Last night's Mad Men, episode six of season six, is being called the comeback episode by many. Its real title is "For Immediate Release," and after a number of hours permeated with a dark, morose vibe, this one, which had some defiant spirit to it, as well as a late-in-the-show twist, does seem to be a little bit more lovable. A little bit more, well, fun. There was Joan yelling at Don; Megan's mother Marie giving sex tips, drinking straight from a bottle of wine, and hanging up the phone on Roger; and Peggy fantasizing about her boss, only to be ripped from the fantasy into a surprising new reality. And that's not all!
At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, we begin. The team, or at least, Bert, Pete, and Joan, are meeting with a banker to determine if they should go public, and if so, for how much. Afterward, Pete and Joan have a drink, both of them excited about the possibility that this could make them very rich. Pete, typically, flirts with Joan; Joan reminds him it's Mother's Day the next day. Pete will take that as incentive to go back to Connecticut and get in bed with Trudy, who puts him off. "I've taken note of your effort," she says. He tells her he has "big things coming." Later, Bert tells Pete that they've been priced at $11 a share, to everyone's great pleasure. Pete's got dollar signs rolling in his pupils.
Elsewhere, Roger is also in bed, with his latest girlfriend, a woman who works at the first-class lounge at the airport. It's a nice little arrangement, not only because he's got her looking out for possible account leads. Soon enough, she finds one, calling Roger, who heads to the airport immediately, because he's a closer.
At the Draper residence, the lovely Marie is in town, speaking French, talking shit, smoking. When Dr. Rosen comes over to borrow some wrapping paper, he seems rather taken by her, and she by him. This would be an interesting twist. (Sylvia does not appear at all in the episode, but presumably the twosome made it back from DC just fine, despite Don's worries last week.) Marie can tell something's wrong in the Draper residence, and the increasingly famous Megan (who's getting stopped on the elevator by fangirls for her autograph) finally confesses that things with Don have taken a downward turn. "You talk like a woman who's been married much longer than she has," says Marie, who advises Megan not to dress like his wife on their group dinner out with Herb, the Jaguar client. "The only thought he should have at this dinner is how quickly he can get you between his legs." Megan laughs and dons a shimmery minidress.
At that dinner—oh, that dinner—Herb's wife chatters on and on about shopping and how she found her dog with new puppies in a spot of oil in the garage, a perfectly insipid tale that causes Marie to call her an idiot in French and swill wine in horror. Don, meanwhile, offers up a wonderfully deadpan, "I love puppies." When the ladies go to the bathroom to "powder their noses," the real business of the night occurs. Herb wants Don to run his ideas through some kid who's been writing fliers down at the office. Don is properly offended that he's being bossed by this doof, and hands him a business card, "the name of the guy who's going to be handling his account from now on." The Jaguar/SCDP partnership is toast. Don says, "I never felt better in my life."
Roger, who's missed the meeting in his courtship of the mystery new airport client, calls the Draper residence, and Marie answers, giving some of the best retorts of the episode. "If you're calling to apologize, don’t bother, it's too late," she says, also calling Herb's wife "the apple that goes in the pig's mouth." She hangs up, saying, "Forget my name" (must remember to use that!), and proceeds to drink straight from a bottle of wine. When the phone rings again, she lifts the receiver and sets it back down. Marie and Joan: true heroes of this episode.
Peggy's given up the dream of the apartment on the Upper East Side and gone with Abe's preferred Upper West, and home life leaves something to be desired. There's poop (human, she specifies) on the stairs, and junkies in the stairwell. Upstairs and outside there's yelling and music. Inside, Abe is trying to fix up the place, but as she tells him after he hurts himself with hardware, he "has no idea what he's doing."
At Cutler Gleason and Chaough, Ted learns that partner Frank Gleason has pancreatic cancer, and not only that, the agency's in trouble unless the two remaining partners can buy him out. Ted gives Frank a pep talk, but the worry is all over his face.
Pete and sycophantic ad guy Bob Benson are visiting their friendly neighborhood brothel — they're just on the way out — and Pete sees someone. Uh oh. "Isn't that guy a client?" asks Bob. He is, and also Pete's father-in-law. The next day Pete goes to Ken for advice on the matter, and Ken tells him his father-in-law will never tell: "It's mutually assured destruction."
In the realm of things being destroyed, Pete finds the Jaguar account is no longer, has a hissy fit, and storms/falls down the stairs. (Gif here.) Pete will never win. Considering it ruined, he proceeds to drop the IPO bomb in front of everyone, which is news to Don, and others. "We're going public?" asks Ken. They're ushered into a conference room by Joan, and Roger interrupts. "I have good news and bad news," he says. When told Don fired Jag, he revises: "I just have good news." They're presenting Friday to his new pal Mikey for a campaign for Chevy's top-secret new car. "I close things, Pete, I close things," says Roger. Everyone's happy except Pete and Joan, who tells Don in her most scalding tone to get the creatives himself. He doesn't get it. Herb, the man she had to sleep with to get the business is gone, in his mind, and so is the business, and so should be the memory. That's how it works with compartmentalizing Don. "Don't you feel 300 pounds lighter?" he asks. "I don't," says Joan. "If I could deal with him you could deal with him.... I went through all of that for nothing." Her speech continues, "Just once, I would like to hear you use the word we." It's a Don Draper-man's world, and she's called him out on it. That doesn't mean it will change—Don is not particularly remorseful and instead just energized by the idea of a new client to win—but ... good for Joan.
Peggy is drawn to Ted's office by the sound of a static-y TV. He's worried about the agency, but he doesn't reveal that, exactly. "It's one thing to want something, it's another to need it," he says, with a possible romantic subtext. He compliments her on her drive, and she compliments him on his strength. He kisses her; she gently pushes him away. "I'm just grateful," he says, and she leaves. Ted: full of it, or nice guy?
Don heads home, briefly, and runs into Dr. Rosen in the elevator. He looks a wreck. "Want to celebrate?" he asks Don. "I just quit my job." He's lost a heart, and a patient, and now some other doctor is likely to be the first to do a heart transplant. "Fate hasn't chosen me," he says. "You make your own opportunities," says Don, who gives some platitudes about how the doctor's work is more important (does he mean this? It's hard to tell) and then says he can't get a drink, he has to work. Back at home, Megan continues the seduction routine, which seems ultimately bound to fail, though for now it's working.
It's when Don and Roger are at the airport waiting to fly out to pitch Chevy that the gossip begins. They've lost Vick's. It's Pete's father-in-law's account and, yes, mutual destruction has been assured. Pete confronts his father-in-law, who tells him, "It makes me sick thinking about the man I saw being with my daughter and granddaughter." Pete says, "Why don’t you look in the mirror?" Later, Pete tells Trudy that not only did her father pull the business, "ruining" them financially, but also, Pete "caught him in a Midtown whorehouse with a 200-pound negro prostitute.” Mutually assured destruction. Trudy tells him, "We're done, get your things."
Back at Peggy's new apartment, she's wearing a bandana over her face to cope with the paint fumes and complaining. "The neighborhood is changing," Abe says. "I don't like change," she says, and then visualizes it's Ted instead of Abe in front of her. "I just want you to kiss me."
In Detroit, Don can't sleep, so goes to the bar, and who comes in but Ted. The two discuss their predicament. "Now that there are two little guys, we're DOA," explains Ted. "They'll take our creative and give it to the big boys." Don's pitch to Chevy — "the future is something you haven’t even thought of yet" — may be the inspiration for the grand plan that comes next: combining agencies. Ted's fully aware that this could solve that other problem he's got with buying out Frank, too. And so they do.
The end scene is the stuff of dreams, or nightmares. Peggy's phone rings. It's Ted. She powders her nose and heads into his office with expectations, and who is there but ... her old boss Don. "We won Chevy," he says. "We went in together," says Ted. "We merged," says Don. They're making her copy chief, and they want her to write the press release. Peggy reminds herself in shock, "I just bought an apartment." She hates change, but she has no choice but to stay. Maybe it could be good? "Make it sound like the agency you want to work for," they instruct her, and she heads to her office to write the release for her two bosses, for her new life.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.