Friday, May 8, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 4: The Rejected

"I don't say this easily, but you're not a nice person."

Rejection is a natural part of life and something we all have to deal with from time to time.  Rejection can hurt more than any physical pain and can affect our emotions, thoughts and actions. The memory of rejection can last a lifetime.  We have a few characters experiencing rejection both personally and professionally and their reactions to this run the gamut from denial to devastation.  

It's mid-February, 1965 (thanks to the inscription on the note from Anna to Don).  Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is buzzing with business.  Don and Roger have their biggest client, Lee Garner of Lucky Strike, on the phone and while they're working through his concerns, various employees are coming in and out of the office on other accounts.  It's hectic, which should be good news. But of course not everyone is happy with how busy they are.  Clearasil is not happy they're now working for Ponds and so they have to drop one of the accounts.  Unfortunately for Pete, whose father-in-law is on the Clearasil account, their billings are much less than Ponds, so they're the one to be let go.

Pete does not take the news well.  We know how much he's had to deal with to make Trudy's father happy, how much ass-kissing he's had to do.  And now he has to just give up the client.  His mood does not improve when he hears Harry talking about his old rival Ken Cosgrove who is marrying the daughter of an executive at Corning.  Harry encourages Pete to join him at lunch with Ken (who's now at the larger Geyer agency).  But before Pete decides on that lunch, he has to meet with his father-in-law and give him the bad news.

Only, his father-in-law thinks he knows what Pete is about to tell him.  And instead of a stern reply, Pete gets a kiss on the cheek.  He and Trudy are finally going to have a baby!  Turns out, Trudy and her mother have known for days but she hadn't told Pete yet.  Pete is beaming, overjoyed, at the thought of becoming a father.  He is genuinely ecstatic at the news and is not going to ruin the moment by telling his father-in-law that they have to drop his account.  He goes home to Trudy (who's worried he'll be cross that she didn't tell him directly) but he's over the moon about the baby.

At the office, Dr. Miller conducts a focus group using the young, single women from the office.  You see all the subtle touches she uses to get the women to open up to her.  Changing into casual clothes, taking off her wedding ring and other jewelry.  She disarms the ladies and gets them to open up.  They are there to talk about Ponds cold cream, but the conversation instead turns to issues of self-esteem and their relationship with the men in their lives.

Within minutes some of the girls are crying and the talk is about how to stay attractive and keep a man.  The ladies feel pressure to be beautiful so they'll be loved and share the pain of feeling not good enough or pretty enough.  This frank discussion becomes very uncomfortable for Don when his secretary, and one night stand, Allison shares her feelings of hurt and betrayal.  It's one thing to be a cad, it's another to see how your behavior affects another human being.  When one of the other ladies' words hit too close to home, Allison runs out of the conference room in tears.  Don knows he's the cause, yet it's Peggy who says, "I feel kinda responsible."

Peggy goes to comfort Allison, but Allison is angry that she's there instead of who should be there - Don.  She knew he was there, behind the glass, watching, which made the whole thing even worse.  But then, Allison, says, Peggy must know how she feels.  She was once Don's secretary, she must have been there and done that.  Peggy is appalled at the suggestion (Peggy conveniently forgets that she did put a move on Don her first day on the job).  Instead of sympathy for Allison, Peggy snaps at her for thinking they're alike and tells her to get over it.

Pete joins Harry for lunch with their old friend Ken Cosgrove.  Ken has left McCann Erickson (where he went after they bought Putnam Powell and Lowe at the end of 1963 (Ep. 3.13)) and is now at the Geyer agency.  He and Pete spar for a bit - Ken has heard that Pete has bad-mouthed him behind his back - and to his credit, Pete apologizes.  Pete hears all about Ken's brief time at McCann and, hearing what an awful place it was, feels even better about the decision to leave and start up their own firm. Ken tells Pete about the next big client his firm is trying to capture, while recognizing that it's all just a silly game. The little accounts are just that - small, to keep the small firms busy.  The big accounts ultimately go to the big guys.  Yes, the grass is always greener.

Allison takes a mature approach to her situation and decides it's best if she leaves SCDP.  It's awkward and uncomfortable for her to work with, around, under Don knowing that "this happened" - they had sex - while he acts as if nothing happened.  He doesn't think it's necessary, they're adults.  Which means, it meant nothing to him and she should just act like that's perfectly normal.  But she insists on leaving.  She has one small request.  Could he write her a letter of recommendation?  Sure, he says.  But...and you want to reach through the TV and slap him before he says another word - you know what would be better, he begins?  What would be better is if you didn't finish this sentence, Don, but you're intent upon being a complete ass, so go for it.  What would be better is if you write the letter and I just sign it, he tells her.  Because I can't even be bothered to think up anything nice to say about you.

And that was the very definition of the last straw.  Allison cannot take any more rejection and has a pretty tame reaction under the circumstances.  She picks up a paper weight from his desk and hurls it against the wall (though not, where it belongs, against his thick skull).  The crashing sound brings everyone out of their office to find out what's going on, but you don't need a PhD to figure this one out.  Allison tells Don, in a major understatement, "You're not a good person."  And just like that, Don Draper will be needing a new secretary.  Meanwhile, Peggy looks over to see the wreckage in Don's office as he turns to booze rather than face what an inconsiderate monster he can be.

Don is not totally without a heart.  He obviously feels bad about what he's done, perhaps what he's become. We see him staying alone, in the dark, drinking, at the office, late at night.  He drags himself to his apartment and starts to type up an apology to Allison, but can't find the right words.  Yes, Don Draper cannot sell his own apology.  He writes, "my life is" but he has no idea how to finish that thought.

The title of the episode comes from the big red "rejected" sign on a pink slip of paper a girl Peggy meets on the elevator is holding.  The girl, Joyce, is an assistant photo editor at Life magazine and it's not her work that was rejected, we're told.  She's holding a book of nudes that her boss found too racy for the magazine to publish.  She comes by the SCDP offices later that day to see Peggy and invite her to a show the photographer (of the "rejected" nudes) is having that night.

Peggy goes out to a converted sweatshop with psychedelic music and people dressed like zoo animals and she smokes some of Joyce's weed while Joyce makes a pass at her.  Peggy, who's never shown much of a sense of humor at the office, is fast with the quips here.  She has always been able to be two people - the modest good girl at the office, the more free spirited bad girl outside.  Still, it's jarring to see her loosen up.  She meets some of Joyce's friends, a writer named Abe and the photographer named Davey.  Abe does not get off on the right foot, questioning how being a copywriter is the same as being a writer writer, which means of course the two are destined to be together (even Mad Men is not above the meet cute).

Don comes into work the next morning and sees that Joan has found a solution to his problem.  Grandmotherly Ida Blankenship will be his new secretary.  She'd been working in Bert Cooper's apartment where, apparently, he works without pants.  So she should be able to handle Don's desk without any futher misunderstandings.

Pete has more great news.  He's turned the Clearasil-Ponds conflict around into a big get for the agency.  He somehow managed to talk his father-in-law to getting SCDP the entire Vicks Chemical product line.  Clearasil will still have to go elsewhere - and Pete is feeling good enough to throw that crumb his old friend Ken's way (which is fine with Don, he wants the client to go anywhere other than to their rivals at Cutler, Gleason and Chaough). 

Peggy hears about Pete's news - not the multi-million dollar account, but the upcoming baby.  And it of course reminds her of her child - their child - and the life she isn't leading.  She's torn.  She told Freddy that his notions that women today just want to get married is old-fashioned, yet there she was trying on the wedding ring, while a room full of young girls only wanted to talk about finding a husband.  Even Dr. Miller had no choice but to conclude that this is what will sell cold cream - the prospect of matrimony.

Peggy goes off with her young, hipster friends, locking eyes with Pete who's off to his stuffy business lunch.  They are going in different directions.  But both look forward to their respective futures.  Who isn't looking forward is Don, who sees the old married couple bickering in the hallway of his apartment and wonders will he ever find someone to grow old with or is he destined to be alone.  Can anyone love Donald Draper?


So who were the rejected in this episode?  Technically, the photographer whose photographs were not bought by Life magazine, yet he did not seem at all troubled by that. Indeed, he claimed that selling your art is selling out.  Instead of mainstream, commercial acceptance, he had another kind - the cool kids came out to enjoy his work.  They think he's a genius.  That's better than financial success, right? 

Don was presented with the rejection of his approach to selling Pond's cold cream when the young ladies in the focus group failed to go along with the "indulge yourself" or enjoy the ritual pitch.  But Don did not even let this register.  He ignored that his idea was flatly rejected and decided the problem was just time - give him more time and he could turn the rejection right around.

Allison felt rejected, as did some of the other ladies in the focus group.  They were dumped by some guy, or ignored, or inappropriately noticed, but in the end they are alone.  Why aren't I enough, they asked themselves?  What more could I do?  "I gave him everything, and I got nothing."  Any acknowledgement that you are there, that you matter, seemed to be all they wanted.  Instead, Allison was so inconsequential to Don that not only did he pretend they never had an intimate moment,  he couldn't be bothered to write up a simple recommendation letter for her.  And when he tried to fix it, when it was too late, he still couldn't come up with anything to say to make it better.

Ken felt rejected when the rest of his friends and coworkers went off to start a new agency without him.  And hearing that Pete said unflattering things about him behind his back hurt as well.  At least he got a "mea culpa" and a small account as a consolation prize.  But it still has to hurt that they all moved on without him.

When you put something out there - whether it's your work, your reputation, or yourself - you are open to being rejected.  The only way to avoid that is to never risk, but that can't be the answer. Better to have the approach of the photographer, that your worth is not measure by other's acceptance or rejection.  Of course, that's much easier to say than to believe.  Peggy put herself out there with Abe.  She kissed him with no guarantees.  It's a good sign for her that she's still willing to take such chances.

The episode opens with Don lighting a cigarette with the one he's smoking.  But, no Lee, we have nothing to worry about.  Smoking is not addictive, it's not dangerous at all.

Pete's father-in-law tells him "If it's a boy, it's $1,000, a girl, $500."  No sexism there!  But what he didn't realize is that the new baby was going to cost him even more - his whole account.  There's no way he can't generously support the father of his future grandchild.

If looks could kill.  When Roger's secretary Caroline said she and Joan weren't wanted in the Ponds' focus group meeting because they were "old and married," I thought she was a dead woman.  Joan does not want to hear that she's old and not in the 18-25 group the client is focusing on.  

Peggy tries on Faye's rings, and Don catches her and smiles.  Peggy hastily removes the rings, looking a little embarrassed being caught trying it on.  Yet the focus group seems to prove that there is a chasm between the women of this new generation.  While some like Peggy are not thinking about that walk down the aisle, most still are.  She battled with Freddy about what young girls today want, and turns out that there is not one answer that fits everyone.  

Don stubbornly believes that his approach is the right one and is not dissuaded by the focus group.  Women didn't respond to the ritual aspect of the cold cream experience only because he hadn't sold it to them yet.  They may think they want to get married and only care if the product will make that more likely, but that's because he hasn't worked his magic yet.  This is reminiscent of Don's recent clash with the Jantzen swimsuit clients.  They wanted one approach and he was convinced his different approach was the one and only correct one.  

Harry has picked up a lot of Yiddish since he's started traveling regularly to Hollywood.  Today's word is gonif, meaning thief.   Also, you may have missed his joke: "My father-in-law's a bus driver.  The only place he can take me is to the moon."  It's a reference to the profession of Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners.  Gleason played Ralph Kramden, a bus driver, who when he got mad at his wife he threatened "one of these days, Alice. Bam! To the moon."  Yes, hollow threats of spousal abuse were a laugh riot in the '50s.

Peggy told Pete in Ep. 2.13 that she had given up their child for adoption and so their conversation about his new baby was particularly pointed.  It was understandable why Peggy couldn't bring herself to sign the card.

One of the few mentions of the outside world creeping into the office is when Peggy asks Joey if he knew Malcolm X was shot last Sunday and did he even know who he was.  Joey said he did and scolded Peggy for not paying more attention to current events.  


Don: Why is this empty?
Allison:  Because you drank it all.

Roger:  See, I would never buy a sailboat.  I don't want to do things myself.

Pete:  That's the Lucky Strike call? Why wasn't I told? 
Roger:  Be happy.  I saved you an ass-ache.

Roger:  Throw yourself on a grenade.  Protect the agency.  You're a partner now.

Pete: I'm going to be a father.  I feel like my heart's going to burst.

Pete:   What did the doctor say? 
Trudy:  He said I was going to have a baby.

Dotty:  I feel like it doesn't matter what I see. It matters what he sees.

Allison:  I don't know how you stand it. The way he turns on the charm one minute and then yanks it away. How can you even talk to him?

Allison: He's a drunk.  And they get away with murder because they forget everything.

Harry: Those goniffs at CBS are screwing me again.

Ken:  [McCann's] the worst agency I've ever seen.  The worst.  My mother was a nurse at the state hospital in Vermont and that was the last time I saw so many retarded people in one building.

Pete:  Well, you know, wherever you do this job, you're doing this job.
Ken: I know you're all slaves to Draper over there, but I'd rather be a slave to creative than some old fart.

Ken:  Another Campbell, that's just what the world needs.

Pete:  Every time you jump to conclusions, Tom, you make me respect you less.

Peggy:  I have a boyfriend.
Joyce:  He doesn't own your vagina.
Peggy:  No, but he's renting it.

Davey:  Art in advertising? Why would anyone do that after Warhol? 
Abe:  Sorry, for somebody to sell their soul, they've got to have one.

Pete:  I guess as the president would say, I turned chicken shit into chicken salad.

Faye:   I can't change the truth.
Don: How do you know that's the truth? A new idea is something they don't know yet, so of course it's not gonna come up as an option.

Don:  You can't tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read unless you're caught up):

Trudy's dad tells Pete: "May you know this feeling many times.  I only had the one, and I love her to death, but I wish we'd had more."  At least as of Ep. 7.12, Pete never has this particular feeling again. 

When Sterling Cooper agrees to be bought by McCann Erickson in Ep. 7.07, perhaps they should have heeded Ken's comments to Pete about that firm.  "It's the worst agency I've ever seen.  The worst.  My mother was a nurse at the state hospital in Vermont and that was the last time I saw so many retarded people in one building."

Even with Pete's mea culpa, and with him throwing the Clearasil account Ken's way, Ken still never forgives him (and mostly Roger) for not telling him (or taking him) when they split off from PPL before its sale to McCann.  

They focused quite a bit on Megan before hooking her up with Don.  She was the one Joan would always ask to do something (fetching drinks at the Christmas party, for example), and this episode she was the one in the bright red outfits, front and center.  Even Joyce's friends came by the office just to look at her.  Interestingly, she was the only woman in the meeting who actually discussed the ritual of cleansing their face rather than talking about wanting to get married.   And Don didn't pay her much attention as he sat on the other side of the glass.

The evidence of why Faye should have stayed far away from Don was right there in Allison's tears, but she ignored that and allowed herself to fall for him.  She should have known better than to accept as true his statement that past behavior doesn't predict future behavior.  Of course it does.

Our first introduction to Ida Blankenship!  She's an astronaut!  Also our first meeting with Abe, who opens Peggy's eyes and enters her heart, but ultimately is not "the one."

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