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'Mad Men:' On collaborators, Churchill, and 'The Collaborators'

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Megan Draper (Jessica

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) in " Mad Men" Season 6. Credit: AMC

Apologies for this late post on Sunday's interesting "Mad Men," titled "The Collaborators," but like you, I have had a lot else to reflect on than the latest Don Draper bed-hopping episode.

But in light of the tragedy in Boston, it's almost -- in an unexpected way -- bizarre that an episode, which revolved around a Winston Churchill quote, would air the night before.

Churchill: That great rumbling orator of finding the exact right phrase at the exact right moment of national fear, or outright despair. (What would he say now? Maybe: "It's no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary." But there are so many quotes to choose from.)

In fact, Sunday was about war and peace -- figurative, metaphoric -- but especially the dishonor that comes with the distinctive human need to avoid conflict, or paper over differences, or seek "common ground" when there is no common ground.

No! Sunday wasn't some stalking horse for neoconservative values -- but the lies that people tell themselves in the service of some immediate goal while sacrificing a  greater goal that can't possibly see or even understand.

What are "collaborators?" The word is an intriguing one when applied to the Overall Meaning of "Mad Men" -- but that only depends on which meaning you settle for, and I'm going for the second and more sinister: Cooperating with the enemy for a greater "good," or -- more realistically, self-preservation. Every story line Sunday had a collaborator - someone working with an enemy in hope of the favor or the hope of salvation or the hope of just getting through the night unscathed, or to walk through one metaphoric door with as little psychic pain as possible, which invariably means vital and even unforgivable compromises.

That's "Mad Men" all over. Just getting past that door, and doing whatever it takes to do that.

But Churchill -- back to him -- had a much broader view of human affairs. When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich, after agreeing to the annexation of Sudetenland, Churchill thundered,  "You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war."

Roger's dearly departed mother said the same thing .?.?.

Chamberlain -- and England, by association, and France -- were the "collaborators," in Churchill's  view, which ultimately proved to be the correct one. But how were Don or Peggy's collaborators Sunday? Let's sort this episode quickly, with old Winston as our guide .?.?. His real quotes, followed by "Mad Men" parallels.

"Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal."

Winny's speaking of Pete and Don here, of course, but especially Herb Rennett, who poked his snout back into Sterling Draper Sunday, with a demand that they adjust the media buy so that more money would go into local radio, thus gutting the national campaign. Pete, the ultimate quisling, went along with this, but Don -- and don't forget there are two Dons -- scuttled it with a brilliant rear guard action that demolished Herb's greedy and idiotic plan in front of the paying clients. The, Brits, got the final word on this. Herb went down in flames. Pete -- ending one of his worst hours -- did as well.

"We have a lot of anxieties, and one cancels out another very often."

Don at the door -- that metaphor for season 6 -- unable to enter. He  sat down, folded his head, in abject defeat. (Recall the door's keyhole through which the young teen Don had seen his pregnant mother more or less raped by an uncle .?.?.) One anxiety overriding the other. Don knows right from wrong -- but is unable, or incapable or uninterested in establishing a pattern of behavior that would favor one over the other. He is of two minds and two characters -- both collaborating with one another. The division is killing him, or briefly was at the close Sunday. Knowing Don, he'll get over it though.

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

Peggs got a hard lesson in marketing 101 Sunday night, when her boss Ted Chaough, who is always promptly out the door at 5, overheard her conversation with Stan about the ketchup account. Of course the crocodile pounces: Ted demands that Peggy betray Stan's confidence by going after the account. She -- presumably -- will do just that, friend be damned. Peggy has appeased the crocodile, but that won't work in the long run, will it? The question of whether SCDP should sacrifice Heinz Beans -- don't you love how "Mad Men" establishes moral quandaries around things like beans and ketchup? -- in favor of the lucrative ketchup account is quashed by Don, who takes the longer Churchillian view - leave with the dance with the one who brought you.

"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."

Certainly Pete's most brilliant achievement now squandered. Pete's greatest failure is to assume he is Don: To deploy a shabbily appointed New York boudoir ("the Campbell Apartment .?.?.") to bed a bored housewife. It's a pathetic arc begun seasons ago, and came to a head Sunday when we learned that Trudy had gone along with this all along! Another collaborator. All she had asked him was to be discreet! Instead, he was not discreet -- the battered woman arrives at their door, and Trudy begins divorce proceedings.

Let's end all this with one last Churchillism: "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." No one on "Mad Men" really changes at all, does one?

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