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May 6, 2013 - Ray Eckenrode

“Mad Men” 6x06

Episode title: “For Immediate Release”

Significance: A direct reference to the press release Peggy is charged with writing at episode’s end, announcing the merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler Gleason Chough. Indirectly, a reference to the plethora of impulsive decisions made in the episode, both professional (Don firing Jaguar, Vick’s firing SCDP) and personal (Arnold quitting his job, Chough kissing Peggy, Pete destroying his marriage to get revenge).

Time passages: The episode takes place during the week of May 12-18, 1968.

Episode essay: In mechanics, an impulse is something that changes the momentum of an object. On “Mad Men” Sunday, a series of impulsive decisions dramatically changed the show’s momentum, swinging it rapidly from the dour personal deconstruction that many viewers were finding tedious to a rousing workplace caper drama.

And the array of storyline possibilities for the newly created and yet to be named mega-agency, along with the strong possibility that Sylvia Rosen just might be leaving town, certainly sets a starkly different course for the remainder of Season 6 (and perhaps the entire series) than we might have expected 24 hours ago. That’s “Mad Men” at its best: Predictable but somehow surprising and constantly able to reinvent itself.

The theme for the episode was set early, when a banker, planning SCDP’s initial public stock offering, told Bert, Pete and Joan, “it’s a common mistake not to ask questions when you want something because you’re afraid of the answers.” And for the next hour we saw a series of characters acting on their wants, rather than their needs, acting from the heart without thinking things through. The fact that it all tied up neatly at the end of this hour isn’t necessarily an indicator how the pivotal decisions made in “For Immediate Release” might ultimately play out.

Don’s impulsive decision to finally fire Jaguar ruined the IPO he didn’t even know about and alienated him further from Pete, which he likely doesn’t care about, but also from Joan, which he most certainly does care about, and at a time he’ll need both their cooperation.

Teddy Chough’s impulsive kiss of Peggy puts her already tenuous relationship with Abe in deeper trouble and sets up a scenario where she just might be in love with both of her bosses.

Pete’s impulse to seek revenge without thinking things through derailed his reconciliation with Trudy and further alienates him from his daughter.

And surely the ultimate impulsive decision – made by a bleary-eyed Don and frustrated Teddy with provisions likely scrawled on a cocktail napkin – has as much potential for mutual destruction as it does for mutual growth, despite Don’s charge that Peggy’s press release make it sound “like the agency you want to work for.” That’s especially true when we consider that Chevy’s top-secret 1968 car turned out to be … wait for it … the Vega. As another TV character famous for acting impulsively might say: D’oh.

About last week: We finally found a television critic (beside Alan Sepinwall) who seems to understand the show he’s watching. Jezebel’s Doug Barry deftly dismissed the politically correct shrieking that has accompanied the bad behavior on Mad Men this season in a story titled, “Don Draper is Not a Monster, He’s Just a Rotten Assh*le.” You can read it in its entirety linked at right, but all your really need to read is the piece’s dead-on conclusion:

Personal decay is fascinating, and, in “Mad Men,” we’re not just witnessing the decay of one solitary ad man who can’t stop unfurling his penis whenever a woman offers him a charmingly worn paperback classic. We’re witnessing the decay of an American archetype — the man who undertakes the impossible task of building a monument to the identity he creates for himself on the grave of the identity the world had created for him.

Brand names: Alfa Romeo got a lot of airtime as the car maker CGC dumped to go after Chevy’s top-secret model. And it was hard to miss the A&P bag Trudy hauled into the kitchen before she and Pete had what might be their final fight. And good ‘ol Bert requested the ever popular St. Germain’s Elderflower liquer when Pete offered him a celebratory (albeit premature) drink.

Quick hits:
+ We’re not sure which is funnier, that Marie’s advice to her daughter on how to fix her wavering marriage is to (and we’re paraphrasing) “slut it up” or that the advice worked (albeit temporarily). And did you see the look of terror on Don’s face when Arnold accidentally used “the secret knock” when he showed up seeking wrapping paper?

+ We know it’s the era of free love but wow: We also had Roger sleeping with an airline gate agent for leads; Pete and Bob Benson visiting a whorehouse (BB tried to pick up the tab, of course); Megan offering Don oral sex as her part in helping him succeed with his Chevy pitch; and Peggy fantasizing about a married man (who was hilariously reading “Something” by Emerson.)

+ Maybe we were wrong about Sylvia playing a larger role in the show’s end game. With Arnold quitting his job, we’d imagine there’s a decent (and convenient) chance that the Rosens will be moving out of Manhattan.

+ The heart transplant Arnold mentioned occurred May 3, 1968, a little more than week before his conversation with Don on the elevator.

Historical notes:
+ Frank Gleason laments giving up Alfa Romeo, just after it was featured in “The Graduate,” which was released Dec. 22, 1967.

+ Just before kissing Peggy, Teddy Chough joked he was trying to get “Hazel” on the TV he was fiddling with in his office. Hazel ran from 1961 to 1966 on NBC for four seasons and CBS for one. It was not syndicated until 1980 on WTBS.

+ Abe tells Peggy that change is in the air and the new president might be Eugene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy at the very least. He’s wrong on both counts, of course, with Kennedy’s assassination only three weeks away. Hubert Humphrey ended up as the Democratic nominee in 1968.

+ Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels’ “Baby Jane (Mo Mo Jane),” the track playing as Don and Roger enter GM headquarters, was released in 1965 as the B side of “Jenny Take a Ride.”

Sweet tweet: From @LostTacoVendor: The Cosgrove Doctrine, aka the Theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, is foolproof. (Blogger’s note: Ha!)

Lines of the night:
“There’s poop on the steps again.” –Peggy Olson

“It’s not easy standing beside someone giving an autograph.” –Marie Calvet

“Tall and tan and young and lovely...” –Herb Rennet

“I love puppies.” –Don Draper

“Don’t act like you had a plan. You’re like Tarzan swinging from vine to vine.” –Joan Holloway

“Fate hasn’t chosen me.” –Dr. Arnold Rosen

“I don’t believe in fate. You make your own opportunities.” –Don Draper

“Second place, tied for last...” –Teddy Chough

“To be clear, I’m totally against this, unless it works.” –Jim Cutler

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Despite her strides in seeking independence, Peggy Olson finds herself living somewhere she doesn't want to live and working for not one, but two bosses, who cast imposing shadows.


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