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Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men, “Chinese Wall”

I’ve been sick, so no analysis, just some questions, comments and one long-winded, half-baked noodling:

A lot of the business end of things goes underexplained, or perhaps I’m just missing it. Whatever happened to PPL-USA? Did they dissolve after the abscondence of Sterling et al.? Presumably PPL-USA was left with sizeable accounts even after SCDP decamped — SCDP’s only accounts at its inception were Lucky Strike and some (not all) of the clients that Pete was responsible for.

CGC survived the Honda motorcycle prank, apparently.

I wonder if Bert noticed Roger’s thumb depressing the switch hook? He was sitting behind Roger, and Roger, who was more attentive to the larger audience sitting in front of him, held the telephone slightly behind his body. Bert’s comments after Roger pretended to hang up the phone were ambiguous.

I’ve asked this before, but the issue has become more pressing. Seriously, what does Bert Cooper do? He’s an accounts man, but does he have accounts? It can’t be that his only job is to trundle around in stocking feet and dispense gnomic wisdom. He doesn’t have his own office, but does he get a partnership share of the profits?

Don’s only been dating Faye for a couple of episodes and already he’s cheating on her. On the one hand, sleeping with Megan was in line with the themes of this episode, in which characters repeatedly are asked to prioritize work over families and personal relationships. When Don demands that Faye hand over confidential professional information, she refuses, and rebukes him for not understanding that what they have together is separate from the “stupid office.” Megan, by contrast, reassures Don that sleeping with her won’t have any professional repercussions. She tells him that she judges people based on their work, and that everything else is merely “sentimental.” At this moment, when SCDP is in a real crisis, Don needs everyone — even his lovers — to put work (or more specifically, his work) before everything else.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice that Don has had two primary romantic relationships over the course of four seasons (I mean romantic relationships where no other women have a stronger claim), and both of them have been with blondes. There was Betty, his wife, and now Faye, his girlfriend. His extramarital affairs and flings, on the other hand, have almost exclusively been with brunettes. He cheated on Betty with Midge, Rachel, Bobbie, Joy and Suzanne; and now he cheats on Faye with Megan. (Bobbie was kind of a redhead, but still.)

The show makes a couple of overt gestures to Hitchcock, and particularly Vertigo (that the title sequence for the series refers to the Saul Bass poster for the film has been much discussed, and at least one character has mentioned Betty Draper’s resemblance to Grace Kelly, another Hitchcock blonde). In Vertigo, of course, Scotty is alternately bedeviled by a blonde and a brunette. He first falls in love with Madeleine, the blonde. After she apparently commits suicide, Scotty meets Judy, a brunette who looks just like Madeleine, and becomes obsessed with turning her into a facsimile of Madeleine. He convinces Judy to bleach her hair blond and to dress just as Madeleine used to. The truth, he ultimately learns, is that Madeleine was never a real person — when Scotty first met her, she was Judy secretly dressed up as Madeleine because she had been paid to do so in some complicated scheme. Then later, after meeting Scotty for the second time and wanting to please him, she overtly dressed up as (Judy secretly dressing up as) Madeleine.

But in Mad Men, the person whose authenticity is in question is Don himself, not any of his women. Can Don Draper, who is really Dick Whitman secretly dressed up as Don Draper be a real, whole person?

I don’t really know what to make of this, and it seems likely that I’m looking for something that isn’t there — but it’s been nagging at me. (Then again, I just remembered that one of Don’s flings was with that stewardess, who was blond, so.)

(Cross posted at An ünd fur sich)


October 7, 2010 - Posted by | Spoiler Alert Thursdays, television


  1. […] posted at The Weblog Posted in Mad Men, Spoiler Alert Thursday, television. Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Spoiler Alert Thursday: Mad Men, “Chinese Wall” « An und für sich | October 7, 2010

  2. I’m still not really warming up to Boardwalk Empire yet — it’s good, but I can’t picture myself watching it addictively if it were already out on DVD. Along those lines, I tried Carnivale this weekend and was profoundly unmotivated to move forward after the pilot. I know that’s kind of unfair, but the supernatural elements really turned me off — I’ve already seen Twin Peaks, after all.

    I think House is recovering and they may be able to do the Cuddy thing in a not completely bad way — the key is to keep it from being central to the episode.

    Always Sunny was absolutely amazing this week.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 7, 2010

  3. I’m intrigued that Fringe has gone to all the trouble of setting up a complicated backstory about parallel worlds, and then setting every other episode in an alternate universe, just so they can do alternate-universe versions of the same boring X Files knock-offs they’ve been making for the previous two seasons.

    Comment by voyou | October 9, 2010

  4. While a weird plot device, it seems that “Fringe” is working towards the same universe being confronted by the same characters in diametrically opposed ways, with the loyalties of Olivia as the hinge. The result, however, is that they take twice as long to get the same point. Prediction: introduction of a third parallel universe before the end of the season. There also remains the issue of the observers and super-human technology existing prior to humanity. Did “Fringe,” in its “weird problem of the week,” ever seek to move beyond “X-Files,” with the exception of a more coherent mythology?

    The most recent “Caprica” was strangely compelling. Possibly the slowest hour in the history of “prime time drama.”

    Comment by Craig | October 9, 2010

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