Mad Men Recap: The Moon Belongs To Everyone
Last week’s Mad Men ended on an oddly tender note, but perhaps that will all be torn asunder this week.
We open with Bert Cooper trying to watch the rocket take off for the moon (on a giant console television, of course) except that someone — presumably his maid — is running a vacuum cleaner behind him, and it shoots lines of interference across the old teevee the ways things used to. He succeeds in getting the offending appliance turned off right before liftoff.
So now we know exactly where we stand, history-wise: July 16, 1969.
Ted is working through some complex issues by taking a couple of ad men from Sunkist flying, but said ad men aren’t impressed and are thinking about Tijuana and astronauts. Ted, who’s just going to go completely dark, apparently, speculates that the best thing that might happen to the astronauts is that they don’t come back, and then their problems are solved. Then he cuts the engines and starts talking about smoldering wreckage. Ted, you are not allowed to have a breakdown, because Michael Ginsberg already had the mother of all breakdowns two weeks ago.
Clearly Ted doesn’t kill himself or the ad men, because the next scene is Jim yelling at him on the phone about what happened, and Ted is day-drinking disheveled, and he wants out of advertising. He tells Jim he wants to be bought out of the firm and hangs up.
In slumps the anti-Don, Lou, to whine about how Don has wrecked his cigarette ad business resume. Jim tells him he’s a hired and and to get the hell out. Man, we are in favor of any badness that happens to Lou, and we’re certainly in favor of reminding him that he’s not a partner and can be tossed at any time.
Betty and fam have some friends coming to stay at the house, and they have two children — the reedy, nerdy Neil and the beefy, bored Sean. Sally takes Sean off to stash the bags while Neil pedantically explains to Bobby that you totally can see stuff through your telescope during the daytime. Both of these child pairings are going to be matches made in heaven, aren’t they?
Don, Peggy, Pete and Don are brainstorming about how to pitch Burger Chef, though much of the brainstorming consists of Harry pouting about how he’s not allowed to show pictures of his one true love, the IBM 360, during the pitch. Pete is just praying everything goes right with the moon landing. Not, presumably, because he has developed a deep and abiding interest in American astronautical achievements, but because the moon landing going poorly will focus the nation’s — and therefore Burger Chef’s — attention on that rather than this awesome ad pitch.
Peggy gets home to a new handyman, Nick, who is appealingly sweaty and open-faced.
He leaves Peggy his number for any odd jobs too small for the regular handyman and oh yes Peggy you better call this dude. Peggy deserves love — or at least a roll in the hay — with a guy who is in no way connected to the ad world.
Back in the Betty Francis household, Betty’s catching up with old friend while old friend’s son, sullenly handsome Sean, has yet another meet cute run-in with Sally, who is en route to her lifeguard job.
Don’s secretary calls Don into his own office to talk about a letter to Don that she finds very distressing. The agency’s attorney has sent him a letter saying he’s in breach of contract for his meeting with Commander Cigarettes. His secretary simpers about how she would know if he met with anyone, and he didn’t meet with them, but she doesn’t know about Don’s party crashing the cigarette meeting awhile back.
Don’s secretary also thinks this is a great time for her to kiss Don, because he is vulnerable and needs her. Don couldn’t look more perplexed or disinterested in the come on, particularly because he’s building up a full head of steam to go yell at Jim about the breach of contract letter. Jim tells him the breach was cut and dried, as Don was not allowed to talk to clients in the unvarnished unleashed way he did. Jim also tells him he’s a bully and drunk, and the only time he’s seen Don be eloquent is when he talked about his impoverished childhood last season. Jim tries his damnedest to get Don to swing at him so we can see some REAL contract breaching, but Don just goes stomping down to Roger’s office instead.
It doesn’t look like Jim checked in with Roger or Pete on this, but Jim’s pretty sure he doesn’t have to take a vote over the breach. Don challenges Jim to a parliamentary procedure duel and calls a vote on who wants him to leave. Jim, Ted by proxy, and Joan — JOAN? How have you forsaken Don, Joan? — all vote for Don’s ouster, but Bert, Pete, Roger and Don vote that he can say. Done and done, says Don, walking off.
Pete is worried that Don’s delicate pitching arm will have been hurt by this kerfuffle so close to the Burger King meeting. Joan explains that she’s tired of Don losing her money, but she reminds Jim she’s none too happy about the letter being sent either.
Peggy’s little foil/sidekick comes down to see if he can watch teevee at her place. She tells him no, but then presses him into service to help decide what outfit to wear to the Burger Chef pitch.
Julio looks appropriately mystified by the exchange and moves to explaining that it is critical he watch teevee at her house Sunday, because that’s when the astronauts will be landing on the moon. He can’t, says Peggy, because she’ll be in Indianapolis that day pitching to Burger Chef and oh also too what if the astronauts don’t make it? Way to talk to a kid, Peggy. Julio’s disturbed about something else, though. Mom has a job in Newark now, and that means he’s going to have to move, and he doesn’t want to move. He flings himself into Peggy’s arms, crying, and instead of looking irritated or distant, Peggy’s fully present in the moment as she holds him, and if she’s not thinking about her own lost child out there somewhere, we’ll eat our shoes.
Don calls Megan to tell her that he’s going to be fired. He says he could try to see this as an opportunity and move out to California. Instead of answering, Megan unfolds herself from her chair and takes another drink, and in that empty quiet moment, that shifting of her stance, you know it’s over, and so does Don. He tells her, tight-voiced, that he’ll always take care of her. She tells him she’ll be fine, but he insists that he at least be allowed to do so until she’s on her feet, because he owes her that. He doesn’t owe her anything, she says, but it isn’t said with anger. Weariness, yes. Sadness, yes, but all the anger, all the fight, seems drained out of Megan, leaving only the last small wash of tears. She says goodbye and hangs up.
On the plane to Indianapolis, Pete is trying to pump Don up to pitch. Don tells him he’ll be fine, but Pete keeps pushing to find out how Don feels about what’s happening in the office and stumbles over the whole Don’s marriage dissolving thing in the process.
It’s Sunday evening of July 20 (for American time zones, at least) and everyone watches the moon landing, rapt. At the Francis household, Sally comes running out, uncharacteristically enthused, to tell everyone to come inside and watch. In a hotel in Indianapolis, Harry, Pete, Don, and Peggy cram into one room to watch. Roger Sterling and his broken, daughter-less family watch, rapt.
Bert Cooper watches, atop the same couch he was on four days ago during the launch, with his African-American maid sitting next to him, a peculiarly tolerant tableau for Bert.
The only dissenter, the only person not filled with wonder, is Sean, who decides this is a great time to talk about how much the mission cost and how many problems there are here on earth. He approaches this with a perfectly teenage level of bluster, yelling over the television. The phone rings, and its Don calling for Sally. He’s still impressed, but she’s now switched to Team Sean and picks a fight with Don over how much the mission has cost. Don, of all people, tells her not to be that cynical, and not to infect her little brothers with that sort of cynicism.
At the Sterling house, the phone rings as well, and it brings with it unnamed, unexplained bad news, and it isn’t until you see Roger arrive at the office, ashen-faced, and remove Bert’s name from his office door that you realize Bert has died. Joan shows up crying, Jim shows up, a stiff empty suit, and all he wants to talk about his how they’re going to talk to clients and give Don a proper sendoff along with Bert Cooper. He really says that part. Jim explains that with Bert deceased and Harry Crane becoming partner, the votes are there to toss Don. Man, we wish Roger would deck Jim right now.
Sally goes outside to smoke, and nerdy Neil is using the telescope to watch the stars, because they’re better than teevee. He shows her how to look through the telescope, and she’s shyly pleased, almost childlike for a moment, when she can see Polaris. She kisses him, but then he’s called inside and she returns to her premature adulthood, smoking, arms crossed, alone.
Don’s phone rings in his hotel room. Roger’s tracked Don down to tell him about Bert dying and to tell him that this means, likely, the end of Don’s time at the agency as well. Don takes the news with an equanimity he does not usually display.
Don goes to talk to Peggy, but not about Bert dying. Instead, he tells her that she’s going to pitch tomorrow, because the agency is trying to get him out, and if he pitches — and wins — Burger Chef and then departs, that leaves Peggy without that account or that triumph. Peggy throws everything in the way of the possibility of her presenting — she thought things were back to normal for Don at the agency, she fears she’ll do a bad job, they should move the pitch because of the moon landing, Don’s never heard her pitch. He bats all these arguments away gently.
Roger’s called an early morning meeting with rival ad man Jim Hobart to talk about some corporate restructuring type things. Jim wants the whole Chevy team — Roger, Don, Jim Cutler, and Ted — but Roger wants him to buy the whole company and make it an independent subsidiary of McCann — sans Jim Cutler and his people. Hobart tells him that can only happen if Roger will bury the hatchet with Ted, because Chevy thinks of Ted and Don as one person. Roger thinks that might be too high a price to pay.
Pitch time. Don introduces Peggy and damn, Peggy. She starts with the moon landing and how we all felt connected and remain hungry for that connectedness, pivots to people watching teevee together, leaps to the dinner table as battlefield between father and son, old and new, and how we’re starving, we’re all starving, but not just for dinner, and then onto Burger Chef as idealized dinner table: no teevee, no other things vying for your attention, and everyone gets what they wants. There’s family supper at Burger Chef. It’s gorgeous. It’s vintage Don Draper-level emotional manipulation of the client, and by the time she gets to pitching the actual ad, everything’s sewn up.
When Don returns to New York, Roger is lounging in his hallway.
He’s there to pitch McCann buying the agency, with Roger the president of the independent subsidiary. Don reminds him that the whole reason they started their own agency was to get away from McCann, an entity for whom one Don Draper still does not wish to work. Roger wants to explain all his moves and countermoves and his endgame, but Don just wants to work, and is certain McCann won’t just leave him alone to do so.
The next morning, Roger’s called a partner meeting and even Ted is here from sunny California. Roger pitches: McCann will buy 51% of SCP, and they’ll let the agency operate independently, as long as they get five-year commitments from everyone — including Don. Roger starts flinging around how much cash money people could get from agreeing to the deal. Harry hurls himself into the room because he’s sniffed out that there’s a partner meeting, but Roger reminds him he never accepted the deal the partners offered, so as of that time, he’s not a partner thanks bye.
Jim doesn’t like the deal, but Roger doesn’t care. All McCann really wants is Don, Roger, and Ted, but Ted is done. He wants out of advertising and he’s not going to sign a five-year contract, and that tanks the deal. But here’s Don to pitch Ted in the way only Don can pitch. What if Ted could just go back to creative? Ignore the partnership fights, move back to New York City, the whole deal. Everyone votes yes to the deal, including Jim Cutler.
Peggy comes upstairs with the news: they got Burger Chef. How could they not? Don congratulates her and says he’s going back to work.
Roger begins his speech about Bert while Don walks downstairs, and then Don hallucinates that Bert is there singing “The Best Things In Life Are Free” as the secretaries dance around him.
The moon belongs to everyone,
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone,
They gleam there for you and me.
The flowers in spring, the robins that sing,
The moonbeams that shine, they’re yours, they’re mine.
And love can come to everyone,
The best things in life are free.
Bert dances off into his office, closes the door, and you see Don finally tear up at the loss.
End scene, end season, though so many questions remain. Does Bert’s farewell song to Don mean Don should strike out on his own, saying, in effect, that the best things in life are indeed free, and Don can’t be bought or tamed? What’s left of Don Draper, that man that is nothing but a construct, when everyone important to him, every last thing that tethers him to this earth, fades away or leaves? Can love come to that broken person too? We have to wait until 2015 to find out.
Catch up in the archives:
Mad Men Season Seven Episode One
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Two
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Three
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Four
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Five
Mad Men Season Seven Episode Six