Whenever Bert Cooper makes an appearance on Mad Men, his presence tends to be both transitory and everlasting. His witty remarks come off as comic relief, but in reality, they’re harbingers of the show’s themes and plot lines, loudly echoing in viewers’ ears long after they’re made. In the case of “For Immediate Release,” in which Don and SCDP landed the ultimate advertising brass ring (Chevy!), I kept thinking about Bert’s offhand comment last season about how Jaguars are “lemons. They never start.” I’m just waiting for Bert to make the same kind of observation about this new, unnamed Chevrolet vehicle Don, Roger and the SCDP creative team are creaming themselves over, because it’s my understanding that the XP-887 turned out to be a pretty unreliable car.
But Bert is probably too busy absorbing the news that he’s got a brand-new batch of partners: Jim Cutler (now that Harry Hamlin has made two successive appearances on Mad Men, I demand a Bubo cameo), Frank Gleason and Ted Chaough. By the end of the episode, we learn that Don was successful in landing the Chevy account only by teaming up with his long-standing rivals. To the popping soundtrack of “Baby Jane (Mo-Mo Jane)” by Mitch Ryder and the (aptly named) Detroit Wheels, Jim, Ted, Don and Roger took the GM offices by storm, effectively dissolving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as we’ve known it for the past two and a half seasons. In a break with spoiler-free-preview tradition, the clips from Episode Seven include clear-cut evidence of the SCDP and CGC merger: a shot of Peggy walking back into her old office with a box of her belongings, and Ted leading a meeting in what appears to be the SCDP creative lounge. Just as we were getting used to Peggy having story lines outside of the SCDP milieu, it’s almost jarring to see her working with Don again. Especially now that something’s brewing between her and Ted.
“For Immediate Release” is one of those monumental Mad Men episodes where looking away for a split second simply isn’t an option. There were no throwaway scenes or forgettable moments, and even though they played supporting roles this time around, Vincent Kartheiser and Christina Hendricks turned in standout performances, with Hendricks putting in a strong bid for an Emmy. Everything built up to the final scene, which had Peggy writing a press release announcing the new, unnamed advertising firm representing Chevrolet’s latest addition. It’s the reunion audiences have been waiting for since Peggy strolled out of the SCDP offices to the driving riff of “You Really Got Me,” but given her spooked reaction to the news, this could be a recipe for disaster.
Initial Public Offering
Jon Hamm still can’t seem to get away from the Kryptonian references despite having not been cast in the upcoming Man of Steel. Not only does Megan call Don “Superman” (right before giving him a blow job), but he spends the entire episode dashing from dinners to Detroit in order to single-handedly save his company from financial ruin, as well as defend Joan’s honor. But Don’s heroic gestures didn’t sit too well with SCDP’s only female partner. Fed up with Herb Rennet’s relentless, amateurish ideas, not to mention his seemingly never-ending aftertaste, Don gives Jaguar its walking papers during a contentious dinner. Don’s intentions may have been noble, but all he did was fuel Joan’s argument throughout this season that she’ll never be more than a secretary in the eyes of her colleagues. In an absolutely knockout scene, in which Christina Hendricks executes a flawless mix of venom and tears, she reams out Don for playing her life like a drunken game of chess. With Jaguar gone, Joan degraded herself for nothing.
Pete’s not too pleased with Don’s rogue activities either – because he and Joan and Bert had been working on a deal for SCDP to go public, and the loss of Jaguar puts that plan on indefinite hold. His bad mood is compounded by the fact that he caught his father-in-law, Tom Vogel, at a brothel the night before (the joke here being that after all of his bloviating last week over the significance of Martin Luther King’s death, all Pete could focus on was how Tom selected a “200-pound Negro” as his choice of company). Vincent Kartheiser continued his alacrity with physical comedy as he gracefully plummeted down the office stairs before unleashing his wrath. But Pete’s anger is briefly tempered once SuperDon announces the panacea to the Jaguar debacle: Roger has secured SCDP a pitch meeting with Chevrolet. And the pressure was on once Don and Roger were ensconced in the airport – a rival adman dropped the bombshell that not only is Jaguar no longer a SCDP client, but neither is Vick Chemical (a.k.a. Tom Vogel). Cut to an outraged Pete desperately trying to do damage control with his father-in-law, but it’s of no use. Tom hypocritically upbraids Pete for being a “low-life” and terrible father to Tammy, and when Pete confronts Trudy at the end of the episode, like father like daughter, she refuses to accept that Tom could be anything but an upstanding gentleman. Her demand that Pete move out once and for all is long overdue, because even though Pete’s behavior is no better than Tom’s, it’s time everyone involved got out of this toxic, twisted relationship.
The Dating Game
Ever since I started writing about Mad Men, it was easy to paint Peggy as the representative of the burgeoning “youth movement.” Her relationships with Abe and Life photo editor Shosh, I mean, Joyce Ramsay, pointed her in a countercultural direction throughout the more recent seasons. But now that Peggy has sunk her money into a shitbox on the Upper West Side – BTW, who is her realtor/lawyer/mortgage broker? Once Upon a Time’s Evil Queen? Because I don’t see how else she could’ve bought the place and moved in the span of a month (last week’s episode was early April, and now we’re in mid-May) – she’s not too keen on being part of the first wave of gentrification. “I don’t like change,” she tells Abe, who’s happy as a clam in his electricity-optional pad. Also, the long-haired look isn’t turning her on as much anymore. Shortly after Ted plants one on Peggy after hours in the office, she’s fantasizing about her smoking-jacketed boss reading Ralph Waldo Emerson while Abe waxes poetic about the possibility of Eugene McCarthy being the next president.
Peggy is jolted back into reality a couple of nights later when Ted, who also went to Detroit to pitch Chevrolet, calls her into his office to announce that he and Don have merged the two companies – and that Don is reapplying for the position of “Peggy’s mentor.” When Don assigns her the task of writing the press release about the merger, he encourages her to “make it sound like the agency you want to work for.” Now that Peggy will be working for both Ted and Don, and her lip-lock with Ted adds a new layer of romantic entanglement, I’m picturing the three of them sitting on a familiar Day-Glo soundstage, along with Abe:
“She’s a lapsed Catholic, a workaholic and loves Bobby Kennedy, please welcome Peggy Olson!”
“Bachelor Number One is an anti-Establishment journalist who enjoys living off of his sugar mama girlfriend and refurbishing cheap, Upper West Side apartments in his spare time.”
“Bachelor Number Two is a partner in an advertising firm whose turn-ons include turtlenecks, plaid blazers and religious retreats.”
“Bachelor Number Three is a partner in Bachelor Number Two’s rival firm, is originally from the Midwest, enjoys finding new ways to cover up his past and believes variety is the spice of life.”
The 11th-hour merger between Ted and Don occurred because both were at their most vulnerable – they knew that they had the creative chops, but neither firm was large enough to impress Chevrolet. It was easy for them to let their guard down at a bar, but do these one-time rivals really think they’ll be able to work together on a daily basis?
Previously: Shot Rings Out in the Memphis Sky