Sunday, October 3, 2010

MAD MEN 4.11--"Chinese Wall"

I would be remiss if I didn't finally mention this frankly hilarious meme what's been making the rounds. For the benefit of the two of you left who might not have seen it, I give you Sad Don Draper. Enjoy!

"You're the most hireable man on Madison Avenue."

"I'm not at that point yet."

Well, last week sure did light a fire under things didn't it? We had Don nearly getting in trouble with government re: his desertion from the army; we had him further stir the pot by revealing his secret to Dr. Faye; we had Lucky Strike leaving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce; we had Joan's heartbreaking trip to the abortion clinic and we had Lane Pryce leaving for awhile, which in the face of everything. Needless to say, shit just got real.

According to Wikipedia, which is occasionally correct about such things, a "Chinese wall" is defined as "an information barrier implemented within a firm to separate and isolate persons who make investment decisions from persons who are privy to undisclosed material information which may influence those decisions. This is a way of avoiding conflict of interest problems."

We begin with Peggy, Joyce, and that tiresome boho from a few weeks ago trying as best they can to cram as many people as possible into a Volkswagen having just come from the beach, where presumably, they got their Frankie and Anette on. Displaying astonishingly poor judgment, they get it on. The day after, she won't let him leave and they get it on again. Jesus God, the Peggy Olson streak of picking awful awful men is intact.

Meanwhile, at a dinner with Ken Cosgrove (and Ray F'N Wise!) the shoe drops big-time as one of his former at BBDO co-workers tells him the show has already dropped--Lucky Strike has moved their business to a new agency (and Lee Garner turned out to be full of shit about giving Roger a month to work it out, which would be more of a shock had Lee not constantly been demonstrated to be a slimy prick at every appearance) This spreads like wildfire from Ken to Pete to Don, and a war council is call, and Roger ends up being the last to find out about his treachery. This leads to two very gut-wrenching embarrassing moments, wherein Roger fakes an outraged phone call and I wonder if Bert Cooper sleeps in the office (he doesn't even have a office and he has to sleep there too? Poor guy) and Roger prepares to head to my backyard in Raleigh-Durham to plead their case. He doesn't, and the only thing to do now is to manage the crisis by managing information very carefully, so as not to spook their other clients into leaving what looks like a sinking ship.

Pete, in the shadow of Trudi's birth (now apparently in it's ninth hour), has a fight with her dad, who basically dangles an offer from Ted Chaugh----Don's nemesis from the Honda account fight--and says that Pete need not go down with the ship, making this the second time in as many years and offer or urge to bolt has been dangled in front of him. An intriguing subtext happens here, when Pete's urged to go about his business as whenever she has the baby, he can always come by then.

Back to the main crisis, wherein, Don and the guys lay out how they'll handle the flow of information out of the office for this with all the veiled tension of roll call on Hill Street Blues. It's telling that Don is the one to handle telling the troops about it and trying to sell them on the idea that they'll persevere and try to rally them for a big push to get new clients and hold on to clients. Don says this as does someone who hopes no one will see his knees knocking the whole time.

Meanwhile Roger pathetically calls Joan, reveals he didn't go, and he knew about the loss of Lucky Strike. Joan activates Force Choke (or looks like she wants to) and basically cock-blocks Roger, who looks dissipated, crushed, and pathetic, about as far from the uber-confident head man as we've ever seen him. Makes sense--after all, we've only ever seen him with the golden porkchop of Lucky Strike dangling around his neck--so long as he had them, his position was unassailable. Without it . . .where is he?

Things go from bad to worse. Glo-Coat, the ad that won them the award, backs out and Don handles it with it his usual "I'm tired of this bullshit" level of diplomacy and breaks the Clio award and feels the urge to crawl in the bottle and I'm relieved he has a safety net in terms of drinking. He takes this out on Pete, who, distracted with the birth, gets chewed out by Don for fumbling the phone call runs back to the hospital and Ted Chaugh is there to ooze smarm all over him, and given Pete's temper and stinging from Don chewing him out, is liable to make that kind of decision.

Joan and Roger have another meeting where Roger immediately tries to feel her up, completely and utterly oblivious to what seems to be going on around them--Joan is run ragged with the business of cleaning up his mess , and finally hits him with the situation in an instant: a fling with Joan isn't the solution to his problems (as much as they may belong together) it's another problem. That said, they end up saying their goodbyes, and I am reminded that on Mad Men, it's always darkest before it goes pitch black.

Paranoia spreads even among Dr. Faye and Don (remember, she works for a lot of ad agencies as well as SCDP) get in a fight over ethics, which certainly throws into sharp relief for a number of reasons, most especially that Don just co-opted Dr. Faye into his Big Lie just last week after all.

Meanwhile, Peggy nearly gets molested by Stan, who tries to kiss her and smudges her lipstick on the eve of a presentation to a client. Stan's assholishness never fails to astound me nor his taste in truly awful jackets, because he never bothers to tell her about it, and a hilarious moment where everyone can only stare at the lipstick all over her teeth (yes, even me) all through the presentation, which makes the fact that this is all about selling latex gloves.

Making things worse, Roger lies about the result of the Lucky Strike meeting and everyone proceeds to throw brickbats at each other, but they hilariously pause in the midst of this to congratulate Pete about the birth of his knew daughter. Cooper hits Roger with the truth of the matter: Lee Garner never took Roger seriously because Roger never took it seriously. This neatly parallels the funeral of another ad exec that they go to, not because they liked the guy, but because funerals are a great way to pick up new clients, which SCDP can't afford not to do.

Surprisingly, Secretary #3, Megan, turns out to be something interesting. Like Peggy wayyyy back at the beginning of the series, she has ambitions of becoming a copywriter or someday doing Don's job, she's an artist, and a former actress and oh yeah, she also wants Don to work her like a punch-press, and sure enough, because some people never learn their lesson Mr. "I can't afford to make a mistake right now" is on top of her, boinking away. While it's great that we might have two Peggy Olsons working at SCDP and she superficially reminds me a bit of Midge, Don's mistress #1 from way back when, she's a little too moony and a little too worshipfull of the almighty Draper. This is all dramatically complicated by Faye, who's actually gotten a meeting for him with Heinz, and while this should be a great justification of trust, all I can think about is "oh lord, he was so close to getting this right and look what he's done."

Roger, meanwhile, is a picture of glum, and not even the publication of his memoirs seems to help, nor does the attention of his wife. It's funny to think that the whole reason he married Jane in the first place was because she made him feel free and very much as he did when he was with Joan and now, like everything else, it's a cold, dry, airless, prison.

So things end with . . .well, more tension. And two more episodes left for them to pull this out or go down in flames. I could say that I'm not worried, of course--Don Draper always seems to win at the end of the season--but then I remember I thought Al Swearengen always prevailed at the end of Deadwood's seasons and look how that worked out. By series 4 you do tend to subvert audience expectations . . .

NEXT TIME--Two episodes to go! As the titles have grown to be a bit more concrete in terms of relativity to the episode, we can reasonably assume a few things about the episode, none of which I will be speculating on in this blurb. Next episode--"Blowing Smoke." The light of the moon is the message of love.

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