Mad Men Power Rankings, Week Five: "You're An Honest Guy. Believe Me, I'm An Expert."


It was an evening of new arrivals, anxious dads-to-be, and comely elementary school teachers begging to be the next notch in a certain ad man's fedora band. It was, to be sure, a good evening. So join us, if you will, for another installment of our Mad Men Power Rankings:

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1. Don Draper (even) Last week's rank: 1

With Sterling Cooper temporarily devolving into an unbearable, petty shitshow of expense account audits, Don's forced to mentally check out for a while, doing his best work in the waiting room of the hospital where Betty's about to deliver his third attempt at starting over as a satisfied family man. No, in a time of stress and worry, Don's perhaps not the first person we'd turn to for genuine comfort, as seductively rock-solid as he'd like us all to believe he is. But expectant dad and correctional professional Dennis Hobart didn't have much choice, as his only waiting room company was with a certain smooth-talking guy with a lot on his mind. After Hobart shared his fear that he might lose his girl to childbirth and resent his newborn baby boy over it, Draper pitches a line he'd probably been saving for Maytag's high-speed washing machine account: "Our worst fears lie in anticipation." Thanks, pal. All better. When Dennis opens his wife's issue of Good Housekeeping a few months down the road and sees a worried housewife anxiously awaiting the 50-percent-faster return of her kid's mud-stained overalls from the Maytag's agitator, he'll remember this heartfelt moment you shared. In return, the prison hack offered this chilling insight into Sally's future: "Just yesterday I was in 'A' block. and I thought every single one of these animals, their mother had them, and they were a baby, and I think there they are, on the other side of the fence. And you know what? Every one of them blame their mom and dad."

"That's a bullshit excuse," returned Don, perhaps a little too quickly.

"It's true, Don," answered Dennis, and we're damned if we didn't think we saw Sally's blood-streaked face flash on the screen for an almost imperceptible moment. Nah... But hey, does the Manson Family have a minimum age for membership? Oh, just asking. No reason. Really.

Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Penetration Imminent!

Ah, there she is, right in the first scene. We knew that Matthew Weiner, having lingered on the fingerbanging gun above the mantle back in Week Two by showing us Don's gentle stroking of some blades of grass while Sally's teacher cavorted around the Maypole, was just setting it up to go off later in the season. And that blunderbuss of digitally administered pleasure is about ready to fire its grim payload teacher-ward any moment now. Especially when that elementary-school seductress, Miss Farrell, shows a bit of bra strap, discloses her daddy issues, and drunk-dials Don to apologize for carrying on about Grandpa Gene's sad demise. Soon, Don will subtly encourage Sally -- perhaps through perfectly timed emotional neglect, perhaps with a less subliminal directive to do bad -- to take another poke at Becky Pierson, prompting another parent-teacher conference. (Betty, of course, will be home with Baby Gene.) And while Sally endures a time-out in the coat closet so that Daddy and Miss Farrell can talk about her continued naughtiness, her father will be hoisting the teacher upon the arts-and-crafts table, lifting her floral-print skirt, and getting down to business. The camera will pan first to the misshapen clay ashtrays and inept, barely representational finger-paintings now scattered on the floor, then to Sally in that dark closet, sobbing just loudly enough to drown out the moans of pleasure from the classroom, but quietly enough not to distract the adults from the messy grown-up business that seems to involve a lot of strange moaning and pounding of table-tops.

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2. Roger Sterling (up) Last week: 4

It's a good thing Roger Sterling doesn't have access to Don's patented, space-age finger-blasting technology, or he might have buried his hand in Pete Campbell's crotch and heaved the sniveling weasel taint-first out of an open window for daring to breach the "Urban Question" with the Admiral Television people. Roger, in rare, pitch-perfect form, bellowed, "Let me put it in account terms. Are you aware of the number of handjobs I'm gonna have to give?" Then: "I'm gonna have to pretend I had you killed! ... I don't know if anyone's ever told you that half the time this business comes down to 'I don't like that guy.'" Rog, so good to have you back. And next time, just have him killed. Ken Cosgrove (unranked, again) will do the deed for a nice prime rib and a vodka gimlet.

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3. Peggy Olson (down) Last week: 2

A raise, Peggy? Really? Look. We know that you fancy yourself a city girl now. You've moved to Manhattan. You've bought your mother an expensive television set to lessen the blow of breaking her heart. You toke weed. You occasionally engage in casual sex. And yes, you are paid less than men who do inferior work. Like Harry. Like all of them. Indeed, you are a Modern Woman. We could, and maybe we will, at some point use you to sell premium girdles to other underappreciated gals like yourself, perhaps with the tagline, "We support you." Or maybe a filtered cigarette, "Taste progress." But right now a raise is not going to happen. Listen carefully: Don't push your luck. Now is not your time.. There's a secretarial pool full of well-manicured girls out there who'd claw out your eyes to make that additional 70 bucks a week, smoke a little reefer with the boys, and prey upon intellectually inferior college dummies at the bar. Remember that. Bide. Your. Time.

Oh, and guilting your boss about how much he seems to have is not the best tactic. You try prying the fork out of Bobby's sticky hands when he's in the middle of his third attempted round of 'Let's See What Fits In The Electric Outlet!" and then you can talk about how wonderful his life is.

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4. Sally Draper (up) Last week: 5

Her powers are growing. Soon, she'll be able to slaughter an entire grade-school science fair with her mind, watching with dead-eyed satisfaction as the blood of her victims pools between the shiny planks of the gym's hardwood floor and their drained bodies pile up amongst crude, baking-soda-fueled volcanoes. But first she's got to practice some more on Becky Pierson. "Save some for the fish"? Is that the best you've got, bruiser? See how funny it is when Sally's stuffing a tankful of the third grade homeroom's goldfish down your fat throat.

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5. Pete Campbell (down) Last week: 3

Roger Sterling really didn't need to yell at Weasly Pete about handjobs. Pete Campbell knows from handjobs, OK, Roger? His right hand's still warm from where he had to grip Ho Ho Clark's manhood while awkwardly cradling the idiot's pelottas-sack in the hooked basket on his other hand. Flog him in front of the Sterling-Cooper-Pryce tribunal if you must, but know that Pete Campbell's willing to do what it takes to service a million dollar account. And his ideas about exploiting that underserved urban TV market are genius, even if the Admiral team has "no interest in becoming a colored television company," like Bert said, hilariously, cluelessly. Just ask Hollis the Elevator Operator! Oh, hold on. He has an RCA. But still.

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6. Betty Draper (up) Last week: 8

In her hospital bed, on the verge of delivery (her water never breaks, by the way, Um, perfect.) Betty sat back, then muttered to a nurse, "Demerol, take me away!" And take her away it did, to a magical land of parent-haunted maternity ward hallways, enchanted forests, and patronizing childhood memories. And at the end of the episode, her pleasant, pharmaceutical-induced trip now over, there she was, in bed next to Don, with a mewling newborn beckoning from the nursery. And so it begins, again.

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7. Joan Holloway (even) Last week: 7

Was Joan even in this episode? The only thing we remember is glimpsing her in a slip, showing a little of that gasp-inducing cleavage, in the "scenes from next week" clips. And that's enough to keep her from sliding down a spot. More than enough, really. The Queen's not afraid to play that particular card if that's what it takes to stay on top.


8. The Demoral Caterpillar (up) Last week: unranked

Oh, hello there, little caterpillar! You're so...green. And delicate. Here, lay down in my hand for a minute. You're my only friend, do you know that? You get me. Daddy left me, telling me I'm a spoiled housecat. Mommy says to shut my mouth or I'll catch flies. You never say anything mean to me, little caterpillar. You know I'm special, and I have things to say. Stay with me forever, OK? I'll bribe a nurse to slip me some pills if that's what it takes for us to be together, little caterpillar. I love you.

9. Miss Farrell (up) Last week: unranked

As we've already discussed, we're probably going to be seeing more of Miss Farrell in the coming weeks. So sad, so vulnerable, so ready to push the Threat Level into the red. Just watch out for that Sally, she won't be happy about what you're doing to her family.

10. Duck Phillips (up) Last week: unranked

Hey, look who's back, all hot for Pete and Peggy. It's Duck! Nice turtleneck! But Duck, come on. You had to know that Petulant Pete was going to demand his own lunch to listen to your pitch. Buy him off with a nice Cobb salad next time. And if you really want to close him, claim that Grey is a no-handjobs workplace. His hand is so very, very tired.

On the bubble: Hollis the Elevator Operator Last week: unranked

If only he'd bought an Admiral instead of an RCA, he might've crept into the Top Ten. Regardless, an unlikely friendship is born between elevator guy and bigoted, entitled account exec who wants to treat each ride like a free focus group.

Entering: Eugene Draper

Well, looks like Betty won the baby-naming battle. Or rather, Don let Betty win the baby-naming battle, knowing he's going to need some leverage when he apologizes after getting caught with Miss Farrell in a week or two. Smart play, Don, as always.

Not ranked this week: Bert Cooper, Ken Cosgrove, Paul Kinsey, Harry Crane, Bobby Draper, Admiral Televisions, RCA, Janitor Gene, Medgar Evers, Kansas City's jazz scene, Becky Pierson.



Comments

  • bess marvin, girl detective says:

    When, not if, Miss Sally Draper wins this whole shebang, please use the freeze shot of her with blood on her face.

  • nojo says:

    And here I thought it was a slow episode. Can we declare a moratorium on childbirth scenes?

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    “Our worst fears lie in anticipation.” -- Isn't this what Sal Romano told the London Fog dudes (quoting Balzac or Hugo or someone like that)? You know, in that prior episode in which Sal's fears lie in anticipation of Don's blabbing?
    I think Miss Farrell is so far on the edge that seeing Jack Kennedy's head explode is going to make her try to inhale one of Sally's dry cleaning bag-toys.
    What was with the freaky look Don got from Dennis Hobart when he was pushing his wife down the hall the next day?

  • academy screamer says:

    In Mrs. Hobart's lap was...nothing. If the Hobarts were leaving the hospital, I'm thinking her childbirth didn't go as well as Nurse Lisa Simpson first broadcast. That was the cause of Dennis' despairing expression.

  • Zoe says:

    Betty and her freaky hallucinations should be ranked way higher. What have you got against her anyway? Roger's barely in the damn show.

  • blake42 says:

    Or, as Sepinwall astutely observed, perhaps his promise to Don of becoming a better man had already failed and seeing Don reminded him of the fact.

  • KC says:

    I don't think anything happened to the Hobart's baby because both mom and pop Hobart had smiles on their faces as they went down the hall. It was only as Dennis spotted Don that his smiled faded to concern. I agree with Blake42 that probably he failed to keep his promise... Maybe he went to see that underage candy-striper after visiting hours were over!

  • np says:

    I think they were setting up a postpartum depression thing with Betty, no? From her delusional rantings in the delivery room about how she can't do it, to that final shot of her pausing in the hallway, clearly not wanting to go in and take care of the screaming infant, with the shadow of the vaulted ceiling cutting across her, as the music from her dream began to play again... not really giving the impression that happy times are in store for Mrs. Draper..

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    Maybe Betty should be ranked higher, but [whispering] unfortunately I think she's played by the weakest actress in the show.

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    Interesting -- but they didn't have any stuff with them, either, so I just assumed they weren't leaving, but had been visiting the nursery. I think it might be the reminder of having promised Don he would be "a better man." It seemed more a guilty look than a grieving look.

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