‘Mad Men’ Review: “The Quality of Mercy”
‘Mad Men’ season 6 pitches its 12th and penultimate episode of the season, “The Quality of Mercy,” as Don causes an awkward situation for Ted and Peggy at work, while Pete finally uncovers the mystery behind Bob Benson, and Sally spends an experimental night at a boarding school in avoidance of her father.
Last week’s ‘Mad Men’ episode, “Favors,” saw Don look to find Sylvia’s son Mitchell a means to avoid the draft, while Sally discovered a shocking secret and Pete grew wary of his mother’s relationship with her new nurse. So what will the second-to-last episode of the season bring?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Mad Men’ season 6 episode 12, “The Quality of Mercy”!
Megan awakens to find Don sleeping in Sally’s vacant bedroom, and vastly hung over. After urging him to dial back on the drinking, Megan fails to notice Don boozing up his orange juice before urging him to take the day off. A short while later, Don watches TV when Betty calls to reveal Sally once again won’t spend the weekend, and wants to apply to boarding school. Elsewhere in Detroit, Ken Cosgrove goes hunting with two Chevy executives, who accidentally shoot him out of carelessness.
While the office workers groan about Peggy and Ted’s continued camaraderie, Megan arrives home to find Don looking much better. Harry interrupts to call from California, explaining to Don that Sunkist decided to go for TV ads after all, tripling their original billings, but Don reminds him they chose Ocean Spray over Sunkist. Megan tries to take Don’s mind off of work with a trip to see 'Rosemary’s Baby,' after which they awkwardly run into Ted and Peggy at the same show. Ted nervously insists they went as research for part of their new St. Joseph’s ad, but Megan slyly doubts it.
Pete finds Kenneth in his office wearing an eye patch, mentally exhausted but only minorly injured. With a baby on the way, Ken declares his intent to resign the Chevy account, as Pete offers to take it off his hands. Downstairs, Roger and Don explain the situation with Sunkist to Ted and Jim, who continue to press the two agencies' need to improve their working relationship, but agree Sunkist is the more lucrative offer.
Pete attends a formal meeting for Ken to step down from Chevy and place him in charge, though the partners insist on keeping Bob with the account despite Pete’s apprehension. Outside the office, Pete outright tells Bob of his disgust for him, though Bob ominously fires back that he should watch what he says. Elsewhere, Betty drives Sally to an interview with Miss Porter’s boarding school, while Sally remains reluctant to share her true reason for wanting to go away.
Pete calls Duck Phillips to find external job offers for Bob Benson, as we see Bob in his own office arguing over the phone in Spanish about Pete messing with his future. Downstairs, Don observes Peggy and Ted once again canoodling over casting, before they demonstrate for him the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’-inspired St. Joseph’s ad. Don privately notes to Joan that the casting will more than double the approved budget for the ad, something Ted has yet to actually tell St. Joseph’s.
After Betty leaves Sally at Miss Porter’s for an overnight stay, Sally’s roommates begin to turn on her and demand she help them procure alcohol and cigarettes. Back at Sterling Cooper & Partners, Pete once again finds his mother inappropriately visiting the office, and demanding her passport. Downstairs, Ted chides Don for sending over the expanded budget to St. Joseph’s without his knowledge, but Don insists he wanted to take the heat for Ted. Ted begs Don to help Peggy realize her brilliant ad regardless of the cost, and back him up at the upcoming meeting.
Glen Bishop and his friend Rolo sneak into Miss Porter’s at Sally’s invitation, bringing alcohol and marijuana. Meanwhile back in the city, Duck calls Pete late at night to reveal that Bob Benson forged much of his resume and education, and had in fact been a servant to one of the society connections he had pretended to represent. Back at Miss Porter’s, Glen and Andi leave Sally alone with Rolo, and Sally shuns his repeated advances. No longer comfortable, Sally retrieves Glen and reports her discomfort, to which Glen attacks his friend, to Sally’s amusement. Glen departs after Rolo leaves, as Andi observes that Sally seems to be attracted to trouble.
Peggy finds Don in the conference room for the St. Joseph’s meeting, after which their representative Byron and the other SC&P executives file in. Byron repeatedly rejects Ted’s requests to expand the ad budget in service of the work, before Don finally steps in and explains Ted’s true reason for pushing St. Joseph’s to be much more private. Tension fills the room, as neither Peggy nor Ted know what Don will say next, before Don finally claims that the ad was the deceased Frank Gleason’s final inspiration. Byron agrees to expand the budget to honor Frank’s memory, bringing the meeting to a close. Afterward, Ted demands an explanation from Don, to which Don presses that his affection for Peggy has clouded his judgment, and the whole office knows it.
Pete visits Bob Benson in his office and reveals that he uncovered his past, but Pete surprisingly agrees to keep the man’s secrets and end any squabbling between them, much as he had been forced to do for Don years earlier. Pete leaves a stunned Bob, and returns to his office confident in his play. Elsewhere, Betty drives Sally home and reveals that Miss Porter’s will accept her, before offering a cigarette. Betty reasons that Don must have given her beer before, to which Sally coldly fires back that her father has never given her anything.
Peggy finds that Ted left the office after learning she wanted to speak with him, to which she takes her frustration to Don’s office. Don insists he saved both of them as well as the ad, but Peggy believes he only wants to tear Ted down. Peggy calls Don a monster and storms out, leaving Don to curl up on his couch like we saw him at the beginning of the episode.
We have to admit, we had our doubts about 'Mad Men' season 6 given the questionable deeds of Don Draper, and the ongoing mysteries that appeared to amount to very little, but "The Quality of Mercy" delivered a thoroughly satisfying and cathartic hour that saw many of the season's setups firing on all cylinders. Not only do we have an honest explanations for Bob Benson, but Don, Peggy and Ted's ongoing conflicts are fast approaching a boiling point in the season finale.
Similarly satisfying to witness was the continued evolution of Sally Draper and the rich relationship between she and Glen Bishop, which surprisingly proves far deeper than an adolescent crush as the two continue to navigate their teen years with aplomb. It's incredible to think that years ago we saw Betty innocently sharing a lock of her hair with the creepy young child, placing 'Mad Men' leaps and bounds ahead of most TV series tracking the maturation of young characters.
And while Bob Benson's big reveal proves a bit less glamorous than the time travel and CIA theories bandied about in recent weeks, continually intriguing is Pete Campbell's response to the situation, taking unexpected measures to secure a bond with someone who may well prove a spiritual successor to Don Draper. If anything, Pete may have danced the Charleston right out of recreating Don Draper's path, and combed his path as the next Roger Sterling.
Did you get your fill of moving ‘Mad Men’ drama? What did you think about Sunday’s episode “The Quality of Mercy”? Check out all our other ‘Mad Men’ season 6 coverage here, and preview next week’s finale of ‘Mad Men’ season 6, “In Care Of” below!
(Good lord, that was dramatic.)