'Mad Men' recap, 'The Collaborators'

For all you complaining about the less-than-stellar season six premiere, feast your eyes on the scintillating second episode.

“The Collaborators” delves into themes of desire, putting on a good face for show and the sin rooted deep in Don’s history: prostitution. The death and suicide images are still there, but toned down a bit from last week’s one-and-a-half deaths. That’s always a plus.

Don runs into the good -- but not good enough for his wife -- doctor in the elevator before slipping away to sleep with said wife. His excuse? Forgetting his cigarettes. “You should really quit,” Dr. Rosen admonishes Don. The smoking or the adultery?

Before entering Sylvia’s apartment, Don has a flashback to his days as Dick Whitman. But instead of the farm, he’s moved up from handling horses to whores with the help of his “Uncle” Mac.

“Find your own sins,” a red-clad prostitute tells young Dick. Sure, Don’s found smoking, drinking and adultery, but it looks like he’s also taken on Uncle Mac’s penchant for prostitutes.

After his morning tryst with Sylvia, he hands her a wad of cash. Fitting, since we saw her arguing with her husband earlier over money.

Dr. Rosen confides in Don on the elevator that he suspects she’s sending money to their child at school. Would a mother really need to sneak sending money to her kid? I doubt it. Looks like we’ll get the answer later.

Later Sylvia runs into Megan, who also confides in her spouse’s lover. Only in her case, it’s much sadder. Megan had a miscarriage, though she admitted she was somewhat relieved, since she didn’t want to hinder her budding career.

Sylvia, a Catholic like Megan, lays on the guilt. Megan then feels worse. Don walks in while Megan wipes away the tears.

The four are supposed to double date the following night. Fun and not awkward at all! Megan bails, since she’s depressed about her miscarriage, understandably so. Don goes without her and dines with the Rosens. Eventually Dr. Rosen gets called into the hospital, and that leaves just the two smitten sex kittens.

Don turns on his game. But Sylvia, apprehensive to flirt in public and jealous that he and Megan have still been having sex, resists him. He tells her he wants her all the time, and not just in the maid’s room (odd choice, since Megan plays a maid on her daytime soap). But, still, Sylvia feels guilty.

“You want to feel s---y, right up until the point where I take your dress off.” You sure do know how to woo a woman, Don. But, it’s Don Draper, so of course it works.

Don then goes up one more flight to his home to a grieving Megan. She opens up about the miscarriage, which is a double surprise to him.

They put off the talk of having kids -- neither even used that word once -- and he said he wanted whatever she wanted. Anything to avoid anxiety, huh, Don?

The ghost of prostitutions past comes back to haunt SCDP in the form of Herb, the revolting Jaguar client and Joan’s one-time John. And, of course, he’s darkening Joan’s doorway.

“I know there’s some part of you that misses me,” he gloats. “And I know there’s a part of you that you haven’t seen in years,” Joan retorts. Bravo, Mrs. Holloway (Harris?), bravo.

Seething, she goes to Don’s office to announce Herb’s arrival, pouring herself a drink. Don, who notices she’s angry, heads to the meeting where Herb wants more foot traffic at his dealerships.

His solution: Less TV ads and more radio ads, but SCDP has to present it as their idea to get the Brits to green-light it.

Don says it will drive away their target audience (not to mention tarnish the prestige of TV ads), but Pete insists it’s all about what the client wants. Too bad Don knows what he wants and how to get it.

When meeting with Jaguar, Don bungles the pitch intentionally (unlike the “Jumping off point” pitch from last week), and he does so masterfully. “That was the deftest self-immolation I’ve ever seen,” Roger says. And the suicide imagery just keeps on coming.

Don might not have been able to stop his partners from pimping out Joan to an unctuous car salesman, but he did stop Herb from ruining the prestige of a national car campaign.

(A brief note about Don’s perplexing moral cognitive dissonance regarding prostitution: True, he has solicited and continues to see a prostitute, but I suspect his moral outrage with whoring out Joan is in part because he respects her, while he condones Sylvia’s prostitution since he has feelings for her.)

“He’s not a businessman,” Herb says to Pete. Clearly, his shortsightedness is not limited to just his privates.

Pete predictably has a hissy fit, but Don and Roger refuse to give in to him or Herb. Everyone’s laying down the lines, and Pete the control freak is rendered helpless.

Back at Cos Cob, Pete has a new mistress/ neighbor -- of course, always stealing Don’s style -- and takes her to his wife-approved apartment in the city.

But it’s clear she’s gotten too clingy when she tells him she’ll park her car in different places whenever she’s thinking of him. Sheesh, whatever happened to smoke signals?

When his mistress comes running to their house, beaten and bloody, it’s obvious that a) Her husband’s a vile woman-beater, b) His secret affair is out, unlike Don’s affair (for now) and c) That horrifies Pete more than the fact that she’s been beaten.

He and Trudy console and mend her, steak over the eye and all. When Trudy briefly leaves the room, Pete — proving that, yes, he can out-skeeze himself — snaps at his battered mistress, “What did you say to him?” Just, ew. Her answer? She wants to be with him. Pete, really?

The morning after Trudy had some chat time with the mistress when taking her to a hotel, she tells Pete to keep him and his unzipped fly at least 50 miles away from Cos Cob. Her issue is not his indiscretions, but his lack of discretion. Whatever rids you of Pete. Now go enjoy that skinny dip with your flirty neighbors (just not the abusive one, ugh).

In last week’s episode, Peggy, free of Don’s control and full of power, seemed to be the happiest out of the dreary-eyed lot last week. But happiness never lasts long in “Mad Men” land.

Peggy has been channeling Don’s creative talents and managerial so oppressively her underlings are close to mutiny. Even after her secretary tells her they’re cowering outside her office, she tears apart their Clearasil campaign. Sure, zits aren’t fun, but neither are mean bosses, Peg.

Sensing the low moral, she tries to rally the troops: “The way you are has nothing to do with the fact that the work needs work.” She’s not even convinced with her speech, rolling her eyes after they leave.

To her credit, that go-get-’em speech did spark inspiration for new ideas: Copywriters responded with a campaign for Quest deodorant that kills overly critical bacteria. Someone hand these boys an award for most creative way to tell your boss she stinks.

The only coworkers who don’t seem to hate her are her boss, Chaough and her work husband (“How was your day, honey?”), Stan, who spills the beans (pun intentional) that Heinz ketchup is on the prowl for a new ad agency.

Raymond of Heinz, another Peggy hater, brought his colleague and head of ketchup, Timmy, to SCDP. As head of baked beans, and not the creme de condiments (ketchup), poor Raymond gets overlooked. So much so that he admits to Don and Ken that he’s essentially on a suicide mission. Again with the death and doom imagery.

Ken wants to go in for the kill, tossing aside any past ties with Raymond. Don shuts down that idea saying, “Sometimes you gotta dance with the one you brought.” Rather noble, but will it backfire? Odds are, yes.

Peggy mentions that Heinz is up for grabs to her boss, more so to console herself that SCDP has gone to hell without her. Her boss, however, sees an opportunity to pounce on Heinz.

Peggy tries to discourage him to protect Stan. Chaough insists that it’s business, and Peggy, unlike Don, who stood next to Raymond, gives in. More brownie points (and flirting potential) for Peg. But those good vibes won’t last long. I’m guessing Stan will join the long list of the Peggy Haters Club once CGC snags Heinz.


ROGER: No real great one-liners from the Silver Fox, but he does seem to continue mourning his mother. He inaccurately attributed a Churchill quote as hers. Rather respectable confusion to make, no?

RESUME BUILDER: Working on a farm has transferable skills for working in a whorehouse, according to Uncle Mac. Set this guy up as a career counselor, stat.

MOST AWKWARD MOMENT: Sylvia confuses Megan’s opening up about her miscarriage as a plot line for her show. “I’ll watch.” Uh, no.

MOST MISPLACED ANALOGY: Herb, noticing eager Bob’s intent listening at the meeting, says that he looks like a kid in a candy shop. With the tableau of him holding a notepad while analyzing Pete, Don and Herb, he looks more like a shrink. Shouldn’t SDCP hire one on staff already?

MOST SNIDE HINT THAT YOUR WIFE NAGS YOU: “And they say surgeons are arrogant,” Dr. Rosen jokes, glancing over at his wife.

WORST LINE(S) TO SAY AFTER SEX: “I feel bad,” Sylvia tells Don. Tied with Pete’s “Can you move it along, a little?” Pete, you sweetheart.

BEST SUBTLE INSULT: Bob’s such a brown-noser he’s picking up toilet paper for Pete on his dime.

BEST OVERARCHING LINE OF THE WHOLE SERIES: “It’s all about what it looks like, isn’t it?” – Pete

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad