Mad Men Midseason Finale Recap: The Best Things in Life Are Free [Updated]

Mad Men Season 7 RecapThe following recap contains spoilers from Mad Men‘s midseason finale. If you haven’t watched yet, bookmark this page and come back later! 

“No man has ever come back from leave, not even Napoleon,” Bert tells Roger in Sunday’s Mad Men midseason finale – and soon after, the firm’s founding father gets a chance to test that theory… in a permanent sense.

Yes, let’s all have a moment of silence for Bertram Cooper, the shoeless Col. Sanders of Madison Avenue, who kick-ball-changes his way off this mortal coil as the AMC drama hits the midpoint (and the high point, at least so far) of its final season.

Bert’s passing comes at the same time that Apollo 11 touches down on the moon, Jim tries to oust Don for breach of contract, Peggy steps up to take her rightful place at the SC&P table and Roger shrewdly saves the day. Let’s review the major developments of “Waterloo.”

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DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YA | Ted takes some Sunkist execs up in his plane and rattles them by cutting the engines and letting the aircraft go into freefall for a few minutes. During a call that follows, Chaough informs Jim and a livid Pete that he’s miserable. “I don’t wanna die, I just don’t wanna do this anymore.”

Meanwhile, back in New York, Pete, Harry, Peggy and Don rehearse the upcoming Burger Chef pitch. It’s always enjoyable to watch the team’s conference-room antics; this time, I particularly enjoy Peggy’s soft Don-intro voice – and how quickly she drops it – and the way Pete sharply cuts Draper off as he’s gearing up to work his magic. They all agree that if the Apollo 11 mission ends in tragedy, the pitch is screwed.

Speaking of screwed, Meredith is waiting outside Don’s office with a letter full of “very upsetting news”: His crashing of the Commander Cigarettes meeting was a breach of his contract, and the partners are tossing him out. (Side note: I adore how ridiculous Meredith is in this scene, telling Don “I am your strength” and kissing him on the lips as he cocks a brow in WTF?-ness. Oh honey, that ship has sailed.)

Don angrily gathers all the partners upstairs and demands to know who was in on it; turns out, Jim pretty much acted alone. A vote reveals that only Jim (and Ted, by proxy) and Joan (?!) want Draper gone, so he’s sticking around for a while. “I’m tired of him costing me money,” she defiantly announces after the meeting. Careful, Joanie, as Pete astutely notes, Draper is a “sensitive piece of horseflesh.” (Heh.)

SO LONG, THAT’S ALL, GOODBYE? | Don calls Megan, who’s sunbathing – and not getting randomly murdered – on her California terrace, to tell her that he’ll probably be able to move out West real soon. Then, the Drapers save us all a lot of time by having one of those double-meaning conversations:

DON: They want me to move on.
MEGAN: Well, maybe you should. Aren’t you tired of fighting?
DON: Yes.

Don quickly susses out that his missus doesn’t really want him relocating to the Left Coast, so he solemnly promises to “always take care of you” because he owes her at least that much, and she cries, “You don’t owe me anything,” before they say goodbye. I’d argue that all of that Sylvia Rosen nonsense is worth at least a little walking around money, Megs, but it’s your call.

Has Michael Ausiello’s dream come true? Is Megan no longer someone we’ll see on Mad Men? It sure looks like the Drapers are done, but then again, it did at the end of last season, too…

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WELCOME HOME | Peggy finds a sweaty, not-unattractive worker putting up drop ceilings in her apartment and thinks he’s trying to bilk her out of more money, but he just wants to give her his number. Get it, Peggy! She later has a bittersweet moment with upstairs neighbor Julio, who sadly announces that he doesn’t want to go to Newark – I loved her too-true response: “Nobody does” – but he’s going to have to because his mom is moving there for work. Peggy is moved to tears when he hugs her, and softens her usual landlord gruffness to allow him to watch TV while she packs for Indiana.

ONE GIANT LEAP | Roger answers the phone as he watches the moon landing with Mona, Brooks and Ellery. It’s bad news: Bertram Cooper has passed away on his couch. A very sad Sterling and Joan embrace at the office, but all Jim wants to talk about is how to position the firm as “the agency of the future” now that Bert is gone, Don is on his way out and Harry is poised to finally sit at the grown-ups’ table.

Roger calls Don, who’s in Indiana with the Burger Chef team, to relay the news. “You know he was very proud of you,” Draper reassures his colleague. And spurred by the news, Don knocks on Peggy’s door to tell her that she – not he – will present to the fast food chain execs in the morning. She’s freaked, but Don’s apparently making up for seasons of being a total bastard by saying nothing but the right thing to everyone who crosses his path: “I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t know you could.”

And she certainly can. The next day, Peggy looks amazing, sounds convincing and completely hooks Burger Chef with her clincher: “There may be chaos at home, but there’s family supper at Burger Chef.” The fleeting look of victory  she and Don exchange when they realize they’ve hit a homerun is right on par with the hand-grab at the end of “The Suitcase,” by which I mean I will probably re-watch it 100 times between now and next Sunday.

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BLONDE AMBITION | One of Betty’s college girlfriends (played by Life Goes On‘s Kellie Martin, whom it took me two scenes to recognize) brings her family for a visit at the Francis estate. The minute I saw the hunky older son, I knew Sally would be on board with the houseguests, and judging from the poofiness of her hair and the amount of lipstick she wears for the rest of the episode, I’m not wrong. Yet it’s the younger, geekier son who gets a smooch from Sal while both are in the backyard as he shows her around a telescope. #notaeuphemism When he runs inside, Sally lights up a cigarette and looks around as though she’s slightly bored, unable to look more like Betty if she tried.

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS | Not liking the way Jim’s headed, Roger meets with McCann-Erickson and strikes a potential deal: The competing firm will buy a 51 percent share in SC&P, retaining it as a subsidiary headed up by Roger. Stumbling block: The buyers want the whole Chevy team – including Ted – as part of the package, and all of the SC&P partners have to sign five-year contracts. Chaough resists, but Draper turns on the charm – and when everyone (even Jim!) realizes how much money they’ll make from the transaction, it’s a unanimous vote to move forward with the plan.

Peggy meets her mentor outside the partners’ confab with even more good news: Burger Chef signed with SC&P. Don looks pleased, but he may just be trying not to laugh at the fact that the two buttons on Peggy’s dress make it look like her boobs are smiling at him. As the entire staff heads upstairs to mark Bert’s passing, Don goes downstairs to work… and has a vision of a stocking-footed Bert singing “The Best Things in Life Are Free” as members of the secretarial pool join him in the song-and-dance number.

The scene is an awesome send-off for the immensely talented Robert Morse, and the episode on the whole leaves me very excited for where Matthew Weiner is going to lead this band of merry misfits when the show returns next year.

Now it’s your turn. Grade the episode via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice and to pontificate about what the second half of Season 7 will bring.

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