Tonight’s episode of “Mad Men” was one of the strongest offerings of the season, once again focusing on the unique relationship between Don and Peggy that’s been a hallmark of the series since the very beginning. He used to be the lord of the manor and she used to be as meek as a mouse, but Peggy’s come a long way, baby, and Don…well, he’s still got his title, but his power would seem to be somewhat on the wane. This week, the two went head to head, and while neither necessarily came out a victor in the end, they both learned a great deal about each other in the long run.
First, a look around the office. The gang’s all geared up to watch Sonny Liston battle Cassius Clay for the second time in their respective boxing careers, which places the precise date of the episode as May 25, 1965. As it happens, it’s also Peggy’s birthday, and since she’s 26, that means she was born in 1939…and, as it happens, on the same day as Sir Ian McKellen and the late Dixie Carter of “Designing Women” fame. Just an FYI. Before they can embark on their fun-filled fight extravaganza, however, they’ve got to present Don with their pitch for Tourister, which involves the then-mostly-unknown Joe Namath. It’s pretty funny, but Don all but sneers at it, saying, “Endorsements are lazy,” once again confirming that, for all of his gifts as an ad man, he’s destined to become a dinosaur sooner than later if he doesn’t change his attitude. And make no mistake: Don does have an attitude, snapping at Peggy, “I’m glad this is an environment where you feel free to fail.”
Peggy retreats to her office, where we find that good ol’ Duck has remembered Peggy’s birthday, which is more than Don’s don. Duck’s present to her: business cards with her name on them as well as a possible new title, provided that she’s willing to join forces with him. It sounds like a great idea at first, with his pitch about how it’s going to specialize in women’s products and his excitement over the likelihood that Tampax will be one of their first clients, but then things start to go south as it becomes evident that Duck’s been let go from his firm, probably because of his severely increased drinking habits. Peggy shifts from excitement to concern, Duck moves from business into personal, and when he begins to drunkenly plead with her to see him, she takes the opportunity presented by her co-workers entering her office and hangs up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who knew we’d see Duck again before episode’s end, but I can’t say as I quite expected to see him doing what he tried to do.
But we’ll get to that.