Peggy's back, and so is the "Mad Men" we all love.
True, Peggy has appeared in the show for most of this season. And the overall themes (prostitution and adultery) are still present in "For Immediate Release."
But it’s as though the writers were just as excited as we are for the Peggy and Don reunion, no matter how fleeting. My how it shows.
Now that she and Don will be working together, Roger’s quips are that much sharper, Don’s glances are that much more seductive, and Pete’s comeuppance is that much more awkward (as it should be). This is the ‘Mad Men’ I’ve been waiting for all season.
But first, it’s a Mother’s Day special on ‘Mad Men.’ To honor Don’s mother, the writers revisit prostitution. With Sylvia nowhere in sight, let’s start of with Joan and Jaguar.
As much as Don plays up his moral outrage with Joan being whored out, his issue with Herb is much more personal. He closes the Jaguar account because he’s tired of being ignored.
Don’s pitch, though deserving to win Jaguar on its own merits, was inconsequential next to Herb’s tryst with Joan. His advice not to divert most of the Jaguar funds to radio advertising was undermined by Herb and Pete. His talent was compared to a flier boy at a local dealership (not too dissimilar to his own roots at a fur shop) by Herb, his own client. A low blow, indeed.
After finding out Don axed Jaguar, Pete is so outraged that he tumbles down the stairs. Joan handles her anger much more eloquently.
“And what now, I went through all that for nothing?” Her frustration is justified. Landing the Jaguar account, by selling herself out for one soul-crushing night, should be more appreciated and not capriciously ended, no matter how noble Don thought he was.
But does she really want to be reminded of that night of subjugation every time the revolting Herb walks through the door, or any time Jaguar is mentioned? And with Don, there’s always more to be said.
“Just once I would like you to use the word ‘we’ because we’re all rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping that you’ll decide what’s right for our lives.” Finally, someone close to Don stands up to him.
Does it sink in? Of course not. He and Roger just shrug it off. Their minds are too focused on winning Chevy. A deadline’s a deadline. But can’t he muster up any semblance of compassion or remorse? Not when his ego’s on the line.
Off to Detroit he and Roger go. When sitting at the bar late at night (because, of course, where else would Don Draper be?), in walks Ted Chaough.
“Dammit!” Ted yells, walking in to see Don. His hopes of landing Chevy, when pitted against one small agency and one large agency, are dashed.
Ted bemoans his loss of six weeks spent on his pipe dream. (Side note: As much as Peggy says she’s tired of being around pessimists, Ted doesn’t seem like that much of a step up from Don. True, he could be rueful that his partner spent a good chunk of his remaining time on an unfulfilling project, but when did you ever see Don admitting defeat in front of a competitor?)
Luckily, admitting defeat is what saves SDCP and CGC. Chevy wants quantity over quality, with the little agencies’ ideas. The solution, Don says, is for the two rag-tag teams to join forces. Ted buys it, their partners buy it, Chevy buys it, and now SCDP and CGC are one big happy advertising agency.
The only person who seems hesitant? A freshly powdered Peggy, ready to flirt with her boss after an awkward kiss. When walking into her boss’s office, who does she see but her old boss. In her mind, you know she’s shouting “Dammit,” just like Ted when he saw Don.
The merger might be a bit forced, as far as plotlines are concerned, but the Don-Peggy dynamic is essential for this show. After all, both Matt Weiner and Jon Hamm have pointed out that the series starts with Peggy’s first day for a reason.
From lowly secretary to Copy Chief at one of the top 25 agencies in the U.S. And before hitting 30, no less! We couldn’t be prouder, Pegs.
Before Pete stumbles into his prostitution scandal, he, Bert, and Joan are crunching numbers to go public with the company. Their goal is to keep Don out, so that he can’t naysay it. He has enough money, they figure.
Pete, however, wants a larger bank account to entice Trudy. Nice try, but there’s not enough money to make Pete a viable catch to her again.
And in ‘Mad Men’ land, anytime a character receives good news, bad news is not far away. When will the SDCP learn that whorehouses are not good for business? They lost Jaguar (the first time) with the infamous chewing gum in pubis incident.
Now they lost Vick’s when Pete ran into Tom, his father-in-law, coming out of a room with an overweight black prostitute.
These are the awkward moments we live for. Horrified, each is only able to utter one word as they pass by one another. “Hello?” whimpers Pete. “Goodnight,” Tom snarls under his breath.
Here’s where Pete lost any good grace he earned from last week’s episode: After plaintively telling his wife about Tom dropping the account, he reveals her father’s whoreabouts.
Shocker: She sees right through his manipulation. And besides, how does admitting to seeing her father at a whorehouse help their faltering marriage?
“He left me with no other choice,” Pete gripes. “You have lots of choices,” Trudy asserts. Applause! “We’re done. Get your things.” Standing ovation! Bravo, Trudy! Open the bubbly, this woman is free of Madison’s Avenue sleaziest pimp.
Well, let’s just see how the divorce plays out. Knowing Pete the Petulant, he’ll make it agonizing since he’s no longer in control.
Another divorce, another sign that Pete is Don 2.0. Pity, because I prefer Trudy/Alison Brie to Betty/January Jones, who’s still making regular appearances.
But as one marriage unfolds, another mends itself. Slightly.
Megan is out shopping with her mother when two grade school girls ask for Megan’s autograph. Marie stifles her jealousy. Because her own dreams to stardom were unfulfilled? Because someone else is receiving all the attention?
Despite her resentment, Marie senses Megan’s upset. So, she puts on her Mom Pants (not Mom jeans, thankfully) while the two are in the dressing room. How fitting.
Megan admits the growing distance between her and Don. “He may think you belong more to other people than he does to you,” Marie observes.
As bad as she is with picking men (see: Émile and Roger), she at least understands why these relationships sour. These men want to be in the spotlight.
Again, as we saw with the Jaguar client, if Don’s not the center of someone’s universe, then he sees that as rejection. This feeling of abandonment drives him to seek out his vices, adultery and alcohol.
To reel him back from the debaucherous brink, Marie offers a solution: “Make him think about how quickly he can get between your legs.” Bold, saucy, and slightly disturbing. “Hey, Mom, thanks for the sex advice.” Try putting that on a Mother’s Day card. (Ew, please don’t.)
Whether it was Megan’s nude, gam-galore dress, or Don’s sense of possession after Herb’s inappropriate comment (“tall, tan, young, and lovely”), Megan finally gets much, much closer to her husband.
Her mother, in fact, was able to hear how well her advice worked. She suffers through the sexile with wine straight from the bottle.
Peggy and Abe’s cohabitation, meanwhile, is far from bliss. Peggy resorts to wearing a bandana as a facemask to safely breathe whatever renovated-induced fumes are wafting in the air, she has to walk around with shoes, and Abe is shocking himself doing repairs since he’s too frugal to hire a handyman. But as far as he’s concerned, the Upper West Side is an idyllic neighborhood.
“Things are changing,” says Abe. “We’re a part of that.” Not comforting when it’s happening in your backyard, or in this case, your stoop.
Neighborhood kids shooting firecrackers and blaring music: He traded the Upper East Side for that? Abe, give your girlfriend the apartment she deserves.
If she doesn’t, Ted or Don will. And what a battle of the egos it will be. I’m keeping my popcorn saved in hopes of an epic bathroom brawl, like Don vs. Duck in ‘The Suitcase.’ Someone needs to get punched, and if it’s not Pete, it’s got to be turtleneck-clad Ted.
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM ‘FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE’:
BEST ROGER ONE-LINER: “Because I close, Pete. I close things.” Anything that shuts up Pete’s smug yapper deserves a medal.
BEST GIF TO WATCH ALL DAY: Pete tumbling down the stairs. Enjoy your lack of productivity.
MOST PIN-WORTHY RECIPE ON PINTEREST: Cocktails with spirits of elderflower. I smell a bootleg theme party in the works.
MOST DESERVED NAME FOR AGENCY MERGER: Peggy Inc. Can’t blame her if she tries that one.
BEST BREAKUP LINE: Marie to Roger: “You are speaking slowly so that I’ll understand ... Forget ... my ... name.” Slam goes the telephone, and once more when Roger calls back two seconds later.
WORST THING TO SAY AFTER KISSING YOUR EMPLOYEE: Ted to Peggy: “I’m grateful.” What’s she supposed to say to that, “Uh, thanks?” Don would be so much smoother.
MOST UNSETTLING MORNING GREETING: Roger biting his one-night-stand stewardess on the shoulder. She put a fresh coat of makeup on for you in the a.m., and this is how you treat her?
CLEAREST CONTINUITY IN CLOTHES: The color scheme from ‘The Other Woman,’ in which Joan sleeps with Herb, Peggy leaves SCDP, and Megan auditions for that Broadway play, is impeccably identical. Joan is wearing the same jade dress when she stands up to Don that she wore the day she became partner, giving Don that “don’t you dare judge me” glare. When Peggy sees Ted after he’s leaving the creative meeting, her dress is a bold and powerful purple, the shade she’s seen in when waiting for the elevator out of SCDP. Megan first wore a nude dress to seduce Don when he was at the office, for pre-audition encouragement. In this episode, she’s taking her mother’s advice, and wears a nude dress to audition for the part of sexiest wife. Can someone explain to me why Janie Bryant hasn’t won a single Emmy for Costume Design?
CREEPIEST CONTINUITY: Megan goes down on Don before he heads to Detroit for the presentation, while Marie is in town. Marie also serviced Roger in season five’s “At the Codfish Ball.” Please tell me that’s not more motherly advice Marie gave her daughter in the fitting room.
MOST STRIKING PERSONALITY DOPPELGANGER: Herb’s fluffy-hair-for-brains wife is a dead ringer (for mannerisms, anyway) for Lane Meyer’s mother from ‘Better Off Dead.’ During her thrilling puppy story, I was waiting for her to say to Marie, “Would you like some Frahnch dressing?”
SADDEST SHOE SHINE: Roger shining his own shoes before heading to the airport to land Chevy. It doesn’t look poignant, but since his shoe-shine’s death is tied into his mother’s, maybe busting out the shine and brushes helps him cope with her loss on Mother’s Day.
BEST METAPHOR THAT SUMMARIZES HERB: “She’s the apple that goes in the pig’s mouth!” -- Marie about Herb’s wife. He’s the pig; she’s the apple. How disgusting appropriate.