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To Have And To Hold.

MadMen Season 6, Episode 4: Theme – Agency Conflicts.

Well, not exactly. Episode 4 is all about infidelity and the various ways the characters prostitute themselves or remain true. Mostly, they cheat.

Don is having an affair with his wife’s friend who also happens to be the wife of his only male friend. Nice guy.

But where he pays for his infidelity is back at the agency.

Don’s Heinz client brings in the prestigious ketchup brand leader to meet the agency, but then tells the Sterling Cooper Draper Price folks that under no circumstances are they to pitch or work for the peacock, who it turns out is his arch rival.

Now, hold on. Yes, clients sometimes have unreasonable or at least eccentric reasons for considering certain agency commitments to be “conflicts.” In this case, working for another division of the same company is off limits.

Enlightened, confident, sane clients aren’t obsessed with conflicts. They set clear, reasoned limits. Honorable agencies honor those limits.

Well, we already know Don cheats. He and his partners decide to pitch Heinz Ketchup in secret. They create a locked room and label it “Project K.” This brings out the paranoia, of course, as it would.

Ultimately, they lose the pitch. The first client finds out about their infidelity, and they lose that business too. Schmucks.

Of course, they were only trying to grow. But it was the secrets and lies that ensnared them. A forthright conversation might have worked a lot better. The sort of client you’d choose would want to help you win other business, even if he or she might not want you working for the internal rival. Something mutually fulfilling could be worked out.

Don’s an interesting character. He’s very good at acting like a forthright man. He’s got the chin for it and the skills. But he lies and cheats, and spends a lot of his time hiding. Agencies, like lives, grow on trusting relationships. Yes, it’s possible for stardom to short-circuit the normal rules of growth for a while, which is why so many stars are so screwed up. But, generally, the limits of trust define the limits of growth. Don is holding his agency back, for now.

Curiously, the only honest and true character on the show seems to be Don’s young wife, Megan. Yet she is the true arrow that seems to hit the bulls-eye of success every time. She succeeds in advertising – in the episode, they go to an advertising award show and she, not Don, brings home the award – yet she has already moved on to a successful career in acting. Despite everything and everyone around her, she remains true.

Client and agency leader, enjoy watching Don, but emulate Megan.