Season 4, Episode 4: Peaches & Herb & The L Word (OK, It's Pears)

Despite the bummer of a title, what's not to like about "The Rejected," an episode that begins with a warning about  "brief nudity"  and then goes on to show a directing credit for  Roger Sterling -- uh, John Slattery?

As it turns out, Slattery is as wry and agile a director as he is an actor. As an episode, "The Rejected" is about contrasts: running hot and cold, (everybody's looking for ice! Don says he's gotta go -- there's a fire!) giving and yanking away, painful replacements, extractions, pimple cream vs. cold cream, and mostly, young vs. old.  

Mad Men Season 4/Episode 4 It was also about  privacy,  paranoia, and people spying through glass walls, gossiping behind each other's backs, knowing stuff about the other guy before he learns it himself. And what goes on behind closed doors, especially when what happens behind closed doors comes back to bite you in public. (Or almost hit you in the face, as with Allison hurling the golden apple.) It was about resolving unfinished business in a tight space -- with everyone wrangling for offices and power, how what's nobody's business somehow rapidly becomes everybody's business. Indeed, as the no-longer-rumsoaked Freddie Rumsen aptly points out at the focus group session, "How the hell did this get so sad so fast?"

Then there are the rejections: Joan and the older secretary from the focus group, the young photographer's nudes from Life magazine, Allison quitting on Don, Pete having to resign the Clearasil account, Joyce going in for a kiss with Peggy and getting negged.

But back to our show: Open on Don puffing away. Puff-puff, but there's no magic left, although  perhaps someMad Men Season 4 Episode 4 Vicks chemicals might help.  Even though  he tells Lee Garner, Jr., the  pain-in-the-ass  Lucky Strike  client, that they'll be fine with the new federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, it's about as true as the fire he announced. (Within a few years there will be no cigarette advertising on TV at all, killing the new agency's cash cow.)

For now, Don's all about compliance: there will be no more low camera angles, he explains, because they allow the models to look like superheroes. And although Slattery is slyly shooting Don from below as he says this, he's quite a deflated superhero, having lost his family, his home, his bearings, his mastery over drink, and even his creative spark. He's also rapidly losing ground to the new culture all around him (particularly in terms of women) but perhaps some nascent awareness is stirring in him.

Mad Men Season 4 Episdoe 4 It was pretty much a Peggy and Pete episode, showing the ways each has grown. And in that climactic, almost final scene, they gaze at each other through the looking glass, with Pete staying inside with all the gray-haired old boys, and the formerly repressed secretarial school graduate about to fall down the rabbit hole of countercultural grooviness.  Peggy is the new Don, experimenting with the young and bohemian downtown life, while Pete, a bit less weasely as an expectant father, has grown more  corporate. I wanted to congratulate him with,  "Today you are a suit."

I thought that Joyce, the new lesbian, is a fabulous character, wonderfully played by Zosia Mamet (the daughter of David Mamet and Lindsay Crouse.) But I'm wondering if any kooky beatnik types ever worked at Time Inc. (Although there must have been some in the art departments.)  It was always a buttoned-up, highly WASP-y place. Joyce, as a friend said, looks more like she should work at The Nation. I must say she wears her manly blazer well, and when she hangs out with Peggy in a loft in the meat-packing district (Washington Market) when it was still packing meat,  she seems much more tuned-in to the copywriter than Mr. Swedish Sex. (Although the vagina dialogues seem a little too modern.) Peggy looks pretty at the party in her Jean Seberg stripes (what? no beret?) and she's back to her "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana" fighting form.

Arty Abe looks interesting. Although just as with the California shots, these bohemian things always seem a littleSeason 4 Episode 4 too phony/dreamy to me. Peggy and Abe part hurriedly after their sweet kiss in a closet, but it's not as if Nazis are hunting them. When she and Joyce run on the street afterwards, they are setting the scene for Samantha in "Sex and the City" 40 years later.

I've got  to say that I don't like Dr. Faye, with or without the E. I  had high hopes for her. But her way with the secretaries was patronizing and condescending. Plus, what's with the engagement ring she gave Peggy to hold? I thought she had set her sights on Don. More important, how does a focus group with the agency secretaries -- who know they are being seen from the other side of the glass -- count as serious research? And Faye seemed to be leading them by starting out saying, "Let's make believe we're at a bridal shower with tea."

The endnote, with an old man in Don's hallway standing outside his doorway, repeatedly asking his shopping-cart-pushing wife, "Did you get the pears?" provided perhaps the weirdest coda of the season. In its opacity, it's the "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" of the moment, begging for interpretation.

So I'll take a few stabs: that this old woman is concerned about propriety and her privacy, and not discussing her bidness in public?

Or that for once, Don is not shuffling home drunk, but clear-headed, and in his nascent self-awareness,  thinking about relationships, and, um, pairs?   Does Don want to be alone in his slightly depressing sublet -- or for that matter, to be that doddering man?

That a pear evokes a womanly shape, which suggests the nude, arty photos, and that what is considered risqué or "dirty" -- and rejected by Life -- will soon be accepted in the rapidly changing culture?

Or merely, that in addition to his obsession with withering limbs, Matthew Weiner also has a thing for old people and fruit?  (If you remember back to when Gene, Betty's dad, moved in, he smelled oranges while eating chocolate before he died, and the last thing he did was go to the supermarket to buy peaches for Sally.) So does the scene remind Don that he himself had a father, and a father-in-law -- and for that matter, a baby boy named after the peaches purchaser, with whom he's spent precious little time?

Hope it gets less sad, real fast.

Tags: mad men, tv
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8 comments about "Season 4, Episode 4: Peaches & Herb & The L Word (OK, It's Pears) ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , August 18, 2010 at 12:43 p.m.

    It sounded like Don's comments about the focus group could be the same comments about FB and twits. Fay-e, is a very bad focus group handler from A to Z. How many focus groups are awful and ask the wrong questions even today and get the wrong answers? We've all seen horrible ads and concept direction. I think her ring is phony and she uses it as a status symbol. Just like marriage is a status symbol. Ever notice how different a single woman is treated by her "pears" than her married counterpart? And yes, this is the first time we see Don be called out by a lowly secretary status person. It may be he was more appalled than embarrassed. Then again he received an old picture of him and Anna and he did leave it on his desk, so it may not be the complete ending of that story. Will Pete find it? Will Pete tell Peggy and what will she do with it as ammunition since he know what happened to her?

  2. Marilois Snowman from Mediastruction , August 18, 2010 at 12:44 p.m.

    This was also an episode about feminism and shifting roles. Allison quit to work for a woman. The objectified secretaries were sad at their pretend bridal shower. And the agency, even with the smart dr. faye, still disagreed over the cold cream positioning statement. There's the underlying what we want vs. what people expect of us. No more personified than in the women's revolution.

  3. Steve Coppola from Lewis J. Advertising , August 18, 2010 at 2:15 p.m.

    Dotty, I'm surprised you thought Faye was seriously interested in Don. She sees right through him, and knows that he is beneath her, even for just a casual romp.

  4. Alan Stamm , August 18, 2010 at 2:51 p.m.

    "Dr." Parker: Your unease about Dr. Fay(e) is no surprise, as you're far more insightful about subliminal thoughts that her character appears to be.

    Each of your four stabs at interpreting the endnote is plausible and thought-provoking -- and dig deeper than Slate senior editor Michael Agger did in a "TV Club" post there Monday. Rather than a multiple-choice array, he shares sees one interpretation for the "weary, absurd exchange between an old married couple that makes sense to no one but them."

    Agger's takeaway: "Will Don or Peggy ever have this kind of long-term relationship that grows gnarled and beautiful with age? . . . The old couple seems sweet, though there's a palpable weariness in the woman's voice. Here he goes with the pears again. Haven't bought him pears since '49."

    Me, I'm going with your Stab #2: The Bickersons make Don wonder which would be a sadder future -- "to be alone in his slightly depressing sublet . . . or to be that doddering man?"

  5. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , August 18, 2010 at 11:08 p.m.

    The closing shot of Peggy at the elevator (as pictured in your post) was beautiful. It was wonderful seeing her shown as pretty & happy, surrounded by her future while looking over at her past. She looked like what she probably had in mind for the Ponds' girl -fresh, confident & hopeful.

  6. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine , August 19, 2010 at 3:16 a.m.

    Wow - this episode was almost exhausting to watch with all of the usual trying to figure out what it all meant! Was Pete doing some kind of table-turning on his father-in-law? He seemed to be going for the jugular when he said "the more you say the less I respect you"(?) Had Joyce pegged as a lesbian from the first scene - do you think that Peggy did too?

  7. Ned Canty from New York Television Festival , August 19, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.

    This episode also featured one of the most beautifully shot scenes of the season--Don seated on his sofa at night, centered between one lamp on and one lamp, balanced between the light and the dark. Which way will he go this season?

  8. Sheldon Senzon from JMS Media, Inc. , August 20, 2010 at 9:39 a.m.

    Hope it gets less sad, real fast.

    Ms. Parker, nice to see you've eliminated many of your previous "over the top" accolades.