This penultimate episode of season six carried no insignificant amount of sexual intrigue and office melodrama. Sally Draper turns down her first brush with a boy, Pete reacts with his usual ongoing contempt to Bob Benson’s gay advance from the previous episode. Peggy and Ted also repeated the past by allowing their work marriage to become to open and apparent, and Don, the most lecherous of them all, ambushed them for it.
“The Quality of Mercy” opened with Don in fetal position in Sally’s bed, a reminder of her knowledge of his infidelity (finally). Megan makes the audience feel his guilt and worry by being as nice as she has ever been, almost willfully ignorant to her husband’s numerous affairs. She takes him to see a matinee of Rosemary’s Baby where they run into Ted and Peggy, who try in vain to cover for this seemingly lurid encounter. Don realizes that this sighting allows an opportunity to fully defy Ted’s objections of conflicting new business, and allows Harry to push forward with Sunkist.
Meanwhile, the Chevy executives almost kill Ken once again, and he vows, wiping his tears from behind an eye patch, to never return to Michigan. Pete agrees, with fake reluctance, to take Cosgrove’s place. “Crocodile tears, how quaint!” Burt remarks. Ironically enough, this colossal piece of new business does come with a detriment to Pete, because he is forced to work with Bob Benson, who offered a homosexual male nurse to Pete for his mother as a partial feeler for a romantic attempt at Pete himself. Pete, ever the blue-blooded creep, was disgusted twice fold by his colleague, and tortures him with a background check that proves his identity is just as fake as Don’s.
“I don’t know how you people do it,” Pete snarls, an ambiguous jab at Bob’s fake identity, which could have also been perceived a homophobic comment.
Don also subjects his office enemies to torment. After one too many public canoodles between Ted and Peggy, Don, Pete, Joan, and at least three different secretaries are visibly judging the two for their all too touchy-feely work marriage. Peggy and Ted put on a little show to describe their Rosemary’s Baby-inspired, comically racist (typical Mad Men) copy for St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Ted has wide eyes already, but they are especially moony for Peggy, and this original idea of hers, so much so that he let auditions go over budget by $35,000. Don instigates an inevitable meeting with St. Joseph’s to address this budget breach, and in the meeting he makes it seem like he is referring to Ted’s crush on Peggy as the “personal reason” for this aggressive production on the ad. Don then pulls the rug from under them by claiming it was the late Frank Gleason’s last idea. The St. Joseph exec is diffused, Peggy is once again getting her credit robbed, and Don waits until after the meeting to fully chide Ted for being in love with Peggy. He walks out victoriously. He too has let his male instinct get the better of his business acumen, but he does it behind a poker face, and closed doors.
Betty takes Sally to visit a prestigious boarding school. Later that night she invites naughty girls over, who in turn, invite two boys to sneak in, one of which is a slick-talking Glen, the apparent candidate to Sally’s first kiss. They drink, smoke a joint, and Glen leaves to fool around with another girl, Sally is stuck with the other boy, whose efforts to man handle her into making out are rebuffed. Glen defends her honor by tussling with the skelly boy, and they leave. In this moment of Sally’s young adult life, Glen looks cooler and more desirable than ever. On the ride home Sally tell Betty that “My father hasn’t given me anything.” Sally rewards her for her “good” behavior at the school (and this anti-Don comment, really) with her first cigarette. Parents just don’t understand, or do they?
With all of this closure in a neat box, it seems imminent doom will rear its ugly head at the season finale next week. Sally is seen reading Rosemary’s Baby in the last episode, but that is more than just a early primer to this episode’s plot point. Don is seen reading Dante’s Inferno in the first episode of the season. Character’s reading lists are often super significant in foreshadowing. Will there be a death next episode? Or will there be some sort of hell or demonic influence?