Mad Men 4.01 “Public Relations” Recap


– Henry wants to marry Betty
– Don and co are fired. Start own ad agency
– Joan answers phone with ‘Sterling Cooper Draper Price, how may I help you?’

Season Four begins with a question: “Who is Don Draper?” The question is asked by Jack, a journalist doing a piece on Sterling Cooper Draper Price. Don doesn’t want to open up, throwing out bland and rehearsed soundbites. This results in a terse interview, Jack struggling to get any relevant information. Luckily, Roger and Pete show up to ‘save the day,’ putting Jack ill at ease. This leads Jack to bump his leg, revealing it to be a prosthetic. He’s a veteran of the Korean War, and recieves a smug ‘thanks for your sacrifice’ comment from Pete. The bigger picture becomes clear to Jack after he’s given a business card by Roger, and he quickly leaves. When he’s gone, mocking comments about Jack and the restaurent ensue. All is not well at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.

We shift to a meeting between Peter, Roger, Don and some clients. They are Jim and Bob, representing a modest bathing attire company. After brief chatter about how Murray couldn’t make it, they lay their concerns on the table. As a family company, they’re finding it hard to make a dent in the market. Don sums up their problem with two complex questions about what they’re asking, flabbergasting the two men. They want to escape the gutter while remaining modest, something that clearly doesn’t make any sense to Don.

A tracking shot introduces us to their new firm. It’a small office with only one floor. Nothing fancy, and with a lack of hustle. Everyone appears on edge, Don getting lectured for missing Jeff Atherton. He expresses bemusement, not sure who Jeff Atherton is and why he wasn’t told. The sense that this company is struggling is subtly put across. Peter gets snapped at for making a crack about the non-existent second floor. The scene shifts to Don’s office, where Peter puts across how much esteem Jim and Bob had for him. This doesn’t sit well with Don, who can’t abide their prudish and naive nature. His frustration extends to the rooms he has to work in, saying that it’s impossible to sell or work in them. Pete rationalises that other firms will cancel each other out, and business will pick up. The arguement is swatted away, Don arguing that they lack firepower and can’t realistically compete until they get it.

Don sits in his office with his accountent. He’s asked to sign life insurance that directly benefits the company. The scene takes on a dark undercurrent given Don’s past. We learn that Betty was meant to move out by October 1st, and she still hasn’t. Don is urged to rectify the situation, as it’s causing him undue mental and financial stress.

Peggy and Pete discuss losing the sugarberry ham deal. They try to come up with ideas on how to get it back. Peggy suggests buying scores of the product. We see Pete show apprehension at doing anything they can’t charge for. Then, Peggy gets a lightbulb above her head. Hire two women to fight over the ham. They get arrested. It creates publicity near Thanksgiving. Pete offers to use his expense account, off the record. The two of them seem heavily into the idea.

Roger and Don meet. It concerns a friend of Jane’s who Jane and Roger feel would be a good match on Don. At first Don isn’t convinced, but Roger uses some skillful manipulation to set things up.

We next see Don at home. His Housekeeper has cooked some food, and is about to leave. Don chatises her for not putting things back where she found them, and shows frustration at her asking him to eat something. She leaves. Don turns on the TV, watches a Glo-Coat advert his firm had a hand in. It’s an advert about a kid behind bars, and a Mother using a Glo-Coat product to clean the floors.

The next morning, Don is wearing the same clothes. He opens his briefcase, begins flicking through Bob and Jim’s client file. He then gets dressed, sorting himself out for his date and putting on the old Draper charm.

Don goes on the date. Jane’s friend cuts him off, she wants to finish her glass before answering any questions. Clearly nervous, she reveals that she hasn’t dated in a while. Don uses this to convince her to do a twirl in her dress, an action she coyly provides. As she sits, she reveals she’s breaking a few of her rules dating a divorced man. It’s hinted that she’s only here because Jane has made Don her mission. They briefly discuss the country being dark, Jane’s friend revealing that a former acquaintance recently died. Don asks what she does. She fills the stage during operas, doing acting in the background. It’s the music, backstage, costumes and stories she loves. She’s a romanticist. Instead of a wage, she gets a ticket to the show.

After the date, she asks if they can meet up for Thanksgiving with Roger and Jane. Don has priors plans. He kisses her, which she’s initially into. There’s clear attraction, but she breaks the kiss. Says that she isn’t that kind of woman, and that she wants to see him again properly. If it’s meant to be, they’ll meet on New Years Eve.

Peggy and Pete are seated with the two actresses, post-stunt. Both of the actresses appear to have gotten a little too in character, showing signs of pain and a real distate for each other. They’re paid, and quickly separated as Pete and Peggy begin to realise they may be over their heads. The two actresses are taken in separate directions, after being assured they’ll be featured in the press.

Joan is in her office. Harry has returned from Los Angeles, somewhere that he says was hard to leave. When Joan expresses a desire to go on a vacation, Harry assures her that it was a business trip. He enquires whether anyone has used his office, and discovers Roger did because he doesn’t have a TV in his. When Harry asks Joan to set up a meeting, he’s surprised that she responds that they don’t have a table. Harry chooses this moment to reveal he sold a TV special to ABC.

Don arrives at the office. As soon as he does, Roger asks to speak to him. The article has gotten out, and is a complete disaster for the firm. It transpires that Roger had to buy all of the available copies to keep word getting out. Don is described in the piece as a ‘handsome cipher.’ When Don asks if the reporter checked any facts, Roger snarks that no facts were given in the first place. He does not appear happy that Don clearly doesn’t get how important this was, especially given creative selling falls under Don’s speciality. Any momentum from Glo-Coat has been erased. Before Don leaves, Roger lets slip that Jane’s friend found him to be charming.

Peggy and Joey enter Pete’s office. Sugarberry spent most of the day staring at their article, concerned about a lawsuit. Pete debated whether to fall on his sword and tell Don, but the paper success made everyone – especially Daryl – very excited. Daryl made a point of being sorry that anyone got hurt, but followed that up swiftly by saying more people taste their ham now. Everyone is thrilled, until they realise they can’t charge for it. Luckily, Peggy starts thinking about ways to gain an additional buy. She comes up with ‘our hamds are worth fighting for’, supplemented by a cartoon pilgrim and an indian in a tug of war over a ham. She sends Joey off to formulate it.

The founders of the firm sit around. They’re having a meeting in a room with garish chairs and no table. Talk turns to the article. Harry is fine with it, no-one else is… especially as Harry’s a salesman. Pete gets off the phone with Ho-Ho – highlights are leaving because Don didn’t mention them. Don claims the reporter chose not to. Pete says he pushed for Ho-Ho to reconsider, but he started crying and hung up. The loss makes Lucky Strike 71% of their business. He tries to get Harry to call back in, but a furious Harry storms out… his special gone. As he leaves, he wishes they actually had a second floor so he could jump off it. When he’s gone, the decision is made to get Don another interview. The problem is Don has no idea what to do differently. He wants his work to speak for him. In the eyes of his fellow founders, he’s failed.

Betty and her children attend Thanksgiving with Henry and his family. Henry’s children give Betty’s children gifts, but when Betty’s children go to open them they are rebuked by Betty. Talk turns to the state of the country, mention made of everyone nowadays having two Thanksgivings. Henry defends Betty with ‘well, maybe we have twice as much to be thankful for.’ This is interupted by Sally refusing to eat the food, citing the seeds as a problematic point. Betty tries to force Sally to eat, with disasterous results. Betty takes Sally away from the table, and does something violent that causes Sally pain.

Don opens his door to find Isabelle standing there, wearing provactive clothing. He asks if she’d like a drink, but she says she has to be with her family and doesn’t have much time. They proceed to have sex. She’s about to take off her bra. He tells her to wait a sec, which she cuts off with ‘don’t tell me what to do, I know what you want.’ He tells her to do it. She slaps him. He asks for another one, harder. She slaps him again. He tells her to do it again. She does. Post-coitus, the phone rings. Isabelle wakes Don, tells says it’s for him. It’s Peggy. She wishes Don a happy Thanksgiving. She’s sorry to bother him, but she needs 200 dollars. for bail. Not hers, says he’s going to laugh. Tells him about the stunt, one of the actresses pressed charges against the other. It’s a hundred a’piece to keep them quiet. Don tells Peggy to call Pete, and she replies Don isn’t her first call.

Peggy shows up outside Don’s. She has a male friend with her, who claims to be her fiancee. Don isn’t happy, and doesn’t feel that the situation is funny or cute. He wants things like this to be run by him, so he can keep Peggy from looking like an idiot… and Don looking like one by proxy. Her fiancee chips in, defending Peggy. Don rebukes him, anger rising. Don gives them the money, after Peggy apologises. Don shuts the door, and Peggy rebukes Mark (her fake fiancee) for coming up with silly justification of his being there.

Henry climbs into bed with Betty. She says it’s cold outside. They snuggle up together. She starts kissing his neck. They’re interupted by a creaking outside their room. Betty catches Sally on the phone to Don. Sally wanted to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. Betty says they’ll see him tomorrow, and expresses frustration that Sally was calling to say what a bad Mother Betty was. Betty retorts by saying her side of the story won’t make Sally look particularly dazzling. Sally protests, but is firmly told to go to bed. Betty goes back to bed, and says she’ll have someone remove that phone. She kisses Henry’s neck again, but he doesn’t appear into it.

Don arrives at his former residence. He hugs his children. Shares a tense meeting with Betty. She has plans with Henry. Don escorts the children out.

Later, Henry and Betty enter a car. They proceed to get intimate with each other.

Don puts his children to sleep. He lingers briefly in the darkness. The next morning the kids watch TV, while Don works in the background. Later still, Don has taken the kids home… but there’s no answer. He enters using a spare key, finds Betty nowhere in sight. Don decides to stay at the house until Betty arrives, and another tense scene emerges. He points out that she’s late, and doesn’t pay rent… so either they can pay rent, buy off the mortgage, or move out. He is clearly frustrated that she’s still not moved out, and leaves them to mull that over. When Don leaves, Henry and Betty get into an argument. He wants them to start looking for a new place, but she stands tall. Refuses to let Don push them around.

Later, Don is resting in his office. Peggy enters. The two of them talk about the Sugarberry deal. They sent a complimentary gift instead of firing the firm, because they sold more hams… and Don can tell them why. But Don isn’t impressed. These shenanigans are bad for the firm. He enquires about the fiancee, and when Peggy says he’s a fake… Don tells her to think about the image of the agency. He tasks her with a presentation. Just before Peggy leaves, she lets it known that everyone here is here because of Don… and all they want to do is please him.

Henry is with his Mother. He’s putting the extra tables they used for Thanksgiving away, but expresses confusion given Christmas is around the corner. She enquires into the childrens gifts, but talk quickly turns to the Sally situation. She talks about raising children, says they’re clearly terrified of Betty. Henry tries arguing, but she uses the logic that Henry could’ve gotten what he wants from Betty without marrying her. Betty is a ‘silly’ woman, and Henry is living in Don’s dirt. Henry quickly walks away.

Don and co meet with Bob and Jim. They’re showing the new campaign. Don comes up with a slightly risque idea, asserting that they have to be slightly controversial to sell. Bob and Jim feel it’s suggestive, they don’t want a wink. It’s for modest people. Don doesn’t see their argument and point, saying the importance is to get them into the store. Feeling they’re prudes, Don says they’re too scared of the skin a two-piece was designed to show off and tells them to figure out what they want. Risky and profitable, or comfortable and dead. Don leaves. Roger follows. The two men argue. Roger tries to get Don to cool off, but he storms back in and orders Bob and Jim to get out of his office.

Another reporter interviews Don. He asks if Don defines the company. Don says he is, and begins talking about the old agency. He wanted to assert his guns, and stood tall by telling them to fire him.

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