Allison certainly had a rough time of it in this episode, and while we saw just how apt an episode title “The Rejected” turned out to be — for all our characters — I don’t think this resonated as strongly with anyone else as it did with her.
And I say that for a few reasons. It can certainly be argued that Don’s problems, both drinking and philandering, are certainly worse than having your heart broken over a one night stand. But while we the viewers might not have firsthand experience with being a drunk or cheating on our spouses, we’ve all had our hearts broken. When can all think back to a time when we were doe-eyed and optimistic, and how the smallest gesture from the person we loved could set the tone for our day, our week, our month. Conversely, we know how devastating it can be when that love isn’t reciprocated. So when Allison tells Don she’s leaving the Agency and would appreciate a letter of recommendation, and Don tells her to write up whatever she wants and he’ll sign it, throwing collectible globes at him from across the office suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy.
Speaking of Don, life certainly does seem to be raining s**t on him, no? There are moments in the office when he almost seems upbeat. But then everybody goes home for the night, the lights turn off, and we see him slumped over on his couch looking completely and utterly defeated. I really and truly feel that this is a man who’s just about reached the end of his rope. When he finally stumbled back to his apartment and starts writing Allison that letter from his typewriter, I think it all stemmed from a sincere desire to apologize for the way he treated her, but in the end he realized that sending a letter and spilling all his feelings would be almost as pathetic as his drinking habit.
Obviously the Allison situation isn’t the only thing that’s got Don down. The focus group seemed to be a bust, as far as the response from the girls they had there went. The theme in the show of out with the old and in with the new is really starting to rear its head this season, and I think that at the fringes of Don’s consciousness he’s started to realize that maybe he’s becoming a bit irrelevant. You look at the office and we see Peggy and Pete as the up-and-comers. Bert Cooper seems to have faded into the background. Every now and then he’ll pop up in the background of this or that scene, sitting on a couch and eating a snack. I think Don’s floating in the nebulous area in between the two, and if he can’t figure out a way to change, he just might disappear.
A few thoughts about the Peggy situation. Mad Men has always been a show with layers, and while the same is true of this season I think that it’s dispensed with a lot of its subtlety. I mean, I was really kind of surprised to see Joyce going around with that “I am a lesbian” sign around her neck. I don’t know if the character herself only served as a device to get Peggy to the party, or if she just isn’t meant to have the depth of a character like Sal. Or maybe I’m wrong on both counts and Joyce’s openness about her sexuality is just another sign of the changing times. Yeah. It’s probably that one. While Peggy’s kiss with Joyce’s friend definitely opens possibilities for her, I really don’t see it going anywhere. If we see Peggy as a sort of protege of Don, then she’s a lot more conservative than she probably wants to admit, and while the occasional fling may be fun for her, longer, sustained relationships are harder. This just isn’t a well I see her going back to.
Surprisingly, the one who seems to have come out on top in the middle of all of this is Pete. He’s got a smokin’ wife, a kid on the way, and he just brought in a six million dollar account. While the feeling that something’s been lost is strong with several of the other characters, I don’t really get that from him. In that scene at the end of the episode, where he and Peggy catch each other through the glass doors, you can tell that Peggy’s imagining how things could have turned out between the two of them. With Pete, it seems more like he’s happy with the life he has and the decisions he’s made. I’m sure the fact that he has a son somewhere out there causes him a certain amount of mental anguish, but I feel like he’s made his peace with it. It feels like, more than anything, he wants his relationship with Peggy to be more casual, rather than the formal back and forth thing they’ve kind of got going right now.
Another name for this episode might have been, “Don’t Get Left Behind.” It’s a theme in the show that really jumped to the forefront in this episode, which I think Don, Peggy and Pete could all attest to.