Mad Men

Episode Report Card
Couch Baron: B | 4 USERS: A-
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That's Some Great Business Sense!
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!
As might have come across in the recaplet, I found this episode a bit harder to parse than most, but now I think I know why: On the surface, it seems to be an examination of the different characters' openness or lack thereof to change, which is a fitting subject on which to spend an episode, given what's coming not just in November 1963 but through the rest of the decade. But I'm not sure the idea is consistently executed or explored. Maybe you'll see what I mean if I just get into it...

...so we open with a minute or so of Bye Bye Birdie, which is ironic since it seemed like Ann-Margret was the one doing all the hooting and warbling. Just so I don't forget to acknowledge it, though, if you think of Betty's childhood nickname, the song title is significant on a whole different level, because there's no truer goodbye to childhood things than the day you have to care for your own parent. When the lights then come on in the SC conference room, Sal marvels at how he saw Susan Watson do the role on Broadway, "but she didn't have that." Sight unseen and sound unheard, I'll agree. Ken lets everyone (Harry, Sal, and Peggy are in attendance) know that while they won't actually be using Ann-Margret, their new ad campaign is meant to be a "frame by frame" reproduction. Peggy: "So...something about how desperate she is for a Pepsi?" Hee. It doesn't look as cutting on the page, but trust me, Elisabeth Moss's particular delivery of "desperate" would have made Miss --Margret cry. Ken, however, informs them that while Pepsi is the client, the product is actually a diet version to help women "reduce." Is it called "Diet Pepsi," you ask, a measure of playful knowing in your voice? No, no it isn't, and I'd like for both our sakes to leave it at that. But I'm contractually forced to tell you that the name of the new product is "Patio," although when it first aired I thought it might have been "Paddy-O," which would have been more interesting if no better advised. Ken announces his desire to have the campaign be great so he can end up "at lunch with Pepsi," and he may not be giving in to hating Pete but he certainly seems to be taking the prospect of beating him seriously enough. Harry declares his intentions to get the only jollies he's allowed these days by coming to Casting (I'm paraphrasing), but Peggy asks if they're really going straight to that step, her tone conveying she is most displeased indeed. Harry gives Peggy a bit of attitude (he really has let his new position go to his head, no?), so she volleys back that it's obvious why he likes the ad (off camera, Sal shifts uncomfortably before remembering what a mensch Don can be), but it's not for him -- she's the one that would be buying Patio. She obviously is referring to the fact that she's a woman, but Harry condescendingly replies, "You're not fat anymore." Wow. That's not just obnoxious, it's obnoxious in a very specifically sexist manner. If she were one of the boys, she'd be allowed to send a jibe back, and besides, it wouldn't have been meant in the same cutting way. But here, her choices are to respond and look overly emotional or swallow her pride and take the comment. I, however, am not bound by these rules, so I'll say this: Dick. Anyway, Peggy channels her feelings into her work, announcing that they can say as a hypothetical that they won't be able to get the company to change the name (I love the unstated assumption that everyone's in agreement that it's awful) and that they'll also be able to find a model "who can match Ann-Margret's ability to look twenty-five and act fourteen." Sal almost hits Paul Lynde territory in replying, "Is that what she's doing?" Yes, it is, which is the only reason you can deal with it, honey. Take a look at your wife sometime. Given that, Peggy asks, can they treat it with a bit of parody and make fun of it, at least? Ken snots that Peggy shouldn't be a prude, as Ann-Margret's sexy. Lord, she is not, Ken. She's what a fourteen-year-old girl, and not a particularly precocious one, might think is sexy, which is why Peggy couldn't be more right, as usual. Ken adds that it's what the client wants, prompting Peggy to point out that clients don't always know best. Ken: "Well, when we land them, you can start talking to them that way." So, you want me to start rooting for Pete, then?

The next morning, Betty discovers they're out of melba toast, prompting Don to snit at her she should eat something more substantive anyway. Not really listening, Betty speculates that Carla had some, because Betty would have thrown the empty box away if she'd been the one to finish it. Don is not interested in the Mystery of the Missing Melba, however, instead giving Betty shade for apparently spending too much on a decorator for the imminent child's nursery, I think. After a promise to the kids that some boring shopping the next day will be followed by a trip to Carvel, Don's out of there, leaving me to wonder if that scene could possibly have been cut.

Back at SC, Pete is introducing Paul to the Madison Square Garden team as the man who authored the campaign "to ease the way for the Ravenswood nuclear power facility." The MSG guys don't seem offended that their campaign to tear down Penn Station is being equated with something as unpopular as nuclear power, which suggests they're rather savvy businessmen indeed. Paul then produces several pieces of the opposing side's propaganda, including one that reads "Rape on 34th Street," but the eldest of the guys (a total H!ITG! who normally plays bit military parts) dismisses all the headlines as the work of one New York Times writer he describes as "an angry woman with a big mouth." This guy's going to love Bella Abzug. One of the other MSG guys says she's trying to sell papers by making people miserable, prompting Pete to pipe up that his "great-great-grandfather, Silas Dyckman" (give it a rest, Pete) would have turned his boat around if he had known that the city would one day be filled with crybabies." And where would he have steered his boat if he'd been able to foresee your pouting visage last episode? Anyway, Paul suddenly, if predictably and pompously, says he doesn't think it's lunacy to "be attached to a Beaux Arts masterpiece through which Teddy Roosevelt came and went." Why is it that I agree with the sentiment, yet I want to brain Paul with a big stick? Working himself up into a lather, Paul continues that the greatest Roman ruins today are in Greece and Spain, because the Romans tore all theirs down, and when he adds that he's a Times reader, the MSG guys catch on and belligerently ask what his problem is. Rather than provide a list, Pete tries to salvage the situation by likening Paul to one of those "snide ad men you see in the movies," but the lead MSG guy dismisses Paul as a "beatnik," and adds, "This is the greatest city in the world. If you don't like it, leave." I'm surprised that neither Pete nor Paul bothered mentioning that Paul now lives in New Jersey. Also, on the one hand, the fact that beatniks were on their way out at this point combined with his attachment to Penn Station seems meant to suggest that Paul is one of those resistant to change, but...this is a guy who had a black girlfriend in 1962. Not only that, I think it's fair to say that history has judged the MSG guys to be the myopic, small-minded ones, whereas people like Paul who foresaw the need to preserve landmarks have been deemed progressive, so...it's not really clear to me what the episode is trying to say here. Anyway, when the MSG guys are gone, Pete points out that Paul didn't have any moral objections to "an atom plant on the East River," but Paul replies that it's Penn Station, and the city should have a bit more memory and respect. As you're probably aware, the demolition of the old Penn Station led to the formation of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commissi

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