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

No wonder Peggy's own perceptions and opinions are so fragile. She's suffocating beneath these prejudices. Over the weekend, she lashes out at Don on the phone, telling him that her Burger Chef idea is "poisoned because you expressed [your doubts]." Don's opinions clearly mean more to her than her own, even when his profile is at its nadir. And on Monday, when Don arrives at the office, she sarcastically demands that he save the day. Except that she's not being sarcastic at all. She's desperate for his help, and wants his secret. "Show me how you think," she demands bitterly. "Do it out loud."

Don fixes them both a drink -- another violation of his office probation -- and demonstrates why he's Don Draper: "You can't tell people what they want. It has to be what you want," he says. Easier said than done, for some people. Presented with that challenge, and marinading in alcohol, Peggy devises a new campaign that might be best described in the 2000s as the Olive Garden, with its emphasis on "whoever you were sitting with was family." Don challenged Peggy to tell people what she wanted, and Matthew Weiner and writer Semi Challas (also of season 5's "The Other Woman") gave her some early watered-down version version of "When You're Here, You're Family." Is this a creative breakthough or a tragic flaw?

Just then, Sinatra's 1969 hit, which became the Chairman of the Board's signature anthem, begins to play. Don and Peggy had shared some intimate personal feelings: Don's worry about being alone and having never done anything, Peggy's unhappiness at being 30 and single. "I looked in the window of so many station-wagons [during our Burger Chef research]," says Peggy. "What did I do wrong?"

"I worry about a lot of things, but I don't worry about you," Don reassures her.

There's only one thing left to do, and Don guides Peggy off the sofa and into a slow dance as Sinatra sings about regret and facing the final curtain. For less than an instant, I thought this might lead to a kiss, but this isn't romantic. It's a father/daughter wedding dance. Don seems slightly unnerved when Peggys rests her head on his chest. Is he trying to calibrate his own emotions to the paternal role he's assumed? Or is he having misgivings about possibly manipulating Peggy? I'm honestly not sure. The song "My Way" is such an expression of defiance ("I did what I had to do
 / And saw it through without exemption"), and Sinatra in 1969, after Elvis and the Beatles had stolen his mojo, was very much at the same stage as Don is professionally. And he came back with a vengeance.

In the episode's final scene, Peggy and Don meet Pete at a Burger Chef, where they pitch their her idea for the Family advertising concept. "She's doing it the way she wants to do it," Don tells Pete. Here, in contrast to the unrepentant lyrics of "My Way," the cameras seems to paint the trio as one happy family, with Pete playing the role of goofy kid with a smudge of food on his lip. This is what Peggy wants to sell. But it doesn't feel like a Don Draper Joint.

Just Spitballin' Here

- Oh, the profanity! Mad Men has dropped in the occasional bad word before, but I don't recall there every being so many as last night -- including three sh--s and a bleeped f-bomb. It's 10 p.m. cable drama, so no harm, no foul -- but it certainly seems as if Weiner is making the final season on his terms, when it comes to language.

- Do we have to worry about Bonnie and Don next time he's in California? Despite Pete's claims that she turns it on for everyone, she clearly goes out of her way to see Don at the New York office. Now that she may have soured on New York Pete, I fear she could feel free to pursue Don just out of spite.

- At the New York Athletic Club sauna, Jim Hobart plants the seed for Roger and Don's exit from SC&P. Later, Roger pieces together the puzzle that McCann Erickson fears losing Buick, and Hobart might be interested in absorbing some top executive talent. Can we agree that with Philip Morris on the agenda, Don's days as SC&P are numbered -- or will his theatrics at last week's meeting make a big difference?

- In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Ken Cosgrove isn't set to reign just yet, but did you also notice Stan's bedroom poster of Israeli military hero Moshe Dayan?

- Harry Crane is now a partner. And Don Draper gave his blessing publicly. "Say what you will, but he's very loyal," says Don, one week after his revealing night out with SC&P's top computer and TV honcho. This is another indication to me that Don is planning to undermine the entire agency. The episode's title, "The Strategy," could have less to do with Peggy's Burger Chef plan and more to do with Don's gameplan for redemption. Hell hath no fury like an aging white man scorned.

- The post-credits preview are typically inscrutable, but at least they're non-sequitur clips from the next episode. For next week's mid-season finale, however, Weiner went the extra yard and only included old clips to keep everything top secret. I'm still sticking to my guns on the moon landing playing a major role.

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