Don has been the center of every episode this season, but in “The Rejected,” he takes a backseat, though he is the most rejected character, being the odd man out in nearly every situation. Instead, the two Ps, Pete and Peggy, are the focus–and rightfully so, after the third season barely touched on them.
Somehow, Pete is able to spin rejection into positives. When he is about to tell his father-in-law, Tom, that Clearasil must be dumped for Pond’s, he is treated to the best of news–Trudy is pregnant. Then when he breaks the Clearasil news to Tom, under the happiness of Trudy’s pregnancy, he manages to take millions more dollars. He’ll lose Clearasil and in turn, gain all of Vicks. Pete is savvy (cutthroat from Tom’s point of view) and he’s going to be a father, signs that he’s really grown up.
On the other hand, Peggy meets Joyce who has a stack of rejected photos and enters an entirely different world–1965–where there’s an art show with drugs and a wacky film. Interestingly, Peggy’s mind is still on advertising, asking the photographer whether he’d like to do advertising. Eventually, the cops come, but Peggy is exhilarated.
While Peggy seems to be veering off in another direction, we’re reminded that she’d like to settle down eventually, and Pete is slipping away. Acting very mean, she scolds a sobbing Allison for the suggestion that she may have done something with Don, a testament to the way she thinks Allison is commenting on her and Pete. She slips on Faye’s ring as Don looks on with a smile and later tries talking to Pete, but musters a few brief words on congratulations before running off.
The final scene, which felt contrived to bring the two groups in close proximity, features Peggy and her new friends, young people wearing and assortment of colors, and Pete and his group, a drab looking collection of old guys in black suits. They stare at each other in a passing moment, knowing there is something between them despite their current positions. But does Pete belong with the upper-management and does Peggy belong with this youthful progressive crowd? Will they be rejected?
And then there’s Don, in stark contrast to Peggy and Pete in the sun-filled rooms of SCDP, trudging back to his dark, dreary apartment where an old man repeatedly asks his wife about pears.
Season Four of Mad Men is about Don and his spiral downward. So far, we’ve seen prostitutes, drinking, and professional rejection–one area where Don usually can succeed. Faye’s research shows the opposite of Peggy’s idea of a ritual, and while Don argues that the research may not play out in similar fashion in the real world, he can’t win. Don reluctance to budge one bit and totally discount Faye’s research works against him in the end, whereas Pete decides to take the rejection and makes a sly move to get even more. If this keeps up, Pete will eventually outmaneuver him.
But we also see the spark of a man who wishes to come out, but can’t muster the courage to come through. When Allison starts breaking down, Don is visibly agitated, first squirming in his seat and then pulling out a cigarette, so he’s conscious of the fact that he’s the primary reason for her woes. Don begins a letter to Allison containing the line “Right now my life is very,” before crumpling it up as he retreats back, afraid to confront himself and what he’s become. We know his life sucks, but what does Don think about himself? For now it’s bad news on more bad news without an exit, no place to run this time around.
Four episodes into the season and Don has not rebounded yet, nor has he done anything too drastic. I’m very interested in how far Matthew Weiner is willing is push Don. “The Rejected” didn’t do much other than reinforce what we already knew, but the developments for Pete and Peggy are promising.
- It sucks, but apparently Joan isn’t one of those young, perky girls from 18-25 meant for Faye’s testing.
- “Another Campbell–that’s just what the world needs.” I wonder what would draw Pete’s attention.
- “The jockey smokes the cigarettes.” Best line of the episode. How about this for an advertisement?
- No Betty for two weeks!
- Peggy peaking over to see Don had me laughing.
- Someone should give Allison a hug. Rejected by Don and then a bitchy Peggy. Where’s Joan?
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Tags: Mad Men