Mad Men's Miracle Mets: The Mets pennant is a metaphor for Don's fate
Mad Men's Mets pennant represents Don's fate
SPOILER ALERT: If you watch Mad Men or have any intention of ever watching Mad Men, consider yourself warned that there are spoilers (though not necessarily major developments) contained in this recap. Read at your own risk.
The Mets were still in their infancy in May of 1965, drowning at the bottom of the National League standings. Casey Stengel's team opened its fourth season 8-15 and was 7 1/2 games back by Mother's Day. But that didn't stop Lane Pryce from falling in love with them. The Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce partner put an orange-and-blue Mets pennant on the wall of his office (first appearance is Season 4, Episode 6) after apparently taking a liking to America's pastime.
As the Mets struggled through 100-loss season after 100-loss season, that pennant stayed on the wall -- until it was prominantly featured next to Pryce's lifeless body after he hanged himself in his office. It served as a symbol of Pryce's fate. Like baseball's latest addition, Pryce was new to New York and equally doomed. He lucked into a deal as a partner, but was clearly in over his head. His personal life was in chaos as he dated a waitress at the Playboy club and tried to have a family on the other side of the pond. It's only fitting that he bowed out with a Mets pennant on the wall while the team was beginning a 61-101 1967 season. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner used the Mets and that pennant to foreshadow Pryce's eventual demise.
Flash forward to 1969: Don Draper is clawing his way back from the gutter, submiting himself to the rigor and whimsy that comes with being down and out among the eccentric and manipulative elite at Sterling, Cooper & Partners. After taking an interest in Peggy's career, winning countless pitches in the room, essentially staging a coup to stave off the agency's extinction and playing an integral role in the merger that briefly had the firm's letterhead looking like a crappy game of "hangman" (-1 for the cheap Lane Pryce joke), Don has been relegated to the lowly role of copywriter. He's been placed on Peggy's team for Burger Chef and he's rightfully angsty about it.
Now the firm's partners have banished Draper to Pryce's old office, where you can practically still smell the disappointment. When Don drops a cigarette and it rolls beneath a piece of furniture, he happens upon that trusty-dusty Mets pennant.
Sure, he throws the pennant out. But like the lighter in last season's premiere, the pennant doesn't stay in the rubbish bin for long because the Mets (and that pennant) serve as the perfect parallel for Don Draper's current position. Think about it: Ted and Pete, two of his former adversaries, left New York for the glamour and glitz of the West Coast, much like the Giants and Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Yankees (Sterling, Cooper & Partners) chugged along. Elite. Established. Notable. But also in a bit of a lull. The Yanks won it all in 1962, but wouldn't win another World Series until 1977, the longest such drought in the history of the franchise (at the time). And though the agency is surviving in Don's absence, they're not exactly hauling in whales like IBM or another airline.
Don's back, he's returned the Mets pennant to its rightful place on the wall behind the door and, suddenly, he's re-energized: drinking in the office and sending Ms. Olson a message by not doing his work. Draper is also apparently obsessed with the Mets. Just last season, he mocked the team with Dr. Rosen. Now, he's calling Freddy to invite him to Shea for a day game and performing a rendition of "Meet the Mets:"
And his obsession is that much more fitting because, it seems, his fate is directly tied to New York's second baseball franchise. Luckily for Draper, after a plebeian beginning to the 1969 season (Gil Hodges' club started 18-22 and was nine games back at Memorial Day), the Mets turned it around and rattled off 11 straight wins in June to right the ship.
If that wasn't enough to hint at big things for Dick Whitman in Mad Men's next episode, consider the Pryce/Draper connection once more. As Draper sits in Pryce's old office, typing (presumably) at the same typewriter the Brit used to draft his resignation letter/suicide note (which, by the end of the episode, is moved to the exact place in the room that Pryce kept it), Matthew Weiner plays us to credits with a hit from the English rock band, The Hollies. It's title? "On a Carousel."