Saturday, 2 October 2010

'MAD MEN' 4.4 - "The Rejected"

Saturday, 2 October 2010

My least favourite episode of season 4 so far, "The Rejected" might seem better in retrospect because it started some new storylines for Pete (Vincent Karthesier) and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), but as an hour's entertainment I only appreciated the moments, not the whole.

As the title suggests, this episode featured a lot of rejections in the three main storylines. Pete was asked to drop the Clearasil account he secured via his father-in-law Tom (Joe O'Connor), as it conflicts with the more lucrative Pond's Cold Cream account, but instead seized an opportunity to grab hold of Clearasil's entire range by pressuring Tom. It no doubt helped that Tom has a vested interest in Pete succeeding at work, if only to provide for his daughter and the baby that Trudy's (Alison Brie) revealed to be carrying. There were rare victories for Pete throughout this whole episode, as he also caught up with old rival Ken (Aaron Staton) over dinner with Harry (Rich Somner), and managed to clear the air.

At the agency, Don (Jon Hamm) agreed to a focus group using their secretaries, chaired by group leader Gail (Cara Buono), which included his own secretary Allison (Alexa Alemanni). There to determine the reasons women choose to use moisturizing creams like Pond's, Allison became emotional after hearing colleague Dottie's (Abby Miller) story about not being noticed by her boyfriend, compelled to leave the room in a state. An uncomfortable moment for Don, watching events from behind a two-way mirror with Freddy (Joel Murray) and Peggy. It's not that Allison is especially upset that her drunken night with Don isn't going to develop further, just that Don's decision to pretend it never happened has left her feeling mistreated and, yes, rejected.

An intriguing moment also occurred when Peggy went to comfort Allison, only to realize the situation was more complex than she assumed, but wound up snapping "your problem is not my problem" before leaving Allison alone to pull herself together. Can Don do no wrong in her eyes, so she'd rather ignore what Allison's suggesting happened? Was Allison's comment to Peggy that "you must have gone through everything I've gone through" suggesting that Allison thinks Peggy's rise up the career ladder was predicated on sleeping with the boss, too?

Finally, Peggy herself attracted some attention from Joyce (Zosia Mamet), a lesbian assistant photo editor at Life magazine, who shows her some rejected nude photos during an elevator ride. Later invited out to a loft party with Joyce's hipster friends, it was interesting to note how low Peggy's career is perceived by Joyce's fiends Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) and Kellogg (Benjamin Scott Perry), who balks at Peggy's suggestion his nudes could be used in advertising. "Art in advertising?" Why would anyone do that after Warhol?" There was also the suggestion that Peggy's work as a copywriter isn't considered true writing in these circles, where value is assumedly placed on novelist.

Still, it was great to see Peggy more confident and holding her own in this social situation, under such scrutiny; accepting a joint from Joyce and calmly deflecting her sexual advance with a joke about her boyfriend renting, if not owning, her vagina. However, it felt a little strange to me that, within minutes of meeting Abe, then forced to hide with him in a closet during a police raid on the party, they kissed and it felt like the beginning of something more. Is Peggy really that beguiling? Will she see Abe again, and will his opinions of the creative world start to change her own thinking? Or vice versa?

A particularly memorable moment was seeing Don mishandle Allison in his office after she revealed she's quitting, by offering to sign any recommendation letter she types up for herself. No fight to keep her services, no emotional salve of a commendation from Don's own pen, just an offhand gesture. Little wonder Allison threw a paper-weight at Don, before storming out, leaving him with elderly battleaxe Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller) as a replacement the next morning. Don wasn't even able to type a letter of apology to Allison at home, finding that to explain his actions would mean opening up about his life to an extent he's not comfortable with.

Peggy and Pete were circling each other throughout this episode, as the biggest rejecters of the title -- seeing as Peggy gave up the child she had with Pete, and Pete washed his hands of his firstborn long ago. The moment when Peggy approached Pete to congratulate him on becoming a father (for the second time, they both know) sizzled with the unspoken communication going on between Peggy's social graces. And I loved a final moment when Peggy and Pete caught each other's eyes, both leaving work in very different directions -- Peggy, single with no commitments, heading out with her new pals; Pete, family life taking shape, hard at work with a spring in his step having secured Clearasil's entire range.

  • A second appearance of focus group leader Faye, again being chewed out by Don over her profession. "You stick your finger in people's brains, and they just start talking. Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, it's nobody's business." What's the betting she'll be the strong, confident woman to get Don back on track romantically?
  • Bizarre closing scene with Don watching his elderly neighbours settle in for the night, with the old man asking his wife "did you get pears?" repeatedly. Was he mulling over the possibility he might not ever reach that age as a married man, where trivial things are what binds?
  • I've spent this season wondering what Alexa Alemanni has appeared in before, because I'm sure I recognize her from something. IMDb was no use to me. Then I realized she's actually a brunette doppelganger of British comedian Alice Lowe from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Don't you agree?
  • I'm pleased to see the show embracing a few areas I associate more strong with the '60s; pretentious artists, pot smoking, Vietnam, civil rights, etc. Maybe it's because we're not in 1965, and entering the half of the decade most other film and TV shows tackle. But is that a bad thing, in some ways? Might it all get more predictable from hereon in, regarding the backdrop? Perhaps not. Mad Men episodes rarely tether themselves to the big events of the era. In this episode, it's almost a throwaway line that Malcolm X died recently.
  • Best visual of the season so far: Peggy peering into Don's office through her next-door window, after Allison stormed out. Very funny.
  • "You look swelegant!" says Joyce to Peggy. Shudder.
WRITERS: Keith Huff & Matthew Weiner
DIRECTOR: John Slattery
GUEST CAST: Alexa Alemanni, Joe O'Connor, Cara Buono, Jessica Paré, Zosia Mamet, Matt Long, Charlie Hofheimer, Joel Murray, Randee Heller & Sheila Shaw
TRANSMISSION: 29 September 2010 - BBC4/HD, 10PM