9:41 pm: Don Draper's downward spiral concludes tonight! It's lucky episode 13 of Mad Men's sixth season, and what better way to finish up the year than with Don's hubris bringing about his ruin. OK, probably not, but we can dream. This season feels unfinished, with so much time spent reinforcing the concept that, yes, Don Draper is still a philandering drunk. Meanwhile, Ted Chaough, the bright star of SC&P, keeps getting pushed to the background. Ted is the future! Of course, the "future" in Mad Men is the 1970s, but still.
Tonight's episode description is four words long: "Don has a problem." First, Don has many problems, plural. His drinking? His declining creative talent? His drinking? Second, will Don ever solve his problems? The creators of Mad Men have enabled Don's conduct by making his agency successful, despite their Season 4 near-bankruptcy and the embezzlement of one of their name partners in Season 5. There is zero chance that SCDP or SC&P would succeed in real life, but there's also zero chance that Don Draper would tolerate Megan Draper in real life, either.
What do I want tonight? I want Ted Chaough to take over SC&P. I want to see him in pitches, building on the advertising discussions that made Mad Men great. I do not want to see anything with their home lives. Just focus on work, power through Season 7, and cut in for 90 seconds an episode to watch Don play out his Leaving Las Vegas destiny. There's still time to make Season 6 great. Let's hope for the best!
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9:43 pm: Before Mad Men's season finale on AMC, there must come The Killing, which we're watching now. The Killing on AMC has featured a teenager assaulting a police officer with no repercussions. Also, the opening minute featured rain in Seattle. For those of you new to The Killing, it takes place in Seattle, where it rains every hour of every day.
9:50 pm: Bullet, The Killing's loudmouth teenager with a heart of gold, to the police officer she assaulted: "I wait where I wait."
9:53 pm: The officers on The Killing found a torture victim. This is somehow less disturbing than Megan Draper's acting.
9:56 pm: Everyone Tweeting about Skywire is hoping that it finishes before the start of Mad Men.
9:57 pm: On the plus side in The Killing, the victim's mom just learned the identity of her daughter's killer. On the minus side, the mom's boyfriend is the killer. Win some, lose some…
9:59 pm: It's time! Mad Men is on right now!
10:00 pm: The new SC&P logo is very trendy, in a 1960s way. Please note that it's about to turn into the 1970s.
10:01 pm: Don Draper, re: Los Angeles: "It's like Detroit with palm trees."
10:02 pm: Roger Sterling turns down the opportunity to fund his daughter's husband's refrigeration company. Remember this plot line? Like, from a few episodes ago? It had potential, but didn't really go anywhere? Yes, that storyline.
10:04 pm: Don Draper, re: Hershey's: "I love Hershey's." Chocolate!
10:04 pm: Roger Sterling, re: Detroit: "It's all fun and games until they shoot you in the face." True then and true now! Also, this applies to Don's line earlier about Los Angeles.
10:05 pm: Megan tries to limit Don's drinking before dinner. This must be the problem in the episode description. OK, seriously, Don's identity may be revealed because of some Sally something. I was paying attention until Megan started talking.
10:07 pm: Sally Draper has to testify about the burglar, which is somehow going to lead to Don's identity being discovered. Maybe Don gets arrested, and that's how he leaves the series?
10:08 pm: Don, re: Richard Nixon: "Nixon's the president. Everything's back where Jesus wanted it."
10:10 pm: Don is now in jail, as he punched a minister while drinking midday in a bar. It's absurd that Don would punch anyone, let alone a minister. Why is a minister in a bar at midday? Oh, let's not ask why.
10:11 pm: Pete's mother fell off her cruise ship. Can one "fall" off a ship? Wouldn't one need to "jump" off a ship to "fall" off a ship?
10:12 pm: Commercial break! So with the NBA done and hockey on Monday night, what should we watch during the commercials? There's the Confederations Cup replay on ESPN2, but we've already watched it. The Bionic Woman is on something called Cozi TV. So, The Bionic Woman it is.
10:15 pm: Hey, Carrie Brownstein is an American Express spokesperson! I recognize her from Portlandia and not from music, as I do not listen to music.
10:16 pm: Back to the show! Don looks dirty, but he comes clean to Megan about his night in jail.
10:17 pm: Don tells Megan that he (a) has a drinking problem and (b) wants to move to Los Angeles. Nip/Tuck tried to move to LA in its last seasons, but it never transitioned well. Also, drinking problem!
10:18 pm: So, Don's going to move to LA. Sounds good to me! He informs the partners and walks away.
10:19 pm: Pete, re: Don's move to LA: "Honestly, I have bigger problems than this."
10:20 pm: So, it looks like Pete's mom married Manolo (Bob Benson's referral/love interest?), and then Pete's mom "fell" off the boat.
10:21 pm: Peggy is trying to flirt with Ted (because she saw Ted's wife at work), so she does some stuff that would embarrass her father, President Josiah Bartlet. She looks like she's trying too hard.
10:23 pm: Pete disgusts the Chevy guys because he can't drive a stick shift. I'm not sure why that's relevant. He's there because he's good at selling products, not because he's a good driver.
10:25 pm: Local commercial break! We're getting a series of local bank ads here in Boston. Some of these local banks are still offering adjustable rate mortgages. Didn't we agree as a society to stop doing that after 2008?
10:27 pm: Back to the show!
10:28 pm: Peggy's flirting worked! Ted is waiting outside her apartment when she returned from her failed date.
10:29 pm: Ted, to Peggy: "I don't want anyone else to have you." That's pretty convenient when you're married.
10:29 pm: Oh, wait a minute. Ted says he loves Peggy and that he's going to leave his wife. So, that's his line when he's at Peggy's apartment. How about when he returns home?
10:30 pm: Betty Francis calls Don and lets him know that Sally's been suspended from school for buying alcohol. Don calls Betty "Birdie," which annoys Megan, since it's a lover's nickname. Maybe this is where Megan starts probing into Don's cheating ways?
10:31 pm: Nah, Megan's not that gal. She's too trusting.
10:32 pm: Ted and Peggy are in bed. See, this is why I like Ted over Don. Ted cheats on his wife with intelligent women like Peggy, while Don just cheats with anything that moves. Ted is the mature version of Don.
10:34 pm: Ted goes home to his wife, apparently without showering. Regardless, Ted's wife doesn't notice Peggy's Chanel No. 5.
10:35 pm: Pete returns to New York a defeated man. He has been kicked out of Detroit by the Chevy team.
10:36 pm: Commercial break! It's a great commercial break, actually. Nationwide discusses its 1964 ad campaign, which gave it the tagline, "Nationwide Is On Your Side." That's over 50 years with the same great slogan. This is the first custom Mad Men commercial I've seen in some time, and it was worth it. Great job, Nationwide!
10:39 pm: We're back!
10:40 pm: Ted Chaough tells Don that he also wants to go to California, and that he'd like to take Don's place in California.
10:41 pm: Here's why Ted wants to leave — he feels guilty about cheating on his wife with Peggy. That's another reason that Ted is a better person than Don, since he feels guilt. Of course, Don is more effective than Ted at the whole lying thing.
10:42 pm: Ted to Don, re: Peggy: "I need you to help me put 3,000 miles between me and her."
10:43 pm: To counter that whole "Ted is a good guy" theory of mine, Ted encourages Don to have a drink before the Hershey's meeting.
10:44 pm: Don tells the Hershey folks about his wonderful father who bought him scores of chocolate bars. This is untrue. Ted couldn't lie like this. Don's tagline: "Hershey's is the symbol of love."
10:45 pm: Don corrects his lie with an abundance of truth. He tells the Hershey folks that he "grew up in a whorehouse." But he still connects it to Hershey's by talking about the Milton Hershey School, a school for orphans that's still around today. Hershey's has transitioned from love to the orphan's one daily escape.
10:47 pm: Ah, there goes Ted Chaough off the show. Don allows Ted to take his place in California, tells Roger Sterling that he doesn't care about blowing the Hershey's meeting, and leaves.
10:48 pm: Why did Don feel compelled to relate any personal story about Hershey's at all? Don brings too much of himself into his pitches. It's not professional. The message should stand on its own.
10:49 pm: Commercial break! A reminder: tonight's episode goes until 11:05 pm.
10:52 pm: Local commercial break! There is an actual election on Tuesday for the U.S. Senate, which may be decided by a good 15 percent of eligible voters.
10:53 pm: We're back!
10:54 pm: Pete is with his brother regarding his pursuit of her mother's killer. However, his pursuit stops when a discussion about the costs of the investigation starts up. Pete and his brother love money more than family. At least Pete's character has been consistent since Season 1.
10:55 pm: Ted visits Peggy in her office and breaks up with her. His line about why he needs to move to California: "I love you that deeply." Peggy is a sad Olson-with-an-O.
10:56 pm: Oh yeah, this whole Don staying in New York decision? He completely didn't bring it up with Megan. She is somewhat upset that she quit her job, so she's threatening divorce.
10:57 pm: Megan to Don: "You want to be alone with your liquor, your ex-wife, and your kids." Well, at least one of those points is true.
10:58 pm: Don to Megan: "I love you." And Don's truth train has left the station.
10:59 pm: Hey, Megan wants to divorce Don. We all win!
11:00 pm: I guess Pete's going to California, too, so hopefully this means that Ted will remain on the show part-time at least. I will miss Pete.
11:01 pm: Don's about to get fired! Well, fired-ish. The SC&P partners have asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence to get cleaned up. Apparently, the partners finally caught up with Mad Men Seasons 1-5 on Netflix.
11:02 pm: And Duck Phillips is apparently going to replace Donnie D at SC&P! Replacing a drunk with a drunk…what a strategy!
11:03 pm: Don Draper celebrates his indefinite leave by taking his children to the brothel where he grew up. On Thanksgiving, by the way.
Final Score: Ted Chaough wins the season! He merged his little firm into the SC&P behemoth, had a dalliance with longtime crush Peggy Olsen, and still gets to keep his family intact as he moves to beautiful Los Angeles. He's a rising star, though sadly, he will probably rise in Season 7 as a part-time cast member from Los Angeles.
Don Draper loses the season, but will have enough time to rehabilitate before Season 7. He has finally been held accountable for his drinking, if not his cheating, but that's enough. Did Don's drinking lead to his risky behavior? Would he be a cheater if not for the alcohol? Yes, Don had a traumatic upbringing, but many other children face that behavior or worse. Almost all of those kids turn out as upstanding regular citizens, not identity thieves and drunks. Regardless, there will be enough of a gap in Mad Men years between Season 6 and Season 7. Don will spend the off-camera time in 1969 working on cleaning up his act, then be back at the firm at full force by Episode 1 of Season 7. It would be more interesting to see his actual rehab, but SC&P only works as a premise with Don Draper as a character.
Thanks for joining my live blogs for Season 6 of Mad Men! See you for Season 7 in 2014!
– Mike Hall (@mrhall)