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Mad Men S07E06: "The Strategy"


Don is so fired. 

Through no effort of his own, Don once again achieved something resembling the level of respect he used to enjoy at SC&P: Pete still believes a pitch from Don Draper practically guarantees business, and after spending an entire day drinking and chain-smoking her feelings away, Peggy reluctantly accepted Don's mentorship, inspiring her to create the perfect Burger Chef pitch. All together, the terrible threesome of Peggy, Don, and Pete functions as the sort of effed-up little family of Peggy's dreams, and their strategy for wooing Burger Chef is soundly modern. 

So of course Lou is going to hate it. He loved the original Leave it to Beaver-esque strategy, reliant as it was on a family unit that may've never actually existed. Mad Men has long depicted its characters as nostalgic for pasts they never actually experienced, for dreams they never really wanted, and those tics have ultimately come to define them. Lou is not going to be thrilled with Peggy and Don's new "every table is the family table" pitch. 

Meanwhile, Chevy dropped SC&P and Harry Freaking Crane was made a partner. Cash flow is going to be a problem, and the firm will have to scramble to find new business in the wake of the carmaker's departure. Right now, the most promising potential new client is Commander cigarettes—a company that isn't particularly jazzed about doing business with the agency that employs that reckless letter-penner Don Draper. Cutler & Co. need to find a way to ditch Don, and it looks like Don's plan to keep his head down and only speak when spoken to is going to inadvertently lead to his ousting. Here's how: 


After her latest in-office mental health day, Peggy demanded that Don teach her how to think like him. After a token "no can do," Don figured out how to explain his process, and Peggy came up with her brilliant Burger Chef pitch. But of course, SC&P's resident Don Draper Fanboy, Pete Campbell, had convinced everyone to let Don serve as the firm's spokesperson during the actual Burger Chef pitch. So now they have this awesome new pitch that Lou knows nothing about, and Don is going to be the one to pitch it. He'll be following the script, but not  the script that Lou has a copy of. Burger Chef will love it, but Lou will hate it and it'll look like Don went all loose-cannon again, and as much as I love me some Peggy—and as much as it looked like she and Don reached some sort of truce this week—I just don't know if trust her to step in and tell Lou the truth when things goes south, or whether Lou will even care. 

It just doesn't look good for Don, despite the fact that this was one of his more productive weeks, both personally and professionally. 

Elsewhere, Megan randomly flew to New York for a visit—it was practically an SC&P family reunion with both Megan and Pete in town, plus an appearance from Trudy, and of course BOB BENSON. Bob was dragged out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to fetch a closeted Chevy executive from prison for trying to "fellate an undercover officer," at which point we received confirmation that Bob is indeed into dudes. Facing a promotion to a position with Buick, Bob fretted over his personal life and the question of how his own life in the closet affects his appearance in the professional world. So, naturally, he proposed to Joan. She declined because she's still a romantic despite the misery her love life has known since... well, forever... and because she's surprisingly open-minded enough to recognize that it's totally messed up that Bob and the Chevy exec and every other gay person on Mad Men have to live the paranoid lives that they do. "The Strategy" was vague on the exact time of the year it is, but we know that it's not yet July. The Stonewall Riots began at the end of June 1969, which could be right around the corner. It's interesting that Mad Men chose to focus on Bob Benson's plight with such an important even in LGBT history about to happen. 

While Don's professional life continues to teeter on the edge of ruin, his relationship with Megan appears to be improving steadily since their near break-up a few weeks back. She visited him in New York and he actually seemed pleased to see her. They spent some time together, and Megan was hopeful about taking a real vacation with Don in the future. The Don we saw in "The Strategy" was comfortable with his life in a way we haven't seen Don act before. It's telling that Peggy declared his alternate idea for the Burger Chef pitch "crap." It kind of was. When she demanded that he share his process with her, he said that the key was to figure out what she wanted. In the end, Peggy came up with "family," and the resulting pitch was contemporary, creative, and most importantly, completely Peggy's. Don's idea sucked because right now, Don doesn't really want for anything. 

He will soon enough, though. Mark my words. 



NOTES

– "You are surrounded by all sorts of women who work!" PREACH, PEGGY, PREACH.

– Peggy's face when Lou happily remarked that dads tell moms what to do. OMG. 

 Lot's of sex happening in Mad Men pop culture this week: I am Curious (Yellow) and Oh! Calcutta! are all about the sex. 

– In the final scene of "The Strategy," Peggy called the Burger Chef "a clean, well-lighted place," which is the title of an Ernest Hemmingway short story about dissatisfaction, loneliness, aging, and mortality.

– Despite how pleasant and stable Don and Megan were in this episode, did anyone else get weird vibes from Megan? First there was that uncomfortable moment when the receptionist remarked that she didn't know Don was married, then the fact that Megan wants to take her stuff back to California. Is she being sneaky, or am I being paranoid? 

– That was so nice of all the men in the office giving Peggy permission to make the decision about Don that they all wanted her to make, wasn't it? 


What'd you think of "The Strategy"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/25/2014

Season 7 : Episode 7

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