"Mad Men" viewers know all too well: Nothing on that show happens by accident.
Creator Matthew Weiner is incredibly meticulous about what appears on screen, leaving fans to dissect every last shred of dialogue and every tiny costume detail, hoping to unearth clues as to what's coming next. And they have good reason to do so: Lane Pryce's tragic suicide last season, for example, was heavily foreshadowed in the episodes leading up to his death… if you knew what to look for.
Since a new (and crazy) theory about Don's young wife Megan has been circulating all over the web today, we're taking a closer look at the five biggest "Mad Men" theories still in play out there, and estimating the chances that they'll actually come true.
(1) Megan Draper will be murdered like Sharon Tate.
We thought there was something odd about Megan lounging on the balcony in this white T-shirt with a red star on it at the end of this week's episode. (Macy's product placement, maybe?) But it turns out that actress and Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate was once photographed wearing the exact same shirt. And "Mad Men's" costume designer Janie Bryant confirmed the connection on Twitter:
Tate was murdered by members of the notorious Charles Manson family in August 1969, about a year after where we are now on "Mad Men." Like Megan, Tate was a young, beautiful, up-and-coming actress, and she was married to film director Roman Polanski, who helmed "Rosemary's Baby"… yes, the same book Don's daughter Sally was seen reading last week. (Cue the creepy "Twilight Zone" music.)
Now we're not sure Megan will be brutally murdered by a drugged-out hippie cult like Tate was. But the escalating threat of crime and violence has definitely hung over this entire season. The Drapers' condo got ransacked by an intruder last week. Peggy accidentally stabbed her boyfriend Abe, after he was already assaulted in their crime-ridden neighborhood. And we could barely hear Don and Megan's conversations this week over the police sirens blaring outside — the soundtrack to the summer of 1968.
Will Weiner put an exclamation mark on this season of barely-contained chaos by killing off Don's wife? Or is a different crime of passion on the horizon? Keep in mind: Don's affair with downstairs neighbor Sylvia is still a secret, and Sylvia said if her husband Dr. Rosen ever found out, he would "murder us both." We can't help thinking that something terrible is going to happen to someone in Don's world by season's end.
Chances It's True: 20% Megan getting murdered; 70% someone getting murdered.
(2) Bob Benson is a spy/journalist/serial killer/Don's illegitimate son.
Who the hell is Bob Benson? (Or "Bob Bunsen," as Roger calls him?) We've been asking that all season long, ever since "Lone Star's" James Wolk debuted as the firm's always-chipper account man. We don't know what Bob does at the office, or where he came from. All we know is he's brown-nosing his way to the top, smooth-talking his way into Joan and Pete's good graces… and maybe even Joan's bed.
But there's evidence Bob is not quite who he says he is. He told Ken in the season premiere that his father was dead, but he told Pete this week that a nurse had helped bring his dad back to full health. Is that little slip a clue that Bob is really a con man infiltrating the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for his own gain?
Theories on Bob's true motivations are all over the map, with different camps insisting he's a spy from a rival advertising firm, an undercover journalist researching a piece on the inner workings of Madison Avenue, a sociopathic killer with designs on Joan, or even Don's illegitimate son from his Dick Whitman days. (That's a bit of a stretch; Wolk is only 14 years younger than Jon Hamm, although we did just see Don/Dick lose his virginity at a very early age.)
All of these notions make for great message-board fodder, but we're still leaning towards the most likely explanation: Bob Benson is just a ladder-climbing kiss-up who'll tell people whatever they want to hear in the moment to win their trust. No matter where he's coming from, we can all agree on this: The man knows where to get a damn fine cup of coffee.
Chances It's True: 25%. But it's still fun to speculate, isn't it?
(3) The Chevy account is Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's Vietnam.
This theory comes to us thanks to Slate, who laid out the many parallels between the unwinnable war the U.S. military was waging in Southeast Asia at the time, and the unwinnable war Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is waging to satisfy Chevy's executives.
Last week's "Mad Men" was rife with Vietnam allusions: the copywriters getting amphetamine injections to stay awake and keep working on the Chevy account (just like soldiers in Vietnam did); Stan standing like a prisoner in front of a firing squad and getting gored by Ginsberg's X-Acto knife (in a pose that recalls a draft-dodging Muhammad Ali on the cover of Esquire); Don's rousing but ultimately hollow calls to action. And Ken says that Chevy is insisting on a three-year calendar of monthly deadlines, giving the impression of a long and exhausting slog with no end in sight.
Also, know this: The "top-secret" Chevy model the firm is working on promoting? It's the Chevy Vega, which started out as a hot seller in 1970, but was exposed as a lemon of epic proportions by the end of the decade. So even if the firm "wins" the account, they haven't won much. Sound familiar?
Chances It's True: 80%. Like most things on "Mad Men," the Chevy account will most likely end in dashed hopes and crushing depression.
(4) Peggy will create the iconic Virginia Slims ad campaign, "You've come a long way, baby."
We're still rooting for this one to come true, although it's getting a little late in the game. In the Season 5 finale, Peggy receives her first assignment at her new firm: Come up with an ad campaign for a new women's cigarette from Phillip Morris. This was in mid-1967, a little over a year before Virginia Slims hit the market with the famous tagline, "You've come a long way, baby."
It'd be a great professional victory for Peggy to craft that campaign, and a fitting parallel to her own rise from timid secretary to self-assured career woman in just six seasons. But alas, we haven't heard a peep about Virginia Slims this season, and the brand went nationwide in September 1968, just a few months away from where we are currently on "Mad Men."
There's still a chance that Peggy could work her magic and pioneer a new front in the women's-lib movement. But it's looking about as likely as a Peggy-Abe reconciliation at this point.
Chances It's True: 10%, down from 90% at the end of last season.
(5) The series will end with Don Draper plunging to his death from a skyscraper.
This is probably the most pervasive "Mad Men" fan theory of all: that the silhouette we see tumbling in the show's opening credits is actually Don Draper, and he will fall to his death in similar fashion in the series finale. But we're hoping this one is dead wrong, and here's why.
First, it would fly in the face of Matthew Weiner's strict anti-spoiler policy to reveal how his show will end in the credits every week. Second, we've always taken the opening images as a metaphor for the loss of control Don (and the '60s white male, in general) felt as the country's culture shifted so rapidly around him, not as a literal prediction.
Third, we've seen enough suicide on this show already, with Don's half-brother Adam and Lane Pryce; we can't imagine Weiner going back to that dramatic well yet again. And fourth, it'd be an unprecedented bummer to have the show's protagonist off himself in the finale… although we wouldn't put it past Weiner to end things on a dour note.
We'll need to wait at least another year to see if this one comes true. But after six seasons of rich, multi-layered storytelling, we can't imagine "Mad Men" ending in such pat, predictable fashion.
Chances It's True: 2%. And if it is, we'll eat our fedoras.
"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 10 PM on AMC.