MAD MEN: "Collaborators" S6 E03 (review) - FORCES OF GEEK


The third episode of Mad Men this season is directed by the show’s leading man Jon Hamm and focuses on the complicated relationships in Don Draper’s life.

Like electrons around the nucleus, people’s lives are spinning around the protons and neurons of Don and his ladies.

How soon before an atomic meltdown, at this pace, though?

Cheating, deception and resolving how honest people want to appear are all issues accented in this latest installment of Mad Men.

The show opens with Don Draper (Hamm) having another encounter with neighbor Doctor Arnold Rosen (Brian Markinson) in the elevator.

The doctor and wife Sylvia (Linda Cardellini) are holding up the elevator arguing about money.

As the doctor returns to work, Don slips back upstairs to continue his tryst.

Her bosom triggers a flashback to Dick Whitman’s (Don’s previous—or real—identity) childhood. Dick’s pregnant stepmother Abigail brings them to a whorehouse, overseen by her sister. “Uncle Mac” is introduced as the brothel’s main man. Flash forward to the present, Don hands Sylvia some cash, referencing previous associations Don has with sex and money.

Elsewhere around SCDP, our boy Pete has gotten himself involved with a neighbor from his Cos Cob, CT neighborhood. Brenda (Collette Wolfe) meets up with Pete in his Manhattan apartment. Their time is rushed, just as Don and Sylvia’s is, everyone must get to work!

Back at the firm, Heinz Baked Beans introduces the representative of Heinz Ketchup to the boys, under false pretenses, though. Beans has no intention of letting the firm work on the competing division’s campaign. The funniest quotes are in this scene.

Ken (Aaron Staton) declares to Don, “It’s Heinz Ketchup, Don! It’s the Coca-Cola of condiments”. To which Don replies, “I know, but sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung ya”.

Cut to soap opera actress, Don’s wife Megan (Jessica Paré) in soap opera fashion in the laundry room, upset and firing her maid. Sylvia listens in and the two have girl talk over coffee. Megan admits to Sylvia in the Draper’s apartment that she has suffered a miscarriage. Feeling cheated on by Don, the mistress evokes sympathy but not empathy for Megan’s feelings.

Just then, Don arrives home, surprised to see his two ladies in mid conversation. The building is getting smaller now, as Megan crumbles and Sylvia has now broached the threshold of Don’s house on her own.

The Jaguar account representative Herb (Gary Basaraba) visits the office making demands only after having a brief encounter with Joan (Christina Hendricks).

The meeting includes Don, Pete and sneaky new sales rep Bob Benson (James Wolk). Herb wants to ditch the national campaign and stick local. Don seems displeases as much as Pete is trying to accommodate the client’s request.

At the end of the day, Pete finds his extramarital affairs literally knocking on his door. Brenda has somehow telegraphed what happened to her husband and he beats her for it, breaking her nose. Trudy (Alison Brie) brings Brenda to a nearby hotel, and can assume that Brenda confided in her what happened in the city. Trudy banishes Pete from the suburban homestead, and we can picture a downtrodden Pete a few months down the line in his rathole Manhattan apartment with Brenda and a bottle of scotch.

Don and Sylvia find themselves at dinner alone together, by circumstance. Doctor Rosen is called away for another medical emergency, and Megan stays home sick and depressed from her unfortunate miscarriage. After dinner and a quickie, Don returns home to comfort Megan and vaguely talk about the miscarriage, in such broad strokes that no one is really clear about anything. It was the style at the time.

There’s a subplot in this episode with Peggy having trouble asserting herself to her underling copywriters at her new firm. She appears to be overly critical of their work and because of her gender comes off as a total bitch. Her boss Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) is encouraging and a bit creepy. He looks to steal clients an business from Peggy’s old firm with her help.

Over at Sterling Cooper, all three Jaguar reps hear Pete’s pitch for Herb about ditching the national campaign for the local focus. Don deflty carries the ball and runs with it, suggesting that the luxury brand resort to mailers and Sunday circulars. Don has now embarrassed Herb and Pete while keeping the factory owners happy and maintaining the level of advertising at a match with both the firm and the car brand. The luxury brand doesn’t need to use street level advertising. This of course angers Pete, who has a lot to deal with right now.

We close the episode to another flashback to the brothel. Dick is watching through a peephole as his pregnant stepmother Abigail is taken by “Uncle Mac”. A maiden of the house catches him on the way past with her John. She explains that this is how it works here, and that is how Dick earned his own room, by having his stepmom service the man of the house. Ummm…gross!

Complicated feelings about relationships and boundaries are explored in this episode. No redemption for anyone but some empowerment for Trudy at least.

Neighbors Sylvia and Megan now know more about each other, but it is difficult for either of them to be as detached as Don is to the whole situation. He seems to be able to turn his feelings on and off like a faucet. Is Don falling in love with Sylvia, and is he as close to marital disaster as Pete seems to be? The stories are too parallel not to notice, but leading man Don always has better luck than Pete, and Pete resents that.

The tension wire is tight between the two floors in Don’s building as we end episode 3. The teaser for the next episode doesn’t reveal much—except that Stan may be feeding more than his usual reefer addiction.