There was a lot going on in this week’s phenomenal, beautiful episode of Mad Men, “The Strategy.” Beyond the fact that Megan has probably left Don, and that Don and Peggy have finally made up, there was an overlooked subplot in the episode that will have major repercussions for the midseason finale. It involves Roger’s meeting with Jim Hobart in a sauna, and a job offer that Bill Hartley told Bob Benson about. It’s a little confusing, but if we break it down, we can see potentially where the mid-season finale will take us.
Jim Hobart from McCann Erickson has been after Don Draper for years. McCann Erickson, in fact, tried to woo Don by hiring his then wife, Betty, as a model, and when Don declined overtures from McCann, they fired Betty. Earlier this season, when Don was meeting with another firm about a potential job, Jim Hobart let Don know again that he was still receptive to Don working at McCann.
In this week’s episode, Jim Hobart meets Roger in the sauna, and he mentions that he knows that Sterling Cooper is meeting with Philip Morris, but knows that it’s going to be difficult for them to land that account because of Don’s sour relationship with tobacco. Roger says, “You’re so lucky your problems aren’t my problems,” to which Jim responds, “What if I wanted them to be?” The insinuation was that McCann wanted either Don or both Don and Roger to come to McCann Erickson.
Bill Hartley is the Vice President of General Motors marketing department. GM also owns the Buick and Chevy brands. Sterling Cooper represents the Chevy brand and the XP (a GM hybrid commuter car that was developed, but never launched). Hartley tells Bob Benson that Sterling is losing the XP/Chevy account, but that Bob would get a very nice offer from Buick in-house (as an executive).
However, Hartley also says that Sterling Cooper’s “audition” for GM was a success, and as Benson tells Joan, “there’s something else coming down the road” for Sterling Cooper.
Here’s the rub: That “something else” might be Buick, or at least that’s what Jim Hobart believes. Roger believes that McCann Erickson is afraid that Sterling Cooper is about to take Buick away from them. And maybe they are? Maybe Benson’s job as an executive with Buick helps Sterling Cooper take Buick away from McCann. Or maybe McCann does lure Roger, Don (and hopefully Pete/Peggy/Joan) to McCann, leaving Cutler and Chaough to fend for themselves with Les Clark, the brand commander of Commander cigarettes at Philip Morris. This is the guy that Cutler is trying to woo, who — despite Don’s pitch a couple of episodes ago — may not yet be amenable to working with Don.
So, going into the midseason finale, there’s a lot of interesting possibilities but here’s what I think will happen: Don/Peggy/Pete are pitching to Burger Chef, although we don’t actually know yet whether Lou is going to accept Peggy’s fantastic “family” pitch. Should he decline to do so, and should he force Peggy to go with their original idea, Sterling Cooper may lose Burger Chef.
This might, in turn, align Peggy/Don against Lou (and there’s already no love lost with her and Ted Chaough) and with Roger hating Cutler, a break seems imminent. There’s always the possibility that McCann Erickson becomes McCann Erickson Draper and Sterling in the second half of the final season. Pete and Joan come along in accounts, and Harry presumably stays behind with Cutler, Chaugh, and the goddamn supercomputer.
Meanwhile, this allows McCann to keep Buick, takes Philip Morris out of the equation (which is for the best, anyway, because in 1970, Nixon passes legislation banning tobacco advertising on TV and radio) and maybe Peggy gets to pitch her idea to Burger Chef under McCann (and ideally, Peggy also lands the creative director position at McCann). Joan might also bring Avon along to McCann, and Pete brings his accounts, and Cutler/Chaough/Crange basically falls apart, allowing Don/Roger their comeuppance. Racist Bert Cooper, meanwhile, can go f**k himself.
Alternatively, Roger does snake Buick away from McCann, an offer that’s contingent upon Don’s participation. Cutler, with Philip Morris, gets in a showdown with Roger, with Buick, and a partner vote (Don, Joan, Pete, Roger vs. Ted, Cutler, and Bert?) comes down to newly elected Harry to make the final decision. He sides with Don, Lou is ousted for costing them the Burger Chef campaign, and Don/Roger win!