Monday, 19 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 6, "The Strategy"

"I have authority. Don has emotion."
Luckily, this week slows down the crazy from last week quite a bit. No one self mutilates in this week's episode, "The Strategy." Don doesn't bring Stan into a threesome with Megan in an attempt to bring them closer (although that happens every week in the Mad Men in my mind). But even so, a lot happened this week, and the episode balanced itself between at least four different storylines very well. Oh, and a GM executive tried to fellate an undercover cop. So, thank god for that. Let's get into it.
Everyone's excited to see Bob Benson's glorious (read: weird as fuck) return! He's SC&P's favorite sexual deviant/saboteur/enigmatic/identity-thief (he got bumped up to the top spot after Don left). I wasn't sure if Ol' Bobby'd be back for this season. Was he coming back? How's he doing in Detroit? There were a lot of questions surrounded the weirdo.
        And after tonight's episode I am totally positive that Bob Benson is fully capable of murder. As in, he could, and would murder another person if he saw it necessary. Probably with a knife. Bob Benson will stab and murder you with a knife. His proposal to Joan is seemingly well-intentioned enough, but holy hell, that was some sociopath talk coming out of his mouth. He tries so hard to make people think he's one way (i.e. not a gay sociopath) but people can still figure it out pretty easy (the gay part, anyway). The new GM executive could smell it on him from a mile away. That's why he calls Bob to bail him out when he gets arrested for trying to suck off an undercover cop (Poor guy's just trying to have a good trip to New York, give him a break). In one of the most weirdly hilarious scenes of the season, the two share a cab back from prison, and the GM exec drunkenly pines for his home in Detroit where the temptation isn't so strong, where he has a system of blow-and-go buddies already set up, and where even his wife is okay with him going on and slurping down some man-sperm. Now doesn't that sound enticing, Mr. Benson? "Why yes, it certainly does!" So he gets it in his head that the best way to continue forward in this business is to get himself the prettiest, chestiest beard he could find. 
But Joan thinks too highly of herself for that (and damn right, sister!), and promptly refuses. Not only does she believe in the pursuit of true love (aww, kind of), but she knows it's all just a facade. "You shouldn't be with a woman," she tells him. To which he hilariously responds, "I have been before." Haaahahahahaha. Yep. Love it. I imagine they were 18, while he stiffly thrusts himself into her on the carpeted floor of his walk-in closet, eyes shut as tight as he can, stomach uneasy. It lasts for about three minutes before he goes soft and begins to cry. "This isn't going to work," she asks an 18-year-old weeping Bob Benson.
"I've totally touched all the girl parts before! I'm a real good sex person!"
Case in point, you can't always hide who you are. You can do a pretty great job of it, and maybe go at it for a long time, but sooner or later your past is going to come back into the picture. It's one of the most ubiquitous themes of the entire show: You can't escape you you are. It's all we've got, right? We're all just one big prologue. Something about…boats and...I don't know, beating against the currents. Or some fucking shit. Who cares.
I just can't help it, I love Pete Campbell. Ok, yeah, maybe I don't love him, but his stories are always some of my favorites of any episode (Pete Campbell and Sally Draper are my two MVPs this season, whodathunkit). There wasn't much out of the ordinary for a Pete storyline in this week's episode, but it's all told from a slightly different perspective. Because now he is California Pete. The one who talks about vibrations. On the plane he tells his real estate girlfriend (Brittany Snow, oof) he wants her shopping all day and screwing all night. How am I not supposed to love Pete Campbell? He has the unsexiest sexy game ever. But then it even works! Earning him a full invitation to the mile high club. ("I've always wanted to do that." *Shudders. Laughs out loud. Shudders again.*)
But once he's back it takes him about three hours to slip effortlessly back into regular 'ol New York Pete Campbell. He finds the first shitty reason to get upset and yell at Trudy (Trudy! Alison Brie! Six Seasons and a Movie! Sad Emoticon!) when he should be enjoying the very small amount of time he's getting with his daughter. Oh Pete. He's still just a petulant child who wants what he can't have. He spends the whole next day pouting, so much so that he drives his lady to extreme irritation, in only the wonderful way Pete Campbell can do. "I don't like you in New York," she tells him, which Pete  rightfully professes is his real self. He is New York Pete. He's not Hippy Dippy Pete. It doesn't work for him. He's a bit of a worm, and I can totally understand if people don't like him, but that's who he is. There ain't no changin' it. 
So what if he's an asshole? So what if he only sees his daughter once a year and tries to emotionally blackmail his ex-wife? So what if he whines and bitches like a child who didn't get to buy a new toy? So what if---eh, you get the point, he's a total dick. And that's why I love him. Never change Pete Campbell. Pssh, like ya even could, ya blue-blooded prick in the grass. 
He did do one other thing of significance this week, and that was basically pitting Don and Peggy up against each other for Burger Chef. I don't think he suggested Don make the pitch to be adversarial, quite the opposite. Pete is invested in getting Don back up in the agency, but I also think he is trying to do what's best for the account. He's even quite polite when he meets with Peggy and Lou, assuring Peggy that it's her decision because it's her account. And oh boy does that piss Peggy off. And it's not Pete's fault because deep down she knows having Don make the pitch is the best way to go. He has that perfect baritone in his voice, that sense of longing and wistful hope for a simpler tomorrow that really drives his presentations home. The ad is about mother's pleasing their husbands, and Don can be the man to drive it home. 
So Peggy starts spazzing OUT, calling Don at home and telling him he ruined everything again. It looked like the episode could be on its way to a full Peggy blow-up, most likely in front of Don. She thinks he brought up having a different idea for the pitch to purposefully screw with her. That he thinks the work is crap and that she can't trust him anymore. It wouldn't be strange for, at this part in the episode, Don to scream derogatory and belittling things to Peggy, maybe even throw some crumpled up tag lines in her face. But this episode of Mad Men goes for something very different. They put Don and Peggy into one office, and let them work together. Just the two of them. 
Don seems resigned, too beat to be anything but honest with her. He apparently does still hold Peggy in the highest of esteem, even if his new work situation has put a strain to that. And she still knows she can learn a lot from him, as much as she hates the way he does things sometimes. I think this is the closest we've ever gotten Don to describe his actual thought process. He is so honest with her in his answers, too. I wasn't expecting such clarity in his answers. He abuses the people who's help he needs. Check. Then he takes a nap. Check. Then he starts over. Check. We have seen Don do all these things countless times. It's interesting to learn that this is actually a process he knows he has to go through to get the work that needs to be done. It makes it seem as though he has had slightly more control over himself and his relationships than he's led on. 
But the same time, he has no control. He worries about everything, and so is Peggy. They're worried that they haven't done anything, that they have nobody. She's even started to lie about her age. Gosh, who else does that? These two are really two sides of the same coin. He understands the pain she feels because he still feels it every day. You like to think as you get older you understand more, but maybe things don't really change like that. I think you're always going to worry about something to some degree. Maybe Don is realizing that as he has to work his way back up the ladders at SC&P. Maybe that's what Freddy Rumsen made him realize when he told him to jsut do the work, and maybe that's why he finally shut up and started listening to Peggy. Because deep down he knows he isn't any better off than she is. They both are still "living in the unknown," as Don puts it.
Watching them work side by side again is wonderful. Peggy lets herself break down enough, start fresh enough, to put a new spin on the ad, one that feels real. And watching them get to it together was an extremely satisfying moment. It was so nice to see them being buddies again that I will even let go of the almost-too-saccharine-ending of them slow dancing to music coming from…somewhere. It almost gave me a cavity, but fuck it, it was a nicely earned moment.
And perhaps…that was the strategy all along!
Ha, nah. Pete Campbell's not that smart.

Stray Observations

  • I didn't mention Megan yet. Oh, Megan, it took her about eight seconds (upon hearing "I didn't know he was married!") for her to put on her bitch face. And as she visited she seemed...distant. Packing up more of her stuff, seeming uneasy about Don visiting in August… it all seemed very suspicious. I mean, I know the showrunners have said she's definitely not getting murdered by Charles Manson…but at this point I think it's the best storyline ending for her. She gets pregnant during the threesome, decides to keep it because she's jealous of Stephanie, and then gets murdered while at a dinner party in the canyons. Woah. That's dark, Nick. I know, other Nick! *High fives self. Stares into the mirror with steely eyes*
  • Don says 1955 was a good year. If my math is correct, that means he was just about thirty years old in 1955, which is exactly how old Peggy is now. Ooooo, Mad Men math! Hopefully things for Peggy can start picking up so that she can have a good year as well (This Will Be Our Year!)
  • Cosgrove speaking of his little son: "You really have to keep an eye on him." DEAD SILENCE. This show is funny sometimes. 
  • Peggy hasn't gone to see Ginsberg yet. I cannot blame her. I also like the way she sounds super jealous of Stan's "baby." Poor Peggy. Look at that, this episode actually made me feel empathy for her. Wow, it's been a while. 
  • "It's nice to see family happiness again!" Lou says of the Burger Chef ad pitch. If he had it his way, of course, there'd be a spazzy little monkey hocking the burgers. I've said the word "spaz" more than once in this review. I'm not upset about it, I just thought I'd mention it, because it's kinda weird. Spaz.
  • "The Jews close everything on Saturday!"
  • Harry Crane is a partner. While it was nice seeing all of the partners (spare Ted Chaough, because he's useless now) at the meeting where they voted Harry in, the fact that Harry is now a partner makes me want to vomit White Castle all over my desk and lap. I know he's on Don's side (at least he says he is), but he's such a wormy little fuck--scratch that, a wormy fat-fuck.
  • The last shot of the episode is fantastic. The soft, strangely dreamlike music, the slow pull back, all just lovely. Really drives home the idea of Peggy's new pitch. "Every table is a family table." Not bad. 
  • Of course Pete hates the word "family." Ha, I wonder why? The bit where his daughter didn't recognize him was pretty sad.
  • "And hit the tag like you just thought of it," Peggy tells Don to do. "Do I do that?" Don asks, doubtably in earnest. "Yes, you do," Peggy responds flatly. Those two...I like those two together.
This week saw a pretty big revival in one of Don's relationships. With next week the end of this little halfseason (A midseason finale, or as I like to say, a barf), what relationships with Don can still be repaired (SC&P?) and which are just too fucked to save (Megan?), who knows! 

1 comment:

  1. that is NOT Brittany Snow! that is Jessy Schram and she is from Skokie!