Mad Men Musings: Waterloo

If you’re a Mad Men fan, join us regularly for Mad Men Musings – a space to discuss selected highlights, low points, or just plain water-cooler worthy moments of each episode.

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Moon-Landing

One final Mad Men Musings until next year! (Why, AMC, why?!) This mid-season finale offered us the vast and sparkling firmament: there’s just something about the scope and distance of the moon and stars that reminds us of our own human smallness, our temporality. And there’s two ways to think about that…you can get all nihilistic and decide that nothing matters, or you can dig your heels in and fight like hell. For Don, Roger, and Peggy – in a tender, graceful, and moving farewell until next year – the good fight continues.

We open on the cusp of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, which coincides with Ted Chaough’s semi-breakdown – while flying the Sunkist execs in his tiny plane, Ted cuts the engines. As Pete’s been pointing out, Ted is thisclose to losing it; he’s depressed, petulant, and wants out of advertising.

Side note: what the heck was up with that shot of the plane, seriously? It was so funny that I couldn’t even worry about Ted’s reprehensible behavior.

Back in NYC, the gang is gearing up for the Burger Chef pitch. Peggy’s role is to introduce Don in reverent tones, and Don’s role is to dazzle everyone. Their excitement over the prospect, however, is tempered by the looming moonwalk – if it fails and tragedy strikes, they’ll have to shelve the pitch.

And Don has a nasty little surprise letter waiting for him, delivered by his ridiculous secretary Meredith. Remember that Commander Cigarette meeting, the one that Don crashed? Apparently, that’s a violation of his new contract, and now all the partners want him out. Meredith is more than willing to “comfort” Don, but he literally couldn’t care less.

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Meeting

When Don confronts everyone, it turns out that the termination letter was drawn up solely by Jim Cutler. Don forces the partners to a vote – and only Jim and Joan (WTH, Joan?) want him out, so Don stays. Joan snips that she’s tired of Don costing her money, but Pete chides Jim with a classic Pete line: “That is a very sensitive piece of horseflesh – he should not be rattled like this!”

Shaken by the turn of events, Don calls Megan. He tells her what happened, that he’s thinking of just packing it all in. A fairly heavy meta-convo ensues, in which Megan tells Don maybe he should move on and asks him if he’s tired of fighting. When he points out he can probably move out to LA now, there’s a pause, and then Megan simply says, “Don” – one little word fraught with all the tension of their failed relationship.

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Megan

As it turns out, their marriage ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. This feels right; their union’s been on life support for so long now, and it truly feels like there’s nothing left to say. (Plus, she already got that fondue pot, so she’s set.)

Don tells Megan he’ll always take care of her, but Megan demurs, saying he doesn’t owe her anything, and they say a teary goodbye. We’ll have to see what happens, but I for one hope this break up sticks.

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Peggy

Peggy has her own break up, of sorts, with her neighbor/tenant Julio. His mom is moving them to Newark, and Julio doesn’t want to leave. He hugs a tearful Peggy; she promises to visit all the time, but he knows she probably won’t. This was so heartbreaking, you guys; every time I see Peggy with Julio, even when she’s just grousing at him, I can’t help but think what a good mom she’d be, and what she gave up all those years ago. I just want her to have all the things – a fulfilling career and a kid. Funny how things stay the same, right?

Oh, and Peggy also got a phone number from the dude working on her apartment, but I don’t care because Julio and Peggy forever! Also, after the dude said to her, “You sure have a lot of books,” I couldn’t help but think of that great John Waters quote: “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** ‘em.” I’m guessing work dude doesn’t have a ton of reading material at home, so Peggy, take a pass on this one.

Mad-Men-Waterlook-Bert-ML

As the moonwalk officially airs, everyone’s watching entranced. Bert Cooper is watching on the couch, and the last word we ever hear him say (not counting his later song) is “Bravo.” Roger is watching with Mona, his grandson, and Marigold’s husband. Don, Peggy, Pete and Harry are watching from their Indiana motel room (they’re pitching Burger Chef the following day).

And now a brief detour: over in the Francis’ mansion, Betty and company are watching as well. Betty’s college friend, with her two sons in tow, (one hunky, and one nerdy) is visiting…OMG, Kellie Martin from the show Life Goes On! I didn’t recognize her until her hair was down, but then she was unmistakable. Sally is the most done-up ever, with full-on Bardot hair and lipstick, and it seems clear she’s crushing on the hunk.

After a call from Don, where he chides Sally for being cynical, she goes outside to smoke and runs into the nerdy son; he shows Sally Polaris through the telescope. (I love the metaphor of Polaris, the North Star – it points you true north, like Penny being Desmond’s constant in Lost). Sally does something most unexpected: she kisses him.

And then she smokes, looking like the spitting image of her mother, right down to her bored, full-of-ennui stance. I loved this small moment – it was like the dark horse behavior of Don, coupled with some Betty mannerisms.

As all our respective players watch the moon landing, marveling at the spectacle before them, Roger gets the call: Bert has died. He goes to the office and meets Joan and Jim. Jim barely manages to unctuously murmur a condolence before he starts in about jettisoning Don, yet again. Way to be totally inappropriate, Jim.

Roger calls Don and fills him in, and Don in turn tells Peggy she should give the Burger Chef presentation tomorrow. She doesn’t think she can do it, (especially because there’s NO LIQUOR!!) but Don assures her she’s got this.

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Burget-Pitch

And she does – in the presentation (where Don so sweetly introduces her) she skillfully weaves together the great achievement of the moonwalk, the collective ties of family, and leaving the chaos of the modern world for the perfect Burger Chef family dinner. The looks she and Don exchange rival their dance last week – so much communicated by their eyes meeting and a shared, secret smile.

Meanwhile, Bert’s death has lit a fire under Roger. He and Bert didn’t always see eye to eye, but they had a long and important history together. In their last conversation, Bert told Roger that he wasn’t really a leader, but Roger seems determined to prove him wrong.

Mad-men-waterloo-Roger

Accordingly, he meets with McCann and works out a deal: McCann will purchase SC&P at a 51% share, while allowing SC&P to remain as an independent subsidiary. This means five year contracts for the SC&P partners, and McCann stipulates that Ted must be part of the deal. Plus, the partners all make mega bank.

Don is initially wary – after all, they started their own company to get away from the control of the fat cats. But what does he have left, at this point? His work, that’s what, and this is the best way to beat Jim at his own game and try to flourish. During a partner meeting, Ted takes some convincing, but Don wields his golden tongue and Ted comes around.

Joan, upon hearing the news that this new move will garner her a cool million dollars, looks ready to cry tears of joy – this means real security for herself and her family. And Jim, of course, jumps on board when he realizes which way the wind is blowing. (Sad trombone for Harry, who didn’t actually sign as a partner yet and is thus excluded from this deal). Go, Roger, go – Bert would be proud, don’t you think?

Mad-Men-Waterloo-Bert-Dance

On his way out of the meeting, a radiant Peggy tells Don they landed the account. And then, the strangest thing happens: Don sees Bert, (in his stocking feet, naturally) launching into the song “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” accompanied by a bevy of twirling secretaries.

It was a surreally sweet send off, surely a nod to actor Robert Morse and his Broadway background. And yet, it was a bit jarring for me – I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. It left Don with a simultaneously astonished and pleased look, and I suppose I fall somewhere on that spectrum as well.

Here’s hoping that the rest of Season 7 provides a true north for the gang. Wish on some stars, everybody.

Readers: As always, I’ve enjoyed your savvy commentary! What was your favorite moment of the finale? Do you think Don is ready to make lasting life changes? And what did you think of Bert’s razzle-dazzle “ghost” as the end note?

all photos: via AMC

Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.

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Written by amity

13 Comments

  1. Avatar of Kellie
    Kellie

    I thought that this was a great episode. I really enjoyed it. I love it when this group gets shaken as it truly inspires greatness in them. I am so excited to see what the final episodes will bring. I feel in my gut that Don and Peggy may end up together. Regardless of whether they do or not I feel that Peggy is the one woman that Don truly respects and feels almost equal to. I think that this is very evident in this episode.

    Also, it was heartbreaking when Peggy cried for her child/the neighbor kid who is moving.

    Also, what is up with Joan? She is ticking me off.

    And Yay for Kellie Martin!!! Did anyone else think that Betty was going to go after her oldest son??

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      Oh my gosh, when the oldest son walked in shirtless and Betty gave him the once-over, it was SO awkward. That’s why I love that Sally kissed astronomy boy–like take that, Mom, I’m more interested in brains over brawn.

  2. Avatar of heather
    heather

    I was concerned that the mid-season finale (how is that even a thing?!) wouldn’t be meaty enough to warrant a pause, but well-played Weiner & co. Beautiful send off to Bert, although I am a little hazy on what it meant, but I loved that it was a nod to Robert Morse’s lengthy career. For what it’s worth, at the Paleyfest panel this year, he was the funniest and most animated – a true showbiz pro.

    As much as I don’t want to bid farewell to Mad Men forever, hurry up and get here spring!

  3. Avatar of turboterp
    turboterp

    Bert’s “razzle dazzle” sendoff was jarring and weird, but I’ve decided that I loved it. It wasn’t as weird as that plane!
    Peggy and Julio broke my heart, and I was so happy to see Peg get her big triumphant moment with Burger Chef.
    Could we really be rid of Megan that easily?
    Ha, @amity , nice John Waters quote :) As much as I’ll hate to say goodbye to Mad Men, I can’t wait for the final six—- and your recaps!

  4. Avatar of Krista
    Krista

    I loved how when Don’s old secretary, Mrs. Blankenship, passed away, Bert Cooper said “She was born in 1898 in a barn, she died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper–she’s an astronaut.”– and he passed just as astronauts were landing on the moon. I was really happy he got to see it. I’m sad to see him go :(

    BECCA!! Super excited to see Kellie Martin! Even if she’s an old friend of Betty’s.

    Happy to see Peggy nail the presentation–it’s weird seeing the main guy from Burger Chef and knowing he’s the mullet from “Walking Dead”. He looks so normal here. Sad to see Julio go–he really was like Peggy’s surrogate son/only friend/companion. She really has no one outside of work now. :/

    Jim Cutler needed punched in the gonads in this episode. Repeatedly and unrelentingly.

    I’m insanely irritated about this season being split up :(

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      I was absurdly excited about Kellie; wonder if she’ll be in any more episodes? Co-signing regarding Jim Cutler–let the gonad punching commence!

  5. Avatar of sherrishera
    sherrishera

    I’m not reading any of the comments before I write this because I don’t want any regrets. @amity, I follow you like a sheep but I’m going to disagree with you on a couple of points here.
    First is telling Peggy to take a pass on the fix-it guy. This could be her right-now-and-maybe-forever guy. I know I said I see her and Don as old folks in the Hamptons but you don’t know what kind of books this guy might have! They might all be about plumbing but he could teach her a thing or two as life moves on. Or, those books could be the same as hers. She doesn’t need someone to take care of her, she needs someone who is solid.
    My second disagreement is with the end of Don’s marriage. I can’t believe it would end on such a wimper…and that nothing ever meant anything. I mean, maybe that was Wiener’s big joke: there is no foreshadowing, no symbolism. But if all that is the case, the end deserves a more fitting, crazy end.
    My third disagreement is in Bert’s sendoff. I absolutely adored it! How appropriate and weird and…yes, I loved it more than anything else this episode. To put that in perspective, this may have been my favorite episode ever.
    P.S. I think that last was Bert’s afterlife encouragement of “his team.” Sure, he told Roger that he wasn’t a leader and that he’d have voted Don out, but that just spurred the end events. It’s like he knew what was coming and was forcing checkmate with his team. That number was the ultimate victory song and dance. Well played, Bert, well played.

    1. Avatar of Stef Andrews
      Stef Andrews

      And I’m going to jump in and say I what think Peggy needs right now is to just get laid! I don’t think books are the impt. thing at the moment. She needs someone who’s good with their hands, and that big eared handyman seems to be just that.

    2. Avatar of amity
      amity

      Disagreement more than welcome! In all fairness, the Waters quote was tongue in cheek–as long as work dude has a brain and is kind, that’s good enough for me. For Meagan and Don, I can’t imagine that we won’t see Meagan at all next year, but I do think it’s apropos that the slog of a marriage eventually just kind of slumped under its own weight. And last, I’m still divided on the Bert send off–it was magical and sweet,but for me it was a little off tonally.

      Thanks for your insightful comments–great food for thought!

  6. Avatar of Stef Andrews
    Stef Andrews

    I had to watch the final scene 3 times in a row:
    1st viewing: omg, what’s happening?
    2nd viewing: ok, this is actually pretty sweet.
    3rd viewing: This is PERFECT.

    And honestly, now I’m having a hard time getting out of my head! It’s obviously an ode to Robert Morse (and it certainly helps that I’ve always read how much everyone on set adores him) but it works so perfectly in context as well. Mad Men is no stranger to song and dance numbers (From Zou Bisou Bisou to Pete and Trudy’s Charleston). Or, to Don seeing dead people. So this strange and completely sweet good bye is so fitting. Bert’s socks, Don’s tearful happiness and subtle collapse on the end of the desk – it was so, so brilliant. (seriously, Jon Hamm is an amazing actor. He said so much there, without a word.)

    And I think it plays to Don finally figuring some things out. The best things in life are indeed free; happiness, friendship, family. I hope this all leads to a series ending of a happy Don Draper.

    I loved this episode. A couple of points (because I really could go on forever):

    -“You’re just a bully and a drunk. The most eloquent I ever heard you was when you were blubbering like a little girl about your impoverished childhood.” OUCH Jim. Ouch. I used to hope it was Lou falling from the building in the opening credits. Now I hope it’s Jim.

    – Go Roger. That is all.

    -That opening scene of the Burger Chef pitch was like poetry. The muffled sound and slow mo shots, the look from Don and tiny nod back from Peggy, Don introducing Peggy exactly like she said she was going to introduce him. Amazing.

    – And my other scene of the week goes to Bert again. As they’re all watching the moon landing, Bert says “Brav-o.” And I took it not as Bravo for landing on the moon, but Bravo for that line that has gone down in history. Bert knows a good tagline when he hears it. It was such a small nuance, but exactly why this show is so amazing.

    And my bravo? It goes to @amity for all these amazing recaps!

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      I totally agree with the “best things in life are free” spin for Don, and it does make me think that maybe, just maybe, Don CAN end on a high note. And thanks for my “bravo”–you deserve one as well for your thoughtful and epic comments!

      P.S. Ok, I’m just gonna pretend the big-eared work dude reads like Nietzsche and Nabokov in his spare time.

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