"There is no fresh start. Lives carry on." — Henry Francis
"The truth is, they are mourning for their childhood more than they are anticipating their future." — Don Draper
Henry Francis could have just as easily uttered the old adage: The more things change the more they stay the same. At the end of a season that began with Don Draper living a brand-new life and working in a brand-new office, how much has he changed? The season-long question was "Who is Don Draper?" and although we watched Don do some serious (and sometimes ugly) soul searching, the answer he comes up with in the end seems a little too familiar.
On Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Don runs into Midge in the midst of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's Lucky Strike crisis. Although she reveals some dark, depressing secrets, she also inadvertently inspires Don to take drastic action to save the company. Meanwhile, Betty might not notice the progress Sally is making with Dr. Edna, but she does catch her sneaking off to drink Glen Bishop's backwash (not a metaphor). Plus: Trudy puts her foot down about Pete's continued dedication to the crumbling agency...
"This means everything to me!" — Don Draper
Sorry, Faye (and Megan): Even after a disastrous end to his first marriage, Don Draper still hasn't learned to separate his work from his life. But who on Mad Men has? On Sunday's episode, faced with the crisis of Lucky Strike leaving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Don uses Faye's personal feelings for him to get ahead in business, while also engaging in an affair when he thinks his request won't be granted. Pete finds himself choosing to save the drowning ship that is SCDP over spending time with his wife and new baby girl. Peggy, on the other hand, uses her relationship with Abe to give an inspired pitch to Playtex.
Then, of course, there's Roger, whose own self-denial has put the company at risk. Rather than telling his partners that Lee Garner Jr. is taking his money elsewhere, he's wasted a few weeks wallowing in guilt. And when the rest of the SCDP gang inevitably finds out, Roger lies and looks for solace in Joan, who is no longer there to catch him when he falls.
The episode takes its name from a business term: A "Chinese wall" is an information barrier that many companies establish between two parties to eliminate conflicts of interest. Although some of the characters on Mad Men could use the Great Wall of China to keep things appropriate, whatever wall that should exist is crumbling just as fast as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce itself...
"I don't want any secrets." — Betty Draper
Betty doesn't want any new secrets in her new marriage, because she knows all too well how they destroyed her last one. Unfortunately, many other characters in the Mad Men universe — Betty's ex-husband included — haven't yet learned that lesson. Joan and Roger sweep Joan's pregnancy under the rug with a quickie abortion. Roger loses a client that could end Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but doesn't tell anyone. Meanwhile, Don's past as Dick Whitman costs SCDP another client and forces Pete to take a beating from Roger that he doesn't deserve.
Conversely, Lane lets his secret out of the bag when he tells his father that he's dating Toni, a Playboy Club cocktail waitress who is black. But when that announcement doesn't go over well, Lane is unable to tell anyone the real reason he's taking a leave of absence to return to London. Similarly, Don brings Faye into his circle of trust, but almost instantly regrets it.
For three-and-a-half seasons, secrets (especially Don's) have been Mad Men's stock in trade. As such, this episode borders on feeling repetitive, or at least less impactful than the show's past revelations. If anything, this episode is less about what's being hidden and more about why the characters are hiding it. The question for Don (and everyone else): Isn't honesty always the best policy? ...
"She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She's an astronaut." — Bert Cooper
Cooper may remember Ida Blankenship fondly after her sudden (and darkly hilarious) death in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices, but the rest of the living women on Mad Men have as much trouble as ever getting through to the men in their lives. Joan's husband is heading to Vietnam, and Roger gives Joan a "hard time" at the worst possible moment. Peggy spends some more time with activist reporter Abe, only to find out that his forward thinking about civil rights doesn't also extend to women. And, most tragically, little Sally Draper runs away from home in yet another cry for her father's attention. All she gets in return is an afternoon with daddy's girlfriend, Faye, who is equally miffed at Don's handling of the situation.
But before we get to those other ladies, let's consider Miss Blankenship's view of the younger generation. She recognizes that Faye is pushier than the women of days past, but she's also aware that perhaps "that's what it takes" these days. When she sees Peggy in a huff, she warns her thusly: "It's a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are." And even in death, she perhaps solidifies sad Sally's viewpoint that everything isn't going to be fine. As Roger puts it, Ida dies the same way she lived, "surrounded by the people she answers phones for." Can Sally — and Joan and Faye and Peggy — break through that barrier in this man's world?
Peggy and Joan are forced to deal with some insulting office behavior; Don and his date Bethany (Anna Camp) have an uncomfortable encounter with Betty and her husband at a fancy restaurant. Later, during a late-night business meeting, Don invites Faye (Cara Buono) to dine with him, and dinner turns into a bit more than either had expected.
"Somebody very important to me died." — Don Draper
"Who?" — Peggy
"The only person in the world who really knew me." — Don Draper
"That's not true." — Peggy
While the rest of the world was watching (and losing money on) the second bout of Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, a much more personal boxing match was going on inside the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices. Don tries to avoid making a phone call destined to bring him earth-shattering bad news by making his protégé, Peggy, stay behind to help him with a troublesome Samsonite ad. The result is one of the series' finest hours, allowing each character to jab the other with various grievances. But they ultimately come to realize what we already knew: These characters love each other — enough to stand by and pick the other up when life delivers a knockout punch.
It's no secret that Don and Peggy have always been kindred spirits, but it's been a while since Mad Men put them in the same room together as much as it did in this episode. And I wouldn't be surprised to see more of it. While Don mourns the loss of Anna Draper, he should take comfort in the fact that Peggy does know him. She may not know the Dick Whitman that Anna loved, but Peggy knows more about polished ad man Don Draper than anyone. And she got a crash course in Whitman 101 straight from Dick's mouth over dinner. Perhaps now, Don's life raft isn't 3,000 miles across the country, but in the office next door...
On Sunday's episode of Mad Men, Peggy has some trouble working with a new hire with whom she is partnered. Meanwhile, Don makes a pitch to a client under unusual circumstances.
Hey guys, because of our Emmys coverage, I won't be able to post the full recap until Monday. But please feel free to begin discussing the episode in the comments below.
"Why does everybody need to talk about everything?" — Don Draper
"I don't know, but they do. And no matter what happens while they're talking, they feel better when they're done." — Faye Miller
Clearly, Don Draper is a man who likes his privacy, but as this episode proves, sometimes baring your soul can be productive. Roger Sterling works through his long-held anger toward the Japanese thanks to a quick chat with Joan. Betty's icy demeanor is temporarily thawed by a potential child psychiatrist for Sally. And Don lets down his guard with Faye, admitting that his divorce from Betty has been hardest on his kids.
Sally, who doesn't have anyone to talk to about the changes going on inside her body, expresses herself by chopping off her hair and, um, "behaving inappropriately" to get some attention...
"You can't tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved." — Don Draper
Though a number of characters during this hour of Mad Men behave differently than we've seen in the past, Don's sentiment isn't exactly true, no matter how much he wants to believe it. The episode, devoted mostly to Peggy and Pete, shows how much has changed for both of them since they were the pair dealing with awkward sexual tension in the office. Peggy's got a bunch of hip, young friends who smoke pot and refuse to sell their artistic souls to the corporate devil of advertising. Pete is now a partner who isn't afraid to push around his father-in-law, now that Pete has come through by giving Tom a grandchild. But Pete's already been a father, and even though Peggy gave the baby away, it's still there between them. And just as Peggy catches Pete's eye through the glass doors that separate their two current lives at the end of the episode, the two will never be able to truly escape the behaviors of their past...
Don plans a jaunt to Acapulco, while back at the office, Lane and Joan get into a serious disagreement.
In this episode of Mad Men, it's Christmas, but Don Draper is far from jolly. Rather, he spends even more time than usual hitting the bottle, stumbling home late at night and wandering through his life outside the office in a scotch-induced haze. Meanwhile, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce throws an impromptu Christmas party to appease Lucky Strike heir Lee Garner Jr., whose odd demands Roger is begrudgingly forced to meet.
In the Season 4 opener, Don's reluctance to talk about himself jettisons a prestigious trade-paper interview that the company was hoping would be a boon to business. Meanwhile, the "wholesome" manufacturer of two-piece swimsuits wants to hire the firm but doesn't want a sexy ad campaign; Pete and Peggy stage a stunt in an effort to secure more money from a meat-company client; and Roger plays Cupid for Don.