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Mad Men Recap: "The Strategy"

Peggy and Don dancing

“The Strategy” traces the formation of the ad pitch from start to finish. We begin outside Burger Chef, with Peggy conducting field research. We finish inside Burger Chef, with Don, Peggy and Pete “celebrating” the finished product. Like some of the best work of seasons past, the pitch reduces Don and Peggy’s pain to a fundamental level and channels it toward selling a product. It is about families, and the longing for one. So is the episode.

Roles are reversed. Megan is flying cross-country to visit Don. Scurrying around the apartment cleaning, he’s the one who seems more desperate to make it work. He feels more at home with her there. She doesn’t need summer clothes. She is moving her “things” to her new life. As Don relates to Peggy, he fears he doesn’t have anyone.

Pete gets a rub on the plane

Pete returns home to visit his daughter. He has left New York, but New York has not left him. He’s still not divorced, legally or mentally. In a reversal, he’s the one sitting in the kitchen, waiting for Trudy who has been out on the town with another man. Inveterate hypocrite that he is, Pete feels compelled to guilt trip her, and smash a beer into her chocolate cake for spite. It also appears his relationship with Bonnie is over. He did join the Mile High Club though, so the trip is not a total loss.

Pete mad at Trudy

Bob Benson rescues the gay Chevy executive from jail for trying to fellate an undercover officer. Through this, he recognizes he will need a family for appearances moving forward, especially for the job at Buick. He took advantage of Joan’s need for a “husband” before to ingratiate himself and, ultimately, save his job. He offers her the chance to capitalize on his need for a “wife” to get stability and is rebuffed.

Don and Peggy reignite their connection after a couple seasons of feuding, when he helps her rewrite the Burger Chef pitch. In a reversal of “the Suitcase,” Don is helping Peggy stay up late finding her idea. In that episode, Peggy misses her birthday celebration. Here, she is pretending her 30th didn’t happen. They end up slow dancing to “My Way,” with Peggy resting her head on Don’s shoulder, a renewal of their oddly intimate but platonic physical contact. Don, Peggy and Pete break bread in Burger Chef, as the closest thing any of the three have to a family.

Don gets to present Burger Chef

* An agency war/battle/breakup seems imminent. Roger gets approached by McCann in the steam room of the New York Athletic Club. The Chevy account, the reason for the merger in the first place, is now lost. There’s turmoil about making Harry Crane a new partner. The tension just seems untenable.

* Nudity. Bonnie goes to see “Oh Calcutta!,” known for full frontal nudity on stage. Don and Megan see “I Am Curious (Yellow)” which features some graphic sex scenes and was declared pornography in some states.

* Timeline. It seems to be late June. “Oh Calcutta!” debuted on June 17th. “My Way” came out on June 14th. The moon landing, obviously, has not happened yet (seems like that would have been worth noting). It does not appear the Stonewall Riots, June 28th, have happened yet either.

* Interesting the way the episode was spaced. A lot of quicker scene changes than normal. Also a more ensemble cast, as opposed to just focusing on a few characters’ storylines.

* Not sure why Don had the JFK Assassination edition of the New York Times, unless its portending back to the breakup of his first marriage as an ominous sign for what’s happening to his second.

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