Mad Men starts to wrap up in the third to last episode with this week's "Chinese Wall." Drowning in the loss of Lucky Strike, the partners at SCDP scramble to try and build a lifeboat. They're trying to save their agency, while their personal lives all move forward, and into the office. The "Chinese wall" that Faye brought up when we first see her in bed with Don in "The Beautiful Girls," separates business from personal life. In this episode, the Chinese wall comes down, and their personal lives enter the office, and the office enters their personal lives. Trudy's in labor, Pete's back and forth from the hospital, Peggy's having sex with Abe in her office, Faye lets her wall down, Megan hits on Don, more sex in the office, Stan hits on Peggy, Joan rejects Roger at home, and Roger's laziness finally affects business.
Roger, foolish to believe that no one would find out about Lucky Strike, doesn't get his 30 days after all. Ken runs into an account exec from BBDO who offers condolences, intruding on family time with business, and tells him they've acquired Lucky Strike. (Ken's fiancé, by the way, is Alex Mack and Bianca from 10 Things I Hate About you -- between this and Maureen from Center Stage last week, they're weirdly tapping into 90s romantic comedies for their female extras.) Ken goes straight to the hospital to find expectant dad Pete, Pete calls Don, and Don tells them to assemble the troops, "wake Cooper, meet me in the office," to confront Roger. This is the realization of their biggest fear, the fear of putting all their eggs in one basket held by the reckless and evil Lee Garner Jr.. Roger pathetically makes a fake phone call to Lee (which actually sounds pretty realistic), pretending to be outraged, and telling them yes it's true, we lost the account. He then takes a fake trip to see Lee, where he comes back telling them snippets of the original conversation, while a knowing Joan rolls her eyes at him, in disbelief and embarrassed by his lies. "Saving that account was impossible," he tries to defend himself, but Don yells back, "because you ignored it, one damn account and you ignored it." We learn in the meeting that Lane, from London, has calculated the billings are at about 22 million without Lucky Strike. With a constant reminder of the importance of life, they go to David Montgomery's funeral, the senior account exec at the number 4 agency, looking for "vulnerable clients."
As all the men are rendered powerless in the situation with Lucky Strike, this episode showcases female power. Trudy is the invisible symbol of power, creator of life, giving birth to a baby girl. She's in labor throughout the episode, unseen, but continuing to remind Pete and everyone else that the loss of Lucky Strike is not the most important thing in the world. This is a major life-changing event for Pete, and with it, he's forced to think about his future, to consider his family in business and to talk business in the hospital. He confides in his father-in-law about Lucky Strike, who tells him, "I'm sure this agency was a thrill, but you've had your folly." Remember his parents never took his advertising career seriously, and now his father-in-law belittles his attempt at his own agency, telling him it's time to move on, he can have a spot at CGC. He refuses to give in and stands by SCDP loyally, defensively responding, "I have an agency, I'm a partner." Teaming up with Pete's father-in-law, Ted Chaough ambushes Pete in the hospital (more business on personal territory). He brings him a rattle, "Ogilvy sent me one when my son was born," trying to rattle him with the significance of tradition (He doesn't work for Ogilvy though, so what was it for?) He offers him a role as partner at CGC, trying to entice him with the name "Campbell Gleason and Chaough." Savvy Pete, sees through him and knows he's just trying to use him to get to Don, "wouldn't you want your name first?" Chaough tells him (stupidly referencing GloCoat), "You'll have a full voting third. I'm not Don. It's not the Wild West." Pete won't abandon his agency though, he's been pouring himself into it and he won't give up on it, his business baby. Realistically unshaven and dozing off in meetings, he's forced to stand up for himself on both sides. "Who the hell do you think you're talking to?" he yells at Don when Don tries to blame him for the loss of GloCoat. AKA -- I saved your ass with NAA and I'm rejecting major offers for you, back off.
Peggy's caught up in her own affair, going home with Abe after a drunken/stoned day at Jones Beach with Joyce and co. She's surprised and a little irked to see him after she threw him out of her office, but he makes a joke, "can I quote you on that?" "I'm learning," he says, cutely making light of their recent fight. Even though they don't agree on everything, Peggy still thinks he's hot, so she gives in and takes him home. As Abe awkwardly tries to stumble out the next morning with an excuse that the air conditioning guy will be there at eight, Peggy tells him, "I'm not going to let you leave," and pulls him back into bed. "I'm sorry, I'm not usually like this," she says, exerting her sexual power and doing what she wants. I'm into this relationship, it's not going to work out but let them have their fun until he gets preachy and she gets defensive about something again.
In a post-coital haze, Peggy walks into the office late to find out about Lucky Strike. She barely even pays attention. For the first time, her work is not uppermost in her mind. She tells Don she's not worried, it will be all right. Their personal lives continue to keep the crisis in perspective, not the biggest thing that's happening to them at the moment. But Don tells her meaningfully, "I'm counting on you," so get to work. Preparing for her Playtex pitch with Beavis and Butthead (Stan and Danny), Peggy manages to make Playtex gloves romantic by focusing on all the things a woman wants to touch once you take off the gloves, like "his lips, the tuft of hair on his chest, the small of his back," fantasizing about Abe until he shows up at the office for a quickie (now she's really becoming one of the guys! Though this isn't the first time -- remember nooners with Duck). Peggy leaves Stan and Danny open mouthed and googly eyed, exuding sex as she talks. Danny, whose few lines are actually endearing (and notice how he raises his hand in the big meeting about Lucky Strike -- and no one sees him because he's too short, HA!), tells her "I can't imagine Don saying that." Stan (stupid but funny) thinks she's horny from all the tension in the office. He explains to Danny, "it's the last days of Rome (back to the Fall of Rome references from last season), I was in an agency that went down, women get sex crazed," and they agree, "the energy is very good." Stan, with his crush, takes this as his opportunity. He closes and locks the door, tells Peggy to close her eyes, kisses her and tries to have sex with her, with the convincing line, "Come on baby, it's the end of the world" (haha). She just looks at looks at him like he's an idiot, "why do you keep making me reject you?" Peggy's rejection of Stan and acceptance of Abe both show her exerting her own power. She even wows the Playtex execs, even though she has lipstick all over her teeth, which Stan comically didn't tell her as payback. It's funny at the end of the meeting as the Playtex guy keeps licking his teeth at Peggy trying to let her know, and she just thinks he's being creepy. I imagine she's thinking, 'whoa it's weird, everyone wants me today.'
Meanwhile Don is grasping at straws, trying to keep the clients calm, while he reboots and tries to find some new clients. The loss of GloCoat hits him hard, his prized possession, his Clio. He takes the Clio and smashes it against the desk and throws it across the room. We see where his drinking is at, he tells Megan, "I need a favor, make sure I don't over do it," which means, "stop me at 3." When Faye shows up in the office at 10, he tells her "I'm one over for the day," showing that he's generally open about his new system of controlling himself -- and that he's doing it pretty successfully, only one over on a day in crisis.
Don's really opened up to Faye, but she hasn't equally opened up to him, she still has her "Chinese wall" up. When he confides in her and tells her about Lucky Strike, her response is, "you're the most hirable man on Madison avenue." Faye is practical but insensitive, assuming their failure when he plans to fight. When she later shows up at the office, she casually mentions clients being unhappy and Don sees an opportunity. He asks her who's unhappy, he wants her to give him info, and Faye lectures him about business ethics. "So I'm going to kill my business to save yours," she screams at him. Don argues that it's different, it's not her business and this company is everything for him, and she storms out. (It kind of feels like the end of them here, doesn't it?) She's always hinting at past indiscretions, "God knows I've done some things I'm not proud of." Like what, Faye??? She ultimately comes around and decides she's ready to let that wall down and let Don in -- but it's not until after his office romp with Megan. When Don finds her outside his door, Faye tells him she got him a meeting with Heinz. "I thought about what you said and I thought about you and I thought about whatever you are in my life right now." She wants to help him and is ready to look ahead and prepare for a life together -- but it may be too late. As Don watches Faye literally settle into him on the couch, he realizes what's happening, that she's trying to move forward with him. He considers the timing with what he's just done and leaves so much unsaid, before putting his head down and giving in to her as well.
Now Megan, with a more grownup hairdo this week, is much more substantial and aggressive than expected! She exerts her power as well, and tells Don what she wants. It's in this episode with the wall down that Megan's finally able to express her personal feelings to Don. Don finds her still at her desk when he gets back from the funeral. She fixed his Clio and put it back on his desk. "I thought in the end you wouldn't want to throw it away," she tells him, restoring his Clio and his ego at the same time. She offers to help him work, and when he blows her off telling her it's complicated (meaning for a dumb secretary), she tells him she'd like to learn about what they do: "First of all it would help me from making mistakes with my work like I have and secondly, I think I'd like eventually to do what you do, or Miss Olson does." "I didn't know that," Don responds, intrigued (neither did we!). Don, testing her, asks why she liked the GloCoat commercial. In that same voice that we heard when telling Faye about her beauty routine, Megan responds perfectly. She got the exact feeling she was supposed to, "I know it's a floor wax, but I really remember that feeling of being a little kid and feeling like I was being punished when my mother cleaned the house." Charmed (and pleased his commercial had the desired effect), he starts asking questions and we get to find out about Megan. She's from Montreal, she's artistic, she majored in literature, and dabbled in writing, painting, and a little bit of acting. (We knew she was a reader!) She stops him from drinking, as promised, and keeps her hand on his arm and exudes her warm spirit, telling him so earnestly, "you will get through this." Then, with a more flirty "why do you care what I think?" she leans in. Don, thinking of Allison, has enough self-control to say, "I don't think this is a good idea," but Megan clarifies -- she does want she wants and she's unsentimental. She corrects him, "lets be clear, I'm not going to run out of here crying tomorrow, I just want you right now." That's good enough for him! She's straight forward and in control. As she gets dressed after, all business, telling him who should go first, it's obvious he's into her and asks if she wants to get dinner. She sends him home -- to find Faye on his doorstep. Don definitely likes, or is at least intrigued by, Megan. Her warm stream of pure support so fully contrasts Faye's "you're the most hirable man," and in the end that's what Don is going to need. He needs someone who's more of a caretaker than Faye and even though she's trying to let him in, she may have already lost him. Of course it's Megan, full of youth and dressed in pink, who comes in to deliver the news of Pete's baby being born. She's a hopeful image and carries that glow around the office. When she comes and interrupts the business with this major personal news, they pause long enough for everyone to say "congratulations," before they move forward.
While everyone in the office looks ahead, for the agency and in their lives, Roger notably looks back -- with his memoir and trying to sleep with Joan. As he pathetically hides out in a hotel room while he's pretending to meet with Lee Garner Jr., he turns to Joan for support, as he always did, and tells her the truth that he's known about Lucky Strike for weeks. She's horrified by his lie, "I can't believe you, we could've done something!" She works there too and is also looking to keep the agency alive while Roger just sinks into his own self-pity. He shows up later at her apartment. Now Joan's exerting her power and looking ahead. He tries to kiss her, she tells him, "stop it or we can talk on the phone." The way she looks at him is great, 'you're such an idiot, you don't seem to get that this is never happening again' is written all over her face. He doesn't take her seriously, "you always say that then you come back to me because we belong together." She tells him, very true and well-put, "I'm not a solution to your problems, I'm another problem," and continues to reject him until he finally gets it. Did she keep the baby? It's been less than a month, so she wouldn't be showing yet but we still don't know.
Roger goes home and finds Jane, her second appearance this season (after the holiday party), you know, to remind us she still exists, who has his newly published memoirs waiting for him. He sees the box, immediately saying, "what'd you buy?" kind of defeated and nervous to have to pay for more stuff. He looks at his bound copy of Sterling's Gold by Roger Sterling, (perfectly) ironic as his gold, or at least his legacy, is diminishing before his eyes. She has him sign the book, "to my loving wife," as fake as the rest of it. This couch scene with Roger and Jane directly parallels the scene with Don and Faye. As Faye lifts up Don's arm and cuddles up to him, Jane does the exact same thing here. She lifts up Roger's arm and rests comfortably on him, closing her eyes, saying, "I'm so proud of you." Both Jane and Faye cuddle up, pleased and comfortable with what just happened, feeling closer than ever to their men, as both Roger and Don sit over them, with their eyes open, thinking of all that was left unsaid. In an episode of female power, these scenes show the opposite -- they show women's ignorance, as Jane and Faye are both oblivious to what's going on. This reminds us that as powerful as these women are and were, there still remains a level of ignorance, and more often than not, the women do not know the whole story.
This episode makes it perfectly clear how much of a failure Roger has become and that everyone blames him for this loss. He's so caught up in the past he doesn't even care about what they're doing now. He tells Don earlier, "hey, you're the one that dragged me into your amateur hour, I was perfectly happy where I was." He was happy writing up the book and ending there, but there's a whole company of people who were counting on him and whom he let down. Bert Cooper gives him the seething truth, and tells him, "Lee Garner Junior never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously." Cooper watched him mess around all these years, inheriting his position, joking, drinking and sleeping around like it was all good and fun -- and it just came back and bit him in the ass, ironically as his memoirs are just published, commemorating his glory days.
The funeral continues to emphasize the brevity of life and what's truly important. The man giving the eulogy tells a story about Dave, who loved his daughter, and about her, told him, "that's the best thing I'll ever do." The next man who speaks tells a story about how Dave drove around trying to find his wife thimbles for her collection when they were away on business. David Montgomery was someone who put his family first and reminds us that we should do the same. Family is what really matters. The death balances the birth, both minimizing the loss of Lucky Strike in the grand scheme of things. While minimizing Roger's damage, the theme of family also calls attention to Roger's lack of one. We haven't seen his daughter this entire season (have we?) and he's married to a young gold-digger who spends his money and, if he loses enough through this, may leave him, while simultaneously trying to sleep with Joan, whom he recently got pregnant. If Joan kept the baby, could this baby be his redemption? His best qualities are his sense of humor and his wise cracks, which fall away when crisis strikes.
It also calls attention to the meaning of life and family to those who are looking to create it. Pete has his own baby girl, Don is trying to keep himself under control and has opened up to Faye. Despite the fact he sleeps with Megan, Don is making an effort. However, it's also notable that in this episode that focuses on the importance of family, we don't see any of his. Faye, though she doesn't know what's going on, is also focused on her relationship enough to let her wall down and let Don in. Peggy's wall also comes down for once, and her relationship with Abe shows her allowing life to take precedence. Even Lane is away in London working on his family issues.
The episode closes with Jim Reeves' "Welcome to My World," a phrase that aptly resonates with the different plotlines as the private and business worlds welcomed one another. Pete and Trudy welcome their baby to the world, Faye's welcoming Don into hers, Megan into Don's and Don into Megans, Abe into Peggys, and SCDP into Rogers -- the feeling of panic and disaster that he's had since Lee Garner Jr. told him weeks ago.
In these next two episodes -- what's left to resolve? Will SCDP survive? Did Joan keep the baby? Is Joan really done with Roger? Is Megan the real deal? Would she make it as a creative? Faye or Megan? Peggy and Abe? Betty and Henry? Don and his kids? Will Greg die? What's the deal with Cooper? Other questions?
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