Well a lot of fans got their wish last Sunday. We said Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell as Pete’s ex, Trudy, (Alison Brie) returned, and while Sterling, Cooper & Partners was experiencing a new dawn, viewers were treated to a precious few moments with erstwhile office manager Dawn Chambers (Teyonah Parris).
Peggy’s son didn’t show, although his existence certainly played a pivotal part in the post-stapler dialogue she had with Stan, above the haunting clarinet of Acker Bilk as he played “Stranger on the Shore.” Stan, by the way, is crazy about Peggy, isn’t he or is it just his hormones talking? And did you notice the added tension when Pete and Peggy interact and there are children in the vicinity?
As with several moments in previous episodes, this one contained a scene that felt like it could be a series ender. I’m referring to the one toward the end of Sunday’s ep, in a dark bar where Pete, Teddy and Joan peel off, leaving Roger and Don to booze and reminisce, or so we thought.
Roger pulls a surprise, telling Don he’s seeing Marie Calvet (Julia Ormond). He then chides Don for marrying his secretary (aka Marie’s daughter Megan) and admits he goofed by once doing the same thing. Then Roger grabs Don by the cheeks and nearly kisses him, proclaiming, ‘You’re all right, Don.’ It could have all ended right there. Would it have been satisfying? Probably not; Don, as we know, is far from all right, but, as I wrote above, that scene felt like the end of a series.
(Interesting that Don, who’s now available but alone, is on the receiving end of another romantic revelation in this ep—Teddy also has found a woman, someone he knew in college who’s beautiful, not too young and deep. “Where did you find a girl like that?” Don asks incredulously.)
Variations on a Theme
As for the rest of the ep, it was a variation on last week’s theme, the haves vs the have not’s, with a healthy dose of whacks at big business thrown in.
This week Don’s secretary Meredith (Stephanie Drake) and Dawn were the have not’s. Meredith, although she lashed out at Don, as several other ‘littles’ have done in this and recent eps (Johnny Mathis, Megan, Peggy, who’s not so little but is smaller than Don, the physically-small-but-certainly-not-little Sally, Lou “Sayonara, my friend, enjoy the rest of your miserable life” Avery, for example), was clueless about the McCann absorption.
Dawn, too, was caught off guard about the lease, which alerted the company’s higher ups. And then, of course, a slew of little people reacted with contempt, fear and doubt after Don’s announcement to the company about McCann “moving” the office out of the Time Life building. The point seemed clear—the immortal Don and Roger have fallen a bit and, more importantly, lost the trust of the rank and file.
That’s how it often is, though. The big guys don’t always do well in these transactions, but working stiffs are unable to absorb blows as easily. Don and his cohorts have 4-year contracts with McCann and made out like bandits when Sterling Cooper & Partners went public. Meredith and those like her are concerned about their next paycheck.
Life in the Fast Lane
Still, the plight of the little guy, who’s usually the last to know or be considered in the movements of large companies, was nicely personified by Meredith in this ep, which, appropriately enough, was directed by Jared Harris, aka Lane Pryce, the paradigmatic capitalist suit, who was instrumental the last time Don and crew pulled off a major corporate coup by creating Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce under the noses of McCann.
Yet even the big guys—Don, Roger, Pete, Joan and Teddy (sort of—he’s happy to go to McCann)—aren’t totally sure of what Jim Hobart (H. Richard Greene) and Ferg Donnelly have cooked for dinner.
Oh, the irony; advertising, as we have seen over and over during this series, is a business founded on bending the truth. And here five professional truth benders allegedly are being fed ‘the real story’ by Hobart and Ferg, yet this quintet is not completely sure it’s kosher. That’s also usually how it goes with corporate mergers and takeovers.
Kick the McCann
Another point, McCann, a company whose business is built on communicating messages, botches things royally by ending SC&P’s lease without informing Roger, which leads to the unfortunate incident with Dawn and probably started the rumor mill going at SC&P.
That blunder also spawns tremendous doubt among SC&P’s partners, who are in the dark about McCann’s true motives—yes, the office is being moved to McCann’s building, but is the agency being swallowed? Don, Roger, Peter, Teddy and Joan think so, but until they meet with Hobart 24 hours later they don’t know for certain.
And since we’re talking about communicating, wasn’t it fun to hear people saying a version of ‘Don’t tell anyone’ about the absorption and then, of course, Pete tells Peggy, and later Peggy tells Stan and on, and on, and….
Death By A Thousand Cuts: As we noted above, the usually infallible profile of Don has been swiped at pretty regularly in the past few weeks. Similarly, after Roger sees the unpaid lease he bellows at the top of his lungs for Joan to come into his office. She appears, but coolly says, “don’t do that.” And, of course, the biggest swipe was toward the end of the ep when the office troops literally ignore Roger and Don as they try to put a sunny face on the McCann scarfing S, C&P.
Larger wounds are inflicted when Hobart halts Don’s presentation during their meeting. “It’s done,” Hobart says of the move. Actually, I like that creator Matt Weiner has Don and company unable to work magic every time. They may have secured a bunch of clients within 24 hours before, when they foiled a hostile takeover by McCann. This time, though, their last-minute heroics, which would have relocated some of the team to California, is blocked. A lesser series would have let them succeed again.
Children, Children, Children: Don in the elevator smiling at a mother smoothing the hair of her child as they head to SC&P for an audition. Peggy being totally awkward around children during said audition. Later, of course, is the stapler incident. That, of course, leads to a touching scene between her and Stan, who accidentally tweaks Peggy in a pain point. And, in a nice piece of editing, the arc introducing Pete and Trudy dealing with their daughter Tammy’s school issues comes right after we see the children march into the agency for their audition.
The Trudy-Pete arc also provides historical context, as Trudy believes their status as divorcees is blocking their daughter from entrance into a private school. It also leads to the best line of the ep, as Pete screams: “Greenwich, Connecticut is built on divorced money!” Second-best line of the night, from Roger: “But he [Ken] loves feeling the tip of your nose in the seat of his pants.” Ah, Roger, we love ya.