Commentary

Episode 606: For Immediate Release -- Heart Transplants & The Mother Of All Mergers

Mad Blog - 606“For Immediate Release” refers to the press release that Peggy bangs out on her IBM Selectric in the final electric seconds of the show. After many weeks of existential numbness, this taut and even thrilling episode exploded with the surprise merger of SCDP and CGC and its new, mutually assured plotlines.

But here’s the first hitch: although Ted talks up Peggy’s new position (youngest copy chief ever at a major agency!) and Don ostensibly makes a point of including her in the decision this time around, Olson -- who kissed her boss and announced to Abe that she hates change, and is looking more and more like a stodgy young Betty Crocker these days -- really has no choice in this mess. Flustered, she accepts her assignment, and is immediately sentenced, like Rose Marie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” to go and be the good girl typist.

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Meanwhile, Mother’s Day brings out the beast in boys and some of the mommas, and they are all releasing their urges. Pete, Coop and Joan dream of the financial killings from going public, and savor the spreadsheets; Megan, taking her mother’s advice and acting like a non-star, non-wife, spreads her legs, and the cold-blast from the North, La Marie, spreads the ears of her wine bottle opener.

Mad Blog - 606The obsession with whorehouses continues apace. We managed to get a new black character: a 200-lb prostitute!  And just when we thought Joan’s preposterous rack couldn’t get any bigger, it does.

In the opening scene, with her hair down and her humongous breasts heaving, as the banker looks over the “spotless” books, are they supposed to symbolize “the capitalization that will mean the doubling of our size”?

There were also lots of parallel moments and character reversals. Viewers like nothing more than to see sleazy Pete beaten up. The son- and father-in-law parallel “party room” patronage did him in psychically (he’s headed for divorce) as much as Don’s undermining of the public offering wrecked his finances. Then we got the in-the-flesh fall on the stairs, the gift and GIF that keeps on giving. (And sadly, Princess Trudy probably knew that her own mother had also turned a blind eye all of these years for the sake of propriety.)

Meanwhile, nothing energizes Don like a good, inopportune client firing and the near-death of the agency, all while not letting anyone else in the office know.

But while he has come alive, his idol, Dr. Rosen, is falling apart. We first see him enter the back kitchen door of Don’s apartment in a hideous bathrobe (he and Sylvia apparently get their lazing–around-the-house clothes in Dogpatch, U.S.A.) It’s also the reverse situation of Sylvia, in her robe, welcoming Don at her back door.

Mad Blog - 606A shocking scene occurs later, with the two men in the elevator. Rosen tells Don that he’s tired of fighting. He’s lost his chance at doing the world’s first heart transplant. (Denton Cooley got there first, in Houston) and he’s quit his job. In the end, it was all about Rosen’s own ego and place in history. Who ever expected this outcome back when the ever-glum Don watched the sainted Doc, at the top of his game, happily cross-country skiing to an emergency on New Year’s Eve?

But let’s get to the delicious comic moments.  First of all, was it ever mentioned before that Weiner had the nerve to go with  “Peaches & Herb?” for the first names of the Jaguar client and wife? (For the young’uns, they were a singing act who had a big hit in the late ‘70s called “Reunited.” )

I realize that Herb is great at playing a heavy -- and Don’s line, “Don’t you feel 300 pounds lighter?” was pretty funny. Herb just seems a little too Soprano to me to own several tony British car franchises.  But some of his lines have Tony’s exact cadences and comic attempts at higher literary insights – as when talking up his protégé who is writing flyers, he says the kid “has a good turn of phrase.” (Later, he says he’d like for Don to get the kid’s “take” on the creative work. Did anyone use “take” that way in the ‘60s?)

Mad Blog - 606And Megan is wearing that amazing golden dress that hits just where her fingertips do when she has her arms down at her sides. Her mother is stewing because Roger has not shown up, and she has to listen to this “idiot” from Tenafly whom she later puts down as “the apple in the pig’s mouth.”

But really, Peaches, with her love of puppies, has the most important (and least discussed) line of the evening. (Other than Don’s “I love puppies!”)

In talking about her beloved dog giving birth on the oily wet spot in their garage, (and in light of the overall heavy theme of Mother’s Day) she says that every puppy born “had its own nipple.”

Is this why the world is a mess? Because not everyone born gets his or her own nipple? Will the newly merged agency be able to double-team on one nipple?

Mad Blog - 606Certainly, Ted C. was Don’s adversary on so many pitches that the merger makes sense. The Heinz Ketchup business was a prime example. And Don keeps producing these campaigns in which the product is not seen; he could use the strengthening  work of another team. And as is mentioned, the Chevy  business requires a 200-person team in Detroit, which is not easy to build. (This situation somewhat mirrors what Chevy has gone through in the last four years, leaving Campbell-Ewald, changing agencies again to end up at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which opened a Detroit office, and then had to join in an unworkable partnership with McCann Erickson, which this year ended up with all the business.)

Still, going after Chevy allowed for one of the greatest scenes in Mad Men history: Roger collecting his last minute bag of tricks  (including copies of “Sterling’s Gold” his self-published memoir) to head to the airport. John Slattery is not only a great actor, but also a great physical comedian. In his white shirt and black hat, fumbling around his office, bags flying, he almost reminded me of Charlie Chaplin.

And though the Ford Mustang was mentioned, the car the new agency is launching is mostly likely the Chevy Vega, the disastrous little eco-hatchback, hardly a tech savior out of “the future you’ve never imagined.”

Let’s talk about this glorious future. So many characters in this episode mentioned that they were “sick of it.” And “tired.” Ted’ s partner with the pancreas cancer is tired of drawing rockets, which are as American as the drive to explore outer space. And Dr. Rosen is quitting, just as new technologies are making all sorts of medical breakthroughs within the human body (inner space) possible.

Don has been referred to as “Superman” by Megan, in a clunky analogy that suggested he will fall off the balcony. Pete accuses him of being “Tarzan,” swinging from vine to vine.

He is neither. Obviously, the merger of the two agencies has the seeds of mutually assured destruction (MAD!)  sewn in at every step.

The big picture is even worse: Robert F. Kennedy will be assassinated in Los Angeles in less than one month.

Shut the door, take a seat: We’ll always have “Hazel.”

30 comments about "Episode 606: For Immediate Release -- Heart Transplants & The Mother Of All Mergers".
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  1. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 6, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

    Pancreatic cancer, I think. But I usually watch television with closed captions since The Wire and Deadwood and Downton Abbey and attempts to speak a variant of English.
    First Madmen in a long time that I understood pretty well.
    You're right about Sterling and his comic sense. Jon Hamm, by the way, is doing American Airline VO. Great voice, I thought, for the initial spots. Then they have a spot with music mixed very high and his voice doesn't cut through like the old airline voices of old such as Welles or Ford.
    Good show, though, this week. One of the few times they captured something really well: what goes on when an agency tries to go public and what happens when an agency merges (although clearly the merger here was a shade contrived). JWT made a feint to buy Carl Ally once to get the worldwide Pan Am business, but they only offered stock and Carl who then had 67% of the stock and 100% of the voting stock said "I would only sell for something I could use in a Chinese whore house." I couldn't tell if that was a compliment to the Asian ethnic group or not.

  2. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 6, 2013 at 11:22 p.m.

    This episode is a good turning point for the show as it will probably get better and better.

  3. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 6, 2013 at 11:26 p.m.

    Thanks, Tom. Agreed! and yes, fixed it to read Pancreatic cancer. By the way, how did Peggy manage to buy find, buy, and start living in the sketchy place on the UWS in less than a month?

  4. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 6, 2013 at 11:47 p.m.

    This episode had enough going on to fill 5 columns. Although you covered how Peggy again had no control over the men in her life, there was so much more to her line alone. Abe took her from her swanky East Side digs to a poop house on the west side. Clearly that's going to wear thin quickly. Frankly, all the men in her life are doing her wrong. So she has to shop at E.J. Korvette? S. Klein will be next. I read in another (less esteemed) forum that some think Teddy Chaoauaough engineered the scheme where it became Don's idea to merge. That has some merit, as Teddy's agency has a dying partner, is losing accounts, and keeps getting into no-win pitches. I don't remember Joan ever standing up to Don and calling out his behavior in quite that way. And I think I'm more obsessed with her than you are. There's another column.

  5. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 7, 2013 at 7:36 a.m.

    Real estate: buyer's market. The apartment had been empty. The agent was a former account executive who gave up the ad business. Closed quick and got FHA mortgage from the clueless Johnson administration. Also there is old real estate adage: the willing suspension of disbelief.
    Cancer type key: as it gets rid of the partner faster and allows them to bring back Sal. Until I read Jonathan's remark, I placed S. Klein's (on the square) a cut above Korvette's. Joan is suffering memory loss, forgetting who her pimp was, and continuing to forget her competence which might lead her to believe that she will get richer as a stakeholder in the new agency than the old one going public. Agree too that this is not the kind of thing Don would think of off the top of his head. Is Days of our Lives this complicated?

  6. Adrian Lichter from Adrian Lichter, Inc., May 7, 2013 at 7:44 a.m.

    The late Riva Korda once resigned an account she didn't like because David Ogilvy (sarcastically) said "if you dislike them so much, fire them". I think that was the last time DO tried sarcasm.
    Usually, agencies get fired. They don't fire clients.

  7. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 7, 2013 at 9:31 a.m.

    I was surprised that Joan publicly mentioned her taking one for the team as a rebuke to Don. I don't see that as an agency mantra to work toward! But what she did say-- about never hearing the word "we" had an impact on Don.

    I didn't have room to get into it, but I thought that bar scene was beautiful, and the opening line was like a reference to Casablanca. "Came here for the waters-- I was misinformed." The show me yours I'll show you mine bit paralleled the great line about the slide rule. BUt I thought one of them was going to sabotage the other with the knowledge.

  8. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., May 7, 2013 at 10:54 a.m.

    Great summation, as always, Barbara. This episode was MM at its best.

    I sincerely hop Tom is right and that Sal is on his way back to the fold. He was a terrific character and would add some nice spice to the stew.

    Although they did not mention which of the two campaigns the merged agencies pitched GM, I suspect it will be Don's teaser campaign with Ted's campaign as the official introductory campaign.

  9. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, May 7, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.

    The scene where Roger was in bed with the stewardess brought to mind the number "Barcelona" from "Company". And I thought Joan would have been greatly relieved to have Herb out of her life, especially considering how repulsed she was when he appeared at her office door a few episodes ago. Finally, Pete's saying of the word "prostitute" paled in comparison to how "Downton Abbey's" Mr. Carson enunciated it with such disdain. Now that I'm thinking about it, Pete should have flown in Lane's father from the UK to beat the crap out of his father-in-law - just as he beat Lane after meeting his "negro" Playboy bunny plaything from a few seasons ago.

  10. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 7, 2013 at 1:10 p.m.

    Rob-- yes! had forgotten about the beating after the black bunny! Yikes!

  11. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 7, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.

    On the stores shown, in my memory (and I wasn't a primary shopper), you went to EJ Korvette for bargain stuff, and to S. Klein for bargain clothes. That was back in the days when Barneys was at 7th Ave. and 17th St., and was also known for bargains. My mom bought me my first suit there. I'm surprised it never gets mentioned.

  12. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 7, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

    The store Barney's, not my "young men's" suit.

  13. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 7, 2013 at 7:41 p.m.

    7th Avenue and 17th Street. Free Parking. Free Alterations. Open Nine to 9:30.
    I worked on the account when it went from Barney's to Barneys New York. 1976-1980.
    Genius owner: the late Fred Pressman.

  14. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 7, 2013 at 8 p.m.

    Tom-- did you write"You'll all need clothes." ? That was one of my favorite spots of all time And the French one too.

  15. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 8, 2013 at 10:28 a.m.

    No. But the late Steve Gordon (screenwriter for the original Arthur) did. AD: Stan Kovics. Director: Steve Horn.
    I was more into locations, and Barney himself would have been aghast that I shot a commercial in Paris at the Palais Royale for his store.
    Berger shot something in Milan with Armani; Gargano went to Nevada for his spot.
    We had risen above stoops by then.
    Part of Pressman's genius, too, was getting Steve Gordon, Steve Horn, Ed McCabe, Gargano, Altschiller, Berger, Tesch, Abady, Di GIacomo, Sarah Moon, Becker, Spivak at the top of their games for a six-year period that redefined their brand and helped them survive.

  16. John Lesauvage from RobinsonDaviesGroup, May 8, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.

    Tom Messner, truly one of the greatest writers I have come across. Nice to see your name. Do you remember your work on Schrafft's? Brilliant stuff.

  17. Mark Hornung from Bernard Hodes Group, May 9, 2013 at 1:16 a.m.

    We know the Chevy Vega today as a disaster, but when it came out it was - briefly - a hot number. The Cosworth Vega had an engine tuned and modified by the same wizards who made Formula 1 championship engines. And it was much better looking than the equally-lamentable Ford Pinto. Chevy released the Camaro in 1967 to combat the Mustang, but it never eclipsed the original pony car's sales. Great blog about a great episode. Thanks as always, Barbara.

  18. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 9, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.

    Thank you, Mark! So the Ford Pinto started bursting into flames when, around 1970?

  19. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 9, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.

    Ah, Mr. Lesauvage. I remember the work for Schrafft's ice cream very well. It was long copy, but I am immensely flattered that you remember.
    You were at our first anniversary party in our penthouse offices at 485 Madison--the original CBS building across from the Look Building and just up the street from Newsweek. I think I even went out to Staten Island to see where the stuff was made. Expected to see a cow or two and was a little disappointed. Best, Tom

  20. Mark Hornung from Bernard Hodes Group, May 9, 2013 at 1:52 p.m.

    Alas, the Pinto was flammable from day one. My wife had one with the small 6 cylinder engine and it could outrun a BMW 2002 easily. (Can you tell I'm a gear head?). My Dad was in PR in the auto industry, so this most recent episode was great for me. He worked for GM just before and after WW II, and I remember the Fisher Building in Detroit fondly. When I was a tot, Dad was a broadcaster on WJR-AM, "the Great Voice of the Great Lakes."

  21. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 9, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

    Mr. Hornung....nice to see those three call letter stations remembered....WJZ was the famous one, I think, from Detroit....lots of radio shows outa that place.......

  22. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, May 9, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.

    WLS in Chicago. WLS stood for World's Largest Store, because it was owned by Sears at the time. I learned this at Syracuse University. Nowadays there is Google.

  23. John Lesauvage from RobinsonDaviesGroup, May 9, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.

    Mr. Messner, if you are ever interested you can visit Ronnybrook Farm with me where I have been developing some new products.
    Sometime in the near future an ice cream will emerge that you would find interesting.
    And you will not be disappointed this time as there are plenty of cows around.
    Remember the party well, especially the dancing on Paley's enormous table that was incapable of being moved from the board room it was built in. There was oh so much hubris back then! Loved every minute of what I can remember. Not many soft drinks consumed that evening.

  24. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 10, 2013 at 4:40 p.m.

    JOHN, is that farm within the city limits? There is one in Floral Park, I think. BARBARA, someone who worked a Chait Day for a long time told me today that the merger between Chait and Day happened almost a impromptu as the one on Mad Men. The two were at a Dodgers game (6th Inning) in 1968 and Jay or Guy said "We're always competing against each other; why not join forces?"

  25. John Lesauvage from RobinsonDaviesGroup, May 10, 2013 at 4:59 p.m.

    Tom, sorry you will have to travel to this place. 100 miles north of NYC. Worth the trip.

  26. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 10, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.

    Fantastic historical nugget. Was that in the late 60s?
    Thanks, Tom!

  27. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 11, 2013 at 8:42 a.m.

    @John. Is the farm near Narrowsburg? Or Cochecton Center? @Barbara. Yes: according to my source, 1968.
    The annus horribilis following the annus amoris.

  28. John Lesauvage from RobinsonDaviesGroup, May 13, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.

    Tom, the farm is near Pine Plains, NY.
    Not far from the Taconic Parkway.

  29. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 15, 2013 at 9:29 p.m.

    john, somebody sent me this today
    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/05/08/us/political-marketing-ad-man-for-schrafft-s-gets-ready-to-sell-bush.html

  30. John Lesauvage from RobinsonDaviesGroup, May 26, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

    Tom, yes I remember that and the one in the Times about your "golf" tournament on City Island, http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/09/nyregion/about-new-york-pebble-beach-no-but-clients-seem-to-love-it.html. Now that was a classic. Tom, if you could send me your email address that would be wonderful. Mine is jlesauvage@optonline.net. Thank you.

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