New Show Recap: Mad Men, Season 6 Ep. 10 “A Tale of Two Cities”

This week on Mad Men there’s a lot of business-related power struggles and Don continues to be weird and self-destructive. 

There are power struggles happening at SCDP-CGC over what the new name will be. Don, Harry, and Roger end up taking off for California, so Cutler takes the chance to attempt to maneuver some of the SCDP people out of the office. Specifically Ginsberg. He fails, mostly because Ted won’t play that game, and we finally end up with a name for the new ad agency: Sterling Cooper and Partners. So that’s settled. Basically no one is really happy about it except for Roger and Cooper, who would be.

Don, Roger, and Harry take off for California to meet with Carnation and the meeting goes variably. There’s a lot of political discussions floating around as the 1968 Democratic National Convention is happening and everyone has an opinion about it, whether they want to or not. The account with Carnation Instant Breakfast seems unresolved for now. Harry takes the guys out to the kind of hip, California party that we tend to imagine happening at the end of the ’60s/early ’70s with lots of drugs, attractive women who are morally flexible, and Danny Strong, who’s there to give Roger a piñata to verbally abuse. Don gets high and manages to fall in the pool and nearly drown, at some point hallucinating a pregnant Megan and the soldier he met in Hawaii, who tells Don that he’s dead. So, that’s not at all weird or foreboding! Honestly, sometimes when I see these sequences, I wonder if Matthew Weiner is just screwing around with the people who are out there searching for clues in the show.

Speaking of searching, Joan has been searching for her role in the company and while she’s out to dinner with an Avon marketing executive, she stumbles on the idea of being in accounts basically as she starts to sell herself as an accounts person to this poor man who doesn’t realized what kind of power struggle he’s being dragged into. Joan excitedly tells Peggy about the new business, and Peggy has her go to Ted who immediately assigns the account to Pete and tells Joan to set up a meeting. Joan then sets up a meeting with Avon guy, herself, and Peggy and tries to muddle through even though Peggy is DEEPLY uncomfortable with the whole thing. We actually get a great interaction between Peggy and Joan about the way Joan treated Peggy when Peggy first started out as a copywriter. Joan is caught when Avon sends a package of samples to the office and Pete throws a fit. As Joan is being upbraided by Pete and Ted for being unprofessional and deliberately insubordinate, Peggy fakes a phone call from the marketing guy at Avon to get her out of the room and Ted ends up letting Joan have the account because, “Possession is 9/10ths of the law.” So Joan has her own account and it only took TWO people she’s otherwise friendly with bringing up that time she slept with a client! Pete responds to this and the changing of the name of the firm by stealing a joint from Stan and getting high in the office.

In history, we have both the Democratic National Convention and the riots. Megan, Don, and Joan are all seen watching the riots and reacting to them, and Ginsberg completely loses his mind at work while listening to the news on the radio. Bob Benson, of all people, manages to pull him together briefly, but it’s not looking great for his state of mind overall. I realize that Stan Rizzo is sort of the stereotypical pot-head of the office, but if I’m betting on anyone running away to Woodstock next year, my money’s on Ginsberg.

Honestly, compared to some of the previous episodes this one seems a little thin on plot. I’m betting it’s a set up episode, and Ginsberg’s meltdown, Don’s near death experience, and Joan’s handling of Avon are going to be important to the finale. I’d say Bob Benson ingratiating himself to Cutler would be important too, but I’m beginning to think they may just leave him as a mystery and the final episode will fade out on him smiling placidly into the camera.

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