Mad Men Season 4 Episode 4: The Rejected

Posted on August 16, 2010

With each episode this season, we thought, “Wow, Don’s really hit rock bottom this time” but each week he surprises us and manages to dig a little deeper. This week was the first time we were alarmed at how bad he looked and how fucked up he is, in every sense of the phrase. He’s frantically chain-smoking while trying to assure Lucky Strike that the Surgeon General’s report doesn’t mean anything. “We just have to change the angles,” he bullshits. He wonders why there’s an empty bottle on his bar and Allison reminds him it’s because he drank it all. In the midst of all this, he opens his mail to find a picture of himself with Anna. He props it up on his desk, an oasis in the middle of all the madness around him. Allison asks who she is and Don is typically uncomfortable answering any questions about himself, brushing her off.

Meanwhile, Peggy and Faye put together a focus group of secretaries to gauge their feelings on Peggy’s proposed “ritual” idea for Pond’s. Joan rounds up a reluctant Allison, who seems to know what she’s in for with this little exercise. Which would make sense, given that she’s Don’s secretary. Joan reminds her that she’s getting paid to do this and Allison takes her place at the conference table.

Which is a perfect introduction for … the new creepy, manipulative and cold-hearted Dr. Faye Miller, everyone! She stripped out of her professional suit into a less imposing sweater and skirt and put on a creepily false “just us gals” persona in order to get the secretaries to open up. Don was impressed with her performance but Peggy was in awe of it. Unfortunately, Dr. Faye’s manipulations caused a secretary named Dottie to completely break down in sobs over a broken heart. “I feel like it doesn’t matter what I see. It matters what he sees.” she wails. “It’s worse when they notice sometimes,” says Allison and looks right at Don through the glass. Eventually it gets to be too much for her and she runs out of the room crying. Megan asks Faye if she should go after her and Faye waves it off with an airy “If she wanted to be around us she would have stayed.”

Don is, of course, mortified. Not because of Allison’s pain but because of the way it exposes him. Peggy goes to check in on her and gets smacked in the face with that thing that always smacks you in the face when you least expect it: what everyone else thinks of you. Allison just assumes that Peggy went through something similar with Don. Peggy goes from caring to annoyed to downright cruel within the space of a few seconds. “Your problem is not my problem. And honestly, you should get over it.” We don’t know what angered Peggy more, the realization that even now people think she slept with Don to get a career or that Allison made the mistake of bad-mouthing her benefactor. “He’s a drunk and they get away with murder because they forget everything.”

Don’s drinking has really taken center stage. That’s something we couldn’t have predicted given how cavalier the show can sometimes be about things like alcohol consumption. By modern standards, Don’s always been a heavy drinker, but even by 1965 standards, he’s drinking at a level that’s shocking the people around him. Worse, his lack of empathy, which has always been an issue with him, is rearing its head as a defense mechanism to keep everyone at bay. Bad enough that he had to make Allison feel like a whore after their hookup; he couldn’t even be bothered to put in the effort to write a letter of recommendation for her. After doing a little impromptu redecoration of his office, Allison winds up and lets him have it, saying the worst thing she could think of to say. “I don’t say this easily, but you’re not a good person.” And the look on Don’s face when she says this reveals that he knows it.

In other SCDP news, Pete gets a chance to pout again when he receives the news from Roger and Lane that Pond’s considers Clearasil a conflict and he’s going to have to tell his father-in-law that he’s resigning the account. To make matters worse, Harry pressures him into meeting his old rival Ken Cosgrove for lunch because “There’s a group of us, we’re all coming up together.” Funny to hear the formerly bumbling Harry sound so focused.

Pete tries to tell his father-in-law about the status of his account when he unexpectedly finds out that he’s going to be a father himself. We thought it was cute how genuinely excited he was and how tender he was toward Trudy. Especially when we recall what an asshole he was to her earlier in their marriage. “I want to pick you up and spin you around but I don’t want to damage anything in there.” But a baby isn’t going to put a damper on the finely honed Campbell marriage partnership. He opens right up and tells her about the conflict with Pond’s. She jumps in to let him know they’re on the same page, “A conflict. Peter, I’m
familiar with the term. You use it all the time.” Then proposes to handle the situation herself, coldly assessing her chances of success with, “He’s already so guilty he’ll never feel the knife go in.” These two really are made for each other.

At lunch, a fidgety and bitter Ken first wants an apology from Pete for saying he was an “All-American idiot” who’s only marrying his fiancee for money. After he gets that, it’s all bitching about the job. This is a far cry from the golden boy who strutted around the Sterling Cooper offices. His time going through the sausage factory at McCann really changed him. His frustration with constantly getting only small divisions of much larger companies strikes a chord with Pete and he mans up, bullying his overbearing father-in-law into giving him the entire Vick’s account. We loved his little shrug when Tom called him a son of a bitch.

In other, other SCDP news, Peggy is branching out all over. We wonder if Allison’s blurted out assumption that she slept with Don somehow pushed Peggy out of her shell a little. She hit it off with lesbian Joyce in a second and we loved the fact that she blew off her advances like they were no big thing. Kudos to Elisabeth Moss, who’s giving this character such a light touch this season. Peggy had a tendency to get a little morose, so this laughing, wisecracking, making-out-in-a-closet-with-cute-guy-she-just-met version of the character is fun to see. We were laughing out loud when her head peaked over the transom of Don’s office after Allison’s dramatic exit.

She’s still trying to figure out who she is, though. Another hilarious moment came when Don caught her trying on Faye’s engagement ring. She still hasn’t decided if marriage is in her future. She knows she’s supposed to get married but the current applicant is leaving her lukewarm on the idea, clearly. The thing about Peggy is, when she runs away from something, she really runs away from it, and at top speed. Next thing you know, she’s in a downtown loft, smoking pot, laughing off the advances of her new lesbian friend, and defending her work to a couple of artists before a quick makeout session and a run from the cops. As far from what’s expected of her as possible.

Nothing has spurred Peggy’s personal and professional growth more than her totally unexpected pregnancy and how it threatened to completely derail her life. She runs from the idea of marrying Mark (“He doesn’t own your vagina.” “No, but he’s renting it.”) and she runs towards things like downtown loft parties that get raided by the cops precisely because she once felt so trapped by life that she shut down completely. She’s blossoming as a person and broadening her horizons at the moment so the news of Trudy’s pregnancy hit her like a ton of bricks, and totally unexpectedly, we might add. We think part of her reaction was shock that she was having such a strong reaction at all. “I just wanted to let you now how happy I am for you. Both.” It was a sweet scene and an acknowledgment of the journey both of these character have been on. As Peggy went to meet up with her new boho friends for lunch and Pete went to meet up with the men from the Vick’s account, it’s like these two finally said goodbye to each other and went off on their own separate paths. They’ll still be working together, but that secret thing that bound them together just lost its potency for the both of them.

And finally there’s Don. We don’t know how much lower he can go. He’s looking pretty bad and it seems that everyone around him has lost some of their respect for him. He tried to type an apology letter only to get stuck on the phrase “Right now my life is very …” He can’t even describe his life. He’s completely adrift. If he’s this bad now, what’s he going to be like when Anna goes? In typical Don fashion, he has to take it out on a woman, lashing out at Faye for her methods and her results. “You cant tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved,” he says, an assertion that’s absurd on the face of it. Her ability to get inside people’s heads is terribly threatening to the secretive Don. “It’s nobody’s business!”

And that was the theme of the episode. It’s nobody’s business. What goes on behind closed doors, whether that’s an altercation between a secretary and a boss, a focus group and a psychologist playing them like fiddles, former lovers saying goodbye, new lovers kissing each other hello, broken men drinking alone at night. It’s about how we keep parts of ourselves hidden from the world, even sometimes the most mundane parts.

“Did you get pears? Did you get pears? Did you get pears?”

“We’ll discuss it inside.”

Some bullet points before we go:

* Harry’s increasing use of yiddishisms, presumable from all the time he’s spending with television executives. “Those gonifs at CBS are screwing me again.”

* For all the tension in that opening scene on the phone with Lee Garner, Jr., there was still a lot of energy to it that made it fun. “Ohmigod there’s some kind of fire!”

* Twice, a secretary addressed Roger as “Roger” instead of “Mr. Sterling.” An indication of what you could call the dissolution of formality that happened in the 1960s.

* We LOVE SCDP’s receptionist Megan, she of the French extraction with the perfect skin. “She’s kind of pretentious.” Although we also kind of love Miss Blankenship, Joan’s punishment to Don for ruining a perfectly good secretary.

* The irony that in the end Freddie Rumsen was right and that a campaign around marriage would be the best way to sell Pond’s to women.

* The great way Pete and Peggy’s unbreakable ties to each other were illustrated by having them both gently bang their heads in their offices; he because he has to resign the Clearasil account and she because she was unexpectedly overcome with emotion at the news of Trudy’s pregnancy.



[Photo credit: AMC TV]



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