Mad Men recap: Coups de Grace

Season 6's penultimate episode finds Don alienating himself even further, while Bob Benson's secret is finally confirmed
Ep. 12 | Aired Jun 16, 2013

ORANGE YOU GLAD?: Don gets a call from West Coast Harry, who tells him the Sunkist folks want to give them business.

AMC

While at the movies, they run into Peggy and Ted, who have a quick-draw professional excuse—they're basing an ad for St. Joseph's children's aspirin on the film's final scene—but it's pretty obvious what's going on to anyone with two eyes and a brain. The flirtation is so conspicuous that's it's practically written out in neon. Don's reaction at first seems inscrutable, and he pretends not to know what's going on when Megan presses the issue. But as soon as he gets home, he calls Harry to tell him to move ahead with Sunkist, breaking his gentleman's agreement with Ted. It's petty, but like Don's later revenge, it can be masqueraded as something he did for the good of the company.

Lest we feel too badly for Ted, let's remember that he has a wife and kids. His reason for leaving the theater is he has to throw a football around with his son, so it's not like his high-school crush on Peggy is going to lead anywhere good. Plus, their demeanor together is anything but professional and Don is right that Ted was blinded by his feelings for her when he let the St. Joseph's budget balloon. Still, just because he's in the right doesn't mean he's acting rightly. In the words of the Dude, "You're not wrong, Don, you're just an asshole."

He calls a meeting with St. Joseph's and promises Ted he'll talk them around to the budget. Instead, he makes a quiet allusion to their "relationship," watching as Ted squirms at the end of his hook before finally letting him off. He tells the representative that the idea was Frank Gleason's last before he died, effectively wrenching the CLIO-worthy concept away from Peggy and showing that his anger wasn't limited to Ted. If anything, he's more upset with Peggy for what he sees as a betrayal. His contempt is such that he refers to her as a "little girl" as he remonstrates Ted after the meeting, telling him twice that he's not thinking with his head (or at least not with the right head). The message gets through and Ted leaves for home early to avoid her.

Peggy confronts Don in his office and calls him a monster. Two of the most important women in Don's life are now utterly disgusted with him, and the third would be if she ever found out about Sylvia. The episode ends with another ceiling-eye shot of Don, curled up in a fetal position on his office couch. This isn't the first time he's played the baby, either, having previously emitted a few slightly disturbing "wah, wahs" in the run-through for the aspirin ad. Even without this, Don's childishness is evident. He pouts, he whines, he wants everything for himself. This season has done all it can to dry up every last drop of sympathy for Don, both from his fellow characters and from viewers. The episode's title, "The Quality of Mercy," comes from Portia's famous speech in The Merchant of Venice in which she begs Shylock to reconsider taking his payment. Don is also too intent on extracting his pound of flesh to consider kindness. One wonders how much mercy the show's final episodes will offer him. I imagine not much.

NEXT: "You'll shoot your eye out!"


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