Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mad Men Episode 6-10: A Tale of Two Cities

Recap: This episode takes place during the time of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. At home, Don watches the live convention coverage as a speaker drones on and on. Megan enters the room and checks out the TV, complaining that they’re supposed to be debating the Vietnam War (where one faction of Democrats wanted immediate withdrawal of all troops). She worries about cops in Chicago hassling the anti-war demonstrators, but Don says they won’t show that stuff on prime time. She tells him he’s too cynical. She’s for Humphrey (Democrat) but he’s for Nixon (Republican). He changes the subject and invites her to travel with him to California so they can revisit Disneyland. Megan tells him to go without her but stay away from actresses. They kiss.

At the office, Don joins the executive board already in session: Pete, Roger, Bert, Joan, Ted, and Jim. Jim argues that the agency needs a new name. Ted says it should be SCDP-CGC but Joan says it’s too long. Next they assign roles for the immediate future: Ted is to travel to Detroit and deal with the Chevy account; Don and Roger are to fly to LA for Carnation and other accounts; and Jim Cutler is supposed to go with Mike, Stan, and Bob Benson to Manischewitz. Jim complains that he has to babysit for Don & Roger’s account and people.

On their flight to LA, Roger chatters and distracts Don while Don tries to prep for their business meetings. Roger says, “Come on, we’re executives. Leave the work to Ted.” He also tells Don, “We are big New York ad men…be slick, be glib, be you.” Don replies, “Well, I’m usually informed.”

Over in the creative office, Stan and Mike listen to a radio announcer who reports that the Democratic party has rejected the peace plan to end the war immediately. They are disappointed and angry since they’re anti-war. Jim enters the room to talk about business, but Stan & Mike (especially Mike) want to talk about the news they just heard. Mike insults Jim and calls him a fascist. Jim doesn’t want to talk politics, and points out the hypocrisy of receiving a paycheck from Dow Chemical while being anti-war. As Mike continues to insult Jim, Bob Benson walks in and tries to calm Mike down, saying, “That man is your boss!” Jim yells at Bob: “Go back upstairs” and Mike tells Bob: “Thanks for making that worse.”

Jim heads to Ted’s office and unloads his frustration about the SCDP creatives. He wants to fire them, starting with Mike, but Ted says, “He’s lightning in a bottle” and tells Jim to learn to get along with them and hold their hands. Ted also points out that “the problem is that you keep talking about two agencies.”

Next, Bob Benson enters Jim’s office and Jim says, “I was just coming to see you. I believe in you, Bob, but you’re untested.” He then asks Bob to handle the Manischewitz meeting without him, and Bob says, “I welcome this chance to shine.” Then he walks away from Jim’s office and looks back over his shoulder in bewilderment.

Returning to his desk, Bob listens to a record about success with a positive mental attitude but is interrupted by a call from Stan, who appeals to him to come and help Mike. Mike is on the floor, feeling sick and believing (thanks to Jim Cutler) that he’s actually part of the problem in society, a bad person for making a living through money from the likes of Dow Chemical. Mike starts quoting obscure lines and believes his mind is being controlled. Bob tells him he’s feeling fear, but Mike denies it. After trying to inspire and reason with Mike, Bob resorts to yelling at him: “Now pull yourself together and be the man that I admire!” This helps Mike regain perspective and a sense of humor. However, at the client meeting, we learn that Manischewitz has put SCDP-CGC under review, which means they’re going to drop the agency.

Meanwhile, at a restaurant, Joan meets Andy Hayes, a new acquaintance of Joan’s friend Kate. Joan thinks it’s a date, but Andy thinks he’s there to talk business. Joan adjusts and begins to try to sell him on SCDP-CGC’s advertising services for Avon. She says “I’m in charge of thinking of things before people know they need them” and talks warmly about Harry Crane’s ability to promote Avon through TV ads. Joan claims their agency is different because “we listen to the clients.” Andy moves to pay for the lunch but Joan obviously wants Andy to know how important she is when she says, “No, I’ll get this” and boasts that the company pays her to get the check.

Not long after, Joan tells Peggy about the business opportunity with Avon. Joan says with excitement, “I thought I was on a date but it’s even better.” Peggy convinces Joan to tell Ted, saying “You’ll be the account man, if that’s what you want” although Joan doesn’t appear to believe this. They tell Ted, but since Ted is heading out the door for Detroit, he passes the opportunity off to Pete. Ted tells Pete: “Reel them in” and rushes off, leaving the women feeling disgruntled and worried.

When Pete meets with Peggy and Joan a little later, he tells them what’s going to happen next, speaking in what they perceive as a dictatorial way. Joan resents this. Pete says to her, “Don’t worry. You’ll get all the credit.” Then he gives her a big, condescending smile and walks away. Joan feels shut down but later she sets up a meeting behind Pete’s back for herself, Peggy, and Andy.

That meeting is held at a restaurant. Joan arrives there first, and when Peggy arrives next, Joan tells her that Pete couldn’t make it. Surprised, Peggy wonders how they’ll handle the meeting, but then Joan admits she didn’t invite Pete. Peggy says, “You can’t do that” and Joan replies “I did it. If you want to leave, you can.” Andy arrives and Joan introduces him to Peggy, raving about her talents. Peggy begins to relate to Avon by telling Andy about her childhood memories of the Avon lady, but Joan soon interrupts her to have a more general conversation that she seems to think sounds more professional.  Then Joan asks Andy what Avon’s biggest challenges are. Andy complains that women are working more and not home as much, which is a problem because Avon’s business model required door-to-door sales. Also, he says that hippies don’t wear makeup. He’s not sure whether their advertising should be more nostalgic or groovier, and thinks they’re currently somewhere in-between. Next, Peggy asks him what he thinks of Avon’s current advertising. When he doesn’t respond immediately, she asks whether he thinks it’s unintentionally old-fashioned. He concurs. Peggy floats the idea of Andy sending an Avon Lady to the office. Joan immediately criticizes Peggy’s idea by pointing out that the office doesn’t have a doorbell. Peggy looks at her with disdain. In the end, neither Peggy nor Joan know how to wrap up the meeting to get a sale, and there’s an awkward silence.

Returning to the office, Joan says to Peggy: “What is going on? I just handed you the business of your life.” Peggy replies: “I know you want this and now you can’t have it.” Joan explains that she has to do this herself, her way. “All that matters now is who has the relationship.”

Later the ladies of the office receive a box of Avon product samples, which some of them rifle through in the conference room after someone accidentally opens the box. When Pete learns that Joan and Peggy held a meeting with Avon behind his back, he’s furious and chases the women out of the conference room. He calls Joan to the conference room to grill her, and Peggy walks in. Pete calls Ted into the room and shoos Peggy out. Peggy goes to Joan’s office and turns up the intercom so she can hear what’s happening. Meredith barges into Joan’s office and asks Peggy’s opinion of her outfit, and Peggy shushes her. They both listen as they hear Pete say, “What we have is a breach of the fundamental rules of this business…It’s a revolt.” Ted demands that Joan tell him what happened. Knowing that Joan is in trouble, Peggy writes a note and sends Meredith into the conference room to read it; the note says that Avon is on the phone for Joan. Pete tells her to go answer it. Then Pete argues with Ted, and Ted replies that “possession is 9/10 of the law. We’re all working together.” When Joan returns to her office she realizes that Peggy has rescued her. Peggy then says to Joan, “You’d better hope they call.”

In California, Harry Crane wears a bright gold blazer and a scarf-like necktie as he drives up to a hotel in a bright red convertible sports car and lets Don and Roger out of the car. Don and Roger are wearing suits and sunglasses, looking very conservative. They both complain about the car but Harry is excited and tells them to save their strength for a party in “the Hills” that he’s been invited to the following evening.

That night, everyone from Joan and Megan in their New York apartments to Don in Los Angeles tune in to watch the happenings at the Democratic Convention. As a tape of rioting in the streets of Chicago is shown, the reporter says, “This was supposed to be a nonviolent demonstration.” Megan in New York phones Don in his LA hotel to talk about it. She says, “Can you imagine a policeman cracking your skull, changing your life?” Don replies, “Honey, they’re throwing rocks. They’re asking for trouble.” Don deals with Megan’s upset emotions by making a joke, which upsets her more. Don apologizes. Megan worries that riots may break out in LA and tells Don to be careful. Don says he misses her, and Megan advises him to “Go for a swim. It always makes you feel better.” (Great foreshadowing!) They end the call with loving concern for each other, and after they hang up, Don lies back on his hotel bed and stares at the ceiling, ignoring the television screen.

The next morning, Roger, Don, and Harry meet with George, an executive at the Carnation office. George says, “We all hated what we saw, but the Democrats are dead.” He laughs about the Chicago riots handing the election to Nixon. Jack, another important Carnation executive, walks in just then and says it’s no laughing matter. He tries to stick to business but there’s a little more politics shared first. Then Harry mentions that Carnation needs more levels of advertising on television, including on game shows and other venues. George and Jack, however, are suspicious of SCDP-CGC because they’re a New York firm and New York firms have “an attitude.” They also feel it’s an irresolvable problem that the agency represents Life Cereal, one of their competitors.  However, Roger quips: “Look, we’re sorry your last girlfriend hurt you. But we’re in your office now.” This makes them smile, and they ask what Don, Roger, and Harry have in mind for their ad campaign.

That night, Harry drives up to the hotel in the same red convertible, which again irritates Don & Roger as he picks them up, still dressed in suits and sunglasses, to attend the party in the Hills. They arrive at the house and are greeted by an attractive blond hostess who Roger flirts with, but she’s not interested. The popular song Harper Valley PTA is playing. Don spots Danny, who used to work for him briefly, out on the pool deck, and he and Roger go out to say hello. Danny introduces his tall, bikini-clad girlfriend, Lotus, and Roger makes “short jokes” about Danny, which makes Lotus giggle. Danny says he tried advertising for a while but “It wasn’t my bag. I had to quit.” Roger embarrasses him by stating that Danny was fired, and mentions that they’re related because Danny is Roger’s ex-wife Jane’s cousin. Danny tells him he’s now known as Daniel J. Siegel, a producer at Paramount, and he starts dropping names. All the while, Lotus giggles from time to time but otherwise remains silent.

Meanwhile, Don goes over to the bar near the pool and converses with a man. Don tells the man about all of the accounts his company has, and the man replies that he’s into jingles, but that “If times get tough we’ll look you guys up.”

A bit later we see Roger flirting with Lotus near the pool. He says, “You don’t talk much, do you?” and she just looks at him. Danny walks up and tells her “Let’s go” but Roger challenges him. They get into an argument thanks to Roger’s aggressiveness, and after Roger threatens to punch Danny, Danny punches Roger in the groin. Roger doubles over in pain as Danny walks away with Lotus, who is giggling in reaction to the punch.

Around the same time, Don has wandered into the living room and sees a circle of people all smoking hashish through a large hookah. The party hostess asks him if he likes hashish, and Don replies, “I don’t know yet.” He removes his shoes upon request and takes a puff. He sits up very straight in his suit, which makes him look out of place because everyone else lounges around in their colorful hippie clothes.

Next, it seems that Don gets high, wanders off, loses consciousness, and falls into the pool, but what we see is his near-death experience. In this dream-like state, he finds himself kissing the blond hostess as he tells her that he’s thirsty, and she says, “There’s a pool full of water out there, Don.” Don replies, “I told you that’s not my name.” He then spots Megan, dressed in hippie garb, and Megan walks up to him smiling. Don moves away from the blond and asks Megan how she found him. Megan says she lives there. “It’s cool, it’s California, everybody shares.” She tells him she quit her job because she couldn’t bear to be apart, and that she has a surprise: she’s pregnant. She then leads Don down a long hallway to a dimly lit corner of the room and, beaming with joy (as one would expect in Heaven), she says, “Everybody’s looking for you.” Just then a man in an army uniform reaches out to light his cigarette. The soldier appears to be the man whose wedding Don stood up to on the beach in Hawaii. The soldier has lost an arm, and he tells Don: “My wife thinks I’m missing in action but I’m actually dead.” Don wonders what happened to his arm and he replies: “Dying doesn’t make you whole. You should see what you look like.”

Don hears a woman scream as if from a distance, and then he hears a man shout: “Man overboard!” He finds himself standing next to the pool looking down at his body, face-down in the water. He returns to consciousness in his physical body as Roger rescues him from drowning.

On their return flight to New York, Don coughs, and Roger offers an alibi: “You caught a cold in California.” Roger chats him up and makes him smile, and then Don turns and looks out the window. When they arrive in New York they go straight to the office. Dawn greets the two men, but Pete is hovering and brushes Dawn off, saying: “If you don’t mind, this is urgent.” When the three of them enter Don’s office, Pete continues: “I have to tell you that in your absence, things have become quite dire.”

Meanwhile, Jim and Ted catch up with each other upon Ted’s return from Detroit. Ted is excited to report that Jack, a key executive at Chevy, has finally signed off on the agency’s work and Ted got to see the car for the first time. Jim tells Ted that he didn’t actually attend the Manischewitz meeting, and Ted gets angry. Just then, Bob walks in and says, “They’re putting us in review.” Realizing that Ted is mad at Jim for not attending the meeting, Bob tries to rescue Jim by claiming it was his idea that Jim not be there. Ted is taken aback when Jim turns around and rewards Bob by assigning him to help Kenny with the Chevy account. Ted says nothing but has a strange look on his face as he observes this interaction. After Bob leaves, Ted scolds Jim: “You’re splitting this place, and not in half.” They then go to Don’s office for an emergency meeting of the executives, although Joan is specifically excluded.

Asking “How was California?” the execs hear that it was “a series of busts.” Ted shares that Detroit was a success and that Joan is “at the 5-yard line” with Avon. On hearing that Manischewitz has put their agency up for review, Roger says, “It’s been coming for months.”

Then Jim announces that they finally have a name for their agency: Sterling Cooper & Partners. Jim explains, “It’s the only thing that’s equally offensive to all.” Ted says to Don, “I can swallow it if you can” and the agency name is accepted. On their way out of Don’s office, Roger says to Bert, “Nice work.” Bert replies: “I had nothing to do with it.” Remaining in Don’s office are Don and Pete. Pete asks, “You have no problem with this?” Pete warns Don that “this is not the same business” and Don tells him, “If you don’t like it, maybe it’s time to get out of the business.”

With that, Pete wanders out to the creative room, stares for a moment, and walks up to Stan, who is sitting on the couch smoking marijuana. Pete says, “What are you doing?” and Stan replies, “Working.” Pete grabs the joint (despite Stan’s objection) and takes a puff, sitting down on the couch to enjoy it while staring at the legs of a short-skirted young woman walking by as he gets high.

The final music is Janis Joplin’s song, Take Another Little Piece of my Heart.

A major theme of this episode is the clash of cultures. As with any clash of cultures, this show features both “hawks” and “doves” who try to either keep the cultures apart or integrate them into a single, unified new culture.

·         The war in Vietnam represented an internal clash of cultures because of the competing economic and political systems trying to rule the country. By the late 1960s the United States was fighting with the South Vietnamese and against the North, but not winning. Many in the United States, especially the youth who were being drafted to fight and die for a war they didn’t believe in, were “doves” who wanted to withdraw all U.S. troops immediately. The “dove” or anti-war movement was met with violence by the cops in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention, although rock-throwers (a violent subgroup) among the “doves” helped ignite the conflict. In the end, the Democratic party and the nation remained sharply divided, helping to create a cultural split throughout the United States that showed up as a generational as well as a political divide.

·         The Democrats vs. the Republicans divided the country politically, with Republicans mostly “hawks” and Democrats largely but not completely “doves.” We see the political split in Don and Megan, where Democrat Megan is sympathetic to the anti-war demonstrators and Republican Don is less sympathetic and more cynical. To resolve their political differences, Don is a “dove” with Megan in that he speaks sympathetically to her concerns about the protestors rather than arguing with her, and he tries to change the subject and kiss her when possible to smooth over their differences. 

·         We also see politics played out at SCDP-CGC when youthful anti-war Democrats Mike and Stan try to discuss politics with older Jim Cutler, a man who doesn’t want to talk about politics (Republicans of that era often believed that people should mind their own business). Ironically, the “dove” Mike yells at Jim and insults him, so Mike is more of a “hawk” when it comes to dealing with his political differences with Jim, and Jim is more of a “dove” in trying to relate peacefully, if coolly, to Mike. Bob Benson, the consummate “dove” in terms of bridging gaps with others, walks into the middle of the argument and tries to make things better, only to be scolded by Jim (suddenly acting “hawkishly” ill-tempered towards Bob), while Stan is more “dovish” in keeping his mouth shut to de-escalate the argument.

·         Carnation executives George (Republican) and Jack (apparently sympathetic to Democrats) feel the need to talk politics at their meeting with Don, Roger, and Harry, showing how far the political divide permeated society. Jack said they should stick to a business discussion, but then he made further political comments.

·         Although SCDP and CGC have merged, their cultural differences remain and produce animosities among “hawks” or aggressive, divisive individuals like Jim Cutler and Pete. Ted is the “dove” on the CGC side, trying to peacefully integrate the two teams into a new company. Likewise, Don is “dovish” when Pete (who has “hawkishly” argued with Peggy and Joan and wants to hold onto the business culture of the past) tells Don disdainfully at the end of the show that it’s just not the same agency. Don (who accepts the new, integrated agency) says that Pete should accept it or leave.

·         The beginning and ending of this episode revolve around finding a new name for the agency. This represents two cultures coming together, both sides sacrificing something so they can form a new agency, with a unique new culture.

·         Although there are three cities pertinent to this episode, we never see what happens in Detroit. Therefore, the two cities whose tales are told would be New York and Los Angeles, places where the cultures were extremely different in 1968. Everything we see, from the eastern conservative suits vs. western hippie clothing, to the eastern aggressive, bullying, fast-paced manner vs. the western laid-back, authority-questioning manner, to the eastern business women vs. the western bikini gals, sets these two cultures apart. Harry Crane knows how to dress for either coast and has made peace with both cultures, while Roger pumps himself up about how much better New York is and rejects the west coast culture. Don is somewhat open to the west coast culture as he’s willing to try their hashish (although he can’t handle it) but he maintains his New York style of clothing and doing business. In Don’s unconscious, he sees Megan being at home in the west coast culture of hippie clothes and free love.

·         There’s a huge gap between male culture and female culture, with a minority of women trying to become independent and the vast majority of men feeling that men should dominate women.

·         Among male culture, men were split along fashion trends between the east and west coast looks and between pro- and anti-establishment thought, but largely unified in their feelings of dominance over women.

·         Among female culture, many women in 1968 were looking at both east and west coast fashions (Avon’s Andy specifically mentions working women vs. the hippies who no longer wear make-up, representing style splits within the female culture) and some women were becoming aware of politics and anti-establishment rhetoric, but many were also split between “hawks” and “doves” (competitors vs. cooperators) towards men. There was the old-fashioned beauty who was good at being receptive and listening to men and giggling (Lotus), vs. the new woman (Joan and Peggy) who rejected the good-old-boys’ club having power over them and wanted to become empowered to move up the ladder in their organization.

·         There’s a divide between old and new selling styles throughout the episode: Roger and Don use old-school tactics to try to impress the California guys – boasting about their accomplishments and putting others down to try to look good by comparison. Meanwhile, Peggy and Joan ask their potential Avon client a lot of questions and use good listening skills in a more consultative sales approach, although they have things to learn about how to ask for the order. (This is not to say that Roger and Don, or other salesmen, fail to listen to their customers, but that part isn’t shown in this episode.)

·         Personal clashes in fashion or communication styles appear throughout the show: Ted and Jim have clashing leadership styles; Don and Roger have clashing ways of preparing for their client meeting; Mike and Bob have distinctly different ways of dealing with authority in the office that cause problems for both of them; Joan and Peggy (and Pete) have clashing ways of thinking about and handling the Avon prospect; Harry’s style of clothing and car choice clash with the fashion sensibilities of Don and Roger; and Don and Megan have clashing ways of interpreting the events around the Democratic National Convention. Most of these clashes aren’t resolved in this episode.

A recurring motif is frenemy rescues. People who are competitive towards each other suddenly turn around and rescue each other from disasters.

·         Jim yells at Bob Benson when he walks into the creative office and tries to help Mike calm down and show some respect for authority. Yet later in the show, Bob makes up the story that it was his idea that Jim should not attend the Manischewitz meeting, thus trying to rescue Jim from Ted’s wrath.

·         Bob responds to Stan’s request and rushes in to rescue Mike, who is crouched on the floor feeling sick and sounding mentally unstable. After trying reason and persuasion and hearing Mike deny his analysis that he’s frightened, Bob shouts at Mike with a positive spin to snap him out of his fears.

·         Roger and Don have their disagreements, but in the end Roger jumps into the pool and rescues Don from drowning.

·         Peggy and Joan argue about how to handle Avon, but ultimately Peggy rescues Joan from being trounced by Ted by writing a fake memo and asking Meredith to read it to Joan in the conference room, thus getting her out of there.

Finally, there’s a broad theme of shifting power structures. As cultures merge, some people (like Pete or Jim Cutler) fear the loss of power and influence, while others work to gain power (like Ted or Joan). New York and east coast culture may be losing influence over the country as California captures more people’s imaginations and shifts fashion and communication styles. Politically, the Democrats lose influence after the 1968 convention and fall into disarray as the Republicans gain power through the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. But a few years later, the anti-war movement would force the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, proving that the power and influence of America’s youth in 1968 was on the rise.

I (Karen) am not really sure about the significance of the final song, “Piece of My Heart.” It reminds me of Lotus, who seems to offer herself up to being owned by men – giving up her identity to be a giggling sex object that makes men feel good. Jim thinks that all the principle characters at the agency (except Harry) have had a piece of their heart torn out during this episode.


No comments:

Post a Comment