TV Review: Mad Men 4.4: The Rejected
Longing was the word of the night in the world of Mad Men, except if your name was Pete Campbell. From Don longing to get off the phone with Lucky Strike in the opening scene, Allison looking through that two way mirror, or Peggy’s entire arc for the episode that simplest of human emotions was everywhere in The Rejected. Rejection is usually right in line with longing and Mad Men did a great job of showing these emotions come out in people in a variety of ways.
Allison seemed to have turned the corner rather quickly last week after her Christmas party “mistake” with Don but that calm didn’t last long into 1965. Taking place almost a full two months after the last episode Allison can’t take it any more. During a Pond’s focus group the desire and longing she has buried inside for Don comes to the surface as she breaks down and has to leave the group. What followed were a couple of moments that said so much through so little and I don’t know which one was more revealing. I guess the first reveal was in Allison trying to relate to Peggy, who was trying to calm Allison down after she burst from the focus group, because she assumed Peggy had to sleep her way into her position with SCDP; specifically with Don. Peggy is shocked by this accusation, as was I to be honest, but it make sense that others would think that this was the only way a woman could get to where Peggy was in that time. I just wonder how many other people feel this way. Also, has anyone else alluded to this over the years? I feel like they might have.
The second punch to the gut was Don’s complete lack of sincerity and compassion in what was quite honestly one of his lowest moments on the show. When he suggested Allison write up her own recommendation letter in lieu of himself, saying he will simply sign it on his letterhead, I mean, Don, come on man! It was the final slap in the face for Allison who this man she had been longing for can’t even muster up the energy to write her a well deserved letter; I would have cheered if she would have popped Don in the face with that paper weight. So long Allison, you will be missed.
Peggy puts Allison to shame though with her sense of longing and by the end we realize why the episode is named what it is through Peggy’s arc. Peggy finally gets the green light on her Pond’s idea she has been waiting for since New Years to clear Don’s table and she seems rather spry and upbeat in 1965. Though underneath that confidence she wants something more in her life and she is looking around at everywhere she might have missed it. Whether it’s sliding on Faye’s wedding ring or reacting to Pete’s family news, Peggy’s desire to start a family has never been greater on the show and one wonders if her rebellious side might be slowly dying. Well the episode throws us a nice knuckle ball on that idea when she actively pursues the 60’s youth culture as she tries to infiltrate a new scene with, Joyce; a new friend she meets on the elevator in their building. One minute Peggy is trying on wedding rings, then she is kissing strangers and getting high at parties, I didn’t know what to think. It is in the end though that we she feels like she missed a chance with Pete and their love child at creating some sort of family. Though really, how successful would that attempt have been? I mean, she very easily could have guilted him into, “doing the right thing,” and forced him to marry her and taking care of their child but that wasn’t the life she wanted then. And it was probably for the best as they most likely would have bit each others head’s off. And now in 1965 she doesn’t even come close to having the pieces in her life to take it to that next level of family and while I don’t think she is in the least bit spiteful of Pete and Trudy, she is definitely jealous.
Which brings me to Pete and what I think has to be the final nail in the coffin in the conversion of Campbell from being the weasel he was in Season 1 to a decent and likable human being (and partner) here in season 4. Now I know a lot of people have issues with Pete, they love to hate the guy, and with good reason much of the time. But I have liked Pete since season 2 and while he was still kind of a weasel I think he was easily one of the three most interesting characters on the show. At the end of season 3 he was ready to weasel his way out of Sterling Cooper but ever since he was brought on to SCDP he has seemed to be a changed man. As the head accounts man, Pete has seemed incredibly confident, likable, professional and damn good at his job here in season 4 and I am glad to see him settling in nicely. But here, Pete is like a master at work as he turns his bad news about Clearasil with his Father in Law into a power play using his new found family as leverage to get the whole company’s (Vicks?) advertising budget brought to SCDP. Even when his Father in Law calls him out on his move, Pete shrugs it off knowing just how smooth he is and making Lane a very happy man in the meantime. Pete just keeps getting better and better in my eyes and I hope you haters out there have finally come around on this guy. Hell, he even made peace with Kenny “Haircut” Cosgrove this week!
Don kind of took a back seat this week to Pete and Peggy but he had his moments of interest as well. The Allison situation, mentioned above, was a low point for a man plummeting to rock bottom. But when one of the nicest characters on the show, Allison, calls Don a terrible person it just continues to beat us over the head with how far Don has fallen over the last 15 months since season 3. Outside his moments with Allison Don only has a couple beats in the story this week though but they fall into that theme of longing. Don gets into it with Faye over her rejection of Peggy’s Pond’s idea due to research results from the focus group and he continues to get frustrated with anyone who tries to limit his creativity and forward thinking for SCDP. Don also gets a letter from Anna Draper out west and the moment is brief but we know he is counting down the days he has with her (though maybe she is going to make it to Easter?). The other moment is in the episode’s closing moments as an elderly couple go back and forth over pears in a sweet little bit that I think Don had a hint of wishful thinking that he could have that as he headed, probably rather drunk, into his apartment.
On to the bullets!
-Peggy seemed to be un-phased by Joyce’s come on’s I wonder if they run with that at all eventually. Is Peggy looking for love in the wrong sex?
-Speaking of Peggy, she had one of the funniest bits of the season as she peeked over the wall to see what was happening in Don’s office after the Allison blow up and it was shot brilliantly. Also, that guy we barely knew that she kissed in the closet, I instantly liked him about a million times more than that “Swedish lovers” tool she is dating now.
-Some more great cinematography this episode with the shot of Don sitting in the dark in his office after hours being my favorite from the episode and possibly the season.
-Don’s Radio City fire bit had me rolling.
-Freddy and Harry remain utterly useless to SCDP.
-Nice to see Kenny Cosgrove back, wonder if we will see more of him some how. And what other Sterling Cooper vet will pop up next?
-Is getting all of Clearasil the first step in the inevitable pushing out of Lucky Strike? Between tougher smoking regulations and a tiresome client in Lee Garner Jr. you know the end is around the corner.
-Congrats to Pete and Trudy on the kid, I really don’t think they are going to go back down the Pete/Peggy well and I hope they don’t either. It’s nice to see a happy marriage on the show, even if it has a checkered origin due to Pete/Peggy’s past. Allison Brie’s limiting availability (Community) scares me though for their future!
– “He doesn’t own your vagina,” -“No, but he’s renting it,” great stuff from Peggy and the writing team
-Peggy’s obliviousness to her only being a copy writer and nothing else is bound to lead her to writing about a book or something right; maybe something on race or feminism with closet boy?
-Joan’s knowing look after Allison storms out and her smart replacement option for Draper was good for a laugh.
-Favorite random moment was Burt sitting shoes off, feet up, and reading a magazine in the office lobby for no apparent reason other than he can.
That’s it for this week kids, next week looks like a winner with a lot of jockeying over clients apparently about to take place. Is Lucky Strike about to leave SCDP? We will find out soon enough.