Well, that was a send-off, wasn’t it? Bert Cooper, Sterling Cooper’s co-founder and benign connoisseur of Japanese culture and modern art, died peacefully after viewing man’s first walk on the moon — only to reappear, in Don’s office hallucination, for a brief, perfect musical number. (I watched it, for the first time, in open-mouthed joy. The second time, I cried. This show really gets to me sometimes.) It was particularly sweet if you happened to know that 83-year-old Robert Morse, who plays Bert, is an old song-and-dance man (whose big Broadway hit in the ’60s, “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” shares a setting and themes with “Mad Men”), but even if you didn’t know that, I suspect that number might have felt just right. “The moon belongs to everyone,” sang Bert, with a bevy of secretaries swirling around him; an appropriate song for an episode in which the moon landing brought everyone together, in (mostly) wonderment and awe. And note, as he sang to Don, the song’s penultimate line: “And love can come to everyone” — a lyric that, I hope, is a hint of what might happen in the series’ final episodes next year. Farewell, Bert. Love the socks, love the hankie, love everything. Hope you’re waltzing with Miss Blankenship, somewhere.
With this episode, “Mad Men” pauses; this is the end of the first half of Season 7, and we’ll have to wait until next spring for the second half. It was a busy hour, with plenty of takeoffs and landings. Peggy, despite having no liquor (ha!) in her hotel room, gracefully handled a last-minute hand-off from Don, and delivered her own version of “The Carousel” from Season 1; a delicate, perfect pitch that she seemed to be making up as she went along. (Surely she wasn’t; it’s a trick she learned from Don. And, how sweet were her scenes with Julio; it’s rare that we see Peggy — whose child would be about the boy’s age — being maternal.) Roger, shaken to his core by the death of Bert, suddenly became an adult and a leader, crafting a plan to save Don’s job and the future of what was once just called Sterling Cooper. (He’s saving it, Roger notes accurately, from the fate envisioned by Jim Cutler — who would reduce the firm to just “Harry Crane and the computer.”) Megan, with a few moments of eloquent silence, ended her marriage. Sally — and, oh, how many of us gasped to see how grown-up Kiernan Shipka suddenly looked (and how like Betty she looked, smoking) — listened to a surly boy, then kissed a sweet one. Joan, whose disloyalty to Don has been a hard pill to swallow this season, suddenly sparkled when it looked like she just might get rich. (Joan’s no gold digger, but she’s been getting so little character time lately that we have to keep reminding ourselves where she comes from. Raised by a single mother — and now herself a single mother — Joan has a fear of poverty that drives many of her actions. Note, for example, that she’s still living in the same modest apartment, though clearly she could afford something nicer now.) Harry, once again, missed the boat.
And where was Don left? He appears to be, from his actions this episode and last, a changed man. Rather than thinking purely of himself (the old Don Draper would have killed that pitch in the Burger Chef meeting), he did the right thing and handed the job to Peggy. On the night of the moon landing, rather than getting morosely drunk alone; he joined his colleagues around the television, then affectionately called his children. He recognized what Megan was saying in her silence, and let her slip away, promising to take care of her if she needs it. (We know he’s good for that promise; remember Anna Draper.) And he recognized what Roger was offering him — both a handshake and a lifeline — and took it, gracefully.
So, Don’s professional life and parenting life seem to be in good shape — but will love come to him, later this season? In the form of someone we already know (Dr. Faye? Joan? The lady on the plane earlier this season?), or somebody new? Who else will we lose, and who will we see in a new light? Will “Mad Men” enter the ’70s? I can’t wait. And what did you think of this episode? Does this seem a good place for a pause?