There’s a moment near the end of ‘For Immediate Release’ where Ted Chaough and Don Draper bitterly expound on their place in the advertising world. The two are distraught over continually taking the runner-up position or having their efforts wind up benefiting the creative efforts of agencies much larger than SCDP or CGC.
And, in superb Mad Men fashion, what the two concoct as a solution to their problem mirrors an admonishment Joan issued to Don earlier about the difference between “I” and “we” that illustrates just how narrow Don and Ted’s definintion of the latter is in this particular instance. For all the good the merger between the two agencies may actually be, it’s an achievement that runs roughshod over some of the smaller, more personal accomplishments/sacrifices of individuals who have contributed along the way.
But the episode isn’t merely Mad Men operating at its highest level since this season’s two-part premiere, ‘The Doorway‘; it marks another integral shift in the series, in which the insistence of Don Draper to have and to achieve more leads to the creation of a whole new identity. By the end of ‘For Immediate Release,’ Don instructs Peggy to write up the merger announcement, telling her this new entity they’ve just created doesn’t have a name yet, but that she should describe it as a place she’d want to work for. It’s all old hat for Don – he’s prone to jumping into immediately advantageous situations like a new identity, agency or romantic relationship – but it also shows the effect of past events like the one in the season 3 finale, ‘Shut the Door. Have a Seat.’
“I don’t like change; I want everything to stay the same,” Peggy tells Abe while trying to adjust to their new apartment, the renovations, the noise and, especially, the junkie who keeps leaving “presents” on the stoop. Abe’s positive that it’s just a period of adjustment and that the neighborhood is changing and they’re lucky enough to be a part of that. But Peggy has always been an agent of change, so perhaps it’s just the unexpectedness of certain changes that have her voicing contempt for it. Now, she’s imagining a well-groomed Ted Chaough sitting in front her, reading Emerson and leaning in to kiss her after she asks him to – unlike the move he pulled earlier that clearly had some kind of effect on Ms. Olson, who last week was visibly thrilled by Abe’s nonchalant commitment to the future of their relationship.
And so it seems everyone in Don Draper’s circle – colleague, competitor or protégé – has a bit of that wandering eye as well. But it’s not just romantic inclinations; it’s the lure of advancing themselves and the ability to have more: a future and a stake in something concrete and real. While Bert, Pete and Joan are moving forward with a potential public offering of SCDP (without Don’s knowledge) Roger’s out hustling up business with Chevy, proving he can do more than bankroll the operation from the cash he has on him at any given moment.
Meanwhile, Pete’s dreams of being incredibly rich and reuniting with Trudy go up in smoke after Don scuttles the firm’s relationship with Herb Rennet and Jaguar, and, following a celebratory evening at a Midtown “party house” (that the sycophantic Bob Benson offers to pay for), Pete runs into his father-in-law. And despite what Ken Cosgrove says about mutually assured destruction, the event effectively spoils the firm’s relationship with Vicks and any hope of an immediate reconciliation with Trudy.
‘For Immediate Release’ takes the idea of cooperation and applies it directly to Don. This is a different aspect of Don Draper: his collaboration with Ted Chaough is as rare as his friendship with Dr. Rosen (even though Don’s sleeping with his wife and he ditches Rosen in the doctor’s time of need). While it’s not exactly change, it is an example of the concept of “we” run through the filter that is Donald Draper. Everything appears mutually beneficial, but it only comes as others give up their accomplishments to Don’s idea of “the greater good.” Joan’s unpleasant effort last season is seemingly for naught, while Peggy’s no longer Copy Chief at CGC; she’s once again working under Don at whatever new agency has just been formed. Even Megan’s unable to escape, as she has to forgo acknowledging her acting accomplishments in order to make Don happy in their marriage again (however temporarily).
‘For Immediate Release’ is another accomplishment for Don that he’s excited about in the present – but such feelings are transitory. And that, for better or worse, means change is perpetually on the horizon.
Mad Men continues next Sunday with ‘Man With a Plan’ @10pm on AMC. Check out a preview of the episode below: