In last week’s episode of Mad Men, we saw the apartment that Pete Campbell rents in Manhattan be used for one type of betrayal; this time , it was the setting for another form – as he and Don Draper held a clandestine meeting there with Timmy from Heinz in a bid to get the Ketchup business, going against the wishes of their current client, Raymond, who represents the company’s vinegar, sauces and beans department. This sets up the theme for the entire hour – the battle that people face between being loyal and their desire for more – be it love, money or admiration.
The mission to get the Ketchup account – cleverly codenamed “Project K”, which would hardly take an Enigma machine to crack – is supposed to be a secret one of which only Don, Pete and Stan are aware, but the latter’s indiscretion to Peggy in a phone conversation had clued Ted Chaough into the fact that the business might be up for grabs. Draper had believed strongly in showing loyalty to Raymond and his beans, as he had come to them at a time when the agency was on its knees and desperately needed the client, but he could not resist the extra prestige and money that would come from landing the premium product of Heinz. Ultimately, Don fails to land the account – and loses Raymond’s business as well – but does get to hear the work that his former protegé, Peggy, is now producing as he eavesdrops on Olson’s “Heinz: The Only Ketchup” pitch through the hotel room door – including her use of his line: “If they don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation”. While Draper is frustrated to hear that Heinz Ketchup has gone to the largest advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, and has no interest in battling to be the most successful small firm with Chaough; the biggest hurt befalls Stan, who is upset that Peggy betrayed his confidence and exploited a private conversation between friends to attempt to land a big account for her new agency, which results in him flipping her off as he leaves the bar.
Outside of work, Don’s own infidelity continues with Sylvia, but he is forced to confront the image – if not the reality – of his wife having an affair, as she is given such a storyline for her pseudonym on the soap opera she works on. Wanting to be completely honest with her husband, Megan tells him all about the plot – despite knowing that he would never watch the show and thus she could have kept it as a secret. In what had been billed as an attempt to soften Don up, they have dinner with Mel and Arlene – a married couple who are the head writer and one of the stars of the show – but their true plan was to suggest to the Drapers that they all enjoy a night of smoking grass and swapping partners. While they are able to laugh off this offer of free love in the cab ride home, Don is unable to stop himself from going down to the set to watch Megan – for the first time – perform her love scenes and is angry when he believes that she enjoyed filming them. The complete hypocrisy of Draper is displayed when he admonishes his wife in her dressing room, suggesting that she might want to spend the night with Arlene and Mel who are more open-minded than him, then he is shown going to Sylvia’s apartment to continue his own, real affair.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is also put into a position where they are forced to show their loyalty to one of their two staff members – Joan, who is a partner at the agency and has worked there for 15 years; or Harry Crane, who is the head of the television department and is generating good revenues for them. The dispute between the two is over Harry’s secretary, Scarlett, who had left work early and got Dawn – who covers Don’s desk – to punch out her time card when she left, an action that leads to Joan firing her. However, when Crane sees Scarlett leaving, he goes to the partner and tells her that her petty dictatorship cannot continue and that Joan should apologise to his secretary. During the ensuing standoff, Ms. Harris complains to her friend, Kate – who is in town for her own disloyal reasons of attempting to move from Mary Kay to Avon, while also cheating on her husband – that despite her tenure and position at the firm, she is still looked upon as a secretary. Joan is a much more likeable character than Harry yet, from a neutral perspective, his assertion that he should be made partner but has not been rewarded as all of his accomplishments have been made in daylight (referencing his senior’s liaison with Herb to ensure that SCDP won the Jaguar account) does have some merit. Nevertheless, at its very inception, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce would never have been able to be started had Joan not been there to organise it, so her partnership was long overdue – unfortunately for her, the manner in which she did reach that level will stop her from ever being truly shown the level of respect she deserves. Meanwhile, Crane showed some guile as he accepted the bonus from Sterling and Cooper for his idea of a one-hour special with Joe Namath to improve the image of Dow Chemical – who by 1968 were the only manufacturers of Napalm remaining in the United States and faced boycotts because of it – but as he pockets the check, which is for more than his annual salary, he still tells them that he has earned both the cash and a partnership.
A few other thoughts:
- We got to see Dawn outside of the office week as she met with a friend of her’s for whom she is to be Maid of Honor. This gave an opportunity for her to voice something of an outsider perspective on SCDP – showing pity for the people who work there, as she talks of the garbage being emptied sounds like New Year’s Eve to due to the volume of empty bottles, plus a poor man (Lane) who hung himself in his office. It also gives some context to the rarity of an African-American working in an office midtown in the late 1960s, as Dawn says that below 72nd Street, it is only her and the shoeshine guy on the Subway (who are not white).
- Sterling and Cooper may be more on the periphery of both the agency and the show by now, but their brief appearance tonight did give mention to the forthcoming Presidential election, of which Cooper said that Nixon thought that he was not running against Johnson, but the ghost of Kennedy – a statement that will prove to be very prophetic, as not only did LBJ not seek a second full term, but Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968 and Nixon ultimately defeated Hubert Humphrey (and George Wallace).
- The horrible kiss-ass Bob Benson is hardly in this episode, but his one scene did provide the funniest moment when he asks Draper, “How are things, Don?” whose only reply is to sigh despairingly and walk away.
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