Mad Men recap: Don Wants to Be Chairman of the Board

Don and Peggy slow dance over Burger Chef, while Bob Benson returns with a proposal
Ep. 06 | Aired May 18, 2014

Don and Peggy slow-danced to Frank Sinatra's "My Way," and their professional reconciliation was the most heart-warming of numerous Mad Men reunions during "The Strategy" -- the penultimate episode of the first half of the show's final season. Their slightly tipsy embrace, with her head on his shoulder and him nuzzling her hair as Sinatra crooned lyrics practically invented for Don Draper, was a TV moment that launched a thousand tweets. This was the third -- and final? -- beat of a personal story that started with season 2's "The New Girl" and continued with season 4's "The Suitcase." Don and Peggy, Peggy and Don: a complicated relationship built upon authority and emotion that has evolved, broken down, and supposedly turned itself inside out. But maybe not so much.

What brings them back together, basically, is what Lou Avery hoped would rid SC&P of Don once and for all: Burger Chef. After weeks of research, driving around the Midwest with Mathis and interviewing unenthusiastic Burger Chef customers, Peggy thinks she has a solid campaign pitch. Pete's flown in for the preliminary presentation -- bringing sunkissed Bonnie Whiteside along -- and he's eager to have Don in the room, too. Lou wasn't expecting to see Don (ever again), and expresses as much when Don sheepishly walks into the meeting: "Did you need something, Don?" But Pete clearly thinks Don is still essential. And as good as the concept is, he wants Don to lead the presentation when it's officially pitched to Burger Chef. Because, you know, Don's a man.

Pete says as much later when Peggy is invited into Lou's office for a good ol' fashioned boys club ambush. Pete wants Don's "authority" wrapped around Peggy's "emotion." Peggy's not pleased with the idea at all, but the deck's been stacked against her. Even the L.A. corpse of Ted is behind Pete's idea -- though good work, Peg, everyone agrees, you're "as good as any woman in this business."

In other news, Lou Avery has a wife who's "a real card." Even Hitler had a lover, folks.

Speaking of frustrated sociopaths, Bob Benson is back! Admit it: you let out a little shriek of joy when Bob popped up in the show's opening teaser after being off-screen all season. Bob returns to New York with Chevy executives in tow, and they check in with eye-patched Ken Cosgrove on their tour of the office (which elicits the show's only mention of the gay-whispering IBM 360). Free peanuts to the writer who had Ken say this of his rambunctious toddler: "You really got to keep an eye on him."

Bob's not all business, however. He's keen to spend Sunday with Joan and her family, even more so after Chevy's Bill Hartley (The Wedding Singer's Matthew Glave) playfully flirts with Joan, and Joan giggles girlishly in response. No doubt she would make a valuable asset on your arm as you scale the corporate ladder, Double-B.

But Benson gets a phone call late-late that night -- and it's not great, Bob. The happily married Hartley had been beaten after trying to fellate an undercover police officer, and needs to be bailed out. "I called you because I knew you could keep this to yourself," says Harley, hinting that he suspects Bob understands and shares his double life as a closeted gay man. "I am not of your stripe," Bob snaps back. In the back of the cab, Hartley proceeds to share the news that Chevy is bringing their account in-house -- a blow to SC&P, but a possible promotion for Bob. Buick is going to come calling for him, meaning he's moving up again in the world, and all he needs is a queen to share his reign in Detroit.

Eventually, Peggy is resigned to including Don in her presentation, and she tells him the news. Then he lights a long-fused bomb: "I was just noodling around with seeing the whole thing from the kids' perspective. ... I don't know, just a thought." It explodes later that night, as Peggy tries to sleep. She's not worried that Don is going to hijack the presentation; she's worried that her idea is crap. Don -- intentionally? -- planted a sliver of doubt, and it's splintering her psyche. The fact that Lou gave the pitch his endorsement, with "It's nice to see family happiness again," only underscores her self-doubt, and she has the weekend to let it fester.

NEXT: New York is the best of times, the worst of times


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