The foundations are shakey at SCDP and “Chinese Wall” explores what happens when the news that their biggest client is jumping ship. This episode was far from a sinking ship and is another chapter in an extremely strong season.
Roger has known this bad news for SCDP for a couple of weeks (and found out last episode) and rather than revealing this to the company he has buried his head in the sand. We get to see Roger in defensive mode and behaving at his most petulant and vulnerable. When he seeks comfort in Joan and is rejected, in spite of his churlish behaviour John Slattery still makes us feel sympathy for this character. Even a box of his book ‘Sterling’s Gold’ does nothing to lift his spirits (though I would really love a copy).
The news of American Tobacco’s departure is broken to the main players of SCDP not by Roger but by an acquaintance from another firm whilst Ken is out having dinner with his in-laws. This really highlights the shambolic nature of this event as well as the glee that ad men take in other firms failures at any opportunity, a practice which I’m sure is not limited to the advertising business. Later this fact is reiterated when previously seen and previously disliked Ted from a rival firm goes to the waiting room at the hospital to give Pete a baby present and an offer which seems too good to be true. This smells a bit like an attempt to undermine Don again, much in the same way that Duck did last season.
Considering how Don has treated Pete it would not have been a surprise to see him take this offer, but it appears that despite the crap that he takes from Don both professionally and in the secret he is keeping for him he really does respect the work that he does, and is extremely proud of the agency that they have. Sacrifices have been made and this is no more evident than at the memorial for ad man David Montgomery who the SCDP team only go to so that they can score some more clients, Pete is forgoing the time to spend with his wife and new daughter to try and make something of his firm. As far as Don’s behaviour towards Pete goes the fact that he lashes out at him but later on gives Roger the same treatment whilst defending Pete shows whose work he respects more. This heated discussion was followed by the news that Trudy has given birth and was an incredibly awkward scene as it felt as if going to a memorial for the business was much more important than the birth of Pete’s ‘first’ child.
Don is struggling throughout the episode to present an appearance of business as usual and to drink an appropriate manner (3 apparently is a good amount), he doesn’t really achieve either but doesn’t sink as low as we have seen him in previous episodes. He is presented with two women who want to ease his pain away and both have the potential to be either a destructive influence or a successful one. Megan claims that she will not let it interfere with her work as others have and shows that she is a comforting influence and seems to know the correct thing to say or do (like fixing the Cleo for example, or being there for Sally in “The Beautiful Girls”). Don though even says it himself that this isn’t a time for him to be getting distracted at work, could this prove to be a problem in the last two episodes?
Faye on the other hand knows part of his big Dick Whitman secret and is an interesting match for him as a professional equal, but her initial refusal to break client protocol to throw him a life line leads him in to the arms of another. Is a monogamous Don Draper an impossibility? The fact that Faye rejects her own rules to help out Don shows how much she values the relationship and his guilt is etched all over his face when she does offer this life line. Yet again Don has a blonde and brunette vying for his affections, will we see him settled by the end of the year?
Another romantic encounter that progresses in this episode is between Peggy and Abe and once again it could be suggested that Peggy has chosen another guy that might not be good for her. Despite the disagreements that we saw between the two previously they are much more compatible in this episode, this might just be an issue of sex but it leads to Peggy being much more resilient and confident in the office and in her work. After turning down Stan’s unwanted advances and him neglecting to tell her that she had lipstick on her mouth I was worried that this would cause the pitch to go south, instead it led to one of the more light hearted moments and allowed Peggy to laugh at herself and show that she isn’t a ‘humorless’. In an interesting costume choice Peggy for her Playtex presentation was wearing the same dress that she fired Joey in; this was the last time we saw her assert power in the office and this time it is all positive.
With only two more episodes of this season left it is hard to see how they are going to get out of this messy situation and in what direction Don Draper will finish the season in. I hope that SCDP does manage to salvage the company that they built from scratch, any readers have a theory as to how that will happen? Who will Don choose or will he end another season alone? How is this season shaping up for you? Are you happy to see Peggy with Abe or do you think he is another wrong choice? Sound off in the comments below or join us in the Mad Men forum.