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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

a few thoughts on ‘Mad Men’: “Chinese Wall”

A Chinese wall is an ethical barrier designed to prevent conflicts of interest (according to Investopedia). And Don certainly tries to break that wall down when he asks Faye to give him some insider scoop on her other agency clients. Oops. Bad Don. But don’t worry, Don: There’s always another pretty woman around to speak nicely to you and kiss your boo-boos away.

Really: There is no middle ground for Don when it comes to women. Either they’re invisible to him, functional furniture — like poor Miss Blankenship was — or he’s on top of them because they smiled sweetly at him. Sheesh.

Mostly, though, this episode felt more like a Chinese fire drill, with everyone running around like headless chickens, panicking but accomplishing almost nothing except stressing themselves out more. Everyone is either lying — like Roger in his hotel room pretending he’s flown down to North Carolina to try to fix the “sudden” problem with Lucky Strikes — or putting on a game face, like Don, who tells a roomful of SCDP employees (so many of them!) that everything’s going to be okay, but then desperately begging Peggy not to screw up the Playtex presentation, because now they really, really need this new client.
Pete is even more nervous than usual, twitching like a scared rabbit every time someone says boo to him here. He’s gotta be ready to jump ship to that other agency, especially now that Trudy has had the baby and he’s getting lectured by his father-in-law about responsibility.

Only Peggy seems together here. Even after Stan continues to be such a jerk. Even in the light of the shift in her relationship with Abe — which went from “I hate you, you commie bastard” to “Get back in my bed, you stud” seemingly overnight — and her resulting distress in light of the Lucky Strikes disaster: “Every time something good happens, something bad happens. I knew I’d pay for it.” (I hear ya, girlfriend.) But she aced the Playtex presentation — even with lipstick on her teeth. Maybe she’ll be the only one to survive everything by the time the series ends. I see her as the Don Draper of her own agency someday…

I had a sad, sneaking suspicion that Roger is not going to make it much longer. He’s lost everything now: he’s lost Lucky Strike, the confidence of his coworkers, and Joan, who gives him what sure sounds like a final push-off. Even the fresh new copies of his autobiography can’t cheer him up. Might he have another heart attack: a final one? Or will he end it all himself?

The season finale is only two episodes away. I don’t see it all ending well.

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