War is in the air and on the airwaves. On January 17, 1968, President Lydon B. Johnson gave his State of the Union Address in which he assured us (yes, I watched it):
Since I reported to you last January:
—Three elections have been held in Vietnam—in the midst of war and under the constant threat of violence.
—A President, a Vice President, a House and Senate, and village officials have been chosen by popular, contested ballot.
—The enemy has been defeated in battle after battle.
—The number of South Vietnamese living in areas under Government protection tonight has grown by more than a million since January of last year.
These are all marks of progress. Yet:
—The enemy continues to pour men and material across frontiers and into battle, despite his continuous heavy losses.
—He continues to hope that America’s will to persevere can be broken. Well—he is wrong. America will persevere. Our patience and our perseverance will match our power. Aggression will never prevail.
Six days later the USS Pueblo was boarded and captured by North Korean forces. Thirteen days later the Tet Offensive was launched. Don, of course, barely hears the news. He's busy dealing with clients, his wife and his mistress, Sylvia. Sylvia's husband, the good Dr. Rosen, says to him: “You know, we’re losing the war.” Glancing around the expensive restaurant Rosen got them into taking in America's middle-aged trendy undraftables, Don says: “You wouldn’t know it looking around here.”
Watching "Mad Men" with an eye towards writing a review is sometimes maddeningly confusing. The title of this episode was "The Collaborators" which I had expected to reflect one meaning of the term - "to work with another or others on a joint project." After all, that's what happens in an ad agency. In fact, the characters in this episode reflected the other definition, the WWII definition - "to cooperate as a traitor, especially with an enemy occupying one's own country."
Don: So we just keep saying yes, no matter what? Because we didn’t say no to begin with. You know that this is? It’s Munich.
Pete: You guys are always talking about Munich. What the hell does that mean, anyway?
Roger: It means we gave the Germans whatever they wanted to make them happy, but it just made them want more.
Pete: Well, who the hell won the war?
Actually, on September 30, 1938, Britain and France committed what is known in history as the "Munich betrayal", sacrificing Czechoslovakia in a choice that resulted in the possible loss of an opportunity to stop Hitler. Yes, a war would have ensued, but at that time Germany was still building its military. Pete's understanding is shallow. The U.S. and the Soviet Union "won the war" that started a year later but France was occupied and Britain was under seige for most of WWII and neither came out of the WWII without considerable loss and suffering. And French "collaborators", either as individuals fraternizing with the Germans or as the Vichy Government, became notorious. And the infamous images of French women collaborators having their heads shaved were pretty well known.
Guilt and betrayal - a few characters feeling shame, a few feeling shameless, and some apparently feeling overwhelming guilt - is a theme throughout this episode.
Which brings us to the curious "flirtations" at Pete and Trudy's party. Puzzling - the women are flirting with Pete and the men seem to be drooling over Trudy. All this, of course, ends with Pete acting on the "opportunity" with Brenda in the apartment Trudy encouraged him to get. Brenda apparently can't hide the guilt resulting in her husband hitting her in the face, sending her to the Campbell home at night, and yelling out she's now Pete's problem.
"Hell hath no fury like a" Trudy scorned. The next morning Trudy, who has obviously been aware of Pete's infidelity, says “Somehow, I thought that there was some dignity in being discreet. She lives on our block!” And Pete is consigned the apartment except when she wants him there. In a threat that he shouldn't ignore, she says: “I’m drawing a 50-mile radius around this house, and if you so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you.”
We see Pete with Brenda and Don with Sylvia. These guys remind me of a movie, two German soldiers with women that have chosen to collaborate with them. Pete offers contempt, seems brutish in some way, towards a weak Brenda. Don is suave, devious, but with a devil-may-care attitude that can be attractive to some.
Sylvia questions: “You don’t mind sitting across the table from your wife and my husband?” Don replies, offering a truth he'd like to believe: “I don’t think about it. They’re both good company.”
And then he follows with ”This didn’t happen,” and pointing to his head ”Just in here.”
And yet, at another point he tells her: “Now I understand. You want to feel ******, right up until the point where I take your dress off. Because I’m going to do that. You want to skip dinner, fine, but don’t pretend.” And so he does as Syvia is a complex blend of dishonest self-righteous guilt who may be in love with Don.
But our war with traitors and collaborators reaches into Heinz Ketchup and Jaguar. It ensnares Peggy with a kind of "who's side are you on" rationalization.
And it allows us to see Pete's win at any cost "who won the war" attitude.
But maybe Roger offers the best comment to Don in the context of Jaguar. “That was the most artful self-immolation I’ve ever seen.” Yes, it was about Don allowing himself to be put in his place by the Jaguar company folks to avoid direct conflict with Herb over the Jaguar radio campaign to get "walk in" traffic. Vietnam via television has, of course, offered up numbers of actual self-immolations - film at 11:00, 1968 news style.
But at the end we have Don, who has been having flashbacks to his childhood around prostitution, floored by ...what... guilt, or shame, or just tired manipulating all those people? Maybe this Don, whose war was in Korea some 15 years ago, is just burned out from the maneuvers:
Edited by phrelin, 15 April 2013 - 05:40 PM.