With only two episodes left now, the self-encapsulated thematic gems of the past few episodes are behind us and it's time to advance Don's overarching story line. But first we should recognize that next week marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, making the timing of this episode seem intentional. Could Mad Men be running this late just to "mark the occasion?" Seems like a stretch, but this, more then any prior episode, seems to embody Rand's philosophy of self-interest as the ultimate moral value.
The episode starts with a contrasting act of self-interest: Adam Whitman, Don's (Dick's) half-brother who we haven't seen since the fifth episode ("5G") commits suicide, an act that is at once both completely selfish and selfless. Before he hangs himself, though, he leaves enough rope for Don as well, by sending him a package, which in the context of a drama like is, might as well be ticking. When self-interested Pete intercepts it at the end of the episode, it's like an episode of 24 -- the bomb has gotten into the wrong hands. My guess is there's at least a suicide note for Don in there, sent to him so as not to blow Don's cover. If Don is the embodiment of Atlas Shrugged's Hank Reardon, then Adam is the opposite, one willing to sacrifice one's self for the benefit of others.
Meanwhile, Roger's back in the office as a prop, acting as "both dog and pony" to ease the fears of Lucky Strike, a client, by the way, whose product and name are a perfect match for Atlas Shrugged's golden dollar cigarettes. When Roger suffers another coronary at the meeting, Bert Cooper sees the opportunity to make Don (his own Ayn Rand doll-come-to-life) a partner, at which point he can't help but pimp Rand to Don again (in case it's missed our attention). Andrew Johnston, at The House Next Door, theorizes that Cooper might just be part of the Rand collective, which besides Rand, also included a young Alan Greenspan, among others.
The client/product this week, though, wasn't really Lucky Strike, but instead a weight loss gadget, called PER (Passive Exercise Regimen). The fact that Elizabeth Moss' fat suit has been getting bigger each week is part of the reason Peggy is chosen to work on the campaign, but ultimately, it's because of the job she did on the Belle Jolie account, much to Pete's protestations. Peggy's self-worth is at odds. On one hand her talent is winning her accolades at work, which makes her more confident. But with more confidence (and accolades) come more derision from Pete, who, inexplicably, still has control over her self-worth (and weight). Peggy tries out the device and discovers that the vibrations can do more then exercise, they also can replace Pete's couch. Since food seemed to serve as a proxy for sex in an earlier episode, maybe this device will work for Peggy on two different fronts.
Similarly, Betty finds some appliance love with her unbalanced washing machine, and while she fantasizes about the A/C salesman, Astrud Gilberto sings "Agua de Beber," which serves as a nice euphemism for her orgasm. The song is about love as drinking water: it's something you need, and it can also make a flower "bloom," so to speak. The episode ends with Peggy going back to what she's calling The Rejuvenator to the sounds of Julie London singing "Fly Me To the Moon," which needs no translation in its meaning here. The use of these vibrator proxies (a proxy to a proxy, no less) is a somewhat crude reminder of the coming feminism movement. "What do the women need us for now?" jokes one of the ad execs at finding out about the Rejuvenator's special benefit. It's a question that has more significance then anyone realizes.
Mad Men - Episode 1.11
1. "Agua de Beber" - Astrud Gilberto (with Antonio Carlos Jobim) - Betty with the washing machine
2. "Fly Me to the Moon" - Julie London - Peggy reaches for the Rejuvenator
Previously: A Weekend Gone Wilder (Episode 1.10)