Mad Men Power Rankings, Week Seven: 'What Are You Laughing At, Cadillac?'
In the 48-year history of Movieline's Mad Men Power Rankings, never have we been confronted with a week with so many plot twists, power plays and sweaty go-arounds in need of evaluation. Indeed, last night was a sleepless one, spent alternately staring at the ceiling and tossing side to side, strangled by bedsheets rendered as menacing as draft-dodging, pill-proffering hitchhikers by our restless mind, as we tried to make sense of all that transpired on Sunday. After the jump, the results of our struggle:
1. Don Draper (even) Last week: 1
As we all remember all too vividly, last week's episode was quite neatly summed up by Joan's waiting room wisdom: "One minute, you're on top of the world. And the next some secretary's running you over with a lawnmower." Oh, for the simpler days of mere lawn-tractor-based mutilations! This week's summary could be no less complex than, "One minute, you're about to bed the hot teacher, close the Hilton account, continue to string along your bosses with your air of calculated unavailability, and possibly wind up in the middle of a drug-fueled three-way with a couple of hitchhiking teenagers. The next you're being cold-cocked by some punk who keeps calling you Cadillac, getting blackmailed by the boss you thought you had wrapped around your finger, savaging your talented copy girl for no good reason, being called on the carpet by your dependably passive wife, and, perhaps most gallingly of all, watching in horror as that horny teacher's knees snap shut after your transparent come-on reveals you're just another bored, booze-soaked suburbanite looking for an easy lay." Indeed, quite a mouthful. Perhaps Joan disappeared for a week to practice delivering that line.
And yet Don Draper still sits atop our Power Rankings. Indeed, there was something undignified enough, unsettling enough, in seeing a black-eyed Draper awake in that motel room, among strewn bottles, a bed freshly messed by his assailants, and a lighter wallet, to seriously consider a previously unthinkable drop to number two. And the impulse to downgrade Don only grew stronger as Bert Cooper gut-stabbed him with his fountain pen and blackmailed our staggered hero into signing that three-year contract in his own bourbon-fortified blood. But in the end, even after that drug-induced visitation by Pappy Whitman, Don's woman-soft hands, those hands that make nothing but grow bullshit, were somehow still clinging to the top ranking. He'll emerge from this week smarter, stronger. Resolute. You can bet that the next time Don picks up a couple of horny kids in the middle of a self-pity bender, he'll ravage the both of them to the point of death, ditch the bodies in a forest in Bedford Falls, then assume their identities, ultimately living as both unknowable, haunted man and suspiciously lantern-jawed wife in a Canadian border town a stone's throw from Niagara Falls. Maybe he'll open a general store. But he'll be still selling something. And still on top of the rankings.
Don Draper Fingerbang Threat Level: Dangerously Low.
For a while there, it seemed almost inevitable that one of Don's myriad antagonists would wind up on the business-end of a good, firm, power-reestablishing fingerbang, squirming with a mix of pleasure and distress as Draper tried to put his suddenly collapsing world back in order, one deeply penetrating knuckle at time. Would Connie be the victim for daring to upbraid Don in his own office sanctuary for arriving to work fifteen minutes late? Or Betty, for getting all uppity about the man-business of his contract? Or even Roger, for calling up Betty behind his back and emboldening her to interfere with his contractual power-play? It could have been all of them.
But it was none of them. By the end of the episode, it was as if Miss Farrell -- whom a few short weeks ago was practically begging to become a forgettable notch on his rapidly splintering bedpost -- slipped one of those eclipse-viewing cardboard boxes onto Don's head, and while his vision was impaired, kicked him in the groin, then invited over all of Draper's swarming nemeses to take their own pokes at the staggered alpha-male, cackling with glee as his once-feared digits flailed in the air, impotently searching out orifices to invade, to dominate.
This was not Don's finest fingerbanging moment.