Mad Men, Season 3

Week 13: Don't Put Bert Cooper on an Ice Floe Just Yet
Talking television.
Nov. 9 2009 1:16 PM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 13: Don't Put Bert Cooper on an Ice Floe Just Yet

Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse), Joan Harris, (Christina Hendricks), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) in the Season 3 finale. Click image to expand.
Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse), Joan Harris, (Christina Hendricks), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) in the Season 3 finale

Taxi drivers of New York, rejoice—Rebecca Pryce is here to stay.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

Like you guys, I thought this episode was dynamite. I was smiling ear-to-ear as Lane finally stood up to St. John Powell ("very good, Happy Christmas"), and though I hoped the locked art department door would result in a phone call to Sal Romano, I believe I may have actually pumped my fist when Don kicked it down. As Hannibal used to say on The A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together."

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"So we're negotiating," Don says to Lane, after the Brit suggests that his participation in Don's little scheme is worth more than just a partnership. But nearly every scene in this episode was a negotiation. You guys have already hit on the big ones, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Bert Cooper's classic exploding offer to Harry Crane: Join our new outfit, or we'll have to lock you in the storeroom until morning ("I'm sure you understand"). Don't put Bert Cooper on an ice floe just yet.

That said, I agree with Patrick that SCDP promises to be quite a different agency than Sterling Cooper was, and it's not exactly clear where Bert will fit in. As Julia noted, in making his pitch to Pete, Don praises him for being ahead of the curve—on aeronautics, on teens, and on "the negro market." Staying out of the "colored TV business," as Bert put it a few weeks ago, is a luxury an established midlevel firm could afford. A start-up is going to have to be hungry for any and all business. Think Sterling and Cooper left their prejudices in their old desks?

Speaking of the teen market, did you guys notice that when Pete showed up on Sunday night he had Clearasil in his saddlebag? After phoning the laxative magnate and pretending to be Pete's secretary, Trudy's second call seems to have been to her dad. Further evidence that the Campbell marriage is the class of the field.

Of course, there's less and less competition out there. I agree, Patrick, that the domestic scenes felt rote compared with the inside job afoot at the office, but the divorce plotline had its moments. I loved the unctuous lawyer Henry brings Betty to consult. "It's painless," he says of divorce, Reno-style. "I met my second wife there."

And maybe it's just because I'm a child of divorce, but I was moved by the scene in which Don and Betty tell the kids about the breakup. For the second week in a row, Bobby Draper showed some perceptiveness, observing that things must be serious if mom and dad are ushering him into the living room. (Everyone looked wonderfully uncomfortable on the new furniture.) And even this notorious Kiernan Shipka detractor had to tip his hat to the young actress in this scene. Where Bobby is mostly puzzled and sad, Sally is angry—at both of her parents. She accuses Betty of forcing Don to leave, and calls Don on his prevarication. "I'm not going," Don says. "I'm just living elsewhere." Sally's not having it. "You say things and you don't mean them. You can't just do that." Not many adults would have the gumption to say that to Don.

A question for you guys: What happened after the scarily physical encounter between Don and Betty in their bedroom and before the phone call in which Don acquiesces to the divorce? He's sobered up, of course, and perhaps taken to heart Betty's not-so-veiled threat that she knows all about him. (Sterling Cooper Whitman Pryce doesn't have the same ring to it.) But it also seemed to me that the creation of his new professional family in some way allowed Don to let go of Betty. Three weeks ago, he came clean to her, and she decided she didn't love him anymore. This week, he came clean to Roger, to Pete, and to Peggy, explaining honestly why he does value his relationships with them—and they followed him in his new venture. Don may not be much of an accounts man, but he seems to have learned that good negotiators know when to walk away.

Accounts gets the bed,
John

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