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“Well, one thing I certainly didn’t expect was for Mad Men to get sentimental in its old age” I said last night.

“I like it!” said one of the other people watching the penultimate episode of the first half of MM’s last season. “They certainly deserve it.”

I suppose they do, though it was almost jarring instead of sweet for an episode to feature both A) Don and Peggy slow dancing to “My Way” and B) those two plus young Mr. Campbell chowing down on burgers and fries exactly like one of the makeshift families “at every table” Peggy hopes to capture for her ad.

That new Burger Chef campaign, of course, is the gooey center of the episode’s sentiment. It’s classic Draper-Olsen: warm, inclusive, both nostalgic and hopeful, quintessentially American. You can tell why they call this one “The Strategy…”

Before that post-obesity-epidemic Edward Hopper moment, “The Strategy” concerns itself mostly with makeshift families showing their strain. Don and Peggy (and little baby Pete makes three?) are the minority of MM characters who grow closer, not farther apart, over the course of this hour. Cheeseburgers make a lot of things better, but not all things:

  • Welcome back, Bob Benson. Our man from Detroit has to bail one of the Chevy fellas out of prison after he’s arrested for homosexual solicitation. Yay, fun. Depending on precisely when this is set, we might be weeks or even days away from the Stonewall riots, for those keeping track. Bob learns that SC&P is about to lose its car account, but he could be moving up in the world. Sure wouldn’t hurt if he were a family man… Kudos to Joan for turning down his “arrangement,” though I was at first not sure she would.

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  • Megan is in New York, and for more than her summer clothes. I’m done guessing on this one, folks. I thought these guys were done-ski weeks ago, both in our timeframe and theirs, so while it seems that the second Mrs. Draper is preparing to dump Don for good (she wants them to meet on neutral ground), no bets shall be placed here. Maybe she really just wanted fondue.
  • Pete is not as happy with Trudy moving on as he is with his own new life. Condolences to Alison Brie for losing her wonderful day job on Community, but her Mrs. Campbell was always one of our Mad Women with the most going on upstairs. Will Pete be able to break fully with his old family? Unclear, but one thing you have to say for the guy: he loves smart women, even if he never appreciates them.
  • Is Jim Hobart trying to poach some SC&P talent? Things are shaky, with a lot of cigarettes and cars up in the air, and someone could easily come loose. Pete’s girlfriend Bonnie, as well, appears to be trolling the office in the event of leftovers. Harry Crane’s about to be made partner, which infuriates some and worries a few others.

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Which of these missed connections will find their home in the mid-season finale and which will have to wait for next year is anyone’s guess. I would postulate that we’ll see a professional victory for Don, just because I’m thinking Matthew Weiner and Co. would rather spend the show’s last seven episodes seeing what the character does when strong, rather than weak.

I’ll see you here in seven days, gentle readers, after we find out together.

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