Mad Men, Season 4

Week 6: Is Don Getting Set Up for Another Unmasking?
Talking television.
Sept. 6 2010 1:54 AM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 6: Is Don Getting Set Up for Another Unmasking?

My favorite line from this episode: "Oh, OK."Julia, I'm glad you mentioned the sad spectacle of Don making his inebriated pitch to the Life cereal guys. As you pointed out, he was nattering on about nostalgia, a favorite theme of his. Reader Patrick notes in the comments:

The whole "nostalgia" bit that Don stumbled through was a rehash of one of his triumphs from season 1—the pitch for the Kodak "carousel." What was so fresh and emotional then is now hackneyed and hollow. It was a nice way to show how far he's fallen.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

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Well said, Patrick. Of course, while we know that this is Don recycling an old idea, the Life guys don't seem concerned that the ad is a rehash; they're worried it's too complicated. "I think it's kind of smart for regular folks," says one of the cereal men. Don makes a small effort to save his idea, then starts spitting out that string of slogans, some of which were worse than others: "Life is just a bowl of Life cereal." The more I think about it, "Life is sweet" is actually kind of good, no?

What's striking about Don rattling off those taglines is less their lameness and more the eagerness with which Don offers them up to please the client. Don has gotten used to clients signing on to his ideas, even if those ideas challenge the brand. That's what the Jantzen tantrum was about back in Episode 1: Don had seen the way forward for the bikini-maker, they refused to acknowledge the genius of his vision, he ran them out of the SCDP offices on a rail. One imagines the Glo-Coat ad required all of Don's slick salesmanship, but in the end he convinced the purveyors of a floor cleaner to pony up for a mini-Western with a twist ending. Winning the Clio for that ad should have been Don's trump card when trying to sell his next ambitious idea. Oh, you don't like my proposal for making the next Secor Laxatives spot a pastiche of Rashomon? You must not be familiar with my Clio-award winning spot for Glo-Coat. … Instead, in the immediate aftermath of the Clio win, we see Don pandering to a client in a way we never have before.

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Much debate afoot in the comments section about the identity and significance of Ted Chaough's date to the Clios, Maj. Gen. Frank Alvin. Roger is convinced he's merely an actor Chaough hired to impress someone at the ceremony, but our readers found Alvin's performance all too credible. Several folks suggest that Chaough might be on to Don's secret identity and has perhaps found a military man who can blow Don's cover. Reader Rudysuz recalls that in Season 1, it was Don's winning of a "Newkie" that led to his brother, Adam, finding him, which in turn is how Pete learns of Don's secret. Has a more public unmasking been set in motion at the Clios? This seems like perhaps too melodramatic a turn to me, but I also don't think Alvin is just a red herring. Michael, any thoughts on what Chaough's got up his sleeve?

Julia, I'm convinced by your suggestion that Roger never hired Don at all. That Don took advantage of Roger's drunkenness and made up the job offer is all but confirmed by the smirk Don wears as the elevator doors close. This interpretation certainly takes some of the shine off of Roger's brag that he discovered Don, but then again, it's pretty magnanimous of Roger to honor a job offer made while blackout drunk. Couldn't you imagine that conversation outside the elevator going a different way?

Don: You hired me.
Roger: You're Rufus T. Bullshit. Get out of my lobby.

Maybe Roger just thought it was easier to hire the pesky fur salesman than to keep batting him away. Maybe it occurred to Roger that it wouldn't be so bad having a guy in the office who suggests drinks at 10 a.m. But he didn't have to let Don get on that elevator. Don't be too hard on yourself, Roger. One way or another, you get some credit for bringing the Draper touch—such as it is—into the Sterling Cooper sphere. Plus, you brought Joan back, for which we're all eternally grateful.

Aspiration's as good as perspiration,
John

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