During these early episodes of Mad Men season 6, people seem to be holding one of two opinions: that there doesn’t seem to be much going on and that’s making it difficult to tell what the endgame is – or that there’s quite a lot going on, but it’s still hard to tell what the endgame is. These are two prominent camps that pop up during every season of Mad Men and, just like the debate raging around a hot dog crying for mustard or a hot dog crying for ketchup, there’s just no firm answer (even though it’s definitely mustard).
Insomuch as we’ve seen anything this season, infidelity appears to be the pressing concern. But more than that, it’s the kind of infidelity that “fraidy cat” Raymond J. Beans (Geiger) mentioned last episode when he brought the much more tantalizing Timmy into the SCDP offices with a lingering bouquet of ketchup emanating his pleasant features. “I’d rather retire than watch that guy screw my girlfriend,” Raymond said/threatened during ‘The Collaborators’ after the far more lucrative and, honestly, better-looking account waltzed out of Don’s office, telling them to show him what they’ve got.
It may not be a penny under the mat, but that’s a pretty clear signal that Timmy’s looking to play ball. Unfortunately, Peggy – by way of the awesomely bearded Stan – let Ted Chaough know that Heinz ketchup (“the Coca-Cola of condiments”) was pursuing potential suitors, and what was thought of as a clandestine tryst between consenting adults, turned into a “bake-off” where not only the intimacy and grandeur of the proposals were sullied, but the delight in privately chasing such a prized account was completely lost.
So, Don finds out the account he’s risking the stability of “vinegar, beans and sauces” with a full dance card that includes Peggy Olson and Ted Chaough. It’s like Peggy’s cheating on him – not because of her uninvited appearance outside the hotel room SCDP had paid for to seduce Timmy and his Heinz ketchup account, but rather because she chose to invoke the voice of a younger Don who might have sold Timmy on the “Pass the Heinz” account because Timmy didn’t know he didn’t know any better. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation,” is the exact phrase Don told Peggy when she was upset that the proposed commercial for Patio (featuring an Ann-Margaret look-alike singing Bye Bye Birdie) was speaking to men, despite the product (a diet soda) being marketed solely towards women.
In the end, though, it doesn’t work; Timmy doesn’t know ad campaigns (“Pass the Heinz” is clearly a winner), he only knows that he wants the biggest name in town (a.k.a. J. Walter Thompson, soon to be JWT) to handle ketchup. Therefore, Don, Peggy and even the infinitely ambitious Ted Chaough must face one another over conciliatory drinks at a Manhattan bar not long after they stared one another down in a hotel hallway.
They’re all left contemplating an office they can’t possibly fathom being a part of, as Ken Cosgrove waltzes in and proclaims Raymond true to his word on the whole not wanting to watch while someone else “dances” with his “girlfriend,” so to speak. “It was worth the risk,” Pete says , just before Stan walks out, flipping Peggy the bird.
Peggy’s on the outs with Don and Stan primarily because of Ted’s indecent proposal during last week’s ‘The Collaborators‘ – which also served as a handy reminder to Joan’s becoming a partner in the firm – and, in a way, the rest of ‘To Have and to Hold’ is a series of indecent proposals. Harry’s secretary, Scarlett, asks Dawn to punch her time clock for her, although she’s checking out several hours early, while Harry asks (demands, really) to be given a partnership in the firm.
Ultimately, Dawn, fearful of losing her job in a place where everyone seems unhappy, essentially falls on her sword and winds up being punished by Joan with additional responsibilities and zero extra pay to show for it, and Harry is given more than a year’s salary instead of a partnership.
Meanwhile, Arlene and Mel (the folks Megan works with on the soap opera) decide it’s time to introduce the swinging sixties to the Drapers – you know, because they like them both so much. Despite the risks involved with inviting another couple to their bedroom, Mel and Arlene’s marriage seems to be stable (they’ve managed 18 years of semi-assisted wedded bliss), while Don and Megan appear to be barely hanging on.
In the end, whether it’s a partnership, vinegar, sauces and beans or a still-new marriage, it’s clear that risk is only worth it for those who’re not overly concerned with losing what they already have.
Mad Men continues next Sunday @10pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: