An area of character development established in “The Rejected” is the idea that Peggy and Pete are beginning to follow diverging cultural paths. A device that drives this point home and links their storylines is the use of two different poles in the set design. While the window motif taken from the focus group scene (discussed in my previous post) allows characters to see aspects of others more clearly, the pole blocks their view thus creating uncertainly and discomfort. It’s interesting how Pete and Peggy deal with their respective impediments.
After being told that he must dump Clearasil as a client, Pete is filled with dread at the prospect of facing the the wrath of his father-in-law (who got him the account). In a moment of frustration, he lays his head on the pole in his office. Pete’s feelings of uncertainty over his job at SCDP are reinforced when Harry Crane and Lane Pryce both have to clumsily maneuver around that same pole which now acts as a literal obstruction.
This motif is continued for Peggy when she meets Joyce at the loft party. The conversation between Peggy and Joyce’s condescending artist friend is staged so that a different pole is situated in the center of the scene. Like Pete, Peggy is on the defensive as her worth is being questioned by people whose opinions matter to her.
It’s noteworthy that while Pete seems to struggle with his pole (which is sterile white) almost as one would an adversary, Peggy adapts more easily to her’s (an earthy wooden variety) and even leans on it for support. Of course, Peggy does express frustration in this episode by pounding her head on a desk. That she chooses a more direct symbol of her work environment for this act may be telling. Perhaps this is showing Pete’s angst being directed at the organizational structure of SCDP (hence the pole) whereas Peggy is starting to feel unfulfilled by the job itself (her desk).
In the end, the cloud of uncertainly lifts and both find themselves accepted by the respective groups they aspire to be a part of. Pete on the inside of S-C-D-P and Peggy outside of it. As others have pointed out, these groups seem destined to travel in opposite directions.