Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 5: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

Donald Draper tells the reporter from the New York Times a little fib.  He has heard of Ted Chaough.  In fact, in the last episode, when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce had to severe ties with the Clearasil account, he said he'd be fine with it going anywhere but to Ted Chaough.  This episode we learn more about the rivalry between the two ad men and their firms and watch as Don gets the upper hand.  Elsewhere, Roger learns about letting go of old wounds, Betty finds someone to talk to about hers, and Sally starts acting out when those wounds are still new and able to be treated.

We're late into the first quarter of 1965 and things at SCDP are relatively fine (you lose some, you win some), but they continue to be on the lookout for new business.  Pete comes with great news - they are on the short list to meet with the Honda Motorcycle Company to talk about their account (and their upcoming automobile line).  This client has a potential to bring in $5 million a year.  Not Lucky Strike money, but still a nice chunk of change.  Pete is beaming as he continues to shine in his new position (proving that they were right to go with him rather than Ken Cosgrove).

Only...Roger Sterling does not want to do business with the Japanese.  Roger served in the Pacific in World War II and even though the war ended nearly twenty years ago, it feels like yesterday to Roger.  He immediately puts the kibosh on the idea of ever working with Honda and storms out of the meeting. The partners decide to go forward with plans to meet with the Honda execs - business is business after all and if a Jewish ad agency can work with a German company, why can't they work with Honda?  They ignore Roger's feeling and schedule the meeting for when Roger will be out of the office.

But first, we see Don at Benihana's where he is having just his third date with the lovely young Bethany in five months.  He is there to do reconnaissance for the upcoming meeting with Honda and bumps into his rival Ted Chaough.  Ted is physically the underdog, shorter and smaller than Don, with the angle at which the scene was shot accentuating their difference.  Don later describes Ted as a fly he keeps swatting away, yet you can tell that the other ad man is getting under Don's skin.

Don confronts Pete the next morning for not telling him they were competing against Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, but Pete tells him there are just three agencies in the running and they can put together the best pitch.  They have their meeting and things seem to go well.  Unfortunately, Roger comes back to the office early and bursts into the meeting, just as it's rapping up, ready to drop his own atomic bomb in the room.  He insults the Japanese in general and these men by implication and leaves only after the damage is done.  Bert and Pete try their best to make excuses and apologize, but to no avail.

Understandably, Pete (who brought in the client) and Don were extremely angry with Roger.  That was then, this is now and now they are a potential client worth many millions of dollars.  The saddest and most poignant line comes when Pete tries to tell Roger that the people from Honda are not the same people he fought against and Roger shouts, "How could that be? I'm the same people!"  He still remembers and he feels just the same anger and loss he felt decades earlier and he doesn't want to hear how that's in the past and he should just move on.

Pete, Don and Bert had tried their best to smooth things over with the men from Honda but withing a day or two they realize that they are out of the running.  But, because of protocol, they will still be allowed to make their stillborn pitch.  Don is frustrated, not only does he not have a chance at the creative potential working for a forward-thinking company like Honda, but it irks him that this improves Ted Chaough's chances of getting the account.  So he hatches an elaborate plan.

Don decides to get Chaough to think that they are putting together a full-blown commercial for the Honda motorcycle.  He enlists help to stage the plan - Joan, Peggy, Joey, everyone has an important role to play in making this believable.  He knows that Chaough will not want to be outdone and will shoot their own commercial.  But, this will violate the very strict rules laid down by the Honda executives who said specifically just for boards - no finished product.  Having read the book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Don understands that the Japanese execs will be deeply offended by the breach of the agreed-upon terms, which will take Chaough out of the running. Don can then take the negative attention off of Roger's breach of propriety and basic manners and rebrand Sterling Cooper as the place that holds itself to a higher standard.  The noble place that will only do business with people who follow the rules.

While it looks like the plan is born solely of spite - since SCDP isn't getting the Honda account, they'll make sure Ted Chaough's agency doesn't get it either - it does have an added bonus of perhaps getting the firm back into Honda's good graces.  But the rivalry was certainly a driving force.  And if we thought that Don was the petulant one, the only one to feel this rivalry, we get a scene of Chaough in his office, bristling at a former Sterling Cooper employee (hey, Smitty, that's where you ended up after the partners left PPL) calling Draper a genius.  And Chaough launches his own offensive in this war between the two agencies, trying to out-do whatever creative idea Don has put together.

In the end, Don's approach works to make amends and to put them back into consideration if not for now, for the next time Honda needs a new agency for their upcoming automobile line.  And after a stern talking to, Roger is now on board, recognizing that he has to let go of the past and do what's best for the future of his company.  Joan, probably better than anyone else, tells him that what he did saved the world, but it's time to move on.  Her husband will be donning his own uniform shortly and she doesn't want to hear about all the casualties of war, she wants to think of a world at peace.

In the B-story, Don is going out for the evening with the girl that Jane Sterling had set him up with, Bethany.  His pretty neighbor Phoebe the nurse comes over to watch Bobby and Sally while he's on his date.  She asks, "Which one is it? I mean, which restaurant, in case I need to reach you." It's awkward for everyone as it does make Don sound like whore.  Sally asks if he's going to see a woman and she lets her father know that she's not happy about it.  While Phoebe and Bobby are watching TV, Sally goes off to the bathroom and cuts her own hair.  She wanted to look pretty, like Phoebe who has short hair.  Mt. Vesuvius, aka Betty, is going to explode when she sees this.

Betty is pissed when she sees that Sally's hair is cut, slapping her across the face and handing out a bunch of punishments. Henry tries to get Betty to calm down - kids do these things, he tells her.  But when Sally is sent home from a friend's house after being caught masturbating while watching TV, Betty is convinced there's something seriously wrong with Sally.  She finally agrees with Henry's suggestion to send Sally to a therapist and calls Don to tell him that the therapist wants to meet with them both individually.  She also drops a not too subtle hind that it's Don's horndog ways that are responsible for Sally's behavior.

Don was against Sally seeing a therapist, not unlike how he felt in Ep. 1.02 when Betty wanted to see a psychiatrist for her hand tremors and nervousness.  Don doesn't talk about his issues and keeps whatever is bothering him at bay by drinking until he passes out, he doesn't understand how talking to a stranger would be more beneficial.  Nevertheless, Betty meets with the therapist, Dr. Edna, and the conversation starts about Sally but ends up being about Betty.  Sensing she needs to talk, but is unwilling to see someone, Dr. Edna offers that they can meet to discuss Sally, who she'll be seeing four times a week.  Unlike the psychiatrist that Betty saw back in 1960, who betrayed her trust by telling her husband what was discussed, Dr. Edna says the contents of her conversations are private.

We see Carla taking Sally to see Dr. Edna (not Betty or Don - do we need much more to understand what's bothering her) and off she goes to talk about her feelings.


Betty has issues.  She takes Sally's behavior personally, as an attack on her.  Alternatively, she puts it on Don as all his fault.  While Sally is the one seeing a psychiatrist, it looks like Betty might be benefiting even more from her talks with Dr. Edna.  Even in their brief time together, she raised issues of her mother's cold, harsh treatment, the loss of her father and her difficult decision to get divorced.

Don is not taking the relationship with Bethany to the next level.  Three dates in five months is not moving things fast.  Instead, we know that he's still seeing the prostitute who slaps him around and he invited Dr. Faye for a drink. Why is he not more interested in Bethany?  Does she remind him too much of Betty (the name, the pretty blonde looks, her youth)?

According to Wikipedia, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture is an influential 1946 study of Japan by American anthropologist Ruth Benedict. It was written at the invitation of the U.S. Office of War Information, in order to understand and predict the behavior of the Japanese in World War II by reference to a series of contradictions in traditional culture. The book was influential in shaping American ideas about Japanese culture during the occupation of Japan, and popularized the distinction between guilt cultures and shame cultures."

When Pete brings up having a meeting with the Honda people, Roger says, "Listen, let me spare you the agony and the ecstasy and tell you we are not doing business with them."  "The Agony and the Ecstasy" was the title of the biography of Michelangelo written by Irving Stone and the phrase itself comes from Romans 7:  "It is only when the focus shifts to God, to His love, to His sovereignty, to His faithfulness, that we move from agony to ecstasy."

There is not just a cultural divide between nations but within our own, one which Pete sees but others, especially Bert Cooper, don't, leading to this exchange:
Roger: This Selma thing is not going away.  You still don't think they need a civil rights law?
Bert: They got what they wanted. Why aren't they happy?
Pete: Because Lassie stays at the Waldorf and they can't.
We can date this episode as sometime after March 12, 1965, as we she Sally watching the evening news and hear mention of "The body of a 38-year-old Unitarian minister was cremated within hours of his death last night."  Rev. James Reeb died after being beaten by a group of white thugs as he protested for civil rights in Selma, Alabama.

Sally was watching the TV show "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." when she was playing with herself on her friend's couch.  Co-star David McCallum was a teen heart throb back then playing a Russian secret agent.  Today you might know him from a recurring roll on NCIS.

It's funny now to think of Honda as just entering into the car business, derided as nothing more than a motorcycle with doors.  In the early 1970s, when gasoline prices started rising, the fuel efficiency of their Civic line of automobiles helped Honda become a leading import and for a while the Accord (launched in '76) was the number one imported sedan.


Walter Hoffman:  I talked to Ted Chaough and he said, 'Every time Don Draper looks in his rearview mirror, he sees me.'
Don:  What's your point?
Walter:  My point is do you have a response?
Don: On the record?
Walter: Please.
Don: I've never heard of him.

Roger:  I used to be a man with a lot of friends. Then World War II came and they were all killed by your new yellow buddies.
Pete:  Look, if Bernbach can do business with Volkswagen, we can do business with anybody.
Bert:  The war is over, Roger.

Sally:   I just wanted to look pretty.

Ted:  Well, the good news is, I think it's gonna be between us.  The bad news is the best man's gonna win.

Bethany: Who's he?
Don: Some fly I keep swatting away.  They haven't done half of what we have.  The minute he declared himself the competition, suddenly we were equal.
Bethany: Well, as far as I'm concerned, he's no competition at all.

Don:  You didn't have to hit her.
Betty:  You're right, because it doesn't do anything!

Betty:  I want him dead!
Henry:  You don't think I feel that?

Roger:  I didn't know this meeting was happening.  Then again, I know how some people love surprises.  I apologize, gentlemen, but for some reason I was not informed.  In fact, someone set a long lunch for me with Randolph.
Pete: Well, it was last minute and now, unfortunately, drawn to a close.
Roger:  I have to warn you they won't know it's over until you drop the big one.

Bert: You don't get to kill this account.
Roger: You know how they are.  Maybe it'll kill itself.

Roger: As long as my name's in that lobby, I get to choose whom I do business with.

Roger:  Well, I made a pledge to a lot of men you'll never meet not to do business with them.
Pete: Christ on a cracker, where do you get off?
Roger:  You know what? You weren't there.  You weren't anywhere. I'm sorry you can't understand.
Pete:  It's been almost 20 years and whether you like it or not, the world has moved on.  These are not the same people.
Roger:  How could that be? I'm the same people!

Joey: I'm trying to figure out what makes it work.
Don:  I'm still wondering what makes you work.

Faye:  You'd be surprised what people will say to an interested stranger.
Don:  Why does everybody need to talk about everything?
Faye:  I don't know but they do. And no matter what happens while they're talking, when they're done they feel better.

Roger:  Since when is forgiveness a better quality than loyalty?
Joan:  Roger, I know it was awful, and I know it'll never seem like it was that long ago, but you fought to make the world a safer place and you won and now it is.

Suicide mentions:
Bert: You don't get to kill this account.
Roger: You know how they are.  Maybe it'll kill itself.

Whore mentions:  
Betty tells Henry:  "And who knows who he had watching her? Some secretary, another whore?"

Spoiler-y Observations (Don't read until you're caught up):

First mention of Dr. Lyle Evans -- Roger:  Why don't we just bring Dr. Lyle Evans in here?  Bert: That'll be enough of that.  In Ep. 4.08 we learn, when Don and Peggy listen to the tape of Roger's memoirs, that Dr. Evans performed an orchiectomy on Bert.  Roger is referencing the notion of impotence, equating him not having a say in his own company with Bert having his balls cut off.

Don learns that Dr. Miller is not married, that her ring is a decoy, and while there are sparks between them, they won't pan out until the next episode.

Don is seen trying to call California and not receiving an answer.  He's likely trying to reach Anna.  It's been three months since he was out there.

Peggy pulled a stunt when she arranged the Sugarberry Ham fight and now Don pulls his own stunt faking shooting a commercial and then going into the meeting and resigning.  In both cases, good things happened for the firm.  When Don pulls his next stunt, however - the infamous Letter in Ep. 4.12 Blowing Smoke - things will not be so rosy.  But it's easy to understand why he felt so sure it would work, so empowered that whatever he touches turns to gold.

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