Mad Men has already thrown a plethora of unexpected twists and pivots at us this year, but has one more hour at its disposal to see if it can top itself even more outlandishly. One can only hope the season 5 finale, “The Phantom”, will join the ranks of “The Wheel” and “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” as another finale to end all finales.
I’m terrible at guessing what happens next in any given show. Like all other failed prognosticators, that never stops me from trying. I may look weird keeping a book by my side while I watch, for something to occupy my time during commercials or sex scenes, but rest assured I’m otherwise paying attention, keeping mental tabs as best I can with my aging memory, and harboring my own half-baked theories about what ought to happen next. Fortunately, whatever happens is usually much more stunning.
Momentary pause here for courtesy spoiler alert before I proceed. If you’re not caught up through the June 3rd episode “Commissions and Fees”, or if you just don’t care, your exit strategy should be executed right about now. Please allow me to have you escorted to safety by this authentic 1960s artifact, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
And now, on with my false prophecies about “The Phantom”:
* With Mrs. Pryce left behind in surprise financial dire straits, Pete offers to buy her green Jaguar as a gesture of charity, albeit for a song. For some reason the car starts just fine for him. Pete spends his long drive back to the suburbs with all the windows down, the radio cranked up, and imagining himself a Real Man. Halfway home he’s pulled over for doing 80 in a 25 MPH zone. The Jaguar is impounded. Pete is not happy.
* The funeral is a somber yet extravagant affair. With Lane’s overseas colleagues all declining to attend and Mrs. Pryce unable to speak, Don steps to the podium and delivers a eulogy that was written by Megan in about six minutes on the back of a funeral program. It is the Greatest Eulogy of All Time. Pete fumes with envy.
* A suddenly lucid and desperate Roger proposes to six different women: the twin models who witnessed his heart attack, Peggy’s brash friend Joyce, Don’s receptionist Dawn, his ex-wife Mona, and li’l Sally. We have to wait until next season to find out which one said yes. Pete overhears Roger’s end of the phone conversation, then stomps away muttering like an angry child about how he wishes he could go out and remarry every two years.
* Two months into her new job, Peggy is flourishing as a creative force at Cutler, Gleason & Chaough. Shockingly, Ted Chaough has proven not to be a lech. She later attends a business mixer with one of CGC’s major clients, the life insurance company that employs Pete’s commuter buddy. She has a chance encounter with Pete’s one-time fling, Mrs. Commuter Buddy, who’s attending the party dutifully with her husband. Casual small talk escalates into a tearful confession. Peggy somehow puts two and two together from the scant clues, makes a beeline for her old offices, kicks Pete right in his Campbell Soup Cans, and exchanges strained pleasantries with Don on her way out. Pete cannot breathe for the rest of the day.
* Don rehires previously laid-off copywriter Danny Siegel (Danny Strong) to handle the Jaguar account for him while he himself, emboldened by the Dow deal, decides go after a bigger fish than Jaguar: the great and powerful Rolls Royce. Don is convinced that their Phantom series (we have episode title!) is Where It’s At. By episode’s end, Don can’t close the deal without Megan’s help, but she refuses because of auditions and ambitions and such. The chase proves to be just another Dulcinea that teaches us the real “phantom” is the fleeting nature of happiness or business success or absolute manhood or whatever. Pete’s only moment of joy in the episode occurs when he realizes Danny is the first adult male he’s ever met who’s punier than he is.
* Betty and Henry have a mild argument or something. No one cares.
* Ed “the Devil from Reaper” Baxter calls Don, tells him he has some nerve!, and awards him with Dow’s business. All of it. After a series of fake meetings and fake intense arguments, Roger formally announces Ken will be handling the account under extreme duress, but totally solo due to fictional client mandates. Pete’s blood boils.
* The bigwigs at Heinz announce they’re so in love with the work that Michael Ginsberg and Stan Rizzo have done for their baked bean ads, they’re moving all of Heinz’ other accounts to the firm, including Big Catsup. Pete finds an excuse to leave the meeting abruptly with his face red and hot steam whistling out his ears, even though this subplot has virtually nothing to do with him.
* Trudy puts on the frumpiest dress she owns and announces she’s pregnant again. She wonders if perhaps they’ll need to move into a larger house even farther away from Manhattan, possibly as far as western New Jersey. Pete responds by climbing to the top of a water tower, wielding the trusty rifle that he obtained years ago in exchange for a duplicate chip-‘n’-dip set, and begins firing indiscriminately at innocent passersby. He doesn’t hit a single live target, but shatters the window of a beauty shop, where the bullet destroys a Clearasil display. Pete’s father-in-law is not happy. After he runs out of ammo, Pete throws his emptied gun at Trudy (missing by a wide margin), slips off his perch and onto the ground. The authorities toss him into a paddy wagon and wave him off. Our last sight of Pete is him clawing at the windows and frothing at the mouth. Trudy is later consoled by her new neighbors, Troy and Abed.
* The firm name is changed to Draper Sterling Cooper Harris. Pete’s head explodes.