The episode begins in July 1969 in the living room of Bert Cooper, where he sits alone on his couch watching the television coverage of Apollo 11’s blastoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From the next room, we hear a vacuum cleaner starting up, and Bert yells to his housekeeper to turn it off. As Bert watches the liftoff, eyes glued to the screen, we see him smile with great satisfaction.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Ted “blasts off” in his small airplane, taking two Sunkist executives up on a rocky flight to survey the California landscape. Being seriously depressed, Ted jokes that maybe the astronauts won’t make it and then all of their problems will be over. Next he points out an area that would be “good for smoldering wreckage,” as if he might crash the plane to end his own problems. Suddenly he cuts the engine, plainly scaring the men. “What are you doing?!” one of them yells.
The Battles Begin
From the New York office, Jim Cutler phones Ted and yells at him for scaring the clients half to death. Ted tells him, “I don’t want to die; I just don’t want to do this [advertising] anymore.” Jim tries to convince him to stay, but Ted says he’s made up his mind.
Lou Avery enters Jim’s office to report that their prospects for the Commander Cigarette account are dead. He complains that he spent 10 years building his resume for tobacco companies, and then Don Draper makes a fool of him in front of the Commander executives. Now that he thinks he has a chance with another cigarette company, he wonders if he should invite them in for “Don Draper dinner theater”? Cutler rejects Lou’s attitude and tells him he’s just a hired hand and should get back to work. However, Lou’s antipathy for Don seems to bolster Cutler’s determination to push Don out.
Business as Usual
Meanwhile, the Creative team assembles in the conference room to discuss and plot out their presentation to Burger Chef. In pre-meeting chatter, Harry reports that his wife, Jennifer, has stopped talking about divorce now that he’s slated to become a partner at the firm. “She just wants the money” he complains. As Don enters the room, Harry asks Don for advice, to which Don replies: “Don’t negotiate. Give them what they want.” The meeting begins with Pete in the leadership role, and everyone quickly runs through who will say what, when. The plan is to have Peggy introduce Don, and to have Don deliver the story-board ad presentation. Pete ends the conversation with: “Now we just have to pray everything goes smoothly on the moon,” since the Apollo 11 astronauts are schedule to land on the moon over the weekend, just prior to their presentation to the client in Indianapolis.
As Don returns to his office, Meredith, his secretary, asks to speak privately and shows him a breach of contract letter signed by Jim, Roger, and Bert – a first step in the legal process of firing him. Stunned by the letter, Don absorbs the meaning of it in the back of his mind while restraining himself from bursting out laughing at Meredith as she attempts to calm him down and also seduce him with a kiss. When Meredith demands lovingly, “Tell me what I can do,” Don replies authoritatively, “You can get my attorney on the phone, and we can’t do this.” Clueless, Meredith responds wide-eyed, “You’re right – not right now.”
Don storms into Jim’s office, scaring away the man who was there to speak to Jim at the time, and yells, “You think you can throw me out of my own company?!” Jim replies that Don’s breach of contract is cut and dried, since Don signed a stipulated agreement and then broke some of the stipulations. He also tells Don that, while at CGC, he and Ted used to feel intimidated by Don’s mysterious creative process. However, now that he’s been “backstage” he finds Don to be unimpressive – “a bully and a drunk.” In sexist and class-based insults so typical of Americans in the 1960s, he also refers mockingly to the time when he heard Don “blubbering like a little girl” in front of the Hershey executives about his “impoverished childhood.” Seeing Don’s anger rise, Jim taunts him, “You want to take a swing at me? It would save us all a lot of trouble.” Don restrains himself and strides forcefully out of Jim’s office.
Next, Don barges into Roger’s office, confronting Roger with his signature at the bottom of the breach letter. In an open area outside Roger’s office, Don yells for Pete, Joan, and Bert to come over immediately and demands an explanation for the breach of contract letter. Hearing the commotion, Ken and Harry gravitate to the group, but they quickly move away after Joan tells Harry bluntly that he’s not a partner yet so doesn’t need to be there. Roger claims he never signed the letter. Bert begins by saying, “I want you to calm down. We’ll get to the bottom of this.” But when he sees that his signature is also forged on the letter, he supports Don and opposes Jim Cutler. Pete is outraged because Don is a critical part of the ad presentation to Burger Chef that’s scheduled in just a few days and that could bring the agency considerable new business. Joan, however, stands against Don, to his surprise.
Jim states that the stipulations of his contract for employment at SC&P were clearly violated, and he justifies forging Roger and Bert’s signatures because they had previously signed Don’s contract. Don challenges Jim, “You want to play ‘Parliamentary Procedure’? Let’s take a vote.” They then vote on whether to retain Don, with three votes against (Jim, Joan, and Ted in absentia – according to Jim) and four votes for retaining him (Pete, Roger, Bert, and Don). After the vote the group disperses, but Roger quizzes Joan privately and she tells him she’s tired of all the money Don has cost the agency.
Bert’s Words of Wisdom
Roger heads to Bert’s office to discuss the situation privately with him and asks, “What are we going to do about Cutler?” Despite Bert’s protest, Roger refuses to take off his shoes upon entering the room. Bert tells Roger in derogatory tones that Don cost the agency a lot of money when they were unable to go public, and that he’s a pain in the ass. Roger wonders why, then, did he vote to keep Don at the agency? Bert explains that he himself is a leader, and a leader is loyal to his team, whereas Jim Cutler is a leader because he has a vision for the company, but he’s not on Bert’s team. And Roger has talent and experience, but he’s not a leader. Bert states that nobody has ever made a comeback after being put on leave – not even Napoleon. Mixing metaphors, Roger refers at one point to “Benedict Joan,” because Joan voted against Don’s continuation at the agency. Bert compares Don to Napoleon because, at Waterloo, Napoleon staged a coup (as did Don when he walked in on the Commander Cigarettes meeting), but ended up exiled on an island for the rest of his life. Unimpressed with Bert’s metaphors but still trying to compete in his own way, Roger recites lyrics from an Irving Berlin song: “So, let’s have another cup of coffee; let’s have another piece of pie” – a song that suggests better times are ahead. Roger then walks out of Bert’s office, slamming the door in frustration.
At home, Peggy takes care of business as a landlady and prepares for her trip to Indianapolis for the Burger Chef presentation. At one point she comes home to find a handyman named Nick in her apartment, instead of the man who usually does work for her. Nick mistakes 10-year-old Julio, who’s over at Peggy’s watching TV, for her son, and says he was helpful. Feeling attracted, Peggy offers Nick some iced tea. Nick learns that Peggy owns the building by herself, and he hands her a piece of paper with his phone number on it, in case she has jobs for him in the future.
Sometime later, Julio knocks on Peggy’s door and asks to watch TV. First Peggy says no, but after turning him away she shouts, “Wait. Get in here!” Peggy asks for Julio’s help on deciding what to wear for her sales presentation, but Julio is confused by her questions. Next she tries to tell him about her travels to Indianapolis over the weekend and mentions that the astronauts might not survive. This upsets Julio, and so she gives him a hug. When Julio yells, “It’s not fair” and reveals that he doesn’t want to go to Newark, Peggy learns that Julio’s mother is planning to move to Newark for a new job, leaving Peggy with an empty apartment to rent. Meanwhile, Julio continues to hug Peggy, telling her that he doesn’t want to leave and that his mother doesn’t care about him. Trying to comfort him, Peggy offers false hopes, which Julio sees through immediately. The scene ends with Peggy allowing Julio to sit and watch TV. She also allows him to have her key so that on Sunday, when she’ll be in Indianapolis, he can watch the moon landing by himself in her apartment.
Over at Don’s apartment, he packs his suitcase for the Indianapolis trip and then pauses to call Megan and discuss his work situation. Megan picks up the phone while sunbathing on the deck of her home. She tells Don she plans to go to the movies with a friend to see The Wild Bunch. When Don says he wants to see it too, she asks whether she should wait to see it with him instead. Don begins to explain his work situation and possible ouster from the agency. Megan is sympathetic and suggests that maybe it’s time for him to move on to another job and another agency. Then Don suggests, “I could finally move out there” and asks Megan if she wants him to do so. Megan remains silent as she considers the possibility skeptically, leaving Don to conclude that the answer is no. Realizing there may be no future in their relationship, Don tells Megan he’ll always take care of her, and Megan delivers a final-sounding “Goodbye, Don.”
Big Apple to Naptown
On the airplane headed from New York to Indianapolis, the pilot makes reference to the astronauts as he welcomes passengers seated aboard the aircraft. Peggy and Harry sit next to each other and share their worries about how a disaster of the Apollo mission could jeopardize their business opportunity. A couple of rows up, Pete and Don sit together and converse. Pete comments that Ted is going to run the California office into the ground because he’s going off the deep end, like Lane Pryce. Pete also says encouragingly that now Don can finally go to LA (thinking Don can take the place of Ted at the California office), but Don says there’s no reason to go there. Catching his vibe, Pete grumbles, “Marriage is a racket.” Pete also talks business: “The ‘Don Draper Show’ is back from its unscheduled interruption” he announces. After continuing to encourage Don about the Burger Chef presentation, Pete is surprised to hear Don say that he’s confident about it. Pete observes, “You’re sighing a lot,” but Don keeps his thoughts to himself.
Moon Landing and Aftermath
On Sunday evening, everybody around the country watches the TV news coverage of the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the moon’s surface. Harry, Pete, Peggy, and Don sit in a hotel room in Indianapolis, watching while drinking beer together on the night before their Burger Chef presentation. Over in suburban New York, Betty, Henry, Sally, Bobby, and Gene sit in the Francis’ living room along with visiting family friends of Betty’s, including her friend Caroline, Caroline’s husband, and the couple’s teen sons, Neil and Sean. At the Sterling residence, Roger, ex-wife Mona, Brooks, and young Ellery sit together in the living room like a family, with Ellery dressed in an astronaut’s helmet sitting on Grandpa Roger’s lap. And in Bert’s home, Bert sits on his living room couch next to his housekeeper, with a proper distance between them. When astronaut Neil Armstrong steps out of the lunar module and says famously, “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind,” Harry stands up in excitement in Indianapolis, while Bert in New York looks entranced, beams with admiration, and says dramatically, “Bravo!” Don phones the Francis residence to speak with his children. Getting Sally on the line, he remarks, “Isn’t that something?” Sally, however, is more impressed with the two teenage boys visiting her home than with the astronauts, and mimics the older boy, Sean, when she says: “It’s such a waste of money. We’ll be going there all the time while people here go hungry.” Don reprimands her for being cynical and then asks to speak to the boys.
While Roger’s family is still watching the television coverage, Roger answers a phone call, apparently from Bert’s housekeeper, with the news of Bert’s sudden death. Sadly, Roger heads to the agency, walks to Bert’s office, and looks around. He then takes Bert’s name plate from his office door, perhaps as a memento, since Bert was like a father to him. Joan and Jim Cutler soon join Roger and express condolences, but a contentious discussion about the future of the agency ensues. With Bert gone, Jim clarifies that Don no longer has a majority in favor of his retention at the agency. Cutler expresses his vision to lead the agency away from its current creative talent–centered approach to advertising and toward a more computer data–centered approach, and he wants to start contacting clients right away, dividing up Bert’s clients and pitching SC&P as “the agency of the future.” Roger objects: “He’s been dead an hour. Are you prying his hand open? Is this what would happen if I died?”
Later that night, Roger tracks down Don’s location in Indianapolis and calls him in his hotel room to share the news that Bert died a couple of hours earlier while sitting on his living room couch. Roger’s voice cracks when he tells Don, “I’m going to lose you too” because, he explains, Jim Cutler is working to get rid of Don. Roger continues, “He [Cooper] was hard on me…but maybe he was right.” He also muses, “Poor Bert…anytime an old man talks about Napoleon, you know he’s going to die.” Don assures Roger that Bert was very proud of him. He also asks Roger whether Bert’s sister is still alive, but Roger doesn’t even hear the question because he’s so wrapped up in his own emotions.
Back at the Francis residence, Caroline’s younger son, Neil, slips away from the TV room and goes outside to look through the telescope set up in the yard. Although earlier, Sally had shown more interest in big brother Sean, who appears socially adept, she comes out to smoke a cigarette and walks up to socially awkward Neil to start chatting. When she tells Neil she doesn’t want to get criticized for smoking, he promptly states that “smoking causes cancer,” which inhibits Sally from lighting up. They have a conversation around his interests in getting away from his family and seeing things other than television. He helps Sally spot Polaris through the telescope. Then Sally leans in and kisses him. Clueless, he asks her, “What do I do now?” Then Caroline yells his name from the house and says, “Get in here. It’s bedtime!” Neil walks away and Sally then lights a cigarette, striking a pose that perfectly replicates her mother’s body language.
Later that night, Don knocks on Peggy’s hotel room door and asks to speak with her. Inviting himself into her room, she with her hair in curlers, Don tells her that there’s been a change of plans and that she will need to be the one to deliver the presentation. Peggy asks, “Did Harry tell you about my dream?” which strikes Don as humorously odd. Don says, “You’ve probably heard they’re trying to get me out” and explains that, therefore, he can’t be the one to present to Burger Chef, as his departure from the agency after winning the business could then cause the deal to fall through. Peggy argues against it, but Don persuades her that he believes she can succeed.
The next morning, Roger has a breakfast meeting at a restaurant with his advertising nemesis Jim McCann. After some banter, McCann tells Roger that his company wants to hire the four people who won the Chevy account: Don, Ted, Roger, and Jim Cutler. In response, Roger proposes that McCann’s agency buy 51% of Sterling Cooper & Partners, making SC&P an independent subsidiary under the leadership of Roger, “without Jim Cutler and all that baggage from CGC.” Jim McCann considers the option but comes back insisting that Ted Chaough be a part of the package, since he says that GM thinks Ted and Don (who co-created the GM ad pitch) are essentially “one person.”
In a conference room at Burger Chef, Peggy leads the SC&P ad campaign presentation. Introducing her, Don uses the very line that Peggy had intended to use to introduce him: “Every great ad tells a story, and here to tell the story is Peggy Olsen.” Peggy speaks with confidence and great timing as she begins to address the all-male Burger Chef executive team. Beginning with comments about the moon landing the previous weekend, she brings the conversation down to earth by describing ordinary life in America, where families no longer bond at the dinner table in the evenings and each family member has different tastes in food, entertainment, and such – yet all are hungry for a sense of connection. She then makes the case that Burger Chef provides an atmosphere away from all the things going on at home, without distractions like television, where each person can order what he or she wants and everyone can get the feeling of connectedness they crave.
On his arrival home from Indianapolis, Don meets Roger standing outside Don’s front door. “How did you get in here?” Don asks, since the downstairs doorman isn’t supposed to allow nonresidents up. “Money,” says Roger. “Cooper still dead?” Don quips. Roger then fills Don in about his meeting with Jim McCann. Don points out that their current agency was founded because they wanted to avoid working for McCann, but Roger emphasizes that much has happened since that time. He assures Don that, without the McCann offer, not only will Don be locked out by Cutler, but they’ll all end up out of work once Cutler has his way and eliminates everyone except Harry and the computer. Don complains that he’s tired of dealing with business and just wants to do creative work, and he challenges Roger with: “You can’t even save my job. How are you going to sell the agency?” Unruffled, Roger says he’s working on it, but that Ted Chaough will have to be part of the deal since McCann wants everyone involved in getting Chevy.
At the office, Roger calls a meeting of the partners. Pushing competing agendas, Jim Cutler and Roger Sterling both attempt to lead the meeting, but Roger gains everyone’s attention when he announces that he has some urgent business. Pete assumes it’s about whether Burger Chef has said yes to their ad campaign, but instead he learns that it’s about McCann’s offer to buy a majority stake in the agency and allow it to be independently operated, with Roger at the leadership helm. SC&P gets to keep their name, their office, and their clients, but each of their partners must sign a five-year contract. In return, they’ll all suddenly be worth a lot more money. Jim Cutler says he won’t do it, and Roger says that’s okay because he’s not needed, but Ted is. Cutler also remarks that this proposal is “a pathetic ploy and a delusion” and that the people in the room were all counting their chickens before they hatched. However, few if any of the others are influenced by Cutler’s negativity. It takes a while for everyone to talk Ted into agreeing to the offer, and Don is instrumental in persuading him to say yes. Don tells Ted: “I know you. I know the man I walked into Chevy with.” He says that Ted may not need to work at their company, but speaking from his own experience he knows Ted definitely needs to work, adding, “you don’t want to see what happens when you’re really gone.” Others try to play on Ted’s guilt by pointing out that he would be standing in the way of everyone else there. When Ted asks tentatively, “Should I move back to the city?” Roger immediately calls a vote.
Ironically, not only do the Sterling Cooper partners plus Ted vote in favor of the acquisition, but even Jim Cutler slowly raises his hand, saying, “It’s a lot of money!” Perhaps, as he was listening to Don appeal to Ted about staying with the company, he considered how it would feel for himself to be out of work, and realized that even a compromised work position would be better than no job at all.
Death and Good News
On the following workday, Roger announces to a gathering of all employees that their founder, Bert Cooper, has passed away. Rather than staying for the announcement, Don walks downstairs, telling Peggy he wants to get back to work.
Once downstairs, Don hears in his mind the voice of Bert Cooper saying, “Don, my boy.” Don turns around to see where the voice came from, and he imagines seeing Bert standing in the hallway smiling, singing and dancing to the tune of “The Best Things in Life are Free,” a 1920s song from the Broadway musical Good News. Bert’s rendition was complete with orchestral accompaniment and several corporate secretaries taking part in the production number. Some of the touching lines of the cheerful song include, “Love can come to everyone” – possibly foreshadowing a new love (Peggy and Don?) – and “The moon belongs to everyone” – mirroring the happy moment of the moon landing and how everyone everywhere with access to a television got to share the incredible event. At the end of the song, Don watches his vision of Bert walk into a small office across the way, wave goodbye to Don Broadway-style, and close the door, leaving Don alone with his fond memories and a deep sense of grief that he begins to process.
In this action-packed, heart-warming episode, endings and new beginnings stand out as a major theme.
· The moon landing is the culmination of years of work at NASA and fulfills the ambitious prediction of the late President Kennedy to see America reach the moon by the end of the decade; it may also be seen as the beginning of new dreams and plans for further space exploration, and of new hopes for a better future across America.
· Bert’s death is reminiscent of the death of his dear old friend Ida Blankenship. After Miss Blankenship passed away while sitting at her secretarial desk outside Don’s office, Bert spontaneously eulogized her by saying in an unintentionally funny way, “She was born in a barn and died in a skyscraper; she was an astronaut!”
· Bert’s housekeeper’s job has suddenly ended, and she has to seek new employment. In addition, it may be true that she and Bert formed some sort of a friendship or companionship during her time with him that she may miss and have to try to replace in her life.
· With the passing of Bert, SC&P is collapsing as a corporate entity; however, it looks like McCann’s offer will allow SC&P a new beginning under the leadership of Roger Sterling, where the other partners, including the competitive Jim Cutler, will have to respect Roger’s authority.
· Roger loses a father figure, Don loses a mentor, and everyone around Bert who had a relationship with him loses a leader as well as a relationship with a unique, sometimes inspiring individual. Now they will each have to look for ways to fill the void in their personal and/or professional life.
· The end of the Burger Chef presentation leads to the beginning of a new client relationship for the agency.
· Jim Cutler initiates the breach of contract letter to Don, attempting to end Don’s relationship with the agency; with Roger’s help and Jim McCann’s offer, however, Don ends up headed toward a full partner position, clearly a new beginning.
· Don and Megan’s relationship seems to be over, giving them each a new beginning as a single person. Yet at the beginning of their phone call, before Megan learns that Don will be out of work, Megan shows no signs of breaking up. Will Don’s new wealth and business success due to McCann’s offer cause Megan to rethink her feelings towards him and give their love a new beginning?
· Through the Burger Chef presentation process, Peggy has ended her feud with Don, and now through cinematography, Don and Peggy are beginning to look like a couple. Could this be suggesting the beginning of a deeper relationship for them?
· Ted is ending his time in California, but will his return to New York end his depression or make his life more difficult? He begins the episode in deep depression and ends on a hopeful note. Could this move lead Ted and Peggy to a romantic relationship, possibly destroying Ted’s marriage?
· At her apartment, Peggy meets Nick, a new maintenance man, and they seem mutually interested in each other. Now that Nick has given her his phone number, will she seek a new relationship with him, assuming she feels unable to have a relationship with Ted and unaware that her relationship with Don could change?
· Julio hugs Peggy because he fears his relationship with her is about to end, as it looks like his mother is moving them to Newark. However, Julio will at least have a new beginning there, which he can’t yet envision.
· Will Sally have a chance for a new relationship with one of Caroline’s sons?
· When Betty talks to Caroline about her relationship with Don, she says she’s starting to think of him as an old bad boyfriend. This may be Betty’s way of distancing herself from her memories and creating a greater sense of finality.
· Although Roger and Mona have been divorced for quite some time, it appears that they’ve made a new beginning by uniting as grandparents in order to provide emotional support for son-in-law Brooks and grandson Ellery.
Another important theme is leadership, with great examples of both bad leadership and good.
· Bert hands down some wisdom to Roger involving the topic of leadership in what would be their final conversation. Basically, he says that a leader is someone with a vision for the company and someone who is loyal to his team. He says Roger isn’t a leader because he doesn’t have a vision. Taking this information to heart, Roger later tells Jim McCann that he has a vision for his agency, and that vision entails continuing to operate just as they have been, as an independent subsidiary of McCann, with himself as the president, and without the baggage from CGC that includes Jim Cutler. It’s a vision to basically stay in business, make more money, be loyal to his team, and eliminate his main rival there, who comes from another team.
· Jim Cutler is also described by Bert as a leader because he has a vision for the agency. However, Cutler’s vision involves changing the agency to the point where many people on his team would sooner or later have to go, because in the “agency of the future” that he envisions, computer data is the key to success and is far superior to creative talent.
· Cutler provides an example of bad leadership when he gets an attorney to send Don a breach of contract letter with forged signatures on it. This action blows up in his face because he fails to gain buy-in from the key stakeholders before making moves to bring about the change he wants to lead.
· Cutler also exemplifies bad leadership when he listens to Lou Avery’s complaints unsympathetically and then demeans him by telling him he’s just a hired hand, and “We don’t owe you anything.” His “Get back to work” is equally demeaning, making Lou less likely to be loyal to Cutler in the future.
· Don provides valuable leadership to Peggy when he turns over the Burger Chef presentation to her, listens continuously to her objections and self-doubts, and then persuades her by forcefully communicating his confidence in her ability to excel. By the next morning when Peggy steps up to deliver the presentation, Don’s confidence in her and validation of her talents have taken root to bring out the best in her.
· Pete attempts to provide leadership to Don by validating Don’s talents and trying to encourage and inspire him to do well in the Burger Chef presentation. However, he misinterprets Don’s somewhat depressed mood because Don is already confident of his presentation skills. Pete’s behavior represents good leadership in the making, where he’s still learning about how to first gather enough relevant information about someone so that he can apply the right leadership skill at the right time for maximum effect.
· Comically, Meredith attempts to provide leadership to Don when she presents him with the breach of contract letter by attempting to provide emotional strength for him in a moment of what she assumes is confusion and vulnerability. If she were reading Don correctly and he actually felt vulnerable and in need of her strength, she did exactly what a good leader would never do, and that is to try to seduce the vulnerable individual in his/her moment of weakness and confusion. However, she misreads Don completely and, even in the midst of his bad feelings about the breach letter, he leads Meredith back to work in a very professional and non insulting manner.
· Both Betty and Caroline provide strong leadership within their families in this episode, but their leadership skills are not that good. They lead mostly by being bossy, yelling at or commanding their children regardless of how humiliating it may be for the children, as was typical of American parents in that generation. This is the kind of leadership that demands respect from followers but in return, doesn’t provide followers with the feeling of being respected as individuals.
· Peggy generally takes a rude and bossy tone with Julio and at times asks him to perform tasks that are inappropriate for who he is, such as helping her pick out the right outfit for an adult event. However, when she realizes Julio is upset, she tries to comfort him. This shows that, like a good leader, she does respect his limits when she’s able to perceive them. Also, when he can’t do what she asks, she doesn’t blame him for it. On the other hand, she recites a bunch of platitudes to him when she tries to get him to stop crying, which Julio immediately sees through – and her lack of thoughtfulness there makes her not such a good leader in that situation.
· Nick, who does some handyman work in Peggy’s apartment, tells Peggy that Julio helped him a lot. In this instance, Nick is a good leader who gives credit to others where credit is due, rewarding Julio with appropriate attention. Even his “Goodbye, kid” was Nick’s way of giving Julio acknowledgement, attention, and respect, which Julio might not have expected from an adult.
· Roger provides exceptional leadership in saving the company on very short notice, despite his need to mourn the death of his father figure and mentor (who’d just told him he wasn’t a leader). Assessing Jim Cutler’s intentions at the office on the night of Bert’s death, Roger makes phone calls in the middle of the night and ends up negotiating over breakfast with Jim McCann to regain control of the agency from Cutler and save his friend Don’s job, which is crucial to the agency’s creative success. Further, Roger announces the death of Bert Cooper to the agency the next day in a dignified and professional manner, despite having little sleep over the weekend. His words give everyone confidence in his leadership skills so that the company can move forward.
· The strong visionary leadership of President Kennedy suffuses the entire episode – and all of America at the time – with hopefulness and excitement about a better future, as his long-term vision of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade is realized during that weekend.
A third theme is twists of fate.
· Bert compares Don Draper to Napoleon and says he’ll never come back, but Don survives the twists and turns of the episode, and it’s Bert who departs, never to return.
· Jim Cutler attempts to kick Don out of the agency, but by the end of the episode, Jim stands alone against the other partners and crawls back to the group, having almost been eliminated. McCann demands both Don and Ted, but is less interested in Jim Cutler. Thus, Cutler may still be cut from the new organization if Roger decides to do so.
· In previous episodes, Megan has expressed her strong desire to be with Don again and to be the center of his attention. She even offers to change her movie plans so she can see The Wild Bunch with him, if he wants her to. However, now that Don tells her he can join her in LA because he’s going to be unemployed, she suddenly isn’t interested.
· Sally meets teenage brothers and feels attracted to the older brother, Sean. However, finding an opportunity with younger brother, Neil, she kisses him instead.
· At the Burger Chef presentation, Peggy paints a picture of the modern American family, where Dad likes Sinatra and his son likes the Rolling Stones, the TV is always on, there are multiple distractions, and yet everyone is hungry for human connection. Ironically, she explains how a family dinner away from home, at Burger Chef, can create that connection since everyone gets to order what they want, but they all sit around a table and eat together, undistracted by television and phones.
Finally, the prominent theme of spreading “memes” (through imitation) is one I write about in my other Mad Men blog. If you want to, you can check it out by visiting BlogCritics.org and then searching for ‘Mad Men.’