So this is how the men and women of Sterling Cooper & Partners are going out: Not with a bang, but with an underhanded, long-in-the-works bit of corporate trickery.
Sadly, the shock that results from Mad Men‘s main firm being absorbed (read: put out of existence) by parent company McCann Erickson does not lead to the Peggy-Stan copy-room shagfest for which I’ve so been longing. But it does make for an interesting moment in which she acknowledges the baby she gave up, so that’s something.
The real question: Haven’t we all been through this before, when McCann Erickson bought Puttnam, Powell and Lowe? Follow-up: What does this week’s development mean for the remaining Mad Men episodes? Because if next week’s major action is watching Meredith spend half an hour carefully boxing up Don’s glassware, I’m not sure I’m there for that.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the SC&P yard sale. Dibs on that room-size computer with less power than my iPod and the couch on which Peggy and Pete’s kid was conceived! Read on for the highlights of “Time & Life.”
HERE’S YOUR HAT, WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? | Early in the hour, Roger receives a letter that enrages him. At first, he thinks that office manager Dawn (oh hi, Dawn!) hasn’t been paying SC&P’s rent, but it turns out that McCann Erickson has terminated the lease… because it’s going to move the firm we know and love into its main building.
Sounds harmless, right? But as Roger and Joan realize when they talk with Ferg, this really means that the larger firm is absorbing (read: dissolving) the smaller one: SC&P is done. (Side note: I loved the sad little hug Joan and Rog shared upon hearing the news.)
Everyone at McCann thinks this the development is great. Everyone at SC&P thinks it signals the end of the world. When the partners gather in Don’s office to process the news, Pete refuses to surrender. “That’s it? Have a drink?!” he fumes. Well, yes, honey. Haven’t you ever seen this show? Joan notes that everyone has a four-year contract with a non-compete clause: Even if the partners don’t want to go to McCann, they can’t work anywhere else for a while. Ted, Roger, Don, Pete and Joan agree to keep the news to themselves for the time being.
So, of course, Pete goes straight to Peggy, spilling the beans with the caveat that he wants her to have an advantage over “the rats who fly off this ship” when the move becomes common knowledge. The tip moves Pegs to make an appointment with a headhunter, who delivers news she doesn’t want to hear: McCann is actually the best place for her; three years there will do wonders for her career and salary.
GO WEST, NOT-SO-YOUNG MAN | But wait! Don has an idea that just may save SC&P in some fashion, and he has Lou to thank for it. (Yeah, I know. Unlikely.) The older man calls and says he’s moving to Tokyo, because a Japanese animation studio is going to make “Scout’s Honor” into a cartoon. “Well, sayonara, my friend. Enjoy the rest of your miserable life,” Lou damn near giggles into the phone. (Side note: As much as I may have hated Lou, that chuckle after he hangs up was so full of joy, I can’t be mad at it.)
Fact 1: With Lou gone and Ted and Pete back in New York, the firm’s West Coast office is empty. Fact 2: McCann will have to dump a bunch of SC&P’s very profitable accounts solely because they’ll be a conflict with existing McCann accounts (think Sunkist vs. Ocean Spray). So Don proposes starting Sterling Cooper & Partners West, which will allow them to salvage some independence and keep accounts like Burger Chef, Dow and Sunkist… provided those accounts will keep their business at SC&P.
Immediately, Ted declares that — unlike L.L. Cool J — he’s not goin’ back to Cali. (We later find out he and his wife have divorced, she’s still out there, and he’s dating a college girlfriend who lives in New York.) That’s fine, Don says; leaving some staff on the East Coast will make the move even more attractive to McCann Erickson.
Dow, headed by Ken, decides not to make the move. (Shocker.) But Pete manages to get Secor Laxatives on board, and with a compliant Sunkist, Burger Chef and Tinkerbell Cookies, that’s enough for the partners to pitch to the bigwigs at McCann. Even though Don does his genial best, though, it’s too late. The partners will come to McCann, firm head Jim Hobart tells them, and they’ll love working for such a huge, successful agency with gigantic clients like (and this he whispers in a really silly way) “Coca-Cola.”
“Stop struggling,” Hobart says with a smile. “You won.” So why, when the partners are out getting beers afterwards, does it feel like a funeral?
PEGGY PERUSES THE PAST | Back at SC&P, Peggy’s awkwardness at a child-casting session prompts Stan to tease her that she “hates kids.” She later lets him in on the firm’s impending move, warning him that he can’t even tell his nurse girlfriend Lee. “That won’t be a problem,” he says. Ooh, is Stan single again? (Not even gonna pretend that these two getting together isn’t my only wish for the entire rest of the series.)
During a late-night work session in Stan’s office, Peggy protests that she doesn’t dislike children. He makes a comment about how she couldn’t have achieved the job she has if she had a family at home, and though I believe he means well, it sets Peggy onto a discussion that winds up involving Stan’s mom and ends with Pegs tearily admitting that she’d had a child but given him up for adoption. “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,” she says, delivering quite a nice bit of writing.
Later, we find out that Peggy is planning to go to McCann, and she’ll bring Stan with her if he wants to go.
DENIED! | Kudos to whomever cast Alison Brie as Pete’s ex-wife Trudy; she is the only reason I care about his home life at all. She’s in this episode because Tammy didn’t get into a prestigious private school in Greenwich, Conn., and Trudy wants Pete to go talk to the headmaster with her. Turns out, the headmaster hates all Campbells, because his family and the Campbells have a long-held beef. I’m ready to dismiss this whole thing as insane folly, but then the headmaster elaborates that the Campbells killed his ancestors long ago despite having offered the gift of hospitality, and that is some Red Wedding-level stuff right there. Don’t worry; Pete punches him like he always does.
MERCI BEAUCOUP | But back to the beer-swilling SC&P partner pity party. Eventually, it’s just Roger and Don left… and then even Roger has to leave to go meet Marie, Megan’s mom. Don is shocked to hear about that development, but he pulls it together and — after a tipsy Roger kisses him on the cheek and tells him “You are OK,” (aww) — goes looking for Diana the Downer of a Waitress at her sad rooming house. But she’s gone, and the two gay guys now living in her room have no idea where she is.
The next day, after Meredith nearly implodes while asking Don what the heck is going on with the firm, the partners call everyone together to announce the move. As the murmurs turn into angry talk, Roger and Don’s efforts to calm the crowd fail spectacularly. “This is the beginning of something, not the end,” Don promises, but you can barely hear him over the din.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!