Don finally seems to realize that he may have gone too far with the Commander meeting, and that Cutler, despite being outvoted, might actually have Don over a barrel. He calls Megan to explain his predicament, that he's basically at peace with whatever happens. After all, if they fire him, he can finally move to California. Megan, sipping wine and sunbathing in a skimpy bikini, offers only silence. After all, she has her fondue kit now. What else is left for her in New York? What else is left of her marriage? Just enough to end it with less than 35 words in 30 awkward but merciful seconds. "Goodbye, Don." Click.
In Indianapolis, the creative team huddles around the motel television to watch Armstrong take his one giant leap for mankind. Peggy returns with two hard-to-find beers for her and Don -- sorry, Harry -- and she and Don pair up sitting close together on one bed. Their close proximity had an intimacy, as did the fact that Peggy came back with only two beers. It may not be romantic, but they are clearly a couple, of sorts.
The rest of the Mad Men universe is also glued to the tube. The Francises watch with Betty's college girlfriend and her two sons, one a strapping jock, the other a star-gazing dweeb. Bert watches with his housekeeper, muttering "Bravo," at Armstrong's poetic eloquence.
Roger watches with his ex-wife, grandson, and son-in-law. And that's when the phone rings. Something bad happened. My first thought? It was Margaret/Marigold related. Something had happened to Roger's daughter. But it was Bert. His last words that we heard were, "Bravo."
I must've forgotten the depth of Roger's relationship with Bert. I never doubted it, per se. After all, Bert and Roger's father had founded the company in the 1920s and when Sterling Sr. died, Bert became, in many ways, a surrogate father to Roger. But I was so touched to see Roger so saddened, and to see him call Don to share the news. At times like this, you turn to your closest friends and to your family. He should've known Bert's time was near, Roger tells Don. "Every time an old man starts talking about Napoleon, you know they're going to die."
While Bert's body is practically still warm, Cutler's crocodile blood is ice cold. He offers Roger a token condolence and then quickly moves on to Stage 2 of the Don Draper Exit Plan. Cooper's soft pro-Don vote is gone, Harry's presumed anti-Don vote is about to be activated. It's simple math, he hints. Cutler might have a vision for the "agency of the future," but Bert might have underestimated Roger. He arranges a meeting with rival Jim Hobart at McCann Erickson, his sauna buddy who's been eying Don and SC&P this season. His agency is likely losing Buick, a secret that Roger has in his pocket after Bob Benson's exit. Jim wants SC&P's Chevy team, Roger, Cutler, Don, and Ted, but Roger has a greater vision: buy the entire company, with Roger left in charge. Maybe, says Jim, if you can deliver Don and Ted as a functioning team.
In Indy, Don is changing the plans for the presentation. The creative idea is sound, but Peggy is going to deliver the pitch, not him. He's thought it through and concludes that it will all be for naught if they win the account before he's fired. "You win this business and it will be yours," he says. "You've never even seen me present," says a panicked Peggy. "I've overheard things," he replies, reminding us of his professional eavesdropping in season 6's "To Have and To Hold."
Would Don Draper have committed this act of altruism two seasons ago? Two episodes ago? Part of me doubted he would do it even now. After all, he barged in to the Philip Morris meeting to make him become essential again, at any cost. Now, he's handed an opportunity that might make it impossible for Cutler to get rid of him, breach of contract or not. If he aced the Burger Chef pitch, do you really think the partners would axe him if the account depended on his involvement? There's nothing Machiavellian about Don's intentions. So who is this guy?
NEXT: Curtain call for Bert Cooper