Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Mad Men "The Quality of Mercy"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Don continues to suffer the guilt of his indiscretions, Sally has had enough and wants to go to boarding school. Don finds a target to direct his self-loathing, creating further tension at the office. Meanwhile, Pete gets some surprising news and an opportunity.

While it's been hammered into our heads all season that Don is a monster, he gets told as much in The Quality of Mercy. As an interesting contrast, Pete continues to evolve, and is faced with a familiar choice this week hearkening back to season one.

I enjoyed Quality of Mercy, not for the Don stuff, but for the increasingly interesting Pete and some further revelations about Bob Benson. There was also a fantastic laugh-out-loud scene with Joan, Don, Ted and Peggy that was worth the watch. I really have no idea what will happen in the finale next week, unless it stems back to the Rosens, but I hope we get some cap on the all the development (or rather, regression) of Don this season.

Spoilers Now!
Don is a mess. Megan wakes to find him in Sally's room. He didn't want to wake her when he came home. She doesn't know what's going on but advises he pulls back on the throttle a bit. Making breakfast, Don pours some vodka into his orange juice as Megan asks him to stay home and sleep it off. Meanwhile...Ken is off hunting with the Chevy boys. When one swings his gun around to shoot, he hits Ken.

Don does stay home, switching channels, which ranges from a Nixon ad to Megan's soap. Betty phones to chat about Sally. She's refusing to come visit him again. Betty suggests it could be the burglar, or the fight she had with Julie after the model UN, but she wants to go away to a boarding school. 

Megan gets home, happy to see Don looking better. He gets a phone call from Harry in California who is excited that Sunkist is interested in a huge television campaign. Don warned him to drop Sunkist and explains they can't conflict with Ocean Spray. Megan wants to spend the day with him, so they take in Rosemary's Baby, but have a surprise run-in with Ted and Peggy, who claim they were getting inspiration for the St. Joseph's Aspirin campaign. It's a bit awkward, but Megan invites them to join them for dinner. Peggy says she has a date. Megan and Don return home and remain curious as to why the two of them went to the movies in the afternoon. Don realizes he needs to call Harry.

Ken gets into the office wearing an eye patch, explaining to Pete that Chevy shot him. He hates Detroit, cars and guns and declares Chevy is killing him. His wife is going to have a baby, and he wants out. Pete says he would gladly take his place with Chevy and confesses he and Trudy are separated. 

Roger and Don meet with Ted and Jim with big news—Harry's deal with Sunkist. Ted brings up the conflict with Ocean Spray but Sunkist doesn't seem to mind. Ted is dreading calling Ocean Spray and points out their word as an agency means nothing anymore. The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Don admits they're right and must work closer together. No more surprises, Jim agrees. But he's excited about Sunkist himself, which means millions. Ted thinks Peggy should be on it.

Pete is excited about the possibility of Chevy and goes to meet with Bob, Ken, Bert, Jim and Roger. Ken admits he just can't be on the ground in Detroit but can remain on the business in New York. Pete is anxious to step in. Bob will be a big help with the transition, they tell him. Pete wants to bring in his own team but Jim and Roger point out continuity is essential to maintain the level of service. Bob excuses himself so they can discuss it freely. Jim and Chevy like Bob and if Pete doesn't like Bob, they'll find someone who does. Pete acquiesces and thanks them all for their trust. Later as they shake hands, Pete tells Bob he's sick. Bob points out he only expressed his admiration and wasn't making a sexual advance. He cares about Chevy. And he warns Pete to watch what he says about people. 

Betty drives Sally to her boarding school interview. Betty remains curious why she wants to go but Sally isn't forthcoming. She wants to be a grown up, she answers. Betty drops her off for her overnight stay. 

Pete tells Duck he's not looking for a new job anymore. He brings up they need to get rid of Bob and wants leads to offer him in order to push him out the door. Duck is happy to help as long as he gets paid. Meanwhile, Bob is on the phone speaking to Manolo.

Don walks in on Joan, Ted and Peggy choosing photos for the St. Joseph's campaign. The three of them act out the ad for Don, but he can't help but notice Ted touching Peggy's waste. After they leave, Joan tells Don that they're over budget with this particular campaign. Later, Pete's mother comes to see him with her new nurse Josephine. She's planning on traveling and Manolo told her he's upset how he's treating his friend Bob Benson. 

Sally finds out from her two roommates she's supposed to look after them given her acceptance hinges on their recommendation. That night Glen climbs in through the window with a friend, Rolo. He's brought a bottle and something to smoke. Sally picks up that Glenn and Mandy might know one another. She thinks they've met. She takes him away to read her diary, leaving Sally and Rolo. Rolo moves in for a kiss but Sally isn't into it. She tells Glen to come out and Glen berates Rolo that Sally is like his sister. Sally tells them Rolo tried to force her so Glen proceeds to beat him up. Rolo storms out and Glen goes off to follow, ensuring Sally is all right. Sally apologizes. Mandy thinks Sally likes trouble.

Ted is furious with Don when their casting was interrupted by a phone call from St. Joseph's to stop it, thanks to Don sending over the budget. Peggy's heart was set on it and Ted is disappointed he has to give her the news. Ted asks Don to back him up on it in the morning when they meet with the client. 

Duck phones Pete that he'll need more on Bob Benson. He doesn't even know if the name is real. The previous job Pete referred him to led to a Bobby, a rube from the south who served as a manservant to a senior vice president and then disappeared with their Christmas card list. His only job opportunity has been with someone who doesn't ask any questions, which is SC&P. Duck admits he's never seen anything like this before. Pete says he has.

At the St. Joseph's meeting the next morning, the client likes the idea, but thought they paid a lot less for it. Ted says the cost is a fraction of what it will deliver. St. Joseph's maintains that they agreed on a budget and have to stick to it, despite Ted continuing to urge him to the contrary. The client gets angrier given he had to justify the budget. Don interjects that the reason he wants is a reason why they are pushing him like this. Don admits the reason is very personal. Ted doesn't know what he means. Don answers yes he does, and Ted looks at Peggy, mortified. Don assures him it's okay and he can tell them, and so Don does...It's hard for Ted to say, but it was Frank Gleason's last idea. Ted slowly agrees and admits to being overly sentimental. The client acquiesces to up the budget a bit more but can't go the whole cost. After he's shown out, Peggy is furious, asking Don if that was really necessary. Ted asks she leave them alone.

Don tells him that was the best he could do. Ted isn't thinking with his head and is embarrassing himself. Everyone sees him pining over Peggy and his judgement is impaired. He leaves him to consider that. 

Pete goes into Bob's office confronting him about his previous profession. He asks what he does when he's found out, and who hired him. He says Pete did. Bob asks him for a day's head start. But he doesn't believe Bob is going to run and is afraid what he can do in a day. Pete explains he will benefit from the fact Pete's been in this position before and has learned not to tangle with his kind of animal. He surrenders. Pete wants him to graciously accept his apologies, work alongside but not too closely. Pete is off limits. And he wants him to get Manolo out of his mother's life. Bob says Manolo doesn't like women. Pete tells him to make sure.

On the ride home Sally maintains her silence with her mother. Betty says she got in if she wants it. Sally opens up more and Betty gives her a cigarette. She admits her father has probably given her a beer. My father has never given me anything, Sally says.

Peggy wants to see Ted but he went home. She instead goes to rail against Don. She tells him to stop hiding behind the ad and knows what he did. He hates that Ted is a good man. Don tells him Ted's in love with her. She fires back that Don killed Ted and the ad. He can stop now. He's just looking out for the agency, he protests. Peggy calls him a monster and walks out. Don curls up on his couch in the fetal position.

The Verdict:
A Quality of Mercy had its share of humorous moments—Ken getting shot (well, it was funny after we learned he survived), Megan's reaction to Rosemary's Baby, and Don's wah, wah bit. I'm struggling to see where the season is going to end up next week unless it ties together Don's affair with a final conflict with Ted.

Good for Pete for learning from the past and opting to handle Bob differently than the mess he made with Don in season one. I'm a little more impressed with Benson's backstory now that it ties in with Don's made up past and how both men have managed to succeed by rewriting their history. It's an added twist that he appears to be gay, which draws interesting comparisons with both Don and Sal, as he's not afraid to strike back if he's pushed in a corner (unlike Sal).

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