This week’s recap is late because it was like a bloody Carpenters song in New Orleans yesterday. John Phillips was obviously right: Monday, Monday can’t trust that day. If I recall correctly, the color of Roger’s jacket was a hue unknown to nature, electric blue. I had the electric blues yesterday: power flickers and internet wonkiness so I threw in the towel and decided to write this today. Too much information? Perhaps, but what’s a bit of oversharing among friends?
As much as I hate to agree with the conventional wisdom on anything, in this case I do: Time & Life was by far and away the best episode of the Season 7 rump of Mad Men. Glad I don’t have to give it a rump roast. There were plot twists aplenty, and it evoked some of the best past episodes of the series including this image of Pete Campbell in a wee punch-up at a fancy school in Greenwich, CT:
Remember in Season-5 when dweeby Brit Lane Pryce kicked Pete’s equally dweeby preppie ass? Jared Harris who played Lane directed this episode and I think he gave Vincent Kartheiser some pugilistic pointers. More random and discursive comments after the break or is that round? I promise to answer the bell.
Old MacDonald Held A Grudge: One of the delights of the episode was seeing my Mad Men crush, Trudy again. Trudy seems to have messed up Tammy’s prep school admission and calls on Pete for help. It’s a school that the Campbell’s have been going to for generations. In short, Pete expected a legacy admission. Things didn’t go quite as planned.
It seems that Tammy did poorly on the now discredited “Draw A Man” test. Headmaster MacDonald used that as an excuse to bar Tammy for an even more arcane reason: an ancient Scottish blood feud with Pete’s clan, the Campbells. Cue the bag pipe music. That’s why Pete went Brave Heart on Old MacDonald’s ass. E-I-Fucking-E-I-O with a punch, punch here and a punch, punch there. I do wish, however, that Pete had painted his face blue for the scene but that’s just me…
In addition to being highly entertaining, the Campbell-MacDonald punch-up reflects one of the main themes of the episode: grudge holding. Deadeye Cosgrove holds grudges against McCann and Malaka as well as Roger and Pete and gets to act on them whilst drinking Chauteau Margaux 53 on SCP’s dime.
Deadeye got off one of the best lines of the episode while tormenting Pete: “Germ killer makes people think of shit.” This from the Man from Dow who made napalm and agent orange.
Speaking of grudge holding:
Mad Men Malaka Of The Week: It goes to Lou Avery who has finally sold his lame sounding Scout’s Honor toon to the producers of Speed Racer and Johnny Fucking Quest. Lou calls Don while the latter is dealing with the McCann mishigas and the two engage in a bit of farcical banter until Lou tells an indifferent Don that he’s moving to Tokyo. Lou’s closing line is a classic in the annals of malakatude: “Sayonara, my friend, enjoy the rest of your miserable life.”
Fuck you too, Lou. Your name rhymes with boo, and unlike Louuuu Piniella, when they chant your name, they’re booing.
Bad Parenting Tips With Peggy, Stan, and Staple Girl: The Pegster and her work husband are holding auditions for a commercial involving chirren. Peggy wanted “real chirren” and things were not going well. My man Stan intervened by pointing out that “real chirren are shy” and had a boy toss something; normal pandemonium ensued. Btw, Stan and Peggy didn’t pronounce children like Irene Reilly in A Confederacy Of Dunces, I just threw that out for the hell of it. Guess I’m in touch with my inner chir…
One little girl’s mother left her at SCP while picking up said urchin’s brother. She becomes Stan and Peggy’s acolyte, but they’re too busy talking about the upheaval at the firm to notice the Kim Richards/child star wannabe playing with the stapler. She staples her thumb just in time for her stage mother to enter stage left and trade insults with the Pegster.
That brief encounter did not cause Peggy to fall in love like Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in the Coward/Lean classic but led her instead to ruminate about the child she had with Pugilist Preppie Pete. I was under the impression that Peggy’s harridan sister kept the child but I guess that was temporary. In any event, I’m glad they cleared up that plot point.
The scenes between Peggy and Stan were classic. Stan goes from joking about bad parenting to realizing what had happened in the Pegster’s life. My favorite touch was when Peggy asked Stan to stay on the phone while the two of them continued to work in their respective offices. The whole thing reminded me of the classic Season-4 episode The Suitcase, which included a punch-up between Don and noted head hunting, dog abandoner Duck Phillips. At that point, Weiner and company were still packing the suitcase; now the unpacking begins in earnest with only a few more episodes remaining.
The Third Time Is Not The Charm: Despite his wealth and power, Don Draper is still Dick Whitman, whorehouse kid, at heart. His first impulse is to swashbuckle his way into more independence from McCann and Malaka who are on the verge of swallowing SCP. Don gets his fellow partners to agree to try and retain some independence at their California office. They’re able to line up some $18 million in billings that McCann would have to drop because of conflicts of interest.
The first blow to this plan comes from Deadeye Cosgrove who refuses to bring Dow along for the ride. As much as he hates McCann for getting him fired from SCP, he also holds a grudge against the SCP gang for abandoning him when they split off from Sterling, Cooper way back at the end of Season-3. The artist formerly known as Kenny always blamed Pete and Roger for leaving him behind to work for the Irish barbarians. He never lost his man crush on Don but it was not enough to keep the Draperian dream alive.
Roger keeps telling everyone “we’ve done this before” to convince them the third time is the charm. It’s not. The second time was, of course, Roger’s engineering the deal with McCann to save Don and to make the partners richer than Croesus and other mythical one-percenters. That was why this plan was doomed to fail; it was about autonomy, not a new company. A new company was made impossible by the terms of the sale: the partners all have 4 year contracts with non-compete clauses. In a word, they’re screwed.
The SCP partners’ meeting with Ferg the Enforcer Donnelly and Jim the Smootie Holborn follows the classic good cop, bad cop plotline. Ferg glowers while Jim spins it like Don at his best. He reminds them of all the awesome clients they can work with and says, “You’ve made it. Stop struggling.” McCann and Malaka is more interested in power than money. They had the hammer and they used it on Roger, Don, Pete, Joan, and a sweaterless Ted. The counter-revolution was over before it started as you can see from this picture of the meeting:
The image reminds me of the shot of the partners at the end of Season-5 when they inspected the empty office at the Time-Life building. The same office on which McCann cancelled the lease without informing SCP. It may not be fun being swallowed by a behemoth but the partners are almost as rich as James Dean in Giant:
The King Is Dead, Long Live The King: After their defenestration at the hands of McCann and Malaka, the partners gather at a bar to drown their sorrows. Jim the Conqueror suggested they drink champagne, but they chose beer instead. The partners *usually* drink martinis, old fashioned or, to paraphrase Greta Garbo, “whiskey straight up, and don’t be stingy baby” but never beer. Beer is what one drinks at an Irish wake, and SCP has been conquered by the Irish barbarians at McCann who have gone from being at the gates to overrunning their world. Yeah, I know the Irish drink whiskey at wakes too, call it artistic license.
All of the partners except for Ted are apprehensive about being swallowed by the evil empire. Joan, in particular, has had a horrible time dealing with the sexist trolls at McCann and is skeptical that there’s a place for her there. She may be right. But I hope her escape plan is not just to marry the handsome mogul but to found her own company of some kind. I see her helming a cosmetics behemoth that swallows her client Avon or something like that. Just call her Joanaconda…
The closing scene at the office shows that the SCP partners have lost their touch. After pesky Meredith forces the issue, Don and Roger try to rally the troops. Knowing that the partners will be okay and their fates are uncertain, they refuse to listen. Don’s charisma and eloquence fail him for a second time in Time & Life. His future is actually as uncertain as that of the staff. Don is a genuine rebel who’s going to find it very hard to deal with being part of the corporate McCann machine. Ironically, the deal that saved his ass at SCP could turn out to be his undoing as a mad man.
To be continued.
I’ll give the last word to Steely Dan. Now that I think of it, Becker & Fagen sound like an advertising firm who would be *almost* as ruthless as the cutthroat bastards at McCann and Malaka: