Sunday, August 15, 2010

MAD MEN 4.4--"The Rejected"

"I don't know how you stand it. One minute he turns on the charm one minute and then he yanks it away . . .He's a drunk and they get away with murder because they forget everything."

Last week, in one the most depressing/hilarious episodes ever, our hero (or nominal protagonist, at least) suffered the knowledge that he was going to lose one of the few people who understood him and cared about him, and bounced back by helping his partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce get over his impending divorce by going on an epic bender, wherein we learned the cure for divorce is to get massively drunk, go watch Gamera movies, use a steak as a belt buckle, and put a button on the evening by hiring a prostitute.

Things go even more askew this week--for one thing, Don gets a letter from Anna, which only re-opens the bleeding angst from last week.

But more than that, Pete Campbell is taking a shellacking. His father in law's Clearasil account (which was a major point of contention for him in the second season and quite a surprise when he regained it at the end of series 3) which, from what he indicates today came at a heavy cost has to be rejected as it's in conflict with another client and Pete's left to break the news, a job for which Pete is about as equipped to break it to father-in-law as Hitler is to host a bat mitzvah.

That's the least of the shocks to come to him, as in the process of trying to break it to the father-in-law, he learns that his wife is (finally--their inability to conceive was part of the whole folderol over Clearasil last time and a hilarious scene with a paddleball) pregnant, which makes him elated (if ambivalent) and gives him an out to not tell his father-in-law. Peter, being a spineless, wormy jellyfish who often exerts his humanity in spite of his nature rather than because of it, welcomes the distraction and eager to fob off the job of telling him to his wife.

Pete is a douchebag, you see, and one who since we've known him usually defines himself in competition with others, whether it be Don, Ken Cosgrove (who returns finally), his family, his in-laws, really anyone. The feud with Cosgrove is still going on, of course, and the infamous "lawnmower incident" from last year is brought up once again, and while they make an effort to patch things over in light of Pete becoming a father and Cosgrove finally getting married. How sincere this is is left to the viewer to judge, but . . .

. . .he makes it worse later on, by explaining the conflict between Clearasil in perhaps the most obnoxious way possible, essentially blackmailing him into delivering the entire Vick's chemical account, which is pretty much the Pete Campbell we're used to.

While all this is going on, we sit in on a focus group for Pond's Cold Cream (the people who started Pete's whole mess in the first place) From the week before last, we know that the spectre of focus groups has just been initiated at SCDP, and this is the first time we really see it in action, or rather we watch Don, Peggy, and Freddy watch them in action, which ends with most of the focus group bawling (the chief crier being Don's secretary Allison what he crossed the line with two weeks ago) and Peggy ends up finding out that she and Don have done the nasty, and she assumes that Peggy must have as well.

Don getting the credit for Peggy's work is her Berserk Button (she very nearly didn't make the move to SCDP because she was sick of Don taking her for granted because she was being treated like this) so Allison's insistence that she must also have slept with Don sets her off and she makes everything worse despite her altruistic intentions. Ever the prisoner of lies, as everyone is on this show, Peggy says that she's "fine."

Don tries as best he can to patch things up, but the secretary hits him right between the eyes with the aftereffects of what happened. They both agree it was a mistake and the secretary wants to quit and work for Cosmopolitan (or so I am led to believe) and wants Don to write her a letter of recommendation, a job which he fobs back off on her and she throws something at him and says he's a shitty person (and he is--for all his alienation and inability to connect with people, Don does, at times, do the Wrong Thing and richly deserves to be called on his bullshit) and stalks off. Don reacts as he usually does, by being alone and looking sullen.

One might argue that being alone and sullen and trying to blunt it with drink it what caused this in the first place. Anna told him that the thing that most makes him unhappy is the belief that he's alone. He does his best to make it up to Allison and struggles over a letter explaining everything, but can't finish it because what's wrong is something he can't or is unwilling to articulate.

On the plus side, Allison gets replaced by a secretary that pretty much ensures that the same thing that happened to Allison won't be repeated.

Meanwhile, one rejected photo from life magazine gets Peggy into a party with some honest to God New York Hippies (one of which I assume is supposed to be Kenneth Anger or an amazing simulation) and fires up a spliff. Things don't go quite as carefree as the last time, as the post-Warhol hippies, she gets insulted for being a sellout and the place gets raided. On the plus side, considering she very nearly gets lucky in a closet hiding out from the pigs. I had never really considered the erotic potential involved in police raids, but Mad Men educates as it entertains.

Peggy, full of the exciting possibilities that her night out offered, then hears the news of Pete's impending fatherhood and delivers some very halting congratulations. This is somewhat painful, given their mutual history and the fact that the idea of Pete Campbell spawning is enough to terrify anyone.

Meanwhile, Don upbraids the focus group person, partly because he sees no value in what they do, but also, I think, because this kind of "people doing something because of what they've always done" is the antithesis of what he does. It's analysis, and he's creative, and given where we are now in the world of advertising, one gets the distinct impression he can smell his own extinction, a fact which I'm sure is only going to fuel his dislocation and implosion.

NEXT TIME: Apparently there will be a lot of shouting. Again, I refuse to speculate as to what these out of context quotes really mean. So, I'm going to just say: Some things will happen. Apparently Betty will be back for the first time in a couple weeks. Perhaps someone will be set on fire, and Don Draper will crack open a can of whupass on a ninja camp with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other--your guess is as good as mine. There may even be falling cherry blossoms--those are always badass in a classy way. Next episode--"The Chrysanthemum and the Sword." NOT EVEN JUSTICE, I WANT TO GET TRUTH.

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