There are some people who seem to lead absolutely charmed lives, for whom everything and anything just happens to work out. Things fall into their laps. They get by with finesse—everyone knows someone like this, someone to whom everything comes so easily. You probably hate him.
Don Draper, as much as he’d like to believe it, is not one of these people. His years as Dick Whitman were no cakewalk, and as much as he’s tried to forget them and move on with his life as the smooth-talking ad man who can (literally) charm the pants off of any woman he wants, things don’t always come easy to him—even though he expects them to.
In fact, the first two-thirds of “For Immediate Release” felt too easy. Don throws a tantrum and fires Jaguar after Herb plans on bringing on his own copywriter. When the rest of the agency finds out the next day, they’re livid: Joan yells at Don, reminding him that he only thinks of himself and pointing out that she whored herself out to Herb for nothing. Pete’s so beside himself, as this blows the agency’s chance at going public for $11 a share, that he falls down the stairs (and yes, there’s already a GIF of that moment, in case you needed to relive it). But Roger strolls in to the very same partners’ meeting and reveals that, thanks to his airline worker girlfriend Daisy helping him poach leads, he’s landed a meeting with Chevy about their new mystery car. Well, that worked out. Lose one car, get a new one the next day. Don doesn’t bat an eye, and he starts brainstorming with his team immediately.
Things are seemingly easy for Don on the homefront as well. Megan confides to her mother that she feels Don slipping away, and Marie’s advice is that she should throw herself at him, so she does. Lucky Don. His wife notices a growing distance between them (due largely to his infidelity), and instead of sitting through some tough state-of-the-union conversation, he gets more sex. It’s a quick, short-term fix, though—the easy way out—and it’s likely to blow up in their faces sooner or later.
That’s the same feeling we get with the final third of the episode, where we see that Don’s hubris has led him to expect a certain level of ease in everything he does. He runs into Ted Chaough from CGC at a bar in Detroit the night before his Chevy pitch. Ted’s got his own problems—his partner Frank Gleason has pancreatic cancer, and all the emotions that revelation stirred up inspired him to kiss Peggy. Ted laments the fact that smaller agencies like CGC and SCDP always lose out to the bigger ones when it comes to accounts like Chevy. Don’s skeptical at first, but he winds up commiserating, saying “I should just let Chevy buy my brain and put it in a jar.” The two former rivals swap pitches before ultimately deciding to team up. Together they win the account, and later, without telling anyone besides Peggy—they decide on a merger. Hey, it’s the easy fix for both of their problems: Ted needs a new cranky partner to balance out his cheeriness now that his old one’s dying; Don needs more resources and a way to make everyone forget about that whole Jaguar thing. And the Mad Men writers needed a way to get Peggy and Don back in the same agency. Everybody wins!
Only we know it won’t be that simple. Peggy knows it too—the deep sigh she let out after being asked to write a late-night press release announcing a merger that was approved by no one spoke volumes. She’ll now be serving as copy chief for a man she’s maybe got a thing for—that Ted fantasy sequence was cheesy, but it lays the groundwork for what’s sure to become a complicated work scenario—and her former mentor whose working relationship with her is dysfunctional at best. Oh, and everyone at SCDP who was already mad at Don for doing whatever the hell he wants without consulting anyone is completely in the dark about this move as well. Strap in, folks. This one’s not gonna be easy.
-”You don’t care that I want you.” “I’ve taken note of your efforts.” Oh Pete and Trudy.
-”There’s poop on the stairs again.” “An animal must’ve gotten in.” “Nope, it’s human.” Oh Peggy and Abe.
-Herb’s wife Peaches stole the dinner scene with her hilariously dull attempts at conversation.
-Despite being in the throes of a midlife crisis, Pete’s childishness still shines through, like when his retaliation to his father-in-law pulling his Vick Chemical account after running into him at a brothel is to tell Trudy about her dad’s indiscretions. Hey, it’s Tom’s fault, right? “You just pressed the button, Tom. You blew everything up.”