‘Mad Men’ shocker: Will Robert Morse break Emmy curse?

There was a big surprise in the “Mad Men” episode that ended the first half of its final season:  Robert Morse has suddenly emerged as a real contender to win Best Drama Guest Actor.

What did you think of ‘Mad Men’ finale? Debate the surprise twists in our forums

At this point, it’s no shock that Morse is at least a contender for a nomination. He has already earned four bids as ad agency founder Bertram Cooper, but he has never been a strong contender to win, because the nature of his role – veteran ad man tossing off occasional one-liners for one or two scenes per episode – has never lent itself to showstopping Emmy submissions.

That may have changed Sunday night. In the “Mad Men” mid-season finale, “Waterloo,” we bid farewell to Bertram Cooper, who passed away off-screen on the night of the first moon landing in 1969. And not only was his character written-off in sentimental fashion, the 83-year-old actor also got one of his best performance showcases ever on the show.

Morse was more prominent than usual during the episode, and had a few highlight scenes: explaining his philosophy in business and life to protege Roger Sterling (John Slattery), crying proudly after watching the moon landing on TV, and then of course at the very end, when Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has a vision of Bert singing “The Best Things in Life Are Free” in a full-blown production number.

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That scene was a subtle, clever tribute to the actor Morse, a Tony-winning Broadway star who won Best Actor in a Musical for the original production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” in 1962.

Morse already has one Emmy in his collection: Best Movie/Mini Actor in 1993 for the “American Playhouse” production of “Tru,” for which he also won a second Tony. That already puts him ahead of the entire cast of “Mad Men,” who have lost all 31 of their collective acting nominations, despite the series having won a record-tying four Emmys as Best Drama Series.

In a way, it would be fitting for the man who launched the show’s fictional agency to be its first actor to take home Emmy gold. The series has two more chances to break that notorious shut-out: these just-concluded seven episodes will compete for awards this year, and the final batch of seven episodes will compete in 2015.

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Do you think Morse is now the Drama Guest Actor frontrunner? Make your prediction above and discuss in our forums.

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