Mad Men Recap: Episode 4: The Rejected
Looks like everyone’s getting a turn. If last week’s episode was all Don and Joan, this episode has Peggy and Pete come into their own. Pete kicks butt and Peggy gets hip. Also, a lot of reminders of pre-feminism days. For those of you who think we’re post-feminist, we’ve come a very long way, baby, and don’t you forget it.
The episode opens with Don and Roger conference calling with Lee Garner Jr., mollifying him about the new federal restrictions on tobacco advertising (no teenagers, no athlete spokespersons, no low or wide angles that heroicize smokers). Don’t worry, assures Roger, we can get around them. There’s always bowling. Or horseracing.
What’s more, Lee suspects that he is being overbilled (which he is) and wants a line itemization of all costs. Don and Roger get him off the phone by pretending there’s a fire in Radio City.
Meanwhile Peggy and Dr. Faye Miller are working on the Pond’s Cold Cream account, with a campaign about ritual and women looking at themselves in the mirror.
Allison delivers an envelope from California to Don. Inside is a note from Stephanie enclosing an old photo of Don with Anna: “You guys don’t look old here.” Allison is curious, but Don freezes her out, upsetting her.
Lane delivers the news that Pond’s sees Pete’s Clearasil account as competition and wants them kicked to the curb, as they are a far smaller account. Pete is chagrined, as it is his father-in-law’s company and he had had to beg for it.
Harry Crane tells Pete that Ken Cosgrove is getting married to an heiress to the Corning fortune and is getting the Mountain Dew and Pepsi accounts besides. Pete is eaten up with jealousy. Harry tells him to get over it and go have dinner with Ken and try to shake some business out of him.
In the elevator Peggy runs into Joyce, who works at Life Magazine. She’s carrying a folder of female nude photos by her friend that were turned down by the Life photo department (the folder has a pink REJECTED notice—hence the title). Joyce seems intrigued by Peggy. (My boyfriend J totally called the lesbian interest right here. I totally didn’t see it coming, I’ll admit.)
Pete meets his father-in-law at a bar to tell him the news about dropping Clearasil but instead his FIL drops a bombshell on him, by congratulating him on the pregnancy. What? Turns out after all those years Trudy is pregnant. Pete looks utterly shocked (remember, he had been convinced that Trudy was completely infertile). Then he starts to look delighted. His FIL gets jerky and promises Pete $1000 if the baby’s a boy, $500 if it’s a girl.
Pete: I’ll do my best.
Pete goes home to Trudy and they hug. “It feels different than I expected,” Pete tells her. Trudy teases him: “Of course it does. How would you know what it feels like?” She doesn’t know what we know, about the baby that Pete and Peggy had.
It’s time for Dr. Faye Miller’s Pond’s focus group of the secretaries to test the Pond’s Mirror-ritual campaign. She has all kinds of dirty little psychological tricks up her sleeve, including taking off her wedding ring so she’s “a single girl, just like them.” She gives the ring to Peggy to keep and Peggy tries it on in the observation room. (Don sees her do it).
Don, Freddy and Peggy watch through a one-way mirror as Faye talks to the women about beauty rituals and goads them into feeling vulnerable and needy. Soon it devolves into a weepfest about ex-boyfriends and not being married. Allison gets more and more upset, looking straight through the mirror at Don at one point. She storms out of the room. Peggy goes after her to comfort her (Everybody cries at these things. I’ve seen grown men cry), but Allison is of course upset about Don, not about having cried. She seems to assume that Peggy has also slept with Don, and Peggy tells her in no uncertain terms that that is certainly not the case.
We see how cold Dr. Miller is when Megan drops into the observation room to check on Allison. Megan: “Is she okay?” Dr. Miller: “Who?”
Ken Cosgrove and Pete begin a confrontational dinner but soon they are finding common ground. Ken admits that he’s “just glad to be out of the office.” He’s obviously jealous that Pete got chosen to be at SCDP but Pete assures him that wherever you are, you’re doing the same thing. And when Ken complains about his agency Pete says the grass is always greener.
Allison confronts Don and says she wants to quit to go work at a magazine. She asks for a recommendation and Don says why doesn’t she write her own. Which infuriates her and she throws a heavy objet at the wall, shattering glass. She is one of the rejected.
Joyce from Life Magazine stops by to invite Peggy to something (“I don’t even know what you call it) her photographer friend is having downtown. Peggy says sure.
Pete goes home to dinner with his in-laws. When his FIL begins to offer them a bigger apartment, Pete surprises him by retorting, “Every time you assume something, it makes me respect you less.” Whoa! Not only that he then lays into him about promising more business if the Clearasil account went well, which it has. So you want more business? his FIL asks. What do you want, Vicks? Formula 44?
I want it all, Pete answers. It angers his FIL, but Pete doesn’t care. He’s said his piece and finally stood up to his FIL. As he chortles later, he “turned chicken shit into chicken salad.”
Peggy is wearing a groovyish striped turtleneck (still with a pointy bra and lacquered bouffant, however) to a hip and grungy downtown scene. Joyce is there with an African American friend who was one of the nudes in the portfolio. A bear costume lumbers by. Joyce offers Peggy some pot and as Peggy takes a drag Joyce goes in for a kiss. It tickles Peggy but she doesn’t look shocked or upset. Maybe a little surprised. “I have a boyfriend,” she says. He doesn’t own your vagina, Joyce returns. No, but he’s renting it, Peggy comes back. Which makes them both laugh. Joyce is rejected but not dejected.
Sad sack Don leaves work late again, the last one there but for the maintenance crew (with an awesome old vacuum). Gets home to his dismal dark man cave and starts to type a letter: “Dear Allison, I’m very sorry. Right now my life is very…” He gives up and falls asleep on the sofa.
Joyce and Peggy are watching the photographer’s film, projected onto a draped cloth. Peggy is digging it all. She even likes the movie. She wants to meet the photographer but first she meets Joyce’s friend Abe, who is a writer. Peggy’s a writer too, Joyce tells him. “What do you write?” Abe asks. “I’m a copywriter,” Peggy says. “But what do you WRITE?” Abe asks again. “That IS writing,” she insists.
The photographer friend is pretentious and obnoxious. Peggy is perky and professional, announcing that she works at SCDP and “we’re looking for photographers.” He’s pretty incredulous and rude in return. “Art in advertising? Why would anyone do that after Warhol?”
Suddenly lights go out and there are whistles. It’s a police raid. Because of the pot? Is it an illegal space, maybe? Anyway, everyone runs. Abe pulls Peggy into a closet. “I feel like we should kiss,” he whispers. And Peggy goes in for one. Joyce comes in to get them and they part.
The next morning, Don’s new secretary is the white-haired and brash Miss Blankenship, which amuses Roger immensely. Pete announces to “the informal partner meeting” that he has gotten the entire Vick’s Chemical cough line—the syrup, the drops, the rubs, everything. Seems he got that FIL to fold. They are booting the tiny Clearasil line and adding this $6 million (Pond’s is only $2 million) to the line. Pete is positively glowing. Big daddy in more ways than one.
Peggy is also glowing, looking immensely happy with herself after the party. (And the kiss in the closet?) “Did you know Malcolm X was shot last Sunday?” she asks Joey. Apparently she is learning a lot, hanging out with the young, consciousness-raising crowd. “Do you ever read the stuff between the ads?” Joey wants to know. A secretary drops in to collect money toward champagne for Pete and Trudy. “Trudy’s pregnant?” Peggy asks. All the shine goes right off her. She sags out. A very sad Peggy sticks her head into Pete’s office. “Congratulations,” she says, bravely. He turns toward her, beaming. He thinks this is about the Vick’s account, which is what he cares about the most. No, she’s talking about the baby. Oh yes. His face, I have to give him credit, sobers up.
Faye tells Don that the focus group results are that young women care nothing for ritual and routine. All they want is to get married. Don: “Hello 1925!” He will have nothing of it. Good for Don! He doesn’t care what her research says, he doesn’t trust it. He will not use such a retro message.
Peggy is sunk is despair, lying on her sofa. The phone rings. It’s Joyce. Meet for lunch in 5 minutes. Peggy offers to run down, but no, Joyce wants to see cute Megan the receptionist again. At the lobby, all the partners—grey suited, hatted, slick-haired—are assembled to go out for a client lunch. Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, is the merry crowd of Joyce’s bohemian friends, ogling Megan, laughing and waving to Peggy at the other side. Peggy waves back. She likes them. She asks Megan if she wants to join them, but no. Megan is not one of them.
Peggy walks through the glass door, stands by the elevator with her new group of friends. Peggy’s joining the 60s! At that moment, she sees Pete out of the corner of her eye. They are both young. But how different they are. Their eyes join for a long moment. And then it is over.
The coda is both surreal and gothic. A bedraggled Don staggers down his dingy hallway once again. An elderly lady droops behind him, pulling her little shopping wagon. “Did you get pears?” her husband demands, querulously. “Did you get pears?” he repeats. The lady makes no reply, doesn’t even act as though she’s heard. “Did you get pears?” her husband shrills again. “We’ll discuss it inside,” she mutters, grim. Don stares with a look of horror. Then enters his dark lonely apartment.
Is that the choice? Misery alone or misery together?
Directed by John Slattery, AKA Roger Sterling