Mad Men Recap: One Big, Happy Family

Mad Men Season 7 Recap There you are, Mad Men.

Just when I thought that maybe the first half of the AMC drama’s final season was going to be little more than a navel-gazing exercise, we get an episode that has all of the elements of great Mad Mens past: Pete acting like a bratty child, and Trudy having none of it; Don and Peggy in a room, doing what they do best; the partners arguing in the conference room, with at least one of them stomping out in protest; and an incredibly wrongheaded proposal.

Plus, Bob Benson! Cute kids! The absence of Betty’s suck-a-lemon face!

It’s not “The Suitcase,” but it’s not bad. Let’s review the highlights of the very good “The Strategy.”

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CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE | Peggy’s team has come up with a Burger Chef campaign that everyone seems to like; it centers on a harried mom meeting up with her husband at the fast-food joint and sharing a family meal with their kids. “Our job is to turn Burger Chef into a special treat, served with love,” she says, buoyed by everyone’s enthusiasm for the work. Pete, who’s visiting from California, asks Don what he thinks, and it’s awkward for a moment before Draper backs Pegs. Go team!

However, Pete also thinks that Sterling Cooper & Partners has a better chance of landing the account if Don does the heavy lifting during the presentation. “Don will give authority, and you will give emotion,” Pete says, and I don’t think it’s possible for him to be any more patronizing than he is as he assures her that the ultimate decision about who’ll pitch is in her hands. Peggy caves, to Pete’s delight. “You know that she’s every bit as good as any woman in this business!” he chortles. (Apparently, I was wrong.)

When Peggy breaks the news to Don, he uses the opportunity to say that maybe the ad should be told from the kids’ point of view. Pegs decides that’s a terrible idea – but after much lost sleep and weekend hours at the office, she knows that the campaign they have isn’t as kickass as it should be. She calls Don at home – “Why are you undermining me?” – and he leaves a visiting Megan to come in and help Peggy rework what they’ve done. “You really want to help me? Show me how you think,” she tells her mentor. So over drinks in Lou’s office, they start from scratch.

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SHALL WE DANCE? | Don and Peggy, brainstorming in a room? Yes, please! As they talk, Peggy wonders whether the smiling nuclear family in their ad even exists anymore, which snowballs into her confessing that she’s been lying about her age (she turned 30 a few weeks back) and that she wonders “What did I do wrong?” when she sees women her age with husbands and kids. Don, who’s in an exceptional mood for most of the episode, reassures her, “You’re doing great” and hands her his handkerchief to dry her tears.

The emotional outburst had a positive side effect: Peggy had a great new idea for the campaign. And as the radio plays Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” Don holds out his hand, asking her to dance. So the pair slowly sway together in Lou’s office, her head resting on his chest, him kissing her head, all of those terrible things they’ve said to/thrown at each other fading (until the next time they tick each other off) as Ol’ Blue Eyes croons.

This is not the Don we’ve seen all season, but I don’t even care, because I need Peggy to have a win, damnit! And it seems her new Burger Chef strategy is even better – or, at least, more realistic — than the original, as we learn when she gathers Don and Pete at one of the chain’s shops. “Every table here is the family table,” she says, announcing her intention to shoot the ad in an actual BC restaurant. Pete grumbles a little but acquiesces, they all eat dinner, and the camera slowly pulls out on the dysfunctional, non-traditional family enjoying a meal together.

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IN WHICH TRUDY RULES (AGAIN) | Too bad Pete’s actual family life isn’t quite as warm and fuzzy. He brings Bonnie to New York for his week-long work trip, but the most attention she gets from him comes in the airplane bathroom on the flight in. (Your Mile High Club card should arrive in five to seven business days, Mr. Campbell.)

The rest of the time, Pete’s preoccupied either with work, creeping out his daughter (who doesn’t seem to know who he is) and slut-shaming Trudy for daring to go on a date. “I don’t like you carrying on like this. It’s immoral. You have a child,” he sneers, surprising her (and shoving in an impressive amount of hypocrisy) at the Cos Cob home they used to share. Trudy tells him to quit that noise; though they’re not divorced yet, they soon will be, and “You’re not part of this family anymore.” #TeamTrudyAllTheWay

We later see Bonnie heading back to California – solo – on the same plane as Megan. (Here’s your 10-second recap of Megan’s New York visit: She’s happier out West, he’s happier in Manhattan. And scene!)

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WHAT ABOUT BOB? | Not gonna lie: Bob Benson’s SC&P visit played a big part in my satisfaction with this week’s episode. He arrives with a few Chevy execs, one of whom calls him in the middle of the night after being arrested for propositioning an undercover New York City cop. The exec (played by the hardworking Matthew Glave, who will always be The Wedding Singer‘s Glenn Guglia to me) knows that Bob, too, prefers the company of men, and he wonders, “How did you live in this city? So much temptation.” “It was hard,” Benson says, no doubt thinking of Pete’s manly sideburns. The most important upshot of their late night conversation: Chevy is going to leave SC&P, and Bob’s going to be offered a job at Buick.

The next time we see Mr. Benson, he’s arriving at Joan’s. (Side note: Please compare the way Kevin responds to Bob and the way Tammy responds to Pete. Kids aren’t dumb.) “I see a day that starts with pancakes and ends with an ice cream sundae!” Bob cheerily announces. Oh Bob, if I didn’t already love you, that sentence would’ve sealed the deal.

At the end of the evening, after Joan’s mom and son have gone to bed, Bob pulls out a ring and proposes to the flabbergasted redhead, then kisses her. “Put that away,” she says gently… and then “You don’t want this” a tad bit more forcefully… and then when it seems like only the blunt truth will do, “Bob, you shouldn’t be with a woman.”

He all but asks her to be his lawfully wedded beard when he tells her about Chevy’s imminent flight and how Buick expects their employees to be a certain kind of men (read: not gay). He brings up her advancing age and how she’s not likely to get a better offer – really, it’s not quite as harsh as I’m making it sound here – which cements her decision. “I want love, and I’d rather die hoping it happens than make some arrangement.” Yet another reason you’re one of my favorites, Red.

Now it’s your turn. Were you pleased to see Bob back at SC&P? Did you like the Don-Peggy stuff as much as I did? Do you think Harry deserves to be a partner? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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62 Comments
  1. mimi says:

    I think this episode just goes to show that the writer’s strength lie in the Peggy Don dynamic. That was probably the best five minutes in probably the last two or three seasons. Just beautiful.

  2. rowan77 says:

    I really liked this episode. Don is making a comeback at work (thank you, Pete) and he and Peggy are finally moving past their issues. The world is aways better when Don and Peggy are united. Even though she’s now his immediate supervisor, he’s still her mentor. I just hope she puts away the sniping and vitriol and realizes they make an amazing team. I want them to start their own firm as partners. Happy to see Pete being the hypocritical child we all know him to be. I kind of hate it when he’s happy. Loved seeing closure on Bob Benson. I thought once he was off to Detroit (i.e. the set of The Crazy Ones), that would be it. Glad I was wrong. I don’t get Megan. She doesn’t want Don, then she wants Don, then she doesn’t, then she does – oh wait – she doesn’t really after all. She’s become as tiresome as Betty. Can we just kill her off? I like the actress, but the character has really outstayed her welcome IMHO.

    • Likewaterforchocolat says:

      Ok. I don’t feel alone in wanting Meghan to be killed off.

    • Don Draper’s hippie niece is having a baby with an itinerant musician who’s about to get out of jail. A little Mansony, right? Now she knows where Megan lives & that Megan lives there alone, in the canyon just like Sharon Tate. The niece also knows Megan can write a check for $1000 without blinking. Boyfriend’s going to need some money and a place to crash when he gets out of jail ….

      • joeybrite says:

        oh crap! I think you really hit on an angle that would bring that time period home in a very realistic – and painful – way. this is sadly brilliant!

    • Mary Partlow says:

      Don’t like the actress or the character. Don’s marriage to this idiot never made sense. Hope Megan’s plane crashes.

      • rowan77 says:

        His marriage made perfect sense if you understood Don Draper. He needs a pretty girl on his arm who will admire him. He also needed someone who will love and care for his kids when he has them at his place. Megan fit all of that – just like Betty used to when she was younger. It’s only when Megan got some independence and wanted a more equal marriage that things started going sour. She behaves like a brat and he drinks more and more. The best thing for both of them was her moving to LA. Now that he’s mostly sober, he does very well without her, whether he likes it or not.

  3. Gail says:

    So glad to see Bob Benson’s story have a conclusion. Love that Bob.

    • Ken says:

      Why do you all think that Bob is over or that is story had closure last night? After Joan tells him she heard about Chevy pulling out and Bob leaving to go to Buick, Roger finally getting the hint from that guy in the steam room. I think he will put into motion to steal Buick from that competing agency, and Bob will still be around in some capacity.

      • I wouldn’t put it past Peggy to lean on Bob a little bit (she knows his secret, after all) to get him to help convince Buick (and that executive whose secret Bob knows) that Buick should go with SCDP. (or whatever the heck their agency is called now.) She’s got ambition.

      • joeybrite says:

        I agree w/ you on the Roger move now, and, this can place the normally optimistic and ‘survivor-no-matter-what-the-obstacle’ Bob in a horrible pickle that might actually help him become despondent enough to kill himself. We have had one other significant character who was a closeted gay man (Salvatore ‘Sal’ Romano), and was booted out of his art director job at Sterling Cooper for economic & creative tech reasons. Bob brings the issue up again of how American males were perceived & expected to be as ‘men’, and the creators may just give us a sad reality of that time period: many of these closeted gay men did not come to good ends. Suicide was high and I can see the writers wanting to sock-it-to-us, the audience, as a reminder of how far we’ve come as a society – (or have we really?) Bob presents a variety of opportunities to deal w/ masculinity, concepts of what a ‘family’ really is/means, and the risks that men like his character were living with.
        I am MOST curious though about why the writers seemed to drop the ball on giving us any reaction of closure from Bob in regards to his gay gigolo buddy who apparently killed Pete’s mom on a cruise! What the hell?!! I kept waiting for Pete to call Bob out in front of the entire company and get rid of him for good. I mean, THAT was an outrageous association for Bob to have been involved in. That was a ‘Jumped the Shark’ moment for me…

  4. forwarddad says:

    Nice recap

  5. anna says:

    Can Megan please go away already? She is such a brat. It’s so obvious she’s only married to Don for his money. I can’t believe Don has spend no time with his kids this season. I liked seeing Bob again.

    • Cameron says:

      Hey, I’d still take Megan over Betty any day of the week.

      • AnnieM says:

        Me too. Betty is just a self-absorbed b***h who treats everyone, especially her own kids, like crap. The main reason I liked Megan at first was because she was so nice to and genuinely cared about Don’s kids. But she and Don are so different now, I do wish they’d just get divorced. And the way she treated Stephanie was awful. Speaking of, never thought about Stepanie being involved with Manson, but he did have some male followers, too.

    • joeybrite says:

      I couldn’t disagree more. I think that Megan has been conflicted for a while and is really trying to hang in there because she genuinely loves Don. But, Don REALLY screwed up royally in the entire episode where he changed his mind a million times and set the stage for their physical distance. She never wanted that. She totally digs him, but her ambivalence about their longevity is not without merit. Remember: Megan is the first lover Don had that he was honest with about who he really was. I think she’s torn now as she lives a very different life in L.A. and is trying to figure out what the future holds. She’s never been a helpless character or so dependent that she couldn’t walk away. But, we’ll see what develops here. This actress is so damn good that I forget I’m watching a character sometimes. Now THAT is really a good sign for me that I’m ‘IN’ this series!

  6. FthFreys says:

    I thought last episdoe was the best of the season but I spoke too soon. The Don/Peggy scenes were great and so was Bob Benson’s storyline. Always happy to see Joan back in the storyline and I am with her on not making Harry partner. Is Roger going to go after Buick?

  7. Mo says:

    I love Bob. I was so happy he was back for this episode.
    I love Don/Peggy scenes, and I love that they were working together again finally instead of against each other.
    Oh Pete… your smarminess amuses me so.

  8. John D says:

    Pete’s progression in life is exemplified by his ever growing comb over.

  9. GuessWhat says:

    very good ep!

  10. Lexie says:

    Such a good episdoe compared to what this half season has been. Whenever we get Peggy and Don confessing their fears to each other makes for a great episode. Are we ever going to get a story line with Ted that consists of more than him moping around the office of moping on the phone?
    Also I love Merideth! Her wink to Don? She only ever does one thing every episdoe but it always makes me laugh

  11. Joey Padron says:

    Good episode. Good to see Bob back on show for an episode. Hope James Wolk will be back on tv soon. He was great on The Crazy Ones. Good to see Don & Peggy working together well.

  12. E Frederick says:

    Did anyone else think that Burger Chef is a cover name for Burger King and that the” I did it my way” song was code for the Burger King slogan “Have it your way, at Burger King”?

    • anon says:

      Burger Chef was a popular burger chain in the 60s and 70s. One of their selling points was that the customer “fixed” their own burgers – mayo, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, etc.

      • katedfw says:

        I loved Burger Chef as a kid! They were the best!

      • The Mangina Monolgues says:

        I remember the “works” bar. You could order your burger plain or all the way. If you got it plain, you could accessorize it at the “works” bar that also doubled as a lame but forward thinking salad bar.

    • Funbud says:

      Clever thinking, but Burger Chef was a real restaurant chain which started in Indianapolis in the early ’50s. They were on a growth spurt nationwide by 1969 (eventually having 1000+ restaurants by 1973). They introduced the concept of the “happy meal” (called the “FunMeal”). They were eventually bought out and many of the locations became Arby’s. The last “Burger Chef” closed in 1996.

      • AKM says:

        Close. They became Hardee’s, or Hardee’s bought them out, rather.

        • akm75 says:

          …and for what it’s worth, Wikipedia tells me that the early ’70s slogan was, “We’ll always treat you right.” Wonder if that’s what Deggy will come up with.

      • AnnieM says:

        I also read that they sued McD’s over the Happy/fun meal thing and lost – that sucks as McD clearly stole their idea.

    • Jenn says:

      Actually, Burger Chef was a real chain from the 50s to the 80s before it was sold off to Hardee’s

  13. akm75 says:

    “Here’s your 10-second recap of Megan’s New York visit: She’s happier out West, he’s happier in Manhattan. And scene!”

    Isn’t it “end scene”? Just curious. (I know, I know…all that “Mad Men” goodness and THAT’S what I notice.)

    • DJR says:

      I thought the same thing….”end,” not “and.”

    • Chesterfield says:

      She also looked concern when he said that he was going to visit her in LA, and then she suggested that they see each other somewhere neutral next time. I think she has something going on in LA that she does not want him to see, maybe that girl from the three-way.

    • Amie says:

      It’s “and” in acting classes. It’s become a cliche.

  14. Eric7740 says:

    Amazing Mad Men episode!!! That dance scene was absolutely fantastic!!! Classic episode!!!

    • bd says:

      So well written. Terrific show. I love Don and especially when he shows the warm, “good” Don as he did with Peggy. I really dislike Megan – Don should dump her.

      • I think Don’s trying to get Megan to dump him. If he really wanted her, he would’ve been in LA when he wasn’t working, and/or he’d make a place for himself in the California branch of the company, and/or he’d be begging her to come back to NY.

        • joeybrite says:

          I think Don’s inability to really ‘love’ Megan – or ANY woman – was cleverly brought up when he tells Megan that he sleeps better when she’s there with him, and she replies with “And I missed you, too”. Don’s entire relationship to people is one of keeping emotional distance & studying them rather than letting go and getting close.Megan has helped him a lot in that department, but I think she’s realized that she cannot change him into being more vulnerable of a person. I think she’s sad at the disappointment of not being able to ‘fix’ him in that way. Hard reality to swallow.

  15. Derek Johnson says:

    The closing scene in the Burger Chef reminded me of the very last scene of The Sopranos, ALA three people having dinner in a crappy restaurant. Matt Weiner has said that the ending of Mad Men will resemble the ending of The Sopranos in that it will be about the family, so there’s a part of it.

    Overall, this has been a strong run of episodes. Don being on the brink of getting kicked out of SC&P has been pretty good, but hopefully something in the finale goes boom. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

    • Marie says:

      After all these years of watching by his loyal fans, Weiner better not pull a Sopranos on us by giving an “ending” with no answers…………. one where we have to figure out the ending ourselves.
      I know 1/2 the world thinks that kind of ending was brilliant and more power to them, but to the rest of us it’s feeble and cop-out. When I devote all that time to a series I want it to end with a resolution for the characters, even if I don’t like what happens to them………. I want to know what the people who created the show think will happen to the characters. Ambiguous is fine for a season finale, but the fans deserve more than an ambiguous series finale. (Can hear the elites saying “no, no, no, you silly, uneducated dolt………….. ambiguity is genius…. rolls her eyes)

      • joeybrite says:

        Thank you for that one. It has become almost sacrilegious to admit that the series finale for The Sopranos was delivered to the fans as an empty nest. I’ve always wished they’d given us a different sense of closure than what we got. And, in another really well written show, I LOATHED the series finale of Six Feet Under where the last few minutes rushed by in a whizz of bad make-up jobs and wigs and wrinkles and WHAM! I felt it was so ridiculous how Alan Ball wanted to make sure no sequel would occur, but he gave us ‘stupid’ instead of ‘clever’, and ‘simple’ instead of ‘thoughtful’ after all the faithful years of watching. I really hope Mad Men does not succumb to a small minded finale for either next week’s ‘half-season’ ending (whatever the hell THAT’s supposed to mean!), or next year’s REAL finale. Why the hell we’re not getting all 13 episodes in a row and be DONE is beyond my comprehension!

  16. Matt says:

    Every episode this season has had several good moments, but this was the first episode of season 7 that was rock solid all the way through.

    Past weeks were incredibly dull, and salvaged only by a scene or two at the end. Last night’s hour kept me alert the whole way through.

  17. VW says:

    This has been a fantastic season and this was a great episode. A couple of weeks back I wanted Don to tell Bert, Joan, et al to pound sand, but it’s beginning to look as though Don Draper is smarter than yours truly. This deal about making Harry a partner…interesting. I think Don is right in his assessment of Harry as “loyal”, but we’ve also seen that he’s capable of being sneaky and overly emotional at the office. As others have pointed out, it’s great to see Don and Peggy on the same team/ page again. I’ve loved their relationship since Season 1. Now, someone please tell Mr. Weiner and AMC to go ahead with the other seven episodes and reconsider the cancellation.

  18. Pure Jean!ous says:

    I could not disagree with you more over the paternalistic (and fairly sleazy if you remember what he and his boyfriend did to Pete’s demented Mother) Bob’s “proposition” to Joan. It highlights clearly the fact that two marginalized people (a gay guy and a single woman) don’t necessarily have a single thing in common. It was beyond insulting to suggest that a woman who is “almost 40″ shouldn’t expect to get any better offer. That’s manipulative. It’s attempting to manipulate a perceived (and very wrong-headed) “need” projected out of Bob’s own “need” – to appear more like “the guys” at GM. There was nothing altruistic or well-meaning about it. The fact that he got the idea from the older executive whose wife “plays along” also shows Bob to be less than creative, IMO. Joan was simply “around”. She was simply convenient. She was simply someone in that place at that time. And PTL she’s a lot smarter than that. While Pete may be the original smarm master – he hasn’t got much if anything over on Bob. Interestingly enough, Don, who doesn’t really “want” anything from either Peggy or Joan and never did, has always had their best interests at heart. To me, this episode was all about finding out (or remembering) and knowing who your *true* friends are. That Joan could have been so nice to Bob, while hateful to Don, and similarly Peggy and Don – should give those two women pause for thought.

    • AnnieM says:

      Why does Joan seem to hate Don so much this season? She’s been nothing but nasty to him so far.

    • AnnieM says:

      I think if a woman as beautiful and smart as Joan “wouldn’t get a better offer”, it would be only because most men would be afraid of her shooting them down, and would be too scared to ask!

  19. elaine says:

    I admit this show is over my head and have to read every recap out there to “get” what I saw on Sunday. When they were showing Bonnie and Megan on the plane and the stewardess pulled the curtain shut, I thought that meant the plane was going down! Obviously I’m wrong, but that’s what I thought! The Don/Peggy scenes were the best scenes out of all the new episodes this season. Liked Joan with her hair down. Seems like since she became a partner they don’t know what to do with her.

  20. Bill Smith says:

    I think the significance of Harry Crane being made partner is being downplayed somewhat — which tells me it may be one of the most significant things that happened this episode. Mad Men has a way of doing a sort of slight-of-hand with its storytelling: Emphasizing the insignificant while the important stuff happens in the background. It’s one of my favorite things about the show.

    My take: Don wants to take his job as Creative Director back from Lou. Don is a better Creative Director than Lou, and everybody knows it. There are seven partners: Pete, Roger, and Don himself support Don, while Cutter, Cooper, Joan, and (we assume, but aren’t sure about) Ted are against him. Cooper, I think, is really a swing vote — he is by far the most Machiavellian of the partners, and, unlike Cutter and Joan, doesn’t have any particular personal vendettas.

    Harry Crane is being made partner for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he “deserves it.” Cutner want him because he believes that, by emphasizing the importance of the Media department vs. Creative, he is more likely to be able to convince the other partners that having a merely “adequate” Creative Director like Lou as opposed to an “advertising genius” like Don is acceptable. Joan is following Cutner’s lead. Don, based on his conversation with Harry at Megan’s party, is betting that Cutner has made a critical miscalculation, and that Harry, as a partner, will provide a critical fourth vote in Don’s favor. Roger is oblivious to all of this, and voted against Harry just because he doesn’t have much respect for Harry.

    It will be interesting to see how all that plays out

  21. Todd says:

    Agree with most above. Pete’s tan was frightening.

  22. beanchelsea says:

    lawfully wedded beard. That was awesome.

  23. N tTVf says:

    Good episode – I’m in the camp that believes Don and Roger are going to start their own agency, adding Pete, Peggy … and hopefully Joan… and of course, Freddie. They are gearing up for another ‘midnight’ raid. Unfortunately, this time, they’ll have to leave Cooper behind. Remember (spoiler alert here), next week’s episode (finale for S7A) is titled ‘Waterloo.’ This is the end of the line for SC&P.

    Roger-Don’s new firm will have the Burger Chef account, maybe a couple of others. Enough to get started. Phillip Morris? Perhaps, but not worth the headache. Buick is finished – I can’t see any of the SCHCO team wanting to work any longer, in any capacity, with anything to do with GM.

    SDHCO? SDOCH? SCDHO?

    Boy, I wonder how the folks at GM feel about the way they are portrayed in MM? GM does not come off very well – quite poorly actually.

  24. AnnieM says:

    Something I’ve wondered about for a long time – do any of the companies that still exist in the present day, have any of them paid to become a client on the show? Are any of the accounts just glorified product placement?

  25. Laurie Emerson says:

    Seeing Don, Peggy and Pete sitting together made me tear up. It was a nostalgic moment of the past and made me realize just how much I am going to miss this show.

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