We’re all eventually responsible for the relationships we keep. Whether they’re tended carefully and thoughtfully or neglected and ignored, they are ours and sometimes our lives and fates are tied to them. Don Draper has built a life that is as free of real commitment and relationship as is possible while still being a productive member of society. That is about to change.
Conrad Hilton has been playing games with Don since they met in a country club bar on Derby Day. After pulling some free work from Don and romancing him with trips to Europe for a day of meetings, Hilton slapped our man around for not literally putting Hilton Hotels on the moon. But that’s the nature of client services and we all take a beating from time to time. Draper has always had the luxury of an exit plan should things get too gamey though. Or he did until Hilton insisted the principles at Sterling-Cooper be contractually locked in before he’d give the agency his business. That meant old Bert Cooper had to drum up some of his old fighting spirit and put the heavy hand of the law on Draper to sign him to a three-year contract. Don was trapped and it was Connie’s doing.
So imagine Draper’s surprise when Hilton tells him he has to move his business elsewhere since mega agency McCann Erikson was acquiring Don’s parent company Puttnam, Powell and Lowe…and Sterling-Cooper with it.
“My future is tied up in this mess because of you,” Don complains, referring to the three-year contract Hilton’s lawyers insisted he sign. It’s just business, Connie replies. In other words, “F you.”
The whole exchange reminds Don of a childhood memory of his old man jumping out of a farmers’ co-op when the price of grain bottoms out during the Great Depression. “We’re in this together,” the members remind Whitman Sr. “Not anymore, thanks to you.” Is it a reminder to Draper that you always have an out, even if it’s an unpleasant one? Is it also a reminder that you can partner with people, but never tie your destiny to theirs?
Draper takes the news straight to Cooper and suggests they partner with Roger to buy back Sterling-Cooper. At first, Bert is a little too sleepy to consider jumping back into the cut throat world of running an agency, but Draper appeals to his vanity and his competitive spirit to cajole the old man for one more time around. Bert sketches out a potential scenario but it would have to include Roger, with whom Don has previously cut all communication, since the Silver Fox essentially owns the Lucky Strike relationship.
Don and Bert present their idea to Roger, who initially balks because Don has never really appreciated the role Accounts plays in agency life. His experience with Hilton made it crystal clear that Don Draper is not equipped to manage client engagements. “Your problem,” Roger explains, “is that you don’t value relationships.” Well, he’s starting to.
Mad Men Season 3 Episode 13 (Part 2 of 6) Shut the Door, Have a Seat – Finale
That night back at home, Betty tells Don he should find himself a divorce lawyer. Stunned, Don tells her it’s been a tough week (what with the Kennedy assassination and all) and that maybe she should see a doctor. A good one this time, not like the quack he set her up with before who reported back to Don her every intimate confession.
“Because I’d have to be sick to want out of this?” she asks. “I didn’t break up this family,” she reminds him.
The next day, the newly united front of Sterling, Cooper and Draper sit down with British CFO Lane Price to throw in their chips to buy back the agency at 12% over selling price just a year ago. Price scoffs and tells them McCann’s offer was more but takes note of the fact that Draper’s source told him that it wasn’t just Sterling-Cooper being sold, but the whole kit and caboodle! He gets on the phone with Saint John at the home office who confirms the deal.
“Where’s my place in this?” Lane asks. Saint John assures Price he will be “essential to the transition” and will subsequently “prove yourself irreplaceable…” to McCann. In other words, “nice knowing you.”
This is of course the second time this year Price has been treated like a dispensable, if still valuable, resource by the home office. Price is now reconsidering his own loyalties and relationships and how they’re tied to his fate.
A lawyer describes for Betty and Henry, The Man from Upstate, the difficulty she would have obtaining a New York divorce, which in Betty’s case is essentially impossible. “That’s why people go to Reno,” he says. A Nevada divorce would require Don’s consent, but little else. Henry asks Betty not to request a financial settlement. “I don’t want you owing him anything,” he says. You have to wonder what is up with this and is it coincidence that the two meetings that carried the greatest implications for the show both occurred on Derby Day? Don Meets Conrad Hilton and Betty meets Henry. Within months, Don’s ties to the agency and Betty’s ties to Don are fundamentally changed forever. Fear and Loathing at the Kentucky Derby, indeed!
Since buying back Sterling-Cooper is a no-go, Draper is feeling trapped. He turned down McCann three years ago because it’s a “sausage factory” and more of the big shop bureaucracy against which he was already chaffing since the Puttnam, Powel, and Lowe buy out. It starts Don’s mind to wandering. Can he simply disappear again and start over?
In another flashback, a drunk Daddy Whitman, tells his wife that he will sell his wheat himself. In the stable, a young Dick Whitman/Don Draper watches as Archie’s horse kicks him in the face and kills him. Daddy dies drunk, broke and alone in a wet barn.
Lane concedes to Roger, Don, and Cooper that they were correct about the pending sale of PPL, but maintains that purchasing Sterling Cooper is impossible. “Fire us,” Don says, suggesting Lane sever their contracts and free them to start their own agency. Lane sees the value he suddenly holds and begins negotiating with the three. They’ll make him a partner, Cooper proposes, and Roger balks until he realizes that none of them can do what it is Price can do. In fact, most of them don’t even understand what it is Price can do and that is essentially to focus on operations, which is essential if a start-up agency is going to try to service huge national accounts like American Tobacco.
“It could be done,” Lane says of the scheme, but they’d need Lucky Strike, plus additional accounts for cash flow. A telegram sent that day (Friday) wouldn’t be read in London until Monday, giving them the weekend to secure accounts, assemble a skeleton staff and spirit away the necessary materials. “Well, gentlemen,” Lane says with a smile. “I suppose you’re fired.”
“Well it’s official: Friday, Dec. 13, 1963. Four guys shot their own legs off.” –Roger Sterling
With the plan now enacted, all parties need to move fast. Don goes straight for Peggy and tells her what she’ll need to do to prepare for the jump. A bit taken aback, Peggy demurs.
“You just assume I’ll do whatever you say,” Peggy responds. “I’ve had other offers you now, better ones.”
“I’m not gonna beg you,” Don says.
“Beg me? You didn’t even ask me,” she says, and turns Don down cold.
On to the next target. Roger and Don visit Pete Campbell, who is home “sick” because he’s been interviewing elsewhere. They offer him a position at the new agency and Roger does his best to shine up Pete by admitting they need his accounts, but also his talents.
“I want to hear it from him,” says Pete, looking at Don who has thus far with Pete been playing some of the same games Hilton pulled on him. Throughout the show, people have been looking for Don’s approval, which he’s been loathe to supply. If he wants to launch this new venture, he’s going to have to reconsider how he interacts with people and what he’s willing to give up in terms of his privacy and autonomy.
“You’ve been ahead on a lot of things,” Don says. “Aeronautics, teenagers, the Negro market. We need you to keep us looking forward.” Satisfied and aglow in his Draper Daddy Love, Pete is in, but asks to be made partner…with his name in the lobby. “There isn’t a lobby,” Don tells him but they can keep that as a goal if Peter delivers $8 million in account work by Sunday.
It’s been a long, tough day. Over drinks, Don tells Roger he needs a divorce lawyer. “So it’s true,” Roger says. “…Henry Francis.” Stunned, Don presses Roger for details. I thought you knew,” Roger says. “I’m sorry I told you, believe me.”
Buzzed and more than a little pissed, Don heads home to wake up Betty and confront her over Henry Francis. The two go toe to toe in the bedroom with Don calling Betty a whore and swearing she’ll never get a nickel, nor will she get the kids (which may not be much of a threat given how distant she is with the Draper brood). Holding her own, Betty goes Jedi Mind Trick.
“I’m going to Reno, and you’re going to consent,” she tells Don. He relents and leaves her holding baby Gene in the dark.
Things are moving fast over the weekend with the newly minted agency ransacking their old digs for clients and office supplies. Unfortunately, none of these dudes know where anything is. Enter: Joan.
Pete encounters Harry Crane in the elevator on the way up and shares a little conspiratorial remark but quickly realizes Harry is not hip to the plan. Upon entering the office, Pete very loudly announces Harry’s arrival, lest he be an uninvited guest who might bollocks the whole deal. Never fear, Bert Cooper himself invited Crane in but warned him that declining their offer would mean a weekend locked in the storeroom.
At Roger’s behest, Joan arrives at the office, having already hired movers. She indicates what needs transporting and where to locate it. She, of course, easily steps into the heroine role with grace and a dynamite outfit. Here’s hoping her talents are put to better use in the new gig.
“How long do you think it will take us to be in a place like this again?” Roger asks Don as they depart Sterling Cooper. “I never saw myself working in a place like this,” Don replies, setting up the tone for the new agency. You can bet they’ll be no sausage made in the offices of Sterling, Coop, Draper and Price. (I’ll resist the urge to make any other sausage jokes for the time being.)
Monday morning comes early. “We’ve been robbed!” shouts Don’s secretary, Allison, upon finding the boss’ office sacked. Upon realizing what’s really transpired, poor old Paul Kinsey rushes right to Peggy’s office to find it too empty. The look of rejection on his face nearly overwhelms his beard.
Saint John calls from the home office and fires Lane for releasing Bert, Roger and Don from their contracts. “Very good. Happy Christmas.” Lane replies and then tells his Man Friday, Mr. Hooker, to figure out for himself what just happened. The trail of dead is gruesome, if impeccably dressed.
The new agency is encamped in a hotel suite with Draper typing his own notes or copy, Pete on the phone reassuring a client, and Roger just looking cool. Harry Crane’s media department is set up in the bedroom, which should surprise nobody familiar with how media is treated in advertising, but I digress…
Don calls Betty. “I’m not going to fight you,” he says, which seems to trigger a slightly anguished look from Betty. “I hope you get what you always wanted,” he tells her and hangs up.
The show closes with Betty sitting on a plane, presumably to Reno, with baby Gene on her lap and Henry Francis beside her. Sally and Bobby watch television with Carla back home while Don exits a cab in front of a Greenwich Village apartment building, suitcases, and his own destiny, in hand.
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6 thoughts on “Mad Men – Shut the Door. Have a Seat”
I think you forgot the scene where Don wins Peggy over. All season her relationship with Don has been the one that I’ve been most interested in. The scene was brief, but so well acted that I had to pause my DVR before going on. Don tells Peggy that “something terrible” has just happened and that it has changed the way people will look at the world. Don knows Peggy understands that. And he needs her on his team because nobody else gets it.
That type of connection between underling and mentor rarely occurs in business. I’m 20 years in and I’ve never had any experience like that. That scene made ME want to work for Don Draper. Sign me up! Give me a chair in the corner of the Hotel. Crap, I’ll sell cancer sticks if I have to.
The scene where Don and Betty inform the kids of what’s happening was also very strong. Tough to watch too. My parents did essentially the same thing a decade later (1970s). Only in that living room I was the oldest child who stomped out, and my sister was the younger one who just didn’t understand what was happening. And of course our home wasn’t so nicely furnished. And my parents not so handsome. But the effect was the same.
When does season 4 start? Why isn’t Don Draper on the silver screen? Why aren’t there more shows worth watching like this one?
Totally right, Scott. My lady and I talked a bit about the scene with Don and Peggy and what it meant. I don’t think I had my thoughts together on that scene and the implications of it so I guess I skipped it. Weird too because I think it was the climax of the Don-Peggy dynamic. When she says, “If I say no you’ll never talk to me again,” shows how complex and difficult her feelings for him are. When he replies, “No, I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you,” I almost fell out of my chair. It’s maybe the best example of a non-sexual, intimate relationship I’ve ever seen and spoken in just two lines. Astonishing.
Looking back on the season, this episode also cements arcs of some sort for a number of characters on the show.
Pete Campbell, for instance, started the series as a mostly unlikeable spoiled turd. Early on he came off as anything but the type of character you could sympathize with. Whether it was the way he handled his trist with Peggy, his relationship with his wife’s parents (who lack the ‘name’ but obviously had the money) or the very uncomfortable situations he gets himself into whether at work or in private. Swedish au pair, anyone?
In the last few episodes, though, the story arc that seemed to end with Pete losing out on the department head’s job is actually completed in the finale. Does Don & Co. really see Peter for more than his awkwardness and inability to make the client feel that they “haven’t any needs?” Or is Pete a necessary player, simply because he commands 8+ million in accounts? Is it still in some way his name that he’s skating by on? Or, just like everyone else who ends up in the Hotel room offices of SCD&P, has Peter really left a lasting impression on the only Man they all want to please?
It’s strange too that Don ends up giving terms, literally, to the two people who threatened to out him as a fraud, Pete and Betty. Pete seems, at least for now, to have finally been invited in. Finally to have been told he’s worth something other than his rather dusty name. Duck’s overtures were obviously never very satisfying. All he ever wanted was a nod from Don. Isnt’ that what Pete wanted from his father too?
While Bets may have gotten her wish to fly away to wonderful Reno, something tells me that she won’t find the terms she gets from Don any more satisfying that what she had before. She’s jumping from one kept home to another. In the end she’ll be right back in New York, where the “don’t want people to get divorced,” and married all over again. Something tells me that Betty won’t be ating the part of a proto feminist in season 4.
The best part of this show for me is the humanizing of the characters. There are no entirely despicable characters on the show. All of them have a sympathetic side to them, even if it takes a few episodes (or seasons) to reveal. Pete has always been more complex for me than simply a whiny rich-boy with a daddy complex. He’s immature but very cunning and clever. He’s smart, even if he makes very stupid decisions sometimes.
“Peter really left a lasting impression on the only Man they all want to please?”
Pete is like a Martian. He doesn’t fit with his family, he doesn’t fit with his colleagues, he doesn’t understand any of the rules (though I’m not quite sure how he came to be like that, after a presumably perfectly conventional upbringing).
However, his unfamiliarity with the rules is just what can make him valuable, as when he went behind Don’s back to with the “Bethlehem Steel: The Backbone of America” pitch; or with his insight that the “Negro market” was worth pursuing. And Trudy is a formidable partner who can usually restrain his more petulant impulses.
I find it sad that Peggy is still hanging around in order to win some respect from Don. Frankly, I think she had simply wasted her time. Don is not worth the effort.
Jon Hamm is a good actor and good looking. If he ever becomes a movie star, I’ll be surprised. For some reason, I just don’t see it.
“And Trudy is a formidable partner who can usually restrain his more petulant impulses.”
Great. Trudy is not only Pete’s wife, she officially become his mother, as well. Some marriage.