4.11 Chinese Wall
The house of cards is collapsing. Following Lee Garner Jr’s shock announcement last week that he was taking his lucrative account elsewhere, Roger has attempted to keep his company’s now precarious situation as quiet as possible.
But in the social hub that is the 60s New York restaurant, it doesn’t take long for the truth to come out, and Cosgrove of Lucky Strike’s departure from a former work colleague. Anxiously relaying the information to the partners of SCDP, a late-night emergency meeting is convened.
This week’s episode sees Roger at his most unsympathetic. Attempting to cover up his failure to keep the Lucky Strike account, he fakes a phone call to Garner Jr in an absolutely toe-curling scene of cowardice. That Roger is a child in an old man’s body has never been so obvious as it is in this episode.
As Bert says to Roger later on, “Lee Garner Jr never took you seriously, because you never took yourself seriously.”
Even Joan’s grown tired of Roger’s antics – he rather foolishly tells her that he knew of Lucky Strike’s departure weeks before – and when he turns to her for comfort, she coldly turns him away.
While Don attempts to downplay the potentially disastrous loss of Lucky Strike, he learns that another valuable client, Glo-Coat, are taking their work elsewhere, too. Quietly desperate, Don asks Faye to break her client’s confidentiality, and tell him which of them, if any, are dissatisfied or looking to defect to other ad agencies. Faye, unimpressed, flatly refuses.
Ironically, as her employer totters on the brink of collapse, Peggy has finally found true happiness. Starry-eyed over her passionate new relationship with Abe, she delivers a successful pitch worthy of Draper himself to a gallery of impressed Playtex executives. That she did so with lipstick all over her teeth provides a moment’s snide amusement to her colleagues.
In one of the episode’s more unexpected developments – though the signs have been there for several weeks, now I think back – Don ends up sleeping with his new secretary, Megan. Of all the characters in Mad Men, hers is perhaps the most sketchy.
She has an oddly ethereal presence – she frequently floats around SCDP like a serene catwalk model from space – and while we also learn that she’s a writer, actress and an artist, there’s nevertheless something mesmerisingly distant about her.
It seems strange, too, that with just two episodes to go before the end of the season, Mad Men’s writers would suddenly throw in a new plot strand such as this – particularly when Don and Faye’s relationship appeared to be so serious.
As if to underline the despicable nature of Don’s latest act of infidelity, Faye later breaks her own rule and arranges a meeting between SCDP and a potentially business-saving new client, Heinz.
So as Mad Men season four reaches its final two episodes, there are all kinds of questions waiting to be answered. Will Don continue his relationship with Faye, or will he continue his affair with his space cadet secretary, Megan? Will a deal with Heinz provide SCDP with the lifeline it needs, or is it too little, too late?
It’s an episode that throws so many elements, strands and tiny dramas into the mix (I haven’t even mentioned that Pete’s now a father for the second time – the news of which barely registers on his face), that Chinese Wall is perhaps one of the less satisfying entries in this season, but one that will no doubt set up much of the drama for the final two instalments.
Read our review of episode 10, Hands And Knees, here.
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