrop, which was a tonic to the American spirit in the real world and helped the Pegster land the Burger Chef account on Mad Men.
The episode conjured up images of the Season-3 finale, Shut The Door Have A Seat, wherein our main characters resisted a sale to one of the big agencies and started the firm now known as SC&P. There’s, of course, a big old twist, but we’ll get to that after the break. First, a picture of Robert Morse going back to his roots and doing the old sock shoe:
Peggy and Julio Down By The Teevee: Peggy’s recovery from her disastrous fling with Teddy Turtleneck continues. She and young Julio have several really nice scenes together. They bond over the moon landing and Julio’s imminent move to Newark. Like everyone else who moves to Jersey, he’s horrified at the prospect. Who can blame him? It inspires a hug from the Pegster who not usually a hugger.
Don and Peggy’s relationship rebounds as he cedes the Burger Chef pitch to her for reasons I’ll discuss later. Don and Peggy are back in sync as ad people who want to do high quality work that they can be proud of. Suffice it to say that Don’s better angels are driving the Drapermobile.
Meanwhile in California, Ted continues to be a frigging mess. He even threatens to crash his plane when he’s piloting some Starkist people. He should have had some OJ instead of sucking on lemons, y’all. Ted also claims to be through with the ad game but that will change. Yeah, I’m making like Matthew Weiner and foreshadowing the living shit out of this post.
Termite Celebrates: My buddy Libby aka Termite hates, hates, hates Megan. I was reasonably sure that Don and his toothy wife were kaput after the previous episode. Why? She took her fondue pot with her to L.A. Mind you, Don was not particularly fondue of it, but it will fit in nicely in Hollywood where Henry, Jane, and Peter Fondue live…
I’m not sure if Termite will be satisfied with the break-up. If she could make like Jeff Daniels in The Purple Rose Of Cairo, she’d enter the film and take Megan out for good. The good news is that she can’t. She might, however, kick my ass for suggesting that. She’s a small but Mighty Termitey…
Sally Kisses A Nerd: The Francis’ have some visitors for the weekend. It’s one of Betty’s college roomies and she and her nondescript hubby have two sons. One is a handsome lunkhead who is instantly attracted to Sally’s Betty Bacallish awesomeness; especially when she’s off to her summer job as a lifeguard, which involves saving the lives of rich kids from Westchester County. Plutocrat in the deep end, save the worthless fucker, Sally.
I thought Sally might run off with the jock son but instead, she kissed the nerdy astronomer dude after doing a bit of stargazing through Bobby-4’s telescope. Of course, Bacall married Bogie who wasn’t exactly Gregory Peck. Atta girl, Sally.
Random Moon Landing Story: I was acquainted with baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry when I was a kid. He was a product of the San Francisco Giants organization before being traded so then owner Horace Stoneham could have a drinking buddy. I am not making this up. It was also one of the worst trades of the 1970’s.
Anyway, Mr. Perry was a great pitcher but a horrible hitter, which led to this oft told story. One version of the story is that his former manager, Alvin Dark, not a man known for his wit, made a prediction in 1964 that man would land on the moon before Gaylord hit his first homer. In alternate versions, Perry was the source of the original joke. Snopes.com has a good piece on the story and its origin. One thing we know for sure is that Gaylord Perry hit his first major league home run on July 20, 1969 just hours before the moon landing. It’s a pity that there are no Giants fans on Mad Men to share the story, but that’s what I’m here for. If it’s not true, it should be.
Btw, I tried to find a picture of Gaylord Perry swinging a bat but could not find any, which is probably a good thing. His lifetime batting average was .131, and he only hit 5 more dingers in his career. I was surprised it was that many.
The Sterling Silver Fox On The White Horse: Upon hearing Ted Chaough threaten to quit advertising, Jim Cutler finally made his move against Don based on what he called the latter’s “dinner theatre performance” with the Commander Tobacco pukes. He sent Don a termination letter, but as an arrogant prick, he neglected to inform his partners of the move. The only partners to support Cutler were Ted and Joan. He should have hired his past self, Michael Kuzak of LA Law, as his lawyer. Kuzak would have never tried such a bush league stunt.
Cutler continued to overplay his hand when the partners learned that Bert Cooper had died while watching the moon landing. He died with a smile on his face and song in his heart as you’ll see below. Yeah, more foreshadowing, deal with it, y’all. You’re being followed by a foreshadow, foreshadow, foreshadow. Jeez, now I’m bastardizing Cat Stevens lyrics for fun. Will the punning madness ever stop? Not bloody likely.
Cutler’s grotesque insensitivity, and the loss of Bert’s vote, forces Roger to make a move. Roger has always been the man in the corner, observing the action and delivering wise cracks. This time he swings into action much like Don at the end of Season-3. The scene in the previous episode wherein Roger and Hobart from McCann, Erickson took a steam bath could end up being known as the shvitz heard round the world. Roger approaches the McCannite, and cuts a deal, whereby SC&P sells 51% to the monolith but retains autonomy, its clients, and most importantly Don Fucking Draper as creative fucking director.
Don initially balks at the deal. It was McCann’s takeover of Sterling, Cooper that led to the walkout at the end of Season-3, after all. When Roger points out that it will make everyone rich or, better yet, richer, as well as leading to a Draperite restoration, Don jumps onboard. Don is even able to convince Ted to vote for it and urges him to stay in the ad game. Don knows that Ted would miss it as much as he did when he was Elba-fied. Born again good guy Don triumphs, and even Cutler votes for the sale. He likes money every bit as much as power.
The final partners meeting features a classic Pete Campbell moment when he says to Ted: “You’re not just pathetic, you’re selfish.” Pot. Kettle. Black.
Bert Cooper, Happy Dead Guy: It’s funny that with all the speculation about a character dying nobody predicted that Bert would be this season’s dead guy. It was always rumored to be Don, Megan, Pete, or even the pathetic and selfish Teddy Turtleneck. Speculation never focused on Bert who is chronologically the oldest character in the cast.
Bert was increasingly an anachronism. On the positive side, he believed in loyalty and took a paternalistic interest in his team and employees. On the negative side, he was racist and sexist albeit a racist, sexist, and shoeless Buddhist. His ballplayer name would have been Shoeless Bert Cooper. I have no clue what his porn star name would have been, I’ll leave that to the more luridly inclined among you…
The best line about Bert’s death, of course, came from Roger: “When old men talk about Napoleon, they’re ready to die.” Bert died happy, and his surrogate son is out to prove that he can be a leader. Stay tuned. One thing that’s certain: Don Draper and Roger Sterling are both back from Elba.
Finally, the sub-header, of course refers to the final dream sequence wherein Bert croons Irving Berlin’s The Best Things In Life Are Free with file twirling secretaries acting as chorus girls. It was the best Mad Men dream sequence ever, and Robert Morse was born to do that scene. It also reminded me of Richard Jenkins’ character in Six Feet Under, Nathaniel Fisher Sr. Nate Sr. died in a car accident in the pilot but kept coming back to haunt his namesake who reluctantly returned to help with the family funeral home after daddy’s dirt nap. Haunt may be the wrong word because Nate Sr. was the happiest dead guy ever. That’s how Bert went out too, with a song in his heart and a smile on his face. I somehow doubt if he’ll play a return engagement as a happy dead guy but ya never know.
Since I’ve made so many Don-Frank comparisons this season, I’ll give Sinatra the last word: