Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.
Episode title: “Waterloo.” Last week when I saw the title of the episode, I thought immediately Bert was going to die. Waterloo is where Napoleon was defeated, and Bert has always struck me as a little Napoleon. Usually I’m wrong about these things.
Episode timing: Apollo 11 took off on July 20, 1969, so that’s pretty clear. Note to Tate conspiracists, The Tate murders are about three weeks from now.
It’s easy to watch a lot of episodes of Mad Men and say nothing happened, even most of the episodes this half season. Well, not tonight. Not tonight!
Bert Cooper getting the opening scene confirmed for me the episode would be about him. I would love to see a Bert Cooper prequel at some point. He seemed to have so much cache (“He was a giant” get it, Napoleon), but in 7 seasons, I think we only saw him do 3 or 4 things. I watched his scene with Roger twice, about being a leader, loyalty, and Jim Cutler not being on his team. Despite him being mad at Don, and tired of him, he still backs him because of team. That was pretty great. “No man has ever come back from leave, even Napoleon.” Roger realizes that with Bert gone, and Don on his way out, he wouldn’t be able to hold off Cutler any longer, and so he engineers the sale of the agency to McCann. Isn’t it going to be weird in the future to watch Mad Men Season 7 and have this giant thing happen between episodes 7 and 8? Also, this feels like the 10th or 15th time a Mad Men season has ended with the agency facing a significant amount of upheaval in the future from some sort of restructuring or sale.
“Maybe they won’t make it, all their problems will be over.” Ted Chaough is done. He’s had it. He’s finished. We didn’t see much of him at all this year, but it seems like Don won the war they were having last season? It’ll be interesting to see if he has a bigger role next year. This is as good a place as any to mention Jim Cutler’s attitude toward the baby Lou Avery. As mentioned previously on the show, Cutler doesn’t care about creative, and Avery is evidence of that. His dismissal of him, “Get back to work” with a little wag of his hand was delicious. I hope we get to see Don fire him next year.
Harry asked Don for impartial advice and he offered, “Don’t negotiate, just accept the deal.” It was sound advice, I wonder what percentage Harry would have gotten. And then he missed out because he hadn’t signed yet. Poor Harry Crane, always looking for more. Maybe he’s the suicide everyone expects? Roger saying Cutler wanted to whittle the agency down to just Harry and the computer makes a lot of his actions previously more clear. “It’s the agency of the future.” Though Cutler didn’t have any interest in the computer until the 2nd or 3rd episode. Was going all in on the computer just an excuse to get rid of Don? When Cutler realizes he’s beat, he capitulates almost instantly. “It’s a lot of money.” It finally became clear why Joan was so venomously mad at Don (though, I guess I should have remembered this), when Don merged with Ted to cancel the IPO, he cost Joan about a million dollars. Don pitching Ted on staying was nice because we got to see Don pitch one final time. He mentioned again (though it hasn’t come up in a while) not wanting to deal with the the business side anymore, he just wanted to do the work, to be creative. “You don’t want to see what happens when it’s really gone.”
Cutler perceived Don’s surprise arrival at the cigarette meeting as a breach of contract, and moved quickly to have him terminated. He erred by not including all the other partners in his plans, especially because Don had been the good soldier lately. “Sometimes actions have consequences.” Earlier in the season or last season, Cutler said something about “what Don did to Ted” or something. It seems like he’s really had it out for Don since then. Pete is protective of his prize pitcher, “That is a very sensitive piece of horse flesh, he shouldn’t be rattled.”
Don being threatened with termination has his secretary throwing herself at him. That was… unexpected. It also leads Don to call Megan and discuss it as an opportunity. She doesn’t see it that way. It’s been happening all season, and some last, but they’ve grown apart. They seemed to have patched things up after their last fight, but only on the surface. Megan doesn’t want what Don can offer, he knows it, and he doesn’t even fight it. I think his offering to take care of her was also mostly, “Don’t tell anyone about my secret,” but at this point, who could she tell? None of her new friends would care. “Aren’t you tired of fighting?” “I guess I could see it as an opportunity.” “Marriage is a racket.”
The scenes of everyone watching the moon landing were excellent and foreshadowed Peggy’s pitch. Peggy, Pete, Harry, and Don; Roger, Mona, their grandson, and son-in-law; Betty and co; Bert and his maid. “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.” Peggy’s pitch was like a less polished Don pitch. Same tempo, storytelling, etc. “All of us were doing the same thing at the same time.”
Peggy didn’t end up wearing either of the outfits she asked Julio about. Julio, who basically functions as a reminder to Peggy’s pregnancy. (As did “Pete’s pregnant,” which I’m not really sure I know what that means.) And during the pitch, when Peggy mentioned there was a 10 year old boy at her house watching television, the next shot was of Pete. There baby would only be about eight and a half, though. Don has been pretty supportive of Peggy for a while, or at least an episode and a half, but it was back to their early to mid-series form like when she was driving out to NJ to bail him out. “What if there was another table where everyone gets what they want when they want.” That’s been brought up before, mostly relation to Don doing whatever he wanted when he wanted, and not having any consequences. Peggy getting drop ceiling installed in her house was funny.
Cynical Sally is making eyes at the hunky older stud whose family is visiting. She does her hair and wears make up on her way to work, for his part, the hunky stud doesn’t wear a shirt when going down for breakfast. One might assume Betty would be furious at this behavior, but she’s not, I think, because she approves of it. Kind of a tie in to the conversation around Sally almost breaking her nose and her face being all she had. Also, from what we know about Betty, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for her to hit on the kid. I picked up on a contrasting of Sally and the football player with Peggy and the handyman, but as always, I’m too tired to figure it out, and let’s be honest, I probably couldn’t figure it out anyway. In any case, while I think Betty approved of Sally’s actions, I think Sally kissing Neil, instead of the hunky older stud, was another pushback against her mother. It was her not being cynical. The hunky older stud said something about how much the moon landing cost, a line of thinking Sally parrots to Don a few minutes later. Don responds, “Don’t be so cynical” and she takes it to heart. It’s nice. Also, she smokes cigarettes exactly like Betty and it’s spooky.
And that leaves us with a bestockinged Bert Cooper singing and dancing for Don, “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Don appeared to be headed to his old office before the song and dance, and it makes him teary. So what are the free things Don is going to take joy in next year? The work! I don’t want to think too much about this song and dance, except, again, it’s going to be weird in the future when people are binge watching Season 7. I’m pretty glad not to have to stay up until 1:30 on Sunday nights anymore for a while, but splitting the season was done for purely money reasons on the part of AMC and it’s bullshit.
So what do we expect for next year? It won’t take 7 episodes to wrap things up tightly, so I imagine there will be more drama and intrigue. If Megan actually is going to be killed in the Manson Family murders, then next year will have to pick up 3 weeks from now. That would actually track roughly with a month passing between episodes, but I’m not sure how that’s more than a one episode story at most. What do you think’s going to happen?