Sure, Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men,” “The Strategy” was all about how SC&P was going to get the Burger Chef. But really, it was all about family.
It was about how neither Peggy, Don or Pete have a family — except for each other. It was about how Bob Benson wants a traditional, heterosexual “family” with Joan if only because it will help elevate his executive status at Buick.
It was about how Joan — who has a son and a mother — wants even more than that; she wants love, a rare concept in the “Mad Men” world.
It was about how Pete hates family — at least hates the word family — but can’t bear the fact that his life with Trudy is over.
Both Bonnie and Megan want families that they will never have because their men, Pete and Don, respectively, can’t give them their full attention. (That shot of each striking woman — one blonde, one brunette — sitting alone in first class was a great image.)
But all of this was framed around getting the coveted Burger Chef account.
Peggy gave a knockout presentation to Lou and Pete, but in the end everyone — including a reluctant Peggy — agreed that it would be best for Don to pitch the presentation and have Peggy swoop in at the last minute as the “mom” figure. There was a heavy focus on moms and Peggy during this episode, which I am sure was to remind the audience that Peggy is, in fact, a mom. Just not the kind that she is trying to sell stuff to.
Don is still on the wagon so far (well, not the not-drinking wagon, but the wagon of doing the — relatively speaking — right thing) and is turning in his work to Peggy and deferring to her. But when Don, who remains a creative genius, thinks that the Burger Chef pitch could be better, puts Peggy into a rewriting tailspin.
We see how truly isolated Peggy is as she sits at work on a Saturday and calls Stan, who thinks it’s his girlfriend calling. Not only does Peggy have nowhere else to be, she wants to be at work. You know else does that? Don.
So Don comes in to help her and they have a touching moment that I’ve been missing for a while. I love it when they are BFF.
Neither can understand exactly what is wrong in the other’s life: Peggy sees that Don has a beautiful wife and a high-paying job, but not that he is miserable. Don sees that Peggy has personal freedom and a better position at the company than he does, but not that she is incredibly lonely.
There is a rare chink in Peggy’s armor when talking about family and her recent 30th birthday and she starts to cry in front of Don. A few seasons ago, Don would have told her to buck up, but they are real equals now (besides the unchangeable fact that Peggy is a woman) and so he gets vulnerable, too. Their dance to Sinatra’s “My Way” was both sweet and sad.
Pete, in all of his douchey glory, is still one of my personal favorite characters on the show and is such a tragic figure. I hate him, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him! He can’t accept that his marriage is over, so he takes it out on his hot, independent girlfriend who eventually ups and leaves for L.A.
There is a lot of tension — as there always is — at SC&P, but the final scene of the original Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce gang eating at Burger Chef like when you sit down to eat with your family at the end of a long day.
Pete has a point when he says that he hates the word “family” because it’s so vague. But what he can’t see is that there is a definition of it right in front of him, sitting at a “clean, well-lighted place.”
This is the second episode in a row to end on a high note (well, except the whole Ginsberg/ mental breakdown thing), but could it finally be time for everyone to get along?
Other notable moments:
- The gay GM exec being arrested for attempting to go down on a cop was very random and very understated. I wasn’t sure what the point of it was except for to serve as a warning to Bob to either come out, or stay in deeply in the closet.
- Roger’s line to the McCann exec in the steam room was classic Roger , “When we grow up we’re going to kill you and marry your wife.”
- Marcia the secretary delivered an accidental blow to Megan, “I didn’t even know Don was married.” OUCH.
- The loss of the Chevy account is going to cause some unrest at SC&P, and as many have mentioned, could cause a Ted/ Jim/ Lou/ Joan vs. Don/ Roger/ Pete — and now Harry?! battle.