Things continue to change all around in one of Mad Men’s finest installments here on Tube Talk’s look at Mad Men’s “The Strategy”.
New at Burger Chef, The SPOILER!
Mad Men: Season 7: Episode 6: The Strategy: GRADE A
Now I might have premature in calling last week’s installment the best this season has to offer yet because The Strategy, is one of Mad Men’s absolute best episodes in its run and an episode that has a lot to offer.
Everyone is affected by events in this episode. Let’s start with the most perfect person and most charming human ever, Bob Benson. Ah Bob Benson, what a guy. Played by James Wolk. He’s a young handsome lad, a real go-getter among the industry having started out in accounts for SCPD, answering to Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), he’s the nicest guy you could ever imagine. Getting extra coffee so he can offer it to anyone, sending Roger a nice deli platter after his mom dies, assists Joan in getting her ovarian cyst treated, and just being an easy to approach, nice guy to talk to. So of course Don, Pete, and Ken see him as a sycophant. I find it great on shows and movies the trope that the super nice person is really just a sick, deprived, psychopath. Its a favorite of mine and something that can usually go wrong, but Mad Men gets it right here.
For the most part of season six, Bob butted heads with Pete Campbell, still no bus this week to hit him, as Bob hit on Pete, implying closeted homosexuality and recommended pal Manolo to care for Pete’s mom. They aren’t the best, so imagine the distain Pete has when Bob shows up in the office this week along with executives from Chevy about the XP project. Well Bob later discovers one the executives he’s come along with is arrested for soliciting an undercover officer and also is revealed that the XP project will be done in house by Chevy but he’s gonna be approached for a job by Buick.
He goes to see Joan again about marrying her and that it’ll benefit them both by giving him the image of a family man and help giver her a stable income. Oh Bob, even when proposing a sham of a marriage to help out a friend, you’re just so damn charming about it. What is it about you? It is a wonderful scene between Wolk and Christina Hendricks’ Joan as it really shows that commodity and friendship they shared last season so well. Both are incredible wonderful actors and they play this scene well for what is a very difficult situation.
But also, it shows a contrast to some of the counterculture and moving forward themes the season has shown so far, as gay men and women are still in 1969, a minority, prosecuted for who they are and I thought that was a nice touch to this season. Bob’s a company man so he’ll play along, but how long until he can’t hide it anymore? Reminds me of Sal (Bryan Batt) and how he really just couldn’t stand hiding anymore and ran off with a group of men into the woods. The last we ever saw of him. Different times then.
Speaking of the XP project, the Monday morning partners meeting, the news of of it revealed causing Roger and Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) to collide once again and Jim suggests that they move ahead with the IBM computer by publicizing and announcing Harry Crane (Rich Sommner) as a partner. Yes, Harry Crane is about to be a partner because Roger and Joan are outvoted. That’s a bit of a shock to me cause the last place I’d expect Harry to end up come series end is as a partner, but that’s a great unexpected move and I’m kinda excited to see what comes out of that.
Also this week, Pete Campbell’s a dickhead. Alright again I think Vincent Kartheiser is a wonderful actor and plays the role well. There are moments where I even like Pete cause his total drive and determination for the job and his work is relatable to me being in a competitive field such as film myself. Its just the majority of the time, he’s a sniffling dickhead but hey with a show like this set in a time such as the 1960s, you’re gonna have a character like that and Pete fills the role nicely.
This week is not so kind to Pete as he is in New York for work on the Burgetr Chef account but talk new arm candy Bonnie (Jessy Scharm) on a trip to New York where he’ll also visit his daughter and wife Trudy (Alison Brie of the now late Community). Well busy schedule and wheelings and dealings postpone their New York Adventures for a bit but not as much as when he goes to see his family in Connecticut and Trudy is nowhere to be seen. When she comes back, for a brief moment, I am on Pete’s side as to how Trudy is in the wrong not giving a heads up, even not mentioning her father’s heart attack to him. But then we realize, on no, Pete’s still being a dickhead here and we both see how they are awful parents.
Bonnie wisely leaves New York back to California on the same flight as Megan who surprises Don with a sudden visit out East. Not much to that, just a nice surprise to see more of Jessica Paré this week and how well she and and Jon Hamm work together, but also how strong the Don and Megan relationship is over the long distance. Sure nothing too strong impacting the episode, but I love it.
Once again, this episode belongs to Elisabeth Moss and Peggy Olson! Peggy is still the lead of the Burger Chef account as show how she surveys families at its various locations to help set up the commercial, but sees some of them resent that as shown with the mother eager to get home. Her pitch is well received by Don, Pete, and Lou, competing for Pete’s crown as biggest dickhead in the office, but when Pete insists that Don be given the main pitch to close the deal, Don and Lou try to keep it the way it is, though Pete’s going off Don’s experience and his great talent. Even referencing the infamous, Kodak Carousel from season one.
This doesn’t help add doubts Peggy has about herself given she’s just turned 30 and isn’t with a man, the whole Ginsberg incident last week really didn’t help either. This leads to the episode’s true highlight between Don and Peggy.
Don and Peggy’s friendship and work together has created one the best television relationships in some time. They are two halves of one great being it seems sometimes. They are mirror versions of each other. It reminds me of what is arguably the two best Mad Men episodes, The Suitcase and The Other Woman. They need each other to stay grounded and its always clear this isn’t about romance, its about respect and admiration in the other. Don was broken when Peggy announced she was leave SCPD, she too as she was holding back tears. They are like family to each other.
The Suitcase was their episode as well about how much they truly need each other in terms of professionalism. These are the star of this show and their scene towards the end of this week’s show proved it even more. Don reassures Peggy, she’s amazing. She’s one the best people in this field, again those episodes I mentioned highlight and back up what he says. Her pitch is solid and will work.
Don’s had his doubts too he reveals but its helped him make the right informed decisions. Thus leading to a comforting dance to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. A perferct scene for this show and those characters.
Burger Chef is about family as they tell Pete in one their locations. They’re doing it there, at the family table.
When Mad Men really gets to the characters like they do this week, its produces great television. Feels bad there is only one more episode to enjoy this year before the final seven next year. I just want more Mad Men please?