Mad About Mad Men: ‘The Quality of Mercy’

bill bodkin is a mad man …

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The Low Down: Peggy and Ted are starting to get awful ‘chummy’ and people are noticing. Don’s sporting a wicked hangover which is much easier to deal with than having to deal with the guilt of having Sally witness him sexing up Sylvia Rosen and then blatantly lying to her about it. Sally wants to get into an elite boarding school in response to the situation. Kenny Cosgrove totally gets his face blown off. No seriously. He’s wearing an eye patch like Snake Plissken. Pete steals Chevy from Kenny because he’s a total snake. But of course, Pete gets his comeuppance by getting Bob Benson on his team. Pete counters by enlisting Duck to take Bob Benson off his plate … and then they both discover Bob isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Meanwhile, the Ocean Spray/Sunkist war within Sterling Cooper rages on. Don then makes it a point to take Ted and Peggy to task.

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The Bed and Booze Count: Don Draper is pretty much drunk in the first 25% of the episode. Sally and her new friends have some booze and smoke some weed.–BB

Our Favorite Retro Pop Culture Reference: Kudos to the Mad Men music supervisors using The Monkees’ “The Porpoise Song” in the closing moments of tonight’s episode. This song worked perfectly as we watched Don Draper curled up in the fetal position in the closing shot. –JS

Favorite Performance: Kiernan Shipka wins it again for a second week. Sally Draper, even when out of her element (in this case a boarding school), can still own her situation. She’s a tough young girl who’s not afraid to refuse the advances of a stoned teenage boy and then get her old flame Glen to tune him up. Her little wrinkle of the nose when asked if she likes trouble, shows that she’s got her dad’s wicked side in her, but still is a blossoming woman of her own.–BB

The Supporting Scene Stealer: Bob Benson (James Wolk) showed some fire in this episode and this what we need from him. He’s been so “golly gee” throughout the season that to see him show anger and fire, especially EN ESPANOL was great. Also, the bile he spewed at Pete was great. Benson has been one of the most intriguing characters on the show this season. First, as my fellow columnist Jason Stives would ask, “WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?” His ambiguity really made us scratch our heads with curious interest. Now, we’re seeing him break out of the all smiles shell and it’s brilliant to watch. –BB

It’s a shame everything is coming to surface now and not earlier on with Bob Benson because this week I was all about him. The nice guy façade was broken this week and who wouldn’t have that broken by the snake that is Pete Campbell. He really goes for the gusto to get under Pete’s skin and I loved their brief exchange in the hallway after Pete finds out that the executives want Bob to take over the Chevy account. –JS

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The Best Part of The Episode: The commercial rehearsal with Joan, Don, Ted and Peggy is probably one of the funniest scenes of the season. Don crying like a baby, Joan as the Jewish neighbor and Peggy and Ted as the crotchety couple — man that was good. I can also honestly say I “laughed out loud.” But what’s so brilliant about this scene is it also advanced two major dramatic storylines — the Ted/Peggy “chummy” storyline as well as the tension between Don and Ted. –BB

That commercial rehearsal was both awkward and hysterical at the same time. Some may have found Don’s mock baby talk to be entertaining but for me I loved seeing Joan don the part of a Jewish neighbor offering up some soup. –JS

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: I know it was important to the overall plot but I could have done without watching Ted and Peggy flirting. I understand people flirt but it was so cheesy and lame that I basically fell in with the opinion of everyone in the office who is aware of the flirting and tired of seeing it. –JS

The Little Thing We Loved: Roger Sterling’s jabs at poor Kenny’s eye. “Shiver Me Timbers!” and “Listen to the Cyclops.” Oh Roger, you rascally son of a bitch, I love you. –BB

“Lee Gardner Jr. had he me cuff his balls.” Thanks, Roger you are always good for a great one liner. –JS

Final Thoughts: I really think Season 6 was structured the wrong way. The series is now hitting some creative strides and is really delivering on some tasty stories. Yet, we’ve got one week left. I feel that there was a lot of good episodes this season but not a great overall story. Maybe this was a big set-up for next season … the mystery of Bob Benson, the Ted/Peggy romance, Don’s never-ending infidelity and addiction, etc. But then again, I could be completely wrong.

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Now back to my episode thoughts. Wow. The final scenes — Don vs. Ted, Bob vs. Pete and Peggy vs. Don — those were like heavyweight prize fights. There were jabs, body shots and dizzying knock-out blows. Damn, that’s vintage Mad Men. Don’s further descent into madness, curled up in the fetal position was the perfect way to end the episode. This was a top notch episode with great acting and terrific storytelling. –BB

As we head into next week’s season finale I can’t help but be a bit disappointed in the trajectory of Mad Men this season. “The Quality of Mercy” was a solid episode but it’s coming at a point in the show where the mystery of certain plots are either feeling rushed or it feels like we are treading on familiar ground. So many elements reminded me of past seasons and to watch Don continue to show no improvement and just be a man who needs to be in control is more bothersome anymore than it is interesting to watch. That being said the tension in the offices of Sterling, Cooper & Partners has made the atmosphere of the show in the last few weeks very captivating and tonight was no better. We are seeing this current partnership at an impasse that is leaving Don and Ted grasping for power and the final moments during the pitch tonight were nerve wracking at best. Don is in the position of power and his cockiness is showing now more than ever but part of me was waiting for Ted to lose his cool this time. Ted up to this point has remained rather composed but the cracks are beginning to show more now. Within the office in general we are seeing young Don Drapers being born left and right with some of our supporting players which makes the shots that opened and closed this show with Don the more fitting. Great episode and here is hoping the finale keeps this momentum going. –JS

Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood/AMC

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites