Mad Men‘s midseason finale juxtaposes the U.S. space program and Napoleon as twin parables on the successes and failures of grand vision and ambition. The Apollo 11 launch and landing on the moon in July 1969 provides a running theme through the episode, and creates a poignant contrast between everyday life and a preoccupation with events 100,000 miles out in space.
The episode opens with Bert Cooper trying to watch the Apollo liftoff and yelling at the maid to turn off the vacuum cleaner. Meanwhile in California, Ted Chaough’s existential crisis while flying over Claremont terrifies the Sunkist representatives; in a later phone call he tells Jim Cutler that he wants to leave advertising altogether. Lou Avery complains to Jim Cutler that Don’s appearance in the Philip Morris client meeting cost them the Commander business to Leo Burnett. Betty entertains house guests that include surly teenager Sean and his nerdy younger brother Neil. Harry’s partnership in the firm is still under consideration, not finalized, and serves as a nodal point in a power struggle between Jim Cutler and Roger Sterling. The creative team preps for their presentation to Burger Chef in Indianapolis, while Pete worries that “now we just have to pray everything goes smoothly on the moon.”
Elsewhere at the agency, SC&P staff members speculate on the consistency of the moon’s surface while Don receives a breach of contract letter from the agency attorney. It turns out that Jim Cutler had initiated the letter in an attempt to force Don out, a move that enrages some of the other partners who hadn’t been notified before their names were placed on the letter. Don calls for a vote on his status, which is affirmed with only Joan and Jim voting to remove him. Joan, bitter that Don’s actions have cost her money, nonetheless criticizes Jim for his tactics: “You shouldn’t have done that.” Don phones Megan to tell her about the tensions at the agency, but when he suggests to her that it may be an opportunity to start over on the west coast, Megan hesitates before breaking things off with Don.
On Sunday all eyes are watching the lunar landing on television; most are amazed but surly Sean complains about the cost of the space race. When Sally repeats this to Don over the phone, he tells her “Don’t be so cynical.” Bert Cooper says a quiet “Bravo.” Shortly after, Roger receives a call that Bert has died, and goes to the office to remove Bert’s name plate from his door. He meets Joan and Jim Cutler there. Jim uses Bert’s death to suggest an opportunity to get rid of Don, to which Roger objects. Roger informs Don of Bert’s passing, and Don goes to Peggy’s hotel room to tell her to do the Burger Chef presentation herself. Roger meets with an associate at McCann Erickson who wants the Chevy team for the Buick account, but Roger suggests that McCann buy a stake in SC&P. McCann is interested only if Roger can keep the creative team of Don and Ted together.
The Burger Chef management is wowed by Peggy’s presentation, where she used the lunar landing event as a symbol of people’s hunger for connection and turned it into an analogy for the kinds of connections often missed at family dinners mediated by ever-present television. Burger Chef, she argues, offers a place to re-connect families. Her presentation ultimately wins the account. When Don returns home from Indianapolis, Roger is waiting for him and tells him of the McCann offer. Roger says it’s the only way to save the agency, as he fears Jim won’t stop until he gets rid of everyone. The next day Roger calls a partners’ meeting to announce the McCann offer; Don talks Ted into staying on and the partners’ unanimously agree to the buyout—including Jim Cutler who sees he has been outmaneuvered by Roger. On his way back to his office, Don sees the ghost of Bert Cooper, singing “The Best Things in Life Are Free.”
Last night’s episode featured references to the space mission, Napoleon, Newport, Popsicle, electric percolators and The Wild Bunch, among other things. Enjoy our selection of highlighted ads that reflect the brands and themes that Mad Men characters interacted with last night.
A gallery of our selected images may also be found on Flickr.
Search The Devil’s Tale
Tag Cloud2011acquisitions 2012acquisition 2013acquisition advertisements advertising African American history archives artistsbooks civilwar conservation diaries digitization documentary dorisduke dukehistory durham durhamhistory economists events film fullframe games Haiti Heschel holidays human rights letterhead literature longcivilrights madmen Mad Men madmenmondays medicine movediary move prep movinghom photography recipes renovation rubensteinstaff scrapbooks sports students women's history zines
The Devil’s Tale Archive
- Louis E. Williams papers, 1951-1971 and undated. July 28, 2014
- Jean Kilbourne papers July 23, 2014
- Williamston, N.C. Civil Rights journal, 1963 November 11-20. July 22, 2014
- Theater Three Collaborative records, 1970-2014. July 22, 2014
- Ellsa Lucile Hozman travel diary, 1913 April 29-1913 August 28. July 21, 2014
- Das veränderte Russland : in welchem die ietzige verfassung des geist- und weltlichen Regiments : der Krieges-Staat zu Lande und zu Wasser, wahre Zustand der russischen Finantzen, die geöffneten Berg-Wercke, die eingeführte Academien, Künste, Manufacturen, Verordnungen, Geschäffte mit denen asiatischen Nachbaren und Vafallen, nebst der allerneuesten Nachricht von diesen Völckern : die Begebenheiten des Czaergangene, und was sich sonst merckwürdiges in Russland zugetragen, nebst verschiedenen andern bissher unbekandten Rachrichten in einem biss 1720 gehenden Journal vorgestellet werden, mit einer accuraten Land-Carte und Kupfferstichen versehen. July 17, 2014
- L'anatomie pacifique nouvelle et curieuse : conforme à la doctrine d'Hippocrate & de Galien, qui donne les moyens d'accorder les recents avec les anciens, par des experiences nouvelles, principalement touchant les actions du coeur & des poulmons July 17, 2014
- Beytrag zur Geschichte Russlands vom Jahr 1727 bis 1744 : nebst einem Anhange über die damalige Beschaffenheit des Kriegs- des Seewesens, des Handels, der Academie &c. &c. : mit Charten und Planen : aus einer franzöisischen Handschrift. July 17, 2014
- Rhyme? and reason? July 14, 2014
- Now we are six July 14, 2014
- The Railway guide July 29, 2014
- Circular no. 19 July 29, 2014
- History of St. John's Episcopal Church, Macon County, North Carolina July 29, 2014
- Radiant Light II July 29, 2014
- Radiant Light July 29, 2014