21
Sep
2009
Mad Men: Season 3, Episode 6
Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency
Jordan
After two episodes in a row with large parenting themes, "Guy walks into an advertising agency" opens with Don comforting Sally, who is suddenly afraid of the dark. As the episode reveals (none too surprisingly) it isn't the dark that scares poor young Sally it's the idea that there's a new Gene living in old Gene's room, and that the baby is some sort of reincarnation of her beloved grandfather. Even if this is true, Sally is unwilling to accept this paltry replacement for the man she loved and bonded with.

On a similar front, Joan is being confronted with the subpar replacement of her dream husband she ended up marrying. Greg has discovered he will not be promoted to Chief Resident as he thought, and in fact cannot even be a surgeon. Joan, perfect woman that she is, informs him that "I married you for your heart, not your hands" which sounds sweet until we recall that this is the man who raped Joan last season, and his heart isn't all that worthy either. Tonight highlighted for me the similarities between Joan and Sally in terms of their character development. Joan has spent her whole life working towards finding the right man, marrying him and living happily ever after, and the likelihood of her settling for her less than perfect current arrangement is slim. Sally, on the other hand, finally found herself appreciated and understood by someone, and now that she understands what that feels like, she is unlikely to allow herself to be pigeonholed by her mother (who, by giving her a Barbie doll clearly shows that she believes Sally to be a smaller version of herself. In reality I think we will find Sally to be a smaller version of Don, which may shock him or may make him very proud as the series continues).

In the episodes main plot, the British are coming to Sterling Cooper, in the form of the superiors from PPL, the company that has owned Sterling-Cooper since last season's finale (and continues to be, in my eyes, an excellent riff on the British invasion that was sweeping America during this time). Bert Cooper convinces Don they are coming to get a look at what makes him so successful, and plants the idea that Don may soon be working out of both London and New York. Don, usually entirely unflappable, is actually excited by this prospect, so much so that he actually shares information about his job with his wife (a rare occurrence in the Draper household). Cooper also forces Roger and Don to reconcile before the arrival. Roger tells Don, "I don't like to be judged" which could very easily be a major theme of this show. Most characters here hide what they don't want others to know to avoid the judgment of outside eyes. Roger, as always, is just the most upfront about it. And while it seems clear to me that Don has lost a lot of respect for Roger and isn't really ready to reconcile, he is willing to pretend things are ok to move forward.

When the men from PPL arrive, they bring with them the titular Guy McKendrick, who seems to be England's answer to Don Draper. He's smooth, he's sophisticated, and he's also wearing a gray suit. Guy manages to flatter nearly everyone in the office before it is revealed that he is actually there to replace Lane Price (who is getting a "promotion" by being sent to Bombay), and that Don, Bert, Ken, Harry, and Pete all now report directly to him (Roger is tellingly left entirely off the chart, he claims "for making my job look easy."). Once again, Harry's decision to pursue a promotion to head of Television last season continues to pay off, as he is the only one in the room to clearly be promoted under the new regime. As Pete puts it to Ken, "one more promotion and we're going to be answering phones."

As the office jumps into party mode, celebrating Joan's last day, Joan breaks down into tears, knowing she can't stop working since her husband did not get his promotion, yet too prideful to admit that she needs to stay at S-C. Don is called out of the office for a meeting with Conrad Hilton, the man he met at Roger's Garden Party, who wants some advice on a new campaign. Don informs him that no one wants to think of a mouse in a hotel, and Conrad wisely asks him what he wants. When Don responds his business, Conrad tells him "Next time someone asks you a question like that, you need to think bigger." He has intrigued and earned the respect of a very powerful man, which has to be reassuring in the face of his lack of promotion.

Meanwhile, back at S-C a discussion of the Vietnam war is being held, in which it is pointed out that hardly anyone is being drafted and the smart people will be able to stay behind desks without shooting anyone. It is telling to me that directly following a discussion of what a small issue the Vietnam War will be, a John Deere tractor piloted by Don's dimwitted secretary goes out of control and slices of Guy's foot, spraying the office in his blood. What seemed like a minor inconvenience, a small but unimportant bad decision quickly exploded into the biggest bloodbath we've yet seen on Mad Men, just as the war will explode in ways none of these characters yet see.

Guy walked into an advertising agency, yet due to the cruel punch line of the title's joke, he won't be walking out of it. He has lost his foot, and with it, his heretofore promising career at S-C (it's the "˜60s after all, and the Americans with Disabilities Act is another 30 years away. Also, he's English). Fortunately, this means that Lane gets to stick around for a while longer, but he is all to familiar with how close he came to the chopping block this week. In another excellent exchange between Don and Lane, our favorite Brit likens himself to Tom Sawyer and says, "I feel like I just went to my own funeral, and I didn't like the eulogy." This is the fear of every character on the show, all of them so desperate not to be fully known, not to be judged by those around them, and Lane has had this fully realized. He has been judged, and thankfully, spared for the moment. Guy was judged quickly and coldly by his superior's and losing his foot laid all too bare how harshly judgment can affect a person's life.

The episode wraps up the themes of judgment and of accepting who you really are (even though none of these characters accepts themselves enough to show it yet) when Don takes Sally into baby Gene's room to quell her fears. He explains to her, "This is your brother. And we don't know who he is yet, and we don't know who he's going to be. And that's a wonderful thing." While Don is almost jealous of his son's ability to literally start from scratch, he also knows that he, and everyone around him, still has plenty of time. He may be calming Sally's fears about the baby on the surface, but beneath that, he is also telling her, and himself, that it's never too late to become who you want to be.


Grade: A-

Notes:

-"Mr. Kinsey, you might want to shave your beard." "What? Who are you people?"

-Roger's hilariously callous twofer of "He lost his foot." "Right after he got it in the door." And "Jesus, it's like Iwo Jima out there."

-Sal was pretty absent this week, a shame as he would've fit perfectly with the themes explored tonight. Then again, so would any character, and these are major themes of the show, so I think we'll have time to address his character later.
Tags: Mad Men
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