Mad Men "For Immediate Release" Review: Mergers and Acquisitions
There are two types of Mad Men episodes: episodes where nothing actually happens, but there's lots of subtext and symbolism to play with, and episodes that serve as keystones to an entire season, where the action is tangible and readily apparent. "For Immediate Release" falls into that latter group with its straightforward conflict and a concrete solution that will undoubtedly change the face of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for good... starting with what is certain to be a name change and a sudden client shakeup that leaves Jaguar and Vicks Chemical out and Chevrolet in.
As Bert, Joan, and Pete worked to guide SCDP toward becoming a public company—which would double the size of the company and make them all some sweet, sweet profit—Roger seemed to return to his old ways, banging sexy airline lady Daisy and weaseling his way into the presence of potential clients by pulling strings and working his charm. Not only did he deliberately blow off a day at the office to woo Chevy, but he managed to win an audience with them and even seemed to enjoy himself. He got hammered in an airport with Don and apparently convinced Daisy to lose a rival agency's luggage. It was like the good old days.
Unfortunately, not everyone was in favor of going back to the way things were. Joan and Pete in particular were irate over the news that when an opportunity arose to mend fences with Herb from Jaguar after Don humiliated the guy in front of his superiors, Don severed ties with the lucrative company pretty much entirely because he hated Herb. Everyone hated Herb, but at that point, Jaguar was one of the most important clients in SCDP's stable—and the loss of the company as a client compromised the opportunity to take SCDP public. For Joan, the ease with which Don dismissed Herb and Jaguar was particularly upsetting, given her role in acquiring them in the first place. She sacrificed a great deal and yes, she benefited in a huge way professionally and financially by sleeping with Herb for the contract, but the private turmoil is certainly ongoing. I do think that at least part of Joan regrets what she did to get her partnership, though I don't think that she'd regret it quite so much if it wasn't essentially one of the office's worst-kept secrets. Regardless, it wasn't a decision easily made, unlike Don's cavalier choice to to call it quits with Herb.
Time and again, Don has experienced difficulty seeing things from other people's point-of-view. Pete said that Don didn't have to care about the company because Don was already rich, and while part of that sentiment was certainly Pete Campbell bluster, you have to wonder if Don would've acted the same way if he had as much to gain from taking the firm public as Pete and Joan did. To be fair to Don, he didn't know about the public offering going into the meal with Herb, but to illustrate Joan and Pete's point, it's not like Don had a backup plan to fill the void left by Jaguar and ensure that the company experienced as few dire consequences as possible.
Don alienating his coworkers isn't a new thing, but as Mad Men progresses and Don becomes increasingly irrelevant on the creative side of things, his inability to make rational business decisions by considering more than just his own wants and needs could become a real threat to his status and position at the firm, especially given the decision to merge Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce with Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough in order to win Chevrolet.
In a bar in Detroit, Don and Ted Chaough had a weirdly civil conversation (for those two) when it became obvious that Chevy was playing them both in a repeat of their experience with Heinz Ketchup. Even if Chevy liked both of their ideas, the company would more than likely choose to work with a larger, more established agency rather than take a risk on either of the two smaller operations—but they would certainly take the good ideas presented by the smaller firms to the big boys for use. With Don kicking Jaguar to the curb, and a run-in between Pete and his father-in-law in a brothel back in New York leading to the departure of Vicks Chemical, SCDP desperately needed Chevy. But so did Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough. Diagnosed with cancer, Gleason was preparing to retire to concentrate on his health, and citing their partnership agreement, he would stand to make a hefty sum due to Cutler and Chaough's obligation to buy his part of the company. In preparation for chasing Chevy, Chaough had cut competitor Alfa Romeo out of the Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough Cavalcade of Stars, which left the firm in a vulnerable position if Chevy fell through... and obviously, Chevy was going to fall through.
On the spot, Ted and Don decided to merge their companies—not just for Chevy, but for good. That this agreement was made with little to no input from other partners at their respective firms raises a few alarms, particularly for Don, given his recent clashes with Joan and Pete. At first glance, Ted and Don could complement one other quite nicely; we've seen their opposing pitches face one another on a few different occasions now, and each time, both have presented strong campaigns that take very different approaches to the subject matter. Don's work is often highly emotional, driven by wants and desires and the idea that something can be more than what it actually is. He is very good at making nothing look like something wonderful and desirable. Conversely, Ted's pitches tend to be more concrete. Ted's teams take what they're given and simply emphasize what is already known. Neither approach is necessarily superior to the other, but both can be seen as indicative of the two men in general. Don's entire life is a secret. The idea of one thing actually being another thing is something that he embodies and lives with every day. Ted, so far, has been portrayed as very direct and in the open when he does business and when he interacts with his employees.
But when companies merge, it typically isn't as simple as sticking everyone in the same building. Positions overlap. When you have two of something that you only need one of, there is always the delicate matter of figuring out which—or in this case, who—to keep. If Don and Ted can continue to work well together, their combined approaches could prove to be a formidable force in the advertising field. After learning of Gleason's cancer diagnosis, Chaough lamented that Gleason's darker, more pessimistic outlook on things often balanced his own optimism nicely. Don is more than qualified to provide that darkness for Chaough, but given their now-former rivalry and past clashes, I'd say it's only a matter of time before they stop playing nice.
Frankly, given Don's conflict with his co-partners lately, should he and Ted find themselves pitted against each other in the near future, I would be concerned about his place at the new company without many allies to back him. Pete and Joan certainly don't have much faith in Don's willingness or ability to put the company's needs before his own, or to plan ahead, or to even be a reliable figure in the office. Over at CGC, Peggy was visibly deflated when presented with the news that she would technically be returning to Don's employ very shortly.
Don pitched the Chevy ad by saying, "The future is something you haven't even thought of yet." We have the privilege of knowing how Chevy's experimental new car ultimately fared in the course of history: XP-887 eventually became the infamous Chevy Vega, which is considered by many to be the "worst car ever built," but we can't have any inkling of where the combined forces of SCDP and CGC will be by the time their saving grace eventually hits the production line in the seventies. How do you think the merger will play out? Positive or negative? Who do you think will win here, and who do you think will lose?
And most importantly, what are you own thoughts about "For Immediate Release"?
– We need to talk about Bob Benson wanting to pay for Pete's hooker. WTF, Bob?
– LOL at Megan's mom offering to give away her Mother's Day flowers. Marie is so horrible, <3 her.
– For a moment there, I felt like I was watching a sitcom version of Mad Men when Pete flew off the handle at Don, fell down the stairs, and launched into his impassioned and grandiose speech. Ladies and gentlemen, Pete Campbell.
– "I love puppies." —Don Draper
– Ted kissed Peggy. Peggy fantasized about Ted. Zappa Abe almost electrocuted himself, and Peggy hates their new apartment. This is going to get messy, isn't it?
– Speaking of Peggy's fantasy: Something by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
– What do you think the new firm should be called?
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