Monday, October 4, 2010

Mad Men -- Chinese Wall (Or, the Ad Agency's in Trouble)

Image credit: AMC
*Warning – Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

These are some dark days for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. After spending the bulk of this season focused on the downward-spiraling Don (who seems on the precipice of a relapse to his bad boy tendencies with the drinking and Alison 2.0), the darkness descended upon the brightly decorated home of the ad upstarts at SCDP.

We knew that Roger losing Lucky Strike was going to rear its head and upend the entire, cozy, complacency at SCDP. (You don’t blow off a multi-million-dollar account like North American Aviation without trying to desperately find another way to save it.) However I didn’t expect the fall-out to hit the fan so soon, thought that maybe Matt Weiner & Co. would hold off on SCDP’s near-end of days until the season finale.

And, while viewers knew that, despite all the hard work Don put into reshaping his life (cutting back on the drinking, dating an appropriate woman for him, journaling and going to the gym), he wasn’t going to be perfect and would likely slip up. I expected Don to mess up a bit in the form of drinking, maybe slack off on going to the gym as he worked longer hours, but I did NOT expect for him to sleep with another secretary, particularly given that he’s in a serious relationship with Faye, even ‘fessed up about his alias. Even though Don did give Megan the once-over at the end of the previous episode, I was surprised that he went there. (It was the same surprise I experienced when he started sleeping with Miss Farrell in season three.)

Has Don learned nothing? Don needs to start journaling again so he can see, in his own handwriting, how history is repeating itself and he’s doing himself no favors. I’m just waiting for the Dick Whitman situation to crop up once more to give Don a swift kick in the pants.

Aside from Don’s shaky foothold on leading a healthy life (emotionally and physically), Roger -- he of the stark white hair and the stark white office featuring a print with a blinding white background populated by little black dots -- found himself in danger of being swallowed up by darkness. He sunk to pathetic depths when he didn't tell his colleagues about Lucky Strike in time for them to do anything about it, and when he stood three feet away from them and lied about speaking on the phone with Lee Garner Jr., dovetailed by his cowardly flight to a Manhattan hotel when he was supposed to be in Raleigh having a face-to-face visit with Lee. After coasting by on his father’s coattails for his entire life -- with the exception of his stint in World War II – Roger now seems to be flailing professionally as well as personally.

He tried, once again, to use Joan as salve to make himself feel better, forgetting (or perhaps completely unaware) that he’d torpedoed any shot at a serious relationship with her with his calloused response to her pregnancy, saying he loved her “maybe” and, the icing on the cake, saying that if she had the baby, it wouldn’t be his. Having destroyed his first marriage with drinking and philandering, Roger’s now destroying his second marriage with the same behavior as he miserably skulked back into his home where his bright as a penny young wife/former secretary was waiting to show him copies of his newly published memoir and to tell him how proud she was. Sullen, Roger chose to not fill her in on the cataclysmic events of the past 24 hours and acted as though everything was fine.

As for Pete, who’d really blame him, the man who covered Don’s rear end in the North American Aviation imbroglio, for fleeing the sinking ship that is SCDP, particularly when he and Trudy just had a child? Watching Don chastise Pete for not being “focused” on the Glo-Coat account while Trudy was in the hospital and then accusing Pete of freaking the clients out (when Don spent the whole day at the hospital when Betty was giving birth to Gene), might’ve been the last straw. Or the 47th.

Peggy, well, I don’t know what to make of her hippie-fueled afterglow being doused by news of Lucky Strike, coupled with her feelings that when something good happens to her, she’s going to be punished for it with something bad. I did love seeing her triumph with the Playtex account despite the fact that the spurned moron Stan failed to tell her that she had lipstick on her teeth . . . which kind of proved her point, she was happy she got the account but was embarrassed no one told her about the lipstick.

What’d you think of “Chinese Wall?”

Image credit: Michael Yarish/AMC.

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