[Production note: Previously on Mad Men Power Rankings, unless it was the one we skipped: Don has a hot tooth … No one wants Lane Pryce's office for some reason … The Ghost of Adam Whitman drops by for Bring Your Dead Sibling to Work Day … Megan books a commercial … Pete's mistress forgets about him.]
1. Don Draper
"What do I do?" the subject asked the photographer, unsure of how to behave in an office that had been temporarily rearranged to make a better backdrop for a shot, a better reflection of the brain behind the operation.
"Just do what you do," answered the photographer.
"Gimme a minute," said the subject, flicking open the lighter of a drunk soldier he'd helped to marry on a distant beach, which bore the inscription: IN LIFE WE OFTEN HAVE TO DO THINGS THAT JUST ARE NOT OUR BAG.
"What do you want?" asked the subject, now distracted and queasy from a flood of memories of the soldier from that beach, of the solider he once was.
And so the subject slipped back into the character of himself: vomiting out his guts at the funeral of his partner's mother, pitching a Sheraton ad campaign evoking the suicide of a salaryman seeking oblivion in the paradisaical Hawaiian surf, boning the wife of the heroic cardiac surgeon who made the terrible mistake of living in the same building as a handsome, granite-jawed ad executive prone to epic infidelities.
Don Draper is back.
Don Draper never left.
This season on Mad Men: Don Draper, being Don Draper.
Because what was he going to do, somehow be satisfied by a thriving business? A wife recognizable to soap opera–loving Minnesotans? A beautiful family in which the coal-eyed middle child no longer needs to be recast every eight months?
He's done the math. And he knows that the difference between a husband knocking on a door and a sailor getting off a ship — say, in Hawaii, with the tropical sunshine and the view of the ocean — is about 10,000 volts.
And he needs the electricity.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: The Doctor and the Leica
"You know, if I looked like you and talked like that, I wouldn't have had to go to medical school," says the doctor to the friend and neighbor so graciously giving him a whirlwind tour of his fancy new office, a tour that quickly terminated at a supply closet brimming with expensive client product.
"Please don't compare what you do with what I do," says Don, demurring.
"A part of me was hoping that head was empty."
Don grudgingly accepts the compliment, blushing. "Can't resist cutting people open, can you?"
"All right, enough with the flirting, where's my camera?"
Don disappears into the closet, emerging with a red box. "I think this is the best one." He extends the gift to the doctor, who regards both the box and the hand holding it with appreciation and awe.
"I don't know how to thank you … hey, has anyone ever told you how huge your hands are?"
"I mean, it's not so much the hands as the fingers. They're like enormous gourmet sausages jutting out of a catcher's mitt. They're quite something, I have to say."
Don feels the heat of the doctor's gaze on his hands, withdraws them.
"Hey, Doc, I think there's a better camera in here. Step inside for a second; let's find it for you."
"This one's fine, really." Don ignores him, ushers the doctor into the supply closet.
"Now what about my fingers?" Don closes the door behind them.
"They're … you don't want to say girthy; that's an inelegant word. More than big, though. Big doesn't do them justice."
Don holds a hand up in front of the doctor's face, his fingers dancing in the air like five fat cobras. "You like these, do you?"
"How do you even shop for gloves?" The doctor is mesmerized; he doesn't feel the other hand wrapping around his neck until it's too late.
"Look. I'm an ad man. I'm not a fucking lead miner. I don't create with these hands, as gigantic and magnificent as they might be. I create with my mind. Tell me about how big my brain is, Doc."
Don releases the pressure slightly. "It's big," he gargles.
"Is it girthy?"
"That's inelegant. But, yes."
Don releases him. The doctor slumps as his heels flatten against the floor.
"Enjoy your Leica. It really is the best one."
2. Peggy Olson
Ever since Peggy left the firm, we all suspected that she would one day become Don Draper, but did we think the transformation would occur so rapidly and so thoroughly? It was some combination of disturbing and thrilling to see her in her new element, dominating with the ease of vintage Don. She's learned a great deal from the master: how to respond in times of client crisis to save a campaign, how to motivate worshipful underlings through fear and intimidation, and how to take copywriters hostage over the holidays (insisting all the while that they're free to go, even when everyone knows they're sleeping on their desks until they die of exhaustion or the work is done, whichever comes first). The speech with which she dressed down her flailing charges could've easily been one she stole, word for word, from her mentor:
Those are three different versions of the same idea. If you can't tell the difference between which part's the idea and which part's the execution of the idea, you're of no use to me. I know what you're doing because I've been you. You're hoping this sparks my imagination and then you can say, wow, she's a genius, or say anything because you want to go home. You're walking over the same ground. When you bring me something like this, it looks like cowardice. You can split this because you're not going home.
And then she handed them a sandwich. A nice touch, but still Draperian in its message:
"That's what the meatball sub is for."
3. Roger Sterling
Perhaps the only words more giddy-making than "Roger Sterling takes LSD" are "Roger Sterling is in therapy."
But as fun as it was to see him on the couch, trying to break up his Freud because the Dictaphone that midwifed Sterling's Gold never once laughed at his jokes or gasped at the things Ida Blankenship could do with a pair of chopsticks and a plate of Vaseline-slathered marbles, we soon realized that even Roger might benefit from having this therapeutic outlet. The guy who couldn't cry at his own beloved mother's wake, and who claimed, over and over again, to "feel nothing," somehow wept explosively over the shoeshine kit of the just-deceased man who buffed his wingtips. So, yeah, he's got some issues to work through.
Perhaps next week they'll tackle why Joanie didn't show up at the wake. Or why she barely showed up at all in a two-hour season premiere. She must really be upset with him.
4. Betty Francis
Like Batman, Betty Francis returns for each new adventure outfitted with a slimmer and less cumbersome suit of armor. In fact, the latex work in these first two hours was advanced enough that trying to figure out where the Klump exoskeleton ended and the disaffected suburban housewife began, or if her story would somehow end with both hands trapped in Pringles cans while wearing a Reddi-wip bucket on her head, was no longer our prime concern.
That's right: Betty is finally free to be weird and awful on her own. When Henry innocently intrudes on her fascination with Sandy, Sally's violin-playing friend who wields the magical ability to make her feel things, Betty snaps, "She's just in the next room, why don't you go in there and rape her? You can stick a rag in her mouth, and you won't wake the boys." Whoa! Pump the brakes, Mrs. Francis, you're about one more living-room concerto away from trying to air-rifle-murder your husband for stepping on your creepy turf. Had those flophouse hippies been human traffickers instead of mildly anarchic goulash enthusiasts, Betty wouldn't have thought twice about swapping Sally for Sandy, forcing Henry to Neeson up the entire East Village to free his adopted daughter from their filthy, patchouli-stained clutches.
Still, this seems a huge parenting upgrade from previous seasons. At least she loves somebody, even if it's not her own flesh and blood. She's certainly not going to love Bobby. Bobby's never there long enough for any kind of durable attachment to form.
5. Pete Campbell's Sideburns
We suppose we're going to have to rank all the exciting new developments in Mad Men facial hair. Like the other parts of the Power Rankings, these are 100 percent correct and not in any way up for debate.
- Pete Campbell's sideburns: They are sideburns on Pete Campbell's head. End of discussion.
- Stan Rizzo's beard: Lush and perfect.
- Abe's Zappa handlebar–soul patch combo: Weasels ripped his flesh! Zzzzzzzzzzz!
- Sally Draper's eyebrows: A bold statement ignored by a distracted mother.
- Michael Ginsberg's mustache: Nope.
- Harry Crane's sideburns: In a later episode, Harry's going to remove his chunky new glasses and reveal these ridiculous sideburns are attached to them.
Disqualified: Betty Francis's "Elizabeth Taylor" dye job, for not being facial hair, and for being a silly knee-jerk reaction to a hippie's accusation that she's a bottle-blonde.
6. Megan Draper (a.k.a. 'Corinne')
Had this episode not ended the way it did (i.e., with Don backsliding right inside of Dr. Rosen's wife after the emergency breakup of their New Year's Eve fondue party), Megan's power-rankings fortunes would have been much, much brighter. Landing a part on a soap opera — especially one viewable all the way in Minnesota — is a huge leap forward in Megan's heretofore presumably misguided acting career. She's clearly a star on the rise; she begins the episode a one-scene player and ends it a "lying, cheating whore" who "radiates evil" and pushes Derek's mother down the stairs, an impressive feat for any daytime-quality actress plying her trade in "the stories." Don, however, has once again resumed his old, stick-it-in-the-worst-possible-place proclivities — a development hinted at in the closing moments of the Season 5 finale — and Megan is unlikely to endure his philandering as passively as Betty once did; for god's sake, she shared fondue forks with that woman.
Can Don compete with "Derek"? You get the sense he already believes he can't.
7. Sandy the Violinist
"She acts like she's 25 because she uses tampons." —Sally Draper.
Burn. But in Sandy's defense, as a mere 15-year-old Juilliard rejectee, she's already mature enough to know she'd rather sell her violin to buy bus tickets to California than wind up with Betty's life.
And Betty still likes her better.
8. Bob Benson
"Beloit College, Wharton MBA, Secor, Mohawk, Life cereal. Up in Accounts. We spoke at the Christmas party. You don't remember? Want a coffee? I always get two of them so that I can give both away. It's great coffee; people like me will always take a few extra steps for a superior product. Did I mention I have tickets to the Cotton Bowl? I do, all yours, say the word. I just love hanging out down here with all the creatives, it's such a — What's that? I should go fuck myself? Well, right on, right on. We'll talk soon. I've got some deli platters I need to get to the funeral home right away. No cards on them. Just something nice I do."
9. Dr. Arnold Rosen
This is the thanks he gets for bringing Jonesy the Doorman back from the light and skiing through a New Year's Eve blizzard to perform emergency surgery: Don Draper nailing his beloved on an ongoing basis. But, hey, he got a pretty sweet camera out of it already.
And a doorman who just won't let it fucking go. We get it, he saved your life, every new day is a gift. Shut up and open the door already.
10. Giorgio the Shoeshine Man
Sorry, Mimsy Sterling. If your death makes Roger cry, you make the list. It's a rule.
Not ranked: Joan Harris; Bert Cooper; Sally Draper; Bobby Draper; Gene Draper; Henry Francis; Sylvia Rosen; Kenny Cosgrove; Harry Crane; Michael Ginsberg; Burt Peterson; Teddy Chaough; Pfc Dinkins; Mona Sterling; those new copywriters; the British Sheraton guy's sideburns; the Hawaiian Elvis; Karen the soap fan; Peggy's beret; Lawrence; Phyllis Diller; Johnny Carson; a necklace of ears; the Jeff Hunter Agency; Aunt Hazel; secret paprika; Grandma Pauline; Brooks and Margaret Hargrove; the state trooper; the Super Bowl; Koss headphones; Moon and Zal; the Bloomingdale's kitchen store; poi.