Mar 30, 2021
Mad Men: California Dreamin'
We open with Ken and Pete having lunch. You thought we were done with the one-eyed ad man last week when he said, “Screw you, I’m going to Dow to make your lives miserable.” Turns out he didn’t mean in some abstract future beyond the series, but immediately. He’s pulling Pete’s chain so hard you can see marks forming on his neck. Then Don comes along, and Pete does a great imitation of the lonely sarcastic guy from Kids In the Hall, explaining Ken’s wants and needs. But just to extra mess with Pete, Ken smiles at Don and tells him he’s okay with everything.
Can Pete’s week get worse? Yes, it can! Let’s take a peek in at his ex-wife Trudy in our nostalgia tour featuring minor characters we may have forgotten. Dressed in hair rollers and a house dress, Trudy tells him their daughter, Tammy, isn’t getting into Greenwich Day School and she thinks it’s because they are divorced. So she needs Pete to go with her to a meeting with the headmaster and get this outrage taken care of, which he agrees to do.
Don is still in his empty apartment. He calls his service and finds out Diana left three messages for him—but then called to take them all back and didn’t leave a number. Is there an outbreak of passive-aggressiveness?
Trouble at the agency! Roger yells at Caroline—because that is now his only way of communicating with her. He wants Dawn—the office manager and other black lady—fired because the lease hasn’t been paid. Roger also wants to fire Caroline and Shirley because that’s the kind of mood he’s in, but it turns out the lease is being discontinued by McCann. Uh-oh! Roger calls Ferg at McCann and is told resistance is futile. They are all being absorbed into the Borg Collective corporate overlords. But no worries, Ferg tells him, “It’s gonna be great.”
Meantime, Peggy, as yet unaware of this impending disaster or opportunity depending on your fortune cookie, is auditioning children for a commercial with her future husband Stan. She is terrible with them because it’s only 1970 and you can’t be both a career gal and a mom. Stan is good with them because as we learned from 1960s television shows like Family Affair and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, it’s possible for men to be good with business and kids at the same time, and in another few years it will be the golden age of fatherhood with Growing Pains and The Cosby Show.
Roger, Joan, Don, Ted and Pete—a.k.a. “the partners”—all meet to discuss their now-endangered future. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will be leaving the Time Life building and moving to two floors of McCann’s office space. It’s unclear how many people they’ll lose or how many accounts. They’re all screwed, as they have four-year non-compete clauses, so if they don’t go with their corporate overlords OR they aren’t wanted by them, they’ll not only be out of jobs but out of the advertising biz.
Somewhere in hell, Bert Cooper—who was last seen as an apparition, possibly in Don’s head, singing The Best Things in Life are Free—is now saying, “I told you so.”
Pete tells Peggy what’s about to go down because every once in a while he does a decent thing, or maybe likes to share his misery. He assures her she won’t get canned, but the news is for her “ears only.” Still once you tell a secret, it no longer is.
Joan calls Richard without giving him details, other than sounding upset and saying she needed to hear his voice. It’s enough for him to go all white knight and tell her he’s taking the red-eye and will see her the next day. It’s good to have a millionaire boyfriend.
Meantime, Don is in his office thinking, because this is just the kind of pressure situation that brings out his superpowers. There’s a call from Lou in California. You thought we saw the last of him, didn’t you? Apparently, he is that bad penny you can’t lose. The Japanese have bought his monkey soldier cartoon, and he’s going to Tokyo, so “Good-day to you, sir!” He doesn’t even know about the shit-storm about to descend but feels totally vindicated because the Japanese are giving him fifteen THOUSAND dollars, so who’s got the last laugh now? This gives the Donald a new big idea.
Don has Meredith gather the partners and tells them they should offer McCann a new deal. They can move into the offices of Sterling Cooper West in sunny California, give McCann the non-conflict accounts (including Joan’s Avon, which she isn’t thrilled about), keep some of the “conflict” accounts that McCann wouldn’t be able to absorb, and continue as a semi-independent agency under their corporate overlords. It would be a win for McCann as well. Has Draper saved the day yet again?
Peggy talks to a headhunter, who looks a little like a cleaned-up Freddy Rumson, but isn’t (unless I’m face blind and he’s cleaned up really well). Not-Freddy advises her to stay with McCann a few years and by 1973 she’ll be making four times as much.
Roger and Pete meet with Ken about keeping Dow if they move to California. Ken laughs at them. “They finally got ya! They ate you up.” Ah, revenge is sweet. Almost makes losing your depth perception worth it.
Don senses Ted isn’t happy about the California plan. Ted—who is now divorced—admits he reconnected with an old flame in New York and doesn’t want to leave, so he’ll be staying with McCann even if California happens.
In the midst of all this, Pete has his meeting with Trudy and the headmaster. Trudy without the curlers actually looks quite fetching and has aged well compared to her troll of an ex-husband. First, the headmaster tells them that Tammy failed her “drawing a man” test, thus implying it’s all Pete’s fault for his total failure at providing her with a male role model. But like Ken, he’s just toying with them. Turns out the real reason Tammy isn’t going to Greenwich is because the headmaster, a MacDonald, is completely insane over an ancient blood feud between the Campbells and the MacDonalds. Things get crazier when he calls Trudy “arrogant,” leading Pete to punch him for the family honor, which of course injures Pete’s hand. Then Pete stops by the house so Trudy can fix up his hand, and they can get one step closer to being reunited because it feels so good. Remember that one time they danced together at some party and were totally adorable. Let’s root for these crazy kids because why not?
The partners meet with Ferg and Jim—the big cheese at McCann. Don makes a decent presentation of the California proposal, making it sound like a small but easy win-win for both entities, but Jim stops them. He explains this thing is “done,” but it’s good. They’re going to have Buick and Ortho Pharmaceuticals (which makes Ted smile because landing a big pharma was his dream) and Nabisco, and then Jim looks at Don and moves his mouth like he’s kissing him when he says, enunciating each syllable, “Co-ca-Co-la.” He tells them to take the day off to celebrate.
Next we see them at a bar, but only Ted is happy. Roger suggests a toast to Bert Cooper, and Joan says, “Glad he missed it!” She’s going to leave for a date. Pete offers to drop her off as he needs to call Trudy (Yay!). Joan mentions that Jim only talked about four accounts—none are hers, and she doesn’t expect McCann will take her seriously. Pete tells her, “They don’t know who they’re dealing with.”
Roger, drunker than usual, kisses Don’s face and laments that not only is there no more Sterling Cooper, but he’s the last of the Sterlings, as he has no sons (except that one that Joan won’t let him acknowledge). Don, who has no life, wants Roger to keep drinking with him, but Roger confesses he’s off to see a lady—and the lady is Don’s ex-mother-in-law.
Don, in his inebriated semi-disheveled but still kind of hot state, goes to Diana’s apartment, now occupied by a couple of gay men who invite him in because he’s Don Draper. He declines. They don’t know where Diana moved to, but she left her furniture.
In the continuing saga of Stan and Peggy—office work mates who may someday be more—they wind up babysitting for a little girl who was abandoned at the office after her audition so mom could take her brother to another audition. Playing with office supplies, the kid staples her thumb, and Stan takes care of the situation because he’s a natural. Then the mother comes back and yells at them, and Peggy yells at her. This leads to a conversation in which Stan tells Peggy she shouldn’t feel bad because this mother thing never happened for her and she’s good at her job. Peggy talks about how you wouldn’t say something like that to a man and why can’t women have both, and then she tells him enough for him to get she had a kid once who’s with another family, she doesn’t know where, because you’re not supposed to so you can go on with your life. And damn it, Peggy—it’s not too late to totally move in with Stan and make him your househusband who will stay home and draw underground comix while you bring home the bacon, which he’ll even fry up in a pan.
By this time even ditzy Meredith has figured out something is up, so Don and Roger finally call all the staff out. Don starts by saying he’s “proud to announce…” and Roger offers that “McCann has assured us the transition will be as smooth as possible.” The crowd turns on them—not with knives like the Ides of March or rioting like they had in the 1960s, but with groans and disinterest. Don tries again: “This is good news…” Roger gives up, pleading, “We didn’t do this!” because deep down he wants to be the good guy. Don, ever the ad man, keeps going, “This is the beginning of something. Not the end.” But whatever he’s selling, they aren’t buying. His decade has passed. Don Draper is no longer relevant, but we still have three more episodes to go.
Where will they go? What will they do? How many of us really give a damn at this point? These last few episodes filled with good-byes from small players and introductions to new ones we can’t possibly care about has all seemed like a surreal afterthought. But here’s hoping romance isn’t dead. I’m totally going to ship Trudy and Pete—she even said she was sick of the burbs, which was their big issue. There’s Stan and Peggy, too. Didn’t he imply Nurse Elaine or Ilene or whatever was no longer around? There’s even Marie and Roger. Let’s have a big wedding in the finale. Hell, we could even find out Sal Romano’s become a wedding planner. As for Don’s future and/or next reinvention, do we even care?