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‘Mad Men’ Discussion: ‘I Am Big. It’s The Pictures That Got Small’

By 06.03.13

A brief note: Cajun Boy is preoccupied with more pressing family matters right now, so I’ll be wearing Bob Benson’s short shorts this week. Cajun will return next Monday.

This week’s episode title, “A Tale of Two Cities,” is borrowed from a Charles Dickens’ novel set in London and Paris against the backdrop of the French Revolution. This week’s Mad Men was set in Los Angeles and New York, and set against the backdrop of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where there was another revolt taking place between the police and anti-war protestors (and even Dan Rather, who got roughed up during the convention). That seemed to be the overriding theme of this week’s episode, too: REVOLT. There were a number of small and large revolts going on in Sterling Cooper & Partners this week, but in the end, it was Pete Campbell’s poetic f**k it moment to a Janis Joplin song that became the perfect capper to the episode.

(Mad Men conspiracy theorists trying to tie Janis Joplin’s death to Weiner’s narrative may want to be on the look out for a Room 105 — where Joplin died — in future episodes).

The best revolt in last night’s episode was that of Joan Holloway, revolting against the Sterling Cooper patriarchy. She’d landed a lead with an Avon marketing executive, and after she took it to Peggy for advice, Peggy steered her toward Ted Chaogh, thinking Chaugh would do the honorable thing and allow Joan to run point on the deal. But as we’ve been learning with these past couple of episodes, Ted’s just as big of a dick as Don Draper; he just hides it better under a veneer of niceties. When Ted set Pete up to run the account, Joan revolted, taking an unwilling Peggy along as an accomplice. Though Joan brought the deal to the 5-yard line, she didn’t do so without alienating Pete and creating some friction with Peggy, who seem to be forging an uneasy alliance, feeding into many people’s theories that those two, in the end, may end up opening their own ad firm. Avon is the perfect client to build a new firm around, too.

There was, however, an awfully awkward “Oh sh*t” moment in the dinner with the Avon marketing exec where it looked like Peggy had basically hung Joan out to dry.

On the subject of Peggy: Wow!

Another revolt, which also played into the “Tale of Two Cities” theme was that between the two sides of the firm, between Sterling Cooper and the Cutler Gleason and Chaough. Fed up with the fact that too many of Cutler Gleason’s people had been lost in the merge — and with Ginsberg’s hippie outburst — Cutler made a play, first by tanking Sterling’s Manischewitz account, then by drafting Bob Benson into the Chevy campaign, and then “compromising” on a firm name: Sterling, Cooper and Partners.

Why Sterling Cooper and Partners? There has to be something insidious at play there (Cutler clearly doesn’t trust the Sterling Cooper gang), and my guess is that the new name will either make it easier for Cutler and Chaough to take their side and leave, or worse, it would be a vicious stab in the back to take the firm and the name away from Sterling, Cooper, and Draper.

Speaking of Cutler, it’s interesting that he would come up on the elevator with Moira. What’s going on there?

The other piece of that revolt was Ginsberg, who went batsh*t on Cutler and nearly ditched the Manischewitz meeting. I’m not sure what the full significance is now, but it’s interesting that Ginsberg would quote Robert Oppenheimer, who created the atomic bomb. I’m sure there’s some foreshadowing there. Ginsberg is at the end of his rope; he’s about to explode. The consequences could be grave.

It’s worth noting, too, that the penultimate episode of this season is called “The Quality of Mercy,” which is a line from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, which is about a Jewish villain. My guess is, if it follows the Megan Draper/Sharon Tate theory, that it will either concern Dr. Rosen finding out about Don’s affair with Sylvia, or potentially Ginsberg finally exploding in a serious way (recall that Lane died in the penultimate episode last year, so it would seem to follow that a major character death may come in the penultimate episode this year, too).

Leave it to good old Stan Rizzo be the man of reason. This line was amazing.

That also brings us to Bon Benson. I love the way he handled Ginsberg’s gay question with a non-answer.

I do think, however, that we’re all reading too much into a dark-timeline Bob Benson. Look what he was listening to:

That’s How I Raised Myself from Failure to Succeed by a failed baseball player turned salesman, Frank Bettinger, who wrote that after teaming up with Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People). Check out Bettinger’s 13 Secrets to Success in Sales, and it’s basically Bob Benson to a tee. He’s clearly been drinking the Bettinger Kool-Aid. The only question is, what “failure” in Benson’s past is he raising himself from?

Then again, maybe he, like Don Draper, has stolen someone else’s identity. Someone spotted this over on Reddit. Notice the sleeves. The symbolism is either that he’s wearing an identity he’s not big enough to fill, or he’s inhabited someone else’s life, literally or metaphorically.


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