“This is the beginning of something, not the end.”
“You passed the test.”
“Enjoy the rest of your miserable life.”
“Having a leg up on the rats who fly off this ship is going to help you.”
Spoiler warning: Stop reading if you haven’t seen the April 27 episode of “Mad Men,” titled “Time & Life.”
There were plenty of great lines, great performances and plot developments in this episode but nothing was more startling than Peggy Olson trying to come to terms with the baby that has shadowed her since the end of season one.
Kudos to Elisabeth Moss, to writers Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner and to director Jared Harris (yes, Lane Pryce was back at Sterling Cooper) for the delicate way her revelation to Stan was handled. The build-up to it with the kids auditioning in the office and the shouting match with the stage mother made the scene with Stan that much more poignant. Give him credit — underneath all that hair, he’s awfully perceptive and sensitive, especially where Peggy is concerned.
At the same time that Peggy is showing some maturity about her decision, Roger still seems to be in perplexing denial about his child with Joan, Kevin. Even when soused, when you’d think his guard would be down, Roger laments to Don that he’s the last man in the Sterling lineage. Fine, fine work by John Slattery throughout — as usual.
This episode seemed to go out of its way to show us a lot of old-school “Mad Men” relationships and where they stand at this time in the series’ run. The big news of the episode — the fact that McCann-Erickson is absorbing Sterling Cooper fully into its operation — was a catalyst for dealing with a lot of loose ends.
Pete spends time with Trudy doing what they both do best — social climbing, or attempting to on behalf of daughter Tammy. When Pete clocks the headmaster of the Greenwich Day School, the tony private school that has rejected Tammy, Trudy is clearly impressed. She even confesses to Pete her fears of being an aging divorcee. And Pete is sympathetic.
We also see Pete extending a kindness to Peggy, by tipping her to the fact of the McCann-Erickson integration. And Peggy is kind back to him, going so far as to rub his back and assure him that he’ll be fine.
We see Roger and Don deepening their friendship once again over a lot of cocktails. One of many great moments in the episode was the scene that cut from McCann bigwig Jim Hobart telling them to “pop some champagne” to the sight of the five Sterling Cooper partners hoisting beer mugs.
We also got some interesting Roger and Joan moments. None was better than Joan calmly scolding him — “Don’t do that” — after he started yelling for her as if this was six seasons ago. In general there’s been a noticeable rise in the amount of assertiveness expressed by Sterling Cooper’s secretaries in these last few episodes. Don’s secretary Meredith isn’t afraid to tell him what’s what. She even withholds his Alka-Seltzer — a move that could probably get any executive assistant fired today.
Maybe the second most heartbreaking scene after Peggy and Stan’s moment was the sight of Don Draper suffering Pitchus Interruptus. He looks stunned that McCann’s Jim Hobart wouldn’t even let him put the Don Draper Treatment on the pitch to relocate most of Sterling Cooper’s business to Los Angeles — a last ditch attempt to salvage the agency’s imprimatur and identity. “It’s a gold rush out there,” Don says at the windup before he’s clubbed on the knees by Hobart.
Hobart makes it clear that McCann-Erickson bought Sterling Cooper not for its cash flows, but for its executive team. “You passed the test,” he says. Ted is getting what he told Don the previous week was his heart’s desire — the chance to work on big brands and big ideas. Don is still singing “Is That All There Is?”
The integration with McCann is ultimately welcomed by some (Peggy, Ted) and feared by others — especially Joan after the indignity she suffered at the hands of the frat-boy execs in the premiere episode. They have every reason to fear the worst — which is why no one listens to Roger or Don when the partners gather the Sterling Cooper staff to announce the move.
“This is the beginning of something, not the end,” Don says in desperation as staffers begin leaving while Roger is mid-sentence. But there’s no snapping them back to attention. The rank-and-file know that the Sterling Cooper partners have just lost all of their authority. They’re back to being employees like everybody else.