Mad Men – Recap & Review – A Tale of Two Cities

photo: amc

photo: amc

Mad Men
A Tale of Two Cities

Original Air Date: Jun 2, 2013

Ryan O – Staff Writer

This episode is a tale of two cities and it was the best of times and the worst of times. You could say the cities are represented by old versus young, men versus women, New York versus Los Angeles or CGC versus SCDP. But, really it’s the status quo versus change.

The state of things is up for grabs, both in the country and at the still-nameless firm. Who handles what and how? What will the name be? Can the status quo maintain its hold?

We start with the Democratic National Convention, which opened August 26, 1968. Megan and Don debate the coverage and when they’ll start debating the war. Don is headed for Disneyland. He asks Megan to go but she can’t.

The partners debate the name. There’s back and forth about how the world doesn’t know what to call them; they don’t know what to call themselves. They agree, for now, to go with Sterling Cutler Draper and Chaough — SCDC.

Don and Roger head to LA and Ted will be heading to Detroit. On the plane, Roger tells Don not to pull the drawl he trots out when he’s had one too many in the meeting. Yeah, that’d be Dick Whitman’s drawl.

Back at SCDC, Stan and Ginsberg are glued to the radio coverage of the Democratic National Convention. They’re both annoyed by the rejection of a plank from the party’s platform that would call for the end to the bombing of North Vietnam. Jim Cutler comes into the creative lounge to see how the work for Manischewitz is going and Ginsberg rips into him for not caring about the war. Cutler says he cares about things he can control and has a stake in. This only makes Ginsberg madder. Ginsberg call him a Nazi. Ginsberg is enraged by the idea of someone sitting idly by while there’s a slaughter going on and with his viewpoint, it’s hard to blame him.

I want to stop here for a minute. Calling someone a Nazi or comparing someone to Hitler is not uncommon today, especially on the Internet. There’s even a term for it: Godwin’s Law. However, when the person using the term was actually born in a concentration camp? It means something. Ginsberg does not want to stand idly by and watch. He wants to step in and stop the war. Cutler probably doesn’t know this about Ginsberg but we do and we understand that’s not a casual term for him to throw around.

Cutler goes to Ted and wants to clear the SCDP people out of creative while Roger and Don are in LA. Ted talks him down.

Joan is having lunch with a man. The man is from Avon and was referred to Joan by Joan’s friend Kate. (Kate is the friend who came into New York to get a job there earlier in the season.) The man asks Joan what he should look for in an ad agency and Joan realizes it’s her responsibility to sell SCDC and she does a good job of it and even talks up Harry as a whiz at ad placement.

Cutler tells Bob to go to the Manischewitz meeting despite Bob’s tentativeness.

Joan goes to tell Peggy about her meeting. They’re both really excited but Joan isn’t sure what to do next. Peggy decides to ask Ted about it. Joan isn’t sure since she wants this to be hers but Peggy assures her Ted will be cool.

Peggy and Joan walk down the hall to see Ted. Ted calls Pete down and tells him to take Peggy to the meeting the next day. Joan and Peggy both look crestfallen. Ted walks away. Pete tells Joan to call the guy and set up the meeting. Joan says she should be there. Pete says no. Peggy and Joan both say Joan should be there to make the introductions. Pete still says no, asks Joan to give him all the information about the guy, and says that Joan will get credit. He walks back upstairs and has Peggy follow him. Peggy looks at Joan with an “I’m sorry” face. Even Moira, who is sitting at her desk right there and who doesn’t like Joan, gives her a sympathetic look. Joan looks on the verge of tears.

Meanwhile in LA, Harry looks like a tool. He has this hugely affected look with a scarf around his neck and a bright yellow blazer. Roger and Don look their usual selves. They’ve rented a Ford Mustang and Don points out they can’t drive that, they need to have a Chevy. Don isn’t going out to dinner, he’s tired and going to bed. Harry tells them the next night they’re going to a party in the Hollywood Hills.

In Joan’s apartment, over Joan’s shoulder as she folds Kevin’s clean clothes, we see coverage of the scene outside of the convention. The police wade into a mass of protesters and start beating them and chaos ensues. The coverage is actually upsetting. Those are real people being hit by real police batons. Joan puts her laundry down to watch and is appalled. Meanwhile in LA, Don is watching, too. He gets a call from Megan. She’s upset. In the background, we hear the protesters chanting, “The whole world is watching.” He tries to say they deserved it since they were throwing rocks. He also tries to joke but she cuts him off and say it’s nothing to joke about. Don says he’s feeling tired. Megan suggests Don go for a swim since it always makes him feel better.

Peggy is in a restaurant waiting for Pete and the man from Avon. Instead, Joan comes in. Peggy’s surprised and pleased. She’s even more surprised when Joan says Pete isn’t coming and that he’s not coming because he wasn’t invited. Peggy apologizes for bringing it to Ted after the way Ted dealt with it. Peggy isn’t sure they’ll be able to handle the meeting but Joan assures her it will be fine.

The man from Avon shows up. Joan introduces Peggy, who gushes about growing up in an Avon home. Joan cuts Peggy off, or reins Peggy in, by commenting on her enthusiasm. Joan asks him about the business, which he describes. Peggy then asks him about his current advertising. Peggy says that she and Joan have thought about how women will like it if the Avon lady comes to the office. He likes the idea. There’s smiles all around. That was hugely exciting to watch.

Meanwhile in LA, Harry, Roger, and Don have a meeting with Carnation that doesn’t go half as well. Roger, after discussing the convention with one executive, steps in it by mentioning it to another executive who joins them. Carnation believes there’s a conflict between Carnation Instant Breakfast and another SCDC client, Life Cereal. Don tries to downplay that by saying Life Cereal is for kids while Carnation Instant Breakfast is for adults. Harry says Carnation will be increasing their media presence and someone from Carnation says that includes Saturday morning where they’ll appear right alongside Life. The guys from Carnation bring up the difference between New York and LA. The meeting does not end happily.

Joan and Peggy get off the elevator and Joan wants to know why Peggy is upset. Peggy says Joan just threw away business. Joan wants to know what Peggy is going to say about the meeting. Peggy wants to know if Joan is trying to intimidate her. Joan says that would require Peggy respecting her. Peggy says Joan wants this and can’t have it now. Joan says she can do it and has done account work in one form or other forever. Peggy says Joan isn’t in that department. Joan says she never said that when Peggy started writing copy. Peggy says she did and that she made her feel as if she couldn’t do it. Peggy knows Joan can do this, but she worked her way up. Joan says Peggy was so brave letting Don carry her to the deep end of the pool. Peggy says defensively she never slept with Don. Joan is taken aback and saddened by this. “Congratulations, you really are just like them.” Peggy says Joan made a mistake. Joan says she has to do it for herself. Peggy is worried about what Joan’s going to say about the meeting. Joan says she’ll be fine and that it’s all about who the client asks for and has a relationship with.

Bob Benson is listening to a motivational record. He gets called into Ginsberg’s office. Ginsberg is sitting on the floor behind his desk and feeling sick. He doesn’t want to go to the meeting. Bob tries to calm him. Ginsberg quotes J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” Ginsberg says he’s part of the problem and makes himself sick. He says he “can’t turn off the transmissions to do harm, they’re beaming them right into his head.” Bob says Manischewitz is good people and they make a good product. Ginsberg buys into this. He then asks if Bob is gay. Bob sidesteps the question.

Harry drives Don and Roger to the Hollywood party. It’s full of hippies. Also at the party is Danny Siegel, Roger’s ex-wife Jane’s cousin, who worked at SCDP for about a week back in season 4. Danny is now producing movies. Roger goes out of his way to mock Danny in front of a very attractive woman, Lotus. Danny leaves Roger to go talk to the head of Warner Brothers. Smooth, Roger.

Don wanders into a room and sits down in front of a hookah and smokes some hash.

Later, Roger is talking with Lotus or rather to Lotus since she’s tripping and not talking. Danny wanders over and wants Lotus to leave with him. Roger tells her she doesn’t have to start at the bottom. There’s more back and forth. Danny says he hates violence. Roger says he loves it and when he was a boxer he enjoyed the thrill of hitting a guy in the spot that brings him to his knees. Danny gives Roger a crotch shot and Roger doubles over. Lotus giggles and leaves with Danny.

Don is making out with one of the women he was smoking with. He says he’s thirsty and she says there’s a whole pool of water out there. Then, Megan is there, dressed as a hippie. She says she quit her job and came out to find him, to share him. Also, she’s pregnant. She leads Don over to the bar. She says that everyone is looking for him. Then Dinkins, the soldier from Hawaii in the first episode, is there. He tells Don his wife thinks he’s MIA but he’s dead. “Dying doesn’t make you whole.” He then alludes to the fact that Don is dead. Cut to a shot of Don looking down at himself floating face-down in the pool. Cut to Don spluttering water and Roger over him, telling everyone he’s okay.

Ted comes back to SCDC and meets with Cutler. He has good news from Chevy. They like the work and they’ve finally let them see the car. Bob, however, comes in with bad news from Manischewitz. They haven’t liked the work for months. Bob says he talked Cutler into going to the meeting. Cutler puts Bob on Chevy. Bob leaves and Ted says this isn’t good news. Cutler says he’ll distract Roger and Don with something.

Roger and Don are flying back. Don says he usually feels better in California but now he came back sick.

Meredith tells Joan she has to go to the conference room to meet Pete. Time to face the music, Joan. She goes into the conference room. Pete wants to know what happened and why Joan and Peggy ditched Pete. Joan tries to say there was a mix-up. Pete’s not buying it. Peggy comes in. Joan says the point is that Avon is happy. “Oh, I’ll bet you’re making him very happy.” “Because it’s better than being screwed by you,” Joan retorts. Pete goes and gets Ted. Peggy offers to handle Ted. Joan says it’s too late for that. Pete and Ted. Peggy gets dismissed from the meeting. She goes into Joan’s office and turns on the speaker to the conference room. Pete says it’s a breach of the way business works. An executive signs the business and then has their junior maintain the business. Ted wants to know if Joan really tried to squeeze Pete out. Joan doesn’t say anything. Peggy scribbles something on a piece of paper and hands it to Meredith. Meredith goes into the conference room. “Joan, Andrew Hayes from Avon is on the phone for you.” Ted tells her to go take the call. Joan goes into her office. Peggy gives her the “Shh” finger. Ted tells Pete that they’re all on the same team. Joan earnestly thanks Peggy, who says “You’d better hope he really calls.” Joan looks ready to cry.

Roger and Don get back. Pete’s there to meet them at Don’s office. He says things have become dire in their absence. Ted, Cutler, and Cooper come in. Cooper says they should get Joan but Pete barks, “No” and that’s that, she’s left out. Ted details the good news from GM and Avon and the bad news about Manschevietz. Then they get to the name of the company, “Sterling, Cooper, and Partners.” Don agrees. Everyone but Pete files out.

Pete tells Don the name is a gravestone to their resistance. He says it’s not the same business out there any more. Don tells him that if he doesn’t like it, maybe he should get out of the business.

Pete walks out the door and into the creative lounge. He grabs Stan’s joint, sits on the couch and starts smoking it. “Piece of My Heart” starts to play. An attractive young lady in a yellow micro-miniskirt walks by so that we only see from the skirt down to her boots. That’s the second time in the episode we watched a young lady in a short skirt parade in front of an SC&P executive without seeing her face. Roger watched a veritable real-life Barbie parade by while in LA. The second shot might signal a shift in Pete’s attitude and moving from Don as a role model to Roger.

Other thoughts:

* Peggy isn’t going to have any faith in Ted any more. She shouldn’t have had any after last week but now it should all be gone.

* It was pretty cool seeing Joan and Peggy take a meeting with a client, even if Joan had to squeeze Pete out to make it happen. It felt like watching the first time Batman and Superman worked together. (Joan is Batman in case there was any doubt.)

Best Lines:

“I thought it was a date but it turned out to be better!”
Joan to Peggy about her meeting with Avon’s head of marketing

“Harry, what did I say about that car?” “[shrug]”
Don scolding Harry for not returning the Mustang and getting a GM car

Best Shot:

When Cutler comes into the creative lounge to talk to Stan and Ginsberg, initially, they’re sitting while he stands. It demonstrates the power-differential while at the same time symbolizing the idea of youth sitting in as a form of protest.

Song over the end credits: “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin, of course, on vocals). This is actually a cover. Erma Franklin recorded the song in 1967.

What do you expect to happen in the coming weeks? Let’s hear your Two Cents!

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2 Responses to Mad Men – Recap & Review – A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Great post!

    Mad Men has become a psyche trip, and the people who work with, and have a personal relationship with Don Draper are involved, and so is the audience.

    Tonight’s episode gave me a hunch that perhaps DON is dead, either by his hand or accident, and we are actually watching his life, as it was before he died. Or, perhaps, everyone is playing a part in his bad dream.

    I feel as though I’ve descended to a level of Dante’s Inferno, along with Don Draper, and his shadow side of secrets, lies, and relationships.

    The season will end with a huge twist!

    • ryanoneil says:


      There’s definitely something big coming. There have been hints at violence through out the season, so it could be something related to that, possibly with Megan as the victim. I don’t particularly care for Megan as a character but I would prefer that not happen.

      I could see Ginsberg snapping but, again, I would prefer that not happen.

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