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Mad Men: "A Tale of Two Cities" OAD 6/2/13 ***SPOILERS***

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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin


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Posted 03 June 2013 - 04:59 PM



Sterling Cooper & Partners. How did we get to here? We all know Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Cutler Gleason Chaough or even SCDPCGC doesn't work. Let's get rid of the dead. Don notes: "SCDCC sounds like a stutter and looks like a typo." They are ad people who are supposed to understand image. Cutler warns "further delay will leave it up to the world." So he and Clough suggest Sterling Cooper & Partners but we know they have motives larger than just a better name. So let the name reflect the two old guys in the other firm.

Roger Sterling certainly likes it. But look out, Roger, as those that seem the least dangerous - the little things - can surprise you:



A Tale of Two Cities

Dicken's novel A Tale of Two Cities was initially published in serial format, much as television series are presented. In my opinion the opening words of that novel describe the American years that began on November 22, 1963, and ended on August 9, 1974. Immediately before that period John F. Kennedy was President. Immediately after that period Gerald Ford was President. In between...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.


In this episode of "Mad Men" (which borrows the novel's name), it's late in August 1968 and the now infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention has begun. One of Dicken's key characters, the despised Marquis St. Evrémonde explains: "Repression is the only lasting philosophy." In 1968 Chicago Mayor Richard Daley filled in for the Marquis character. As I noted in a review of a prior episode:


(In contrast, Democrat Richard Daley, Mayor of Chicago, America's most segregated big city north of the Mason-Dixon Line, ordered his police to "shoot to kill" during the April 1968 riots. Chicago suffered the worst rioting of that time in the nation. The Democratic Party, using incredibly bad judgement, stuck with its decision to hold its National Convention in Chicago in August 1968.)


To me, it seemed that Joan was the character most disturbed by the video of repression in Chicago. But Joan fights repression in this episode. More on this later.


Don Draper

The literary story arc built around a protagonist from the peasantry who reinvents himself/herself in order to assume a place among the aristocracy is as old as ...well... story telling. That the protagonist ends up dead is almost a mandatory element of the story. The one that comes to mind who ends up in a pool dead is The Great Gatsby.

But unlike Don Draper née Dick Whitman, Gatsby does not say as he's dying: "I told you that's not my name."  One thing is very clear - Dick Whitman cannot reinvent himself while in Los Angeles, hash pipe or not.

There is, of course, a quote from A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens version, that comes to mind which might apply to Don/Dick when facing death:


It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.


Images of death are laced throughout this season of "Mad Men" and Don drowning is the obvious one. And he reminds us that Don Draper is the name of a soldier killed in the Korean War. While Don/Dick is supposedly dying he "hallucinates" the apparition (?) of Private Dinkins of Vietnam War vintage whose wedding Don served at in Hawaii, with even that cigarette lighter in hand.

Dinkins says: "My wife thinks I'm MIA, I'm actually dead."

Don notices the spirt of Dinkins is missing an arm.

Dinkins explains: "Dying doesn't make you whole. You should see what you look like."

We then see Don/Dick observing himself face down in the pool. He isn't missing any limbs. Dick Whitman has been warned that "Dying doesn't make you whole."

But there's a another more ominous apparition - Megan, dressed like a hippie, glowing, newly pregnant, telling Don she quit her acting job.

At this point in the scene, she tells Don: "Everybody's looking for you."




The background music in this scene is "Found Love" by an obscure Australian group the Fly Bi Nites:



What's ominous about this is the other apparition, Dinkins, is probably dead. In case you missed it (I did), in a scene in last week's episode "The Better Half" Megan wore a T-shirt that stirred the internet because it was one the Sharon Tate wore in a photo shoot for Esquire:




The Manson Murders occur in 1969. As was noted in a LA Times article


First, there are the obvious similarities between the two women. Like Tate, Megan is an actress whose career is beginning to gain traction, and is married to an older, philandering husband. She also recently suffered a miscarriage and may once again be trying to conceive; Tate was, sadly, pregnant at the time of her death.  Aesthetically speaking, they also share a similar fondness for big hair and vibrant patterns.

And, because we’re tallying the evidence,  both Roman Polanski and Don Draper lost their mothers at an early age and clashed with their stepmothers. So there’s that.... 

In last Sunday’s polarizing episode “The Crash,” there was the by-now-infamous “Grandma Ida” invasion (which just so happened to take place as Sally was reading “Rosemary’s Baby,” the novel adapted by Polanski in 1968). And elsewhere in “The Better Half,” Peggy, fearful of a break-in, accidentally stabs her boyfriend Abe, who’d already been stabbed earlier in the episode. In the scene in which Megan wears the infamous shirt, police sirens nearly drown out her conversation with Don. If that’s not foreboding, then what is? (The swarm of policemen featured in this season’s “Mad Men” poster, for one.)


In this episode we also have Ginsberg in one of his deep depressions quoting Dr. Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of the world.” Lots of "foreboding" here.

Now about Joan....


There were two songs in this episode about and sung by strong women:

  • one damning hypocrites among us both sexes, "Harper Valley PTA" by Jeannie C. Riley, and
  • the other "Piece of My Heart" by Janis Joplin.

In this episode we see the complex relationship between Joan and Peggy take twists and turns as the men try to cut Joan out of a chance to grow.

What Weiner is going to do with the Avon opportunity is a tough call.  It was, after all, her Avon rep friend Kate setting up a lunch with  Avon's new head of marketing, Andy Hayes. Joan at first thought it was a date. But all Andy seems to want is some advice on how to survive the onslaught of ad men. So Joan goes after Avon as a client. It's easy to forget Joan is a partner. Then after a misjudgement of Ted by Peggy, Joan cuts Pete out of the next meeting with Andy. Words are exchanged between Peggy and Joan. Pete end up very angry stating "breach of the fundamental rules of this business."

Joan is called on the carpet by Pete and a much-calmer Ted. Under pressure, Joan is about to admit to overstepping. But Peggy is monitoring the meeting and sends Meredith in announcing a non-existent phone call from Andy. Ted responds predictably as Joan leaves the room saying "Pete, we're all working together."

Peggy tells Joan she hopes Andy calls.

Pete storms into what ends up being a partners meeting sans Joan to complain about Joan. When he's finally alone with Don he complains "this is not the same business anymore." Don tells him "If you don't like it, maybe it's time to get out of the business."

Pete then strides into the "creative lounge", takes a drag on Stan's joint as Janis starts in the background "Piece of My Heart".


And who the heck is this caricature Bob Benson who seems to be  listening to the audiobook version of Frank Bettger's How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling???

Edited by phrelin, 03 June 2013 - 05:03 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   armophob


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Posted 03 June 2013 - 05:17 PM

This guy creeps me out and I think he will turn out to be the slimiest of them all.


And who the heck is this caricature Bob Benson who seems to be  listening to the audiobook version of Frank Bettger's How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling???

#3 OFFLINE   Maruuk


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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:56 PM

That saccharine smile hides helter skelter!

#4 OFFLINE   Nick


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Posted 05 June 2013 - 12:58 PM

How to watch "Mad Men":


1. Watch the episode - wonder what the hell just happened.

2. Read Phrelin's insightful synopsis - say, "Oh yeah, now I get it!"

3. Watch the episode again, with fresh eyes of understanding.

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#5 OFFLINE   Maruuk


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Posted 05 June 2013 - 03:42 PM

Ted actually says something far more significant to whining Pete concerning Joan and the Avon account: "Possession is 9 points of the law."

#6 OFFLINE   yosoyellobo



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Posted 07 June 2013 - 09:21 AM

How to watch "Mad Men":
1. Watch the episode - wonder what the hell just happened.
2. Read Phrelin's insightful synopsis - say, "Oh yeah, now I get it!"
3. Watch the episode again, with fresh eyes of understanding.

Sounds like a good idea. Again great work Phrelin.

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