Mad Men, “The Rejected”

On this past week’s Firewall and Iceberg podcast, Sepinwall and Fienberg discussed Mad Men‘s execution of its themes and whether or not said execution was on-the-nose or not. Both of those gentlemen came to the conclusion that while Matthew Weiner makes certain that the audience takes in the point he’s trying to make each week, the series isn’t often on-the-nose in the way some were criticizing it for last week. It’s easy to agree with smart people, but I’m totally with the HitFix duo, as I’ve always thought the themes of Mad Men were out in the open each week and that’s probably why I tend to beat said themes to death in my recaps (Perhaps too much because I find that I haven’t been including enough criticism or analysis in the last few weeks).

Anyway, it’s then not surprising that this week’s episode puts one the major themes right in the title: rejection. A number of characters deal with or react to some form of rejection throughout the episode, leading to some heartfelt and entertaining moments. For Allison, the residual feelings from being used and abused by Don bubble to the surface in a research session, leading to tears, confusion, anger and her ultimate departure. Conflicted by both how he treated her and how she reacts after the research session, Don finds himself on the receiving end of some rejection from Allison, who refuses to keep her job and write-up her own letter of recommendation.

I’m very pleased that the Don-Allison relationship was explored more in this episode because though I enjoyed their flirty tête à tête last week, it wasn’t really enough and I actually thought Don had buried another problem deep below. However, Allison’s blow up seems to have shaken him a little bit, enough so that he didn’t lose it when she threw that orb and even felt embarrassed enough to chase her to the hall. But again, his attempts at being nice fall apart when he offers to sign whatever recommendation she writes up because all Allison wants from him is some sort of actual acknowledgment of her personal worth, either professionally or personally. Just like the bonus two weeks ago, the intent was nice, but the context and the execution were sloppy and messy — two adjectives that certainly describe this Don.

However, it does seem that Allison’s rejection of him might bring Don out of his funk, if only a little. Sure, he drunkenly tries to write her an apology and ultimately does not, but at least he’s thinking about being remorseful and again, didn’t turn her crying and hurt feelings into something about her being a child (like Peggy did). I think Don certainly recognizes he did the wrong things and though he hasn’t made that clear to anyone else yet, self acknowledgment is a start.

Meanwhile, although he discovers that he’s going to be a father (again), Pete isn’t really sure how to feel. This should be a time of euphoria for Pete, but for a number of reasons — the anger and sadness over the child he conceived with Peggy, a general discontent with Trudy perhaps? — he’s mostly numb. Those confusing feelings get even more jumbled when he’s forced to face off with his self-appointed rival, the soon-to-be married Ken Cosgrove. To me, it seems as though Pete always feels rejected. The series has gotten a lot of story mileage out of putting him in jealous and disappointing situations where he feels jipped or misused, but it’s interesting that even when things are going really, really well for Pete, he’s still far from happy. Now obviously, that’s a statement that could be made about millions of people, but Pete wanted a child so bad in previous years that once he found out it actually already happened but he couldn’t have any control over that life, all the air was sucked out of the experience.

And for Peggy, finding out that Pete’s having a baby he can boast about and from her point of view, be happy about, is totally humiliating. Learning that Pete’s news surely brings back a flood of feelings for Peggy, who is still young and perhaps just not as good as her mentor Don at shoving the past down. She’s done a magnificent job of molding herself into this modern, young, wise woman and although she is still that, the veneer comes crumbling down when reminded of the past, and I’m guessing this might send Peggy onto an even more intriguing path in the future. She more or less leads on a lesbian and kisses a rogue reporter while attending a swanky underground party this week. The episode not so subtly points out at the end that Peggy is now part of a younger, more female-driven group of thinkers and this is a group she’s actively tried to get into because the masculine, suited-up folks she sees Pete in is a life she could have had in a way. Not that she would ever be that ingrained in a boys club with Roger Sterling, but you get it. Thus, while Pete’s always wanted to get in with Sterling and co., he’s finally do just that — work success, family stability — right as his younger peers, including Peggy, are finding comfort in a new way of thinking. Stupid Harry even mentions that he, Ken and Pete are part of a up-and-coming group of ad guys.

Your thoughts on “The Rejected?”

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