Commentary

'Mad Men' Episode 610: A Tale Of Two Cities, Or 'You're The Guy Who Came In A Taxi?'

UMad Men Season 6 Episode 10h, oh. Whenever I hear the phrase “L.A. trip” combined with “Don,” I reach for my revolver. Flashbacks! Sadness! Pools!  Suits! Weirdness! Anna!

Doubly unfortunate, the title of this episode is “A Tale of Two Cities,” referring to one of the few works of Charles Dickens that is relatively humor-free. The two cities are not only physical (NYC and L.A.; Chicago also makes its appearance), but also dualities of life and death, us vs. them, Easterners vs. Westerners, and the idea of conformity, and following the rules vs. revolution and revolt.

Dickens' opening line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” fits neatly into MM’s duality theme, which this season has been run into the ground and pulverized like a British ankle at a company Christmas party.

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Mad Men Season 6  Episode 10Obviously, we’ve been getting a tale of two Dons for the entire series, and his ever-changing incarnations from episode to episode start to get wearying. (That goes, too, for his incarnation while meeting with the scary Republican Dutch Reagan-saluters at Carnation.) He’s trying to be a good husband, and do his job, but the passion is gone. Nothing is particularly lighting his fire at work, either, so we get Donnie Darko vs. Donnie Downer.

The opening scene, with Don and Megan in their living room, in which she “jokes” that marrying him was the worst mistake she ever made, and his little volley in response, that he hates actresses, is obvious truth buried in an attempt at cutesy/hostile couple humor.

Last week’s episode was all about doors, and we get some of that this week too, with discussion about the naming of the agency. (If the name is super-long, Don suggests, “make the door bigger.”) We also got Avon calling, door- to-door. (Ding-dong!)

JMad Men Season 6 Episode 10ohn Slattery directed, but still had time for Roger jokes. I didn’t enjoy the getting-kicked-in-the-balls thing that much, and wondered why he was so hostile toward little Daniel, who looked like a caricature of the Paul Simon record producer character at the party scene in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.

After overindulging on the “nipple” of the hookah (as if Don needs encouragement to find a mother anywhere, even in a hookah pipe) he has the realization, spoken by the ghost of Private Dinkins, "Dying doesn't make you whole. You should see what you look like." (Meanwhile, as part of Weiner’s continuing limbless fetish, the poor fellow has lost an arm.)

I loved the blonde Pucci-clad hostess whom Don snogs, and the Megan lookalike coming out of the pool.  (Don had a similar experience at a hotel bar seeing a Betty lookalike on one of his past trips.)

But some of the hippie stuff at the party felt corny and fake. I realize it was a different time, but still it freaks me out for Roger, in the clothing of Thurston Howell III, to come on so strongly to Lotus, a tripping teenager.

I started worrying that the Megan/Sharon Tate Internet rumor were coming true (that she would be murdered a la Tate), especially when the ghost of Megan shows up pregnant and says she’s quit her job. Free of work obligations, willing to share him, that’s the way Don wants her: compliant, barefoot, and pregnant.

Mad Men Season 6
Episode 10The death metaphors float by until we get to see Don the dead man floating on top of the pool, a direct reference to Don’s ad for the hotel in Hawaii, and “Sunset Boulevard.” It‘s as ominous as the sound of Don’s cough when he’s coming back on the plane.

En route, Roger gets off some Sterling’s gold to Don: " New York is the center of the universe”  he tells him. And “my shrink says, the job of your life is to know yourself." I guess this is ironic, as Roger seemed particularly clueless and out of his element in the West.  Earlier, he urged Don, “Be slick, be glib, be you!” which was exactly the wrong advice -- some kind of lazy-Roger version of the hollow motivational sales pitch that Bob Benson was listening to in his office.

Since New York City was actually declining at the time, with L.A. becoming the universal center of entertainment, too bad Roger is not being a realist -- like the way Woody Allen put it, again in "Annie Hall":  “Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers?”

For me, the highlight of the episode was the interaction between Peggy and Joan. Joan is leaning in, baby! I was actually shocked that she rejected Ted’s orders and took the client meeting for herself. But in the context of missing out on the media job all those years ago, and her role of glorified office manager ever since, she’s answering the doorbell of opportunity! 

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 10When Joan realizes that the Avon guy is not interested in romance,  (and that he can’t even remember that he’s divorced!) and that she doesn’t have to worry about her goods being on display, she reinvents an identity for herself on the spot: “I’m in charge of thinking of things before people know they need them,” she says. That beige leather shoulder bag/lady attaché case that “change agent” Joan totes to lunch was one of the most poignant things I’ve ever seen, representing Joan's desire to seem professional and beyond-purse serious. (Wasn’t it a bit ‘70s, though?)

I loved Peggy’s story about her mother vacuuming the drapes in preparation for the Avon Lady, and was distressed at Joan’s bad timing in cutting her off. It was a beautiful metaphor for the awkwardness with which Joan is operating. At the same time, Peggy’s reaction to Joan’s disinviting Pete was a bit over the top. Peggy’s turning into  a shockingly inflexible Margaret Thatcheresque stickler-for-the-rules.

Later, the two women air out their resentments, and Peggy indeed comes through, saving Joan’s skin for now. (“Possession is 9/10 of the law” Ted tells a scowling Pete.) This act was repeated all over the episode: Peggy saved Joan, Roger saved Don, and Bob Benson saved Cutler.

The episode ends with a disappointed, grumpy Pete  going over to the other side,  toking on Stan's joint on the creatives’  couch.  A young woman in a tiny, bright yellow miniskirt walks by, and Pete is drawn to her like a bee to honey.  Hope springs eternal.

“We were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”: That’s the way the first paragraph of the “Tale” ends. And Dickens, unlike Weiner, had no idea about Nixon’s coming election, the trouble with margarine, or Don’s fixation on death and mother/whore hell.

Damn, I forgot the Manischewitz.

22 comments about "'Mad Men' Episode 610: A Tale Of Two Cities, Or 'You're The Guy Who Came In A Taxi?'".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, June 4, 2013 at 1:46 p.m.

    You sure managed to cover a lot. I'm also getting a little tired of being played as a viewer by the drug-induced hallucinations. There comes a point where we get it, and want to know what's next. I do love how the East/West conflict played out alongside the older/younger divide. And Harry, he reminded me of Fredo Corleone in Vegas, making sure everyone had a good time. I'm surprised he didn't say, "Send Harry off to do this. Send Harry off to do that! I want respect, I want to be a partner!" Speaking of old acquaintances at the "Hills" party, I would have loved to have seen Sal there. Although, that kind of discrimination was present on both coasts at that time.

  2. Bob Shiffrar from Lehman Millet, June 4, 2013 at 2:02 p.m.

    1968 was the year Chiat and Day merged. Would have been funny to see revolutionary Jay Chiat and traditionalist Roger discussing advertising at that Los Angeles party.

  3. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 4, 2013 at 2:31 p.m.

    Weiner might have found his perfect viewer in you, Barbara. James Joyce, I was told by a teacher, once said that he expected his readers to devote their lives to the study of his work. You, Barbara, combine memory and attention to your analysis and it works for me. Jonathan Hutter's comment re: Fredo actually made me laugh out loud, that being kind of like LOL except real. There are some things re: Carnation and a famous 60s ad man (Gene Case) that came to mind. Gene once wrote that when he worked for Tinker they sent him out to LA to meet the Carnation client and he had to drive down Sepulveda Boulevard and it was such an ugly stretch and the people didn't like him and boy he hated LA. Case, by the way, did Rockefeller's advertising in 1968 and his last gig was doing covers for The Nation, so the Reagan thing was additionally funny.
    (Draper doesn't care about his name being dropped. Odd, don't you think?)

  4. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 4, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.

    Young vs. old was a whole sub theme for sure. Amazing that Chiat/Day was born that year. I think these years were so ugly looking (in terms of hair and clothing) and difficult (In terms of politics) that as we get closer to stuff we actually remember and lived through, it gets a lot less pleasurable and a lot more painful to watch. Agree?

  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 4, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.

    Yes, Tom. Very odd that he doesn't care about his name being dropped. Perhaps he's planning a trip somewhere?

  6. Richard Brayer from Car-X, June 4, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.

    boy have things changed!

    I like Joan's taking over- let's be honest if Bob had been in her place- what do you think he would have done?

    New business the dream, until it goes south

  7. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 4, 2013 at 3:02 p.m.

    Mordechai Reichler also wrote a piece about his time at the Oscars. He said that he arrived at a party and someone said, "You came in a Taxi?!?"

  8. Lawrence Greenberg from Greenberg Media, Inc., June 4, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.

    As I was watching this, I was viewing this as an episode about awkward client meetings -- first Don and Roger with Carnation and then Joan and Peggy with Avon. I was waiting for the Manischewitz meeting, during which we'd get to see both Ginsberg and Benson in action. After all, Ginsberg was near a meltdown and had to be coaxed into going. Further, we might have had the chance to see how Benson handles clients or whether he actually knows anything about advertising. Instead, that happened off screen. Only at the end of the episode, post meeting, are we told simply that the account is under review. Seemed like a missed opportunity.

  9. John Berard from Credible Context, June 4, 2013 at 3:59 p.m.

    I notice in the comments more and more are drawn from first-(or near-first)-hand knowledge. This increasing intersection of the story being told by "Mad Men" the story as we remember it likely cause discontent with the show as the fiction continues to collide with recollection. I don't remember the Summer of '68 being so totally candy-colored or drugs being as much the cause than a symptom of social change. But I fully appreciate the new palatte as an analog for a different angle of perspective. That's why I am OK with the dream sequences and the single-entendres. It is all as I might remember it.

  10. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, June 4, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.

    I guess with all that happened this episode, in this column, Bob Benson was left on the cutting room floor. Although I was willing to give him a pass earlier, I see he's a weasel. Maybe I just trust people too much. I still like to think that's a good thing in this business. I actually knew someone named Bob Benson in ad sales. Now retired. He actually would be about the age of the fictional Bob.

  11. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, June 4, 2013 at 4:10 p.m.

    No surprise at all that Joan hip-checked Pete out of the picture, dressed in her business best, and sallied forth to stake her rightful claim. Also no surprise that the company opening the door to her is Avon, which has been empowering women and perfecting the arts of direct selling and relationship marketing for all our lifetimes. I was especially gratified that it was another woman -- Joan's long-time friend who previously worked for Mary Kay Cosmetics -- who arranged the introductory meeting. Joan has always had the instincts and cleverness to do well in account work, she just continues to buy into the ideas that men make the rules and that the way to get what you want is to outwit the men without directly challenging them. I want to see Joan be as bold, defiant and dangerous with men as she is with women. Never again should she be kept out of a meeting -- client prospect or partners -- on the word of pischer Pete. BTW, here's an interesting piece on the evolution of Avon's advertising in the '60s. I remember men's products and jewelry being introduced later in the decade as well as ads directed to black women. And there were also those wonderful brochures and perfect little samples.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2335348/As-Joan-Peggy-battle-Avon-account-Mad-Men-beauty-giant-transformed-housewife-staple-favorite-working-woman.html

  12. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 4, 2013 at 5 p.m.

    Re: the times. Watching Buckley versus Vidal would have been more amusing than Mayor Daley versus the demonstrators. Nixon, of course, won with a wonderful opposites campaign: BRING US TOGETHER and LAW AND ORDER. Check out the Chicago 8 Trial which became the Chicago 7 Trial and featured Jane Fonda's future husband. No, not Ted Turner. Watching the riots at the time, it seemed more chaotic than dangerous. The later trials were more theater than jurisprudence and Abby Hoffman coming to the court in judicial robes seemed perfect actually.

  13. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 4, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

    Yes. The revolution was televised, and Don Rather got roughed up.
    Speaking of yippies, Jerry Rubin later became a prime yuppie of the '80s.

  14. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 4, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.

    i was a fan of hoffman for some reason....maybe i liked the title of his book
    STEAL THIS BOOK...

  15. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 4, 2013 at 8:53 p.m.

    Does Weiner have a wall of themes ? The appendages, the juxta-positioning, the symbolism that could be strung through from the beginning ? But he has gotten over the top with a few characters. Suits weren't doing all of the drugs as portrayed and Ginsberg freak out would mean he was out no matter what he did. As the country looked to politics more as more things changed, Don watched as an outsider. Dick doesn't seem he wants commitment to anything more than he has to. How much is Don trying to kill Dick more and more and can't? What I can't do is watch this show without looking forward to your column.

  16. Leslie Singer from SingerSalt, June 5, 2013 at 8:11 p.m.

    Pete is on a downward spiral. The first step to never-never land is always blowing a dube with the creatives. I've seen it. Never pretty.

  17. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 9, 2013 at 6:51 a.m.

    My son--who has found this show boring but watches it anyway for some reason--tells me that Meghan will get pregnant again and be killed like Sharon Tate by an intruder, not the Negro woman. Whether Don will mourn mother and child and seduce a 12-year old and move to Europe, he hasn't indicated.

  18. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 9, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.

    Yes, Tom, that's the internet rumor I alluded to. It becomes much creepier to have had the intruder forshadowed. Megan seems so vulnerable and lost. I hope it doesn't happen!

  19. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, June 10, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.

    Jon Hamm/Don Draper is the voiceover for Mercedez and American Airlines. Sterling, Cooper & Partners have had Jaguar, as a client and a special project from Chevy. Plus Ford, BMW and Lincoln advertise in the show. That’s a lot of promotion. And not much exclusivity. I’ll add even AdAge had a related article: “American Airlines and Jon Hamm's Baggage.” Too much?

  20. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, June 10, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.

    I agree. Way too much! And I don't know why Hamm uses such a humorless, stentorian voice for Mercedes. It's a voice out of the 1950s!
    The lack of creativity during the commercial pods is really sad. I'm sure every man wants to stare at Christina Hendricks for the duration of the Johnnie Walker ad, but enough already!

  21. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, June 10, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.

    Will there be more or heavy drug use in the show? Not sure if this will show up later about Janis Joplin and Big Brother: She died of a heroin overdose while she was legally drunk in room #105 of the Landmark Motor Hotel, next door to the Magic Castle and Hollywood. We'll see.

  22. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, June 10, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.

    groucho marx once said that a contestant on his show was bleeped for saying Ford in the phrase, "ford the river."
    sponsors had a lot of clout in those days....i think hamm does a good job with american and agree with that he is very off for mercedes.......very convincing vo...could do pol work if he weren't so well-known....has a hard time with music mixes though........

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