Have you noticed how the penultimate episode of the season is usually depressing as hell? If not, consider yourself sufficiently prepared. Don runs into Midge (Midge!), and after they trade catch-up stories, she invites him to dinner to meet her husband of convenience, "Harry," whom she calls a "playwright" but is actually kind of a pimp, as Don quickly deduces that Midge only tracked him down to try to sell him some of her art, and that Harry would gladly see Midge throw in some sex to seal the deal. Also, Harry and Midge are both heroin addicts, and Don pityingly buys a painting from her for all the cash he's got on him. Fun subplot number one.
Sally is making a real effort to get along with Betty, even though in private, she tells Dr. Edna that Betty doesn't care what the truth is as long as Sally does what she says, and Dr. Edna expresses her pride that Sally is managing to behave despite all the anger she feels, and adds that Sally hasn't done anything wrong. Dr. Edna tells Betty that Sally is doing well enough that she feels comfortable reducing her sessions to once a week, and then, after Betty bitches about Henry for a bit, once again tries to get her to start therapy of her own, with the same negative results. Things go downhill when Betty catches Sally with Glen, whom she's been seeing platonically but regularly, and when she tells Henry she's ready for the family to move out of the neighborhood as a power play against Sally, Sally breaks down. Fun subplot number two.
Don surreptitiously meets with a Heinz guy, but he's let down in a big way when the guy won't commit now because he's afraid SCDP won't be around in six months. Despite all the brouhaha about professional ethics last week, the SCDP higher-ups meet with Faye's boss (from the Christmas party episode), who strongly urges them to find a cigarette company to replace Lucky Strike – specifically, Phillip Morris, who's rolling out a new brand for young women and with whom he can arrange a meeting. Everyone's all smiles in public, but later we get a montage of everyone panicking, with Pryce even saying that they've only got a month before they won't be able to afford everyone's full payroll. Things go from bad to worse when Faye's boss shows up with the news that the meeting has been canceled, and adds insult to injury by unwittingly parroting the "maybe in six months" line the Heinz guy gave to Don.
In the wake of this disappointment, the partners confer, and Pryce tells them he got a bank to offer six months worth of credit if each of the partners would kick in a small fortune -- four hundred grand total -- and also with the condition that SCDP drastically downsize. When Pete tells Trudy about the financial obligation necessary to retain his partnership, she flips her lid and expressly forbids him to give anything more to the company. Don desperately searches for inspiration in Midge's painting, which is granted to him, and he ends up writing a scathing ad, run in the Times, about how the loss of Lucky Strike represents a welcome new era for SCDP – they will no longer accept tobacco business on moral grounds. The ad gets all kinds of attention and seems to rally the morale of some of the rank and file, but the partners are incredibly pissed off that Don apparently ruined their business, with Bertram even quitting in a fit of pique. (Not sure where that leaves them with respect to the hundred grand he was supposed to contribute.) Don calls Peggy in and lets her know who's going to be fired (Danny is predictably the only one we know or care about), and she in turn playfully expresses her appreciation for what he did. An unanticipated and unfortunate effect of the letter, though, is that Faye will no longer be working with SCDP, as her boss is unwilling to turn away future cigarette business, but Faye chooses to see the glass as half full and focuses on the fact that she and Don can pursue their personal relationship without complication. Before she leaves, though, Peggy, clearly bummed at losing a career woman role model, tells her how great she is at her job and that she'd like to keep in touch.
In the end, the partners minus Bertram have a fractious but somewhat hopeful meeting in which Roger reveals that the American Cancer Society is interested in working with them, but this potential good news does nothing to stop the scheduled firings. Pete then goes to Pryce with hat in hand, saying he doesn't have the required money, but he's shocked to hear that Don paid his share. And I thought Pete might have demanded this from Don given what he's done for him, but the show gets extra points for doing it this way.
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John Slattery directed this episode, and I have to tell you I find it a big improvement directorially from his last effort. Really pretty seamless here and not overtelling the story. Speaking of which:
We open with Don telling a Heinz guy that no one at his company knows about this meeting. And look, they're not going to, because while the Heinz guy is looking to revitalize sales of Heinz beans (he does not work in ketchup, which is the big moneymaker these days) while avoiding such jingles as "Beans, beans, the musical fruit," he is thoroughly unconvinced that SCDP will still exist in six months, and as such is unwilling to move his business there at the moment. Don practically begs, even offering a discounted commission, but that only makes the Heinz guy, not unsympathetically, respond, "I bet I could get a date with your mother right now." Given Don's late mother's line of work, there are many possible replies to that, but none of them is going to land the account at the moment, so let's move on...
...to Betty calling Sally and Bobby for dinner. When she arrives, Sally asks if she can make Gene desist from banging a spoon against a metal pot, but Betty tells her that will only result in him screaming, and given that unpleasant choice I have to admit I'd stick with what we've got at the moment. Sally then asks her why they never eat with Henry, and Betty tells her first off, he works until late, and secondly, he and the kids don't eat the same food. Sally offers to try new food, prompting Betty to focus on her and ask if she'd like to eat with the two adults. Sally says yes, and Betty, pleased, offers to think about it, which I suppose means "run it by Henry whenever the heck he gets home." Still, it's a nice moment between mother and daughter, don't you think? Seems like it would take the interference of some horrible hill creature to ruin it!
Faye's boss, "Geoff Atherton," is telling the SCDP execs that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that their first and last order of the day is getting new clients, no matter how small, not only because their billings have been cut in half but also because soon, they'll be perceived as stagnant, "or worse, decaying." Roger lets him know that they're aware of the dire situation, thanks, so Jeff makes a recommendation -- since they're such experts in servicing cigarette companies, they should attempt to find a replacement for Lucky Strike. "You are a certain kind of girl, and tobacco is your ideal boyfriend." Apparently willing to torture the metaphor, Don asks if he can get them a date, and Jeff, apparently not as sensitive to potential breaches of professional ethics as his co-worker, tells them that Phillip Morris is introducing a new brand for young women, and they're interested in having a new agency on board for it from the word go. It's only close to five million in billings, but it's a start, and Geoff can get them a meeting, which apparently no one else has. Everyone expresses their eagerness to pursue this...