Episode 4 of Mad Men is heavily focused on the idea of cheating, lying, and how these characters work persona’s effect them in their personal lives.
This episode revolves around a private business meeting taking place between Don, Pete and one of the Ketchup executives in Pete’s now “bachelor pad” apartment. The men are in the middle of discussing the idea of working together. The project would have to stay between them, considering Don’s relationship to Raymond of Heinz Beans. It’s ironic that the men are sitting together in Pete’s single apartment discussing the idea of being unfaithful. They decide on the code name “Project X”, and allow only Stan in on the double dealing.
The men later meet with the executives to pitch their idea. Don’s campaign is simple and features pictures of food items that go hand in hand with ketchup. The viewer is meant to wonder “what’s missing” from the ad. Don seems extremely confident in the pitch, that is until he walks outside the door. While leaving they run into Peggy and her team from CGC. They have an intensely awkward stand off in the hallway, only feet away from each other. In one of the most profound scenes in the history of Mad Men, Don listens as Peggy outshines him on the other side of the door. This is a monumental moment in the series, in that it’s Don’s first time witnessing Peggy as the Don doppelganger he created. He gets a first hand look at her pitching an idea as him. he listens as she steals the account straight from under him, just as she’s watched him do to so many people at SCDP. Her campaign is very minimalist. You would think Don had slipped her a script from underneath the door as she states, “I always say If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation,”. She then flaunts the campaigns slogan: “Heinz. The Only Ketchup.”.
It’s made very clear that Harry, just like many of the others, is fighting for his throne at SCDP. He’s been sitting back and watching his peers inch past him in the race towards power, year after year. The idea of Joan being more authoritative than him is unacceptable. He sees her as a bogus partner, and feels that she dosen’t have to work very hard to get to where she’s going. He sees himself as an essential figure in the success of his colleagues, with little to no acknowledgement. He has his heart set on getting to the top of SCDP, and from the looks of it will tear down anyone who gets in his way.
Speaking of Joan, it’s refreshing to finally get a little more than a few seconds of her this season. Joan’s story line mirrors Harry’s in the sense that she’s fighting for more than just a title at work. You get the idea that Joan lacks any sort of real power in her life. Though she’s come a very long way, she’s still restrained by the way her colleagues perceive her. Her mother makes just about every decision regarding her baby for her, and is essentially running her household. And at work she’s still seen as the loyal secretary who sleeps around, only now she has a different title. Joan’s friend comes into town and reminds her of the power she has, and the power in her grasp. All she has to do is reach for it.
In an interesting turn of events, we get a little insight into the mind of Dawn, the African American secretary at SCDP. She too is struggling to find her voice at work, and not for the same reasons as the others. She walks on eggshells, hoping to stay just below the radar and not rustle any feathers. It’s eye opening to see that she is fighting to reach the level of respected secretary that Joan is trying so hard to run away from. Being the only black girl at work in the early 60’s puts her about 100 steps behind everyone else in the fight towards equality. The one thing she does have in common with Joan is that she has a friend trying to show her the power she possesses, if only she would use it.
Megan is fighting desperately to appear as the wife she thinks Don wants her to be. She’s been trying all season to communicate with him effectively, but it dosen’t seem to be working. She wants to be open with him, the only problem is that she’s dating the most closed off man to ever exist. Don has never been fully supportive of her acting career in the first place, so she finds it difficult to talk to him about it. He is completely comfortable in his role as hypocrite, and he always has been. He’s aloud to lie and cheat in real life, as long as it stays between he and the person involved. Megan on the other hand deserves punishment for acting in a fake kissing scene that lasts for less than 15 seconds. Don can sometimes be the kind of guy that will watch you sail up stream with no intention on extending a helping hand. He will, however, expect you to save him in return.
Just minutes after Don leaves Megan in tears for screaming at her about the kissing scene, he’s knocking on Sylvia’s door. He kisses her on the bed, in a very similar way to the kissing scene between Megan and her costar. The only difference is that this is not acting, and he is emotionally engaged with this woman. He notices a silver cross around Sylvia’s neck, and asks her to remove it. Don’s conscience decides to show itself in the most interesting of times. Sylvia looks at Don in a way that you would look at someone you pity, and tells him that she prays for him to find peace every night. Not realizing that if Don were to actually find peace, he most likely wouldn’t be in her bed.
Photos courtesy AMC.com