What a terrific finale to the outstanding third season of Mad Men! "Shut The Door, Have A Seat" is aptly titled, as that is what happens throughout the episode. It's action-packed, and not just for Mad Men, a show whose pace can sometimes be exceedingly deliberate. And it's fun, especially in contrast to the two great, shattering episodes which precede it, in which we see the reveal of Don Draper's darkest secrets, the collapse of the Draper marriage, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Now, with the seismic shocks of the Kennedy assassination reverberating throughout society, what's commonly called "The Sixties" is really about to begin. It's the middle of December, and four lads from Liverpool will start exploding across American radio in a matter of days.
As always with these extensive reviews, there be spoilers ahead, so you've been warned.
Put simply, the band is back together. With a few big changes.
Paradoxically, series creator Matthew Weiner, who directed and co-wrote the season finale, has flipped the series by returning it to its core.
But this time it's a core that has a new focus.
Sterling Cooper has always been something of an anachronism. A old-style partnership steeped in old ways of advertising.
Now it is shaping up as something else.
And just in time. It's mid-December. President Kennedy was assassinated less than four weeks ago. The Beatles are finally jumping the pond and are going to start breaking big time on American radio in less than two weeks. They arrive in New York for the Ed Sullivan Show, and the even more virulent American version of Beatlemania, in less than two months. What we think of as "the '60s" is kicking swiftly into gear.
Don has taken the big existential step of kicking out on his own, prodded into it by Connie Hilton, who actually set the entire sequence in motion. And I suspect quite intentionally.
Don is talking with an entrepreneurial fervor we've never heard from him before. He's been happy to stay where he is, growing where he is in stature. Even as the agency is being overtaken by events.
He could either remain in place, and become a cog in a much bigger machine, answering to high-level bureaucrats. Or he could make a break.
It's been frustrating at times this season to see favorite characters, especially Joan Holloway, doing relatively little within the action of the show. But that's the way life can be, if not conventional television.
This show is far more novelistic than a conventional TV series. In a sprawling, epic novel, key characters can disappear for long stretches.
Weiner moved the pieces on his game board in such a way that very popular characters like Joan Holloway (my favorite next to Don) and Roger Sterling were absent from the action for long stretches of time. Leaving them free to reemerge as their world, and the bigger world, shifts in dramatic ways.
And now to the sequence of things ...
Don is sleeping in Grandpa Gene's old room, banished by Betty. Awakening, looking rather the worse for wear, he fiddles with the alarm clock.
He is, as fate has it, late for a meeting with Connie Hilton. Hilton doesn't waste any time to inform Don that his world has just changed.
"I'm afraid I have some serious business to discuss," Hilton says with little ceremony. "McCann Erickson is buying Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. That means I'm going to have to move my New York properties elsewhere." McCann already has a lot of Hilton business and Hilton is trying to diversify his advertising portfolio, though he does not explain this outright to Don, or the viewer.
Don is stunned. "That means we're all gone." he says.
Hilton's assessment is rather different: "Sterling I don't know. Cooper will be put on an ice flow. You're a prize pig."
He tells Don this is business and happens all the time.
Since Don turned down a heavy and manipulative pitch from McCann Erickson -- which included dangling a renewed modeling career before Betty -- earlier in the series, he doesn't like this news a bit.
The knowledge that Hilton has just dropped him settles in, though, and he starts squirming about the loss of yet another constant in his life.
Hilton is studying Don throughout this. I think he's waiting to hear something. Don, however, is becoming bitter. He's also clearly tired of Hilton's incessant midnight calls and gamesmanship.
"You come and go as you please," Don tells Connie, accusatorily. An amusing thing to say coming from Don Draper. Don starts venting: "My future is tied up in this mess because of you (referring to the agency contract Hilton made him sign). ... All this talk, calling me your son. ... You want to play with me. I get it now, Connie, it's business."
Don isn't reading Hilton. And hasn't read him well throughout their relationship. Connie was impressed by Don when they met by chance at that silly Derby Day early in the season. He sensed a kindred spirit. Don, however, has been thinking like a conventional ad man. (Recall how disappointed Connie seemed when he summoned Don to the Waldorf Astoria the first time, revealing that they really had met. Don's response was that he wanted Hilton as a client. And Connie told him he was thinking small.)
So Hilton gives it to him straight, as a wake-up call: "I got everything on my own. It's made me immune to those who complain and cry because they can't. I didn't take you for one of them, Don. Are you?"
Don doesn't blow up at this. And Hilton tells him they will try working together again.
Don walks into Sterling Cooper, seeing it in a new light, as something passing, no one else there knowing their lives are about to change, again.
He has a brief vision recalling his father Archie pulling out of a wheat cooperative becase the price was too low.
Whereupon Don all but bursts into Bert Cooper's office and delivers the news. Conrad Hilton says that McCann Erickson has acquired PPL, and Sterling Coo with it. Robert Morse is so good as Bert in this episode. What seemed at first as a possible piece of stunt casting -- he was the classic J. Pierepont Finch in the '60s hit, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying -- has proved to be far more than that.
Don says he wants to act, he wants to know what Bert is going to do, as he is about to lose the business he started 40 years ago.
Bert says there's nothing to do. "I lost my business last year," he says. Besides, we all have contracts.
Don is having none of it. Prodded by Connie Hilton into action, he wants to buy the agency from PPL.
Bert doesn't want to do that. Why put his fortune on the line? He doesn't have another 40 years to make it again.
Don is doing his own prodding now. "I understand, I'll let you go back to sleep. I want to work. I want to build something."
Bert has a good parry: ''Young men love risks because they can't imagine consequences." Again, Don is having none of his complacency. ''And you old men love building golden tombs and sealing the rest of us in with you."
Intrigued by a Don Draper who is suddenly more interested in building a business than playing hookie at French films, Cooper tells him, appraisingly: "I'm not sure you have the stomach for the realities." He also doesn't look sure that he doesn't.
"Try me," Don shoots back.
Bert tells him they will need accounts to make this work. That means Roger Sterling. Don doesn't look pleased at the prospect of dealing with his ex-pal.
If we're going to do this, declares Cooper, "We have to talk to Roger now." Don is a little sulky. "You talk to him." Now Cooper is having none of it. "Do you want to do this or not?"
The two burst into Roger's office. He's on the phone, talking to Jane, who is obsessed with the Kennedy assassination. Sensing their urgency, he says something about how someone unnamed would naturally be upset about the assassination, as "it happened on his watch," tells her to stop reading all the newspapers, and hangs up the phone.
"It's the most interest that girl's ever had in a book depository," he quips.
Bert tells him that Don and he have been discussing the idea of buying the company back.
"Really, why,?" Roger asks, deadpan. He has other fish to fry. Or so he thinks.
Informed that he'll be out under the latest new regime, Roger seems unconcerned. "Somewhere there's a deck chair with my name on it," he says.
Some great fast-paced dialogue ensues, with each of the three revealing important opinions they've held back.
Roger to Don: "I want to see what you look like with your tail between your legs." ... "So you've decided you want to be in the advertising business." ... "You don't value relationships."
Don to Roger: "I value my relationship with you." To which Roger replies: "You do, now."
Bert to Roger : "You sold your birthright to marry that trollop." ... "You're right not to do it. If you've lost your appetite ... "I've seen this." And proceeds to talk about guys who retire to their clubs and die in three years.
Roger to Bert: "Join or die. That's your pitch? He was doing better," as he points at Don.
"We have to try," Don insists, and they agree to give it a shot.
Don's now back at Chez Draper. As soon as he comes in, Betty sends the kids upstairs. "You want me to go, too," Don quips. Betty is not bantering. She tells Don to have a seat. Then she hits him with it: "I made an appointment with a divorce attorney and I suggest you do the same."
Don is having a hard day's night. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
He tells Betty that she hasn't been herself since the Kennedy assassination. That she needs to see a doctor. "A good one, this time." As distinguished, say, from the shrink Don sent to her to who provided Don with detailed reports on their confidential sessions.
Betty isn't having it. So Don becomes adamant, telling her to forget it. "I won't let you break up this family." Betty counters that she isn't the one who broke the family.
This is not the sort of conversation that goes well. It's interesting to note that Don's legendary persuasive powers are nowhere in evidence.
Back at Sterling Coo the next day, Bert, Roger and Don bring Lane Pryce in and confront him with the story, not identifying Hilton as the source. Lane denies it. So Roger tells him, hey, "Don't act like a stranger. We've got tea."
At which point Lane tells them he's under orders to say nothing and that the story is only partly true. Sterling Coo is being sold, but not PPL. It's not his idea, he says. In fact, "I've quite enjoyed it here."
Bert says that the three of them want to buy the agency back at the price they received plus 12 percent. But it's not enough. Lane can't say what they're going for this time, but it's more.
Now we see Betty with a lawyer. And another person, one Henry Francis, senior advisor to Governor Nelson Rockefeller. It seems he knows this lawyer, who talks about the woeful state of divorce law in New York. Quizzing Betty, he establishes that Don only meets one of the grounds for a divorce -- adultery, of course -- and that that would have to be proved. While Betty thinks that is do-able, there is a bigger problem, says the lawyer. When both parties have committed adultery.
At which point Henry makes it clear whose lawyer this is, saying: "Ken, do you think the governor needs another scandal on the ticket?" He and Betty have not had sex. They merely plan to get married. I feel very confident about this marriage.
So Ken tells her that she should establish residence in Reno, Nevada for six weeks for an uncontested divorce. And then says it's time to talk about how much money she wants from Don.
Now Henry tells Betty not to take Don's money, even though she has three kids. "I'll take care of them. And I'll take care of you. I don't want you owing him anything."
Right, Henry, you simply want Betty to owe you everything. This is starting to come into focus.
"We want to get this done as soon as possible," he tells the lawyer.
Over in the city, Lane calls that smoothie St. John Powell in London to report that the top guns at Sterling Coo are on to the sale. But they had it off a little, thinking that PPL as a whole was being sold.
After some attempted misdirection, Powell finally tells Lane that PPL is being sold. Lane, the loyal company man, is hurt and outraged.
"Why wasn't I told?" "It didn't seem pertinent," Powell airily explains. And after all, it had to be kept secret inside PPL, too.
Lane wants to know what his role will be going forward.
What is Lane's role? Lane's a tootsie roll.
"Lane, they know you're essential to the transition," Powell replies. And then what? "You'll prove irreplaceable. You always do." Powell allows as how he will "put in a good word for you."
"Well thank you," Lane replies. Powell, thinking of his coming mega-payday, says: "Thank you," and hangs up. Lane then slams down his phone.
Don is back at Chez Draper, trudging upstairs alone. He looks in at an angelic Sally, sleeping peacefully. And thinks back again to his childhood. Archie is drinking moonshine in the kitchen, arguing with his wife about his decision. "Fine," he finally says, "fine, I'll sell the crop for nothing. I'll drive it to Chicago tonight." He goes out to the stable, barely able to stand, his wife sending little Dick Whitman after him. In the stable, with thunder and lightning crashing outside, Archie and Dick take some pulls on the moonshine as Archie laughs. Archie starts fiddling with some tack and drops it. He bends over to retrieve it, there's another thunderclap, and the already skittish horse in front of him, now thoroughly spooked, kicks Archie in the face and kills him. Little Dick is horrified.
Back in the moment, Don lies down on Sally's bed next to her.
The next day, Don is taking charge of things at Sterling Coo. Bert and Roger enter his office and we see that Lane is already there. He tells them that their intelligence was correct, and his was not. They start talking about torpedoing the deal and taking over the agency. Though Lane is angry with Powell, he is still a loyal company man. "I should sack the lot of you," he tells them.
Don shoots back: "Go ahead, fire us. It's the only thing you did well here." Taken aback, Lane replies: "I did a great many things here."
And Don has his brainstorm. "Yes, that's right. You have absolute authority to fire anyone. Fire us. Sever our contracts." Then they'll go out on their own. And take the best of the old agency with them.
Lane is resistant, but not very as he sees where things are going, and where they can go.
"Once this sale goes through," Don reminds him, "you'll be a corpse knocking against their hull."
Lane delivers a stock, and rather rote, Britishism: "Nothing good ever came of seeking revenge." "Nonsense," Bert replies. "We'll make you a partner."
Really? Would Lane's name be on the door? Now, you're negotiating, Don notes wryly.
Roger is less than thrilled with another name partner. But Don asks him: "Do you know how to do what he does? I don't." Neither does Roger, or Bert.
So Lane immediately becomes a key conspirator, figuring which accounts they can get right away.
Roger brings Lucky Strike, the client whose absence, incidentally, "can close Sterling Cooper's doors," as Don told Sal Romano when he was fired at the behest of the closeted son of the owner.
Hilton? Don says no. He's not in the mood to deal with Hilton now, and in any event, he wants this new agency put together without Connie's help. Without Connie's help, that is, aside from setting the whole thing in motion.
They'll need some more accounts "for cash flow," Lane says.
Which seems a bit fishy as a plot point, since their overhead is about to vanish.
Lane, checking his watch, says he'll send a telex to London at the end of the day revealing that he has fired Bert Cooper, Roger Sterling, and Don Draper. Which, in these now quaint days of leisurely communication and five-day work weeks, won't be seen till Monday morning. That gives them all of Friday and the weekend to get organized.
Anyone who is approached now, Lane notes, must be a certainty. "If news spreads, they'll lock us out."
Don asks, sheepishly: "Do we vote or something." Roger and then the others raise their hands. Lane: "Well, gentlemen, I suppose you've all been fired."
Now they are in scramble mode. They decide to get ahold of Pete Campbell. Why Pete? He's talented. And he's already disgruntled, having been passed over by Lane for head of accounts. Beware yon Cassius, he has a lean and hungry look ...
Don calls Peggy in and essentially tells her that she's leaving with him to work for a new agency.
Peggy balks. "You just assume I'll do what ever you say, just follow you like some nervous poodle."
Don, highly officious, says he won't beg her. Beg? "You haven't even asked. I've had other offers. With sales pitches. Everybody thinks you do my work, even you. I don't want to make a career out of being there for you to kick when you fail."
Don says he guesses he'll have to talk to Curt and Schmitty, notably not mentioning Paul Kinsey. Peggy guesses he's right about that, and leaves his office.
Now we're at Pete and Trudy Campbell's apartment. She laying out stuff, as if for guests, and Pete is wondering where the hell his pajamas are. After all, he has to look sick, since he called in sick in order to interview with Ogilvy.
It's Roger and Don at the door. They've been calling all day, and have decided to come by. Trudy excuses herself and goes in to the bedroom, the better to eavesdrop on the conversation.
Pete asks if everything is okay and they give it to him straight. McCann bought PPL. They're not firing Pete, in fact, they want him as part of a new agency.
"Am I getting a few more adjectives added to my title?" Pete is a tad bitter. After all, he skipped the fantastic wedding the day after the Kennedy assassination.
Hilariously, a voice calls out from the bedroom: "Peter, may I speak to you for a moment?" Pete calms back down.
Roger and Don tell him they're starting a new agency. "We need what's in your saddle bag."
Pete wants to know why they need him, aside from accounts he can bring. Roger replies: "You'll do what it takes."
But that's not what Pete wants to hear, and he doesn't want to hear it from Roger.
So we have the remarkable turnaround of Don Draper singing the praises of the man who tried to blackmail him in season one for the position he's now being offered outright.
Don's fine with it. He's not only politic, but truthful. "It's not hard for me to say. You saw this coming and we didn't. In fact, you've been ahead on a lot of things: Aeronautics, teenagers, the Negro market. We need you to keep us looking forward. I do, anyway."
Pete Campbell, harbinger of the future.
Pete wants to be a partner. Okay. He wants his name in the lobby. There's not going to be a lobby. Not at first. Later on, they'll see. As Don points out, he's best when he has a goal to work toward.
Pete shows that he has accounts worth $8 million a year in billings. He tries to negotiate some more. Don tells him he doesn't get conditions. They strike the deal, so long as Pete comes through. And shake hands, as Pete explains that he's not really sick after all. Yes, Pete.
Trudy's thrilled, and they whirl about before setting to work. They've turned out to be a very good couple.
Now we see Don and Roger in a darkened bar. It's like season one. They grouse a bit about the temerity of Pete preparing to leave Sterling Coo before they asked him to. Roger notes that the bar still has a picture of Kennedy up. (Get used to that, Roger!) "What are they gonna do, put up Lyndon Johnson?"
Don confides that he needs a lawyer. And Roger reveals that he knows about Henry Francis.
Who?! Don has no idea. He demands that Roger tell him who he is and what he knows about him. Which is not all that, but it's enough. Roger is sorry he said it. "I was gonna tell you. No, I wasn't. I thought you knew. I'm sorry I told you, believe me." He seems sincere. And pleased that they're pals again.
Don is still shocked, shaking his head.
Now Don is back at Chez Draper. It's late, he's drunk, and he's being a rather scary asshole. Jon Hamm, to his credit, doesn't stint on this side of Don when it's called for.
Don roughly wakes Betty, sleeping in the baby's room. "Who the hell is Henry Francis,?" he demands. "No one," she says. Wrong answer.
It gets worse from there.
''Now I'm not good enough for some spoiled Main Line brat!'' ''You're right!'' she fires back.
He manhandles her, roughly pulling her by her nightgown, playing the hulk. It's an ugly scene.
"You're so good and everyone else is bad. You're so hurt. So brave with your little white nose in the air. All along you've been building a life raft. You never forgave me. Forgave that I'm not good enough. You won't get a nickle and I'll take the kids."
"I'm going to Reno," Betty tells him. "You'll consent. Don't threaten me. I know all about you." Don grabs her and calls her a whore. The baby wakes, crying. Betty orders Don out of the house.
Now Pete is in the elevator at Sterling Cooper, holding a box, looking pensive and not a little worried. The elevator door opens. It's Harry Crane. Pete says he's a little scared. Harry wonders why. Pete asks why he's here. "I don't know. Cooper called me. First they're cleaning carpets, now they're not."
As they walk into the office, Pete calls out ahead of them, "Look, Harry Crane is here." Yes, it's Harry Crane, the luckiest character on the show.
Lane tells Pete to relax, as he is expected. Pete bristles a bit and wonders why Lane, who passed him over for accounts chief, is here.
Bert explains what they are doing to Harry, and that they want him to be head of the media department. As he not infrequently is, Harry is dumbfounded: "You're kidding." "Yes we are," says Roger, "Happy birthday."
Harry wants to call his wife. Since it's all a big secret, that, however, is not an option. Bert tells Harry that if he turns them down and elects to be "a mid-level cog" in a big corporation, they'll have to lock him inside the storeroom.
ThIngs are humming along. The caper is working. But there's one big snag. They don't actually know how the agency's internal management system works, not even Pete or Lane. Roger says he'll make a discreet call and take care of it. Guess who he's calling.
Back at Chez Draper, Don and Betty have a painful talk with their kids in the living room. Bobby asks: "What'd we do?" Nothing. "Then why are we in the living room?"
Betty reveals that Don is moving out, but he'll be back to visit. Bobby wants to know if it's because he lost Don's cuff links.
"Is it like when you lived in the hotel?" Yes, says Don. No, says Betty.
"I'm not going," says Don. "I'm just living elsewhere." I see.
Sally sees through this: "That's going, you say things and don't mean it." She's catching on.
Then she asks Betty if she's making Don leave. She says no, they both decided it. Well, not really, Betty. Sally doesn't buy it. As Don tries to reassure her, she storms off. Bobby is holding on to Don, begging him not to leave.
Betty tears up, face in hands. It's done. And it's over, at last.
Of course, the truth is that Don does leave his kids. Even when he's around.
Now he drops by to see Peggy, who tells him he looks awful.
He sits, but Peggy remains standing and asks if he wants anything. Why, yes, he does.
"You were right," he tells her. He tells her he's taken her for granted and been hard on her because he's seen her as an extension of himself. Which she is not.
It's good, but not good enough, and Peggy thanks him for stopping by.
Still seated, he asks her to sit down.
Why can't he work at McCann Erickson? "Because you can't work for anyone else?" No, he says.
"Because there are people out there who buy things and something happened, something terrible, and the way they saw themselves is gone. Nobody understands that. But you do. And that's very valuable."
Don is referring both to the Kennedy assassination and Peggy's own secret, as well as his own. They are a lot alike.
Now Don is delivering the sort of pitch that might have worked with Betty. Had he only thought, or cared enough, to spin it up.
"With you or not I'm moving on. I don't know if I can do it alone. Will you help me?"
Peggy chokes up: "What if I say no? You'll never speak to me again."
"No," he says, "I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you."
Now a great moment for the fans arrives, along with one Joan Holloway as she makes a grand entrance, her last at the old Sterling Cooper. By the time they're done, there won't be much left besides the facade. Which is saying a lot for an advertising agency.
Roger, naturally, called her and she is already all over the case. She's made a list, called the movers, and figured out how to get everything they need to run their new agency.
Don arrives with Peggy. "Joan, what a good idea," he notes with a big smile.
Pete, incidentally, has come through with flying colors. In addition to the promised accounts, he's retrieved -- evidently with Trudy's help -- his father-in-law's Clearasil account. Don is impressed.
They have to get into the art department. They don't have keys. Sadly, Sal Romano has not been hired back, as the client that is the key to their new agency is the reason he was fired. Don kicks the door in. Problem solved.
Roger, Joan and Peggy are working, Roger mock complaining that he can't read Joan's handwriting as she corrects him. "Peggy, can you get me some coffee?" Two beats. "No."
Now they are ready to leave. Don tells Joan that he needs her to get him an apartment. She's not surprised.
Everyone else has left now. The movers take the stuff out and we're left with Don and Roger -- Butch and Sundance once again -- looking at that great Sterling Cooper set, the latest in mid-century moderne.
Roger wonders: "How long will it take us to be in a place like this again?" Don says he never saw himself in a place like this.
They close the door. Don is about to lock it when Roger tells him not to bother and walks off, leaving Don looking for a last time at the old Sterling Cooper.
It's Monday morning. Don's secretary walks into his office and does a double-take. "We've been robbed!," she cries.
Lane is there, as it happens. He does not want to miss this. After all, he has to be properly informed.
His smarmy assistant, "Moneypenny," gives the phone to Lane. It's St. John Powell in London, his third call already of the morning for Lane.
"What in God's name is going on over there?," he asks. Lane notes that, at this point, it should be very clear.
Now Powell is screaming. "You're fired. You're fired for costing this company millions of pounds. You're fired for insubordination. You're fired for lack of character!"
"Very good," says Lane. "Happy Christmas!" He slams the phone down on his treacherous ex-boss.
All but Lane and Harry are now on site in their new office, a room at the Pierre Hotel. The phone rings, and Joan answers. Look, business already.
"Good morning, Sterling Cooper Draper Price ... Yes, Harry, it's room 435."
Back at the erstwhile Sterling Coo, Ken Cosgrove says that Pete tried to poach the John Deere account over the weekend. Paul Kinsey looks around, sees that Peggy is gone. And he is not. "Damn it."
Trudy brings lunch for the Sterling Cooper Draper Price gang. She's totally into it.
Don shoos Harry out of the bedroom with the promise of food and calls Betty.
He tells her he's not sure where he's going to be staying but he's working out of the Pierre. She receives this news with neutrality.
"Listen, Betts," he tells her, "I want you to know I'm not going to fight you."
Her face does a little moue.
"I hope you get what you always wanted," he tells her.
"You will always be their father," she tells him. They say their goodbyes.
Don comes out of the bedroom. And walks into a rather festive atmosphere. Roger is telling Bert that if you leave your shoes outside the door here -- Cooper's famous requirement for entry into his office -- somebody takes them away and polishes them.
Don may have lost his family, or at least his trophy wife. But he seems to have formed another family, of a sort.
Lane has arrived. Don asks how his morning was. "Very productive," he replies, with a cheshire grin.
And now closing images ...
Betty is on a plane, baby Gene on her lap and Henry by her side, flying to Reno, Nevada. It's "The Biggest Little City in the World," you know.
Sally and Bobby are with Carla at Chez Draper, watching TV on the sofa together. Television, the true hearth in their home, is already dominating the Draper children's lives, as it will kids throughout America from now on.
Don gets out of a cab, grabs his bags, and walks toward what looks like an apartment building.
And Roy Orbison sings while Don heads into his new apartment, "The future is much better than the past."
It's been a tremendous season of this amazing show. I'll actually have more to say about the season, the show, and what may lie ahead, next week.