Monday, 6 December 2010

'MAD MEN' 4.11 - "Chinese Wall"

Monday, 6 December 2010

The shit hit the fan almost immediately in "Chinese Wall". Despite being give a month to prepare everyone for news that Lucky Strike are parting ways with SCDP, Roger (John Slattery) instead buried his head in the sand and hoped the problem would disappear. Unfortunately, after just two weeks, Ken (Aaron Staton) hears from a rival that American Tobacco are joining a different agency, and word spread like wild fire that SCDP's financial bedrock has crumbled.

It was particularly amusing and shameful to see Roger feign surprise at the news; going so far as to fake an angry phone call to Lee Garner Jr in front of his fellow partners, then sit alone in hotel room when he should be hundreds of miles away in a face-to-face with Lucky Strike. Roger's backbone has clearly eroded, most likely because he's spent a significant amount of time letting bright sparks like Don (Jon Hamm) handle the everyday pressures of advertising. Roger's on his way to becoming a spare part like Cooper (Robert Morse); comfortable to coast towards a future as a figurehead with a financial stake. But now his years of complacency with the only client he needed to keep sweet, is risking everyone's future.

To make matters worse, while seeking comfort in the heaving bosom of Joan (Christina Hendricks), she made it crystal clear to Roger that their on/off affair is categorically over. Maybe the final straw was realizing how spineless Roger is, and how his relationships just seem to be plugging gaps in his own psyche. Emotionally broken, Roger returned home to find a proof cop of his autobiography "Sterling's Gold" -- which now feels like a sick joke. How can Roger sell a book about his amazing life story if this latest unwritten chapter tarnishes everything?

The timing of Lucky Strike's walkout couldn't be worse for Pete (Vincent Karthesier), who was facing the death of the company he's relying on to provide for his future, while simultaneously awaiting the birth of his daughter. In both stories he was a spare part (particularly given the outmoded '60s attitude to men's role in the birthing process), but while Pete's in-laws were sitting vigilantly in the waiting room, they were quick to nudge him out of the picture, sending him back to work. Rival ad agency boss Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) also made an unexpected return, aiming to recruit Pete as a partner in his firm, just as SCDP's future becomes uncertain. It would make sense for Pete to jump a sinking ship for job security (especially now he has a baby to think about), but he's proven himself very loyal in the past, so will he be tempted?

A figurative death of a company is on the cards, but the literal death of a rival resulted in a funeral Don and others had to attend during their crisis. A memorial thus soured by the fact SCDP's representatives were using the gathering to scout for fresh business, although the eulogy's references to the deceased's surviving daughter still managed to elicit emotions from fathers Don and Pete.

Some levity was provided with Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who's started dating Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) and is rapidly developing a close relationship with him, while Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) mistakes her change in temperament as horniness. I enjoy the interaction between Peggy and Stan, which is playful and naughty. In this episode, Peggy pitched to executives from Playtex, unaware she had lipstick smeared across her front teeth, which Stan intentionally didn't bring to her attention as payback. I was expecting fireworks when Peggy finally realized the embarrassment, but she instead treated the matter in good humour.

Having ended last week's episode with Don staring wistfully at his newly-promoted secretary Megan (Jessica Pare), he once again let his sexual appetite get in the way of making the right life choices. Having asked his girlfriend Faye (Cara Buono) to use her contacts to get SCDP new contacts, which breaches the titular "Chinese Wall" of good business, Faye was initially principled enough to refuse him point-blank. And by the time she changed her mind to help, Don had already cheated on her with Megan. Yes, after revealing that she's interested in advertising and wants to follow in Peggy's footsteps, Megan didn't do her credibility much good by almost immediately becoming another of Don's office conquests. I don't doubt Megan's a clever girl with a genuine interest in advertising (do you?), but is she one of the people who think Peggy only got promoted by bedding Don?

The saddest thing about Don's actions is that Faye then proves herself worthier of his respect and attention, by putting her principles aside to help him get new business after all. You get the impression that, for Faye, this was a sign she's falling in love with Don and is willing to do anything he wants to help, but he's just not deserving of her kindness.

WRITER: Erin Levy
DIRECTOR: Phil Abraham
TRANSMISSION: 17 November 2010, BBC4/HD, 10PM