Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. This week, I wanted to try something new, so I invited David Jacobs to have a conversation about the show instead of a straight recap. Let us know what you think.
David: How important is money to the SCDP partners? They keep saying Don is "rich" - but is he? And aren't Bert Roger supposed to be basically ultra-rich? I get that the IPO is exciting, but I'm surprised, especially after the Sterling/Cooper deal went bad everyone was eager for this.
Aaron: Bert and Roger are "fuck you rich," while Don is just getting there rich. Pete's probably on the same level, but this would be life changing for Joan. Roger wasn't in the room with the banker. I think Bert is a collector, and that includes money, he's also in legacy building phase, and bringing an agency public would be a big boost for his profile. I think Bert wants the IPO, but not for the money. Pete wants the IPO to prove he is somebody, and then for the money. Joan wants the IPO for the money. Roger and Don could care less about the money, while Don would probably actively oppose the IPO because it would give him a boss in the form of a board of directors. "I don't think Don cares about money."
David: A boss, and presumably, some scrutiny.
Aaron: Due diligence. Guess we ought to check if that's an upcoming episode title.
Aaron: I noticed a lot of relationship 'stuff' this episode, Pete and Trudie, Pete and his father in law, Roger and his flight hostess spy, Don and Megan, Abe and Peggy, Peggy and Ted, Don and Ted, Pete and Don, Don and Joan, Marie and Arnold, Marie and Roger, Arnold and Don, etc. Was there more of that this episode or am I crazy?
David: There was definitely more. And the sex/advertising double entendres were also laid on top, especially "He's a client for Pete's father-in-law." The show is best when the characters are suffering, with the exception of Dick Whitman's trips to California. This season has been direct with it's intentions, the characters you listed all voiced displeasure with their situations. Even Herb's wife got some minutes talking about the puppy's birth. It was such a dense episode that dinner scene may get lost, but it was actually wonderfully written and directed, from Don's "I love puppies" to Marie's cursing in French.
David: You noted last week that Don's campaigns were all about the absences of the brand - no hotel in the Hawaii campaign, not ketchup in the Heinz campaign, etc. Once again, he proposes that the Chevrolet commercials not show the car (for a week!) and Ted's "bend in the road" monologue is so much better Don practically surrenders on the spot. At this point, can we assume that pattern is intentional? And does it connect to Don's professed inability to feel love, and can we connect that with your observation about the general malcontent of all the characters in relationships?
Aaron: I think we can assume we're seeing Don's advertising style, and I only wish time was endless so we could look back at previous pitches to see when this style developed. (I sometimes think about an idea I don't have a name for. Basically, I'm assuming this is Don's current style of advertising, but what if Mad Men is suffering from Studio 360-style writing. Remember how the show was OK, but the comedy sketches were awful? What if the people they have writing Don's pitches are out of ideas and they're not amazing, this isn't a pattern, they're just bad?) I don't think it connects to Don's love issue, because remember the carousel pitch. That wasn't an absence of the product and he certainly wasn't full of love when married to Betty. If you're reading that differently, let me know. Rather than Don's inability to feel love, I think it's more about Don's unwillingness to put something on a pedestal. He likes the new, the chase, but gets bored/complacent with something he already has. Did you see his glee in the first Chevy meeting, "No, it's completely new." He fired Jaguar because he was tired of them. Etc, etc, etc. Additionally, Megan was more attracted to Don when he was chasing something because it reminded her of the man she fell in love with (when he was chasing her).
Aaron: Don and Joan have always had a complicated relationship, maybe they recognize something of themselves in each other. The scene starting with Pete falling down the stairs (obligatory Pete Campbell falling down the stairs gif), into Don yelling about it being over (which he's done at least once before), into Joan yelling at Don was one of the most powerful of the season. It was the scene that alerted me to the fact, "Hey, something's happening in this season, finally." Why was Joan so angry at Don for firing Jaguar? Why'd she attack him for getting rid of Herb and Jaguar? She didn't do what she did for nothing, she did it to become a partner. "Because we're all rooting for you from the sidelines hoping that you'll decide what you think is right for our lives."
David: Is it because she lost the IPO money (or thought she would?) Or because, perhaps, it confirmed her worst fears about Don's lack of empathy. It's a hard one. I'm sorry I don't have more on that one! I've always thought he was the little soul of the organization. Skilled, but ultimately hollow of ethics and morals
Aaron: The organization has no soul?
David: Well, it has Pete. They're fundamentally not honest people - Peter has always been the one to remind the audience "Hey, these are not people you want to be friends with!' I think we're seeing Don wake up, ethically. And that's why he just can't bring himself to put these objects in the campaigns. He is blocked on it, because he knows it's a lie.
David: But I guess I meant to ask - where Joan's behavior has perhaps been building up over the last few episodes (frustrations with Dawn, makin out with a stranger at Electric Circus, etc.) Pete seems to be zigging and zagging. Are there some tea leaves for us to read here? Or is he just the same as he's always been?
Aaron: They've always done that with Pete, though. They'll take 3 episodes to build sympathy for him, and then make him hatable again. Up and down forever. I'm not even totally sure he's hatable here. His father in law basically dared him to tell Trudie. Pete ALWAYS wants to prove people wrong. His father in law sealed his own fate when he told Pete he'd do the right thing. For what it's worth, I got the sense with Dawn and Joan that there was a different tone to her treatment of Dawn. I want to say it's because Joan likes her.
David: I hate to go out of order here, but I am fading. I am SAD about this merger. I felt like we were just getting into Ted & Peggy as a real rival to SCDP. And their work was better. (Especially Peggy's HUGE FUCKING Heinz bottle.) Now I feel like we've lost something in the show before the arc ran it's course. This would have been all fine as the season finale. But it's too soon for me. What do you think? Ultimately, Peggy wanted SOME self-determination, and not to have money thrown in her face (per the teaser)
Aaron: Well, the teasers are always useless. I thought this was the best episode of the season. I thought there were three great scenes: Joan yells at Don, Don and Ted in the bar, Ted and Don breaking the news to Peggy. There were also huge arrows pointing at this happening with SCDP about to come into money, and CGC about to need a lot of money. I hate jerking the show off, but this type of thing happening mid-season is an excellent for viewers because now we get two mini-seasons. I hope it doesn't turn into Friday Night Lights Season 2 Episode 1. Last week had all the makings of a set up episode. Now there are so many questions. What's the structure of the new company? What's the name? Will all these characters become main characters? Will they buy out extraneous partners? Specifically, I'd like to hear your thoughts on what's this mean for Peggy? What's this mean for Joan? What's this mean for Pete?"
David:To your list of great scenes, I'd add the dinner scene. Mad Men is best when it's about what's unsaid (which is why it's so frustrating when all the characters narrate their feelings, or find poop in the stairwell). For Peggy: She's back to square 1. She's surpassed her mentor, and now she's back working for him again. The result of her beating him was a return. Not good. For Joan: What Harry Crane says to her face, everyone thinks behind her back. And when Don, who is supposed to be her great supporter, fires Jaguar without a second thought, that's made even more clear. For Pete: He got this amazing validation from Bert this episode. But he's immediately reminded that Jaguar & Vic's - the two big gets, had nothing to do with his charms/account management. I wonder how Ted will treat Joan.
Other thoughts from the episode:
-In the first scene it seemed a little like Pete and Joan were flirting. Is she the only one who doesn't think he's a creep?
-It's never been totally clear what Roger does for the agency and it's taken halfway through season 6 to see one of his tricks. That was pretty cool, wish they'd made him seem more useful earlier.
-Marie had some great lines: "Do you want my flowers, I'm quite done with them." "You talk like a woman who's been married for much longer than you have." "She's the apple that goes in the pig's mouth."
-There were some indirect and obviously direct ties to the episode title, "For Immediate Release." The indirect ones were about sex.
-Abe and Peggy. Ted and Peggy. Didn't get a chance to go over this is the recap, but yeah.
-Did you notice Roger using the shoeshine kit he got earlier in the season?
-"They designed it with a computer."
-"It's one thing to want something, it's another to need it."
-Don and Arnold in the elevator talking about fate.
-"Unless this works, I'm against it."
"Make it sound like the agency you want to work for."
-May 17, 1968.