Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 11: Chinese Wall

"Every day, I tried not to think about what would happen if this happened."

It's bad news at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and nearly everyone is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  While Schrodinger's Lucky Strike account was both dead (to Roger and the client) and alive (to the firm) the lid has been lifted off the box and that poor little cat is paws up.  Roger may have thought if he didn't think about it, it would go away, but it doesn't work like that.  And now everyone has to deal with the consequences.  But first....

Peggy does not hold a grudge.  At least that's what Abe learns as he goes from persona non grata, to persona grata, valde grata, in a manner of minutes.  And it's hard to quibble with her decision.  Left wing leaning rabble rouser bent on destroying her business or not, Abe seems to have a good heart and is clearly not just physically attracted to Peggy but intellectually stimulated by her as well.  And if we learned anything from her failed relationship with her milquetoast ex-boyfriend, Peggy needs someone who can be her equal.

Ken and his wife Cynthia are having a nice dinner out with her parents when John Flory from BBD&O comes over.  John offers his condolences to Ken.  Ken thinks he's referring to the recent passing of McCann Erickson partner David Montgomery, but instead his father-in-law is referring to the not so well kept secret that Lucky Strike has left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.  This is news to Ken, in fact it's news to everyone since Roger still hasn't said a thing.

Ken heads over to the hospital where Pete Campbell is awaiting a blessed event, the birth of his first child.  Ken is there to cast a giant pall over the experience, tellng the father to be that the firm is losing its biggest client.  Armed with this startling news, they go on red alert.  They call Don who was just about to make up for making Faye wait all day.  Don asks if they've spoken to Roger, but he's not reachable.  Don calls an emergency meeting at the office.  Babies, dinner with in laws, and sex can wait.

Fittingly, it's Roger who's the last to arrive at the meeting, considering he's the one with all the (withheld) information.  Faced with the truth coming out, Roger plows straight ahead and continues the charade.  He makes a fake call to Lee, has a fake conversation with Lee, and makes fake plans on how to try and fix things with Lee.  Roger cannot face reality, and so he continues to ignore it for as long as he can.  This is not grown up behavior.  An adult would deal with the problem.  But Roger has always been a spoiled child and so he approaches problems that way - hands over his ears, refusing to face the facts, hoping it will all magically disappear.

Pete is no child and he faces the reality of what losing Lucky Strike may mean for him and the agency.  But his father-in-law sees the news as an opportunity.  He tells Pete that he's been a topic of discussion over at Cutler Gleason and Chaough (who he knows works with on the Clearasil account).  Pete may be flattered, but he's not interested in giving up on SCDP quite yet.  Pete is loyal to Don, loyal to the agency, and convinced that CGC has no interest in him, their only interest is getting to Don.  And he may not be wrong.  Much has been made already of the rivalry between the two firms, and Ted and Don in particular.  Still, his father-in-law only wants what's best for his daughter and that's not to have his son in law working at a firm about to go under.

Roger continues the charade, calling from a hotel room, pretending he's at Lee Garner's office having unsuccessfully fought for the agency.  While he continues to hide from reality, the rest of the partners call and all-hands meeting to let everyone know what has happened and prepare to panic in direct relation to how secure they feel their job is.  Worrying that he'll be the victim of LIFO, Danny is pretty sure he's not long for SCDP.  Don gives a stirring speech to encourage the troops, but the reality is much dicier than he lets on.

In a meeting with his team, Don stresses that their main goal should be to keep the existing clients happy.  He tries to stay upbeat and positive, but when everyone but Peggy leaves he admits to being worried just how bad this will be for the firm.  Still, it is meaningful that he looks at the booze in his office and then ignores it to sit down and get to work.  The journaling, swimming Don is still trying to be a better man.

Roger calls Joan and asks her to come comfort him and she demurs, thinking he's in North Carolina at the Lucky Strike offices, not down the street hiding out in a New York hotel.  He tells her the truth, all of it.  How he knew for weeks and didn't tell her or anyone and how awful it's been keeping this secret, knowing that the world was about to end.  If he was looking for sympathy, he called up the wrong person, because Joan is furious at him and rightly so.  He can go wallow by himself

Peggy is brainstorming with her team for the upcoming Playtex pitch.  She's still in the afterglow from this morning's visit with Abe and Stan notices that she's giving off vibes.  He thinks it's because of the turmoil at the office - that worry and panic send women into heat.  He misses that the real reason for Peggy's mood just walked in pretending to be a courier.  I bet he has a package for Peggy Olson.  Later, when the "delivery man" is on his way out of Peggy's office, Stan figures it out.

While Peggy entertains her gentleman caller, the brain trust is going over the status of their existing clients.  Pete's contribution to the meeting is not snoring as he naps, but Bert actually comes up with a good idea - try and poach some of the recently departed David Montgomery's clients at his upcoming memorials.  Ghoulish, but savvy.  Don is called away from the meeting to take a call from Glo-Coat, the company for whose cutting-edge work Don won a Clio.  Apparently that does not weigh as heavily as the concern that SCDP may not be around in three months, and so Glo-Coat abandons ship.  Don gets mad, breaking the Clio on his desk then hurling what's left across the room mad.  Picking up a bottle mad.  He tells Megan not to let him overdo it and she understandably is not sure what that means for him.

Don comes back into the conference room pissed. He blames Pete for not keeping Glo-Coat happy and tells him that he's obviously distracted by Trudy's imminent delivery and he might as well just go to the hospital where his priorities are.  Yes, Don makes it sound like Pete is a failure for being preoccupied by the delayed birth of his first child.  Pete heads over to the hospital where he is greeted by Don's arch nemesis, the smiling, friendly, gift-laden Teddy Chaough.  Pete goes from one current boss who costs him a multi-million dollar account and then yells at him for no reason and runs right into the sweet, lovable boss everyone dreams about.  Put on your life-vest Pete, it's time to jump ship.

Since Joan wouldn't go to the hotel to see Roger, Roger came to her apartment.  He needed to see her, to be with her.  But Joan does not want him under these circumstances; she will no longer be his port in a storm.  He can't come and go as he pleases and he can't use her anymore.  He has a wife and that's it.  There won't be any more dalliances and Roger is sad to realize their last time was the night they were mugged and they'll never be together again.

At the end of a long miserable day, Faye comes into Don's office to commiserate.  She brings comfort and empathy, but what Don wants is leads on unhappy clients.  She works at other agencies, with other clients, and hears things.  Don asks her to tell him what she's heard that he could try and capitalize on.  But she reminds him of the Chinese wall that separates her persona life from her professional.  Don, who's exceeded his already high three limit drinks for the day, gets mad at her for not breaking a confidence and she gets mad at him for asking her to.

The funeral for David Montgomery is loaded with meaning.  What is a man's life, what did it mean, who cares that he's gone.  For David, it was about landing that next big client.  The eulogies talk about him being away for his daughter's birthday, spending months out of the country, all to wrangle that next big client.  While his coworkers give what they think are rousing, comforting speeches to his neglected family, SCDP are scouring the room looking for ripe fruit to pick.

Back at the office after the funeral, Don is wrung out.  Megan comes by and he asks her if she was the one who took the Clio out of the trash and she says she was.  She knows he's upset, but she thinks he'd want it someday.  He earned it.  Megan is trowing out a rope to a drowning man and he is grabbing it.  She flatters him, she tells him she'd like to do what he does, she tells him she spends all day thinking about him.  She puts her hand on his arm and looks seductively at him and then finally comes in for a kiss.  And that's why Ida Blankenship was a much better choice for him.  Poor Don, he just can't help himself.   Although, kudos for him for trying to stop before it went too far.  But Megan was not taking no for an answer, and he's only human.

After having sex with his secretary (aka, business as usual), Don heads home to find Faye there.  She's given some more though to what he asked her to do and Chinese wall or no, she cares about him and he's important to her so she'll violate some boundaries if it will make him happy.  She tells him about an unhappy client and then professes her feelings and one hopes that Don feels a little bad about what a cad he is.  But he probably doesn't.  


The episode focuses on separating work from pleasure and how inextricably connected the two are.  Both Pete and Ken have fathers-in-law who are (or were) also clients.  Don is sleeping with a consultant his agency uses and his secretary.  Roger wants to continue the affair with his secretary, without his wife who used to be his secretary finding out.  Ted Chaough comes bearing presents at the hospital for his client and a job offer for the client's son-in-law.  SCDP tries poaching clients at a business rival's funeral.  Peggy's coworker makes a pass at her.  There is life and there is work, but what happens when the two overlap to the extent that you cannot see any line of demarcation?

Either Dr. Miller is Jewish or she's picked up Yiddish living in New York because she says to Don, "oh look at that punim" sounding just like a Jewish bubbe pinching her grandchild's cheek.

Cute sight gag as the diminutive Danny is the only one raising his hand in the all-hands' meeting, but the head of accounting can't see him behind all his taller coworkers.

Peggy, in true Catholic fashion, is convinced that this (the loss of their biggest client) happened because she was happy.  God wouldn't let her have career fulfillment and a happy personal life, so in comes Abe, out goes Lucky Strike.

We sometimes see Bert as just an old man, whose best years are behind him.  But he immediately jumps on the fact that the upcoming funeral for the McCann Erickson accounts man presents an opportunity for them.  He also berates Roger for not doing a better job at keeping his only client, the one he inherited from his father, happy.

At David Montgomery's funeral, his business partner tells a story about landing Buick, a real coup for the ad agency.  After this huge victory, he turned to David and asked, "Is this the best thing we're ever going to do?"  The story concludes with Montgomery (who was missing his daughter's fifth birthday to land the account) said, no, his daughter was the best thing he would ever do.  The irony is lost on many of the mourners - the man missed this major milestone because of work, and many others no doubt.  He put work first and now what does he have to show for it, a room full of business-associates and competitors there to do even more business.  But we see that Don, and particularly new father Pete, hear the sadness behind the story of a man who put work first.

The only bit of good news comes courtesy of Peggy.  She was a nervous wreck before the Playtex presentation but Don trusted her and she prepared till she had the whole thing memorized to within an inch of its life.  Stan inadvertently helped her lose her nerves when he made a pass at her thinking that she was horny - not realizing that she didn't have a fling with a delivery boy but that the guy was her new boyfriend!  Stan does not take rejection well and does not mention to Peggy that she has lipstick all over her front teeth, but despite this she does a fantastic job in the client meeting and they love the pitch.


Peggy (to Abe): You never stop talking.

Don:  Every day, I tried not to think about what would happen if this happened.

Tom (to Pete):  I'm sure this agency was a thrill, but you've had your folly.

Peggy:  I'm not usually like this.

Don: We're gonna push ourselves shoulder to shoulder and we're gonna overcome this and succeed tenfold.  And it will be exhilarating.

Peggy: Every time something good happens, Something bad happens.

Joan:  You should've told me.   Why didn't you tell me?
Roger: I kept meaning to say something.  I thought I still had time.

Stan:  Since when do we have donuts?
Danny:  Condemned man always gets his choice of a last meal.

Al from Glo-Coat:  We appreciate everything you've done for us, But we've decided to take the account in a different direction.

Joan (to Roger):  I'm not a solution to your problems.  I'm another problem.

Don:  I'm used to having my ideas rejected, not me.

Faye:  You want a shoulder to cry on, fine.  You want to throw me to the wolves so you can save your neck, forget it.
Don:   I would do it for you.
Faye:  I would never ask.  I would never use you like that because I know the difference beetween what we have and this stupid office.

Peggy (to Stan): Why do you keep making me reject you?

Bert:  Lee Garner, Jr. never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously.

Faye:   God, I'd think this place would be packed still.
Don: It's eight o'clock. There's only so much we can pretend like we're doing.

Megan:  I know you're angry, but I hope you're not afraid because you will get through this.
Don:  You don't know that.

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

The story told at David Montgomery's funeral, where he asked David after landing a big car company, "Is this the best thing we're ever going to do?" is a recurrent theme.  What's the next big client, when will we reach the pinnacle of the profession.  Is there a top and what happens when you get there? The second half of the final season of Mad Men asks that question in a slightly different way - "Is that all there is?"

Tom tells Pete that Ted Chaough is a good guy and for the most part (other than him cheating on his wife) he is.  He was painted as a villain at first, a foil for Don.   But he became a more fleshed out character as the series went on and never did anything that wasn't in the best interest of his agency and his clients.

Ted tells Pete that Jim Cutler is due to retire, yet there he is when the merger happens and there he remains for a couple more years.  Until he wisely takes the money and runs after his failed coup in Season 7.

Pete tells Teddy "I don't drive" and Teddy offers to teach him.  Pete does take lessons in Ep. 5.05 Signal 30, but his inability to drive comes back to bite him when he crashes the Camaro in the Season 6 finale In Care Of by accidentally putting the car in reverse.

Oh, Megan.  You're such a difficult character to write about.  I really dislike everything about you but you get three more seasons and a big fat check by the end.  First you wanted to be a copywriter, then you wanted to be an actress, then you wanted to be a kept woman who dabbled in acting.  You were good as a copywriter, but it wasn't fulfilling.  You weren't good as an actress, but that didn't stop you from trying.  You got what you wanted but then you didn't want it anymore.  Were you that different from Don?

Roger blames Don for "dragging him into his amateur hour" when they had Lane Pryce fire them from Putnam Powell and Lowe-controlled Sterling Cooper so they were free to start the new firm at the end of Season 3.   He said he went along with Don out of friendship and it's ironic.  He left PPL when it was about to be sold to McCann Erickson, only to make a deal with McCann in Season 7 out of friendship with Don.  In the end, Roger did lose the company that bore his name all so he could stay with Don.

Joan keeps stressing that she and Roger can't do this anymore - the on and off affair - but we don't learn until later that the reason is she's keeping the baby and having Roger in her life would only complicate things more.

The scene where all the employees and partners come together to hear news about the agency is repeated throughout the series.  The announcement of the visit of the new head of creative from London, the announcement of the merger with CGC, the announcement of the death of Bert Cooper, the announcement of the closing down of the SCP offices.  Some times the speeches were well-received, other times they failed to satisfy.

Roger suggests that in light of the attacks on TV advertising of cigarettes, "Maybe it's a good time to get out of this business."  In the next episode, Don takes that idea and runs with it.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 10: Hands and Knees

"I'm tired of running."

The first lesson from this episode is that not all British invasions are welcome.   At SCDP, Lane Pryce gets an unexpected visit from his father Robert.  The senior Mr. Pryce is cold and demanding.  It takes no time to understand their personal dynamics.  Lane is afraid of his father and desperate for his acceptance.  He takes him to a local Playboy Club and Lane tries to impress his father, but his father is too busy undermining him to be impressed.  Lane asked Don to come along as a buffer and Don does his best, but even he is no match for the dour and sour (but not Whiskey Sour) Mr. Pryce.

Seems Lane has a secret, he's in love with Toni, an African-American Playboy Bunny.  This is why he wants to stay in the US, why he doesn't want to go home to his wife in London, and why he was hoping it was his son Nigel coming into the office and not his spiteful father.  Toni seems as enamored with Lane as he is of her, but she also wants to keep her job and mingling with the customers on property is not a good idea.  Lane is such a pathetic sad sack, it's surprising to see him as someone's love interest.

Betty gets an unwelcome visit, from two agents from the Department of Defense investigating Don Draper who's apparently applied for security clearance.  She is understandably rattled, especially as their pro forma questions have a particular resonance to Betty.  Do you trust Don's loyalty, is he faithful, do you believe he is not who he says he is.  No, no and yes is what she wants to shout out, but she stumbles through a shaky assurance that Don is not a threat to the U.S.  There aren't enough cigarettes in the world to calm her down for this line of questioning.  She calls Don to scold him for putting her in that situation, only for both of them for the first time to discover that Pete had put through a request for Don's national security clearance.

Don goes into full fledged panic over the thought of having his secret identity, his desertion, his identity theft, everything exposed.  Megan apologizes, and offers to fall on her sword, for submitting the paperwork without alerting Don to what he was signing.  Don barely takes any blame, telling Pete that signing things without reading them is what he does.  Pete goes from excited that the process is already underway to concern that Don's past could put himself, the firm, and the relationship in jeopardy.

Roger gets his own bit of shocking news.  His post-robbery romp with Joan has (or will in about nine months) born fruit.  On the one hand, he is intrigued that maybe this is a sign that they're meant to be together.  He does care about her and treasures their time together.  Yet when his feet are put in the fire, he jumps out, saying that he doesn't want her to keep the child.  If they were to get together, it shouldn't be from a scandal.  He's supportive of whatever decision she wants to make, but not supportive enough to leave his wife, ask her to leave her husband, and raise this child as his own.

Joan goes to the doctor to have an abortion, but before it's her turn she begins to strike up a conversation with a woman in the waiting room.  It's the mother of a teenage girl who is inside having her problem dealt with.  The woman mistakenly thinks Joan is there with her own daughter, and Joan plays along, allowing the woman to share her worry, bonding over their young girl's making a hard decision under difficult circumstances.  But Joan is not the mother of a teenage girl, she's the one with the problem and she's handling it.  She goes back to the office the next day and sees Roger and there's really nothing to say.  She's handled it.

Don's panic is not subsiding and he contacts his lawyer/financial planner about making arrangements for the kids NOW.  It doesn't take a genius to see that Don is freaking out about something and the lawyer assumes he's in a post-divorce black hole with suicidal overtones.  He has no clue that Don is making plans for an immediate escape should the past catch up with him.  Don and Pete meet to discuss their options and Pete slowly starts to confront that all his hard work and great success may be lost because of something that Don did many years before.  A $4M account may go up in smoke all so that Don's secrets can be kept under wraps.

Speaking of "up in smoke."  This is an episode with so much shit and so many fans.  Roger has a business lunch with Lee Garner, Jr., the firm's biggest client and the one for whom Roger would literally do anything.  Lucky Strike is SCDP, without them, the firm would go poof.  So when Lee tells Roger that Lucky Strike is taking their business and moving firms, Roger sees his professional life flash before his eyes.  Hell, he sees his life on earth gone as well.  This is devastating, catastrophic, a Titanic-sized disaster that is almost as cataclysmic as it was unimaginable.  Yet, losing Lucky Strike was always on the firm's collective mind.  You can't have a client that big, that important, and not wake up every morning worried "What if?"

Well, "what if" has happened.  Although Roger immediately goes into denial.  "This is not happening," he says out loud.  As if to make it worse, Lee tells him it's not because of anything they did or didn't do.  It's just business.  Roger begs and sputters and the best he gets from Lee is a 30-day window before the files have to be moved.  Roger is not equipped to deal with this and so he does nothing.  He goes back to work and says nothing.  

While Roger is dealing with the shock of losing the firm's biggest client (and probably the firm), Don comes home, sees some men milling about in front of his apartment, and decides it's probably the Feds and they're there to arrest him for desertion and a host of other horribles. But it was just a mix up.  Still, the panic has taken over and Don starts to sweat, and shake, and hyperventilate and he's convinced he's having a heart attack.  Dr. Faye is there with him and tries to get him to calm down.

We're so used to see the calm, unflappable Don - and so is Faye - that the sight of him clutching his chest, covered in sweat, scared out of his mind is unsettling.  It's also a glimpse at the man behind the curtain.  This scared, panicked man, who fears being discovered and losing everything, is hiding under the Brylcream, expensive suits, and finely pressed shirts.

Lane has invited his girlfriend over to meet his father and that goes about as well as expected.  His father does not want to entertain Lane's fantasies about stay in America and running away with his "chocolate bunny," he is here to bring Lane back and he won't take no for an answer.  When Lane tries to stand up for himself, stand up to his father, he's met with a swift cane to the head which knocks him to the ground.  On his hands and knees, groping blindly for his eyeglasses, his father stands on one outstretched hand.  Lane will listen to him and do as he's told.  He does not let up until Lane gives in.  "Yes, sir," he tells him.  "Yes, sir."

Elsewhere, Pete is having a more controlled freak out as he has to deal with the fact that he's about to lose a huge client through no fault of his own.  And once again he's dealing with the fact that he can put his head down and work hard and yet have it all taken away from him because he's not one of the special people.  He wants to tell Trudy, he wants to tell someone, but he just have to suffer in silence while Don ruins what could have been a huge career achievement for Pete.  He goes to Don's apartment, unannounced, to discus the status of the investigation and see Dr. Miller there, getting dressed and heading out.  So that's another of Don's secrets Pete has to keep.  Pete tells Don that if they stop pursuing North American Aviation, the investigation into Don's background will stop.  So Don gets to keep his secret and Pete loses his biggest client to date.

Back at the office, Roger goes to see Joan after her trip to get an abortion.  She looks good, happy and healthy, and he shows concern about both her physical and emotional well being.  But she says she's fine, "Life goes on."   It's time for the partner's meeting.

And in the conference room we have Bert, the only one not holding a secret.  Pete and Don know that they have to cut loose North American Aviation, but they can't tell the real reason.  Roger knows that the firm's biggest client, but he won't tell because if he doesn't say it out loud maybe it won't come true.  Joan is hiding her recent dalliance and it's resulting pregnancy while Lane is hiding his shame that a grown man was beaten and humiliated by his own father for the sin of wanting a new life.  Pete falls on his sword for Don and Roger goes after him, calling his failure a catastrophe.  Roger is taking all the anger and fear he has about the loss of Lucky Strike and dropping it on poor Pete's lap.  Even Bert thinks Roger has gone too far and tells him to apologize.

Lane tells the partners that he'll be returning to London to get his affairs in order and Roger breaks into laughter at the fact that everything seems to be crumbling.  But then when it's time to go through the status of accounts, and Joan asks about Lucky Strike, Roger says nothing, just gives the ol' thumbs up.

Don goes back to his office and Faye comes in, checking to see if he's okay, seeing if he wants to go out.  But he says he thinks he should be alone tonight.  After she leaves, his secretary comes in with the only bit of good news he's heard in days, Harry Crane came up with The Beatles' tickets.  She tells him, "You see?  Everything worked out."  And that wide-eyed optimism may be particularly intriguing to him.  And so is the tall, slender beauty he watches applying her makeup for a night out.  Should Faye worry?


Well, it took long enough, but Beatlemania has finally hit Mad Men.  Don has a sure fire way to get Sally to forgive him for not rescuing her from a life with Betty - he's going to take her to see the Fab Four at Shea Stadium.  Don was smart, with all the screaming going on, earplugs were a good idea.  This particular historical milestone gives us a time-stamp for the episode, as the concert took place on August 15, 1965.  It's a nice, happy bookend for what is otherwise a pretty grim episode.

The first mention of the Beatles was when Don told his former secretary Allison to buy some Beatles 45s for Sally last Christmas (1964).

In Ep. 1.12 Nixon v. Kennedy, Bert Cooper tells Don, "One never knows how loyalty is born."  He's referring then to Pete's loyalty to Don.  Back then, Don wanted to fire Pete for pitching an idea to the Bethlehem Steel executives, but Bert told him that Pete's family ties were of value to the agency and that he should find a way to work with Pete.  Roger devised a way to make it look like Bert was on board with firing him but that Don stepped in to give him a second chance.  Now that loyalty pays off when Pete takes the blame for something he didn't do and allows the partners to think him an idiot rather than rat out Don.

Joan was Roger's secret relationship before Jane and is again with wife number two.  He is clearly smitten with Joan and they seem perfect together, yet they are never together officially, out in the open.  He didn't leave Mona for her, like he did Jane.  And he's not about to leave Jane for her now.  But the attraction, which seems to go deeper than just the physical, is so strong between them.

Lucky Strike was the first client we were introduced to on the show.  When we first meet Donald Draper, he's scribbling ideas for his upcoming meeting with the client and our first sign of the genius of Don Draper comes at the tail-end of that 1960 pitch meeting.   We've seen Lee Garner get Sal fired, humiliate Roger, and get all of Sterling Cooper to act as his trained monkeys dancing for his pleasure.  But we  - and Roger - didn't realize that Lee Garner, Jr., was ultimately not that powerful and that his plaything could be taken away by the board of directors.

Another point about Lucky Strike.  Lee went out of his way to remind Roger that he inherited the account, he didn't go out and get it.

Nothing is ever Don's fault.  He signs a document from the Defense Department without reading it - that's Megan's fault for not telling him what he was signing.  He can't pass the background check because he's AWOL from the army and has stolen another man's identity - that's Pete's fault for getting the business.   I suppose it was Betty's fault that she opened the door to two strangers and not Don's fault for not knowing what is going on in his own agency.

The list of people who know that Don Draper is not who he claims to be adds another member, Dr. Miller.  We now have Bert and Pete at the office, Betty at home, and Anna Draper's family back in California as those who know the (partial) truth.  Yet he's never told the whole story, his culpability for the "mix up."  Again, Don makes sure that nothing is his fault.

"Do You Want to Know a Secret" by The Beatles.

Suicide mentions:
Don's lawyer hints that "everyone has dreams" when he thinks Don is having suicidal thoughts.
Roger to Lee: Are you kidding me? Are you trying to kill me?


Robert Pryce:   I'm here to bring you home.

Agent Landingham :   Would you describe him as a man of integrity?
Betty:  We divorced.  We obviously had differences.
Agent Norris:  Would you describe him as loyal?
Betty:  Excuse me?
Agent Landingham:  So do you have any reason to believe Mr. Draper isn't who he says he is?
Betty:  What was that?  I'm sorry.

Lane: Three whiskey sours aught to do.
Robert Pryce: She's asking what you want, not how many you've had.

Toni:  Why do you have to be so damn dashing?

Doctor:  What kind of man are you? You've used this woman and you've ruined her.
Roger:  Hold on a second.
Doctor:  A man of your age only slightly younger than myself.  That you could behave with such selfishness, such irresponsibility.
Roger:  We came here for your discretion, not your judgment.

Pete:  What are you gonna do?
Don:  Whatever I have to.  You can run the agency without me.

Roger:  I hate this.  Not that I would change anything, But I hate that it happened.  You know, not the first part but this.
Joan:   I understand.
Roger:  Don't you feel the same way? I mean, what if this is a sign? I haven't stopped thinking about you.  Maybe I'm in love with you.

Betty:  I don't want any secrets.

Mr. Keller:  Everybody has bad dreams every once in a while.  The wound is still fresh.  It'll heal in time.

Lee:  I don't want you to think this is for cause.  There's no reason.  There's nothing you can do,   Nothing you could do.  It's just the way it is.

Roger: After all the lies I've told for you, you owe me that!
Lee:  I don't owe you squat.   You inherited this account.

Robert:  Put your home in order, either there or here.  You will not live in between.

Pete:  How is it that some people just walk through life, dragging their lies with them, destroying everything they touch?

Don:  I'm tired of running.
Faye:  Running from what?
Don:  In Korea I was wounded, but this other man was killed and they mixed us up.  And I wanted them to.  And I just kept living as him.

Lane:  I can say with full confidence that the company is in a state of stability even with this morning's news.

Megan:  Do you need me?
Don:  No.  You can go.

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

Don's confession to Faye may not have brought him and her closer together, but it did encourage him to try and go into his next relationship with fewer lies.

Don tells a version of the truth, but never the whole truth, of how he came to become Donald Draper.  That he intentionally switched the dogtags is something he never shares to anyone.

Roger is particularly hurt by Lee's comment that he inherited the account.  While it's not a point many people focus on, but the "Sterling" in Sterling Cooper referred not to Roger but his father.  Roger has for years been questioned about what he does at the office, what his contributions are.  While Pete (and at times Ken) have pounded the pavement to get new clients, Roger's only job has been to keep the SS Lucky Strike afloat, mostly by stroking Lee's ego.  It takes until Season 7, and Bert's death, for Roger to finally step up and be a leader.

Don' financial advisor noticed Megan before Don did, asking if he was "shtupping" his secretary.  Don said no, he was too busy worrying about being sent to federal prison.  But once he calms down, he'll get right on that.

We were certainly left with the feeling that Joan had gone through with the abortion, but as Kevin will prove shortly, she had a change of heart.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 9: The Beautiful Girls

"Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do."

We see the familiar back of Don Draper's head as he is being brusque on the phone with someone.  We think it's a business call as he discuses clearing an hour on his schedule and grabbing lunch.  We then see two sandwiches, wrapped, waiting to be eaten, while we hear the very loud sounds of coitus consummatus.   Don and Faye Miller have moved their relationship forward, from that first chaste dinner to a nooner at his apartment.  Faye takes Don's willingness to let her stay behind in his apartment as a sign that they are moving to the next step and yet they are not close enough for her to violate the "Chinese Wall" that surrounds her work for other clients.

They take another step when she is asked to take Sally back to Don's place after she showed up unexpectedly at the office.  Faye takes meeting Don's daughter as a big step and Sally senses that there may be something going on between Faye and her dad.  And she doesn't like the idea.  What Sally does want is to live with Don.  If you don't find her questioning why she can't live with him heartbreaking, you need a new ticker.  But it's not just the divorce laws or Betty that's the problem, Don is not equipped to be a parent.  He does great at these little visits, but his drinking and carousing are not suitable hobbies for a dad.  He's been trying to be a better man, but is he ready to be one?

After he tucks Sally in for the night, he sits down at the desk where we last saw him journaling.  But he can't find the words, and just sits there, looking miserable.  The next morning, he awakes to a homemade breakfast.   In one of many small but memorable moments, Don wonders what Sally put on his french toast and she says, Mrs. Butterworth.  He has her bring over the jar and sees that it's rum.  "Read labels," he tells her.  Then they have this funny exchange.  Sally:  "Is it bad?"  Don: "Not really."  Their time together is so cute and precious and yet so fleeting.  Sally is trying her hardest to be the perfect daughter, still believing that if she's good enough he'll let her stay.  She gets Don to agree to take the morning off and take her to the zoo and it's sweet and lovely and still so sad.

Speaking of sad, Don's latest and greatest secretary to date, Miss Ida Blankenship, died peacefully at her desk while Don, Ken and Faye were pitching the Fillmore Auto Parts brothers Manny, Moe and Jack.  Her death hit Roger particularly hard, not because he was particularly close to Ida (though Bert apparently was), but because it brought back memories of his own near-death experience at the office.  He turns to Joan for comfort and Joan is in need of the same, with her husband heading off to Vietnam.

Their increased interactions culminates with an out of the way dinner and nighttime walk through a sketchy neighborhood where they are robbed at gunpoint.  Afterwards, scared and relieved and shocked, they fall into each others arms and break both their vows, invoking the near-death exception to the marital fidelity rule.  But the next day, back at the office, Joan lets Roger know that it was a one time deal.  He's married and she's married and that's just how it is.  Roger has regrets and thinks his times with Joan have been his happiest, yet she's right.  The fact that they never were together, officially, openly, is a source of sadness for both of them, yet that is what it is and what it always has been.

The SCDP work story this episode is devising a new pitch for Fillmore Auto Parts.  There are three things going on here, one the idea of how a small family-owned business can compete with the big chain.  Two, how there once was a tension between white collar and blue collar and the idea of selling something as good for both seemed unfathomable.  Three, how seemingly nice guys can do some really awful things and get away with it because no one wants to be the one to stand up.  Thanks to Abe, Peggy has her eyes opened to the truth behind the three nice guy clients - that their company promotes bigotry.  But none of her white male coworkers are troubled by it, at least not enough to risk losing the business.

It's time for Sally to go home with Betty, but she doesn't want to leave.  Again, she begs to stay with Don and again promises to be good.  Don doesn't know what to do and tries to engage Dr. Faye to help convince Sally that she should go home.  Faye is awkward and unconvincing and Sally runs away down the hall, tripping and falling right in front of Megan, the young beautiful secretary.  Megan hugs her, tells her everything is going to be okay and disarms her by saying she falls all the time.  As stiff and cold as Faye is with Sally, that's how warm and comforting Megan is.  And Faye could not help but notice that she was awful with Don's daughter.

Don comforts her and tells her it's okay and they make plans to go out again Saturday night.  But Faye is worried.  She's made certain choices in her life and one was to focus on her career and not get married and have children and she's not sure that's a decision she regrets or wants to change.  Peggy has also made that choice.  Just two episode again she toasted to being newly single.  But now she has a new suitor, albeit a rabble rousing, leftwing policy espousing, curmudgeon named Abe who equates working for corporations as war crimes.  She's intrigued by Abe and by the fact that she inspired him to the point of writing up an anti-capitalist manifest in her honor.

At the end of the day, the three beautiful girls go home, alone.  Joan, whose affair with Roger never turned into anything more and who is now stuck in a loveless marriage with someone who doesn't consult her on the biggest decisions in their lives.  Peggy, who is conflicted about her new confrontational beau.  And Faye, who worries that Don gave her a test and she failed it by not being the maternal figure he might want for his children.    They are the working women of the mid-1960s, navigating new waters and finding them particularly bumpy.


Peggy first met Abe in Ep. 4.04 The Rejected and they had a brief make out session, so when Joyce asks Peggy if she remembers Abe, she does indeed.

Their discussion on civil rights is as relevant today as it was then, with Peggy telling Abe that it's not just about black versus white, but male versus female.  She notes that there are plenty of things she can't do as a woman and he tells her that no one shoots her for trying to vote.   Both of them are right and I wonder what Abe would think of the fact that we have an African-American president before a woman one and what Peggy would think of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot."

Abe gives Peggy the  you work for the evil corporation speech and Peggy does not apologize, saying it's not her job to tell her clients what to do but to help them deal with problems.  But, again, both are right and while Abe shouldn't criticize her for making a living in advertising she also can't ignore that some of her clients may have policies that she does not endorse.

This may be the first time Peggy had to face the moral decision of how to deal with a client with whom you disagree.  If Fillmore Auto Parts does practice racial discrimination, how can she continue to work for them?  Peggy ventures a suggestion - have Harry Belafonte sing the client's jingle. Have them dissociate themselves from their racist practices. But her fellow SCDP workers don't share her concern and don't want to upset the apple cart.

When Peggy questions why they are doing business with a company that discriminates, Don tells her, "Our job is to make men like Fillmore Auto, not Fillmore Auto like Negroes."  He doesn't look happy about that description, but he accepts it and that is understandably troubling to Peggy.  She's starting to open her eyes to what's going on around her and starting to question the status quo.

There were some great visual moments.  Joan trying to pull the afghan out from under the recently deceased Miss Blankenship, Pete coming over to help move the body, Don's taking his time writing up the contract in the conference room while in the background everyone cleared the body out of the office.  And you gotta love Harry Crane, who's blanket was used to cover Ida. "My mother made that!"

Stan rewrites the lyrics to Petula Clark's Downtown as he's joking around with Peggy and her girlfriend Joyce.  Later, a different Petula Clark song is heard in the background at the bar.

Peggy tells Joyce about one of her concerns at work: "I have to hire more copywriters, but these men come in and I know the better they are, the more my job is in danger."  It's a fear many people have, that their position could be threatened by new blood. But Peggy is particularly concerned because as a female copywriter she's a distinct minority. 

Don has certain expectations for Faye and she failed in all of them.  She wouldn't tell him what business she was doing apart from Sterling Cooper and she was not much of a babysitter.  As an independent woman, Faye may expect to be treated as an equal and not held to a higher standard, but that's not what Don expects.   He wants her to be that bowl that Joyce mentioned, that comforting, encompassing, well that he can pour himself into.

It was amusing seeing the "Queen of perversions" Miss Blankenship refer to the advertising business as full of sadists and masochists.  Her final episode was glorious.  How she correctly corrected Bert's crossword mistake, her loudly asking Don if he's heading to the toilet, her complaining about how Faye is pushy.  She'll be missed.

Roger tells Joan what Megan tells Sally - it'll be okay.  Neither believes it. (Joan retorts, that's what people say.  Sally is even more direct telling her, no it won't.)

"I Know a Place" by Petula Clark.


Faye:  You wanna leave me here? You sure?
Don:  I'm taking everything interesting with me.

Roger (to Joan):  I was just giving her a hard time.  Can I interest you in the same?

Ida (to Peggy):  It's a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.

Peggy:  Bad news.  Don showed up.

Peggy:  But I have to say, most of the things Negroes can't do, I can't do either, and nobody seems to care.
Abe:  What are you talking about?
Peggy:  Half of the meetings take place over golf, tennis, in a bunch of clubs where I'm not allowed to be a member, or even enter.

Bert:  A three-letter word for a flightless bird.
Ida:  Emu.
Bert:  Nope.  It starts with an "L."
Ida:  The hell it does.

Roger:  I knew I was rubbing you the wrong way, so I thought, why not have someone rub you the right way?
Joan:  I brought you bear claws.
Roger:  Caroline won't let me have one unless it's on the end of a real bear.

Joan (to Roger):  I forgot for a second that you're incapable of doing something nice without expecting something nicer in return.

Woman from train: Men never know what's going on.

Abe:  We have a religion in this country and it's business.

Don:  I would have my secretary do it, but she's dead.

Roger:  Damn it, I don't want to die in this office.  I almost have, twice.

Joan:   Poor Ida.
Roger:  She died like she lived.  Surrounded by the people she answered phones for.

Roger (to Joan):  Every time I think back, all the good stuff was with you.

Bert (of Ida):  She was born in 1898 in a barn.  She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper.  She's an astronaut.

Ken:  Harry said, on the form where it says "cause of death," they wrote "Don Draper."
Stan:  How long do you think Yvette Mimieux's gonna last on his desk?
Ken:   I say we start a pool on whether she's fired, quits or dies.

Stan: Have you ever been to the South? 'Cause they have a way of doing things,
Peggy:  The Fillmore brothers are from Boston.
Stan: Same thing.

Faye: I can't do anything for you.

Faye:  Well, it feels like there was a test and l failed it.

Suicide mentions:
Roger said "If it looks like I'm going, open a window.  I'd rather flatten the top of a cab."  He also says he's going to drink cyanide and then flat out says he's going to kill himself.

Whore mentions:
Joyce says Abe wants to turn Peggy out. To "turn out" a woman is to lead her into prostitution. 

Spoilery Observations (Don't Read Until You're Caught Up)

Sally tells Don that she loves him so much and Don says he loves her too.  That may be the only time Don says I love you.

Peggy worries that hiring new male copywriters could endanger her position, but that fear is unwarranted.  She's good at her job and is never at risk of losing it. In fact, when she hires Ginsberg his talent is more of a threat to Don than it is to her. 

Sally asks Don if she can live with him. She says her brothers can live there too, she'll take care of them.  Seeing Sally act like a grownup, making Don breakfast and talking about how she could help take care of her brothers, is really sweet but it also now looks like foreshadowing.  Her offer comes to a sad reality at the end of the series when Sally has to step in for the ailing Betty as the surrogate mom to her brothers.  The difference is then she no longer looks to Don as the answer for who can save her but sees him for the flawed, limited father he is.

Stan wondered how long Megan would stay on Don's desk and Ken joked they should start a pool on whether she's fired, quits or dies.  No one had any money on marries the boss.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mad Men Season 4, Episode 8: The Summer Man

"We're flawed because we want so much more. We're ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."

If you ever wondered what the usually tight-lipped Donald Draper was thinking, this episode gives us insight into Don's thought via voiceovers.  He starts his day at the club, clearing his mind in the quiet suspension of the pool.  Then he suits up for his day, lights up and takes in his surroundings.  Summer is coming and with that promise of rebirth and renewal, a new Don Draper.

Don is trying to change things.  He's acknowledging he has a drinking problem.  He's exercising, going for long swims. And he's journaling, trying to keep a diary or sorts. Of his thoughts, his dreams. He lists three things he wants to accomplish.  Climb Kilimanjaro or go anywhere in Africa. "Two, gain a modicum of control over the way I feel.  I want to wake up.  I don't wanna be that man."

His attempt at cutting down his drinking goes nowhere, he's far from teetotalling.  Yet he is not drinking automatically, reflexively, but noticing each sip, making a conscious decision each time whether to imbibe or not.  And, sadly, painfully, still drinking.  There is a chasm between wanting to change and changing.

The winter of Don's discontent is ending and he's looking at a bright and shiny new world.  We see for once that the dark, dank apartment he's been holed up in actually can let in some light.  What will the summer bring?  For Don, it is three different blondes.

First is Bethany, the cute young "modern" woman who wants to move their relationship further.  She speaks her mind and asks for more from Don.  She's a sweet girl, but we've never seen Don with the sweet girl before.  We assume maybe that's what Betty was like when they first met.  But every girl since then has been dark and mysterious and independent.  Maybe it would be a fresh start for Don to choose someone with no baggage, who is just a happy spirit.  But she doesn't seem fulfilling.

At their date, she notices the chill.  Every date feels like a first date and the inscrutable Don is impossible to get to know.  Kudos to Bethany for not finding his aloofness sexy and mysterious but rather a wall to keep anyone from penetrating.  She asks the big question, "Don't you want to be close to anyone?"  And that is Don's problem in a nutshell - he's afraid to get close because if anyone discovered who he really is, he fears, they couldn't love him.  So he keeps everyone at a distance, letting them see the product he's selling - "Don Draper" - rather than the real man.  If he even knows who that is.

The second is Dr. Faye Miller.  Despite her hair color, she is more in line with the women he's cheated with in the past.  She's smart, successful and no-nonsense.  She can joust with Don, go toe-to-toe with him.  He's attracted and she's suddenly available (we hear her break up with her boyfriend on the pay phone outside the office).  If Don is going to change, clean up his act, take care of himself, wouldn't Faye be the ideal person with whom to do this?

But Faye is by training and education a student of the psyche.  She understands people, who they are, why they do what they do.  If Don wants to keep himself shut off, Faye would not be the right person.  But if he wants to explore an adult, in-depth relationship, Faye would be the perfect person.  She sees right through Don, says he reminds her of her father, "a two-bit gangster."  She gives Don good advice: to try love and kindness instead of bombast, to be what he wants to be to his child.  She's wary of him and reluctant to get to know him outside of the office, yet he has a certain unquestionable charm that even she can't resist.

The third is Betty Draper.  They are split up and she's already remarried.  But because they have three children together, they are inextricably tied together.  She has power over him stronger than sexual power.  She can tell him when he can and can't see his kids, she can bring another man into their home, she can make him obsolete.  This was supposed to be his weekend, but he can't have the children because it's Gene's birthday party.  The boy who was a symbol of their last moment of desperation, is growing up as someone else's child.

But Don has power too.  When she sees him with a younger version of herself, she gets upset.  It's okay for her to move on with her life, but she doesn't want to see that he's moving on as well.  She wants him to be miserable and suffer and while Henry pretends that he doesn't understand the depth of her hatred towards Don, he feels it too.  Running his car into Don's boxes, making Don come and collect them by having them left out of the sidewalk, making sure Don knows he's not invited to his own son's birthday.  Yeah, Henry has some hostility towards Don too.

At the office, the new art freelancer, Joey Baird, is acting like Ken Cosgrove back in 1960.  He's belittling and demeaning to Joan, including telling her she walks around the office like she wants to be raped, then posting a derogatory drawing of Joan and Lane Pryce having sex.  He's beyond the fratboy level of insensitivity and it's ironic that he thinks Harry Crane is propositioning him.  Yes, Joey, you're the victim of sexual harassment here.

Maybe under normal circumstances Joan would be able to put Joey in his place or ignore his juvenile attitude, but she's consumed with worry about her husband Greg going off to basic training.  Already on edge, being the butt of Joey's jokes really sets her off. She even snaps at Peggy. 

Joan tries to dissuade Don from upping Joey's hours without any luck.  Peggy decides to step in and fix the problem. She fires Joey and then goes looking for some sisterly appreciation from Joan.  But Joan is not appreciative, just the opposite.  By Peggy firing Joey both she and Joan came out badly she tells her.  I'm just a lowly secretary and you're a humorless bitch.  This is the conundrum facing women in the workplace.  If you don't laugh at the sophomoric jokes or look the other way at sexual innuendos, you're a stick in the mud.  If you do something about it, you're a bitch.  Rather than bonding over their shared experiences as women in the workplace, Peggy and Joan were at odds.  Nobody won.

In the end, Don recognizes that Bethany is not the answer.  She's sweet and innocent but there's no substance there and he feels he needs that.  Faye has that depth and so he takes it slow, hoping not to replicate the mistakes of his past.  She could help him be a better man.  And Betty, always Betty.  She recognizes that she has it all - the husband, the kids, the perfect life.  So she puts aside her bitterness and resentment and gives Don a gift, letting him be part of his son's birthday.  Don wanted more than his marriage to Betty, than his kids and their home together.  And now he has none of that and wishes he hadn't let it slip away.


We get a small bit of information about Don; he never finished high school.  It's one of many regrets he has and it makes him wonder if "everything could have been different."

Harry name drops Bernie Kowalski who was a real producer/director in the 60s, responsible for, among other shows, Mission: Impossible. He does it when he's suggesting Joey might consider going into acting.  Joey misinterprets Harry's intentions and decides he was being hit on at the office.

Don looks so out of place and time as he steps out into the sun, dressed like it's 1955, and walks into the summer of 1965.

Peggy mentions that she feels like Margaret Mead as she was watching the guys try to beat up a vending machine.  Mead was a cultural anthropologist. :)

Great comic relief courtesy of Ida Blankenship.  Her interaction with Don upon her return from cataract surgery was priceless: 
Don:  How was your surgery?
 Ida:  It was a nightmare.  The ether and the blindness, and then I got the goggles.
Don:  So, everything's good?
Ida:  I'll tell you, I was blind and now I see.
Don:  Well, good.  If you need more time ... 
Ida:  I'm fine, Roger.  I'm kidding around here.

Bethany asks Don if he's a Felix or an Oscar, which refers to the two lead characters in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.  The play would have just come out on Broadway by this time (summer of 1965) so it's likely they had just seen the play and were having dinner afterwards (Henry's friend asked what play Henry and Betty had just seen).  Bethany stays at the Barbizon Hotel Apartments in Manhattan.  This was a women's-only hotel that was frequented through the 1960s by young women trying to make it in the big city.  Interesting Vanity Fair article about the hotel here.

"Satisfaction" by Rolling Stones


Don:  They say as soon as you have to cut down on your drinking you have a drinking problem.

Ida:  I'll tell you.  I was blind but now I see. 

Peggy: I feel like Margaret Mead. 

Pete:  When did we get a vending machine? 

Joey:  What do you do around here besides walking around like you're trying to get raped?

Bethany: Don't you want to be close to anyone?
Don: I do. 

Don:   That was actually my ex-wife and her husband, and some slob who's about to have the worst dinner of his life.

Henry:  That is not something you're allowed to say.
Betty:  Now you decide what I can and can't say? I was in a marriage like that before.

Betty:  I hate him.
Henry:  Hate's a strong word, Betty.  I hate Nazis.  I 
have an ex-wife.  She bothers me.

Don:  People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be. 

Francine: Why do you let him bother you? We see him walking out with the kids some weekends.  Carlton calls him "that sad bastard."
Betty:  That's an act.  He's living the life, let me tell you.  He doesn't get to have this family and that.

Joan:  Well, no matter how powerful we get around here, they can still just draw a cartoon.  So, all you've done is prove to them that I'm a meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch.

Don:  When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere.  Just ask him.  If you listen, he'll tell you how he got there, how he forgot where he was going and then he woke up.  If you listen, he'll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect.  And then he'll smile with wisdom, content that he'd realized the world isn't perfect.  We're flawed because we want so much more. We're ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.

Don: I've been a little out of sorts lately.

Faye:  He's a handsome, two-bit gangster like you.

Faye:  All he knows of the world is what you show him.

Faye:  Kindness, gentleness and persuasion win where force fails.

Whore references:
Joey telling Joan, "I don't need some madam from a Shanghai whorehouse to show me the ropes."  The title of his pornographic drawing was Tally Ho.

Spoilery Observations (Don't read until you're caught up!)

Joan and Peggy will continue to have different ways of dealing with gender issues in the workplace.  Joan will be offered a partnership in exchange for sex, Peggy will be passed over for promotion in favor of a male boss.  Both will be sexually harassed.  Peggy will suggest that maybe Joan brings some of the negative attention onto herself by how she dresses. Joan will be propositioned and demand justice - she'll ultimately have to leave and open her own company.  Peggy will end up with a peer-level romantic relationship at work and will ignore the old boy's network and rise through the ranks. 

Joey tells Stan, "You love her," in reference to Peggy.  Joey, it took five more years, but you were proven right after all.