Mad Men‘s latest episode “Forecast” opens with Don’s real estate agent Melanie preparing to show Don’s apartment to prospective buyers. Melanie is far from encouraging and tells Don that his apartment reeks of loneliness. She says, “It looks like a sad person lives here.” Don responds with a weak declaration that “A lot of good things happened here.”
Past episodes of Mad Men have chronicled Don’s attempts to face up to his past and clean up his present state of affairs. From acknowledging his humble, shadowy beginnings, to coming clean with Sally, to peeling off a cool million-dollar check for Megan, Don has definitely made progress in this regard. “Forecast” sets Don on a new trajectory of contemplating and envisioning his future. Don’s search for meaning and vision is the catalyst for most of his interactions in the office and on the home front. The closing song of last week’s “New Business” episode set the stage perfectly. ”Is that all there is?”
At SC&P, Roger reminds Don that their “benevolent overlords” at McCann are convening a state of the business executive retreat in the Bahamas and that SC&P has been asked to present its vision of the future. Roger makes a cynical comment about not being caught drinking anything other than Coke (McCann’s big billing account) and tells Don that Harry is providing the numbers. He needs Don to write an inspirational mission statement and agency vision that will impress the boys at McCann. Roger suggests “something like the Gettysburg Address,” only in 2,550 words instead of 272. Roger’s request sets Don on path of introspection and seeking a deeper truth. Don spends most of the episode asking his colleagues to articulate their dreams and aspirations. As they open up to Don, he questions the meaning and relevance of it all.
McCann has a rich history of convening big think management meetings. With its global expansion underway and an aggressive acquisition program in place, these retreats were an important part of McCann’s operations. When I arrived at McCann in the mid 80s the retreats were still being held and I attended a few of them. I distinctly remember a meeting held at a Florida Keys resort (where the CEO anchored his boat) under the theme of “Unleashing Our Power & Passion,” I found them inspiring and a great way to connect with the people behind the creative work. McCann was still a boys club and the free time usually convened around fishing, golf, tennis, lots of alcohol and, of course, Coca Cola products everywhere.
This is Don’s opportunity to envision the next decade for advertising, the agency and, by extension, himself. This should be a big platform for Don to shine. He asks his secretary for a copy of SCD&P’s first press release for some inspiration and then hits the office couch to dictate a draft. Don starts, “We know where we’ve been. We know where we are. Let’s assume that it’s good. Imagine it gets better. It’s supposed to get better.” His fumbling attempt at articulating a vision gets Don off the couch and into the halls of SC&P for inspiration. Don drops in on Ted and finds out that Ted turned down Roger’s request for help. Don whines about their situation at McCann and says, “There’s less to actually do and more to think about.” Apparently, being rich with a lot of free time isn’t enough for Don. Ted tells Don that his dream is to land an oil company and a pharmaceutical and enjoy the prestige and money attached to them. Don says that before the McCann acquisition he wondered whether he would even be in the business and observes, “Bigger accounts, that’s your greatest desire?”
Don’s next step on the path to enlightenment turns Peggy’s demand for a performance review into a shrink session for Don. Peggy clearly articulates her goals: to be the first woman creative director at the agency, to land a huge client, to write a catch phrase. Peggy wants lasting, enduring fame. She is deeply offended when Don incredulously replies, “in advertising?” An angry Peggy storms out telling Don it’s exactly what she expects from him. “Write down your dreams so I can shit all over them.” So far, Don’s quest for an inspiring vision for the agency and himself is a big disappointment
A problem with the Peter Pan client set sets the stage for awkward interactions between Don, Peggy and the creative department. Pete tells Don that Mathis dropped the f***bomb in a client meeting after they criticized his work on Peter Pan Cookies. (As an aside, I couldn’t find any references to a Peter Pan cookie introduction in the 70s, but it would have been a smart line extension.) They review new creative ideas to name the product Tinker Bell supported with advertising using humorous puns like, “One ‘tink’ and you’re hooked.” Don stands up for Mathis and later they discuss how Don diffused a similar situation with an opening lighthearted joke.
When they next meet with Peter Pan executives, Mathis takes Don’s suggestion a bit too literally and jokingly says, “I can’t believe you two have the balls to walk back into this place after the way you embarrassed yourselves.” The clients do not react well. A pissed off Mathis storms into Don’s office informing Don that he’s now off the account and blames Don’s terrible advice for the outcome. He tells Don that “guys like you” never have to apologize. Don shoots back telling Mathis he failed because he has no character. Mathis seals his fate when he says, “You don’t have any character. You’re just handsome”. Game over. ”Mathis, you’re fired.” I’ve encountered a number of “creatives behaving badly” situations and resolving them requires a delicate balancing act between creative department morale and client management. It is difficult for the creative teams to recover from situations like this. Securing approval of creative work often hinges on the client’s personal trust and confidence in the creative team. Once that is lost, tension and unease prevail and the approval process deteriorates.
Joan travels to SC&P’s Los Angeles office to discuss talent recruitment with Lou Avery
and to interview an account group candidate, Jim McCloud. In addition to recruiting a new account man, Joan recruited Richard Burghoff to be her lover. Despite Richard’s initial misgivings about Joan’s family status, he sees the light and continues to woo Joan in New York. As Richard remarked when he first met Joan, “I may be near sighted, but I‘m not blind”. Hopefully this is Joan’s time to find happiness by adding a new beau to her recently acquired millionaire lifestyle. I am looking forward to seeing Roger’s reaction.
I also enjoyed seeing how Lou Avery is making the most his exile at SC&P West and adapting to the laid back, entertainment culture of Hollywood. Creative people often work on sideline projects and it’s no surprise when Dee tells Joan that Lou is spending a lot of time working on his comic with Hanna-Barbera.
The Draper family also experienced some unexpected, tense encounters. A thin, cool
looking Glen Bishop drops by Sally’s house to let them now that he has enlisted in the army and will be headed to Viet Nam. Sally erupts, expresses her disapproval and storms off. Later, Glen returns and stuns Betty when he tells her that he feels safe in joining the army “because I know you’re mine.” Betty rebuffs his attempt to kiss her. Glen eventually admits that he’s joining because he flunked out of school and Betty offers him some comfort. Don hosts a farewell dinner for Sally and her friends who are setting off on a teen tour excursion. One of Sally’s friends flirts with Don and that sets Sally off on a tirade accusing Don and Betty of not being able to control themselves when they receive attention. Sally tells Don that she wants to get away from both of them.
After Sally’s Greyhound bus departs, Don returns to his empty, lonely apartment expecting more of the same. Instead, Melanie delivers the good news that she sold the apartment at full price with a 30 day closing. As she goes back into the apartment to close the deal, she says to Don, “Now we just have to find a place for you.” Once again, Don is left standing alone contemplating his future. This time, however, he is outside his apartment in the empty hallway as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” plays in the background.
The remaining episodes will reveal just how successful Don is at finding his place.Powered by Sidelines