While the Vietnam War spirals out of control, the characters of "Mad Men" consider declaring war on one another in Sunday's episode, "The Collaborators."
Don is treating his sexual pleasures like business and his business partnerships as if they were romantic relationships. It is fitting then the big reveal about Don's past in this episode is that he grew up in a whorehouse, the ultimate intersection of business and sex. Now, he literally sees a whore when he looks at Sylvia, his married mistress, and even gives her money at the end of one of their liaisons.
Meanwhile, one of his agency's clients is acting like a scorned lover. "I would rather retire than watch the man screw my girlfriend," the Heinz Beans rep says of his Heinz colleague, the younger, flashier ketchup rep. After "Beans" introduces Don and the gang to "Ketchup" (as the ad men refer to them for the rest of the episode), he forbids Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce from working with him. Don is willing to oblige, telling Ken, "Sometimes you gotta dance with the one that brung ya." If only Don could offer that kind of fidelity to his wife.
Peggy, now a female Don-in-the-making at a rival agency, is flirting with betrayal. Her old SCDP buddy Stan tells her about the Beans and Ketchup debacle, and her boss Ted advises her to use it to woo Heinz Ketchup to Cutler, Gleason and Chaough. "He's not your friend, he's your enemy," Ted says, when she worries that Stan told her the story in confidence. "This is how wars are won."
While Peggy considers turning friends into enemies, the other women of "Mad Men" treat their enemies like friends. Don's mistress helps his wife, comforting Megan about her miscarriage. Pete's wife helps his mistress, who shows up at the Campbell doorstep, beaten and bruised by her husband.
While Megan is still in the dark about Don's affair, Trudy declares open war on Pete over his infidelity. "I will destroy you," she vows, if he defies her demands now that she has confronted him.
Pete's troubles don't end there. His client Herb, a Jaguar dealer, asks the partners to alter their ad campaign to his advantage, and perhaps at a cost to the national prestige of the brand. Don, perhaps affected by how Herb's presence upsets Joan (she slept with him at the partners' request in Season 5) subverts his request. He bungles the pitch in what Roger calls it, "the deftest self immolation I've ever seen," and Herb is furious that the Jaguar campaign will continue as is.
Justifying his actions after, Don asks an indignant Pete. "So we just keep saying yes, no matter what, because we didn't say no to begin with?"
"You know what this is? It's Munich," Don snipes, as Roger explains, referring to how the world ceded to Germany's demands in the lead-up to World War II.
"We gave the Germans whatever they wanted to make them happy. But it just made them want more," says Roger.
That is just the lesson Trudy has learned with Pete's latest affair. "I let you have that apartment – somehow I thought that there was some dignity in granting permission. All I wanted was for you to be discreet," she tells Pete, "I have never said no to you."
So who will be the next Mad Men character say no to another's demands? In all the guilt Sylvia is feeling about her and Don's affair, she appears to be close when A Draper-Rosen double date turns into a romantic dinner for only Don and Sylvia. With Megan home sick and Arnold called out to surgery, at first Sylvia refuses to play along with Don's flirtation. "Is that what's bothering you? That everything worked out perfectly?" he asks.
"And you enjoy how foolish they look," she snaps back.
But one steamy monologue – a sales pitch, really – by Don and she is back on board with the affair. She may even be the one wanting more, as she owns up to feeling jealous and frets about falling in love with Don.
And if "Just a Gigolo," the song that closes out the episode is any indication, it's Don who now feels like the prostitute.
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