“What if there was a place, where you could go, where there was no TV, and you could break bread and whoever you were sitting with was family?”
The latest episode of Mad Men focuses primarily on the often makeshift family that Peggy talks about here, and the various forms that concept may take – broken families, breaking families, improvised families, fictional families – and because of all the heavy shared history between the majority of the show’s players, these “families” are often the most important thing in their respective lives.
The SC&P portion of “The Strategy” revolves around Peggy’s very solid Burger Chef pitch. It has all the ingredients – it’s emotional and nostalgic and maternal – but it doesn’t take long for Don to get his fingers inside Peggy’s head and undermine her confidence (whether that’s an intentionally diabolical scheme, as Peggy assumes, is debatable) with a fresh angle to the commercial. Historically, one of Don’s trademark moves has involved pulling ad ideas from out of the blue while pitching to the client, and Peggy is no stranger to that method. As a result, she questions herself and rags on Don about his supposed manipulation throughout the episode until they end up pulling an all-nighter together. It’s a similar situation to “The Suitcase” from a previous season – one of the show’s strongest and most emotionally potent Don/Peggy episodes – and it ends with a tender slow-dance instead of Don passing out in Peggy’s lap.
We get this season’s first look at Bob Benson when he catches word that while SC&P is losing Chevy, Buick will soon follow with a personal job offer. Buick is a huge step for Bob, and he recognizes that in order to fully take advantage of that step, he needs to look and act the part – and that means a wife and kid. So, he proposes to Joan and borders on bribery when she refuses to entertain his request. “You shouldn’t be with a woman,” she tells him. Bob promises her everything he thinks any girl could want – a steady father for her child, a mansion in Detroit (swoon!), a reliable spouse – but Joan wants real love. She’s already made too many sacrifices in that arena for one lifetime, and she refuses to make this last one. “I want love,” she says. “I’d rather die hoping that happens than make some arrangement. And you should, too.”
Megan swings by NYC to see Don, and while the visit is almost eerily calm and pleasant, there are some significant cracks in the façade. An SC&P secretary confesses that she didn’t know Don was married, Megan collects her clothes from the closet to take back to California, and she seems almost disgruntled when Don mentions visiting her in the summertime. Don and Megan have both molded to their separate coasts, and being on one or the other only serves to emphasize the rift growing between them and their increasingly conflicting personalities.
“I don’t like you carrying on like this,” Pete tells Trudy when she returns to the house late at night. “It’s immoral – you have a child.” It’s an absurd complaint on so many levels and a clear reference to Roger and Marigold a few episodes back, seeing as Pete and Trudy now occupy largely the same situation as Mr. and Mrs. Sterling did back in the day. Even hearing the word “immoral” come from Pete’s mouth is pretty hilarious – because he’s a saint, right? Pete and Bonnie are on a short trip to New York, and like Don and Megan, they spend much of it coming to terms with the entirely disparate personae that Pete assumes when bouncing from coast to coast. “I don’t like you in New York,” Bonnie tells him. “Then you don’t like me,” Pete replies.
It’s great to see Don and Peggy not only back on their feet, but as close as they’ve ever been. Their relationship is one of the show’s primary pillars, and I’d be more than happy for them to remain in that pleasant space for the remainder of Mad Men.
There’s just one episode left of this season, and the promos for next week suggest some seriously crazy stuff depending on how you look at it – does Megan die in a plane crash? Go give those a look and leave your thoughts in the comments
Photo Credit: AMC