Mad Men s4e4: The Rejected

“You can’t tell how people are going to behave by how they have behaved.”

ATTENTION! I have an urgent and horrifying news story: Don continues to be entirely obtuse. More on that at 11.

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Lucky Strike call realness. || image courtesy of Imgur

During a particularly prickly conference call with Lee Garner Jr, Don receives a letter with a photo from Anna and relaxes for a hot second. Note how Don now has photos on his desk, a callback to Conrad Hilton’s criticism from Season 3.

This episode focuses a lot on Peggy and Pete, and how wildly their paths have diverged. These days, Peggy is largely confident and happy with who she is; she gave up Pete’s baby and that life she’s ‘supposed’ to want to pursue something she actually wants — a life of her very own. She’s an influential part of SCDP, works hard and has a lot to show for it. She’s in a place where her confidence and earnestness are revered, and finds fulfillment in her career. Sure, her new friend Joyce seems “pretentious” according to SCDP receptionist Megan, but Peggy dreamily responds with admiration to that remark.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

That Kool-Aid is powerful, though. Even with all of this good shit, she still tries on Faye’s engagement ring while the focus group is in full swing (to Don’s amusement). And when she hears Trudy and Pete are gonna blow out a baby, it understandably throws her for a bit of a loop. Her mixed feelings aren’t regret or ~feelings~ per se, but rather just a lot of emotion that came back to the surface after being dormant for so long. It’s complicated. Et cetera. It’s like when an old ex gets engaged, and you pause for a beat. You don’t give a damn about that guy, but it’s still dissonant for a second.

Trudy’s pregnancy takes Pete entirely by surprise, especially since he got the news dropped on him by the father in law when he was supposed to be firing Clearasil. Pete had no interest in adoption, and wasn’t sure he wanted a kid in general –- probably due in part to his own dysfunctional WASPy upbringing, and a tinge of the betrayal he felt from Peggy’s confession in Meditations in an Emergency –- but when he learns that he’s knocked up Trudy, he realises that, like the wife he truly needs and learned to love, it is indeed something he yearns for in his life.

Pete and Pegs may work in the same place, but they are in two distinctly different worlds. That shot of them catching each other’s gaze from different worlds through the glass SCDP doors is weighty; she’s heading out with her fun, colourful bohemian friends, he’s with the old money crowd in suits. Gotta live your truth.

In the focus group for Pond’s, there’s a fucking enormous meltdown of entirely too many lady feelings. Faye tries valiantly to get the girls to yap about the ritual and treating yourself to prove that Peggy’s pitch is the right way to go, but it all goes right back to Freddy’s hysterically dated marriage-centric idea. The only one who responds to Peggy’s idea is Megan, who shares a story about her mother’s AM routine.

And when Allison eventually cracks, Don squirms in his seat.

Good god, that man is fucking obtuse. Finally admitting they had a bang after Allison backed him into a corner, she states that she’s going to resign her position, requesting a letter of recommendation. And being the world class shithead that he is, Don tells her to write one herself on his letterhead and he’ll sign it; now, this ain’t an uncommon practice, but GOOD LORD, Draper, can’t you see that she’s desperately trying to get you to recognise her value in some capacity? Allison responds by hurling an object across the room at him in anger.

“I don’t say this easily.. but you are not a good person.”

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image courtesy of Celebuzz

This explosion of emotion and noise is another symptom of a Don who ain’t very good at being Don Draper right now; he’s full on human mess edition, sitting alone at the office until the soothing hum of the floor waxer lulls him home. When he gets to his apartment, he begins typing a letter to Allison, apologising and saying “my life is very”.. stopping dead. Very what? A raging tire fire? Mortifying? A dumpster apocalypse? Oof.

Whatever his life may be at this moment in time, and the important people in it, is very much not something he had planned to be living when we see him in the pilot.

Ah, Miss Blankenship! A bright spot in this episode. As always, Joan reads between the lines and understand exactly what Don needs and gives him an hysterical older lady secretary to replace Allison. 

The research has come in, and sure enough.. Pond’s should be linked to matrimony. Sigh. Don brings up a good point arguing for Peggy’s vision for the Pond’s campaign over Freddie’s. Maybe this is a campaign so new and bold that people don’t yet have a context for it; there are women who feel this way and they’re simply not being reached.

(But hey, look at Megan from that focus group! She not only kept her shit together the whole time, she also related to the idea, showing that Peggy’s pitch and Don defense of it are on to something.)

“Why are you being so hostile? You think I’ve never had this argument before?”

“Because you go in there and you stick your finger in people’s brains and they just start talking just to be heard. And you know what? Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, but it’s nobody’s business!”

Christ.. way to dropkick a hornet’s nest, Faye. Don is such an intensely private weirdo who won’t share jack shit about himself on principle, so he’s lashing out. He doesn’t like his creative process being fucked with, he doesn’t want anyone knowing a damn thing about him, and he certainly believes that past behaviour is not always predictive of future behaviour, implying he’s living proof.

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I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. || image courtesy of ONTD 

But.. it’s true when it comes to Peggy, Pete, and Ken, and most of the other significant characters in this episode. They have changed and evolved, right along with the world here. They do some shit in 1965 that their 1960 selves would definitely not have ever believed. They’ve rejected parts of themselves from before, whether for better (a more adult Pete, a bolder more confident Peggy) or worse (a drunk sad sack Don, a stressed out Kenny). The evolution of these characters is equal parts fascinating and true to life.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

Peggy heading out to the warehouse art haus video party in Washington Market and snogging new guy Abe in a closet during a police raid is absolutely NOT something 1960 Peggy would have done.

In the closing scene with the elderly couple in the hallway, Don pauses before closing his door. The wife is ambling up the hallway to her husband in their door, emphatically asking if she got pears. This is a life Don doesn’t think he’ll have a shot at anymore, that bizarre sort of intimacy and deep connection with another person. I mean, he deffo won’t if he keeps up this convoy of drunken mayhem and getting slapped by hookers. It’s no way to learn how to be actually intimate with anyone.

“Hello, 1925. I’m not gonna do that.”

 

Mad Men s3e12: The Grown-Ups

“Just because she went to India doesn’t mean she’s not an idiot.”

Ah Pete, let down again, in a frigid office nonetheless. Kenny and his haircut beat him out as the Head of Accounts position, but Lane remains optimistic. Time to start branching out, I guess. Trudy’s gentle coaching is great, you can tell she’s genuinely on his side. She really supports Pete, and in spite of his stepping out and other entirely absurd qualities, I think they make a great team. She really loves that totally ridiculous man.

Margaret is about to get married, and is having a meltdown over Jane’s overextending faux niceness in the form of some super fucking expensive earrings. Mona agrees with her (along with Roger), but doesn’t think that the wedding should be canned; Roger and Mona work really well in sync to get Margaret to fall in line and stop acting like a brat.

Speaking of which.. once Roger tells Jane to back off, she responds by locking herself in the bathroom, mid-tantrum. Real mah-toor.

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ah, shit. || image courtesy of Tumblr

Awaiting Pegs for a lunchtime fuck, the news begins to break re:JFK. Class act through and through, Duck unplugs the TV. I didn’t think he could top leaving Chauncey out to roost in Maidenform, but I guess I was wrong..

In the afterglow, he plugs the TV back in to peep the news; Peggy is horrified not only at the fact that the president is dead, but also that he clearly knew what was up but went on with the bang anyway. Gross.

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ah, shit part deux. || image courtesy of JimCofer

Not surprisingly, Margaret’s wedding the next day is a sparsely attended disaster, though Roger keeps spirits up with a good speech and staying as positive as possible, turning the day to the two young people in love right in front of him. Seeing Henry from across the room, Betty is transfixed; on the dancefloor, Don pines for his wife’s attention, but it’s painfully obvious that Betty has checked out. It’s super sad that this is the most we’ve ever seen Don covet his own wife, something she’s yearned for since the pilot, and right now she couldn’t be more indifferent to his existence.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

Post-wedding, Roger rings Joan, with a drunk Jane snoring in the background. At the end of the day, he still wants to chat with Joan which is sort of sweet. Sometimes you just want to talk to someone who gets it.

Roger: “Nobody else is saying the right thing about this.”

Joan: “My god, you’re really upset..”

Roger: “What’s that about?”

Joan: “Because there’s nothing funny about this.”

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image courtesy of NJ.com

Aaaaand, Lee Harvey Oswald has been shot and killed. Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been to see unfold on live television? This is a time before the ubiquitous 24-hour news cycle we’re familiar with today. Betty’s shrieking fear is tangible, and she pushes Don away on her way out of the den. Sneaking off for a drive to see Henry,  she appears significantly calmer as she explains she couldn’t stand to stay in that house. And hey, it turns out Henry wants to marry her. That escalated quickly.. “If you search your heart.. you’ll know that I can make you happy.”

It’s notable that Henry can easily make her smile in this uncertain time. It’s a simple gesture, that he’d love to take her to a cinema somewhere that’s playing her favourite movie; Singin’ in the Rain.. and Betty’s smile lights up the Lincoln at the mere thought of it. He reinforces that everything will be OK, and to think of her fave flick in the meantime. Henry Francis is the opposite of Don, of what she’s known; he never belittled her feelings, but aligned with her and thoughtfully tried to cheer her up. You go, Hank Frank.

Angry and upset with Don, Betty comes home and speaks her mind. She doesn’t love him anymore, and he looks entirely crestfallen and shocked to hear those words from her. I feel for Don in this scene; in spite of him being a bastard to her on and off and a generally horrendous husband, that’s still an agonising thing to hear. Natch, he tries to deflect and minimise her emotions by changing the conversation. Oy.

Betty: “You can’t even hear me right now.”

Don: “You’re right.”

Hurt, Don retreats to the bedroom. Believing Betty doesn’t love him anymore due to who he really is, that he’s just some dirt poor farm kid and she is above him, Don misses the point; what he fails to see is that he’s been lying to his own wife for an actual decade. That’s real betrayal, real sadness. Ya fucked it up, Don.

Time to yap about the main event serving as a backdrop for a hot second. So many historians have rapped about how the JFK assassination functioned as an incredibly significant watershed cultural moment, blowing cracks in American societal norms and trends to create the remainder of the 1960s.. where the resulting shit gets crazy. Juxtaposing Betty’s dawning realisation that nothing makes sense in regards to the Old Rules (i.e. what kept things in their right place throughout the 1950s and how she chose to live her life according to said rules in order to attain happiness), her frightened and helpless reaction to Lee Harvey Oswald being shot on live television says it all.

“What is going on???”

The JFK assassination was not The Cuban Missile Crisis, in that it was not just another important historical event. It was exactly what this episode displays; JFK being murdered violently jolted the characters out of the inherent complacency of the old. The JFK assassination and subsequent murder of Lee Harvey Oswald created a cynical brand of nihilism that fed into the 1960s as a reaction to the idealism of the prior decade. Time to jumpstart the counterculture.

(Sidenote- as someone who was born 21 years after the JFK assassination.. I thought this episode gave some meaningful real life context to an event which I’ve only ever indirectly experienced via history books, documentaries, and my parents’ retelling of the day.)

As the wheels turn in Betty’s head about divorcing Don and moving on with Henry, having something like this come in and harshly turn everything upside down helps her move that decision along. Nothing is as it seems anymore, the old rules legit don’t apply. The world is a-changin’.

Hell! Even the Campbells, our favourite WASP-y couple, are totally disgusted at the hollowness of their friends and colleagues’ reactions to the event. They end up boycotting Margaret’s wedding as a form of protest, criticising Harry losing his shit about TV ratings due to shows (and their ads) being pre-empted for news coverage. Why should they be celebrating his boss’ spoiled daughter’s wedding when the president has just been murdered?

Come Monday morning, Don sneaks around the corner to assess the damage. Betty doesn’t even meet his gaze as he slinks out.

In the office, Don sees that Peggy is the only other one there working; thank fuck she’s not hanging out with Duck, at least. Realising that the Aqua Net campaign is all but useless post-JFK assassination with the similarities to the Dallas motorcade, she’s working on rewrites. Turns out her apartment has been invaded by her roomate’s friends and their neighbours, and not even Anita’s house offered a safe haven. There’s no space for her to process.

“And then I went over to my sister’s, and my mother was crying and praying so hard there wasn’t room for anyone else to feel anything..”

Ugh, this episode is sad all around. But let’s be real.. Don had that shit coming.

Mad Men s3e8: Souvenir

“New York in August? It’s like a great big melting wax museum.”

It’s the dog days of summer. Sweaty Don goes to catch lightning bugs with his kids at Betty’s suggestion, while Pete comes home to an empty apartment. Trudy has gone to spend some time with her parents.

While Betty works on some reservoir shit, Hilton rings the house; Don has been bounced around all sorts of American cities/toilets checking out hotels and getting to know the brand, and now Connie wants him to hit up Rome. Betty is intrigued by the idea, as Don scribbles down the Pan-Am flight details on her cold call list. Her eyes light up at the idea of an international trip, but then the reality slaps her in the face; they have a 2-month old baby (not to mention 2 other young kids) here at home. Boo-urns.

Bachelor Pete seems pretty content watching Davey and Goliath and eating cereal, laughing to himself; then he passes out later in the day. Eventually imitating a real person, he heads to Gristedes for some groceries and spots the neighbour’s busty German Au Pair frantically stuffing a stain-dress into the trash chute. Pete tries to help her out, and hey-o, Joan works at the department store now!

Turns out Joan had to take something of a trash job while things are tough at home; Greg is changing his specialty to therapy. Sigh. The good news is that she’s mastering her job at the department store, but she’s still deflated once Pete leaves, thinking of the life and prestige she had at Sterling Cooper.

Betty goes about her day, applies her lipstick in one fell flawfree swoop, while Sally gazes on in awe. It’s time for that reservoir hearing, and Henry makes shit happen. As he walks her to her car, Betty is driving her father’s Lincoln; she thought it would be good luck. Hank goes in for the kiss, and Betty reciprocates though she stays quiet and vaguely mysterious.

“They should just do it up in Newburgh. It’s already disgusting.”

At home, Betty is on a happy high from winning (and snogging Henry), and jumps at the opportunity to hit up Rome with Don. There, she can have the chance to feel smart and interesting, and hey, she speaks fluent Italian. The reservoir hearing was a good step in the right direction, a place where she could feel like she was more than just the housewife or Don’s shiny better half for some work dinner.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Landing in Rome, Don and Betty look exhausted. Speaking Italian without missing a beat, Betty side-eyes Don for overtipping their bellboy. Post-nap, she makes an appointment to get her hair set, and emerges totally stunning for their dinner with Conrad Hilton. Taking a seat outside, she orders an Asti. In the midst of being hit on by some Italians, Don approaches her as if they don’t know one another and they indulge in some flirtatious role playing.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wiki

“To whatever they were saying.”

“They said you were ugly.”

“Does that bother you?”

“You think because of the way I’m dressed that I’m shallow?”

“I was just hoping you were easy..”

“They said that too.”

“What brings you to rome? Seen anything interesting?”

“I could take it or leave it.”

Having done a nice favour for the neighbour’s au pair re:dresspocalypse, Pete creeps on her expecting something in return. In a scene that mirrors that of Ladies’ Room in Season 1, when he creeped on Peggy’s doorstep latenight, his sauced frat boy faux charm is a little stale now. Woof, it’s super fucking uncomfortable.

In the following days, his neighbour comes home and he ain’t pleased with Pete’s shenanigans while the cats are away; he’s had some peaceful weeks, and now it’s been disrupted since the au pair is upset about cheating on her boyfriend and ya know, ~Women’s Emotions~. Yikes on bikes all around, but he imparts some valuable advice to Pete; don’t shit where you eat. Philandering 101.

When Trudy comes home, Pete is pretty shellshocked. He doesn’t communicate what actually happened, but he lets Trudy know he doesn’t want her to vacation without him again. Seems like they have an understanding, and they are both happy to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Vacation seems to be so easy for Betty and Don, so effortless; but once they crossed the threshold of their home, they were confronted with the bullshit of the day to day and resume their New York roles in their real life together. Don immediately leaves as Carla starts yapping about the kids while Betty furrows her brow. Life resumes.

How can Don and Betty bring that Roman romance stateside? It takes a lot of work, but Betty may be out of steam at this point. As the wonder wears off from their brief holiday, it’s back to reality at casa Draper; Betty has to address Sally kissing Ernie (and then Sally’s temper– beating the shit out of Bobby for making fun of her). Glancing at the whacking great fainting couch, she thinks of Henry. In one of her better parenting moments, she has a frank conversation with Sally about kissing boys.

“I don’t want you running around kissing boys. And you don’t kiss boys, boys kiss you. The first kiss is very special.”

“But I already did it.. it’s over!”

“You’re going to have a lot of first kisses. You’re going to want it to be special, so you remember. It’s where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone, and every kiss after that is a shadow of that kiss. Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

Betty might have a different opinion if she was married to someone whom she really connected with, someone who understood her and loved her no matter what. But this is what she’s got for the time being, and imparts her wisdom to Sally.

That night, Betty expresses her total exasperation and frustration with their everyday life in Ossining, brought on by Francine’s small town nudging towards Henry Francis in an effort to further stir the pot. In Rome, it was as if they had no problems, no kids bothering them, it was wholly magical. Vacation rules!

But unfortunately, that’s just not real life no matter how much Betty desires that to be; “Aw, Bets– we’ll go away again.” It’s a shame to see just how much of her personality and flair for life Betty suppresses in the interest of being a housewife, to fit into that specific suburban mould. In Italy, she was alive, she was happy, and able to show off how intelligent and vibrant she really is. How can she translate that to work at home?

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Don surprises Betty with a little Colosseum charm for her bracelet, and she is entirely nonplussed. Fed up with her life, she takes it out on Don. Yikes.

“I saw how happy you were in there.. And I thought, ‘Dear God. Did I have anything to do with that?’ Because that would make me happy.”

Mad Men s1e5: 5G

There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, but first we go from the metaphorical Who is Don Draper to the .. wait .. hold the goddamn phone, Who literally IS Don Draper?

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image courtesy of Vulture

Adam Whitman pops up in the city, and Don is not pleased. Apparently someone does read Advertising Age after all. He comes to Don with love and acceptance, just happy to see his half brother after all this time and is met with stone cold rejection.

Mad Men gives us this suave untouchable symbol, this Don Draper and his illusion of complete control. He weaves bullshit webs, and Peggy gets stuck in one when she accidentally overhears his phone conversation with mistress Midge. When Betty and the kids turn up at the office for portrait day, Peggy assumes that Don’s gone off to get it in (when he’s really at lunch with Adam), and momentarily panics. As an honest person, Peggy doesn’t really know how to handle it but to Don, it’s second nature and he’s back with an effortless excuse.

He’s got it all in check until Adam shows up; his entire demeanour becomes the Don we come to know in the rest of the series moving forward. It’s almost like that Don didn’t exist until 5G. And then when he admits to Adam that he missed him, we see some warmth and hope, a glimpse at who he was.

“Of course I did”. The way Don’s face changes says it all. However, he stiffens at the end of the lunch, and his “this never happened” mantra begins. I feel like he’s not sure he believes it when he says it at this point, but it becomes true to him in time.

At first glance, this is a man who’s so deeply ashamed of his past that he’s pretty much panicking and launching money at the problem. But looking deeper, he feels isolated and this helps shed light on his actions; yet he does it to himself. He’s a self-haunted guy.

His entire façade crumbles then hardens– the tone of his voice resets, the whole nine. These are the roots of Don being a million miles away. He’s looking at an old photo of himself with Adam, whiskey in hand, burning it in an effigy to his past. He’s really driving home the tryhard THIS NEVER HAPPENED approach and it’s all so fucking dramatic, but it works in this context.

Brass tacks, all Adam wants is a connection with Don. Love, family, and companionship. Don isn’t prepared to offer any of these things, and only withdraws further over the course of the series/decade or so as the show goes on. It starts off as mysterious and interesting, but ends up being fucking depressing and infuriating.

“I have a life, it only goes in one direction — forward”.

Don’s fundamental misunderstanding of how human connection works is on display here. He’s plying Adam with 5 grand and quite literally cannot understand why he’s upset, cannot get why that isn’t enough. Don figures that he salted the earth of his past self and started over, why can’t Adam do the same?

One of the B plots in this episode is Kenny Cosgrove getting a short story published in The Atlantic, making the other Sterling Cooper guys jealous. Pete convinces Trudy to talk to her vaguely oily ex, and Pete is apoplectic that all she can “get” is Boys Life magazine.. haha. Roger jokes in a meeting that everyone at Sterling Cooper has the first ten pages of a novel locked in a drawer somewhere, Don quips that it’s actually five.. but all we see in his locked drawer is a bunch of Go Cash and things he’d rather forget. It’s all about projecting that image in whatever small way possible.

Seeing the stark contrast between Adam’s hellscape hotel room and Don’s lush master bedroom at home is pretty jarring. This thing Don has built for himself, he doesn’t want to lose that. He’s leaving behind that dismal past he doesn’t want in lieu of the persona he wants to attain, to play out.

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God-awful portrait aside..

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

At the end of the episode, Betty expresses to Don that she likes seeing her dad, a feeling he can’t relate to in the least.

“We gave you everything- we gave you your name”. 

“What difference does it make? People change their names”.

Mad Men s1e4: New Amsterdam

Let’s take a look at everyone’s favourite asshole, Pete Campbell– this episode shows that he’s not your average boorish dickbag. Pete’s waspy parents are over the top to a T with the boat shoes, shite comments, and plaid. It’s conveyed that they’re true Manhattan royalty, dating back many generations; what a shadow to live underneath. And his dad’s a total dick, natch; those dudes always are. “We gave you everything; we gave you your name. What have you done with it?”

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Well, this is sufficiently uncomfortable.

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia.

What’s in a name, anyway?

How can Pete individually define himself, as his own separate entity? He wants something different. Thus far, we’ve only seen Pete as a snarky weirdo who’s boned Peggy and been a general smarmy creep. However, no matter how hard he tries, his father is not impressed with his job (or him). Pete has to work his ass off to be one iota as charming and suave as Don, which is probably why he admires him. His wife’s family is ready to help at the drop of a hat, while his own parents do approximately fuckall in that department.

Looking at Pete’s parents versus Trudy’s parents, it’s essentially night and day. Pete feels like a heel, unable to buy the apartment on his own. He also assumes the cash from the in-laws comes with several strings because his own parents are lunatic WASPs.

In the midst of all this, Betty and Helen have a moment where she learns why Helen is divorced. “Turns out none of them were men”. Simple, but enough of an “oh fuck” moment for Betty, getting the wheels turning.

Trying to regain some sense of the upper hand, Pete pitches copy to a vaguely unhappy client, “cousins” included for a night of boozin’ at the St. Regis. Ah yes, the Bethlehem Steel schmuck and his hookers– he’s quick to dismiss Pete’s idea and get it in with the 19 year-old to his right. “I would’ve thought you slept all day and bathed in milk”.

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image courtesy of Reddit

The next day, said schmuck is suddenly SUPER into Pete’s idea and Don is livid. Don attempts to fire Pete with Roger on board, but Burt puts the kibosh on it due to who he is and his connections. Ironically, Pete’s name-identity has saved him much to Don’s chagrin. It reminds Don that he comes from nothing, and that the silver spoon types tend to get ahead in life no matter what, regardless of talent. Oy.

In their new apartment, Trudy and her parents are flitting around, delighted. Pete isn’t necessarily thrilled that their old bat neighbour is so into his lineage, but he’s lost in thought staring at the Manhattan skyline. Maybe his name has done something useful for him after all.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

PS, this episode concludes with one of my favourite songs in life. Give it a whirl!