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How Far Will You Go to Get What You Want? Business in "Mad Men" Gets Personal

By Sarah Carlson | TV Reviews | May 7, 2013 | Comments ()


MM_606_MY_0114_0512a.jpg

If viewers ever doubted the use of symbolism in "Mad Men" -- and, really, who could miss all the metaphors at this point? -- they should look no further than the new car Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has landed as an account: the Chevrolet Vega. The model was still unnamed in Season Six's sixth episode, "For Immediate Release," taking place in early- to mid-May 1968, but the timing fits. The Vega was still only a plan in 1968, but it was an ambitious, "cutting-edge" one, as Robert Sorokanich wrote in Rode and Track: "The Vega represented an entirely new direction for Chevrolet: a fuel-efficient, high-tech compact from the company best known for bristling muscle cars and living-room-like sedans." It was even designed with a computer, as Roger points out. The Vega was a forward-thinking car, but a look back at its history doesn't bode well for the fictional world of "Mad Men." The Vega bombed.

Chevy rushed the Vega into production, and after years of recalls and redesigns, the car was kaput by 1977. The vehicle reference is an impressively specific one for Matthew Weiner and crew, but it isn't subtle. To land Chevy, SCDP had to merge with competition Cutler Gleason and Chaough. Neither firm is big enough to handle a top-tier brand on its own, which Ted tells Don once both are in Detroit to pitch the automaker. The firms' forces combined, however, could do the job, and that idea -- that there is a way to land Chevy, no matter what -- is all it took to ignite a merger. The deal is done and the account landed before anyone back in New York at either agency knows what hit them. Don and Ted are all smiles, having found a way to beat the big guys for once and not let their creative be stolen out from under them, but at what cost? The physical merger of the firms -- offices, employees, accounts, supplies, etc. -- won't be easy and is a decision that should not have been rushed. But there you go; this new firm may be its own Vega. Nice idea; poor execution. People like Peggy, who just can't escape Draper, are left to pick up the pieces.

MM_606_MY_0116_1265.jpgThe prospects aren't as bright as they were when Don, Roger and others from the firm's previous incarnation, Sterling Cooper, hatched a plan to create their own agency and split from their owners. The end of Season Three, specifically the finale "Shut the Door. Have a Seat," was the series at its best, clicking on all cylinders, energetic and exciting. "For Immediate Release" had a touch of that panache, with Don and crew yet again fighting off failure by rebooting (good for you, Roger!), and the change of pace is welcome considering this season's propensity for existentialism, not action. Roger's plotting with airport lounge attendant Daisy (Danielle Panabaker) to find a way into the auto business was excellent, and it is good to see him back to working, not moping. But Don's ultimate idea for Chevy may not work; he can't always change the rules of the game to avoid losing. One of these days, winning won't be an option.

At least no one at either firm appears to have a relative working for Chevy. The mixing of business and personal relationships has taken its toll many a time in the SCDP world, and the firm lost two accounts this episode over hurt feelings, not poor products. Pete's father-in-law, Tom Vogel (Joe O'Connor), bolts along with his Vicks account after running into Pete at a "party house." Sure, Tom is just as guilty of infidelity and hypocrisy, but his daughter is a "princess" and doesn't deserve Pete's behavior regardless of what her father is up to. Tom's move is a gamble -- "If I have such low character as you say, why would you push me like this?," asks Pete, who soon follows through with his threat and reveals Tom's cheating to Trudy. She is hurt, but almost more so by Pete for his cruelty than by Tom for his dishonesty. She doesn't want any more to do with him -- no more early morning foreplay/teasing here. Was it worth it, Pete?

Joan is similarly upset with Don and his dumping of Herb Rennet and Jaguar. The ditching was deserved -- Herb never should have been taken on to begin with, his disgusting request to sleep with Joan in exchange for business ignored. Don didn't want a part of that play, and he urged Joan away from the decision (albeit too late). Don maneuvered around Herb's attempt steer the direction of the firm's advertising earlier this season, but the man's directive that a kid who writes flyers for his dealership review Don's work pushed him over the edge. "Don't you feel 300 pounds lighter?," Don asks Joan the next day. "I don't. Honestly, Don. If I could deal with him, you could deal with him. And what now? I went through all of that for nothing?" Joan can't put all the blame on Don; he didn't make her sleep with Herb. But she is right in her assertion of Don's selfishness -- it took something happening to him for the client to be dropped. "Just once I would like you to use the word 'we,' " she said, "because we're all rooting for you from the sidelines, hoping you'll decide whatever you think is right for our lives."

How far characters are willing to go to achieve their goals is a central theme for the series, that and how far characters will go to fool themselves into believing they have already met those goals. Peggy's relationship with Abe is beginning to feel like a bad merger itself, with the two of them trying to make the best of things in a new apartment. But if she's honest, she wants someone more like Ted -- someone who isn't just an "interested party" in her life. Someone strong. Megan wants Don to open up to her, to fight with her if that's what it takes. Her mother, Marie's, suggestion is to get Don's attention ssexually, and that trick works. So, too, does Peggy's imagining Abe is Ted as they kiss (a reprise of their actual kiss at the office). But if neither really says what it is she wants and works to get it, all she is left with is a series of trysts or a rundown apartment with junkie neighbors and poop on the stairs.

Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • JohnnyL53

    I'm surprised this didn't get a mention as best line. Harry Hamlin's character to the secretary as he was exiting the meeting with Ted and the cancer partner: "Is that Shalimar?

  • Dave Margolis

    "Rode and Track" -- classic!

  • Ashley Avenger

    I know it's wrong, but I ship Ted and Peggy so hard.

    And as much as I love Mad Men and this episode, I'm get really tired of how "on the nose" It is. The symbolism, metaphors, and themes have been so blatant and distracting lately.

  • cgthegeek

    I think (hope?) the merger and acquisition of Chevy would bump up the IPO, turn that $11/share into $20 or more.

  • Clitty Magoo

    "I love puppies!"

  • Xulux

    Unless this works, I'm against it.

  • John G.

    Was Peggy writing her resignation letter at the end there?

  • Melissa D

    She was writing the press release for the new agency.

  • BWeaves

    No, she just bought an apartment. She's got bills to pay.

    Plus, I think Ted was giving her a promotion within the new merged company. Something about youngest creative head, or something.

  • John G.

    but we're shown how cheap the apartment is, so I thought maybe she was just saying that to Don.

  • BWeaves

    This is New York we're talking about. A one room dive is expensive. Anyway, a mortgage is a huge loan, and she just got one, so she's definitely not quitting.

    Plus, I wasn't sure, but the way she said she wanted the upstairs druggy tennant out, I wasn't sure if she bought an apartment, or the whole building. It seemed like a house that was broken up into apartments.

  • I think she has the whole building especially the way i the previous episode where they were discussing the benefits of a "nice" east side place compared to a cheaper west side fixer upper.

  • toblerone

    No the press release for the new agency, hence the title of the episode "For Immediate Release".

    But a resignation letter would have made a whole lot more sense for her (but she is trapped financially).

  • toblerone

    Random:

    Hated Joan's look in the meeting with the accountant.

    CGC / SCDP merger is a horrible idea and I have no idea how Don sold it to Chevy (or Ted or his partners). There is no way it doesn't turn out badly for everyone involved short of there being maybe two offices. Is Don L.A. bound to open a new office with Megan and her acting in tow? Also WTF is going on in Megan's head?

    Where has Harry Crane?

    I feel bad for Ken Cosgrove / Aaron Staton who is terrific every time he is on screen but isn't given nearly enough to do.

    Alison Brie was terrific again.

    Yay for no Betty or Sylvia.

    The Vega was a success initially selling very well until all of the issues started to arise (and I imagine the new agency will parallel the Vega's course).

    **Wouldn't it be up to Jaguar to terminate SCDP deal? Yes the dealers are paying for most of it but Jaguar is Jaguar.

  • eskaton

    "**Wouldn't it be up to Jaguar to terminate SCDP deal? Yes the dealers are paying for most of it but Jaguar is Jaguar."

    My wife and I wondered the same thing. The context I got from a few episodes back, where Don slyly bombed Herb's idea, was that Jaguar was looking to break into America, not just NY/NJ. I seem to recall Pete saying they could take some of the money from the national sales portion and reallocate it to the local garbage Herb wanted. I don't see why one regional dealer would kibosh the whole thing.

  • KV

    Don always wanted the Chevy, he got the Chevy. He has reached his career peak, and now he can only go one way - down (the title sequence). Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Don Draper.

  • toblerone

    Maybe, but Don has always been in free fall.

  • This turn of events might only be interesting if the men don't win at the expense of the women. Perhaps we're seeing that with Pete, finally reaping the ramifications of his actions. And perhaps Dustin's theory about Don will be correct. But if all the men continue to live it up (such as Don cheating while calling Megan a whore) while the women are taken advantage of I'm not sure the show will keep me interested. I think I need more than "white male privilege sucked for everyone else".

  • BWeaves

    Wow! Great episode.

    1. I was wondering how they were going to bring Peggy back to SCDP. This merger seems like the only way, as she wasn't about to quit CGC, where she is more respected.

    2. So, any ideas on the new name for the new company? Someone on another website suggested Sterling Cutlery, which I thought was quite clever. I suspect the new name will be one or two words. Probably something very Mod.

    3. I loved Pete getting his ass handed to him over and over again on a sterling silver platter this episode.

    4. I loved Pete falling down the stairs. Does anyone else think this was not in the script and they decided to leave it in, because it worked so well?

    5. Peggy and Ted belong together. She just seems wrong with Abe. And Ted's had a hard on for her since before she even started working there. Although, since he's married, and they work together, I see nothing but pain from that relationship.

    6. Megan's dinner dress. Whowsa!

    7. I'm still not sure how Roger and the stewardess managed to land Chevy. I must have missed something.

    8. I bet the doctor neighbor moves away, now that he's quit doctoring. And he'll take his wife with him.

    9. I really felt bad for Joan this episode. She gets her million dollar stock ripped out from under her, and the reason she slept her way into a partnership was ripped away (although I think it's a good thing, and she still has the partnership).

  • Wednesday

    Ad agencies usually have pretty boring names, so I wouldn't hold out for something interesting.

    Roger was having the stewardess eavesdrop on first-class passengers in the lounge. If there were any bigwigs, he'd come on by and chat them up. And one of them turned out to work for GM, and was sniffing around for a new campaign for their secret Chevy project.

    I did think Joan got the best line of the episode, though. Don is so about being the only one with integrity and screw anyone else who opts for the practical. He's going to drive the bus even if it means they go over a cliff.

  • Guest

    I Love Puppies - Don or I.L.P.D. would be a great name for the new agency and go long way in softening Don's image.

  • toblerone

    6. Megan's dinner dress. Whowsa!

    Yes and no on that one... I was having series Lorraine Bracco from Goodfellas flashbacks.

    **5.Peggy and Ted belong together.

    Nope, the kiss was definitely out of line on Ted's part and I think their relationship is built on mutual respect and admiration (Ted more than Peggy but certainly not anything like her relationship with Don) and it would be sad for it to fall into the standard TV trope if they ended up together.

  • abell

    So, I've got it worked out that the final planned public sale would have given SCDP a total value of ~$21M, added ~$4.5M in cash, and given Joan a valuation of (after dilution) ~$825K. Adjusted for inflation in 2013$, those numbers are $140M total valuation, $30M cash injection, and $5.5M valuation for Joan. You know, in case you were wondering. Not that it matters because, who knows what SCDPCGC is going to look like.

    Dammit Draper.

  • toblerone

    I think your numbers are off a zero or two abell... Anyways, initially the public offering would have to be postponed but after the dust settles and the new agency takes shape Joan easily could get more depending what percentage of the shares are hers and those allocated amongst the new and current partners.

  • abell

    I'm dealing with the initial plan. As I said, who knows what will happen post merger. Allow me to show my work.

    There's 1.5M shares outstanding. Joan owns 5%, or 75K. The deal was to sell an additional 400K shares, bringing the total number of shares outstanding to 1.9M. This dilutes Joan's 75K shares to 3.9% (75/1900). The banker agreed on a valuation of $11 per share giving a total valuation ($11 per 1.9M shares) of $20.9M. 3.9% (Joan's share) of $20.9M is $825K. Inflation since 1968 is about 569%

    If I made a mistake, let me know.

  • toblerone

    You're probably totally right abell It just sounds like a preposterous amount of money especially for an agency that seemed like it was faltering so badly initially. They couldn't even give out Christmas Bonuses (R.I.P. Laine).

    Lucky Strike billed $24 M (according to Roger) do you math on that. Plus they just lost $8 M for Vicks.

  • IngridToday

    Thank you! I didn't realize how much everyone lose because of Don. He should have talked with the other partners about getting rid of Herb or talk with Jaguar about replacing Herb.
    But, man Joan could have had 5.5m? Jesus.
    Do you know much Peggy's $19,000 annual salary would be in today money?

  • abell

    Regarding Joan, that's a total valuation of all her shares, not the cash that she'd receive from the deal. Some of that cash injection would go directly to the owners, so, she'd get something, but, there was no way to know how much. To get that $5.5M, she'd have to sell the shares, which, given the amount she had, would probably push down the value. So, she'd be well off, but, she wouldn't have all that in the bank. Of course, I'm pretty sure she could in the future. After all, the first million's the hardest.

    Peggy's salary at $19K annual works out to about $125K annual. Not bad.

  • mlurve

    I thought they (either Burt or Pete, I forget) told Joan her piece of the partnership would be worth "over a million dollars"? Maybe they were just rounding up.

  • abell

    It was Pete, and, I think that was just back of the napkin math. Also, I doubt Pete really put the thought into where Joan would be. He was in the Immaberich high. What's a few hundred thousand between friends?

  • The slower pace of the previous episodes made this runaway train episode feel more frenetic. There's going to be a lot of internal drama as the characters jockey for position within this new agency. It'll be a fun ride methinks.

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