Mad Men – 4×12: I Quit…

Stuck in the middle with you (AMC)

Whether it was tobacco, SCDP, or fat little boys… it seemed as if though everyone had been forced to quit something on the latest episode of Mad Men. The word “quit” has such a negative connotation, though, doesn’t it? The little white flag. The surrender. The defeat. No one likes to be a quitter. Still… something about going gentle into the good night can also be a sign of softer, sweeter times. And who doesn’t need that around the offfice?

Episodes like this one remind me of how glad I am to have the patience and good sense to sit down, watch, absorb, ponder-on, and love this gem of a series. I’ve brought it up before, and I’ll bring it up again: people think Mad Men is slow and boring. But why? Because every line doesn’t deliver another twist in the story?? Right, except it does! Sure, it just doesn’t tell you right away what the twist actually is — that comes later — but every word spoken by every character is of the utmost importance to their state of mind and what their intentions are and the secrets they are hiding. [See: Sally’s game of GO FISH with her psychiatrist: “Do you have any threes?… Do you have any jacks?” What’s on her mind?] After all, the characters are what this entire show is about. Sure, its about the 60s and advertising and modernity and feminism and fashion, but more than anything else its about a specific group of people in a specific moment in time.

In the same way that Lost treated every single prop, revelation, conversation, picture, color, and number into some clue into the secrets of the Island, Mad Men treats each and every word spoken and look given with the same clandestine intentions, as cryptic peeks into the subconscious and conscious desires of the characters which will ultimately reveal to us where they will all end up. After all, this is a period piece, and unlike LOST or House or Friends (which take place in the here and now), deep down we are all slightly aware that their future is still our past, and therefore, already decided for.

Don Draper

Life imitating art imitating life (AMC)

Is he back?? We’ve had glimpses of hope interwoven with the chaos this season, as Don strutted around like his shit didn’t stink, but it was forced. Anything successful was a fluke, or some desperate move that worked on a desperate target: impressionable young girls that still wanted him; a spark of genius that he could use to win a clueless client over. Whatever. None of us really bought it. No one really thought he was “back”. If anything, the brief moments of triumph for Don this season only further reminded us of how few and far between they had become.

But in this week’s episode I felt something turning over. Not forever and suddenly, and not an ending to anything… but in fact, its more like a beginning. The beginning of a much more reflective group of people in a much less secretive world.

  • A more accepting view of psychologists and psychiatrists
  • Smoking as a health hazard
  • Problematic drug addiction and prostitution in the NYC art scene (15 years from then this will result in the AIDS virus)

Don, obviously, made quite the bold little move posting that ad in the New York Times, but I back him up. Not because it was morally or politically progressive, because obviously it was only a marketing stunt. No, I back him up because it was innovative. Progressive within his field. I knew some of the partners wouldn’t be okay with this but I did not expect them all to pin him against the wall. Don said it best to the partners:

If you don’t understand this ad, then you don’t understand this business.

Or something like that. And hey, now the American Cancer Society wants them! That’s one more client that they didn’t have before he put the ad out. Of course, good old Peggy backs Don up as well. Not to mention Megan. (Oh women, we’re such suckers for the mavericks.) Weeks after Peggy and Don’s night of fighting and crying and bonding in “The Suitcase“, I’m elated at how these two have honestly and officially found a stable, warm, and respectful place for each other both professionally and personally. It stands apart from every other kind of relationship on the show as it seems all relationships are in endless cycles of morphing, blossoming, or ending. I would have been gravely disappointed if a moment as profound as that had turned out to be nothing but fluff. I absolutely HATE when shows make is seems as if though two characters have transcended into a new relationship, only to tear them apart over something ridiculous an episode or two later.

Also, kudos all around to Don for putting up Pete’s $50,000 (i.e. approximately $336,000 in 2010). After everything Pete did for him, it was such a pleasure to see that despite Don’s harsh and demanding persona, he is not always as selfish as he comes off. He never thanked Pete for sacrificing his professional credibility for him two episodes back. Pete’s raising of the glass when Lane gives him the news, and Don’s stoic nod was a classic Mad Men moment.

Betty and Sally Draper

Welcome to the Dollhouse, anyone? (AMC)

Jesus, Betty! If Don weren’t still such a mess I’d be begging for her to get hit by a Coupe Cadillac DeVille and forcing the kids to switch legal guardianship! That entire conversation with the CHILD psychiatrist in the opening scene of the episode was mortifying to watch. What a vapid and moronic woman. I’ve mentioned a few times this season how the writers seem to purposely be placing her as Sally’s equal instead of Sally’s mother, on an emotional level, but after this episode it became clear that Sally’s emotional intelligence had far surpassed her mothers. The realization was heartbreaking, infuriating, and humorous all at the same time.

The ultimate thing that got my blood boiling, however, was the vindictive nonchalance with which Betty announces that they should move during dinner. They should have moved ages ago, you bitch! When Sally was practically begging you to! But now that Sally is happy, and Betty is still a miserable wench, she purposely and maliciously announces that they are moving. I so wanted to shove her face into that pot of spaghetti and turn the stove on. Disgusting. Oh and just before that scene, Sally’s deadpan response to Betty regarding Glenn was so perfect:

Betty: “You don’t know him like I do!
Sally: “You don’t know him at all.

Also, Sally Draper should have been my BFF in the 5th grade when, one day in the cafeteria, I questioned the implications of infinity on my The Laughing Cow cheese wheel, yet no one seemed to grasp its importance. My brain still hurts.

Mad Men 1990: Sally Draper becomes youngest ever to win Nobel Prize in Physics. Thanks an unknown “Glen” in speech.

This Week’s Theme

I caught two prevalent themes woven throughout this week’s episode:

  • Quitting (as mentioned)
  • How to “date” your client (not just your, ahem, staff)

As discussed earlier in this post, I think all the different things that were “quit” in this episode may have set us in the direction of a new horizon. I’m still not sure what it is. Not necessarily good, just different.

When I say “date your client” I’m talking about Don and his best girl, Tobacco. He got dumped by  American Tobacco, and his ego was shot. So, since he’s on the rebound, he tries to get back out there again, by getting “a date” with Marlboro, as he calls it at the meeting. Marlboro, in turn, stands him up. Double burn. So now he’s twice as pissed off and twice as rejected. And what does a scorned man do? He gets revenge. By taking out a page ad in the New York Times, and telling all tabacco companies to suck it forever and ever, Amen. Megan says something to the effect of Don making it look like he “dumped them before they dumped [him]” and that it was smart. I agree. It was yet another stroke of genius. The best love songs are written about heartbreak, are they not? We know Don is a man who gets what he wants, and that he doesn’t bode well with rejection. It would appear that translates over into his professional life as well.

That’s all I have to say for tonight. Still not sure if the new SCDP ship will sink for good but the idea that we could be referring to Season 4 as the “SCDP Season” is not very comforting.

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One Comment

  1. Time
    Posted November 9, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    So you leave the finale uncommentated??

TELL ME ABOUT IT, STUD.

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