Don Draper, PR convert?

Wow. I have to admit, I didn't want Sunday's episode of Mad Men to end because then that means that there's only one left and I'm going to go through serious Don Draper withdrawal.

Wow. I have to admit, I didn't want Sunday's episode of Mad Men to end because then that means that there's only one left and I'm going to go through serious Don Draper withdrawal.  I guess I can always watch the DVDs of the first three seasons, but that means I would have to buy them (hint hint AMC's PR department!).   

There were so many truly great moments in this episode that I could probably write a novel on it. However, because this is already insanely late and I'm currently writing this from a hotel room in Boston after our Healthcare roundtable (look for it in our December issue) I'm going to keep it brief and save the novel for next week's blog because that's when I can really get into it.

This season has been all about evolution and change, whether the characters like Don and Peggy, the agency, or even American society as it's entering the truly fun time of the 1960s ( I wasn't there, but I've heard…)Don's evolution is on full display in his interaction with Midge, his hippie dippy mistress from the first season. Now married and a heroin addict, you can see that what Don once found so alluring and interesting is now what literally repulses him, causing him to throw money at the problem, the same way he did with others in his life, such as Betty and his brother.

But Don's true evolution this season is most evident when you consider how far he's come since that the first episode of the season (titled "Public Relations" and the reason I started blogging about this show) when he didn't realize the power of PR, in the professional sense as it pertained to him being the public face of the agency. Then you have Sunday night's Don, who finally realized that he was the public face of the company and as such took out a full-page advertorial where he declared, in true egomanical Don Draper fashion, why he was "quitting tobacco". Never mind he didn't actually give up smoking. When Pete Campbell confronts him about making a move without the partners' knowledge, he snaps back:"I'm not going to explain to you what I did. It's an ad for this agency If you don't get that, then you shouldn't be in this business."

This episode was called “Smoke and Mirrors” and in a way I'm surprised that this title hadn't been applied to an episode earlier in the series, when Don Draper was still hiding from his true self. But I get it- this episode was all about perception—the perception of the entire advertising industry about the future of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Don's perception of himself. It was almost heartbreaking to see Don sitting there with the Heinz client, almost begging for the chance to work on the company's beans business. Beans! It was a far cry from his dramatic and poetic presentation to the Kodak client in the Season one finale. But that is what this season has been all about—taking the Don Draper that we all know and love (and hate) and completely turning that image on its head.  Such as during his conversation with Peggy after she suggests that the firm change its name to escape the stigma of being the agency that lost Lucky Strike. He replies that they haven't even been around long enough to do that:

Peggy:  You always say if you don't like what they're saying about you, change the conversation.

Don: To what? What they're saying about us is true.

Peggy: So there's nothing we can do?

Don: No, we sit here and keep trying and be creative .Because that's what we do: it's the most important, least important thing in the world.

I have to give Matt Creamer, former PRWeek reporter (I actually replaced Matt six years ago when he left to go to Ad Age) credit for putting into words what I've been thinking about for the past two weeks in his latest Mad Men recap for Ad Age. Last week's episode, where the partners scrambled around frantically—and somewhat desperately—to keep the agency's clients was so reminiscent of that scene in Jerry Maguire when the agents are scrambling to steal Jerry's clients and he's struggling to keep them. And then this week, when Don's doe-eyed secretary tells him that she admired his manifesto just continued that.

So, what do we think will happen in the finale? Will the agency survive? Is Joan's husband coming back from basic training? And most important, what show should I blog about next?!

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