Mad Men, Season 6, Episode 3: “The Collaborators”
Written by Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner
Directed by Jon Hamm
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on AMC
There is an undercurrent of war present in “The Collaborators,” exclusively in the scenes concerning infidelity. Pete flirts with his neighbors at a party and is struck with the news that North Koreans have taken captive a US ship. A moment of post-coital bliss shared by Don and Sylvia is interrupted by news reports of the Tet Offensive. Dr. Rosen engages Don in discussion of both events at dinner before he has to take a call, leaving Don and Sylvia alone together. Johnny Carson is interrupted by a report from Vietnam as Pete anxiously awaits Trudy’s return. It’s worth pointing out that both these events—the Tet Offensive and the Pueblo affair—involved countries violating treaties.
The most electrifying declaration of war comes courtesy of Trudy Campbell. “I’m drawing a 50 mile radius around this house, and if you so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you.” It hits with a force greater than the two punches we’ve seen Pete take to the face, and Trudy makes it clear she bore no illusions as to where the second originated. When Pete asks Don and Roger what Munich means, Roger responds with “we gave the Germans whatever they wanted to make them happy, but it just made them want more.” Pete says “Well who the hell won the war?” completely missing the point. Trudy is clearly the United States in the metaphor; Pete is Munich celebrating his own defeat.
Pete is continuing to become Don but without any sense of decorum. He happily laps up the swill that comes out of Herb’s mouth in the Jaguar meeting. Don refuses to shake his hand. His absolute revulsion of Herb, and the spectacular way in which he tanks the account, suggests that he still possesses some semblance of consideration for the people around him (Joan has only been given two scenes thus far this season, but her exchange with Herb is wonderful). This is despite the fact that he sees Pete’s sleeping with a neighbor, and raises it by sleeping with a friend of his wife’s that lives on the same floor of the same building. The editing in the dinner sequence is virtuosic, showing the actions that result from Don’s words at the very moment he utters him. Self-actualization as cinema. This is a man who knows what he wants.
But does he? He can’t bring himself to open his apartment door when he returns home at the end of the episode. His marriage to Megan seemed to originate from a place of sincerity, a legitimate desire to have what is best for his children, yet he still desires ethnic women with an intellectual bent. The Rachel Menkens, the Bobbie Barretts, the Sylvia Rosens. The flashbacks to Don’s time spent growing up in a brothel (alluded to in “Signal 30”) don’t serve to elucidate much relative to other forays into the life of Dick Whitman. The first merely puts a bow on the moment when Don hands Sylvia cash before leaving. The latter, arising at a moment when the former has long been forgotten, is so perverse it seems as if it belongs on Bates Motel rather than Mad Men.
Raymond from Heinz seems loathe to see his protégé advance beyond him, but by attempting to poach the ketchup account, Peggy seems to be on the verge of doing the same thing to Don. Her subordinates despise her, but she has her late night phone calls with a stoned Stan (I hope this becomes a regular feature from week to week). The degree to which she is hesitant to exploit them underlines just how meaningful they have become to her. Ted Chaough, in previous seasons nothing more than a thorn in Don’s side, continues to reveal himself as a better mentor than Don could ever be, leading Peggy into her own Tet Offensive. Things may be falling apart at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but the future looks relatively bright for Peggy Olsen.