Jim Hobart, the chief of McCann Erickson, quietly gives Don Draper this directive just as Don is winding up for one of his patented Hail Mary pitches to save SCDP from oblivion. The look that crosses Don’s face is almost one of confusion, because few, if any, people in the 10 year run of Mad Men has ever addressed him in this openly dismissive manner. But sit down he does, joining the other partners at the McCann conference table to hear of the demise of their company. McCann is absorbing them lock stock and barrel, rewarding each partner (except Joan) with a monster account as compensation. Don’s, is, of course, the jewel in the crown, Coca Cola. “Stop struggling”, Jim Hobart finishes with,” you’ve won.”
But this is not a table of winners by the looks on their faces and when next we see them they’re commiserating at a bar, drinking to the Titanic of their company. All of this has been precipitated by the discovery that the lease hasn’t been paid for the SCDP space in the Time-Life building which leads to the back door discovery that Mc Cann hasn’t paid it because they’re going to absorb SCDP within 30 days. Don receives a call from Lou Avery in the SCDP LA office telling him that he’s moving to Tokyo because a Japanese animation company is making a cartoon out of his comic “Scout’s Honor”. Lou calls to gleefully say goodbye to his New York nemesis, ending their relationship with: “Well, sayonara my friend. Enjoy the rest of your miserable life!”
After Don hangs up he begins to conceive a plan to save SCDP from McCann’s great sucking machine. Now that the LA outpost will be empty, and with enough in loyal billings to make McCann pay attention, a handful of them can relocate to LA and save the company. It makes sense to Roger and Pete and Joan but Ted has just re-met the love of his life, an old college sweetheart, and she wants to stay in New York. Roger and Pete begin the hard sell with Ken Cosgrove, to get the biggest prize, Dow Chemical, to commit to the move. Armed with Ken’s favorite very expensive wine, Roger and Pete pitch the idea and are shot down in short order by a vengeful Ken who, although he hates McCann, he hates Roger and Pete even more. It’s a big blow to the plan but not a deal breaker, so with just enough in billings to make McCann pay attention, the partners head over to the pitch meeting to sell Jim Hobart on the idea.
Don begins slowly and we’re reminded of his tone in “The Wheel”, but where that story began on a slow note but built to a masterfully emotional crescendo, this one ends shortly after it begins. Jim Hobart tells Don to sit down, it’s over; these guys are going to “advertising heaven”. They are beaten; once chiefs of all they surveyed, they are now just employees and their faces reflect that shocking change. Joan voices her fear that, at McCann she won’t be taken seriously and her fear is justified, since Jim Hobart glossed over her as he named the prestige accounts that will be cherry-picked for the SCDP leadership team. One by one they each leave the bar, everyone having somewhere to be and someone to be with, except Don. Roger is the last to go and finally confesses to Don that he’s been seeing Megan’s mother Marie. At first aghast, “She’s crazy, you know”, Don finally figuratively throws up his hands and, for the second time that day, admits defeat.
There follows a genuinely affecting scene between Roger and Don where Roger tells the younger man, “You’re OK”. These two have always had kind of a big brother/little brother relationship, but with Bert Cooper gone Roger is now the elder statesman of the group and we sense an almost father/son shift in his affection for Don, affection which is clearly sincere on both sides.
Again Don finds himself alone and goes in search of Diana, who has called his service twice but left no message and, in fact, even requested that the operator not tell Don that she has even called. Don heads over to her apartment and finds that Diana is gone, her apartment now occupied by a gay couple who have no idea where she might be. Homeless, alone and now faced with having to relinquish captaincy of his career ship, Don continues to drift, each week losing another mooring that previously anchored his life.
Perhaps the most poignant scene in this week’s episode, however, goes to Peggy and Stan. Peggy slowly reveals to Stan the story of the little boy she carried and gave up for adoption. As I watched Peggy speak of the ache that never really completely disappears I was reminded of what Don told her at her bedside after the baby had been taken away. “You will be surprised at how much this didn’t happen.” Apparently he was very wrong, because, although not driven by the memory and its attendant regret, Peggy tells Stan that, although she hasn’t forgotten about her son, she’s had to build a wall around her feelings out of self-preservation. “I’m here. And he’s with a family, somewhere. I don’t know, but it’s not because I don’t care. I don’t know because you’re not supposed to know, or you can’t go on with your life.” A beautiful piece of writing and an Emmy-worthy reading by Elizabeth Moss. Peggy also intones what may be the first feminist manifesto of the 1970s, wondering aloud why men get to escape unscathed from emotional entanglements and how women should be equally able to get on with the lives in the face of such drama. Peggy is a survivor and someone who has fought for, and earned, every inch of success she has achieved. I hope the Mad Men writers reward Peggy with good stuff before the series ends.The episode closes out the next day as the partners gather the SCDP troops to deliver the news about the McCann merger. In seasons past we’ve seen these kinds of calls to action before and Don always serves as the general mustering the soldiers to fall in behind the leadership line. This time nobody is buying the false patina that Don tries to paint on the news, “This is the beginning of something, not the end,” Don shouts over the growing din created by staff panic. Nobody can hear him and nobody is listening. How the mighty have fallen.