Mad Men 4.11 – Too Little, Too Late

When I saw that this week’s episode was entitled “Chinese Wall,” I found myself overwhelmed by a sudden wave of deja vu. “Now, wait a minute,” I thought. “I know damned well that phrase has been utilized before, because I posted the video for Philip Bailey’s ‘Walking on a Chinese Wall’ when it happened.” And, indeed, that was true: Faye made the reference back in Episode 4.9.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s an expression which, according to the never-fallible Wikipedia, means “an information barrier implemented within a firm to separate and isolate persons who make investment decisions from persons who are privy to undisclosed material information which may influence those decisions.” In this case, the wall in question has been constructed by Roger, and he’s put everyone else on the other side of it.

And, now, on with the episode!

Hey, look, Peggy’s hanging with the lesbian from Life and her pals, including the guy who pissed her off with his writings a few episodes back. I guess all is forgiven now that he’s asking permission to quote her, since she immediately brings him back to her pad (I was disappointed, though, that Peggy’s reference to her roommate didn’t result in an appearance from Carla Gallo), and a good night evolves into an even better morning. We’re seeing a whole new Peggy, people!

Ray Wise in the house! Ken Cosgrove and his fiancee are having dinner with her parents – yep, Mr. Wise is her dad – when he gets word that Lucky Strike is moving out of business with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. As you can imagine, this information scares the heck out of him…so much so, in fact, that he rushes out of dinner and into the waiting room at the maternity ward, where Pete is waiting for Trudy to have their baby. Pete’s immediately on the phone to Don, and although he interrupts his makeout session with Faye to take the call, the topic of conversation instantly puts a damper on his libido. The next thing you know, everyone who’s anyone – minus Lane, of course, though it’s acknowledged that he’s been duly informed – is at the office, ready to pounce on Roger the second he walks in. He claims it’s an impossibility and immediately calls Lee, except we know from his comments that he’s clearly not talking to him.

Don heads back to his place and immediately starts drinking, and you know that ain’t a good sign. He acknowledges that he’s more or less dreaded this possibility for quite some time, but although Faye tries to remind him of how valuable a player he is, Don dismisses her level of concern, saying, “I’m not at that point yet.” Clearly, he’s not going to go down without a fight. Pete’s father-in-law, meanwhile, is almost immediately dismissive of any chance of the firm’s survival, basically saying, “Ah, well, you had your fun, now back to the real world.”

Should I feel sympathetic for Roger? Well, I did, at least a little bit. It’s not his fault that Lucky Strike decided to pull out, and I can’t blame him for not wanting to admit the loss to the firm, but at the same time, he’s clearly getting in over his head with this chicanery, getting a highly warranted smackdown from Joan for keeping his mouth shut when something could’ve been done to save the situation. After she once again relents and lets him swing by her pad, they share a sweet embrace, but even though he’s pretty pitiful when he departs from the premises, she’s seriously disappointed the next day by the fact that he’s continuing to weave his web of lies, and the awkwardness between them is palpable. I don’t think she’d betray him to them, mostly because it’s not like they could save the account at this point, anyway, but his actions are putting her job in jeopardy, too, and I think it’s pretty well established how much she enjoys her niche at the firm. For his part, Roger seems to have been temporarily swayed by the arrival of his book. Maybe he’ll be inspired to become the ad man he once was…?

After Bert and Don give the State of the Union address, the feeling on the floor is that everything’s more or less under control, but Don’s not pulling any punches when he sits his team down. The best moment, though, came when it was just him and Peggy. They’ve definitely got their own special relationship now…if, uh, not quite as special as the one she had last night, which has put her in a stellar mood. Unfortunately, it’s pretty transparent to everyone around her, which results in Stan being an Alpha Male to the Nth degree. What a jackass that guy is. Still, even his minor-league attempt at getting revenge on her for her rebuffing of his advances didn’t do any damage: it takes more than a little lipstick on the teeth to stop the creative force that is Peggy Olson!

Don’s pissed about Glo-Coat jumping ship – though he at least has the common sense to forewarn his secretary that she needs to make sure he doesn’t overdo his angry drinking – but he’s taking his anger out on Pete, which may or may not be warranted. Yes, Pete’s mind is elsewhere, but this strikes me as residual anger and Don’s general tendency to view Pete as less competent than himself. Even so, it proves perfectly timed when Ted Shaw shows up at the maternity ward waiting room, unabashedly trying to woo Pete over to the Dark Side.

Don didn’t keep to his three-drink maximum, but at least he didn’t go dramatically overboard. It’s enough for him to upset Faye with his suggestion that she betray her ethics by providing him with inside information about other agencies. To his credit, he looks appropriately guilty as she storms out, but it’s too little and far too late. More on that in a moment, but first let’s look in on the next meeting with the partners. You know things are bad when Don’s defending Pete, but it’s inarguable that Roger wanted the glory but dropped the ball. Bert’s last word was priceless: “Lee Garner, Jr. never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously.” Ouch

By the way, I just have to make this observation: I can’t recall hearing the name David Montgomery mentioned before, and it seems a little too convenient that he’s suddenly such a major plot point in the efforts to save the firm.

As soon as Don’s secretary stuck around, I knew it wasn’t going to go well, though I have to be honest and admit that they did keep me guessing throughout the scene. No matter what that guy does, I think we all want to root for him to do the right thing, and it seemed for a moment that he might, with the conversation staying on matters of business much longer than they usually do when he’s in such situations. Heck, I even briefly theorized that his secretary would do the right thing, keeping things strictly business. But despite Don pointedly saying, “I don’t think this is a good idea,” it became a good idea pretty damned quickly. Dammit, Don, you just can’t resist fucking things up, can you? So, of course, he gets home to find that Faye has decided to go all in with their relationship and give him the help he’s asked for. Once again, he looks appropriately guilty at the end…but, once again, it’s too little and much too late.

  

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