The article below contains spoilers for "For Immediate Release," the May 5, 2013 episode of "Mad Men."
There were so many choice lines in "For Immediate Release" that it's hard to pick a favorite. There were Marie Calvet's (Julia Ormond) barely disguised French-language insults aimed at the woman with whom they were sharing a table ("Do you want me to break that bottle over her head?") and Bert's (Robert Morse) requests for a celebratory brandy or "spirits of elderflower," neither of which Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) had. There was Ken's (Aaron Staton) description of running into someone you know in a compromising place as "mutually assured destruction" ("It's why I don't worry about the bomb") and Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) saying of the plan to merge his agency with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce that "I want to make this clear -- unless this works, I'm against it." There was Joan spitting at Don (Jon Hamm) that "Just once I would like to hear you use the word 'we,'" and there was Don telling a shocked Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) that they would be coworkers again by suggesting she write the press release to "make it sound like the agency you want to work for," as if the time she spent under him hadn't been both formative and difficult for her, as if she hadn't left for a reason.
It's at work on something that interests him where Don's happiest, even if he's carelessly twirling the future of SCDP around his finger like a set of car keys as he does it, and "For Immediate Release" did a lovely job of showcasing why negotiating for an account is where Don's in his element and why he can be such a pain in the ass to work with. The underlying arc of this episode, from the opening scene of Bert, Joan (Christina Hendricks) and Pete meeting with the banker, was one of their attempts to take the company public without bothering to inform Don, who'd likely shoot the plan down simply because he doesn't need the money himself and would rather work without having to answer to investors.
That capacity for self-regard can also be one of Don's more magnetic qualities, as seen in that scene at the bar where he and Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) practice their pitches and console each other about the fact that Chevy's probably going to take their ideas and hand them over to one of the larger firms better staffed to handle the job. Don's suggestion that they combine forces, an inconsiderate and frankly reckless thing to do without consulting their partners, was a head-slapping moment but also a brilliant one, a solution to their both getting pushed out of accounts by bigger rivals that ended up involving seismic shifts. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler, Gleason and Chaough have become one company -- SCDPCGC? Where will they move now? And will there be a staircase for Pete to storm and stumble down?
But Don was really there, having seduced Peggy's boss before she ever had a chance to. While Abe's (Charlie Hofheimer) talk about imagining where their children would grow up was enough to spur Peggy to buy a fixer-upper in the not-yet-gentrified Upper West Side, the reality of living in a rougher neighborhood has been running her down and proving how bohemian she isn't. The kind, courtly, appreciative Ted has been providing her with a pleasant mental escape from the slog -- when she imagined him in her bed after they shared a kiss, he was reading the delightfully vague "Something by Ralph Waldo Emerson." Peggy, like Don, longs for a romantic and work partner in the same person.
Pete gambled and lose, and Don gambled and won, but things could have gone either way. And what made "For Immediate Release" work so well, beyond the much-needed energy it brought to a lethargic season, is the way it summed up what Faye Miller (Cara Buono) told Don back in season four: "You only like the beginning of things." That's proven sometimes painfully true for our hero, but here in the wooing of a new account for a car so cutting edge no one's gotten a look at it yet, he's irresistible and awful, sometimes at once.