Monday, August 16, 2010

Mad Men “The Rejected” Recap & Review

All photos from AMC

Mad Men “The Rejected” was a slow paced episode and devoid of any real drama. It had a few people feeling rejected, but Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) always seems to find a way to take lemons and make lemonade. Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) also seems to land on his feet.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) are working hard to soothe the concerns of their biggest client Lucky Strike and Lee Garner, Jr. (We didn’t see much of Roger in this episode, likely because John Slattery was directing.) Peggy gets the green light on her “indulge yourself” campaign study for Ponds and Don allows her and Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono) to use some of the secretaries as a focus group. Pete Campbell gets the bad news – the firm has to dump the Clearasil account because of a conflict with Ponds, and Pete has to break the bad news to his father in law. When Pete heads to his office to sulk, he finds Harry Crane at his desk, who invites him to have lunch with former colleague Ken Cosgrove who works for a competing agency.

In the elevator, Peggy makes the acquaintance of Joyce Ramsay (Zosia Mamet), who is a photo editor at Life Magazine, which is in the same building as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Joyce shows Peggy a portfolio of female nude photographs which interest Peggy, and Peggy also seems to miss that Joyce seems more than interested in Peggy.

When Pete later meets with his father in law, Tom (Joe O’Connor) to tell him about dropping Clearasil, Tom erroneously thinks Pete is there to tell him about the news of Pete’s wife Trudy being pregnant, and Tom spills the beans to Pete. Pete never gives him the bad news about Clearasil, and heads home to share the happiness with Trudy.

At the focus group, Faye easily gains the confidence of the secretaries while Don, Freddy, and Peggy watch from behind mirrored glass. But when the group turns to sadness as one of the secretaries talks about her failed relationship, Don’s secretary Allison (Alexa Alemanni) gets upset, focusing internally on her fling with Don and his later indifference and avoidance. It seems clear that Don is squirming as well, and quickly Allison can’t keep herself glued together anymore and she sobs and quickly exits the room. Peggy follows her to calm her, and tells her that "People cry in these things all the time." But Allison, seeming thinking that Peggy knows what she and Don did, says, "I can't even say anything because I know he's right out there…You must have gone through everything I've gone through." Peggy seems to have a realization to what Allison refers, and, wanting to distance herself from any thought that she has gone through that, responds that "Your problem is not my problem." Clearly, Peggy doesn’t want anyone to think that she had to sleep with Don to get where she is today.

Later, Allison tells Don she can’t work with him and is quitting, asking for a letter of recommendation. When Don tells her to “Type up whatever you want, and I'll sign it," she picks up an object off his desk and throws it in his direction, breaking some glass, and she storms off, most of the office watching. This includes Peggy, who has stepped up on her office furniture to peer into Don’s office through the windows at the top of their shared office wall.

When Pete and Harry meet Ken (Aaron Staton) for lunch, Ken accuses Pete of speaking ill about him behind his back, and Pete apologizes. Later, Pete and Trudy have Trudy’s parents over for dinner, and Pete uses the opportunity to tell Tom that SCDP must dump Clearasil but now he wants all of Vicks Chemical. Tom knows full well that Pete is using the baby news to strong arm him into getting a bigger account, calling him a son of a bitch.

Meanwhile, Joyce has invited Peggy to a party in a large loft, and she offers Peggy a joint and then makes a pass at her. Peggy pulls back and tells her that "I have a boyfriend," to which Joyce responds "He doesn't own your vagina. " Peggy quips right back, "No, but he's renting it. " Later, Peggy seems to show interest in the indie movie that is showing, and when she meets with Joyce’s friends Abe Drexler (Charlie Hofheimer) and Kellogg (who did the nudes), both men scoff at Peggy’s profession in advertising. But when the police raid the loft, Abe pulls Peggy into a closet to hide, and they share a kiss. Peggy later seems to be very interested in the bohemian lifestyle and what seems to be the budding counter-culture. The next day, though, Peggy gets the news that Trudy is pregnant, and after congratulating Pete, she heads to her office and bangs her head on the desk.

Don spends the night home alone, trying to type a letter of recommendation for Allison and stopping after completing even one line. When he gets to the office the next day, his new secretary is an old, gray haired, and cranky-ish Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller). The only good news that Don hears is from Pete – he’s on the verge of signing Vicks Chemical. When Blankenship screws up the scheduling and Faye shows up to tell Don that the focus group rejected Peggy’s “indulge yourself” concept and wants to focus on connecting Ponds with matrimony (something I think Freddy was angling for all along) Don says "Hello, 1925,” he puts down her methods and getting people to talk, saying “Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, it's nobody's business." Don also wants the campaign to help people think about a product in a new, different way.

When Peggy leaves for lunch with Joyce and her friends, she and Pete, who is also in the reception and lobby area, share a gaze.

At the end of the day, Don is still at the office when the floor is being cleaned, and he heads home to his dark and lonely apartment. As he approaches his door, an elderly couple who lives next door are in the hallway, the old lady wheeling in her groceries, and the old man, standing at the open door, hung up on asking her "Did you get pears?" Seemingly exasperated at his repeated asking of the question, she tells them they will discuss it inside.

It’s a lonely end to and episode that offered rejection for some, but advancement for others. Pete, who had to give his father in law the news that SCDP was dumping Clearasil, turned that rejection into landing an even better account. Of course, the opportunist Pete used the news of a baby on the way as his leverage. Pete may actually be more cold and calculating than Don, as Pete seems to do whatever he needs to do to advance his standing in the business, even if if means using his family.

Peggy has to reject the advances of another woman, but the encounter also nets her a new experience into a more bohemian culture and maybe a relationship with another man. Somehow I think that the counter-culture movement will eventually draw Peggy even further in, and whether it will change her or just help her to change in the world of advertising is yet to be seen. Of everyone at SCDP, Peggy seems to be the only one who may be prepared for the cultural upheaval that will soon be upon them.

Allison is feeling the ultimate rejection and betrayal from her boss, Don, and later completely rejects him by quitting. Don clearly feels something about what happened, but when he struggles to write a letter of recommendation, we can only wonder if he feels guilt or if he isn’t quite sure what he feels – maybe he feels nothing. At the end, when the elderly woman wanted to save the discussion about the pears for the inside, it may mean that sometimes even the simplest, mundane things don’t belong aired out in public, echoing Don’s sentiments with Faye. Don, of all people, knows that sometimes the leaking of even the smallest secret can have devastating effects.

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Anonymous said...

I think that when Peggy told Allison that her problem was her own that she was trying to defend Don and was being loyal to him.

Athanasios Tsiouras said...

Poor Allison! She was in love with Don all along - remember last season's finale, when she was crying, because "he didn't even leave a note"?