Mad Men, Season 6

Ken Withdraws From Vietnam—Er, Chevy
Talking television.
June 18 2013 8:45 AM

Mad Men, Season 6

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Ken withdraws from Vietnam—er, Chevy.

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Paul, Hanna,

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

If nothing else, we now know the meaning of last week’s Moshe Dayan cameo. It was cheeky foreshadowing! An eye patch that graces Stan’s wall one week miraculously pops up on Ken’s face the next.

We also got some more fodder for the Chevy-is-Vietnam theory. Ken—a bird-hunting pacifist, he doesn’t even discharge his weapon—sustains a wound and wants to end his tour of duty in the quagmire that is GM. When he sends Pete out there in his place, he warns, “You’re gonna need to know where the land mines are buried.”

(By the way, getting back to the foreshadowing: Was Ken’s hunting mishap a reference the amazing 2006 moment in which Vice President Cheney shot a dude in the face? That incident ended with a noble gesture that should be enshrined in the mercy hall of fame: 78-year-old attorney/bulls-eye Harry Whittington professed to be “deeply sorry” for the trouble he’d caused Cheney when he rudely intercepted Cheney’s birdshot.)

I previously predicted that, having caught her dad Ocean Spraying the neighbor, Sally might enter an acting-out phase involving a mélange of Glen Bishop, marijuana, and a cult. I hadn’t foreseen that the cult would be Miss Porter’s School. Nor had I guessed I’d be so pleased to check in on Glen. He showed a fair amount of mercy toward Sally when he kept his cool even after she salted his make-out session. Glen’s maturing into a fine young man, isn’t he? Less creepy by the day.

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There’s been lots of theorizing over the mystical B.B.–D.D./Bob Benson–Don Draper connection. Two entirely self-spawned creatures. Ambition devoid of soul. But instead of illuminating their shared DNA, the deeper link forged between them this week seems mostly to have shed light on Pete. Namely: I think this might well be the first time in Pete’s life that he’s mastered his emotions.

Pete played it all wrong when he busted Don back in Season 1. But he learned from his error. This time, he held his schoolboy glee in check even though he’d caught Bob without a hall pass. He saw that a far greater payoff might be his if he offered a little mercy. And now Bob is a manservant of sorts to Pete—forever beholden, dismissible on a whim.

What did you guys make of all the fertility references this week? We open with Don in a fetal position. And then Megan—not long off a miscarriage—overboils some eggs on the stove. Soon, it’s the pregnancy horror of Rosemary’s Baby; some roleplay in which Don is forced to impersonate a crying infant; Ken’s announcement that his wife is expecting; and then our closing shot of Don in the fetal position once more.

It’s interesting that, within the framework of Ted and Peggy’s little play, Don embodies Rosemary’s demon child. Later, Peggy calls him a monster. So, OK, he’s Satan. But is he really any worse than he’s ever been?

This seemed like the Don of yore: drunk, manipulative, sometimes cruel, mostly right on the merits. Sunkist is a bigger client, even if it means that Ted has to beg Ocean Spray for (hey, look, more) mercy. Ted did spend too much on that aspirin casting, and then Don fixed it. Most delicate of all, Ted isn’t thinking with his head, and Don’s correct that others can see it. Joan, Ginsberg … people are tired of Ted’s goo-goo eyes.

Of course, this is not to say that Don’s motives are entirely pure. He’s clearly jealous of Ted’s intimacy with Peggy. Consider the insert shot of Ted’s hand on her hip, and the awkwardly proffered information that Don’s never slept with her. But is Don longing for that chaste, spiritual/creative connection he and Peggy used to share and no longer do? Or is watching Peggy cavorting with Ted forcing Don to realize that his feelings are slightly murkier?

Whatever it is Don wants, it doesn’t seem to be Megan. He’s ignoring her pleas to “pull back on the throttle.” Even abandoning their bed.

The season wraps up next week. Will Megan will be killed by a crazed hippie clan? Will we get any closure on the Rosen situation? Will Sally swallow her secret forever like a dutiful little WASP?

You’ve been on a soap opera too long,

Seth

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