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Mad Men: "The Rejected" OAD 8/16/10 **SPOILERS**

Discussion in 'TV Show Talk' started by Stuart Sweet, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

    Jun 18, 2006
    I'm going to deviate from my normal drooling love-fest for a minute. You all know what I mean. Usually I wax on for paragraphs about my love for the furniture, the ad campaigns, and of course the deeply layered writing. But I want to take a moment and ask a very important question:

    Are we giving writer and show creator Matthew Weiner too much credit?

    In last night's outing, there was very little depth; for the most part there was an overabundance of soap-opera pathos. Let me give some examples: Allison's love for Don is exposed; Peggy (and apparently every other woman in New York) only wants to get married; Cosgrove returns from the shadows to accuse Pete; Pete and Trudy are going to have a baby, causing Peggy and Pete to have a touching moment; Pete must find a way to reconcile his account with Freddy's. These are daytime television plots, totally meaningless.

    On the other hand, Peggy ventures out into the world to see what's "really" going on. The date is roughly March 1, 1965, based on the comment that El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (known to history as Malcolm X) was assassinated "last week." Peggy ends up at an auteur's party, one who bitterly claims that commercialism in art was killed by Andy Warhol. The party is raided and Peggy narrowly escapes. It's not clear why the party was raided, except that there is marijuana there. From then on, Peggy assumes an almost instant air of relevance, and at the final moment, she looks at the room full of grey flannel behind the doors and the fun crowd outside, and chooses the fun crowd.

    Is Mad Men commenting on its own lack of relevance? Is it saying that all the characters we know and love are simply useless caricatures? Is Mr. Weiner saying that to experience life, we need to leave Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce behind? He certainly seems to be. Or are we simply giving him too much credit?

    Maybe the writing isn't as sharp this season. Maybe the show is simply crumbling under the weight of three previous brilliant seasons. Maybe it is time to walk away and join the party. I had suggested that the show take a leap to 1967 or 1968 and really show that era as unflinchingly as it showed 1960. Maybe that would be better than leaving the characters in mid-decade purgatory.

    So the question becomes, is Mr. Weiner giving us a drab, soapy episode to intentionally show how unimportant the Mad Men generation was becoming to the baby boomers? Or was it simply lazily written? That's the question, and depending on the answer, it will be a great season or it won't.

    At the end of the episode, Don walks past an older couple in the midst of presumingly endless bickering. He seems to consider them unimportant. Are they the metaphor for me and the rest of the bloggers who obsess over every detail, or are they simply a bit of window dressing to remind us of time and place?

    In the end... who are "The Rejected" to which the title refers? Certainly most of the characters were rejected by someone, but perhaps we are the rejected. We who want nothing more than to luxuriate in mid-century minutia are the ones being told to pack our bags and join the revolution.

    I guess it's still a good show if it's worth discussing whether or not it's a good show. Let's see if it's good on purpose, or simply out of habit.
  2. Lee L

    Lee L Hall Of Fame

    Aug 15, 2002
    Many of the soapy story lines could well be setting up action later this season. I guess we will have to wait and see if there is a payoff.
  3. yosoyellobo

    yosoyellobo Icon

    Nov 1, 2006
    Jacksonville Fl
    I just finish watching the last two episode which I really enjoy. For some reason I started thinking about my father who would have been about Don Draper age back in 1965. He had a rough life and live to be 91. I was wondering with all that drinking and smoking how long Don would have lived.

    ps Nice review stuart.
  4. phrelin

    phrelin Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

    Jan 18, 2007
    Well, we finally watched the last episode. Stuart, as usual my take is different from yours which is what makes the show worth watching.


    Historical context is the elephant on the set in the opening scene of this week's episode "The Rejected." We know that Lucky Strike is the cash cow that keeps Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in business. From this episode, we begin to see that for Don and Roger this is going to continue to be the nightmare client.

    The scene began with us seeing Don, stressed, chain smoking, lighting a cigarette off the end of his last one. (Sometimes I wonder if the final scene of the final episode will be about Don dying of lung cancer.)

    At one point Don describes to American Tobacco Company heir and closeted gay sadist Lee Garner, Jr., what can't be shown as: "Anything that makes the smoker appear superhuman." We know that while he's assuring about the latest regulations, ultimately TV advertising will be banned.

    In another context scene, we see Peggy and her newfound "counterculture" friends standing outside the glass office door as Pete schmoozes in the lobby with the representatives of his new client - the entire Vicks line worth $6 million in billings. (Good work Pete, even if you had to extort it from your father-in-law!)

    The representatives were all men in suits, middle aged and older. Outside the glass door is the future, diverse and soon to be the target demo. We know that first the two generations must clash violently, beginning in 1965.

    Peggy was well represented in this episode except for one part. I know the "ring" shots were meant to show her still evaluating traditional relationships, but it appeared like she was longing for that role as housewife. And the peeking through the window at Don was meant to show that for a woman seeking a route to a stable traditional relationships is fraught with problems, something she already learned the hard way with Pete (emphasized in this episode) and that Allison's breakdown emphasized, but it also emphasized that men have problems there too.

    My problem is with the writers or the Director (sorry, John Slattery, who directed this episode). The Peggy character is too smart and too experienced to appear wistful about a ring. The one thing we know about Peggy is she knows she has the talent and skills for the job and has already chosen to become "a suit" not a hippie nor a traditional wife and mother. I guess it's possible she doesn't know what we know, but....

    Her adventure in this episode was more consistent with her character. I was anticipating that being in the Time Life Building would bring her more exposure to the direction of the future. Let's hope that the character Joyce Ramsay effectively played by Zosia Mamet ("The Unit", "United States of Tara") will continue to expand Peggy's big picture view.

    But what about Pete and Peggy? We know that Pete and Peggy have a history. In the sequence where Pete is coping with having just been told he'll have to "fire" the Clearasil account, in frustration he ends up banging his head against a post.

    In a different sequence:
    1. Peggy and Joey have an exchange over the shooting of Malcolm X which tells us (a) we're at the end of February 1965 and (b) neither one of them is very cool as Peggy is a week late learning about it and Joey gives a snotty reply.
    2. Peggy congratulates Pete on his wife being pregnant, leaving a pregnant moment between them.
    3. Peggy ends up banging her head on her desk in frustration.
    I'm not sure what to make of these images of head-banging:


    Nor do I know what to make of the second to the last scene where Peggy and Pete stare at each other through the glass door, each with their "group."

    Then, of course we have the whole Fay(e) demo and Allison's breakdown.

    We are shown Don's clumsy handling of Allison's request for a letter of reference. Then we have his nearly angry assertion to Faye about going with the traditional "find a husband" approach to women for Ponds: “You can’t tell how they’re going to behave based on how they have behaved.”

    Don is inherently progressive in everything including women, except in his personal behavior. And even there, he knows he keeps screwing up and tries to figure out how to apologize.

    Finally, there is the context reminder of the Don/Dick story arc that is offered in a haunting way.

    In the beginning scene, in the middle of trying to explain things to Lee Garner, Don is obviously upset when he opens this letter from California:


    In the last scene of this episode a sober(!) Don is in his apartment complex hallway with the "pear pair":


    Don watches them as the old man asks the old woman repeatedly if she got the pears. She says to go into the apartment to discuss it in private.

    We really can't see enough of Don's reaction to them.

    But Don/Dick knows that Anna is dying of bone cancer. The picture of Anna and Dick in earlier times in the beginning scene juxtaposed with the old couple who are, after all, aware that death will come sooner than later, but who are together as a couple, a pair, has to touch a painful place in Dick/Don as a person isolated from love.

    There were many other things I enjoyed in this episode, particularly the look on Joan's face in the scene where another "over 30" somewhat dumpy married woman in the office verbally put herself and Joan into the same class as the women rejected for Faye's study.

    But I can't cover it all. I included some historical information in long footnotes in my blog.
  5. Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

    Jun 18, 2006
    An excellent review. I don't disagree one bit, and I'm glad you found something in this episode that I didn't. I'm still not sure if you aren't giving the show a bit too much credit, but I will admit that it's timely, given some of the other discussions in the world involving Muslim tolerance (both tolerance of, and tolerance from.)

    In many ways, I hope that you're right and that I was just sour when I reviewed this episode. I hope we're not on a downhill slope. Sadly, this year's episodes have seemed progressively fractured and soapy to me, with less and less context and historical significance.

    History looks at 1965 and 1966 as the both the final bit of calm before the storm of the late 1960s, and as the first spark of the fire of late 1960s revolution. I do see how that episode seems to be in that context, but in many ways it seems keen to point out that the main characters are almost all on the backward-facing side of that equation.
  6. phrelin

    phrelin Hall Of Fame DBSTalk Club

    Jan 18, 2007
    There's much I don't understand about Weiner's choices to move slowly. People's lives do take on a soapy look from time-to-time and if the first few episodes this season needed that to set up a series of events that change things, fine. But I'm puzzled over the decision to slowly kill off Anna and rapidly dump Allison. And I'm not sure I needed to struggle along with boozy Don adjusting to his new situation.

    Like you, I had hoped for a later year, say 1968, perhaps with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce involved with a Democratic candidate for President which would put them in the middle of the Chicago fiasco. But maybe before that leap is made we need to see through the characters the feminist struggle on a personal level and Don's struggle along with them. I don't know.

    I see much in each episode, including some pain remembered as my wife hates the show but watches it with me. But it is just on the edge of being boring and risks losing viewers who didn't live through those times, somewhere in the age group represented by the characters. Unfortunately, that's everyone born after 1950.

    But we'll keep watching.
  7. armophob

    armophob Difficulty Concen........

    Nov 13, 2006
    Fort Pierce, FL

    It is the fact I did not live in those times that keeps me glued to this show. These are the times of my long dead grandfathers. They would both be in there 90's now. All tv has left for reference of those days are sappy b/w shows with the very commercials that are being created on this show.
    I have casually said many times that I would have enjoyed living in other eras, but I do not feel this way about this period in time.
    It is really cool the way this show digs under the skin of the how things got to the point they are today

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